Post-war Iraq plans will anger many

Although the George W. Bush administration has not yet officially decided whether to invade Iraq, it has recently released tentative plans for the occupation of a post-war Iraq and the transition to a democratically-elected civilian government as if the war not yet begun was actually won. Not only are such plans entirely preliminary, although certainly a necessary part of strategizing, they also illustrate the fundamental misunderstanding the Bush administration has about war with Iraq and the war on terror.

Instead of immediately establishing a government comprised solely of Iraqis, similar to Hamid Karzai’s government in Afghanistan, the Bush administration plans to affect a more gradual transition to democratic, civilian rule. In Afghanistan, the administration contends, the military was too eager to establish a post-Taliban government, and the result is the instability that exists today, as attacks continue against Karzai and members of the government, and internecine fighting continues. Iraq is similarly fragmented, although Saddam Hussein does enjoy support from many of the various tribal groups, as he has always maintained financial support for them.

Rather than an Iraqi government, the Bush administration is planning to install a transitional U.S. military government, perhaps for several years. Instead of being led by an Iraqi dissident, with a similar background to Karzai’s, Iraq would initially be led by an American military commander, possibly Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who is the current head of Central Command. During this initial period, there would only be limited responsibility for any Iraqi opposition groups, although there is the possibility that a consultative council would be established. Such a council would presumably be comprised of both foreign and domestic dissidents, although they are unlikely to be elected. Ultimately, the military regime would dissolve and be replaced by a democratically-elected government. However, the Bush administration stated that only when a stable civilian government had been established would the U.S. military presence slowly disappear.

There is some strategic value to establishing an U.S. military government in Iraq, although some of it is of dubious value. This type of military presence would afford the United States a generous period of time with which to locate any components of Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons programs as well as any possible nuclear weapons ordinance. The United States would also be able to establish a military tribunal to try Iraqi government officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which seems to be appealing not because the Bush administration is aggressively pursuing justice around the world, but because such a tribunal would be disincentive for Iraqis to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. forces. Also, it would be much easier for the United States to ensure that the government remains pro-American many years after the U.S. military has left the country, as the Iraqi military would be significantly reduced in size, and any remaining officials of Hussein’s Baath Party would be identified and removed from office.

The administration’s newly developed plan is, of course, more deliberate and careful than the transition plan for Afghanistan, although more importantly it would be less palatable to Islamic communities in the region. Many fundamentalists as well as more moderate residents of the Middle East are already suspicious of the United States’ intentions for a war with Iraq. If the U.S. military assumed control over Iraq and its oil fields – which are the second largest in the world, and responsible for 11 percent of total world output – anger would erupt over what would be perceived as the United States’ true intentions, to totally dominate the control of oil in the Middle East. Unfortunately, such a perspective would be both common and catastrophic for the United States, and would likely inflame regional hatred of Americans.

Of course, the United States has attempted this post-war strategy before, most notably in Japan, which was under the control of Gen. Douglas MacAuthur for six and a half years, and Germany, which the military operated for four years. The current circumstances, though, are entirely different, as the opposition is not well-defined governments, but individual, international terrorist groups, that just as accurately reflect the societies that produce them. With a deliberate, more convenient approach to occupying Iraq many of these groups would have already begun to respond to what they would perceive as U.S. aggression and colonialism.