Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bremer Redux

[posted by Callimachus]

L. Paul Bremer III explains how he didn't dismantle the Iraqi army but also how it was the exact right thing to do, which is kind of an odd combination.

I have no informed opinion as to whether L. Paul Bremer III is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, and I'm not related to him. But I never bought into the notion that disbanding the old Iraqi army -- an incompetent mess of unhappily drafted Shi'ite boys bullied by neer-do-well Sunni generals -- was the obvious error many people assure me it was. We disbanded the Iraqi army (after it disbanded itself rather than fight). Certain bad things then happened in Iraq. Perhaps some of them certainly happened because we disbanded the Iraqi army. But not all of them. And had we not disbanded it, certain other, worse things probably would have happened in Iraq.:

By the time Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, the Iraqi Army had simply dissolved. On April 17 Gen. John Abizaid, the deputy commander of the Army’s Central Command, reported in a video briefing to officials in Washington that “there are no organized Iraqi military units left.” The disappearance of Saddam Hussein’s old army rendered irrelevant any prewar plans to use that army. So the question was whether the Coalition Provisional Authority should try to recall it or to build a new one open to both vetted members of the old army and new recruits. General Abizaid favored the second approach.


Moreover, the largely Shiite draftees of the army were not going to respond to a recall plea from their former commanders, who were primarily Sunnis. It was also agreed that recalling the army would be a political disaster because to the vast majority of Iraqis it was a symbol of the old Baathist-led Sunni ascendancy.

Those seem the most obvious examples. Not to mention, in that alternate universe, the media and the anti-war politicians having a propaganda field day discovering former torturers and mass-murderers among the Iraqi officer corps now paid in American dollars.

If your opinion that "Doing X was a mistake" is based on a supposition of some continued permanent state of "pre-X" in the alternative, you're probably not thinking hard enough.