Blitzer Show Interview- 19 December 2006

“Joining us now, retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang, former head of Middle East intelligence over at the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Pat, thanks very much for coming in.

COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): My pleasure.

BLITZER: First of all what do you make of the president, all of a sudden, the day after Donald Rumsfeld leaves, Robert Gates comes in saying we’re going to build up the U.S. Marine Corps and the army?

LANG: Well I think the desire to do that has been present in the army and Marine Corps leadership for a long time. They know that they’re overextended; they don’t have enough people to accomplish the task. And people are being rotated in their units back to Iraq or Afghanistan too often, it’s destroying family life.

BLITZER: Well why didn’t they do it before?

LANG: Well I think it’s a matter of personalities and the president indicated —

BLITZER: Because Rumsfeld opposed?

LANG: Yes, I think that’s right, essentially.

BLITZER: His notion when he came in, the U.S. can do a lot of this supposedly on the cheap with a smaller, meaner military machine. You don’t need the overwhelming strength that Colin Powell and other commanders thought was required?

LANG: Secretary Rumsfeld’s idea of how big the army and the Marine Corps need to be, especially the army, was very, very small and very reliant on light forces and fancy weapons, things like this. As a matter of fact, he’s been planning to build the army down even farther after the current warfare stops.

And this kind of theory with regard to war has been pretty much disproven in Iraq where you need a lot of people, you know, a lot of weapons and tanks, you need all these things. You don’t want to have a fair fight, ever, you always want it to be an unfair fight in your favor.

BLITZER: It was certainly the case in the first Gulf War — when you were at the Pentagon during the first gulf war when the U.S. deployed a half a million troops to liberate a small country like Kuwait. I never could understand why 150,000 would do the job in Iraq, but that’s another subject. Let’s talk about this proposal for a 20 to 30,000 man surge to go in over the next six months to a year, to bring stability to Baghdad?

LANG: Well I think it’s not a good idea. Because, and the reason is that I think that is it’s too big a risk. It’s too big of a gamble because if you pull a lot of units out of their place in the rotation queue to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan, in this case Iraq, and you put them in Baghdad for a decisive battle against the Sunni insurgents, it will inevitably, I think, slop over into the Mahdi militia business because the United States government is trying to put together a coalition that would make the Mahdi militia and Muqtada al-Sadr unnecessary in Maliki’s government. If you do that, then you’ll have done something which will mean that you either have to win or it will be perceived everywhere that you’ve lost and that’s a tremendous gamble.

BLITZER: Can the U.S. still win in Iraq?

LANG: I don’t think you can win militarily. I think the insurgencies, all the different insurgencies and the fighting between the Shias and the Sunnis have gotten to the point where the fact that we can pacify this in military terms is really out. What needs to be done here is a really aggressive and persistent attempt by large scale diplomacy to resolve the different interests across the region so that we can get people to actually stop fighting each other.

BLITZER: I went back and took a look at what you told me back on May 24, 2004, that’s two and a half years ago when you were interviewed by me. And you were pretty much on. You were really concerned about his notion of having some autonomous zones, if you will, a Kurdish zone, a Shiite zone, a Sunni zone.

You said if the U.S. were to go in that direction and let it happen that would be a recipe you said for creating civil war and leading the Middle East in chaos. Is that worst fear that you had then being materialized right now?

LANG: Yes it really is. There’s a lot of talk about how some people think we should partition Iraq. Actually, we’re past the point of what I said there. Iraq is in fact partitioning itself. It’s in the process of doing that right now.

The danger is that this process will continue and that all of the outside players who are allied to people inside Iraq will join in the fighting, and you’ll have a tremendous regional war. There are some people who think that wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I think it will be a disaster.

BLITZER: What should the U.S. do right now, give us the advice if you were still in the DIA, the advice you would give the commanders, the commander in chief, if you will, seeing the deck that we have right now, the hand that we have, that we’re holding, what should the U.S. do right now?

LANG: First of all, we should keep our force in Iraq at about the same size right now because that’s one of our biggest bargaining chips, that we have that force present there. BLITZER: About 140,000?

LANG: Something like that. We should try to hold what we have, to include continue training Iraqi troops. There is going to be an Iraqi government of some kind. We need to have some kind of relationship with it. At the same time, I think we should go around to all of the people in the region, the Iranians, the Turks, Syrians, all the people who can cause trouble…

BLITZER: The Saudis?

LANG: Them, too. In the process we can offer what it is that we can trade them for their cooperation. The discussion can’t just be about Iraq because if you want people to deal with you just about the issue that’s important to you and not the issues that are important to them, they have no reason to talk to you. So we have to have a broad agenda on negotiations with all the players to resolve this so they will stop fighting. Then we can leave.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, thanks very much for coming in.

LANG: Always my pleasure.”

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18 Responses to Blitzer Show Interview- 19 December 2006

  1. Grimgrin says:

    Col. Lang: Reading this raises a few questions for me. You said “we can offer what it is that we can trade them for their cooperation.”
    Do you have any opinions on what the various regional powers will want for their cooperation?
    How difficult will it be to come to an agreement that satisfies all of Iraq’s neighbors? Will the demands of Iran and Saudi Arabia for example, be mutually exclusive?
    Good to see you getting time to present your opinions on CNN.

  2. arbogast says:

    Our war dead deserve to have their memories honored by the impeachment of the individuals who sent them to their deaths unnecessarily and negligently.
    A modern Gettysburg address will be pronounced at the conviction for high crimes and misdemeanors of George Bush and Richard Cheney.
    That is the honor are fallen soldiers deserve. And no less.

  3. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    In the same breath, you say that large scale diplomacy is needed and then say that “we” should go around to the various nations in the Gulf and bargain using our troops as a chip.
    Huh? A unilateral solution? Based on our military weight?
    The constituency in the United States that wants to marginalize the United Nations is the same constituency that got us into Iraq in the first place. There are United Nations troops in Lebanon. The United Nations is the only conceivable way out of this.

  4. Will says:

    Fi fo fum, I hear an ADULT talking sense. Too bad the Decider, his sychophant careerists, or his NeoKon counsellors don’t.

  5. Will says:

    News Item: Abizaid early retirement in March. About time he stood up or stood down for something.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Roger Bigod
    Sorry, but you are wrong about the “war” phase. If you look at the record, as for example in the Army’s history of the war, “On Point,” you will see that the campaign was won by heavy forces who, contrary to to media misinterpretation met a lot of resistance along the way and in Baghdad and simply blew it away.
    The “transformation” theory of Rumsfeld’s OSD is appropriate only if one faces guerilla forces who will run on every occasion of contact or are consistently outweighed by commandos with light weapons.
    His theory has not worked against an insurgency which forces the occupier to expose himself to a constant threat of ambush.
    Ask the soldiers how they would be doing in Iraq without tanks and APCs. pl

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes I do. I am going to publish it. pl

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    One of the realities of diplomacy is that a force in being is a “weight” to be used in diplomacy.
    One among many. Diplomacy is not an exercize in “playing nice.” pl

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You sent me a phony e-mail address. do that again and I will ban you. pl

  10. Robert says:

    Being an old SpecOps guy (MACSOG ’69-’72) I agree whole heartedly with Roger Bigod. Except for Hill 875 (Vietnam’s Hamburger Hill), it’s been a long time since the problem for the U.S. military has been taking an objective. It’s always been holding it. Rumsfeld clearly did not factor that element into his equations. But why should he have? Conventional wisdom at the time was that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and everything would be normal in 90 days. This debacle is not military but political. While watching the 3ID move on Baghdad I was rereading McNamara’s book on Vietnam. To be sure there were differences but the similarities were overwhelming. Perhaps the most important one was the fact that we did not fully understand the political and cultural situation on the ground. We cannot continue to throw the military into every situation that defies a political and/or diplomatic solution. If we do, no matter how large the U.S. military becomes, it will never be large enough. F/A-18s and even M1s are no match for IEDs. Do we really want to create and maintain an occupation army?

  11. taters says:

    Thank you Col. Lang. I truly regret that I missed it.
    What are your thoughts on Rumsfeld’s scrapping of the Crusader artillery system? Gen Shinseki had support from key members of congress ( or so it seemed ) – and even Wolfowitz was on board. In the end we know what happened. To this lay person, I thought the idea of heavy artillery, which emphasized rapid deployment seemed like a good idea. And history has already shown us that Rumsfeld has been wrong numerous times while Shinseki has been vindicated. And I disagree with the Brookings Institute’s assessment of O’Hanlon that both Rumsfeld and Shinseki were right. ( A cop out, IMHO )

  12. DeWitt Grey says:

    The rhetoric of the Administration suggests that they have no interest in engaging Syria and Iran because those countries are contributing to regional instability. It seems to me, however, that it is the United States that is currently contributing most to regional instability by its all-too-public support for “regime change” in Syria and Iran, its support of Israel’s destablization of Lebanon, and its poorly-judged interventions in Palestinian politics (not to mention the overthrow of the Iraqi regime and the civil war that has ensued).
    Do you see any realistic prospect of our backing away from these positions so that some constructive diplomatic engagement can take place? Or am I overestimating the impact of our rhetoric in the region, given that the local players are accustomed to how much of the rhetoric is aimed principally at the U.S. domestic audience?

  13. mlaw230 says:

    You were correct regarding the Decider’s reaction to the ISG report and I was wrong. He is just ignoring it. So I’ll shut up now and just ask questions.
    I believe that as bad as the situation is in Iraq, it can only get worse if we “double down” with Iran.
    Do you hear anything regarding Iran beyond what has been published? Do you think the joint chiefs or others are sufficiently against such plans that they would be leaked? As a non military person, I would expect resignations at a high level as the honorable course of desent, but apparently that is not considered so in our military culture. So will they leak?
    It is often difficult to distinguish between leaks intended as saber rattling and those intended as an honest warning. It will take decades to recover from Iraq, it may be generations if we attack Iran.

  14. John Howley says:

    While I would question the need to increase the size of our standing army (preferring to down-size our foreign policy), I write to challenge the timing of Bush’s announcement.
    He was starting to lose media momentum on the “surge” idea. So, he both changed the subject and muddied the waters.
    The normal person, who is busy with other things, may not catch the distinction between “increasing the military” and “increasing the military in Iraq.” Bush and the generals appear to be in agreement — more soldiers solves everything. The “surge” dispute gets submerged.
    Meanwhile, Dear Leader can say to his generals: “I’ve given you what you asked for — more troops — now give me what I’ve asked for — more troops.”
    Gift giving — ‘Tis the season!

  15. Frank Durkee says:

    Jay Rosen has a very insightful post on the Huffington Post about the Bush group’s decision to create ‘facts on the ground’ and to by pass the normal empirical based reality tests and arguments that people like Col. Lang and others I’ve known in the upper reaches of the thinking people in our national life reoutinely use. this is a group that both domesticaly and internationaly set out to be radical, innovative, and to alter the status quo through dramatic action to establish a new reality which they thought they could determine through their effective use of power of various types. I don’t think that has changed as the core oreintatinof this group. thank God for blogs that call this to attention and the few effective reporters who’ve also done that. the latest in Iraq, surge, comes out of the same orientation and playbook. To be truthful this is an orientation that can be effective. I’ve been involved in a small way with their use in projects here in the US. and we were able to gain our objectives. It’s not crazy, but it is inherently risky. Failure can set you back a long way. In side the US my limited experience is that it tends to be seen a attractive to those who wish to create dramatic change and who are operating from a positiion of weakness, within a situation in which the more powerful groupings will probably This seems to fit the Bush inner circle and operation. Their mistake was not recognizing that their efforts might, as in Iraq, be reisited by people who understand the reality of the use of violence much better than they did and who saw the chance to us it, and did. We still haven’t figured that one out. Sadam would have known what to do. We won’t do those things, or what the British did in the ’20’s and we will probably not be effective in our efforts. New ‘facts on the ground’ can offset the original attempt at ‘new facts on the ground’ Personally I think it comes from a blind spot in people who have never had to support or be on the ‘short end of the stick’ and therefore fail to include that perspective in their deliberatins with sufficient force.

  16. John Hammer says:

    The U.N. is the Security Council and the Security Council is the P-5 to include China, Russia, and France. I can’t imagine three worse countries to involve in constructive diplomacy.

  17. zanzibar says:

    Excellent interview PL.
    Assuming the most likely action by the Decider – not to engage diplomatically with Iran and Syria and offer a trade for stability – how visible do you think the regional actors would be in supporting their “tribes” militarily as the Iraq partition accelerates? In your opinion will most of the fighting be primarily a proxy war in Iraq or is there a distinct possibility of say Iran and Saudi directly fighting each other or will it again be proxies like inciting the Shia in Saudi?

  18. Will says:

    I recall that the CIA/Special Forces/Northern Alliance “won” Afghanistan and that Rummy horned in on the credit toward the end phase.
    And then he blew it in the end by letting OBM/UBM get away or maybe that was the NeoKon plan.

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