Although no rational person actually thinks Iraqi nation-building is going well, it's nice to have Jason Vest's "Fables of the Reconstruction" to confirm our pessimism, in some detail, based on a memo from a CPA insider.
I find this part of Vest's article particularly interesting:
Despite repeated assurances over the past year from CPA chief L. Paul Bremer that Iraq's electricity situation has vastly improved, the memo says otherwise, reporting that there is "no consistency" in power flows. "Street lights function irregularly and traffic lights not at all . . . Electricity in Baghdad fluctuating between three hours, on and off, in rotation, and four hours on and off."
"I continue to get very upset about the electricity issue," [retired Air Force colonel Sam] Gardiner said last week after reviewing the memo. "I said in my briefing that the electrical system was going to be damaged, and damaged for a long time, and that we had to find a way to keep key people at their posts and give them what they need so there wouldn't be unnatural surges that cause systems to burn out. Frankly, if we had just given the Iraqis some baling wire and a little bit of space to keep things running, it would have been better. But instead we've let big US companies go in with plans for major overhauls."
... steam turbines at Iraq's Najibiya power plant have been dormant since last fall. As Yaruub Jasim, the plant's manager, explained, "Normally we have power 23 hours a day. We should have done maintenance on these turbines in October, but we had no spare parts and money." And why not? According to Jasim, the necessary replacement parts were supposed to come from Bechtel, but they hadn't arrived yet-- in part because Bechtel's priority was a months-long independent examination of power plants with an eye towards total reconstruction.... (In an interview last year with the San Francisco Chronicle, Bechtel's Iraq operations chief held that "to just walk in and start fixing Iraq" was "an unrealistic expectation.")
There it is again -- Bushism in a nutshell.
Bush was so determined to have a big, broad, globe-spanning anti-terror plan that his administration never really grasped that the 9/11 attacks were coming. Bush was so determined to transform the entire Arab/Muslim world that bin Laden was never caught and the peace in Afghanistan was never truly secured. And now we learn that the plan to transform Iraq was so thoroughgoing that just keeping the lights on was seen as a job not worth doing.
In each case, the plans were so big that "small" things -- things that were utterly crucial -- never got done.