But this is really about whether we should have wanted the regime army if it hadn't self-disbanded.
First, I ran across an older piece (that I should have read at the time but may have forgotten or overlooked) that reinforces my argument that the Iraqi army self-destructed and we did not disband any existing units:
The Iraqi army melted away in April of 2003, but it was eager to regroup in order to gain pay, jobs, and prestige. Indeed, the American battalion commanders paying the Iraqi officers and soldiers a pittance for their years of service reported that they could easily reconstitute trained battalions. Central Command and the JCS, however, did not object to Bremer's swift decision to abolish the army. With no Iraqi security force, the U.S. Military forces moved alone into the Sunni cities.
The imams promptly proclaimed it was the duty of true Muslims to oppose the infidel occupiers. The imams seized the power vacuum left when the army melted away. Sunni officers and Baathist officials went to ground, unsure what fate awaited them. The mosques emerged as the center of information, rumor, and gradual resistance.
See? Iraqi army gone. The point being made, however, is that we should have reformed the regime's dissolved army. If only those soldiers had been employed, the insurgency would not have gotten rolling. Here I disagree heartily and point to an earlier point made in the article:
The essential confusion about Iraq stems from a lack of candor by leaders in acknowledging that democracy stripped the Sunnis of their power. Were it not for the occupation of the areas north and west of Iraq [Note: I think this should read Baghdad], the fragile Shiite-based democracy stood no chance of taking root. Most viewed as illegitimate the presence of the American troops, whom they call "occupiers," which by definition they are.
Accustomed to dominating and oppressing the Kurds and Shiites, the Sunni population sympathized with, and were intimidated by, the insurgents who freely mixed with them in the marketplaces.
How would reforming the Iraqi army have convinced the Sunni Arabs who felt they were deprived of their god-given right to rule to go along with a Shia-run government? Four centuries of ruling their inferiors was to be abandoned for a soldier's paycheck?
In 2003, the Sunni Arabs could not be convinced that they hadn't been robbed of their birthright. That insurgency was going to get going regardless of whether we had Iraqis from the former regime military around. We would not have brought in the Baathist killers and these are the ones who got the ball rolling.
Plus, how would we have earned the trust of the Shias who we abandoned in 1991 during the uprising we encouraged if we had put even the better "former" Baathist oppressors back in uniform?
And remember, we did recruit Iraqis. We soon had Iraqi Civil Defense forces (later National Guard and later absorbed into the army) and police as well as plans for a 40,000-strong Iraqi army.
These Iraqi forces may have fallen apart in spring 2004, but I imagine that Baathist officer-led units of the former regime would have defected instead of dissolving, making our bad year of 2004 much worse. We could have lost the war right then if the Iraqi security forces had turned on us.
Okay, now I'm done.