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Iraq: Was eliminating the Old Guard a mistake?

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by Arctic Daishi, Jun 4, 2013.

?

Should we have eliminated the Old Guard?

  1. Yes, eliminating them was the right decision.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. No, eliminating them wasn't the right decision.

    83.3%
  3. Undecided.

    16.7%
  1. Arctic Daishi Gems: 6/31
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    One of the most controversial decisions made by the United States and the post-invasion Iraqi government was to fire every single government employee in Iraq. Everyone from Saddam's top generals to lowly tax collectors were ousted and left unemployed.

    Many of these public servants and soldiers felt as though they had been treated unfairly. Some viewed themselves as merely doing their job and trying to better their country, and had no real ties or love for Saddam Hussein's regime. This resulted in mass protests and eventually led many of these disaffected individuals to join terrorist groups.

    Some argue that the firing of government employees was a necessary evil, as virtually all government employees were members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. Others believe only Saddam's soldiers and top officials should have been sacked, whereas low-level, non-military troops should have remained in place. Still others argue that the move resulted in even more violence and public sympathy for the terrorists. Another problem was that it destabilized the fledgling provisional government and there was no longer an Iraqi security force to combat the terrorists.

    What do you think, was the decision to fire every single public servant and soldier in Iraq, without exception, a mistake? Would we have been better off keeping some, if not all, of the previous establishment in place?


    This isn't a discussion on whether or not the Iraq War was justified.
     
  2. Drew

    Drew Arrogant, contemptible, and obnoxious Adored Veteran

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    I don't see how we can discuss one without the other. :confused:

    That aside, yes, firing the entire damn government, particularly the Iraqi Military, was a mistake. It put, at least a temporarily, a foreign face on all peace keeping efforts. This short sighted, knee-jerk decision rendered every mis-step in the reconstruction process 'our fault' in the eyes of the Iraqis. Moreover, it isn't like there was another group of qualified and skilled civil servants and soldiers just waiting in the wings to take over, either. There's a learning curve.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2013
    Old One and Arctic Daishi like this.
  3. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I think the war was a mistake, destroying their entire infrastructure was a mistake, and not allowing others in the world to help rebuild was a mistake. We didn't have the intelligence (in more ways than one) to determine who was loyal to the former regime and who wasn't -- what if say a hundred or so of those people were "bad" and tried to do something "bad"? Instead we let the country wallow -- allowing thousands of terrorist and Hussein sympathizers to come into the country, steal millions of tons of ammunition, and wreak havok for years.
     
  4. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I'm assuming you're asking this from the perspective of what we knew at the time, and not what we know now. No one could possibly argue today that it was the right decision with the benefit of 10 years of hindsight.
     
  5. coineineagh

    coineineagh I wish for a horde to overrun my enemies Resourceful Adored Veteran

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    Even letting low-level public servants keep their jobs poses a risk, as it's easy for any Saddam loyalist to climb the ranks and subvert the regime. But what it is exactly that the USA is trying to protect against is unclear. A muslim country will always have a government with muslim influences, democracy as the USA is selling it is just windowdressing, and the local culture is based on family ties and friendships. What is derogatively referred to as a corrupt banana republic.
    Either way, it didn't matter. The whole world would probably have been better off if the USA didn't attack.
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Arrogant, contemptible, and obnoxious Adored Veteran

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    In a country where you being Sunni was an unspoken precondition to being a civil servant, not a lot of Shia would have received educations and job experience that would qualify them for such a job. There would, after all, have been little point in earning a degree in, say, Public Administration. By firing Saddam's government, we fired the very people most qualified to govern effectively.

    In any democracy or parliamentary system, or and even in despotic regimes, it is the bureaucrats that actually run the country. Those bureaucrats have skills that you can't just pluck from the ether. A specific combination of education and training is required for these jobs. Kicking out all of the qualified and experienced Sunni bureaucrats to make the way for under-qualified and inexperienced Shia bureaucrats merely traded one type of systemic discrimination for another -- and the Shia government has shown itself to be just as petty and discriminatory, if not more so, than it's Sunni counterpart was under Saddam.

    The Sunni, after all, are only a fifth of the Iraqi population. There was only so far they could carry their systemic discrimination since they needed to keep the Shia majority at least nominally content with their lot. In the old government, the Sunni voice was louder than it should have been, but it was always tempered by the fact that they were a relatively small minority. In the new government, they Shia give them no voice at all. The Shia government chose the day Sunni Iraqis begin celebrating Eid al-Adha to execute Saddam Hussein. This was not a coincidence.

    If the Americans were smart, we would have enforced equal hiring practices that would have over time brought the Iraqi government to a state of equilibrium. We chose not to do that, with disastrous results. Al Quaida in Iraq owes much of its growth to the desperation that so often accompanies losing your voice in the government. Our arrogance bolstered their numbers.
     
  7. dogsoldier Gems: 7/31
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    First of all, what the heck are you talking about when you post "The Old Guard"? I am familiar with a U.S. Army unit called that, but I'm not immediately familiar with that as a term that is typically applied to discussion of policy in Iraq circa 2003.

    This didn't actually happen. Only 30,000 to 50,000 Ba'ath party members were fired. This is from an estimated 2.5 million Ba'ath party members at the outset of the invasion in 2003. (Source: W. Andrew Terrill, Lessons of the Iraqi De-Ba'athification Program for Iraq's Future and the Arab Revolutions [Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2012).

    School-teachers who were Ba'ath party members earned about $200 a month. Those who weren't Bat'ath party members could expect to make about $4. (Again, from Terrill's monograph). So there were clear benefits, for many individuals, to join the Ba'ath. That being said, there were bureaucrats, officers, and other workers inside the government who were not members of the Ba'ath party.

    That wasn't true. Greg Muttitt's Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq (New York: The New Press, 2012) makes pretty compelling case that many were not. In fact, the oil ministry in particular had almost no Ba'ath party members and was renowned as being apolitical and technically proficient. In fact, I think there is an anecdote in the book where only 1 or 2 members of the entire ministry were members of the Ba'ath party.
    Not sure what you are even talking about here. What is a "low-level, non-military troop"?

    Are you confusing Paul Bremer's Order No. 1, De-Ba'athification, with Order No. 2, the Dissolution of Entities?

    There wasn't really an insurgency at this point. The De-Ba'athification order was issued around 16 May; while there was significant instability (looting, murders, crime, etc) there was not really an insurgency, nor had Al-Qaeda reared it's ugly head.

    Check http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Centers/saban/iraq index/index20120131.PDF. Page 5 depicts the first multiple casualty bombing occurring in August '03 and it is not until December that the bombings reach double-figures. U.S casualties do not spike until January or February of 2004, according to page 7. Charles Tripp, in A History of Iraq, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), indicates the insurgency didn't pick up steam until July (I think most people in the U.S. didn't really pay attention to it until the UN headquarters in Baghdad was blown up in August).

    My understanding is that this was the intent.

    From what I can tell (in Gordon and Trainor's Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq [New York: Vintage Books, 2007] lays it out in some detail, plus numerous articles, monographs, and other books--like David Ballard, David Lamm, and John Wood's From Kabul to Baghdad and Back [Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012], which calls the policy "a mistake"), Bremer thought he was only eliminating the top couple of layers of bureaucrats and officials, while the "apparatus" below them would be kept in place. His execution of his plan was exceptionally poor, however (probably exacerbated by the fact he had no Middle East experience before his posting in Baghdad, and therefore likely lacked any understanding of the nuances of Iraqi politics), because he mostly turned it over for execution to the Iraqi expatriates like Ahmed Chalabi. These expatriates, first of all, hated the Saddam regime and the Ba'ath party with an exceptional fervor, and second of all, perceived in Order No. 1 an opportunity to establish their own power while eliminating what little remained amongst the Sunni elites in Iraq.

    I find Gordon and Trainor's books Cobra II (basically covers the conflict from about 2002 to 2004) and The Endgame (from 2004 to 2011, I think) to be the best 2 books about the Iraq conflict, from the U.S. perspective, at least. I can recommend a couple of dozen others that provide other perspectives.
     
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