Wolfowitz: “Whoops”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the brilliant mind behind the Iraq war, has made a startling confession:

He was wrong in many of his assumptions about how such a war would unfold.

Paul D. Wolfowitz, briefing reporters after a 41/2-day trip to Iraq, said that in postwar planning, defense officials made three assumptions that “turned out to underestimate the problem,” beginning with the belief that removing Saddam Hussein from power would also remove the threat posed by his Baath Party. In addition, they erred in assuming that significant numbers of Iraqi army units, and large numbers of Iraqi police, would quickly join the U.S. military and its civilian partners in rebuilding Iraq, he said…

Career civil servants who had helped plan U.S. peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo said it was imperative to maintain a military force large enough to stamp out challenges to its authority right away. Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, then-Army chief of staff, thought several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz rebutted him sharply and publicly.

“It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army,” Wolfowitz told the House Budget Committee on Feb. 27. “Hard to imagine.”…

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who was appointed to be the first civilian coordinator in the occupation, said in an interview that he asked Wolfowitz for an expert on Iraqi politics and governance.

Wolfowitz turned not to the roster of career specialists in the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs bureau, but to a political appointee in the bureau: Elizabeth Cheney, coordinator of a Middle East democracy project and daughter of the vice president; she recruited a State Department colleague who had worked for the International Republican Institute.

So he ignored the advice of experts on peacekeeping, convinced himself that the Iraqi Army would change sides and become a crackerjack colonial police force, and, when asked to provide an expert on Iraq to help get things running again, passed over the advice of all the experts in the entire State Department to give the job to a friend of his boss’ daughter.

I’ll give Wolfowitz credit, it takes guts to admit a set of bloopers on that scale. But it’s a pretty damning indictment of the thinking that led us into this mess, that’s for sure.