U.S. Planning and Realities of Post-War Iraq

author: Yosef Jabareen, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
author: Charles N. Patterson
author: David J. Nash
author: Harvey M. Sapolsky, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: March 7, 2013,   recorded: February 2005,   views: 2294

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Judging from these panelists, the more intimate your experience of Iraq, the more optimistic you are likely to be. David J. Nash was fully immersed. He organized the multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort of Iraq’s infrastructure in 45 days. His 2800 projects ran the gamut from new power plants and water companies, to schools and medical clinics. If that wasn’t enough, he had to use peacetime contracting rules and contend with terrorist attacks. “Some people were afraid we’d fail, some feared we’d succeed, and they’d get together and make my job interesting,” says Nash. Yet, in spite of the obstacles, including the ongoing insurgency, Nash believes the “future is bright.”

Charles N. Patterson engaged with Iraqis in envisioning a Saddam-free future -- before the invasion. The “Future of Iraq Project” brought together diaspora Iraqis and Kurdish Iraqis with U.S. government agencies in the summer of 2002 to envision a political transition. Seventeen working groups tackled such questions as what to do with the large Baath security forces, and how to introduce democratic ideals. The problem was not only a lack of consensus but conflicted U.S. intentions. “Voices in the administration…sold the idea that Iraq liberated would immediately embrace democracy, modernize and be at peace.” Today, Patterson believes “a lot of things have begun to go right after a bad start.”

Harvey Sapolsky states the U.S. handled the war effectively but that “when the war ended, things seemed to fall apart.” Sapolsky participated in a Defense Science Board review of war planning and post-war administration. We’ve “handicapped ourselves in two ways,” says Sapolsky. “We don’t have a colonial service…so no one’s planning to stay a long time,” and “we don’t have a contracting system to run reconstruction during an insurgency.”

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