Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq

Mackubin Thomas Owens in the September 24th 2008 issue on the Opinions page in the Wall Street Journal raises the issue that the US Generals in command in Iraq acted out of hand when the decision was made to have a Surge. These remarks are made based on his reading of Bob Woodward’s book  The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 and speaking with “many senior uniformed military officers”.  Mackubin ties Generals Casey, Abizaid, and Myers with  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and an operational strategy of maintaining presence only by operational patrols, then returning to protected bases that all 4 wanted to pursue. But up to and after the dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld, the Generals continued to oppose the Surge.

Mackubin charges that  the generals not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; [they] then worked to undermine the President once he decided on another strategy… if Mr Woodward’s account is true, it means that not since the General McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln’s war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the US Military so blatantly attempeted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. ” But what Mackubin fails to report is the background and environ. There was extreme and ongoing dysfunctionality within White House on the War.  The President, Vice President Cheney, Joint Chiefs + Iraq Front Generals, and Secretary of State Rice all disagreed substantially on the basic facts let alone the strategy of the War. This lack of candor among the principles may be attributed to: 1)the sacking General Shenseki when he dared to question the original troop commitments to Iraq, 2) the subsequent cover-up and hence tortured response to the Abu Ghraib prison misdeeds; 3)the endemic infighting around DOD policy which Mackubin at least acknowledges, 4)the twisted and jump circuit lines of communication among war policy makers both military and civilan,  and 5) the continuing failure to perceive risks in Iraq due to Sunni-Shiite antipathy as in the failure to protect Shiite shrines against Sunni or AlQaeda terror attacks which tripped off the move to Civil War.

In a situation reminiscent of the current Wall Street Debacle, MacKubin fails to point out that in senior war policy circles, nobody trusted anybody else. As Washington Post reviewer Josiah Bunting III notes “[Woodward’s book] is a study of what happens when men and women, charged with leading the country in wartime or with counseling those who lead, do not tell each other what they really think. White House advisers are faithless to their responsibilities if they withhold their conclusions and convictions from those they serve, or from their colleagues. It is a toxicity that, by Woodward’s account, infected the whole grim process€¦The War Within makes its case quietly and persuasively.” But what Mackubin has utterly failed to do in his assessment is to give readers a sense of the monumental Civilian as well as Military advisers dysfunctionality. Instead he lays all the blame on the Generals. If we get an analysis with only 1/5th of the real story, can the public expect any better policies. I am disappointed that the Wall Street Journal Editorial board let this Opinion through without serious revision. The final irony is that the Surge largely is working because the Anbar Province Sunni leadership turned against their AlQaeda cohorts and sided with the Americans in attempting to wrest control back of their own Sunni province.  This action in turn spurred Sunnis in other areas to ally themselves with the American troops. the other factor is the(temporary?) defanging of Muktahadr alSadr and his Shiite Mahdi army apparently in part by President Nouri alMaliki. Again Backubin is silent on this.

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