How can we best understand developments in Iraq? The pictureemerging from journalistic and official reports suggests thatsenior-level civilians in the White House and Pentagon were guidedby a mix of ideology and the desire to have their decision to go towar validated. This repeatedly led them to underestimate the risksand challenges posed by the occupation. They hoped Iraq mightrapidly become a clean slate on which to construct a new MiddleEastern society. By most accounts, the prospect of an ongoinginsurgency scarcely appeared in their scenarios.
And so one misstep followed another: failure to preventimmediate postwar looting of buildings, infrastructure and armsdepots; too few coalition forces; disbanding the Iraqi army;excessive de-Ba'athification, creating a sizeable class of angryand idle middle- and higher-level managers and bureaucrats; failureto seal the borders with Iran and Syria, in part because, havingdisbanded the army, resources for doing so were lacking; inadequateoutreach to Iraqi civil society; not understanding the depth ofIraqi disaffection with the occupation; failure to enforce criminallaw and coalition anti-militia measures against radical Shi'acleric Moqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army; and carelessly beginningthe high-risk military operation in Fallujah in April that couldnot be completed.