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December 01, 2005

The Iraq Document we Should be Reading
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

What did I think of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq --the NCVI?  As a war plan, what's not to like? Only problem is that this document should have been ready in October 2002, after the US Congress voted for the war.  In fact, the content reminds me of a strategy paper written by Army academics in January 2003 called Reconstructing Iraq:Challenges and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario.

This strategy paper had over 100 necessary tasks listed for US post-war planning.  I remember attending a January 03 briefing with the somber authors as they laid out the tremendous chore we were hurtling toward.   They went unheeded like many of the reality-brakes on the war policy.  If our civilian leadership had listened to the military back then, we wouldn't have fought this war.  But nobody likes a crank wearing a uniform. It messes up the photo op.  Here's a good post on the NCVI

Can't resist a little snark: I rolled my eyes when I read the details of the political strategy in the NSVI document. It includes:  nurture a culture of reconciliation, Human Rights and transparency, cooperation across religious divides, focus on issues and platforms instead of identity.  The manly Karl Rove must have been holding a live chain-saw and eating raw hamburger as he proofed it.   I must remember to take a scrolled copy of these political instructions and hammer them on the door of the Republican National Committee next time I'm on the Hill--advice just in time for the 06 elections.

In the shadow of the attention hogging National Strategy, a really important Defense Department document was released yesterday--one that represents a silver lining for our time spent in Iraq.  The Stability Operations Directive  that has been on the verge of being signed for weeks is now done.  I need to read it closely, but here are my first impressions: 

The fact that the directive refers to Stability Operations and not Stability and Support Operations sends a clear message that the military wants to primarily do military things--not all the civilian and humanitarian tasks. It does elaborate, however, that the military will be prepared to build governments and handle human crises.  The parts on professional military education are very gratifying--individuals in our military will soon have a service-wide core of internationalist values to work with.

More than twice in the text, the directive  speaks to the need for supporting the other agencies, including training and education and in policy making.  This is a pretty big deal--to have a directive that mandates supporting other agencies during the planning process.  This will hopefully include planning vis a vis Congress--which slashed most of the funding for the State Department's reconstruction office a few months back. 

The fact that DoD has accepted Stability Operations as a full-fledged DoD wide competence (not just the Army) and a core military mission is a BIG DEAL. We need to support this directive and praise it as an important blueprint for our post-9/11 grand strategy.  Without realigning our spending priorities, however, it will be like that Army strategy paper in January 2003.   


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Great post--particularly this last part.

It's hard sometimes--for me, anyway--to see the structural changes in our bureaucracy that have to take place in order for a new progressive foreign poilcy to be viable. And by a new progressive foreign policy, I'm envisioning one in which political and economic development, conflict prevention, and constructive non-miltary interventions in low-simmering conflicts are all central activities under the rubric of security policy and protecting our national interests. To me a critical aspect of transforming our nation's foreign/security policy is to recoginze that the greatest near, middle, and long term threats to our nation's interests arise from weak and failed states (both the public bads they have the potential to harbour and the international conflicts they sometimes create). If this is true, then Africa becomes central, not perifery. Moreover, in light of the new security context and our attendant new focus, we would have to consider what changes in material and human resources must be made within our armed forces if they are to effectively carry out the new tasks we need them to do.

Ms. Kelly, exactly what "went unheeded like many of the reality-brakes on the war policy?" I've examined the mission-matrix in the Reconstructing Iraq document, but it seems that you would need to compare it to the existing mission matrix to substantiate your claim. In fact, I would be very surprised if the current OPORD doesn't address everything in the Reconstructing Iraq document.

Mr. Albertson believes that “threats to our nation's interests arise from weak and failed states,” but I think a subtle confusion is at work here. State weakness or failure often causes war. Certainly, the Realists spend considerable energy convincing us that relative power among states is the prime mover of policy.

The confusion comes from noting that weakness or failure is not an essential feature of a threat, but rather a frequent cause of war. By way of counter-example, Iran is neither weak nor failed, yet it is a prominent threat.

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