Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'major debacle' whose outcome is 'in doubt'
Former senior Rumsfeld aide delivers scathing indictment
A 48-page report written by a former aide to Donald Rumsfeld and issued by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute has called the Iraq war a "major debacle" whose outcome is "in doubt."
"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," the report's opening line reads. "As of fall 2007, this conflict has cost the United States over 3,800 dead and over 28,000 wounded. Allied casualties accounted for another 300 dead."
Published by the National Defense Institute's National Institute for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department research center, the report does not reflect the official views of the Pentagon or the Defense Department. But it delivers a scathing indictment from the key educational arm of the US Armed Forces.
The report was written by Joseph Collins, a retired colonel and former senior adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. It's importance cannot be understated, because it is based in part on interviews on former senior defense and intelligence officials who spoke candidly and played roles in preparations for war.
"Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt," Collins writes. "Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army."
You can view the original report in PDF here.
The report released Thursday was barely mentioned by newspapers or media outlets, according to a search at this writing in Google News. It received the heaviest treatment by Jonathan Landay and John Walcott of McClatchy Newspapers.
Iraqi civilian deaths—mostly at the hands of other Iraqis—may number as high as 82,000. Over 7,500 Iraqi soldiers and police officers have also been killed. Fifteen percent of the Iraqi population has become refugees or
displaced persons. The Congressional Research Service estimates that the United States now spends over $10 billion per month on the war, and that the total, direct U.S. costs from March 2003 to July 2007 have exceeded $450 billion, all of which has been covered by deficit spending.1 No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans' benefits or the total impact on Service personnel and materiel.
The war's political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen.2 Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and
various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces— especially the Army and Marine Corps—have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.
Additional excerpts, as highlighted by Landay and Walcott:
- Operations in Iraq have diverted "manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers" from "all other efforts in the war on terror" and severely strained the U.S. armed forces. "Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East."
- "Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt. Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army."
- "For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a 'must win,' but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a 'can't win.'"
- " ... the aggressive, hands-on Rumsfeld cajoled and pushed his way toward a small force and a lightning fast operation." Later, he shut down the military's computerized deployment system, "questioning, delaying or deleting units on the numerous deployment orders that came across his desk."
- In part because "long, costly, manpower-intensive post-combat operations were anathema to Rumsfeld," the report says, the U.S. was unprepared to fight what Collins calls "War B," the battle against insurgents and sectarian violence that began in mid-2003, shortly after "War A," the fight against Saddam Hussein's forces, ended.
- The report also singles out the Bush administration's national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, saying that "senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect."
- The report ends by quoting Winston Churchill: "Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. ... Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think that he also had a chance."