Report on Iraq Cites Faulty Assumptions And Inability to Replace Saddam With Stable Entity

McClatchy reports on this report from the National Defense University which calls the Iraq war “a major debacle.” They write that, “The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.”

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, 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,” the report continued.

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country’s descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.

“Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt,” said the report. “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.'”

Donald Rumsfeld receives much of the blame, but mistakes by others in the Bush administration are noted:

Compounding the problem was a series of faulty assumptions made by Bush’s top aides, among them an expectation fed by Iraqi exiles that Iraqis would be grateful to America for liberating them from Saddam’s dictatorship. The administration also expected that “Iraq without Saddam could manage and fund its own reconstruction.”

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.”

Supporters of the war are arguing that McClatchy’s article misrepresents the report. Small Wars Journal states they received a comment from Joseph Collins claiming that the article distorts his research. He presents this as a summary of his findings:

This study examines how the United States chose to go to war in Iraq, how its decision-making process functioned, and what can be done to improve that process. 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. With the best of intentions, the United States toppled a vile, dangerous regime but has been unable to replace it with a stable entity. Even allowing for progress under the Surge, the study insists that mistakes in the Iraq operation cry out in the mid- to long-term for improvements in the U.S. decision-making and policy execution systems.

The study recommends the development of a national planning charter, improving the qualifications of national security planners, streamlining policy execution in the field, improving military education, strengthening the Department of State and USAID, and reviewing the tangled legal authorities for complex contingencies. The study ends with a plea to improve alliance relations and to exercise caution in deciding to go to war.

While not as strong as McClatchy’s article, this summary continues to support the views of many of us who opposed the war, feel it was mishandled from the start, and do not believe that the Bush administration can achieve a military solution.

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  1. 1
    absent observer says:

    It no wonder McClatchy reportedly misreported the report. Can you understand what the author was writing in that quote? …Mistakes that “cry out” in the mid- to long-term?

    That guy can mix metaphors like a cat driving a ten-wheeler to its deathbed.

  2. 2
    Probus says:

    This study couldn’t have come at a better time. With republicans falling all over themselves trying to convince everyone that the surge has worked yet we need to be there longer with more troops than there were before the surge began and the fact that the violence in Basra is portrayed as a victory for Maliki this study does a good job of pointing out how totally wrong Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld really were. The fact that this report is coming from someone who worked under those 2 is even more significant. The architects of this war failed in every possible way to plan, justify it, carry it out and in managing the post war sectarian strife that inevitably followed this unnecessary war.

  3. 3
    Justin says:

    He was more or less the public face of Saddam’s Iraq. He was the one who spoke for Iraq at the UN and traveled to America for diplomatic meetings. Charges against Aziz stem from the murder of 42 merchants by Saddam’s regime, killed because Saddam thought they were apart of a conspiracy to raise food prices at a time when Iraq was under strict sanctions as a result of the 1991 Gulf War. I’m glad they got him too.

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