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Why Iraq Was a Mistake

#1
Interesting piece...

Time said:
Why Iraq Was a Mistake

A military insider sounds off against the war and the "zealots" who pushed it
By LIEUT. GENERAL GREG NEWBOLD (RET.)

Two senior military officers are known to have challenged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the planning of the Iraq war. Army General Eric Shinseki publicly dissented and found himself marginalized. Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's top operations officer, voiced his objections internally and then retired, in part out of opposition to the war. Here, for the first time, Newbold goes public with a full-throated critique:

In 1971, the rock group The Who released the antiwar anthem Won't Get Fooled Again. To most in my generation, the song conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation's leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam. To those of us who were truly counterculture--who became career members of the military during those rough times--the song conveyed a very different message. To us, its lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

Full text here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,1181629,00.html
 
#2
Top post, Merkator! And I agree, very interesting. Let's just hope it opens the floodgates to more overt dissent and, ultimately, to a more realistic approach to the problem.

MsG
 
#4
Can we get some clarification here?

Iraq wasn't a mistake. The conduct of the immediate post-warfighting phase was a mistake. Are we saying that it was such a big mistake that it invalidates the entire enterprise?

If we are I'm not quite there yet myself.
 
#5
Vegetius said:
Can we get some clarification here?

Iraq wasn't a mistake. The conduct of the immediate post-warfighting phase was a mistake. Are we saying that it was such a big mistake that it invalidates the entire enterprise?

If we are I'm not quite there yet myself.
General Newbold's argument is that the initial invasion was a mistake in itself, followed by the calamity of occupation.

He says, "From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense."
 
#7
Who are we (and by we I mean America with The UK doing whatever they say) to decide how someone runs their country?

Who made us the World's police force, thought that was kinda the UNs job....

And wheres next?
 
#8
Vegetius, you are completely right in what you are saying we fought a very clean and effective war, however when we won that war, I believe that is when the shit hit the fan.

Both the US and UK governments didn’t have a fcuking clue what to do next. They simply hoped they could fire in their puppet government and the Iraqi people would just crack on.

And instead of dealing with the problems they must have know in there heart of hearts where going to occur in post war Iraq, they have just bungled from one fcuk up to another, with no real tangible improvemts to the lives of ordinary Iraqi’s.

I can imagine most of the ordinary people of Iraq don’t want the insurgency, as they are suffering more than even the Coalition troops. They know the longer we are there, making a mess of things “The Government Not Our Troops” the longer they will have to suffer.

However as I have said in another thread if they want to solve this problem they have to have the confidence to work and trust their own Police and Defence forces, as well as Coalition forces.

Otherwise this will truly be a wasted effort and, the war that was fought and won in such way as to minimise destruction to the infrastructure of Iraq and rid them of such an oppressive regime will be forgotten, to only to be remembered for the cluster fcuk we see at the moment.

And Higround I agree with you also, but apparently we perceived a threat from the regime of Iraq, and not its people in general. Which is why we are in such a tight spot now.

What’s done is done, good intentions or bad judgment.
 
#9
Higround said:
Who made us the World's police force, thought that was kinda the UNs job....

And wheres next?
The UN. With its history of making such a good job of stopping bloodshed in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur......


As for next ? - Zimbabwe ? That, like Iraq, is a bit of our imperial history that we left unfinished.
 
#10
Vegetius said:
Can we get some clarification here?

Iraq wasn't a mistake. The conduct of the immediate post-warfighting phase was a mistake. Are we saying that it was such a big mistake that it invalidates the entire enterprise?

If we are I'm not quite there yet myself.
Answer is Yes.

Please allow me to ask a couple of questions to help guide your thinking on the matter.

1. What were the reasons for going to war?

2. Among those reasons given, which ones presented either a "supreme emergency" in national or even human security terms for the US/UK or international community?

3. Of those reasons given, how many have now been revealed to be critical misjudgments at best, and downright deceitful at worst?

4. Whose interests were served by the war?

5. After three years and the descent into civil war, who (apart from Halliburton and Bechtel stockholders) is better off for the war being fought?

My boss summed up the idea of Just War in five neat bullet points, back in Oct 2002:

The principles that define a just war include the following:

Last Resort
War must not be entered into with undue haste. War is an option only if all other means of resolution are exhausted.

Legitimate Authority
Any decision to go to war must be made by a duly constituted governmental authorities not any disgruntled groups or unofficial communities.

Right intention and just cause
War is unacceptable if motivated by aggression or even revenge. Self-defense, recovery of possessions, righting a wrong, and responding to an aggressor are examples of just causes.

Chance of Success
Only when there is a reasonable chance of success of an acceptable outcome is war justifiable.

Goal of Peace
It must be possible to envision a peace that is preferable to the situation that would prevail if the war were not fought.
How is it going by these measures?
 
#11
Trossachs said:
Higround said:
Who made us the World's police force, thought that was kinda the UNs job....

And wheres next?
The UN. With its history of making such a good job of stopping bloodshed in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur......


As for next ? - Zimbabwe ? That, like Iraq, is a bit of our imperial history that we left unfinished.
Where do you get the idea that the UN as an organisation that was responsible for these failures? It's the unwillingness to act by some or all of the Permanent 5 members of the Security Council that was at the root of most, if not all, of the crises you mention. Just good, old-fashioned national interests trumping all else.
 
#12
I love the self denial that we force on ourselves in places like Iraq and AF. At risk of being accused of a retrospective 'I told you so', the comedy of the current situation is that it was entirely predictable and well documented doctrinally. But even if it wasn't, why do we refuse to accept that there are (possibly low-level) insurgencies occuring in both theatres? It's as if we're afraid of the word.

In AF, the refusal to admit an insurgency resulted in an almost total refusal to follow COIN doctrine, or at least link it to PSO work and try and educate our IC friends. As a result, we are watching the situation deteriorate.

Take the current quotes from Iraq:

"This isn't an insurgency, this is a mixture of crime, militias, the search for political power which has always happened in Iraq through the use of violence and it's just happening again," said Col Johnny Bowren of the Light Infantry.

I haven't got the pam on me, but I know that the Army's definition of insurgent activity matches the situation over there even more closely than the dictionary version (insurgency: an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict) in that it also includes militias and inherent crime, and breaks down insurgent activity into a number of different levels/grades.

I also can't help but think that it is symptomatic of the 'not quite enough, just too late' approach to training (at staff level as much, if not more so than anywhere else) that our enemies can still say, 'the British have the best doctrine in the world, thank God they don't use it'.

Just the search for political power through the use of violence... no insurgency here guv... just us and that dude with the RPG... 30 years, man and boy... Oldest trick in the book...

dpm
 
#13
Higround said:
Who are we (and by we I mean America with The UK doing whatever they say) to decide how someone runs their country?

Who made us the World's police force, thought that was kinda the UNs job....

And wheres next?
Yeah because it has done a good job so far, Rwanda, Darfur.................

'For fundamental human rights are rights superior to the law of the sovereign state' H. Lauterpacht, International Law and Human Rights (1950)

The UN is now as much use as a 'paper tiger' for these issues. Initially when it was set up it was meant to have its own army. Due to the cold war and other events this never materiallised.

Decisions such as this now depend on the political will of the Security Council. Not only does it take a lot of time but most of the time it doesn't happen. Generally it needs to be close to home for them to intervene ie Yugoslavia.

'
 
#14
Vegetius said:
Can we get some clarification here?

Iraq wasn't a mistake. The conduct of the immediate post-warfighting phase was a mistake. Are we saying that it was such a big mistake that it invalidates the entire enterprise?

If we are I'm not quite there yet myself.
Destroying an Iraqi military gutted by 12 years of sanctions, composed mostly of conscripts who did not want to die for Saddam was never going to unduly tax the planets only military superpower. And it was never the difficult part.

The post-warfighting phase was the only phase that mattered and we screwed it up royally. The fact that we fought a good war means nothing when the aftermath installs an Iranian influenced islamic state in the south, forces Turkey and Iran to cooperate keeping the Kurds down and destabilises Iraq's neighbours - the ones with the oil. And every hike in the oil price damages the US.

There was a reason Saddam was allowed to survive GW1, it's a shame GWB didn't ask his Dad about it.
 
#15
All this I told you so smugness is not really much help. It's funny that General Newbold's full of zeal against the war now and claims to have always been but his views were not well aired at the time. I am sure that there were plenty of anti war press agencies who would have loved to have him on the front page during the war.

Why we did it and whose fault is it is an argument for when we are out of Iraq what is important now is what we do with the situation in place. We have a choice either slog it out with the hope that as the oil industry improves that greater employment creates stability and that the new found taste of democracy turn people away from violence or do we simply cut our loss's and bug out leaving them to it.
 
#16
If you disagreed with the invasion of Iraq at the level that Lt Gen Newbould held his appointment at the time the only honourable thing to do was resign. Let’s face it, the great majority of the rest of us couldn’t wait to get involved. I worked in the Land Component HQ in Kuwait in the run up to the war and a day did not go by without a friend ringing or emailing to find out if I could get him a slot.

The real problem was that no one had a clue about the much vaunted Phase IV. Too many over optimistic and let’s face it downright invalid assumptions were made about the post conflict environment. The last time something like this had been tried was in 1945 in Germany. The Allies had thousands of people under training for 18-24 months to go in and run the place. I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that this was a comparable task but without the time or resources devoted to matching the requirements of running the country in the way necessary to ensure stability. If indeed stability was achievable given the nature of Iraq’s political makeup. One simple tool that was just not acceptable to the Americans was the concept of the ‘Good Ba’athist’ similar to the ‘Good Nazi’ an official who did his job well and was only in the party in order to maintain his employment. A number of pragmatic initiatives like that were not even considered due to Neo-Con dogma in the US Government.

Finally I don’t know who CO 1LI thinks he is kidding if he believes that what is going on there is not an insurgency.
 
#17
Greengrass said:
All this I told you so smugness is not really much help. It's funny that General Newbold's full of zeal against the war now and claims to have always been but his views were not well aired at the time. I am sure that there were plenty of anti war press agencies who would have loved to have him on the front page during the war.

Why we did it and whose fault is it is an argument for when we are out of Iraq what is important now is what we do with the situation in place. We have a choice either slog it out with the hope that as the oil industry improves that greater employment creates stability and that the new found taste of democracy turn people away from violence or do we simply cut our loss's and bug out leaving them to it.
We covered your first point ad nauseum when the other generals spoke out:

1. Serving officers are prevented by the UCMJ from speaking out against Administration.

2. They can resign, but then they face an ethical dilemma. Their responsibility to the truth vs their responsibility to those under their command. To paraphrase Schwartzkopf's autobiography, the question "Why me?" is almost invariably answered with a following question "If not you, then who?" In order to resign, you'd have to fight the urge to stay and try to make sure things go as smoothly as they can. How many currently serving would otherwise leave, but stay in because of not wanting to let their mates go without them?

3. There's a question of timing also. How long do you spend trying to get people to see that they are on a hiding to nothing? When's the time to quit?

As for the second point. What on earth makes you think that the same fcukwits who got us into this mess have the ability to get us out? That's the wonderful thing about democracy and checks and balances, it's supposed to hold people accountable. If you were a shareholder in a company whose board engineered a loss of $300billion and rising and lied on annual reports about its activities and "successes", wouldn't you be leading the charge to call for their resignation?
 
#18
At risk of becoming the Boards Fool for asking, can anyone tell me why the US invaded Iraq and even more to the point just why did Tone join in.
john
History should know as Bush's War, UK history as Tonys War.
 
#19
jonwilly said:
At risk of becoming the Boards Fool for asking, can anyone tell me why the US invaded Iraq and even more to the point just why did Tone join in.
john
History should know as Bush's War, UK history as Tonys War.
Not sure Jon- what day of the week is it where you are? :wink:
 
#20
"Not sure Jon- what day of the week is it where you are"

Ah yes ic verstain
In local speak
Do you have the same moon in England as we have here.
john
The above is a common question.
 

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