NYTimes. Long analysis piece on the war in Iraq. Blueprint for a Mess.
On the streets of Baghdad today, Americans do not feel welcome. United States military personnel in the city are hunkered down behind acres of fencing and razor wire inside what was once Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace. When L. Paul Bremer III, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, leaves the compound, he is always surrounded by bodyguards, carbines at the ready, and G.I.'s on patrol in the city's streets never let their hands stray far from the triggers of their machine guns or M-16 rifles. The official line from the White House and the Pentagon is that things in Baghdad and throughout Iraq are improving. But an average of 35 attacks are mounted each day on American forces inside Iraq by armed resisters of one kind or another, whom American commanders concede are operating with greater and greater sophistication. In the back streets of Sadr City, the impoverished Baghdad suburb where almost two million Shiites live — and where Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles once imagined American troops would be welcomed with sweets and flowers — the mood, when I visited in September, was angry and resentful. In October, the 24-member American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council warned of a deteriorating security situation.
Historically, it is rare that a warm welcome is extended to an occupying military force for very long, unless, that is, the postwar goes very smoothly. And in Iraq, the postwar occupation has not gone smoothly.
I have made two trips to Iraq since the end of the war and interviewed dozens of sources in Iraq and in the United States who were involved in the planning and execution of the war and its aftermath. It is becoming painfully clear that the American plan (if it can even be dignified with the name) for dealing with postwar Iraq was flawed in its conception and ineptly carried out. At the very least, the bulk of the evidence suggests that what was probably bound to be a difficult aftermath to the war was made far more difficult by blinkered vision and overoptimistic assumptions on the part of the war's greatest partisans within the Bush administration. The lack of security and order on the ground in Iraq today is in large measure a result of decisions made and not made in Washington before the war started, and of the specific approaches toward coping with postwar Iraq undertaken by American civilian officials and military commanders in the immediate aftermath of the war.