"The White House has turned to the Iraq Study Group, boosting the congressionally mandated panel’s profile in the past week both in a postelection press conference and again with a day full of meetings between the group’s members and administration officials.
Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten met yesterday with the group, headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee H. Hamilton of Indiana for 75 minutes yesterday.
The group spent the day at the White House, also meeting with the secretaries of defense and state, the national intelligence and CIA directors, top generals and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Today, its members will meet with Democrats such as former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger, former Assistant Secretary of State Richard C. Holbrooke and former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
Expectations for the group are growing, and those on both sides of the political divide say it could be a chance for the White House to achieve a face-saving way forward in Iraq." Washtimes
If body language and long faces are indications, this was not all that great a meeting. Mr. Bush is reported to have told the ISGers that they have to remember that military strategy has to be formed based on actual conditions on the ground.
So true! But… Military strategy is constrained not only by "conditions on the ground," but also by policy guidance from the national command authority. In other words, military commanders try to adapt the methodology of what they are doing in order to carry out national policy. They do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. They do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. In other words every single person in the armed forces has the job of carrying out George Bush’s policy. They do not have the job of telling him why he should have a different policy.
That is why it is useless for the media to interview generals (or anyone else on active duty in the military) about "what should be done in Iraq." Soldiers asked to answer that question have no choice but to tell the interviewer (and the audience) what they think is necessary to carry out the national policy guidance that they have been given. They are not at liberty to suggest a new policy.
’43 has gotten used to this situation, so, when he tells the world that he welcomes suggestions about "what to do in Iraq" what he is saying is that he will listen to suggestions about how to carry out his policy.
when have we not seen bush43 ‘policy’ flying by the seat of their pants. and everything hinging on whether or not if 43 has had an enjoyable breakfast or not that particular morning.
it is like you said — They do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. — the ‘defining’ remains with the ‘decider-n-chief’ which is bush43. at the end of the day that is the bottom line and all that matters realistic speaking.
the only way to ‘change the course’ is for the congress to remove from power by way of impeachment the decider-n-chief.
Watch for all the euphemisms to keep coming out fast to obfuscate that there is no policy change! Anything to get the Decider and the Democrats in Congress off the hook. After all these folks believe that PR is more important than real policy.
I wonder if everyone will play ball or someone calls the charade.
“what he is saying is that he will listen to suggestions about how to carry out his policy.”
Pat — I understand where you’re coming from on this. But do you (or anyone else) know what the “policy” or the “mission” really is at this point?
Beyond empty words — “democracy,” “stability” etc… I’m at a loss as to understanding what exactly the US military is meant to be achieving at this point in time. I mean, “democracy” has given us a government but one closely tied to a number of the actors driving the “instability.”
So the choice seems to be overthrowing the government and throwing more troops at the problem in an effort to disarm everyone (not feasible, not going to happen) or living with the chaos (which the US says it will not live with). Is there a third way I’m missing? I mean, aside from getting those dastardly iranians and syrians to call off the war, of course…
J- Realistically speaking, who would become 44 if 43 were removed from office via impeachment?
this minor point about the constraint upon the range of uniformed service advice ought to be hammered over and over again upon the public… & the prez… both seem to have been absent for civics class – all their lives.
What has the United States come to when it is looking to James Baker for salvation?
He sure saved the country in Florida after the 2000 election.
James Baker should go out searching for IED’s in Iraq for a couple of months and then report back.
We are seeing at work once again the PR stratgey of “milestones” which distracts people from that actual situation and encourages passivity.
Just sit there and speculate/fantasize about what will happen when “the Iraqi Constitition is voted on…the new government is agreed…the U.S. elections are over…the ISG reports…”
The most important job for the ISG is to concoct a new series of milestones for us to sit, hands folded, and wait for what happens next.
Our brains have been trained by too much television. The newscaster says: “And now this” and our minds shift effortlessly from a car accident to the CMA awards to an election to the weather. The items in the series have no logical connection..and we don’t need or want one. We just sit and wait to see what’s “up next.” [See Neil Postman.]
Meanwhile, in Iraq, our relatives, neighbors and fellow citizens find themselves in a situation that grows more precarious by the day.
For me the crucial question is: What can we do starting now to minimize the damage to our national interest in light of Iraq and the situation there and in the entire region?
First of all, thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world via this blog. I have been an avid reader for two months now and have learned a great deal. Again, thank you.
As you’ve said, the commanders do not have the luxury of re-defining the mission. I have a question pertaining to the mission: what is it? W. continues to bombard the general public with the rhetoric of “freedom”, “peace”, and “democracy” as the reasons for our continuing presence in Iraq. The mission, however, remains ill-defined at best as a result of these broad generalizations. Perhaps I am ignorant to the facts of the matter, but what is the mission currently defined as?
“They do not have the job of telling him why he should have a different policy.”
So, Colonel, the military can only come up with a strategy and tactics to support the mission (i.e., policy) that the C-in-C decides on, right? So, what do they do if they don’t have the boots on the ground and the equipment to carry out a strategy and tactics that would fulfill the mission? Don’t you think that the military in Iraq have told Rumsfeld that, given their resources, they cannot carry out the mission (“win” in Iraq)? Or did they keep telling Rumsfeld what they thought he wanted to hear?
I’m afraid I agree with J above. The decider-in-chief has to go or we’ll be stuck in Iraq for years and years and years…..
BTW, I’m really pleased to have found your blog–you write very clearly…I was especially interested in hearing about Jim Webb. I liked the guy, but had no idea of the depth of his military background….
Given the way that they were chosen and promoted I am pretty sure that they did not protest too much pl
Is it illegal from an active duty comissioned officer to question USG policy an offer alternatives? Is this an offense under Military Law?
I do not think it is illegal for an officer (or any soldier) to question US policy, but it is understood that to do so publicly is to undermine the principle of the apolitical nature of military service and the principle of the control of the country by the elected government.
It is illegal for any service member to use disrespectful or disdainful speech against certain designated officials of the civilian government, i.e., the president, VP, SECDEF, members of Congress. pl
“But do you (or anyone else) know what the “policy” or the “mission” really is at this point?” – Dan
The original mission was to overthrow Saddam, occupy Iraq and put in place a puppet government and while at it create the new ME utopia. It did not happen. At this point as far as the Decider is concerned its not to accept defeat and be held to account for his disasterous war of choice. He reckons as long as the US military is in the middle of the chaos of Iraq, he can claim with the help of the corporate media that he is succeeding and we are doing this or that.
The question is who is going to pull the plug and then be endlessly attacked politically for “losing” the “war” in Iraq. How to get out while claiming “victory” and winning the PR war is what’s keeping all these guys up at night. That’s what ISG is all about. Defeat is an orphan.
“Perhaps I am ignorant to the facts of the matter, but what is the mission currently defined as?”
So, Jay, I’m with you on this….I really have no idea what the “mission” is anymore except “stay the course,” or NOT. What is the definition of “winning” at this point?…darned if I know. I keep wondering what the best possible scenario is, given the obvious quagmire we’re in.
Col., can you help illuminate us?
Perhaps we can outline some of the outcomes in Iraq we absolutely need to avoid. Just starting a list here:
1. We do not want any area of Iraq to be a al Qaeda refuge. Either the area must have effective government that is hostile to al Qaeda or the populace must be irrevocably hostile to al Qaeda.
2. We do not want Turkish or Iranian military adventures over Iraqi Kurdistan.
3. We do not want Iraq to be a base from which strikes against Kuwait or Saudi Arabia may be launched.
4. We do not want Iran to be able to get possession of the oil-rich regions of Iraq.
These put constraints on what we might do. E.g., if Iraq is divided, the US may need a semi-permanent presence in Iraqi Kurdistan to keep the Turks and Iranians at bay.
The rhetoric currently coming from Bush and Blair on Syria and Iran smacks of imperial overlords ordering a couple of misbehaving underlings to fall in line. Syria and Iran would have to help bring peace and stability to Iraq on terms that would be dictated by the U.S. and Britain. It seems a strange way to solicit help!
I think the Decider will be “done in” by his own Republican Party. Do you think any Republican wants to run for the House, Senate or President(or even Dogcatcher) in 2008 without the Iraq mess having been settled. Remember, these are politicians not human beings.
A large air base is being built for US forces in Kurdistan.
This is NOT a retreat, it is merely a strategic advance in a rearward direction!
From an interview with ISG member:
“The situation in Iraq is “even worse than we thought,” with key Iraqi leaders showing no willingness to compromise to avoid increasing violence, said Leon Panetta, a member of the high-powered advisory group that will recommend new options for the war.
. . . Private assessments by government officials are much more grim than what is said in public, Panetta said, “and we left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq.”
U.S. forces can’t control sectarian violence and powerful militias. One of the most disturbing findings, Panetta said, is that many Shiite religious leaders who are a big part of the government have no interest in deals or compromises with Sunnis and other groups, and are “playing for time because they say it’s their show.””
“Why can’t these Goddamned Iraki’s be reasonable and co-operate with us? They are so ungrateful!” muttered Pres. Bush after the meeting.
Just saw Jay Leno produce a copy of the final ISG report, it is one sheet of paper with the words “You are screwed!” in large type!
The American people are ahead of the pols with regard to Iraq. Way before the Dems decided to make Iraq a central issue in the mid-terms the majority of Americans wanted a change of course and withdrawal. My read of the elections last week is that the majority of Americans recognize we lost in Iraq. We don’t have that much influence there anymore. Each faction there is going to fight for power and its spoils and no amount of force is going to quell that. They are also not going to sit around a table and get nice. They know we’re going to have to leave at some point.
The Decider has got two more years and then he’s gone. He’s effectively a lame duck. The smart pols will start laying the “Defeat” word on him now and save their political hides when they have to vote or decide to get our troops out. The Decider made a strategic blunder and lost a war of choice in the ME. Its as simple as that. Pin the blame on him!
The worst thing the Dems and Repubs hoping to get re-elected again can do is to sign on to the Baker mush – unless they want to provide cover for the Decider and go down too. This is the only way for the pols to make the withdrawal decision and survive “who lost the war” attacks. In many ways we have Vietnam redux.
Okay, I think it is time for the American people to wake up and smell the coffee. High time.
The fog is beginning to clear about the actions of the Bush administration. Here’s the headline:
Bush Initiates Iraq Policy Review Separate From Baker Group’s
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 15, 2006; Page A16
Please note: page A16. Certainly the most important news item of the day on page A16.
What’s the key quote in the article?
Blair, in London, told the panel that the most decisive steps the United States can take to end Iraq’s violence would be working for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and helping Iraq’s fragile government…
Tony’s off the reservation on that one. Because the neo-con movement, which is controlling our foreign policy, is run by Israeli citizens working in the US government, there can be no mention of Israel and Palestine.
As long as the foreign policy of the United States is dictated by a foreign country, the world is going to go to hell in a handbasket.
And, of course, the only remotely viable solution to Iraq is the UN, but the UN can only come into conflicts that Israel is losing (Lebanon) not that the US is losing (Iraq). US troops should put on Israeli Army uniforms and they would be out of Iraq in a second.
Provoked by: “If body language and long faces are indications, this was not all that great a meeting.” by PL, and the item by Got A Watch quoting an ISG member’s surprise at what he found in Baghdad recently:
I remain dumbfounded how, after 3 solid years of bad news getting worse, Americans continue to be amazed at how disastrous things are in Iraq. I am not talking about the ordinary inhabitants of Walmartville – Americans in the broad are amongst one of the most parochial humans anywhere. But the denizens of inside the beltway are not asleep or stupid or unaware.
Come on, the news media have been active, very active, in the last three years on Iraq. Even if you discount the miserable performance of some of the American media, the best of American news and the 4th Estate elsewhere have done a bang up job. The blogosphere, here at this site or somewhere like Informed Comment by Prof Juan Cole, has done a great job of concentrating the news (including perceptive comment). None of the news out of Iraq or its everyday condition over the past three years could be a surprise to anyone. Anyone with connections could get the skinny direct from military commanders themselves.
Why is it then that the members of the ISG, amongst the smartest, best connected Americans anywhere, express surprise at the condition of poor brutalized, fucked up, fucked over Iraq (you may wish to edit Colonel dear, your call, I’m in the moment).
I understand that there is a deal of Kabuki theatre going on here as Americans of stature come to grips with the answer they are obliged to give to their President and the American people and the spin that must be administered to it. Nevertheless, if we are now at year three of the Iraqi agony and it is simply not good enough, it seems to me, that these appointed advisers are only now coming to grips with reality. And surely, surely, surely the last six years must have told the ISG what they faced in the White House.
My Iraqi experience covers Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq over the last quarter of 90 and the first half of 91 as well as a flying Kuwaiti road trip Kuwait to Baghdad in 87. I am still not sure what I think of the Iraqis. They were the most educated and rational, secular people I met in the Middle East and they also scared me. A colleague once suggested that they were the Prussians of the Arab world (a view I have heard elsewhere) – I don’t necessarily agree but I understand (just go to Syria). Some of the bravest and some of the funniest and some of the most thoughtful Arabs I met anywhere were the Iraqis. In the end I think the thing I came away with, despite the Saddam regime as backdrop, was respect. This war was not necessary, it was illegal, it was shameful and we are all going to reap the consequences for years now. All we now collectively have left is a search for a way out. Shameful. Historically shameful. Your name will live in infamy. No apologies, just be sure of it.
I cannot now tell you what to do with Iraq, it truly is too screwed up for an answer, any answer. The following, however, are some points I would advise as roads to an answer, or at least perhaps perhaps the first half dozen paths to a better arrangement:
1. Recognize that Israel is as screwed up as the United States and that, most importantly, Israeli national interests are definitely not US national interests.
2. Give the Palestinians a square deal, give them a deal they cannot bitch about – its only fair (and it is above all something that serves directly the US national interest). The Israelis will bitch, moan and scream treachery, but be grown up and tell them to sod off. The US is the only party able to deliver this. Forget the quibbles about the internal Palestinian factional/party situations, just deliver the fair and just solution and all else will fall into place and who knows, insh’allah, Hamas might end up your best friend. Honour begets honour (especially in the Arab context).
3. Find, arrest, kill, assassinate, erase Osama Bin Laden. His continued existence is a very bad joke, it makes your willy look very small and, remember, appearances count. Right now, you are truly the gang that can’t shoot straight. Solve the OBL problem and, al Hamdulillah, a lot of things start to go wrong for the other side.
4. Talk to your enemies and those who are not your friends. Be prepared to deal. Recall, please, that DC is not the navel of the world. This is Commonsense 101.
5. Talk to your friends and allies, trust your fiends and allies, involve your friends and allies. Be aware that you will probably not achieve solely your national interest, but you might achieve the common interest. This will be a start, and certainly an advance on what you have now.
6. Keep in mind that all people, particularly Arabs, are able to understand honour and fair effort. Once they see and understand that the school bully has not only changed heart but has a tracked earth-mover out there and is trying to level the field a lot of things will change for the positive.
As you can see, I sensibly stopped the list at six. I believe that I have not used the word Iraq once in the foregoing. The road the a stable and rewarding Iraq is through Tel Aviv (or Jerusalem if you insist – and that is one of the things that you are going to have to fix).
Allah be with you, Colonel habibi.
I am heartened and saddened at lightflyer’s post. It is based on far more factual information than mine, but, as far I am concerned, it says the same thing.
We are an honorable people. True, we have imitated the IDF’s shenanigans in Palestine in Iraq, but not without intense self-criticism and self-doubt. And now that IDF look-alike behavior has been completely repudiated at the polls.
We are not a country that uses its military to subjugate and kill a civilian population. That is beneath us. It is time to become America again. America the beautiful. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
An FYI more than a comment for posting —
You might find this essay worth a look. Comments welcome and appreciated!
Iraq Situation Report
Describes my skepticism about the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, and in general negotiations with Iran.
Also lists 52 references to “the next six months are crucial” (more or less) by the Good and the Great (media, politicos, etc).
“But the denizens of inside the beltway are not asleep or stupid or unaware”
Really? How do you come to that performance metric? Based on past performance (say, the last 5 years)I would say a room full of trained chimps banging away at random on typewriters could have probably produced a better outcome.
This is the true legacy of the neo-cons: monumental incompetence that has built a legacy of hatred and failure that will last for generations. No amount of “Study Groups” will be able to produce a fig leaf large enough to cover that.
How come — everybody says there is no military solution to the problem in Iraq, yet we keep talking about “military options”, a new military strategy, etc.?
Great post Lightflyer.
Maybe 1(a) might be to fund political parties through tax revenues rather than lobbies. ie. Get rid of AIPAC.
I’m a long time reader and thought you might be amused by this unsolicited advice for the Iraq Study Group that my partner Bill posted last Sunday (Memo to Iraq Study Group: Herman Munster Still Available).
Thank you so much for your service to the country and your insightful writing and publishing.
Got A Watch,
Since you are from the Old Commonwealth I’ll make an exception and explain.
Make no mistake, the denizens of Inside The Beltway are truly very aware, very smart and very powerful people. The question that really should be asked is how come these people were so acquiescent and passive about a course of action that was crazy and illegal on first principles. Not only that but they have been that way until now. I guess we will have to leave it to the historians to sort it out.
I recall watching the political process with great attention post 911. I was appalled at the fear and cowardice apparent in the Congress. Should anyone have the temerity to wonder out loud if the war option was wise their patriotism would be questioned and everyone, everyone would turn to the flag and salute. America was ill-served by its Congress.
Even worse, too many Americans stood by mute and passive as their constitutional rights, so rightly admired elsewhere, were shredded and demeaned in the same period.
Knowing and admiring Americans as I do the whole thing is unfathomable to me.
Of some note, is THIS anti-Shiite screed written by the U.S. official in charge of training Police Service Cadets in Amman Jordan – for the Iraqi Interior Ministry. His name is Tim Greene, working for ther U.S. State Dept. An excerpt:
So yes, the Shiites should expect the US and Coalition governments to shift their support and now is the time to do that. Although it will prove difficult to change positions, to take down the militias and get back peace and security in Iraq, the Sunnis are the group to lead us to the required balance for that “victory”, I am confident., If we wait, we will never get control in this country and thousands more Iraqi civilians will die in the revenge process and so will US and Coalition soldiers caught in the cross hairs.
Thanks 11B40 for the link. This paragraph caught my attention.
“You’ve got to remember, whatever the Democrats say, it’s Bush still calling the shots. He believes it’s a matter of political will. That’s what [Henry] Kissinger told him. And he’s going to stick with it,” a former senior administration official said. “He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he’s got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall.”
I guess if this does not work it will sink McCain. Curious to see how the Dems will react. They will be squeezed by the majority of Americans who voted last week for withdrawal and the political attacks that their push for withdrawal means defeat.
People were terrified, and that causes them to lose their reason. Prior to the election I heard on the radio concerns of voters like “what happened in New York on 9/11 should not happen in my little town”. Far too many Congressmen and their constituents buy the “fight them there so we aren’t fighting them in the streets of Fort Worth” nonsense. Even if the Congressmen weren’t so stupid, their currency is the ability to get reelected and precious few of them would risk that. After all, if they lose, they are no longer one of the “very aware, very smart, and very powerful people”.
Actually, the best thing if such a thing were possible might be if all of al Qaeda attempts such an “invasion” of the US. In hostile territory and alien population, with no logistics to speak of , they won’t last a couple of weeks, and the problem will be over with once and for all. Instead we have the hard problem of trying to find a dilute al Qaeda embedded in indifferent to hostile populations.
Lightflyer: I agree with the intent of your posts, and in general agree with your eloquent viewpoint.
However, not having attended Committee meetings or been in Congress/Senate/White House/Pentagon in person, I can only go by what I read in the media every day. I judge the government and nations by the outcome achieved, not by rhetoric or how passionate for or against a policy their speeches are.
The outcome in Iraq is obvious to all but the most die-hard neo-con blowhard. Regardless of your perception of competence, or my perception of complete incompetence, the end result has been a disaster for America and the world (unless you are Osama in a cave, he is smiling, all is going according to plan).
Sure, it is easy for an armchair pundit like me to make pronouncements – looking backward, I feel I was correct in most cases, while the MSM/Republicans/Neo-Cons were totally wrong, and have been proven so by events.
Continuing to do the wrong thing cannot make a bad situation better. At least, with the internet, we can debate these things in a way we could not 20 years ago. Great posts from all.
Now where have we heard this language before? The Guardian (UK) is reporting that Bush wants to make a “last big push” in Iraq with an extra 20,000 troops.
I also think I understand from postings here that we are switching our support to the Sunnis.
My conclusion is that therefore we are going to go after the Sadr and Badr shiite militias, and things are then going to get much, much worse on three levels.
At the Iraq level, I would expect that the shiite militias have learned a lot from Hezbollah. They will have serious defence in depth in their neighbourhoods and the weapons, tactics and capabilities to inflict serious casualties. We will also have an associated humanitarian tragedy if Bush goes ahead with this.
On a regional level, it appears that we will still not talk to Iran and Syria, and any move against these militias will ratchet up regional tension with Iran. I expect that if the Iranians weren’t helping the militias before, they will be now.
I would also think the logical next step, win or lose, is going to be to bomb Iran. If we take major casualties Iran will be blamed. If we neutralise them, well, what possible ill effects will there be if we bomb Iran?
I expect that the Democrats will again be totally spineless. The new leader – Hoyer, is totally and completel;y in the pocket of AIPAC. Israel will continue to dictate our middle east policy to us. People will eventually work this out, but not soon enough I fear.
On a world level, I still don’t think that enough people understand that we are meddling with an unexploded bomb (no pun intended). If the middle east goes up, I don’t believe the American economy will withstand the pressure, and we will finally end up a pariah state (perhaps even “Balkanised”) along with Israel, in a world now dominated by Europe and China.
“and we will finally end up a pariah state (perhaps even “Balkanised”) along with Israel, in a world now dominated by Europe and China.”
Why would that be so terrible Walrus?
Walrus, I think the opposite is what their “tilting” plan is about. Weigh in on the side of the Shia and let them defeat the Sunni insurgency.
See the oped by Laura Rozen today in the LA Times. Unleash the Shiites
Now that would I suppose accrue to the benefit of Iran and against the Saudi interests. What a tangled web we weave. But there seems very little doubt that our ME policy runs through Jerusalem irrespective of which party “runs” things.
Many of the questions and speculation raised in various posts are answered by Tom Engelhardt in his latest Tomgram at :
It’s very depressing, but realistic. Check it out.
In surveying my NeoCon chums over the last few days I cannot say that I am at all optimistic about the ISG. Their call: the election was good news, because it gave the Democrats 50% ownership of the Iraq project.
So, there you have it. They will continue to let Americans die and pour money into the sand in Iraq, to save face for George Bush. And then, will give the Democrats 50% of the blame for historical purposes.
I think that this well suits the Beverly Hills Democratic agenda.
Let’s remember, please. This war was Israel’s idea. Filtered through the Project for a New “American” Century.
It was a vast miscalculation – an Israeli miscalculation. That the greatest threat to Israel was a Stalinist mid-20th century secular dictatorship.
I think we all now know that the “threat” , such as it is, is from non-State actors. And yet we billigerently use our “State” to bludgeon civilian neighborhoods and fill Arab emergency rooms.
Difficult to imagine the idea of a bunch of 70+ (Baker is 78!) white men from the American provinces declaring to the Iraqis how they should structure their country.
Laughable, were it not so sad for the familites of American reservists dying for nothing in Iraq.
You are right, but as a rep of what John Ford called “the .50 cents a day Regulars in dirty shirt blue” I would remind that, they too, bleed. pl
I meant no disprespect whatsoever to the regular army. I merely cited the reserves to underscore the totally inappropriate use of our military to enforce the controlled self-destruction of a totally foreign, alien, distant nation.
Reservists? Out there? Why don’t we melt down most of Lockheed and Boeing’s multibillion dollar platforms (designed for killing armies and buildings) and built out a vast Special Forces (designed to ferret out irregulars and win hearts and minds?
My dad was with the Green Berets in the central highlands in ’64, training montagnards, and he loved it.
He went back in ’68, buried inside a giant industrial base in the Mekong Delta (9th Infantry Division?) and felt, very strongly, that the war – and opportunity of that earlier effort – had been squandered.
It is not generally appreciated how severely the Iran-Iraq impacted the combatant societies. Iraq won but at a great cost; it’s been compared with the impact of WWI on the French; their conscript army returned weary and rebellious. In Iran it produced a martyrdom obsessed generation of Trenchocrats that is now politically of age and set on restoring the Persian Imperium.
In 92 the Iraqi army suffered a crushing defeat that ended in a traumatic Iranian backed rising in the Shi’a South. This left Saddam with a wrecked country that he controlled not just with brute force but by exploiting tribal and ethnic divisions to stop any viable power block emerging to challenge him. Iraq was further damaged by a decade of sanctions that impoverished the country and wrecked its infrastructure. 21st century Iraq did not remotely resemble the optimistic modernizing country that the Pentagons pet exiles left in the 70s.
Against this dark background we cake-walked merrily into Baghdad. This was never a promising venture. Fortune will not forgive such a foolish choice of theater.
Thanks to everyone for the informative posts and links. I’m back to the original subject, with a question about military personnel and their reponsibility being to the established policy, rather than trying to change it. I was disconcerted by the change I saw in General Abizaid at the recent Armed Services Committee hearing. In previous appearances, particularly when he first went in, he was utterly composed and confident; obviously a very competent and bright man, certainly a General who was prepared for the mission and could accomplish it. At the latest hearing, he just wasn’t the same person. Did he have a bad day? Am I overly imaginative? Am I looking at a General who either doesn’t feel his mission is clearly defined anymore, or one who feels that he doesn’t have what he needs to accomplish it? I saw him only when some Democrats were grilling him rather severely, but he seems tough enough to deal with a little tough questioning from Congress people. I admire General Abizaid, and am just rather baffled by this last appearance.