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Andrew Bacevich: Vietnamization 2.0
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After the United States toppled Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, L. Paul Bremer III, the top American civilian official in occupied Iraq, took a bold step. He dissolved Iraq’s military, deciding to replace Saddam’s 350,000-man army with a lightly-armed border protection force that would start with 12,000 troops and eventually peak at around 40,000 soldiers, supplemented by various police and civil defense forces.

Bremer’s best-laid plans imploded as an insurgency blossomed from the roiling mass of well-trained Iraqi military veterans he had ushered to the unemployment line and a civil war soon wracked the country. A bloodbath ensued and never ended, even as the U.S. surged in more troops and pumped in tens of billions of dollars to build what eventually became the 930,000-man strong Iraqi security forces. (That’s not much smaller than the South Vietnamese Army the U.S. built up in the late 1960s!) Along the way, there was plenty of progress. “Every single day, the Iraqi security forces are getting bigger and better and better trained and better equipped and more experienced,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2005. “You know, the one thing — the one thing we have seen is that Iraq has developed a very good capability to be able to defend itself,” said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta six years later. “And I think that’s a reflection of the fact that the Iraqis have developed a very important capability here to be able to respond to security threats within their own country.”

And yet by 2014, the Iraqi military had (and was paying) more ghost soldiers — troops who existed only on paper — than the number of real soldiers Bremer had envisioned to secure the whole country back in 2003. As it happened, Iraq was anything but secure. Today, it’s a half-failed state, riven by sectarian strife, and has lost a significant portion of its territory to an extremist group incubated in U.S. prison camps. The country is now far worse off than the one the U.S. invaded in 2003.

The U.S. military is great at a lot of things, just not things like winning wars or effectively training foreign forces. TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich takes on the how-and-why of this latter failure, tracing the sorry history of U.S. nation- and army-building from the battlefields of Vietnam — which he knew intimately — to the festering wars of today. Buckle up for a long, strange trip.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
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  1. Max Payne says:

    Ah yes the so called “de-Ba’athifiaction” of Iraq. I wish they would teach that in US schools to highlight lessons of how to completely destroy and destabilize a country for decades to come (and how to create terrorist quasi-states in its wake).

  2. rod1963 says:

    Half of our problems could have been avoided had we kept the Iraqi army on the payroll. Just pay the men to show up at the local U.S. Army unit for their check every month. It would have told them we’re just the new boss but we aren’t going to change much.

    Even doubling their pay, would have been chicken fee compared to what it cost us to do the surge.

    But we didn’t, we didn’t understand that Iraq has a over population and under employment problem. The government and military served as a jobs base in country that didn’t have much going for it. It was in our best interests to keep the people employed and pay outs happening.

    Then again Washington and the Pentagon showed it understood nothing about Iraq or what it took to administer a occupied nation properly without it descending into massive bloodshed.

    Look how our politicians celebrate every time a corporation off-shores to Asia or Mexico and thousands of Americans lose their jobs for good.

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  3. Kudzu Bob says:

    Half of our problems could have been avoided had we kept the Iraqi army on the payroll.

    But if American officials had been smart enough not to make that mistake, then they would have been smart enough not to invade Iraq in the first place.

  4. @rod1963

    I was agreeing with you at #2 when I came to your last par and wondered what it has to do with the rest of your comment. If you are saying it is an equally bad example of government stupidity, which I don’t pause to consider, I still don’t get your point because it is a very different kind of error from Paul Bremer’s in both cause and effect.

  5. Here are a couple snippets from my summary of this disaster from a decade ago:

    “Oil was first discovered in Iraq where it naturally gushed forth near the “Eternal Fires,” as described in King Nebuchadnezzar’s “fiery furnace” (Daniel III). Irak was the Turkish name for the region before it was carved from the Ottoman Empire after World War I by what was deceptively called “The British Mandate for Mesopotamia.” The stated goal was to establish nations for local Arabs, but the obvious reason was to secure oil fields. Syria exists only because the French needed a pipeline route to export their share of Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean. Jordan and Palestine were occupied by the British to guard their new oil pipeline to the port of Hafia. However, British incompetence and Arab nationalism hindered plans to profit from Iraqi oil by establishing a colony disguised as a democratic government.
    ……………..

    If the Iraqi army had remained intact, it would pose a threat once it became apparent that the Americans would never leave. The loyalty of career Iraqi officers who once served in a truly independent Iraq would always be suspect. Retired U.S. Army General Jay Garner organized and initially led the American occupation force, but was not told of the oil objective. He refused demands from the White House to disband the Iraqi army since it was essential to his plans for stability.

    As a result, Garner was fired after just two months and replaced by L. Paul Bremer III, a wealthy Washington insider with the exact same schooling as George W. Bush – Phillips Academy (an exclusive private high school), Yale ’63, and an MBA from Harvard ’66. He had no military experience, no civil administration experience, and no experience in the Arab world. Bremer quickly disbanded the Iraqi army, fired thousands of Baathist administrators and educators, and announce the oil industry would privatized.”

    ____________________

    Read the whole thing here: http://www.g2mil.com/Irak.htm

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