“No more cutting insult”

Where was Condi Rice when Bremer and Rumsfeld decided to disband the Iraqi Army?

Paul Bremer apparently isn’t willing to take the fall for disbanding the Iraqi Army. Given the world-historic level of f*ck-up involved, I’m not surprised.

But in fact the memo he released doesn’t do much to exonerate him. The way I read it, the scheme was cooked up among Bremer, Feith, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, and never explicitly communicated to the President. Bremer simply slipped in an obscure reference to “an even more robust measure” regarding the military as part of a paragraph about de-Ba’athification efforts. This is way short of a decision memo: “Mr. President, it is our advice that the Iraqi Army be disbanded” with check-boxes for “Approve,” “Disapprove,” or “Discuss.”

There seems to be some ambiguity about how much the move was discussed with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell says State was never consulted.

What’s most striking about the Times story is the person who isn’t mentioned: Condi Rice. Making sure that major decisions get properly staffed out and cleared, and that important disagreements and choices get referred to the President, is the primary job description of the National Security Adviser. But not only did Rice apparently not perform that function, the NYT reporter doesn’t even think to ask about her role.

As Thoreau said about a Governor of Massachusetts who remained passive in the face of a fugitive-slave case:

It seemed to me that no keener satire could have been aimed at, no more cutting insult have been offered to that man, than just what happened &#8212 the absence of all inquiry after him in that crisis.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com