Sunday, November 2, 2003

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The November Books of the Month

The "general interest" book for this month is one of my favorite cookbooks -- Seductions of Rice, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It's a global cookbook, providing myriad rice recipes from a diverse set of cooking traditions. This includes Chinese stir-frys, Spanish paellas, Japanese sushi, Cuban soups, Indian thorans, Thai salads, Turkish pilafs, Italian risottos, Uzbek plovs, Senegalese yassas, and American gumbos. For those who like to cook new things, give it a read.

[UPDATE: Josh Chafetz has fun with ellipses. I think he's been reading too much of The Boondocks as of late.]

The international relations book has been selected in the wake of reading David Rieff's New York Times Magazine cover story on the failures in the pre-war planning for the post-war occupation of Iraq. As someone who's followed this closely, I'd say that Rieff's story is a decent summary of the facts as we currently know them, with the occasional touch of exaggeration.

So, the international relations book choice for November is Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Graham Allison.* This is probably the one "political science" book that real-live foreign policy professionals ever claim to have read.

In the book, Allison outlines three possible models to explain U.S. and Soviet behavior during the crisis. Model I is the rational choice paradigm, which gets short shrift.

Model II is based on a theory of organizational process that argues large bureaucracies operate along standard operating procedures from which deviations are rare. This describes Rieff's point in the story about how the uniformed military services, with a long history of disdain for non-combat operations, failed to plan properly for the occupation phase.

Securing Iraq militarily after victory on the battlefield was, in the Pentagon's parlance, Phase IV of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Phases I through III were the various stages of the invasion itself; Phase IV involved so-called stability and support operations -- in other words, the postwar. The military itself, six months into the occupation, is willing to acknowledge -- at least to itself -- that it did not plan sufficiently for Phase IV. In its secret report ''Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategic Lessons Learned,'' a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Times in August, the Department of Defense concedes that ''late formation of Department of Defense [Phase IV] organizations limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination...."

Without a plan, without meticulous rehearsal and without orders or, at the very least, guidance from higher up the chain of command, the military is all but paralyzed. And in those crucial first postwar days in Baghdad, American forces (and not only those in the Third Infantry Division) behaved that way, as all around them Baghdad was ransacked and most of the categories of infrastructure named in the report were destroyed or seriously damaged....

It is hardly a secret that within the Army, peacekeeping duty is not the road to career advancement. Civil-affairs officers are not the Army's ''high-fliers."

Allison's Model III is bureaucratic politics, the "pulling and hauling" of policy among different bureaucracies with different agendas. Rieff's discussion of the internecine struggles between State and Defense show how bureaucratic politics can lead to the compartmentalization of information:

Although [Iraqi-American lawyer Feisal] Istrabadi is an admirer of [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz, he says that the rivalry between State and Defense was so intense that the Future of Iraq Project became anathema to the Pentagon simply because it was a State Department project. ''At the Defense Department,'' he recalls, ''we were seen as part of 'them.''' Istrabadi was so disturbed by the fight between Defense and State that on June 1, 2002, he says, he took the matter up personally with [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy] Douglas Feith. ''I sat with Feith,'' he recalls, ''and said, 'You've got to decide what your policy is.'''

The Future of Iraq Project did draw up detailed reports, which were eventually released to Congress last month and made available to reporters for The New York Times. The 13 volumes, according to The Times, warned that ''the period immediately after regime change might offer . . . criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting.''

But the Defense Department, which came to oversee postwar planning, would pay little heed to the work of the Future of Iraq Project. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired Army officer who was later given the job of leading the reconstruction of Iraq, says he was instructed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to ignore the Future of Iraq Project.

There is a bias in the field of international relations in favor of "systemic"-level theories, so the bureaucratic politics paradigm has made little progress since Allison first published Essence of Decision in 1971.** This is unfortunate, as Rieff's conclusion highlights how relevant this theory is for real-world politics:

Call it liberation or occupation, a dominating American presence in Iraq was probably destined to be more difficult, and more costly in money and in blood, than administration officials claimed in the months leading up to the war. But it need not have been this difficult. Had the military been as meticulous in planning its strategy and tactics for the postwar as it was in planning its actions on the battlefield, the looting of Baghdad, with all its disastrous material and institutional and psychological consequences, might have been stopped before it got out of control. Had the collective knowledge embedded in the Future of Iraq Project been seized upon, rather than repudiated by, the Pentagon after it gained effective control of the war and postwar planning a few months before the war began, a genuine collaboration between the American authorities and Iraqis, both within the country and from the exiles, might have evolved.

*Allison's co-author on the second edition of this book is Philip Zelikow.

**Allison didn't help matters with his work following the publication of Essence of Decision. In later review articles he conflated his Model II and Model III, to the confusion of many. Then, in his second edition of the book, he and Zelikow abjectly failed to engage in the best critique of the first edition: Jonathan Bendor and Thomas Hammond, "Rethinking Allison's Models"
American Political Science Review 86:2 (June 1992): 301-322.

If you really want to see something else published recently about bureaucratic politics, click here.

posted by Dan on 11.02.03 at 08:30 PM


notice that november casualties are bound to spike further, with the 15 deaths in the Chinook and the 3 other deaths on the same day, this will show a multiple month post-war casualty spike. A bad thing. A mark of failure, to the casual observer.

posted by: Family of Casuality on 11.02.03 at 08:30 PM [permalink]

“As Istrabadi, the Iraqi-American lawyer from the Future of Iraq Project, says, ''When the Oil Ministry is the only thing you protect, what do you expect people to think?'' And, he adds: ''It can't be that U.S. troops didn't know where the National Museum was. All you have to do is follow the signs -- they're in English! -- to Museum Square.''”

I think we should take anything said by David Rieff, the son of the radical leftist Susan Sontag, with a huge grain of salt. He is embarrassing himself by mentioning the so called ransacking of the National Museum. It is now abundantly clear that nothing really happened. This was for the most part a fraud perpetuated by the liberal intelligentsia. And let’s get something clear right now: the liberals in the State Department would have found one excuse after another not to invade Iraq. These are the folks who prefer so-called stable dictatorships in the Mid East instead of unpredictable democracies. Also, many of them can’t wait to retire so that they can obtain a lucrative career via the Saudi royal family. This is also why so many of them are hostile to Israel and suck up to Yasir Arafat.

The State Department literally felt more comfortable with Saddam Hussein remaining in power! Have we already forgotten how these screw balls encouraged the previous Bush administration to allow the Iraqi dictator to slaughter his own citizens after the first Gulf war? No, the State Department doesn’t deserve our respect. These are morons of the lowest caliber.

“...notice that november casualties are bound to spike further, with the 15 deaths in the Chinook and the 3 other deaths on the same day, this will show a multiple month post-war casualty spike. A bad thing. A mark of failure, to the casual observer.”

Are you serious? A true “mark of failure” is the Iraqi people remaining under the power of Saddam Hussein. There is no doubt but that American Liberals cannot admit that things are now dramatically better in Iraq than before the war. It sticks to their craw that President Bush deserves credit for liberating the country. An Al Gore administration would have almost certainly sat on its hands. The French would have essentially dictated our foreign policy. The Democrats persist in sticking their wet finger into the air to see if our European leftist “allies” might approve approve of their self abasing behavior. The Democrats are the United Nations party. They are ashamed of America’s greatness.

Nobody can ignore the loss of life of our troops. Still, these brave individuals are not dying in vain. And only a historical illiterate fails to realize that the present totals are ridiculously low considering how much we have so far accomplished.

posted by: David Thomson on 11.02.03 at 08:30 PM [permalink]

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