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.”