Scholars critique rebuilding of Iraq

One professor calls the Bush administration’s plan in post-war Iraq arrogant, while another views the report as mixed. One thing is certain: The criticism and praise of the post-war effort is as varied as its sources.

Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, believes that the effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power was right, but thinks that poor intelligence and lack of post-war planning have worsened the situation. “I think we’re in deeper woods, post-war, than anybody had planned for,” he said. “This reveals deep weaknesses in our intelligence capabilities and operating capabilities, and it also poses questions for American policy in general. I’m agnostic about where it’s going to end. I certainly hope the administration is going to be able to pull itself together.”

Voicing harsh criticism for what he calls “the arrogance of the administration in Washington,” Associate Director of the Middle East Center Nubar Hovsepian argued that reconstruction should be an international effort.

“ The issue still remains one of empire.” he said. “All that it is, is setting up an ideological dream conceived by the Wolfowitzes [Deputy Secretary of Defense] of the world and they’re stuck with that ideological nightmare. I see nothing good coming out of this.”

Both scholars agree on the importance of a post-war plan. As a former professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, Waldron said that war termination and post-war settlement are the greatest tests of any use of arms. He also said that like President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War, the Bush administration has not articulated the issues central to the Iraqi campaign. “Whether we succeed or not remains to be seen,” he added.

Hovsepian said Iraqis are also fearful of leaving their homes and never coming back. “They still need to weave together a coherent policy. Are [Iraqis] better off without Saddam Hussein? Of course. I don’t think there’s any question,” he said. “What will replace it? There is a vacuum now.”

To heal the psyche, the culture may respond with an outpouring of films, poetry and novels that deal with issues from the Hussein regime, said Waldron. To heal part of the Iraqi earth that has been scarred by years of Saddam Hussein’s neglect and abuse, Earth and Environmental Science Chairman Robert Giegengack hopes that his proposal to restore wetlands in southeastern Iraq will come to fruition.

“I can understand why they’re not paying attention to this now,” said Giegengack. “They’re fighting this enormous political battle as well as the military battle on the ground.”

A sharp critic of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, Giegengack said that he and colleague Thomas Naff, emeritus professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, hope to nurse back to health a band of freshwater marshes. During his regime, Saddam Hussein ordered the draining of those marshes to drive out the people who lived there – people he thought to be political subversives.

Acknowledging that the water level of Iraq first needs to be restored to pre-war levels, Giegengack added that the questions he and Naff will ask “are not being asked by Bechtel or Halliburton.”

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Originally published on October 30, 2003