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