If a doctor handed you a strong medication–saying you had no choice but to swallow it–but didn’t talk to you about the host of new ailments and problems that might be caused by the medication, that would be damn irresponsible. Well, meet George W. Bush, M.D. He has been claiming the United States must take the most extreme measure–war–to keep itself safe and healthy. Yet he has refused to address the knotty matters (post-op complications?) that will follow in the wake of war.
This dereliction of duty–or presidential malpractice–was readily evident on Tuesday when top administration officials appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss the future of Iraq. (Looks like its present has been settled: invasion and occupation, unless Saddam Hussein scoots.) At this session, under-Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith noted that while the Pentagon has spent months positioning troops and readying to de-Saddamize Iraq, it only opened an office for postwar planning three weeks ago. At the same hearing, Feith and under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman said there would be at least a two-year US military occupation of Iraq following an invasion. So with the gameplan war and occupation–and the Bush administration has been considering taking over Iraq since September 12, 2001–the Pentagon managed to get serious about planning for the post-invasion period merely a month or so before, it seems, the invasion is to come. (The duo did claim that the Pentagon had been thinking about postwar matters for ten months.)
With Feith’s and Grossman’s testimony, the administration has acknowledged it intends to rule Iraq for quite a while after the war. (Their two-year estimate may be quite optimistic. One former US ambassador quips there are two possible occupation scenarios. Plane One is an occupation that lasts for ten years. Plan Two is an occupation that is supposed to last for five years, but goes on for ten.) So then, how does the Bush White House intend to install (eventually) a democratic government? (Remember this war is also for the liberation of the Iraqi people, as soon as the United States decides it’s time for its occupation to end.) How will the US manage the oil industry of Iraq? Who will pay for the construction costs? Who will feed the Iraqi people, most of whom now rely on the Iraqi government for their food supply? “There are enormous uncertainties,” Feith said. “The most you can do in planning is develop concepts.” Actually, in planning, you can develop plans–hire staff, call in experts, consult with multilateral outfits and aid organizations, and begin drafting proposals. These plans may end up not working. They may have to change. But you can give it a go and, at least, establish a baseline. For his part Grossman observed, “How this transition will take place is perhaps opaque at the moment.” From the fog of war to the fog of postwar.