Monday, July 19, 2004

Iraq In Depth

The Atlantic Monthly published a pair of articles in their January issue investigating the two biggest gaffes of the Iraq war: the faulty analysis on the WMD's, and the lack of preparation for the post-war period. These are admittedly somewhat dated by now, but both provide excellent in-depth analysis and provide a strong framework into which to place these issues.

The story of the WMD's is written by Kenneth Pollack, a former analyst for the Clinton administration and author of The Threatening Storm, a book written prior to the war, in support of invading Iraq. Pollack goes over mistakes made in analyzing Iraq's weapons capabilities that led himself and others to wrong conclusions, and also spends some time constructing a convincing case as to what really happened with Iraq's weapons programs between the two gulf wars in light of the evidence we now have. I found this latter part of the article particularly insightful.

While Pollack splits blame on the WMD question between the intelligence agencies and the promotional tactics of the administration, the second article, Blind Into Baghdad is a damning account pointing blame directly at the administration. The author James Fallows finds that not only were extensive studies done on the subject of a post-war Iraq (by the State Department, the CIA, the Army War College, and various NGO's), but that these studies clearly identified nearly all of the major issues that later came back to haunt us. The administration buried all of these studies in order to avoid awkward questions that might diminish enthusiasm for invading Iraq. We were unprepared for the aftermath of the Iraq war, not because the administration was too stupid to think of it beforehand, but because they didn't want anything to come to the public attention that might interfere with their carefully contructed propaganda campaign. It is a very impressive and well-investigated article, and probably the strongest criticism of the actions of the administration related to Iraq that I have seen to date.

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