WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The administration of President George W. Bush has failed to adequately prepare for the problems that will be faced in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq, according to think tank analysts who are following the issue.
Bathsheba Crocker, a resident fellow at the influential Center for Strategic and International Studies, told United Press International that American planning for the rebuilding of Iraqi social, economic, and political systems has been too limited. She said the significant gaps in the plan could result in ad hoc decision-making and responses to problems that undermine the chances for success.
"It's not all a bad story, but it is still not enough yet," said Crocker. "It is too little too late."
The U.S. government has taken many steps to address the needs of post-conflict Iraq, including establishing contracts with private companies for rebuilding infrastructure, and some outreach to non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that would provide post-war humanitarian aid. The Pentagon has also established plans for an interim civilian authority headed by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner that would run the country once it can be turned over from U.S. military control.
Abraham D. Sofaer, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, said the administration has made real progress toward addressing the problems anticipated in post-war Iraq, much more than is usually seen before such conflicts.
"I think we have done a lot," said Sofaer. "I don't think we should be doing more than we have done."
On Monday, the Bush administration made a $74.7 billion budget request to Congress that would fund a U.S. troop presence in Iraq for five to six months. The request would also provide $3.5 billion for relief and reconstruction efforts in the country.
Of that money, $2.5 billion would be placed in a relief fund, with much of the rest allocated to the cost of repairing damaged oil fields. Crocker said that this funding is just a drop in the bucket in terms of the resources needed to adequately address the problems Iraq will face immediately after the conflict is over.
In a recently released CSIS report, "Post-War Iraq: Are we Ready?" Crocker and her colleagues detail what they see as numerous shortcomings in key areas of post-war planning, including the development of civil society, security, justice systems and post-war governance.
The report is a follow up to an earlier CSIS policy brief that made 10 recommendations for actions that should have been taken before the conflict began. Included on that list was the creation of a transnational security force trained to handle security needs following the war, and the creation of an international transitional administration that could help re-establish civilian control over the country.
In addition, the report called for the recruitment of a rapidly deployable team of international legal experts to help deal with justice issues. It also said that an immediate review should be made of existing international economic sanctions against Iraq and that a conference should be convened to address the country's massive international debt load. According to the latest report, none of these issues have been fully addressed, and some have not been addressed at all.
Eric Schwartz, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, also said that not enough has been done to address such issues.
"I would say that needs are being partially met but I think more needs to be done." Schwartz told UPI.
According to the CSIS report, one of the major problems is the Bush administration's plan to use U.S. troops to provide security after Saddam Hussein's regime is deposed. Crocker said that U.S. military forces are clearly needed in the first days following the securing of a city or region, but that they are not trained to be a police force.
"The lack of an appropriately trained and mandated transitional security force to maintain public security on the streets of Iraqi towns and cities could lead to a dangerous security vacuum, allowing score-settling and revenge violence to take place, and delaying efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqis and to begin reconstruction," she said.
Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato institute, told UPI that the ambitious reconstruction plans promoted by CSIS are dangerous not only because of their high economic cost but also because they would keep an American presence in Iraq for far too long.
"Their recommendations carry with them the requirement of a multi-year mission and a great deal of money," said Carpenter. "I think it is imperative that the United States turn Iraq over to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible, both because that is the right thing to do and to diffuse the impression in the Islamic world that we have embarked on an imperialist venture in Iraq."
There is uncertainty about what Bush administration officials mean when they say that the United States will retain control over Iraq as long as it is necessary. These statements have lead to interpretations that the administration plans for American rule lasting anywhere from six months to as long as several years after the conflict is over.
Crocker said the administration's stated preference for a short timetable for transition to Iraqi civilian rule seems unreasonable because it does not allow for enough time to stabilize the country. Carpenter disagreed with this interpretation, but noted that there are a great many unknowns because the White House has remained relatively quiet about its plans in this area.
"The Bush administration has not talked much about the transition except that it hopes to be out apparently in a year-and-a-half to two years, which I think is too long," said Carpenter.
One Bush administration official told UPI that reconstruction planning is being influenced by an ongoing debate among administration officials over just how long the United States will need to remain as a controlling presence in Iraq. The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said that part of the problem is the uncertainty about how the war will impact the country. However, he added that ideological divisions were also at play.
Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the conservative Hudson Institute, said that a rapid response was key to a successful reconstruction of Iraq and transfer of power to a new Iraqi regime. She said that the first step that must be taken in reconstructing post-war Iraqi civil society is the removal, at all levels of government, of those loyal to Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party, to ensure that a new regime and new ideas can take hold in the country.
"Immediately you have to clear up this system," she said. "You are going to have to do a de-Baathification on all levels. You really need to expel the whole leadership and come up with a new group."
Crocker also finds troubling the mixed messages from the Bush administration about the role it wants the United Nations to play in post-war Iraq. She said that a strong international presence will be needed not only for humanitarian assistance but also to help pay for reconstructing the country.
Although there have been some indications that the administration was hoping to quickly turn over control of Iraq to an international authority following the toppling of Saddam's regime, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Congressional panel Wednesday that the United States will not cede control of Iraq to the United Nations following the war. However, Powell added that the international body should have some role in the development of a post-Saddam Iraq, including helping to pay for the reconstruction costs.
The analysts all agreed that the U.N. member states are unlikely to provide funds for reconstruction unless they have a major role in the country's development. Crocker said this was problematic because cost estimates for reconstructing Iraq run from $20 billion to hundred of billions of dollars.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been a staunch supporter of Bush administration plans to invade Iraq, has pressed for a strong U.N. role in the rebuilding of the country. However, in meetings Thursday, Bush and Blair agreed that the role of the United Nations must be limited to humanitarian aid until American and British troops have made Iraq safe.
Carpenter said that U.N. involvement should be limited solely to humanitarian relief, even after the war is over.
"I think it is preferable to have a rapid transition (to an Iraqi regime), and that will be easier if it just involves the United States and no intervention from the United Nations and other parties," he said.