So, I’m sure anyone can add to this list: it’s rather a personal recollection rather than a complete account.  What I wanted to do was look at these items and reflect upon them in order to discuss our future conduct within the borders of Iraq–and–within the region at large.  When I look at this list, these are the themes I see:

A. A continual underestimation of the forces at work for chaos, making all operations more difficult to achieve.

B. A failure to insist upon the rule of law in regard to Abu Ghraib, crime coverups, and tribunals.

C. A lack of care towards Iraqi civilians in terms of: failing to keep track of civilian casualties; failing to provide adequate refugee/immigration avenues.

D. Failure to take care of our allies/engage Iraq’s neighbors, such as Turkey, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and others.

E. A lack of care toward servicemen in Iraq by A. above; B. above; and incurring reputational risk; and by not sending proper equipment overseas or taking care of service members and their families back home.

All of the above relate directly to the planning stage, which I covered in Section 1 of this series.  It’s really important that we plan continuing operations and subsequent pullouts with careful attention to these five factors.  That’s my point: not to revel in disgrace, but to do better.

1. Overconfident.

2. Much of the military equipment used was unsuitable for quick desert crossing.

3. Upon entry to Baghdad, wide-scale looting occurred, most famously of Iraq’s already partially-ransacked museums.  This was perhaps the first indication that the Future of Iraq project would have been concretely helpful.

4. We installed an interim government that failed to learn from history.  For instance in 2003, Provisional Governer Paul Bremer enacted de-Baathification orders, which put those best able to keep institutions running out of work with no one to take their place.  This confirmed to the Baathist and Sunni communities that they would be completely marginalized in Iraq’s future. This set the tone for a factionalized insurgency.  Although some were returned to office in 2004, the damage was already done. 

These lessons from history were available from: post-World-War II Germany, and from our understanding of transition economies post-1991.  In both of these cases, the loss to government stability when the elites stepped down or migrated were incalculably adverse.  In Germany, Nazi officials were re-hired and helped implement the Marshall Plan.  In FSU satellite states, many walked, leading to a decade of trouble for the now newly independent states.

5. As it turns out, many Shi’ite groups also felt marginalized (or opportunistic) and began to form their own insurgent strategies.  This was denied by the DoD, or, see 1. above, as this was viewed by military forces as a “low-level” insurgency.

6. The American people learned that their soldiers were not gaining access to proper body armor in the renewed hostilities, starting in 2003 and continuing through 2005.  This was passed off for a good long time, and still remains a factor in terms of armored vehicles that provide a safer mobility.

7. Increasing incidents of war, civilian and military casualties caused a reciprocal barricading of diplomatic and administrative staff in the Green Zone–understandable, but not wise.  Again, the signals were missed that victory had not occurred.

8. We handed governance over to Ayad Allawi in 2004, and continued to support him through poor decisions and unilateral executions without benefit of law.

9. Abu Ghraib.  Abu Ghraib.  Abu Ghraib.

10. War crimes committed by U.S. military personnel occurred and are covered up, ensuring further reputational risk for U.S. occupation forces, as well as indicating a blindness to the stresses that occupation forces are under.  These also underscore the human rights violations and reputational loss from Abu Ghraib.

2005: Increasing violence

11. Elections, contrary to U.S. popular sentiment, were not free or fair.

12. The U.S. urges countries to begin opening embassies in Iraq, and these diplomats become targeted for executions and kidnappings.

13. Saddam Hussein’s trial was not accomplished with adequate international oversight.  All participants of the trial were at risk and did not obtain adequate security.

14. Saddam Hussein’s execution was made tawdry through its lack of ceremony, completing the impression that it was not conducted under rule of law.

15. War in Lebanon during the summer seems to prove to the world U.S. disinterest in Arab and Islamic goals.

16. The Iraq Study Group report is sidelined in favor of the surge.

17. Walter Reed Hospital scandal breaks out, bringing to a crisis point what the military community has felt all along: un-appreciated. 

Further reading:
BBC Timeline: Iraq