InsideDefense (subscription required) reports this morning on comments from a very recently retired general from the Coalition Provisional Authority that planning for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq was less than stellar. This isn't really news, but it's significant that we're hearing it from this kind of source now.
Prewar planning for the combat offensive to drive then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power was "an A-plus effort," but crafting the coalition's reconstruction strategy "did not go well," retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said. U.S. officials "made a lot of bad assumptions" that continue to plague coalition efforts "to this day."Analysis: The evidentiary record before the bar of public opinion is pretty complete on this issue; we didn't need a retired 3-star to tell us that post-war reconstruction planning was less than stellar. However, it is telling when recent officials start to say this, as opposed to outsiders and journalists, because it means that this idea has morph'd into something approaching the truth.
Kellogg, who last week returned from Iraq after working for Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer, headed the Joint Staff's command, control, communications and computer systems directorate (J-6) when administration and Pentagon officials were charting how the coalition would battle Iraqi troops and begin rebuilding the nation. He spoke today during an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in Arlington, VA.
The standard Bush Administration response has been the old military maxim that "no plan survives first contact". As a general proposition, I buy that; I learned that lesson the hard way as a platoon leader in many training exercises. But what I also learned was that 1) you still have to plan, 2) you have to build flexibility in your plan, and 3) if nothing else, your plan should put the resources (i.e. subordinate units) in the right time/place on the battlefield to react to change when it occurs. The real failure, in my opinion, was not the plan per se. It was the failure to put adequate resources on the ground in Iraq (or to stage them in Kuwait) so these units could react to change when it occurred. Failing to see the future can be forgiven; failure to plan for contingencies -- especially bad ones -- cannot be forgiven. If those resources were there, commanders could have made a bad plan work by improvising, adapting and innovating on the ground. But without those resources, the commanders were hamstrung in their ability to fix a deteriorating security situation -- they made do with what they had. That was the failure, and that's why having a bad plan made such a big difference in the early days of April and May 2003.