Today’s Must Read

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Back in the summer of 2005, just as journalists were toiling to produce the first books on what had gone so horribly wrong in Iraq, the Army was handed a thorough study by the RAND Corporation, its federally-financed research arm.

And it came, as one might expect, to some sharp conclusions. It faulted the President and Condoleezza Rice, Don Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, Colin Powell’s State Department, and Gen. Tommy Franks’ Central Command for a variety of shortcomings, all essentially for their role in not adequately preparing for securing postwar Iraq. The report provided a strategy for how the Army and the government in general might avoid a similar plight the next time around (the short version: try preparing for the aftermath).

Unclassified versions of RAND reports are regularly made public, and the researchers had hoped a version of this report would be too. But, as The New York Times reports this morning, the Army wasn’t happy with the product. So they buried it. The reason, an Army official explains, is that the report was just too gosh darn informative:

“After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army…. Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”

Another Pentagon official, this one whispering to the Times anonymously, gives another version:

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. “The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

Of course, the report still isn’t publicly available, and from what the Times describes, it would make for interesting reading. Overlaying the various critiques of the agencies, the report cites a general principle (The Cheney Principle of Prewar Bravado?) that explains the general failure:

One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration’s assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.

“Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself,” it said. “Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support.”