July 11, 2006

Democratiya Interview - Putting Cruelty First

Title is very weird and exotic, but the substance is even more so in a way.

The wack thing is that I actually had a html link on my fav list, but I had forgotten about this. I don't even remember if I had blogged about this before, but the material is top notch if you read the interview.

Specifically, this part.

Alan Johnson: You have called the inter-agency process—the co-ordinated efforts of the White House, State Department, Department of Defence, and CIA—'the great albatross of our lives'. In your opinion 'Many of our problems afterwards in Iraq are a consequence of … squabbling within the U.S. administration'. You said to one journalist that '[t]he enemies of a democratic Iraq lie within the State Department and the CIA, who have consistently thwarted the president's genuine attempt … to do something very dramatic in this country. Fortunately they have not totally succeeded.' What was the basis of these inter-agency disputes and what were their consequences?

Kanan Makiya: The little story of the Future of Iraq project unfolded against the backdrop of a much larger problem in the preparations for war. There was tension—I would even call it warfare—between the different branches of the US government. This has still has not been written about properly. Deep internal American conflicts hobbled the whole enterprise from the outset. Matters reached the level of hatred between and among Americans. Iraqis were portioned off by different agencies. Some were close to the Department of Defense, some to the CIA, some to State, and so on. The warfare at the heart of the Bush administration was shaping the agenda rather than any positive plan.

The change in the United States government's position that brought about such tensions within the administration goes back to September 11 - a transforming moment in American political culture. From that day a small minority of influential people in the United States government emerged who said that the way forward was democratic change in the region, starting with Iraq. They argued that US foreign policy towards the Middle East had rested for 50 years on support of autocratic regimes (like Saudi Arabia, like Saddam in the 1980s, like Mubarak's Egypt) in the interests of securing oil supplies, or whatever it might be. This policy had led to a level of anger at the United States inside the Arab world that provided fertile breeding ground for organisations like Al-Qaeda.

So, at the strategic level, what needed to happen was a dramatic change in US policy. The US should reach out to peoples not governments, to focus on democratisation as opposed to stability, and so on. That school of thought emerged in the Pentagon, led by people like Paul Wolfowitz. It ran headlong against the State Department's traditional accommodationist policies. The conflict was between those agencies that were wedded to the policies of the past and those breaking new ground. The former were often in the State Department - people who knew that part of the world in a very particular way. They had been Ambassadors, they had hobnobbed with the Saudi ruling families, and they had developed certain preconceptions about how the Arab world worked. By contrast those who were pushing for a dramatically new policy, like Paul Wolfowitz, were not shackled by such a past, nor burdened by the weight of those prejudices. But they did not necessarily know the Middle East as well. They were not Arab linguists, and these people tended to reside in the Pentagon and in parts of the White House.

In this struggle the CIA was close to the State Department. The Pentagon was close to the White House (though the White House had no single view). The struggle could have been a healthy one resulting in a plan of action for post-2003 had there been sufficient control of these divisions from the top. There wasn't. Bush just laid down a policy and was not a man for the details. And the National Security Council did not opt clearly for this or that way forward. Instead they set up something called the 'inter-agency process'. This involved representatives from the different warring agencies who would sit down and compromise over every single decision. The result was not that there were no plans, as people say, but that there were too many plans that were no longer coherent because they were picked apart in this inter-agency process until they were a little bit of this and a little bit of that. For instance, the Pentagon was for a provisional Iraqi transitional authority rooted in and stemming from the Iraqi opposition. The State Department was dead set against that. And its intense dislike of the Iraqi opposition drove them to support what I think was the worst possible strategic formula for the transition: an American military occupation of Iraq with all that that entailed in terms of responsibilities for the minutest of details in the post war period.

Alan Johnson: You have complained bitterly about 'this distinction that was created between the inauthentic externals and the authentic internals'. Did the State Department think the exiles had no base and could not be trusted?

Kanan Makiya: The State Department didn't think the Iraqi opposition was up to it. It wanted Iraqis who were from 'the inside'. We were very suspicious about that formulation because at the outset it was clear they did not mean the broad mass of Iraqis. They meant the former elements of the regime. They invented this great big artificial wall between the exiles on the 'outside' and the Iraqis on the 'inside'. The exiles were portrayed as Rolex-wearing opportunists or dreamers (or, worse, even Kurds) who didn't know their own country. Ironically the State Department, which was against the war in the first place, ended up being for the most dramatic form of transformation: military occupation. But having agreed military occupation as the way forward, which agency was going to supervise the plan of occupation? It turned out to be the Defence Department, which… favoured a transitional provisional government! So it ends up a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and I think we ended up with the worst of all worlds as a consequence.

I don't want to post it all, but it is so good I am having trouble resisting. The dude has explanations that mirror like almost all of my post-war criticisms and analysis. He talks about mixed plans and how Bush is a delegator, which he obviously is. Bush doesn't micromanage anything, which means Bush really doesn't have a true understanding of things, he lets his underlings handle details. This has some problems, like with FEMA and etc.

Kanan also talks about how Iraqis did not participate in their liberation, which is a point I made in relation to Afghanistan. The weird thing is this, I don't even remember reading this interview but I must have, yet I made all my own conclusions without using this guy as a source. So it is very weird.

But there should have been thousands of those Iraqis trained in the months running up to the war to go in with every American unit so that the necessary bridges of trust and understanding could be built.

Read the link to the interview with the A-Team in Afghanistan, this is exactly what the SF did in Afghanistan that the regular army did not do in Iraq. I had attributed it just to the Army doing things the "Army Way", as opposed to the right and wrong way. But it also seems like this "inter-agency" shit had something to do with the Pentagon high command plans as well.

Kanan's point about the American agencies fighting amongst ourselves is also a good rebuttal to those who said "Oh, the State had all the plans for Iraq, it is the fault of the Pentagon for not listening". Oh BS, State don't got their strack together, otherwise Americans wouldn't have to cook up their own Save the Children campaigns to help the Iraqis. I'm not suggesting that Americans wouldn't still give, but State has zero role in reconstruction, just about.

Here's a link on the jihad terroist map.

This is part 1 of the interview, I know it is out of the order but I had to expend some effort to find it.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home