December 1, 2005  

Unfortunate parallels

While reading “Occupation 101” by Ralph Peters in the September issue, I was struck by the sad parallels between planning for the occupation of Iraq and planning for Hurricane Katrina on the [U.S.] Gulf Coast. The photo showing a looter in Baghdad could have been taken in a number of Gulf Coast cities in early September.

Of the seven occupation rules advanced by Mr. Peters, three apply directly to Katrina:

1. Plan and prepare for the worst.

2. Impose the rule of law immediately.

3. Send enough troops from the start.

As I write this, there are stories emerging of noncompetitive rebuilding contracts being written, hinting of a breech of Rule 4: Don’t turn an occupation into a looting orgy for American contractors.

Time will tell about the other three:

5. Devolve responsibility.

6. You can’t govern from a distance.

7. When it’s time to fight, fight ruthlessly.

When we view so many hurricane refugees scattered throughout the U.S. and so many civilian deaths, perhaps an eighth rule could be added: Protect the innocent.

I hope current and future planners learn from the current experiences.

Retired Cmdr. Bert Polk

Annapolis, Md.