They’ll get it right next time, honest

WASHINGTON, April 7 — As factions in the Bush administration continue their bitter infighting over the reconstruction program in Iraq, the State Department has produced a draft planning document saying that after any future conflicts, the United States should not immediately begin a major rebuilding program.

Instead, it says, the first priorities should be to establish a secure, stable environment and begin political reconciliation. Otherwise, officials said, Washington and any local government that is formed are likely to suffer major political repercussions by making promises that cannot be kept.

In Iraq, “We set it up to fail,” said Andrew S. Natsios, who was director of the United States Agency for International Development until January. He and some White House and State Department officials say they argued early on that a large-scale reconstruction program could never succeed in a hostile environment.

“We certainly have not done as much as we originally had hoped for,” acknowledged James Jeffrey, who is the State Department’s senior coordinator for Iraq. Some senior officials say they fear that the failures of the reconstruction program will pose a serious threat for officials of the new Iraqi government, once it is formed. “They will be vulnerable to complaints and hostility for their inability to provide electricity or clean water,” one senior official said.

Story here.

It’s true that establishing a “secure, stable environment” was not the Bush administration’s first priority in Iraq. The flaw in the analysis is the suggestion that this was because the U.S. was so darned busy with its rebuilding efforts.