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Report excerpts: 'A major war . . . a major debacle'

The Institute for National Strategic Studies, a policy research organization that serves the Defense Department, issued a report this month titled, "Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath.'' The institute is part of the National Defense University that educates military and civilian leaders in national security and military strategy, so the tone of the report by professor Joseph J. Collins is particularly noteworthy. Some excerpts:

Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle …

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The war's political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen. 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 …

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No one has calculated the psychopolitical impact of a perceived defeat on the U.S. reputation for power or the future of the overall war on terror. For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a "must win," but for many others, despite the obvious progress under Gen. David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a "can't win."

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To date, the war in Iraq is a classic case of failure to adopt and adapt prudent courses of action that balance ends, ways and means. After the major combat operation, U.S. policy has been insolvent, with inadequate means for pursuing ambitious ends …

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The central finding of this study is that U.S. efforts in Iraq were hobbled by a set of faulty assumptions, a flawed planning effort, and a continuing inability to create security conditions in Iraq that could have fostered meaningful advances in stabilization, reconstruction and governance. It is arguable whether the Iraqis will develop the wherewithal to create ethnic reconciliation and build a coherent national government. It is clear, however, that the United States and its partners have not done enough to create conditions in which such a development could take place. With the best of intentions, the United States toppled a vile, dangerous regime but has been unable to replace it with a stable entity …

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Most defense secretaries before this administration chose to work with the combatant commanders mainly through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The role Secretary Rumsfeld played in the development of the details of the battle plan and the flow of the invasion force was unique in recent memory …

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For his part, (Gen. Tommy) Franks — who shared Rumsfeld's belief in the importance of speed — was caught between trying to placate his boss and to satisfy the physical needs of his forces …

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Franks never briefed either Rumsfeld or Bush on options short of war. A simple soldier, Franks took his charge to prepare a war plan as a mission to develop a full-scale, direct military approach to the overthrow of Saddam's regime. There were never plans for creating enclaves, supporting a guerrilla war, or using only special operations forces and airpower in a coercive manner …

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I find nothing in credible sources to support the notion that the WMD threat was concocted by U.S. government officials and then sold to a gullible public, nor do I believe that any one Iraqi source tricked us into our beliefs … We now know that there were many holes in our knowledge base, but senior officials and analysts were almost universally united in their core beliefs. . . .This perception was aided and abetted by Saddam himself …

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Franks' many briefings to the president did not cover critical postwar issues that were not ordinarily in the military's sphere of competence: governance, constitutions, sectarian relations and so forth. He emphasized tasks that the military had to do in the short run: security and humanitarian assistance …

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Moreover, postwar issues were broken up and handled by different groups that sometimes worked in isolation from one another for security reasons or for bureaucratic advantage. Complicating matters, very few humanitarian planners had access to the war plan, and very few war planners cared about anything other than major combat operations. …

Report excerpts: 'A major war . . . a major debacle' 04/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 8:17pm]

    

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