Delusions, Real and Imaginary

In the gym tonight I saw a report on CNN about a set of Power Point slides that have been declassified and are now being publicized by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. The slides were prepared by the military for President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld prior to the Iraq war. They lay out various contingencies for the military conflict that ensued in the spring of 2003.
CNN treated these slides as though they were more evidence of the incompetence of the Bush administration. The report featured an interview with Thomas Blanton of GW’s Archive, who said that the slides show that the Bush administration was “delusional.” They projected a force level of only 5,000 troops after four years, which obviously isn’t where we are now. Blanton claimed that the projections show that the administration didn’t know “diddly squat”–elegant terminology–about Iraq, its “ethnic tensions, the dividing lines.” Blanton is a garden variety leftist with an axe to grind. His claim that no one in the administration knew that there are ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq is absurd. Those divisions and tensions were widely discussed and debated pre-invasion.
The CNN report listed a series of “rosy assumptions” that guided Iraq war planning. One of the “rosy assumptions” was “Iraq has WMDs,” which, of course, makes no sense. But it’s a CNN talking point, so they had to fit it in somewhere.
What do these slides actually show? They are interesting, but they relate only to the military aspect of the operation. As it happened, the war itself went about as the military planners expected. It was the post-war period that went awry. As to that, these documents are unrevealing. It is true that four years post-invasion, they posit a force of only 5,000 remaining in Iraq. But that is hardly a shock; if they revealed that the administration knew all along that four years after the war was fought we would still have 140,000 soldiers on the ground, that would be a news story.
The slides are agnostic as to the post-war period; it is described in several places as “1 year+.” This was not the Army’s special responsibility; one slide suggests that the State Department was to have a provisional government ready to go before the war started. Somewhere in the executive branch, there are documents that would reveal the debates that took place about the post-war landscape and how to handle it. They will come to light some day, but this batch are of another stripe altogether.
This page is representative of the whole; it shows “Phase IV” of the Iraq operation, i.e., the post-war period. Click to enlarge:

From the time when the President “terminates hostilities,” this slide posits a 2-3 month period of stabilization, an 18-24 month period of recovery, a 12-18 month period of transition to security cooperation, and a greater than two year period of security cooperation. On that time line, we are now a little over a year into the “security cooperation” phase. Behind schedule, to be sure. But I’m not sure how you get from this slide to Blanton’s conclusion that the U.S. military was “delusional.”
Note that one of the objectives during this period was to “Ensure WMD capability destroyed.” This, I suppose, along with the many other references to WMDs and the need to secure related facilities throughout the slides, will provide renewed impetus to the “Bush lied!” fruitcakes. It appears that President Bush–the one man in the world who knew that Saddam didn’t have many WMDs after all!–fiendishly withheld that knowledge from his own military commanders.
In short, it’s another non-story, but one which will, like all others, be spun relentlessly in an anti-Bush direction.
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