Let's put together a calendar for next spring in Iraq.
Under the current plan, the US occupation authorities will hand over sovereignty to an Iraqi government on July 1st 2004.
It seems reasonable to suspect that the month or two before that date (i.e., May and June) would be prime moments for the insurgents to up their attacks in order to throw the new government off balance and kill it (or at least its efficacy) in the cradle. However you want to define it, for all sorts of reasons, late spring next year looks like a window when the insurgents can use demonstrative violence most effectively to achieve their ends.
Indeed, the top US commander on the ground in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, says
"We expect to see an increase in violence as we move forward toward sovereignty at the end of June."
But look at what else is happening at just that time.
From February through May, the Pentagon will cycle out almost all the troops now serving in Iraq -- 130,000 will be pulled out and 118,000 will replace them.
That means that at more or less precisely the time when you can predict there's going to be a maximum effort on the part of the insurgents to destabilize the new government and the process of handover, those insurgents will face US troops who, in almost every case, will have just arrived in the country.
Add to that the fact that April and May marks the onset of the hot season in Iraq, and that a lot of the military's attention at that crucial point will be focused on the logistics of cycling the troops.
There are good reasons why the US military now cycles troops out in units rather than individually. We have little choice but to rotate out the troops that are currently there --- many of whom will have been in the region for well over a year by next spring. And our options are now sufficiently narrowed that there aren't a lot of good options for working our way out of this bind.
But taken together the confluence of events amounts to a mammoth failure of foresight and planning. There's simply no other way to describe it. And the reason is fairly clear: the key decisions which got us into this box were made up on the fly over the last six months or so in response to exigencies which were widely predicted but which the planners of the war chose not to believe.