What Went Wrong in Iraq by Larry Diamond

In his article, What Went Wrong In Iraq, Larry Diamond explores the different problems that occurred during the George W. Bush administration form 2001 to 2009. Specifically, the blunders that happened during the occupation of Iraq by the United States in 2004 and how the country struggled to secure Iraq and rebuild their government. According to Diamond, the four most pressing problems of Iraq were: the endemic violence, shattered state, non functioning economy and a decimated society. The prospect of what would become Iraq as a country that was presented by the Bush administration in contrast to the reality of the current situation is very drastic. This is most probably due to certain miscalculations; many of them are known to the majority of the population. However, some errors particularly made during the earliest stage of the coalition occupation, took longer to generate real and clear consequences.

Diamond states that the first of these errors was the lack of maintaining order and a satisfactory level of security. Though he was advised on multiple occasions in deploying multiple troops in order to accomplished a state of security, the number of troops that President Bush sent didn’t even reached one third of the optimal figure. Additionally, officers and soldiers in Iraq were not allowed to make formal complaints about the scarcity of manpower and equipment necessary to realize the operation.

This security problem may also fall under the decision of some Pentagon officials who ignored the elaborate postwar planning made by the State Department, which addressed many of the issues they were encountering at the moment. Diamond considers that this action of the Pentagon occurred due to the fact that they thought Iraq would welcome the United States and its troops without any kind of hesitation or thought. These assumptions collapsed and the Bush administration continued to failed in sending more necessary troops.

There must be considered four components in regards of rebuilding a country: political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, social reconstruction and most importantly provision of general security. Security is, as Diamond writes, the central pedestal that supports all else; because without security one cannot begin to reconstruct the economy, nor can you achieve political and/or social reconstruction. Therefore the error of not taking into consideration the provision of security as a top priority in reconstructing Iraq had a greater impact that would be thought.

Bush was advised to send said troops to fully achieve different tasks that were necessary. Diamond estimates that 300,000 troops might have been sufficient to accomplish that. The different kinds of troops that needed to be appointed were, among others: urban patrols, crowd control, civil reconstruction, peace maintenance and enforcement, control over the borders with Syria and Iran, etc.

The scarcity of troops and lack of resources available to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), greatly affected the situation in Iraq. Additionally there was a serious lack of organization, as cops were rushed onto the job without adequate training nor equipment which let to multiple terrorists attacks against police cops. This problem quickly become more prominent leading to the point were officials could no longer move around the country.

After the assassination of the mos influential pro-U.S. cleric in Iraq’s Shiite heartland, Sayyid Farqad al-Qizwini, by Sadr’s organization; U.S. forces went to war with the Mahdi army. These confrontation not only did it fail to eliminate Sadr’s forces, but did nothing to counter other Iraq’s armed militias. The U.S. was forced to rely on cooperation of SCRIRI and Dawa militias to evict and defeat the Mahdi army which in consequence reduced the CPA’s leverage over them.

This security blunder could have been avoided by following the advised given frequently to president Bush. By sending the sufficient troops to Iraq, various militias wouldn’t be able to successfully rise up in arms and cause many terrorists attacks. Even if Bush did not wanted to send more troops so it wouldn’t be seen as an invasion with bad consequences to the Iraqis, he could have sent troops to support using other organizations such as the OTAN. This would avoid one of the drawbacks that Bush might had by not wanting to create a situation of concern of the UN.

The second error that Diamond states is the lack of significant progress on the political front. Not only did the Bush administration needed to contain the violence and tension that existed because of different Iraqi organizations with a strong military response, it also needed a sustained political effort to construct a system with which all major Iraqi groups could identify. Diamond considers that both the Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, chief administrator of the CPA; and General Jay Garner, of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Baghdad; never grasped completely how they were perceived by the Iraqis. It may be very possible that Iraqis viewed the invasion as an occupation by the United States. There were two principal miscalculations in regards to political organization. On one hand, the de-Baathification campaign was too broad. On the other, Bremer’s order of the dissolution of the Iraqi army, which pushed some Iraqis toward violent resistance.

The U.S. had two options, according to Diamond; increase international participation in the administration of the country; and put Iraqi leaders in meaningful governance roles. This could be achieved by holding elections, but that was too complicated to be done being that the country had no real electoral system that could be put to work in so short notice. One of the attempts of the U.S. to resolving these issues was the creation of the Iraqi Governing Council (GC) which was anything but flawless. It included many controversial Iraqi exiles; it wasn’t as representative and legitimate as the U.S. would wished; and its members didn’t reached out to develop constituencies.

The U.S. seek out for help of the UN; however, this was an issue since the U.S. invaded Iraq without authorization of the UN Security Council. Despite this, the UN accepted to help in the situation. But because of some terrorist’s attacks to the UN headquarters, nothing could be followed successfully.

There was a fear that elections would give too much power to groups appointed by the CPA. This started an internal political confrontation in which the UN had to engage in a mediating role since the United States was also involved. In the end the system initially proposed was not followed. In the end it was decided that a new government with a prime minister chosen by the Bush administration and a cabinet composed by competent and respected Iraqi ministers.

By planning ahead of time before the invasion about what would happen if the defeat of Saddam succeeded, the Bush administration could have easily develop a well thought out political system to be adopted by the Iraqis. Instead of rushing the invasion and having to come up with solutions that were seriously flawed.

If there was a problem with the lack of understanding of a democracy system b7y the Iraqis, the U.S. should have organized education campaigns in order to inform well to the population of Iraq what democracy meant and how does it proceed. After the people of Iraq were informed and understand enough, a new system would have been easily implemented in the rebuild of Iraq. That way there would not have been several failed tries. The third error that Diamond mentions is the lack of a well organized constitutional system. The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) was drafted by GC’s constitutional drafting committee. The document had to meet certain requirements such as protections to the individual rights, how to divide the power, what role to give religion, etc. The document produced assured freedom of religion and that the government should be headed by a prime minister and a three-person presidency council which retained powers of appointment, supervision and legislative veto. All of the decisions by the Presidency Council must have to be unanimous.

The creation of the TAL did not go flawlessly nonetheless. The negotiations took longer than expected, the deadline being in February but did actually finish in November. This created a situation which rush the process of completing the document without a national debate. Additionally many Iraqis felt that it granted special treatment to minorities tagging it as a “dictatorship of the minorities”, described as unfair, unrepresentative and undemocratic. This error could also have being avoided with a campaign of education about the legal system and how it works. The national debate should not have being skipped and because of the education campaign, members of society could have given their well put together opinion about the legal system and what other aspects could have been included or scrapped.

At the end of the article, Diamond states that although Bush administration was very flawed in Iraq, there were other rather positive aspects. The CPA was a first step in the right direction to the creation of offices and mechanism that promote pluralist democracy. There was also financial assistance and technical support delivered very quickly to emerging Iraqi civil society organizations. The creation of training programs for nascent Iraqi political parties gave advise and tools needed to organize and mobilize.3 Diamond writes that it is inevitable to face failures and shortcomings when adapting a nation to a new political system for them, especially after the tyranny of Saddam. This process is obviously going to take time to achieve completely and cannot be achieved from one day to another. Looking for an alternative to this system would eventually lead to awful scenarios such as a civil war.

Diamond is right in what he believes could become of the democracy of Iraq in the future. It will take much effort and assistance from the United States. There is no way in which all the failures could have been confronted or avoided beforehand; but rather than being impossible to make mistakes because of the previous political system; there is no perfect political system that does not have any shortcoming and that is the reason why failures can not be avoided.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *