Postwar Planning, From One Who Knows

In Delusions, Real and Imaginary, I discussed a rather silly CNN story that tried to turn a set of newly-declassified Power Point slides into an indictment of the administration’s planning for the Iraq war. That prompted this email from Steve Natschke, who spent three years at CENTCOM headquarters:

I recently de-mobilized after spending a total of three years at CENTCOM HQ beginning in Feb 2003. I didn’t work on the OIF plan but I do know something about it. Phase IV was the least planned (by CENTCOM) part of OIF since nobody knew what would happen after the end of major combat activities and the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was supposed to do the planning and carry out many of the activities. In the end, there was little humanitarian assistance to be carried out and little reconstruction due to combat. Declaration of Phase IV has many legal implications in regard to the Geneva Conventions, the Law of Land Warfare, etc… I also believe that it is the demarcation of when the Department of State takes the lead. In any case, the slides, if they show anything, show that the enemy has a vote in how things turn out.
As I see it, things are turning out better than we expected from a GWOT point of view. Al Qaeda’s decision to make a stand in Iraq has provided us with an opportunity to deal them a significant blow. They have invested many resources – there aren’t that many suicide bombers out there – and much of their reputation counts on defeating us in Iraq. All we have to do is stay and we win. Iran is over-playing its hand and will see just as much trouble on their side of the border as they instigate in Iraq. All we have to do is stay and we win.
On the down side, of course, is our inability to play in the information war. I think this is part of the reason that the terrorists and the Democrats are natural allies – they are willing to say the most outrageous things and no one holds them to account. The truth may be on our side but it is not enough – it needs to be marketed. Unfortunately that is easier said than done and we, as a government, are not set up to do it. In fact, we are not set up to win wars efficiently. The very structure of our government prevents us from prosecuting wars efficiently and I doubt a change would be politically feasible. Aside from DoD, no one prepares for their part of the war fight and they don’t train for or fund any activities that contribute to war time success. For now we will have to settle for less efficient war fighting.

When the history of the Iraq conflict is finally written, I think it will be interesting to see what role the State Department played, and how that department’s performance is assessed.
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