The Iraqi Army
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was proved right in his keeping the initial invasion force small and agile, but desperately wrong in disbanding all Iraqi security forces and civil service with no plan to fill the resulting vacuum. Certainly it is hard now to understand the logic of that decision.
I don’t get this criticism. Generally this criticism is offered without serious support because the argument falls apart. There is no proof that keeping Saddam’s army would have resulted in something better than we have today. One of the major successes of rebuilding both Germany and Japan was the complete elimination of their prior military institutions. If you want to reform a business or government, sometimes you need to completely throw out the old goverment, especially the parts that were not working. In Saddam’s case, the Iraqi army was a corrupt and worthless institution dominated by the Sunni minority. Although the rebuilding of Iraq’s military had a false start, the military is now a great success. Keeping the old Saddam army around may have provided us with short term gain, but long term, the army would have failed. In modern states, especially new states, the military often becomes and remains the only stabilizing force in the country. If the military is institutionalized into an honorable institution, dishonorable power seekers will have difficulty taking control. Disbanding Saddam’s army was the smart thing to do. Yes, it may have cost more American lives in the short term by delaying stability in Iraq. But, once stability comes, it will be long lasting because the military will be built on a more solid foundation. If we would have kept the Baathist army our problems today would be much worse.