A 3rd Infantry Division after-action report explains part of the ongoing catastrophe: "The president announced that our national goal was regime change. Yet there was no timely plan prepared for the obvious consequences of a regime change." The result was "a power/authority vacuum created by our failure to immediately replace key government institutions."
Even the 3rd IDs lawyers staked out a relatively definite position, which is somewhat unusual for members of a profession reputedly addicted to the use of so-called weasel words. The judge advocates section of the report said: "The failure to act after we displaced the regime created a power vacuum, which others immediately tried to fill."
In retrospect, of course, this is obvious stuff. We all knew that, right?
When I first read about that report in Thomas E. Ricks extremely good, extremely sad book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, I was reminded of something Justice Jackson said in 1949:
I suppose no one would doubt that our Constitution and Bill of Rights, grounded in revolt against the arbitrary measures of George III and in the philosophy of the French Revolution, represent the maximum restrictions upon the power of organized society over the individual that are compatible with the maintenance of organized society itself.
He was talking about the Constitution and Bill of Rights we had in 1949, which were considerably different from the current documents going by those names. (Like Toyota, the Supreme Court recycles the old names when it rolls out the new models.)
Starting in 1961, the Supreme Court committed the United States to a prolonged experiment to see if Jackson was right. For the next 46 years it has imposed ever-greater restrictions upon the power of American society over the antisocial individual.
The Courts experiment coincided with LBJs Great Society housing program. This, like the daycare center moving next door to the dingo farm in the Far Side cartoon, was not an ideal confluence of circumstances.
What happened when the Court diminished the communitys power to police the projects? More or less exactly what has been happening in Iraq since 2003: a power vacuum was created, and it was filled by organizations even less responsive to democratic politics than the Chicago City Council. Justice Jackson was proved correct: further restrictions on the power of society to police itself were, as it turned out, incompatible with continued earthly existence for many thousands of the most vulnerable Americans.
In short, it turned out the Supreme Court didnt have a Phase IV plan, either. Like the Bush administration, it produced a power vacuum and considered its mission accomplished. One difference is, the Bush administration is belatedly paying a political price, but the Court has so far managed to make others pay its political bills.
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