In answer to Phil Carter’s query about Condi Rice’s “thousands of tactical errors” comment:
No doubt thousands of tactical errors have been made, if you call it an error whenever later information reveals that a different course of action would have worked out better. No doubt many were made even against the more reasonable standard that calls an error when a course of action is chosen that the person making it could reasonably have been known at the time was sub-optimal. But I doubt that mattered.
The errors that mattered were strategic. The usual list would include:
1. Listening to exiles.
2. Going in without any clear idea of what to do after military victory.
3. Demobilizing the Iraqi Army without having anything to put in its place.
4. Not ensuring the loyalty of the Iraqi civil service by making sure they got paid.
5. Not focusing on the problem of providing security for ordinary Iraqis.
But I claim that success would have been possible anyway if it hadn’t been for the big mistake:
6. Trying to rebuild Iraq using American contractors.
If the tens of billions spent on non-military activity in Iraq had been spent hiring Iraqis to do things, or merely handed out to local authorities or to individual Iraqis, Iraq would be prospering now, and prosperity is always a plus for the regime in power. Of course much of the money given to Iraqi contractors and local Iraqi leaders would have been stolen or wasted, and much of the money given to individuals would have been squandered or taken from them by force or fraud. But it would have gone to enrich Iraqis, not Halliburton. We’ve spent considerably more than the Iraqi GDP there, on things other than paying and supplying the troops, and gotten damned little for it, either in gratitude or in concrete accomplishment. If instead we’d just handed each Iraqi family an amount equal to the median household income, we’d have been way ahead of the game.
It’s remarkable that an Administration so loud in its belief in the virtue of market transactions insisted on a government-run, command-and-control approach to Iraqi reconstruction. But of course there was no other way to pay off their contributors and cronies. So maybe “mistake” is the wrong word. “Crime” might be a better label.