For such supposedly smooth operators, though, the Pentagon policymakers proved remarkably inept at controlling a process for which they had actual legal authority. By providing Bremer with almost no Pentagon-based staffers, almost all guidance and advice came from State, giving the diplomatic corps incredible influence and leverage over Bremer?s decisions.
This has not necessarily been good news. Before Bremer was installed, State had re-instated a number of top Saddam loyalists in prominent positions, arguing that only those thugs possessed the necessary technical skills. Although Bremer immediately went clear in the opposite direction?purging the top 15,000 ? 20,000 Baathists?State eventually convinced Bremer to pare the order back.
State was also the agency that had the bright idea to bring in representatives of the Iranian mullahs to help negotiate a truce with radical Shi?ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr?s militia?potentially legitimizing the despotic regime in the eyes of Iraq?s majority Shi?ite population.
Not that it is always better when State is not in charge, though. The Pentagon official tasked with rebuilding Iraq?s security forces, Gen. David Petraeus, had some dubious achievements when he was essentially the viceroy of Mosul, a Sunni stronghold north of the infamous Sunni triangle.
Gen. Petraeus spent much of his time defending and helping former Baathists who lost their jobs after Bremer ordered a nationwide de-Baathification last spring. Courtesy of Gen. Petraeus, many got their old positions back, and for those that didn?t ?King David? (as many locals called him) established a jobs program.
The chief beneficiaries were people purged from the military and security forces, the people who helped keep Saddam in power. And now Gen. Petraeus is in charge of rebuilding the entire Iraqi security forces.
In the midst of the changes in Iraq last week, the diplomatic corps was apparently brimming with optimism. From the Washington Post article: ?State Department officials were predicting yesterday how much better things will work in Baghdad.?
Given the recent records of the State Department and Gen. Petaeus, though, don?t count on it.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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