Stages of American Iraq, and Parallels
I was on an Iraq panel at MIT on Friday with Ivo Daalder,, co-author of the just-published America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. I found his views of how the policy in Iraq has developed very interesting, and they provoked me to some thoughts of my own.
He distinguishes between the “Democratic Imperialists” (Wolfowitz and many of the Neocons) and the assertive American nationalists (Cheney and Rumsfeld), and sees them as opposing one another.
So we have three phases of American policy in Iraq and different analogies to other US imperial ventures, based on who was on top:
1. Jay Garner: Was planning to put Iraq on an even keel within 6 months and go home. This plan would have entailed putting Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress in charge of the Iraqi Army and bureaucracy (both would have been retained). It resembled the policy toward France after the US victory in 1945, where the government was handed over to the Free French. This policy was favored by Cheney and Rumsfeld.
2. Paul Bremer, First Phase: Bremer displaces Garner by mid-May. Intends to rule Iraq himself by fiat for two or three years. He disbands the Iraqi army altogether and puts off re-instituting the ministries. This is a Japan sort of plan, with Bremer playing MacArthur. He initially does not plan to have an Interim Governing Council or early elections. This plan was probably favored by Wolfowitz and some other neocons.
(Bremer first phase was modified July 13 when Bremer is forced to appoint an Interim Governing Council, because he simply did not have the legitimacy to rule Iraq by himself).
3. Paul Bremer, Second Phase: The Nov. 15 agreement is hastily hammered out calling for quick elections on a caucus basis, so that Bremer can hand over power to it by July 1, 2004. So, he would depart a year or two before scheduled. This is an Afghanistan model, complete with a US-invented Iraqi analogue to the manipulated Loya Jirga. Again, this model would be supported by Rumsfeld and Cheney and would raise anxieties among the neocons, who are dedicated to a Japan model of completely reshaping Iraq via direct US rule.
So, we’ve had three different models in less than 8 months, with the Washington infighting reinforced by the problem the US has had in getting control of the security situation.
I think the above analysis, which synthesizes some things that Daalder said with some things I said, leaves out the State Department too much. I think State has tended to support the Japan model and therefore to be allied with the neocons, if only as a matter of practical outcomes. It seems that the security problems are playing into the hands of the assertive American nationalists, who want to turn Iraqi civil administration over to someone local and then just leave. A US military division would be left behind for Gulf security.
The above is also probably too schematic. Daalder says that Wolfowitz is not that enamored of Chalabi, and implies that he supported Bremer against Garner (who is then coded as Rumsfeld’s man). But the neocons, and not just Perle, seem to have had some sort of deal with Chalabi that made the “French” model acceptable to them. Did they really over-rule Rumsfeld to replace Garner with Bremer? How could Rumsfeld’s deputies have that power to over-rule their own boss? I am pretty sure the Neocons were on board with the Pentagon flying Chalabi into Iraq in April with his militia. Moreover, there is the anecdote that Cheney poked his finger in Colin Powell’s chest recently and said, ‘If you had just let us turn Iraq over to Chalabi, we wouldn’t be in this quagmire.” This story implies that Bremer and the Japan model were State Department innovations, not neocon ones. Maybe Wolfowitz could live with it better than Cheney, but it seems to have come from Foggy Bottom. There is another wrinkle, which is that Bremer excluded most State Department Arabists in his Phase I. Why, if his Japan model was a State Department victory?
So, these whipsaw movements in Iraq no doubt do reflect Washington power struggles to some extent, but I’m not sure we have a really clear idea of who played what role. That developments on the ground in Iraq were more influential could be argued. Maybe Daalder explains all this in his book, which I have not yet read.
Josh Marshall has already written an important review of it for Foreign Affairs that is available online. He thinks Daalder and Lindsay understate the influence of the neoconservatives, who have advantages of cohesiveness that outweigh their relegation to 2nd-tier appointments.