Special report: After Saddam Hussein - Winning a peace if it comes to war

Ray Salvatore Jennings
Briefly ...

Successful post-conflict reconstruction does not begin "the day after." It begins "the day before." The United States must have military and political strategies in hand before intervention in Iraq.

The United States should prepare for a form of "temporary occupation" of post-war Iraq for a period of up to two years. With no delay, the United States should assume control of Iraq with enough capacity to fill envisioned gaps left by the conduct of the war and by the necessary vetting and purging of Iraqi officials that will occur in the first weeks and months of occupation.

Saddam Hussein's removal will unleash popular forces and expectations that dramatic improvements in the quality of life are imminent. The United States should encourage the embrace of reform and democratic development by rapidly providing relief and reconstruction assistance, thus demonstrating a "peace dividend." Such reforms would further discredit the former regime in the eyes of the public.

A post-war, transitional occupation scenario will require the political decontamination and de-Ba'athification of Iraq. The vetting and purging of former officials and establishment of a post-war justice system must proceed quickly to break the cycle of impunity that characterized the culture prior to intervention and to minimize a security gap, lawlessness, and resistance in the first months of occupation.

The arrogance displayed in post-World War II occupations would be particularly misplaced in Iraq. U.S. attitudes of superiority and the subtle caste systems that characterized other occupations, for example, would prove disastrous in Iraq, where every move would carry political significance and where international legitimacy for a U.S. military government is in short supply.

The U.S. track record on nation-building is discouragingly mixed. Of the eighteen regimes the United States has displaced by force this past century, democratic rule has prevailed in only five places - a success rate of less than 30 percent. The complexity, profile, and political sensitivity of an Iraq intervention make it no place to continue such a dismal performance.

The accomplishments of an intervention, particularly one that is unilateral, could easily be subverted by losing the peace. American credibility is on the line. The United States has the resources and the expertise to win the war, but it almost certainly lacks the political will to successfully endure a post-war, multi-year marathon to rebuild Iraq alone. If the United States chooses war, it must summon the will to enlist significant allies, to attain international legitimacy, and to overcome an inborn aversion to nation-building. If not, it should forgo war and pursue other means to resolve the crisis.

Going Big or Going Home: The Costs of Failing to Win the Peace

If a war occurs to rid Saddam Hussein of his hold on power and the weapons he may possess, successful reconstruction and restoration of authority in Iraq is crucial. Robust and effective post-conflict initiatives will stabilize the region, empower Iraqi moderates to capture the national imagination, and allow the United States to bank on success to contain tensions and influence other developments in the Middle East and around the world. Failure to successfully secure the country post-Saddam will not only reverse such advantages, it may lead to the collapse of the Iraqi state, the rise of another despot, or crippling economic uncertainty with global implications. Ultimately, post-war chaos and long-term disorder in Iraq may prove more destructive to human life, regional stability, and national interest than any attempt to oust the Iraqi ruler. If the United States is going to war with Iraq, it should be prepared to go the distance.

Iraq is not a collapsed state nor is it experiencing significant civil war; but a shorthand approach to post-war reconstruction may produce both. In the territory under Baghdad's control, Saddam Hussein's rule is absolute. Iraq is a sophisticated country, not a struggling developing nation on the brink of disintegration. There are few internal threats or hostile neighbors that Hussein cannot manage. The country's infrastructure is worn but serviceable. The availability of natural resources, arable land, a sophisticated diaspora, and the high education level of the populace are important national assets. More than 70 percent of the population lives in or near cities where the culture is predominantly secular and distinctly urban.

Yet the structural integrity of the nation currently depends on fear, violence, illicit oil revenue, and the illegitimate authority of one man and the party he leads. If the United States is not prepared to act decisively once the regime is weakened, uncertainty will rapidly fill the space created as this authority is dismantled. Political fragmentation and social disintegration are likely. Combined with the brutal lethality of modern weapons, this may create one of the toughest political and humanitarian emergencies to date.

In the absence of significant moves to consolidate the peace and depending on the conduct and duration of the war, a post-war scenario in Iraq may include Hussein loyalists sabotaging critical files and national infrastructure. Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians, and Chaldeans - persecuted religious and ethnic groups that make up over 80 percent of the population of Iraq - may seize important facilities and territory. Kurds in particular may attempt to formalize their independence. Turkey's nervousness may turn to a cross-border campaign to ensure that Kurdish ambitions to control Kirkuk (an oil-rich city in northern Iraq) are not realized. A desire for political change, uncertainty over U.S. intentions, Hussein's re-tribalization of Iraqi society, and his manipulation of religious communities may each contribute to a "weathervaning" of local support toward various factional leaders who are the most convincing, effective, or brutal in their campaigns.

Tribal, ethnic, or region-based militias may develop among the country's 150 major tribes and 2000 clans, commanded by figures similar to Afghan warlords. Rashash al-Amara, a 65-year-old pro-government sheik in the southern marshlands, and Sheik Talal Salim al Khalidi of the Mosul-based Khalid tribes are examples. Both have sworn to defend Iraq against foreign invaders, but with Hussein's demise, fluid loyalties could lead them to use the weapons the regime has provided to turn on rivals or to settle scores with Ba'ath party operatives. Saddam Hussein's recent summoning of Shiite tribal leaders in the south to swear on the Koran that they will not repeat their 1991 rebellion signals some nervousness over the reliability of his southern flank. Speaking on southern Iraq, Wamidh Nadhmi, professor of political science at Baghdad University, warns that in 1991, "Ba'athist officials were murdered or burned alive. If there is something like that now it means more bloodshed inside Iraq between Iraqis. It means both sides are using absolute violence to try to conquer the other."

A lack of decisive governing authority over Iraqi territory could lead to magnification of groups with rumored ties to Al Qaeda like Ansar al Islam in the northeast. Afghan-style warlordism is also not out of the question. No faction in Iraq, including the remnants of the Sunni-dominated military, is likely to be strong enough to establish complete control over the country. Without an external presence in the post-war power vacuum, the descent into internal war may be swift. Wild card elements in the post-war operational environment may include burning oil fields, contamination by use or unintentional damage of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and a possible scorched earth retreat by forces loyal to Hussein.

Iraq's critical social capital may suffer as well. Iraqi technocrats and their families, many of whom are Ba'ath party members of convenience, may flee, disappear, or attempt to renounce their ties to the party on the spot. Already strained basic services may become unreliable and local governance and what rule of law that exists will likely deteriorate. Potential political moderates would be marginalized and the trust, participation, and sense of hope essential for legitimate governance to emerge would then be overwhelmed by insecurity and political uncertainty. Without visible support for pluralism or protection of basic human rights as Iraq transitions from war to peace, the United States would be more vulnerable to charges of imperial intent and geostrategic subterfuge and would lose the credibility necessary to encourage democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Distrust of the United States among those who might someday legitimately rule Iraq would intensify.

In the resulting confusion, humanitarian crises may develop, necessitating the military to facilitate the humanitarian response while simultaneously prosecuting a hot war against the vestiges of the old regime and dangerous regional spoilers. Massive internal population movements may occur as a result of fighting and as Iraqis reverse Hussein's forcible resettlement policies that have attempted to "Arab-ize" the country. Factional skirmishes and "cleansing" of undesirables by groups that seize control of territory may contribute to further displacement. The Washington Post cited UN high commissioner for refugees Ruud Lubbers and a confidential UN report warning that up to 5.4 million Iraqis will require food and basic necessities; 39 percent of the population will need potable water; 500,000 may require medical care; and 600,000 displaced persons will need emergency assistance in the first months of the war (Jill Lawless, Associated Press, February 11, 2003). A brief by the Center for Humanitarian Cooperation maintains that 100,000 people could be in need of immediate food aid on day one, and that number could rise by 100,000 each day. Destroyed railroads and bridges across the rivers that trisect the country will make the movement of assistance more difficult. Damaged port facilities at Umm Qasr and electricity shortages may result in further complications in aid delivery and presage declines in sanitation and health.

In this chaos, every action the United States takes will occur in a fishbowl. The United States will be held responsible for political emergencies, humanitarian crises, and atrocities in the country from the moment the war begins - particularly if the action is unilateral.

These are the kinds of post-war contingencies that should be prepared for with as much vigor as is common in preparing for the unknowns of executing the war itself. It is troubling that some officials argue for careful thinking about what may go wrong during the war but caution against exaggeration of the risks in the post-war period. What is clear from experience in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, and Somalia is that winning the peace is never certain and it is a very difficult thing to do. As Anthony Cordesman writes in his report Lessons of Afghanistan, "Even the most impressive tactical or strategic military victory can lose much or all of its meaning if it is followed by a diplomatic and political power vacuum" (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., 2002). Doubtless the above post-war scenario does not account for every uncertainty over conditions inside the country. The trouble is that there is no way of knowing for sure what may happen. But with the costs of failing to win the peace so high, it is reasonable to assume - based on experience - that successful post-war reconstruction will not be easy or predictable.

Principles and Recommendations for Engagement

Writing in the September-October 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs, John Ikenberry describes the country's new foreign policy as a "vision in which the United States arrogates to itself the global role of setting standards, determining threats, using forces and meting out justice. It is a vision in which sovereignty becomes more absolute for America even as it becomes more conditional for countries that challenge Washington's standards of internal and external behavior. It is a vision made necessary - at least in the eyes of its advocates - by the new apocalyptic character of contemporary terrorist threats and by America's unprecedented global dominance."

Charles Krauthammer finds reason for optimism in this "unipolar moment," contending that "we are not just any hegemon. We run a uniquely benign imperium" (Weekly Standard, June 4, 2001). The Project for the New American Century, a public policy group whose supporters include Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, maintains that America's extraordinary and unparalleled power is best used "preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles" (mission statement, President George W. Bush reminded last year's graduating class at West Point that "the 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress." And, he added, "the peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation" (June 1, 2002,

The United States has an obligation, in such a vision, to preserve its security by preemptively trumping the sovereignty of a defiant Iraq, making the world safe for democracy in the process.

But during and after such a war, how will the United States strike the balance between the high value it puts on stability and its rhetoric of liberation? Each move the United States makes will be read as a reflection of its post-9/11 international persona and its imperial intentions.

Leaving aside questions over the merits of American exceptionalism, whether expectations of a quick war will be fulfilled, or whether such a war is even necessary, what the United States may do in post-conflict Iraq is of the greatest importance to Iraqis, to America's stated security interests, and to U.S. aspirations to champion democratic principles and values. Muscle-flexing during an invasion must be reconciled with the political imperative of assisting Iraq toward stable, post-occupation self-determination.

We have a troubled past with such commitments. As Minxin Pei and Sara Kasper of the Carnegie Endowment note, the United States has replaced 18 regimes by force in the last century but democratic rule prevailed in only Germany, Japan, Italy, Panama, and Grenada. The United States has often backed into nation-building responsibilities with deep denial, incrementalism, and reluctance resulting in a lack of commitment and half measures when the going gets tough. Iraq, Pei and Kasper say, is the last place we should continue the practices that account for such a poor performance (Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2003). Tom Carothers agrees. Carothers, a democratization expert at Carnegie, stresses that the complexity, profile, and sensitivity of an Iraq intervention will require the United States "to commit itself to a massive, expensive, demanding, and long-lasting reconstruction effort" (Foreign Affairs, January-February 2003).

America has the military dominance to succeed at war but does it have what it takes to successfully manage a post-war, multi-year effort to reform and rebuild Iraq?

The following principles and recommendations outline several of the responsibilities and obligations that would be required of the United States to win the peace. They are not intended to be comprehensive but to provide a summary of the most significant considerations that must be weighed in conjunction with any decision to go to war. The proposals below are appropriate for the first 18 months - a period of high vulnerability that begins on day one of the peace in most post-war environments - and are not meant to provide a complete blueprint for what will likely be a decade of work in post-conflict Iraq. Finally, these recommendations and principles presuppose that Saddam Hussein will not be deposed, step down, or otherwise cease to exercise power except by direct U.S. military intervention. The character of the suggestions below would be unsuitable in such circumstances.

The United States must be prepared to implement military and political strategies in tandem without delay immediately following the war.

Successful post-conflict reconstruction does not begin "the day after." It begins "the day before." Significant preparation and pre-positioning of necessary resources is required. For example, planning for the successful post-World War II German and Japanese occupations of 60 years ago began two years before the end of the war and included comprehensive plans for reconstruction, political reform, and staffing of occupation governments. In the ongoing intervention in Afghanistan, where many of the hard lessons in nation-building from Germany, Japan, Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo should have been applied, the United States engaged the Taliban with a clear military strategy but neglected to develop coherent political objectives for the post-war period. As forces there finish off a hot war while facilitating a peace process, political development and nation-building have a debilitating ad hoc quality about them that contributes to distrust of American commitment and intentions. If the United States does not have post-war military and political strategies in hand before intervention, the post-conflict situation in Iraq is likely to be similar if not far more difficult than the one in Afghanistan.

This war will be the longest telegraphed punch in American military history. A post-war vision should be similarly clear to reassure Iraqis and skeptical domestic and international audiences and to facilitate post-war planning. Secretiveness and "silo-ing" of communications, intelligence, and planning processes currently characterize preparations for post-war intervention, however. A recently created Pentagon-based office headed by Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner is to evaluate Iraq's resources for use in reconstruction, but the office is under-funded, its terms of reference are classified, and its authority to access vital intelligence is uncertain. Moreover, its location in the Pentagon makes access to information and planning by humanitarian and relief agencies difficult. Few professionals within the United States Agency for International Development, the State Department, the Pentagon, or among implementing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are able - or authorized - to openly discuss scenarios or to participate in regular planning exercises. Only a few individuals are empowered to bridge institutions to conduct a larger dialogue on post-war preparations. Gen. Tommy Franks has been chosen to serve as the initial occupation governor but the extent of his authority, the duration of his post, and the shape of a military government are unresolved. There is little communication with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Moreover, that office and similar UN agencies that would be important in the post-war response are politically constrained from issuing calls for funding yet are in the awkward position of having to prepare for a crisis in Iraq they know will almost certainly occur without the resources or the forethought that could save lives. The result is that the very people who are charged with making post-war intervention work - the practitioners, field administrators, and program managers - are kept in the dark and are unable to effectively pre-position their operations.

There is much to do if serious preparations are to take place. Relief and development must occur simultaneously in post-war Iraq. A task force approach should be adopted and multi-agency, civilian-military collaboration should be underway now at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., similar to the effort during the Afghanistan campaign. Quiet back-channel arrangements need to be made to prepare UNHCR, UNICEF, and the United Nations Development Program, and preparations for a donors' conference in the early weeks of the post-war period must be made. In the meantime, the United States must identify its own sources of liquidity, ensuring that adequate assistance funds are available now, so organizations can prepare themselves, and later, on day one, so they can begin humanitarian and "peace dividend" reconstruction projects. Relief and development organizations that can implement these projects will need to be informed of access points and the military's expected coordination and governance role in advance so they may stage their operations accordingly. Unlike other intervention environments, there are few NGOs already in Baghdad that could rapidly expand existing operations.

Policies concerning civilian-military interaction during the implementation of projects and the distribution of humanitarian aid should be clarified now - not on the run, as is the case, for example, with the controversial U.S.-led Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan. These PRTs, now deployed in three towns outside of Kabul, are designed to protect assistance providers, to implement reconstruction projects, and to gather intelligence in rural Afghanistan. Yet NGOs assert that coalition belligerents in an active war are not politically suited to implement assistance and are more needed to provide security to beleaguered Afghans - the very thing PRTs will not do. In Iraq, will the U.S. military engage in aid distribution and reconstruction projects only as a last resort or will it take the lead in near-term humanitarian and reconstruction assistance? If it leads, many NGOs may refuse to follow, on the grounds that this would compromise their neutrality and make them instruments of a government's foreign policy. Ideally, the military should use its expertise to establish security, open aid corridors, facilitate logistics, and supply civilian implementers with information on dangers ranging from mines to spoilers and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The military's engineering and civil affairs expertise should be used to facilitate distribution of humanitarian aid and reconstruction only to the extent that international and local civilian agencies are unable to do the job. But this emphasis on civilian organizations will only work if they are funded, pre-positioned, fully informed, and prepared to begin operations in the first hours of the peace.

Implementing NGOs and aid specialists, especially those on the front end of the post-war engagement, should undergo training on conducting their work in environments potentially contaminated with weapons of mass destruction. Together with the military, civilian assistance providers need to prepare for the prospect of phenomena like population bombs, when large numbers of people are displaced in the face of an attacking army. Recruitment of international civilian police and justices should be underway. Diplomacy with Turkey over likely scenarios with the Kurds and possible refugee crises should continue. Comforting signals should be sent to Iran to ensure that their nervousness over encirclement does not detonate into an unexpected crisis along the eastern border or among proxies in Iraq. Finally, efforts should be made now to infiltrate into Iraq the technology of dissent, to curtail and prohibit the foreign travel of Ba'ath party operatives, and to freeze their overseas assets. Such moves may even increase the odds that Saddam Hussein would be displaced without war.

The United States should consider a form of "temporary occupation" of post-war Iraq for a period of up to two years.

If Saddam Hussein's regime is dismantled, replacement authority will be necessary - possibly for years. This politically expensive commitment of long-term transition assistance will test the ability of the United States to rise above the entropy that domestic politics brings to long-term commitments overseas and nation-building endeavors in general.

Choosing war obliges the United States to identify the contours of post-war political authority. What will be the authority of this government's viceroy? How will Iraqis participate? Who will fill out the government?

There should be no delay in setting up governing organs once the current regime no longer functions. A UN administration, as witnessed in Kosovo, would require months to be put in place. This would prove disastrous in Iraq. Within days, the United States should assume control of the country with enough capacity to fill gaps left by the conduct of the war and by a necessary purge that will occur in the first weeks and months of occupation. This will be all the more necessary since there are no viable heirs to succeed Saddam Hussein. There is virtually no opposition political class within the country to draw from and most Iraqi exile figures are distrusted. Incoming occupation officials, civilian and military, must have the support of Washington and the latitude to immediately begin governing the country. This temporary governance structure may resemble some of the features of the international presence in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Afghanistan, but it would have more in common with the German and Japan occupations. Unlike in the former, there must be no hesitation, no security gap, and no bureaucratic lapse while the details of post-war authority are debated.

At the risk of describing an overly simplified, overly ambitious scenario for post-war governance, the following recommendations address the primary functions of a temporary occupation government. The recommendations are meant to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge that temporary occupation presents rather than to provide a schematic for post-war authority.

In the first place, a civilian rather than a military governor would have been a far better choice to govern post-war Iraq. Civilian governance is more consistent with democratization initiatives and conducive to the development of less hierarchical, sovereign institutions based on checks and balances. If Franks is viceroy, he will have to overcome his timidity with the press to understand that the media, the international community, and Iraq's public will quickly associate the occupation government with the person of the governor. The greater his ability to remain effective under adversarial scrutiny, the pressure of public demands, and the glare of the international press corps the better. Garner, who may succeed or assist Franks, knows Iraq but like Franks he will have to bear up under the kind of pressure more typical of politics than the military. From the beginning, the governor will need the help of international staff (seconded to the temporary government) with expertise in the following categories of activity: military affairs, transitional assistance, public security, public outreach, oil and industry, finance and banking, and political development.

In post-war Iraq, the military would continue pursuing spoilers and resistance groups while also mounting search and destroy missions for WMD. These forces would also be responsible for border security, initially confining the Iraqi Army to barracks and eventually managing a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program as well as training initiatives for what remains of the standing Iraqi Army. It would be important for the U.S. military to safeguard important infrastructure, oil facilities, and intelligence files. They would be instrumental in dismantling oppressive government institutions, overseeing the release of political prisoners, opening aid corridors, and protecting safe havens. As needed, they should facilitate the logistics of providing assistance while engaging in emergency projects using engineering corps and civil affairs specialists, if civilian agencies are unable to do such projects in a timely way.

Transitional assistance delivery will be necessary starting in the first days following hostilities and will require coordination with the military by implementers, the United Nations, interested donors, and local assistance providers. Occupation staff will be under pressure to identify critical service shortages, localized humanitarian and political crises, weaknesses in government institutions and infrastructure, and a quick priority list of reconstruction projects requiring immediate attention. Particularly critical will be the government's managing of "peace dividend" initiatives, creating jobs while repairing important national infrastructure in a highly visible fashion. Also important will be collaboration with the United Nations to reorient its "oil for food" program to address post-war imperatives. Indigenous capacities to rebuild the country should not be overlooked. After the 1991 war, the repair of war damage proceeded at a remarkable pace and with little outside help - even while Saddam Hussein was busy reasserting his power during the rebellious months that followed the conflict.

Advisory bodies composed of Iraqis not associated with the past regime should be formed at the earliest possible moment. This may be accomplished, for example, by emloying a variety of democratic selection processes to form advisory boards at local and regional levels (perhaps modeled on the Afghan loya jirga process) and to choose delegates to a new Iraqi transitional council - a council that will be advisory in its first months but slowly assume greater responsibility. Military or factional leaders should be precluded from participating or holding any civil office. Exile political leaders may participate but should not dominate the council. The first responsibilities of this advisory entity, working with occupation coordinators, will be to develop a plan for the form of a new sovereign government, to make preparations and a schedule for eventual elections, to design legal and constitutional reform, and to plan for community-based democratization initiatives while identifying government capacities needing attention in the first eight months of occupation.

The importance of pubic security cannot be overstated. Stability in Iraq will require the rule of law. In the occupations of Haiti, Grenada, Panama, Germany, and Japan, military personnel immediately assumed policing responsibilities. In Iraq, where there is little in the way of existing rule of law, the U.S. military should also provide the first wave of policing, filling in gaps and managing Iraq's rank and file police forces already on the ground. But this should quickly shift to management by international civilian police staged for quick entry into the country. In addition, international justices, especially from appropriate Middle Eastern and neutral western nations, should be recruited to fill the positions left with the inevitable purge of Iraq's 500 existing justices. Maintaining a multinational face to a policing and adjudicatory presence will go a long way to muting criticisms of imperial motivations. Ensuring adequate policing and some semblance of rule of law in the months following the war, however, will depend on how much of the existing rank and file police and court functionaries may be kept in place to assist international supervisors as they carry out their duties. It will also depend on the degree to which police operations can be localized, separated from Iraq's military, and able to call on the U.S. military to back policing efforts on occasion.

Attention to oil and industry concerns in the first 12 months will also be necessary. Iraqis should continue to manage the oil industry, with only top-level Ba'athist executives purged from their posts. The United States has been, and continues to be, the largest single consumer of Iraqi oil and is most vulnerable to charges of imperial subterfuge over its treatment of this resource. Occupation staff must install an independent auditing capacity within the industry, privatizing it while facilitating and monitoring the negotiation of new contracts and reporting on the export practices of the industry. Iraq's oil enterprises could even be transformed into publicly traded companies - ensuring that any future dictator would have to seize public assets to control this resource. Much of the current revenue generated by Iraqi oil, upwards of 75 percent, is now used for humanitarian purposes. If donor governments provide relief assistance separately, much of this revenue, along with possible foreign investment, could be turned back into the rehabilitation and development of Iraq's crumbling oil extraction and export infrastructure. Independent, professional, and indigenous control of the oil industry will be important to Iraq's political development. The only Middle East governments that resemble democracies are those without oil such as Lebanon and Bahrain. Government control over oil revenue has provided most Middle East regimes, Iraq included, the leverage to oppress their publics.

The banking system in Iraq is virtually non-existent. A fully functioning central bank with branch offices throughout the country will be critical to Baghdad's new legitimacy and a new economy. An important "day before" task is to follow the money trail of top Ba'athist officials to where they have deposited their personal funds in overseas banks. These assets should be frozen, these individuals located and arrested, and the funds returned to the central bank - or a temporary executing bank - for public use. Aid funds that may eventually pass through rehabilitated Iraqi government ministries will require significant and accountable central bank and branch office capacities to reach intended beneficiaries.

The temporary occupation government should have a very strong public outreach capacity. Staff must ensure that the population is informed about the initiatives and accomplishments of the military government and stress that the United States has a firm commitment to long-term rehabilitation and a return of full sovereignty. American intentions regarding Iraqi oil should be clear. The regular provision of news about the economy and alterations to any sanctions regime will also be important. Public outreach activity should complement political development initiatives, public dialogue events, and assistance designed to develop professional and independent media in Iraq.

The needs, challenges, and time required for post-conflict reconstruction and nation-building are routinely underestimated. Two years may be too short a period to consolidate the most volatile threats to the peace process and to return significant governing authority to Iraqis. There is currently no rule of law, no indigenous multi-party structure, no separation of powers, and no democratic tradition. But fulfilling the responsibilities of temporary government that are mentioned above is only possible if significant numbers of Iraqis are retained in their civil service posts and if the United States actively promotes democratic political development through advisory councils, working with government structures once they are purged of Hussein's appointees. The United States must also be flexible, opportunistic, and swift in its response to political and humanitarian crises, violence, resistance, malfeasance, or high crime. If the occupation government can successfully manage these responsibilities in this fashion, it is quite possible it will enjoy the patience and indulgence of the Iraqi people.

A post-war, transitional occupation scenario must include the political decontamination and de-Ba'athification of Iraq.

After successful military campaigns there is often a purge of the vanquished. Vetting after a military intervention, however, is an art form with few conventions or hard rules. Determining criminality and suitability for office while leaving a functioning strata of technocrats in place is essential to stability, self-determination, and eventual exit.

While there are few conventions, there is some consistency in modern practice. Purging the military and purging civilian institutions often proceed differently. In addition, there are differences between "vetting in" individuals (judging them clean enough to take up their duties) and "vetting out" (dismissing individuals or charging them with crimes or activities unbecoming to their position). In general, vetting out occurs first and is best performed with speed. In post-World War II Germany, nearly all members of the Nazi party were dismissed from their posts within six months. In Japan, militarists identified by the Allies before the war's end were purged in the first ten weeks. Occupation forces and cooperative local Japanese inspired by MacArthur's reforms identified and removed the remaining individuals within eight months. In Haiti, large numbers of the police were vetted out in the first months after the most recent U.S. action there. Where personnel, intelligence, and service files have been secured, interpreted, and evaluated, these actions have been invaluable to the vetting process.

The prime virtue of prompt, deep purges from the first days of the occupation is that they put those individuals remaining in their posts on notice that there are penalties for improper conduct. The drawbacks are that the deeper the cuts, the less the capacity of the institutions being reformed. Occupation forces must compensate for this loss in capacity until such time as enough individuals may be vetted back into these posts. Moreover, individuals who are vetted out can often turn into powerful spoilers to the peace process if they are not otherwise engaged. The bottom line, however, is to quickly break the cycle of impunity that characterized the culture or institution prior to intervention and to minimize a security gap, lawlessness, and resistance in the first months of occupation.

Criteria used in initial purges must be clear and appear fair rather than vengeful or arbitrary. An appeals process is not necessary, primarily because it would require significant resources that are not necessarily offset with gains in credibility or fairness. In addition, purges must take place across the board. In Haiti, when police were thoroughly purged for their complicity in human rights abuses, judges and prosecutors were left in place. Better policing was frustrated by continued scandalous behavior in the courts - which in turn discouraged the police from behaving professionally. Calling on professionalism, camaraderie, and notions of higher duty built on professional soldier-to-soldier relationships are useful in vetting out the defeated military. But military or civilian individuals who are vetted out must be monitored. In El Salvador, removed individuals quickly became powerful impediments to the peace process. In Germany, Japan, and to a lesser extent Panama, Grenada, and Haiti, those who were vetted out were either detained, allocated jobs as manual laborers, moved to remote regions of the country, or otherwise observed.

Filling the gaps while local individuals are vetted back into new posts is critical. In Kosovo, for example, there was no plan to provide even temporary rule of law. A lack of jails, judges, or real policing for the first 10 months of the post-war period contributed to lawlessness, ethnic cleansing of the Serb minority, and continued inter-ethnic violence and organized crime. In an attempt to impose law and order, NATO contingents in Kosovo, including the U.S. base at Bondsteel, constructed makeshift jails to detain suspects. Nearly all detainees escaped or were released from these plywood and razor wire "prisons" after it was apparent they would not be tried. In Haiti, the U.S. military similarly had no plan to police the countryside. They ended up doing so informally, however, being the de facto police, judge, jury, and jailer in many parts of the country for lack of indigenous capacities there.

Vetting in is a different matter. Files are helpful in determining suitability. Self-reporting is also useful. In post-war Germany, over 13 million males were required to fill out questionnaires about their life histories and wartime activities. In general, a process of application, review, training, physical and psychological testing, background investigation, and probation is appropriate. This presupposes a capacity to evaluate and prepare individuals in such large numbers. In Germany and Japan, the slowness of the vetting-in process and external variables including concern over communism led to the rehabilitation of a great many individuals purged in the first year of those occupations.

Current plans to rapidly secure files, especially those of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, are appropriate. It is rumored that three sets of these files are in existence and that at least one set or a portion thereof may be offered for sale in a post-war free for all. The creation of an agency, initially controlled by the U.S. military, to store, guard, and interpret these records should be considered - modeled, perhaps, on the way Stasi records were managed after German reunification. It will be vital to leave rank and file police and technocrats in place in Iraq while dismantling intelligence services, the Republican and Special Republican Guards, propaganda organs, and state ministries controlling the media. Top administrators in the remaining ministries, regional police operations, numerous bureaucracies, and industry should be vetted out in the first months of occupation. A slower process of evaluation to review lower-level functionaries should proceed simultaneously. Vetting in should also begin in the early months of temporary government. Occupation staff will have to assume management responsibility for the vacancies created in the vetting process until they can be filled with Iraqis hired for their skills and clean records.

How the Iraqi Army is treated will prove especially important. The army is the single most potent and legitimate symbol of statehood in the country and should not be humiliated. After initially confining the Iraqi Army to barracks to vet out objectionable individuals, Iraqi brigades should assume incremental responsibility to assist with constabulary duties, contain spoilers, and assist with aid delivery and emergency reconstruction. Iraq's armed forces, not regional factional leaders as in Afghanistan, should serve as temporary U.S. proxies in Iraq.

The United States should encourage the embrace of reform and eventual democratic development by rapidly providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and implementing social reforms to further discredit the former regime.

As Fouad Ajami has observed, there is an acute sense of betrayed promise in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists are widely regarded as criminals. Hussein's removal will unleash popular expectations that will pose significant challenges for the temporary government. Iraqis will be apprehensive about how they will be regarded by the United States and they will expect a dramatic reversal of fortune with the demise of the current regime. Treating Iraqis as collectively guilty of the regime's crimes, for instance, would be inappropriate and amount to confirmation of suspicions about American ethnocentrism and imperial ambition. To control expectations, the United States should expand civil liberties, publicly vet Ba'athists, and begin "peace dividend" reconstruction initiatives as soon as possible in order to turn these popular forces away from organized crime and militarism, and toward reconstruction and reform and appreciation of the work that lies ahead.

It will not be easy. Respected tribal elders who are not factional leaders of private armies, religious figures, and respected members of the regular Iraqi Army should be cultivated for their public support. War crimes trials of many Ba'athists will take place after the 18-month window; these individuals should be detained and, at minimum, called to publicly account for their actions in the weeks following occupation. Tribunals staffed with Iraqi and international professionals should be created to resolve lesser crimes and accusations of misconduct. Such moves will be critical to signaling to Iraq's public that the current regime is finished and, unlike in 1991, the United States is serious about political change in the country.

The Iraqi "street" is likely to resemble the Afghan street, with citizens harboring a mixture of distrust, exhaustion, cynicism, hope, sense of entitlement, and numerous conspiracy theories. There is at least one significant difference, however. Iraqis are far more dependent on government services than Afghans, who have learned to survive in a failed state over two decades. There does not appear to be the resilience in Iraq that is in evidence among the people of Afghanistan but rather a very real vulnerability that comes with continuing strains from the last war and a dependency and desperation created through reliance on government food distribution programs, a failing health care system, and crumbling infrastructure.

To manage rising expectations, dependency, and the need to draw public support away from the ancien regime and possible spoilers, the United States must count on the contributions of Iraq's existing social capital and must rapidly begin providing relief and reconstruction assistance. In post-war Germany, the unavailability of early reconstruction aid and the collective punishment policies of the Allies were, in great part, responsible for prolonged violent resistance, disillusionment, and a lack of initial progress on deeper reforms. In Japan, MacArthur's rapid delivery on a number of dramatic promises was important to the success of his political strategy. In Afghanistan, the continued delay in implementing significant reconstruction assistance is contributing to a lack of patience and a loss of support for the international presence. Progress on deeper political reforms and the containment of dissent in Iraq will require that the temporary occupation government be responsive to these issues from the beginning.

This will require a "day before" up-front obligation of expertise and resources. The challenge will be to contend with inevitable and possibly significant humanitarian concerns while simultaneously demonstrating a substantial commitment to reconstruction. Add the responsibilities of social service delivery, education reform, banking and finance restructuring, political development, expanding civil liberties, and a simultaneous prosecution of a hot war against vestiges of the regime and tribal spoilers and the character of the commitment necessary to conduct the war and win the peace becomes clearer.

Congruence between rhetoric and action is also important. Inconsistencies between American democratization rhetoric and support for warlord proxies in Afghanistan have undermined U.S. credibility there. The elitist and arrogant behavior of military government personnel in the post-World War II occupations caused problems in these instances as well. In Iraq, consistency between the talk and the walk could be demonstrated in an early campaign of community-based rehabilitation projects. These projects do not have to be expensive - most would average $25,000 to $50,000 - but these funds could be channeled directly into rural communities and urban neighborhoods once local citizens had been organized to prioritize their reconstruction needs. A broad campaign of such projects using a participatory methodology would invigorate a democratic ethic and be an important precursor to local elections and civil society development. Kosovo serves as an example where such projects were useful in developing a new political class and a renewed sense of citizen involvement. A National Solidarity Program in Afghanistan promises the same. As a successor government in Iraq takes form, international funds for such community-based reconstruction could be routed through the appropriate government ministry to enhance its relevance and legitimacy among Iraqis outside the capital.

Larger projects repairing transportation, water, health, and telecommunications systems will also be necessary. But the impact of these political initiatives and reconstruction programs can be significantly leveraged by reform of the media. International media development organizations recommend that within the first month of occupation, Iraq's Ministry of Information, Journalism Syndicate, and government censorship offices be dismantled. International civilian media professionals should be placed in charge of state-owned organizations, with Arab-speaking and international media specialists being necessary to fill out the numerous positions that will open as incumbents are vetted out of state media outlets. Iraqi journalists will need to be trained and a new media law developed. Support for the professionalization and expansion of diverse media throughout the country should be provided. One channel of state television should be developed into a public broadcast entity. Iraq's public should be encouraged to see the media as their window, not simply a conduit for official disinformation.

There will be a strong temptation for the occupation government to insist on broadcasting "hearts and minds" programming and optimistic forecasts about the activity and intentions of the occupation government to a sophisticated Iraqi audience. The temptation should be moderated. Iraqis may see this as just more state-sponsored nonsense. In other places, this approach has seldom worked, with various Commander Solo operations and the "Ring Around Serbia" initiative being examples. Control over the media should be relegated to an independent advisory board composed of Iraqi and expatriate professionals. Post-war media should be encouraged to inform the public about dramatic developments in governance and reconstruction but clearly should not become the censored mouthpiece of the occupation.

In post-World War II Japan, one of the most popular radio programs with perhaps the greatest impact on attitudes and perceptions was a variety show that aired the performances of local amateur entertainers. Japanese would listen to skits that made fun of the arrogant militarists, the haughty parliamentarians, and the idealistic, earnest GIs. It was cathartic and authentic - and it made people laugh. In Afghanistan, the "New Home, New Life" series produced by the BBC enjoys a similar place in that culture. Listeners are invited to participate in the lives of their neighbors. Satire and humor are subtly used to contend with the past while welcoming the new in these places and in transition environments like Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Guatemala, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Entertainment programs such as these, plus a variety of productions inviting public discussion of local and national issues and broadcasts featuring heroic advocates for social and cultural change, are popular and more influential than the "news."

The U.S. military and civilian authorities must exercise particular caution to avoid displays of arrogance.

Throughout the 1980s, Iraq was a valued ally of the United States. In 1983, National Security Decision Directive 114 authorized the sharing of military intelligence with Iraq as well as arms sales through Chile and the shipment of dozens of biological agents including anthrax and dual use insecticides. This was necessary at the time, officials said. Iraq was the sworn enemy of America's enemy, Iran.

The long-term hope that Baghdad would become less repressive and more responsible did not materialize, however. Ironically, Iran now shows more promise for reform than Iraq. It is with some humility, then, that the United States should enter Baghdad. The seductions of privilege and absolute control that accompany occupations may make it difficult to rule Iraq without hubris - but it is essential that the United States make the effort. Arrogance will almost certainly prove disastrous. Every gesture will carry political significance in an environment where international legitimacy for occupation is in short supply.

Rebuilding a nation, occupying it in order to free it, is an inherently arrogant act. To mitigate that, says Anthony Cordesman, the war should be seen as a confrontation "to defeat internal forces in ways that allow nations to follow a better course" (Lessons of Afghanistan). The post-war occupation, like the war, should not subjugate but should unfetter Iraqis' ability to put their lives back together. This requires maintaining security and a level playing field, telegraphing U.S. peacebuilding intentions ahead of time, and providing enough assistance to carry the country to a more stable and prosperous future. It also requires developing a relationship, a bond even, with the governed and employing Iraq's social capital to jointly address the extraordinary challenges facing the country over the next several years.

Conclusion: Is the U.S. Ready for the Peace?

The United States has the military dominance to succeed at war but does it have what it takes to engage in the tasks of temporary governance set out above and the responsibilities of nation-building for the decade it may take to set Iraq on an orderly, stable path to democracy?

Simon Chesterman of the International Peace Academy maintains that the United States does not. In the October 2002 issue of the National Interest he writes: "The importance of domestic politics in the exercise of American power means that it has an exceptionally short attention span - far shorter than is needed to complete the long and complicated task of rebuilding a country that has seen over two decades of war, sanctions, and oppression under brutal leaders. This describes both Afghanistan and Iraq."

Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board that advises defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, suggests that Iraq be left to struggle toward democracy in the same way Romania has. Within the National Security Council, advanced preparations remain paralyzed by the fact that there are at least four competing post-war scenarios. Secretary of state Colin Powell has backpedaled from earlier plans to model post-war Iraq on MacArthur's occupation government in Japan, after an uproar in the popular press. The Bush administration has recently reduced the number of U.S. forces and the amount of aid available to Bosnia and Kosovo at one of the most critical moments in their transitions. In Afghanistan, the United States has just recently begun to reorient its ground forces and resources to support reconstruction but has done so without serious attention to the security gap that undermines hope, stability, and political development there. Indeed, the United States, built on values antithetical to colonialism and empire, continues to be reluctant if not schizophrenic about long-term commitments and the rigors of nation-building even as the country's rhetoric signals a commitment to thwart terror and tyrants and promote free and open societies on every continent.

Wrapped in the new cloak of the September 2002 National Security Strategy, the United States, it would seem, could ill afford queasiness about continued nation-building to hasten post-war transition in places where U.S. forces already are. A war in Iraq, unlike existing multilateral peacekeeping operations, only raises the stakes. If the war and the peace are executed poorly, says Ikenberry, it could "trigger antagonism and resistance that will leave America in a more hostile and divided world." It would define the image and reputation of the United States for years to come, it would increase America's vulnerability to terrorism, and it would almost certainly restrict the country's ability to leverage its unprecedented power in the future.

The bold action of Krauthhammer's "benign imperium" carries responsibilities that are extremely difficult, and perhaps dangerous, to disown. If it comes to war, the United States must carefully consider what it is getting into, find what it takes to get the job done, and prepare for the post-war environment by going big and going the distance.

Currently the United States is not ready for the war and the peace - especially if the war is weeks away and if the country remains as uncertain and confused as it has traditionally been about nation-building.

Appropriate "day before" preparations have not been made and a clear statement of vision and intent on post-war governance has not been spelled out. The United States is experiencing a record $300 billion deficit even before the costs of war and nation-building - for which the Pentagon has no reliable estimate - are factored in. Additionally, the political costs to other U.S. engagements such as those in Bosnia and Kosovo are uncertain. Even the impact an invasion of Iraq may have on the U.S. agenda in Afghanistan and on a Karzai government regarded as very close to the United States has not been given significant attention. Neither have the allies necessary to amplify U.S. power and legitimacy on the ground in Iraq been forthcoming, although this may change.

With time the United States could address many of these shortcomings. Inspections could continue as planners begin to draft and make public the detailed political and military strategies necessary to frame the occupation. Funds could be obligated, assistance providers pre-positioned, policies clarified, and professionals identified to serve as police, justices, heads of ministries, regional administrators, bank managers, and public relations specialists. The United States has the technological depth and the expertise to lead but it is doubtful that the United States can win the war and the peace if the coalition it leads is weak. Despite its new strategic ambitions and a declared willingness to go it alone if need be, America must summon the will to enlist significant allies, to win international legitimacy, and to overcome a congenital aversion to nation-building if it is to successfully manage a war - and then a post-war, multi-year marathon of reconstruction, reform, and rehabilitation in Iraq.

If the United States cannot do this - and we must be prepared to admit that we may not be able to - a war with Iraq should be forgone for other means to resolve the crisis. War and post-war peace are the co-joined twins of success in Iraq. U.S. aspirations in the 21st century and the country's objectives in Iraq should be consistent with the nation's ability to realistically manage such undertakings. The accomplishments of an intervention in Iraq, or the foreign policy ambitions of the nation, could too easily be subverted by losing the peace.

About the Report

Military planners argue that nothing short of overwhelming force designed to contend with every contingency is appropriate for a war with Iraq. But a similar doctrine is also appropriate for the post-conflict period. Well-planned, flexible, and effective post-war initiatives can stabilize the region, empower Iraqi moderates, and help the United States to contain tensions and influence political developments in the Middle East and around the world. Failure to secure the country will not only reverse such advantages, it may lead to the collapse of the Iraqi state, the rise of another despot, or crippling economic uncertainty with global implications. The costs of failing to successfully rebuild and reform Iraq once the war ends are extraordinarily high - so high, in fact, that no decision to go to war should be made without a comprehensive commitment to manage the aftermath.

Ray Jennings is a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and was previously senior field adviser and country director for several post-conflict programs in the Office of Transition Initiatives, U.S. Agency for International Development, and for the World Bank. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University.

Of Related Interest

Many other publications from the United States Institute of Peace address issues that relate directly to Iraq and to conflict and peacebuilding in the Muslim world.

Recent Institute reports include:

Building Interreligious Trust in a Climate of Fear: An Abrahamic Trialogue (Special Report 99, February 2003)

Would an Invasion of Iraq Be a Just War? (Special Report 98, January 2003)

Islamic Extremists: How Do They Mobilize Support? (Special Report 89, July 2002)

Islamic Perspectives on Peace and Violence (Special Report 82, January 2002)

Recent books from USIP Press include:

Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding, edited by David Smock (2002)

Religious Perspectives on War: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Attitudes Toward Force (rev. ed.), by David Smock (2002)

Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy, by Scott W. Hibbard and David Little (1997)

For book sales and order information, call 800-868-8064 (U.S. toll-free only) or 703-661-1590, or fax 703-661-1501.

USIP Library Resources

Iraq Web Links

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policies.

For information on additional Special Reports, please e-mail Public Outreach, or call (202) 429-3832.

February 2003