On May 9, 2003, President Bush appointed Bremer [Paul] to the top civilian post in Iraq. … Bremer arrived in Baghdad on May 12 to take charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA. In his first two weeks at his post, Bremer issued two orders that would turn out to be momentous. Enacted on May 16, CPA Order Number 1 “de-Baathified” the Iraqi government; on May 23, CPA Order Number 2 disbanded the Iraqi army. In short, Baath party members were barred from participation in Iraq’s new government and Saddam Hussein’s soldiers lost their jobs, taking their weapons with them.
The results of these policies become clear as we learn about the leadership of ISIS. The Washington Post, for example, reported in April that “almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers.” In June, the New York Times identified a man “believed to be the head of the Islamic State’s military council,” Fadel al-Hayali, as “a former lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi military intelligence agency of President Saddam Hussein.”Criticism of de-Baathification and the disbanding of Iraq’s army has been fierce, and the contribution these policies made to fueling extremism was recognized even before the advent of the Islamic State. The New York Times reported in 2007:
The dismantling of the Iraqi Army in the aftermath of the American invasion is now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.
I would hope that in coming Republican presidential debates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Donald Trump will be able to indicate to voters that each understands the travesty of America’s poorly thought out foreign policy strategy and its lack of consideration for “unintended consequences.” For more on unintended consequences and those who correctly predicted the failure of America’s aggressive foreign policy read here, here and here.