Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tom Ricks

The Media’s Apocalyptic Vision of Richard Mourdock

Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

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Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

Salon, for example, carries a story titled “Republican Party: Hawks-only club.” The article details how Mourdock’s victory makes the GOP uniformly hawkish on foreign policy. Most of the article is an explanation of why liberals liked Lugar so much, but finally the author gives us the damage: “In practical terms, Lugar’s loss means that U.S. foreign policy will be less civilized, less responsible and less effective.”

I noticed something was missing from this article, however: it omits any mention whatsoever of Richard Mourdock’s views on foreign policy. This is a rather glaring omission, but maybe the reporter’s instincts are right.

To find out, let’s head on over to an expert on foreign policy, Tom Ricks. Ricks maintains a blog on Foreign Policy’s website, and sure enough he weighed in on Mourdock’s victory. He, too, was horrified by the erosion of the foreign policy center. But he has a somewhat different take on what it means. Mourdock’s victory, Ricks admits, “makes me wonder if the great Midwest is turning away from internationalism and back to its pre-World War II isolationism.”

So Salon was wrong? Mourdock is the opposite of a hawkish hawk? He’s actually an isolationist? I wondered what led Ricks to this conclusion, but his post didn’t help me answer that question, because Ricks doesn’t even mention Mourdock’s name, let alone Mourdock’s views on foreign policy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reporters sometimes trick politicians into revealing what they think by employing an age-old tactic commonly referred to as “asking them questions.” It turns out that some reporters did. Richard Mourdock, as a supporter of cutting the Pentagon’s budget and skeptical of the mission in Afghanistan, is not a superhawk, as Salon would have it. But he also believes America plays an important role in the world, and that it must not retreat from its responsibilities around the globe. So he isn’t an isolationist either.

But if he’s starting to sound like a mainstream candidate, he’s got you fooled. Richard Mourdock is, according to the sandwich board Jonathan Chait has been wearing around town, the harbinger of doom. This is an interesting point of view coming from Chait, who is the author of the magnum opus of leftist anti-intellectualism and anthem of paranoid incivility, “Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred.” Some things have changed since Chait published his plea for incivility–namely, we have a Democratic president. So now it’s time to protect “social norms”–specifically, he says, court-related social norms permitting the confirmation of a president’s court picks. Mourdock cited Lugar’s support for President Obama’s Supreme Court picks in his case against the incumbent senator, mirroring a Republican approach to politics that is, in Chait’s view, bringing upon us a “crisis of American government.”

Some have pointed out that the collapse of the nomination process was brought about by Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden when they took a sledgehammer to “social norms” during the confirmation process of Robert Bork. That’s true. But I’d like to defend Chait somewhat. I, too, have been concerned about the collapse of social norms.

For example, it was once a social norm never to use the filibuster against a circuit court nominee. But then George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada, an undeniably qualified candidate, to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Democrats were playing the long game, however, and were willing to buck social norms in order to prevent the Republicans from starting a process that would end with a conservative Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. So they blocked Estrada.

In October 2003, the Associated Press reported that Democrats were preparing to expand their use of the filibuster to everything the GOP put forward. “Perhaps we ought to prepare some bumper stickers that say ‘Obstruction: It’s not just for judges anymore’,” remarked Republican John Cornyn.

More recently, Harry Reid has perfected a tactic called “filling the tree” to prevent Republicans from even being able to offer amendments on bills. Reid and the Democrats are, it turns out, innovators in the means to tear down social norms and prevent the government from functioning as it was intended. In fact, it’s now been more than three years since Reid’s Senate passed a budget.

But hey, at least he didn’t criticize a Democratic nominee who was confirmed anyway. Now that would just be uncivil.

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Counterinsurgency 101

A number of commentators such as Fred Kaplan, David Ignatius, and Joe Klein have claimed that General Petraeus is abandoning counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan in favor of a more kinetic counterterrorism approach designed to generate faster results. As evidence, they can point to an increase in air strike and Special Operations raids. This represents a fundamental misreading of counterinsurgency doctrine, which hardly eschews killing the enemy; rather, a proper counterinsurgency strategy has to be about more than simply killing the enemy — it has to have political, economic, diplomatic, legal, communications, and other elements to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the imperative to kill or lock up insurgents — and Petraeus hasn’t, in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Paula Broadwell, an Army reservist who has written a biography of Petraeus, sets the commentators straight in this post on Tom Ricks’s blog. She writes:

Since Petraeus has arrived in Afghanistan, he has increased the intensity of every element of a comprehensive civil-military COIN campaign, not just the so-called CT element. After my trip to Afghanistan last month, during which I visited at the battalion, division, and ISAF headquarters levels, it is clear to me that the “shift” is not one of focus, but of energy and increased intensity across all lines of the counterinsurgency effort.

That certainly confirms my impression of what’s going on. It is not a shift of focus but an intensified commitment to counterinsurgency in all its facets — which includes but is not limited to the counterterrorism “line of operation.” It is this sort of comprehensive approach that worked in Iraq and can work in Afghanistan, given sufficient time and commitment — whereas attempting to implement counterterrorism in isolation (as many critics want to do) is almost guaranteed to fail.

A number of commentators such as Fred Kaplan, David Ignatius, and Joe Klein have claimed that General Petraeus is abandoning counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan in favor of a more kinetic counterterrorism approach designed to generate faster results. As evidence, they can point to an increase in air strike and Special Operations raids. This represents a fundamental misreading of counterinsurgency doctrine, which hardly eschews killing the enemy; rather, a proper counterinsurgency strategy has to be about more than simply killing the enemy — it has to have political, economic, diplomatic, legal, communications, and other elements to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the imperative to kill or lock up insurgents — and Petraeus hasn’t, in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Paula Broadwell, an Army reservist who has written a biography of Petraeus, sets the commentators straight in this post on Tom Ricks’s blog. She writes:

Since Petraeus has arrived in Afghanistan, he has increased the intensity of every element of a comprehensive civil-military COIN campaign, not just the so-called CT element. After my trip to Afghanistan last month, during which I visited at the battalion, division, and ISAF headquarters levels, it is clear to me that the “shift” is not one of focus, but of energy and increased intensity across all lines of the counterinsurgency effort.

That certainly confirms my impression of what’s going on. It is not a shift of focus but an intensified commitment to counterinsurgency in all its facets — which includes but is not limited to the counterterrorism “line of operation.” It is this sort of comprehensive approach that worked in Iraq and can work in Afghanistan, given sufficient time and commitment — whereas attempting to implement counterterrorism in isolation (as many critics want to do) is almost guaranteed to fail.

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A Clarification and Apology

I received a note from a reader in the context of my exchange with Tom Ricks. He is someone who reads me fairly regularly and said this:

I thought you were being way too hard on the guy before, and was saddened to see you double down on it today.

In my experience, lots of people use that kind of “lesser of evils” locution (“x is wrong, but not-x is even more wrong!”), and pretty much never do they therefore mean “so I condemn x.”  While that may not be the most perspicuous language (though some serious philosophers and theologians would argue otherwise — didn’t Reinhold Niebuhr, e.g.), holding Ricks to that philosophically high of a standard is unfairly tough, especially when he clearly all things considered meant in effect the opposite of what your most prominent excerpt implied.

So nail him on his verbal failure or conceptual gaffe, if you want — but make sure it’s clear that that is a philosophical critique, not a policy criticism. It’s easy for me to see why he would be outraged at that partial quotation, and I’d guess many of your most faithful readers shared my shock when reading his whole quote. (I should have written to you then — seriously considered it, but life is busy, and I’m not even nearly as efficient with my time as God calls me to be….)

The reason I found Ricks’s initial quote quite bothersome has to do with the locution he used. “I think staying in Iraq is immoral,” Ricks said. “Immoral” has a particular meaning: transgressing accepted moral rules, corrupt, unscrupulous, or unethical. The rest of Ricks’s statement, “but I think leaving Iraq is even more immoral,” struck me as relevant only if I were to use Ricks’s quote to argue about his position as it relates to pulling troops out of Iraq today. That actually wasn’t my point. It was that despite the enormous sacrifice this country is making for Iraq and the good that has come of it, Ricks still sees it fit to characterize our presence as “immoral.” That troubled me then, and it troubles me now.

At the same time, I can certainly understand why the way I used the quote would lead one to believe that Ricks favors a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. He doesn’t, and the way I framed his quote obviously (and understandably) led some people to believe he did. So I owe Ricks and my readers an apology. He, and they, hereby have it.

I received a note from a reader in the context of my exchange with Tom Ricks. He is someone who reads me fairly regularly and said this:

I thought you were being way too hard on the guy before, and was saddened to see you double down on it today.

In my experience, lots of people use that kind of “lesser of evils” locution (“x is wrong, but not-x is even more wrong!”), and pretty much never do they therefore mean “so I condemn x.”  While that may not be the most perspicuous language (though some serious philosophers and theologians would argue otherwise — didn’t Reinhold Niebuhr, e.g.), holding Ricks to that philosophically high of a standard is unfairly tough, especially when he clearly all things considered meant in effect the opposite of what your most prominent excerpt implied.

So nail him on his verbal failure or conceptual gaffe, if you want — but make sure it’s clear that that is a philosophical critique, not a policy criticism. It’s easy for me to see why he would be outraged at that partial quotation, and I’d guess many of your most faithful readers shared my shock when reading his whole quote. (I should have written to you then — seriously considered it, but life is busy, and I’m not even nearly as efficient with my time as God calls me to be….)

The reason I found Ricks’s initial quote quite bothersome has to do with the locution he used. “I think staying in Iraq is immoral,” Ricks said. “Immoral” has a particular meaning: transgressing accepted moral rules, corrupt, unscrupulous, or unethical. The rest of Ricks’s statement, “but I think leaving Iraq is even more immoral,” struck me as relevant only if I were to use Ricks’s quote to argue about his position as it relates to pulling troops out of Iraq today. That actually wasn’t my point. It was that despite the enormous sacrifice this country is making for Iraq and the good that has come of it, Ricks still sees it fit to characterize our presence as “immoral.” That troubled me then, and it troubles me now.

At the same time, I can certainly understand why the way I used the quote would lead one to believe that Ricks favors a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. He doesn’t, and the way I framed his quote obviously (and understandably) led some people to believe he did. So I owe Ricks and my readers an apology. He, and they, hereby have it.

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RE: Tom Ricks’s Quote

Peter Wehner quotes Tom Ricks as writing that the liberation of Iraq was “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and Joe Klein as writing that it was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history.”

Well, they’re journalists, not historians, but really. How about:

1) The Embargo Act of 1807 that forbade foreign trade. In order to teach the high-handed British and French a lesson, we went to war with ourselves and blockaded our own ports. New England, deeply dependent on trade and shipping (we had the second largest merchant fleet in the world after Britain at that time) was economically devastated. Smuggling over the Canadian border became so commonplace that northern New England was declared to be in a state of insurrection. The British and French just laughed at us. When Napoleon seized American ships in French ports he said he was just helping enforce the embargo act.

2) In 1811 Congress killed the Bank of the United States, the prime borrowing mechanism of the federal government. The next year it declared war on the only power on earth capable of attacking the United States, Great Britain, raised soldiers’ pay and enlistment bonuses, and adjourned without figuring out how to pay for the war. By March 1813, there was not enough money in the treasury to pay government salaries, let alone fight a war, and only when the Secretary of the Treasury went hat in hand to Stephen Girard, the richest man in the country, to beg him to take most of a bond issue, did we raise enough money to carry on. In 1814 the British occupied and burned the nation’s capital.

3) In 1861, an American naval captain seized two Confederate agents off a British-flagged vessel. It was only when Prince Albert — already dying, it was his last good deed — cooled down Lord Palmerston and provided the means for a diplomatic climb down by the U.S. (which Lincoln gratefully grasped — “one war at a time,” he explained) did we avoid a war with Great Britain when we were already fighting for the life of the Union.

4) After World War I, with Europe devastated and the United States by far the strongest economic and financial power in the world, we withdrew and refused to take on the world leadership that only we could provide. But we insisted that the European powers pay back the money they had borrowed, which they could only do by extracting reparations from an already broken Germany. The Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II were the result.

Peter Wehner quotes Tom Ricks as writing that the liberation of Iraq was “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” and Joe Klein as writing that it was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history.”

Well, they’re journalists, not historians, but really. How about:

1) The Embargo Act of 1807 that forbade foreign trade. In order to teach the high-handed British and French a lesson, we went to war with ourselves and blockaded our own ports. New England, deeply dependent on trade and shipping (we had the second largest merchant fleet in the world after Britain at that time) was economically devastated. Smuggling over the Canadian border became so commonplace that northern New England was declared to be in a state of insurrection. The British and French just laughed at us. When Napoleon seized American ships in French ports he said he was just helping enforce the embargo act.

2) In 1811 Congress killed the Bank of the United States, the prime borrowing mechanism of the federal government. The next year it declared war on the only power on earth capable of attacking the United States, Great Britain, raised soldiers’ pay and enlistment bonuses, and adjourned without figuring out how to pay for the war. By March 1813, there was not enough money in the treasury to pay government salaries, let alone fight a war, and only when the Secretary of the Treasury went hat in hand to Stephen Girard, the richest man in the country, to beg him to take most of a bond issue, did we raise enough money to carry on. In 1814 the British occupied and burned the nation’s capital.

3) In 1861, an American naval captain seized two Confederate agents off a British-flagged vessel. It was only when Prince Albert — already dying, it was his last good deed — cooled down Lord Palmerston and provided the means for a diplomatic climb down by the U.S. (which Lincoln gratefully grasped — “one war at a time,” he explained) did we avoid a war with Great Britain when we were already fighting for the life of the Union.

4) After World War I, with Europe devastated and the United States by far the strongest economic and financial power in the world, we withdrew and refused to take on the world leadership that only we could provide. But we insisted that the European powers pay back the money they had borrowed, which they could only do by extracting reparations from an already broken Germany. The Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II were the result.

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Tom Ricks’s Quote

Tom Ricks is upset because I wrote this:

Those like Joe Klein and Tom Ricks, who claimed the Iraq war was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history” (Klein’s words) and “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” (Ricks’s words), were wrong. Ricks went so far as to say in 2009 that “I think staying in Iraq is immoral.”

Commenting on my post, Ricks went on to say, “The rest of my comment, of course, was that, ‘but I think leaving Iraq is even more immoral.’” Ricks then added this:

On the other hand, it is good for a journalist (or recent journalist, which is what I am) to be misrepresented on occasion, to remind one of how it feels. And I think we have an answer as to how intellectually honest Pete Wehner is. Or maybe he’ s just sloppy, because I recently wrote a piece for the New York Times about why I think we need to keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for many years to come.

All of this, you see, qualifies as a “world class bogus quote job.”

Here’s the problem for Mr. Ricks: he said precisely what I quote him as saying. He did in fact say, “staying in Iraq is immoral” — which is (to be generous) a really foolish statement to make. The fact that Ricks added that leaving Iraq is even more immoral doesn’t rectify his reckless use of words. In fact, I was happy to link to Ricks’s original comments since I’m sure people might wonder whether a recent journalist who professes knowledge of Iraq could say such a ridiculous thing. But he did.

If Tom Ricks wants to try to justify his comment that America’s presence in Iraq, which is an act of selflessness and great sacrifice by our nation, is “immoral,” he should do so. And if he wants to elaborate on why he believes our young men and women, who are fighting and dying for the liberation of the Iraqi people, are instruments of immorality — which is the logical conclusion of Ricks’s statement — then he should make that case, too. If he does, you can be sure I’ll respond to him again.

There is, of course, another alternative. Ricks could apologize for his words and admit that he made a mistake.

Tom Ricks is upset because I wrote this:

Those like Joe Klein and Tom Ricks, who claimed the Iraq war was “probably the biggest foreign policy mistake in American history” (Klein’s words) and “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy” (Ricks’s words), were wrong. Ricks went so far as to say in 2009 that “I think staying in Iraq is immoral.”

Commenting on my post, Ricks went on to say, “The rest of my comment, of course, was that, ‘but I think leaving Iraq is even more immoral.’” Ricks then added this:

On the other hand, it is good for a journalist (or recent journalist, which is what I am) to be misrepresented on occasion, to remind one of how it feels. And I think we have an answer as to how intellectually honest Pete Wehner is. Or maybe he’ s just sloppy, because I recently wrote a piece for the New York Times about why I think we need to keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for many years to come.

All of this, you see, qualifies as a “world class bogus quote job.”

Here’s the problem for Mr. Ricks: he said precisely what I quote him as saying. He did in fact say, “staying in Iraq is immoral” — which is (to be generous) a really foolish statement to make. The fact that Ricks added that leaving Iraq is even more immoral doesn’t rectify his reckless use of words. In fact, I was happy to link to Ricks’s original comments since I’m sure people might wonder whether a recent journalist who professes knowledge of Iraq could say such a ridiculous thing. But he did.

If Tom Ricks wants to try to justify his comment that America’s presence in Iraq, which is an act of selflessness and great sacrifice by our nation, is “immoral,” he should do so. And if he wants to elaborate on why he believes our young men and women, who are fighting and dying for the liberation of the Iraqi people, are instruments of immorality — which is the logical conclusion of Ricks’s statement — then he should make that case, too. If he does, you can be sure I’ll respond to him again.

There is, of course, another alternative. Ricks could apologize for his words and admit that he made a mistake.

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Continued U.S. Presence Best Hope for Democracy in Iraq

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner makes a number of excellent points on Newsweek‘s cover story, “Victory at Last,” which heralds the emergence of Iraqi democracy. He points out, rightly, how remarkable the progress has been since 2007, how much credit President Bush deserves for ordering the surge, and how wrong the skeptics were (he mentions, in particular, Joe Klein and Tom Ricks). All good points, but I would add a few cautionary notes.

In the first place, as Pete himself acknowledges, terrible mistakes were made in the war’s early years. They do not in my judgment (or in Pete’s) make the invasion of Iraq “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy,” as Ricks has called it, but they will tarnish the Bush administration even if Iraq stays on its current trajectory toward full-blown democracy.

My second cautionary note concerns whether this will in fact be the case. Iraq has defied the naysayers since 2007, but recall how from 2003 to 2007 it also defied the Pollyannas of the Bush administration. There is no guarantee that its present progress will continue — any more than there was a guarantee that it would go into a death spiral in 2007, as so widely assumed in Washington.

The key to Iraq’s remarkable transformation has been the vigorous actions of American troops, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when they are withdrawn. If the Obama administration’s policy (which builds on an agreement reached by the Bush administration and the government of Iraq) continues unchanged, we will be down to 50,000 troops by September (from roughly 100,000 today) and then to zero by the end of 2011. That is a potentially worrisome development given how many violent rifts remain in Iraqi politics just below the surface — Sunni vs. Shia, Kurd vs. Arab, secular vs. religious, military vs. civilian, tribe vs. tribe — and how hard Iran is trying to destabilize the situation and put its proxies into position of power.

That’s why I agree with Ricks when he advocates that the Obama administration negotiate an accord with the new government of Iraq to allow American troops to remain beyond 2011. Not in a combat role, in all likelihood, but simply as a peacekeeping force, akin to the forces that still remain in Kosovo and Bosnia long after the end of their wars. The continued presence of U.S. troops will be the best possible guarantee that Iraq will continue to develop into a flourishing democracy. Although I disagreed with Ricks over the surge and the invasion of Iraq, he deserves kudos for taking this principled stand, because he knows how important it is not to leave Iraq as thoughtlessly as we arrived.

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner makes a number of excellent points on Newsweek‘s cover story, “Victory at Last,” which heralds the emergence of Iraqi democracy. He points out, rightly, how remarkable the progress has been since 2007, how much credit President Bush deserves for ordering the surge, and how wrong the skeptics were (he mentions, in particular, Joe Klein and Tom Ricks). All good points, but I would add a few cautionary notes.

In the first place, as Pete himself acknowledges, terrible mistakes were made in the war’s early years. They do not in my judgment (or in Pete’s) make the invasion of Iraq “the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy,” as Ricks has called it, but they will tarnish the Bush administration even if Iraq stays on its current trajectory toward full-blown democracy.

My second cautionary note concerns whether this will in fact be the case. Iraq has defied the naysayers since 2007, but recall how from 2003 to 2007 it also defied the Pollyannas of the Bush administration. There is no guarantee that its present progress will continue — any more than there was a guarantee that it would go into a death spiral in 2007, as so widely assumed in Washington.

The key to Iraq’s remarkable transformation has been the vigorous actions of American troops, and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen when they are withdrawn. If the Obama administration’s policy (which builds on an agreement reached by the Bush administration and the government of Iraq) continues unchanged, we will be down to 50,000 troops by September (from roughly 100,000 today) and then to zero by the end of 2011. That is a potentially worrisome development given how many violent rifts remain in Iraqi politics just below the surface — Sunni vs. Shia, Kurd vs. Arab, secular vs. religious, military vs. civilian, tribe vs. tribe — and how hard Iran is trying to destabilize the situation and put its proxies into position of power.

That’s why I agree with Ricks when he advocates that the Obama administration negotiate an accord with the new government of Iraq to allow American troops to remain beyond 2011. Not in a combat role, in all likelihood, but simply as a peacekeeping force, akin to the forces that still remain in Kosovo and Bosnia long after the end of their wars. The continued presence of U.S. troops will be the best possible guarantee that Iraq will continue to develop into a flourishing democracy. Although I disagreed with Ricks over the surge and the invasion of Iraq, he deserves kudos for taking this principled stand, because he knows how important it is not to leave Iraq as thoughtlessly as we arrived.

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Iraq Proves the Pessimists Wrong

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

We often hear about the supposed “unraveling” of Iraq—a regular trope of veteran defense writer Tom Ricks, among others. No doubt there is cause for concern—ranging from bombings that kill dozens, even hundreds, to candidate disqualifications that threaten the integrity of upcoming elections. But as General David Petraeus notes in this interview published last Monday in the Times of London, Iraqi politicians have shown an impressive ability to overcome crises that could lead to the resumption of civil war. Speaking of the 500 candidates disqualified for Baathist links, Petraeus said:

I’m considerably much less worried than I was say last weekend when this was all really appearing that it actually could boil over and result in a reversal of the effect of two and an half years of reconciliation among different groups. It appears however in the last 48 to 72 hours that Iraqi leaders have really gripped this issue.

It turns out now that each party has at least double-digit numbers of individuals on this particular list of over 500 names and that it is reportedly 55 per cent or so Shia and 45 per cent or so Sunni. So if it ever was as was reported a predominately Sunni list and predominately focused on sidelining Sunni candidates that is not the case now and it appears there is going to be, as has been the case in Iraq on a number of previous occasions when there has been quite considerable political drama, that Iraqi leaders will resolve the issue without unhinging and undoing again two and a half years of very hard work at reconciling all of the factions inside the new Iraq.

I noticed another sign of how “the new Iraq” is making progress in this Wall Street Journal article about the rush of foreign airlines to increase service to Iraq at the same time that Iraq Airways is building up its fleet by placing an order with Boeing.

“It’s a good market,” said Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Temel Kotil. Turkish was one of the first foreign carriers to serve Baghdad after the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and it plans in March to start flights to Basra, in southern Iraq. “We want to serve many Iraqi cities,” Mr. Kotil said, adding that most of the carrier’s passengers are Europeans.

It’s not only Turkish Airlines that thinks Iraq is a good opportunity. Other carriers already flying there include Bahrain’s Gulf Air, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, and Austrian Airlines. And, reports the Journal, “German giant Deutsche Lufthansa AG recently announced that it aims this summer to start serving Baghdad and Erbil, pending regulatory approval. Austrian Airlines, a unit of Lufthansa, is increasing flights to Erbil, the one Iraqi city it serves. Upscale Qatar Airways also is examining the Iraqi market, officials said.”

A fragile but working democracy, an increase in foreign investment, a steep decline in attacks over the past several years—all these are signs that Iraq is hardly unraveling. That doesn’t mean that it is on a one-way flight to Nirvana. American vigilance and involvement remain essential. But an awful lot has gone right recently—more than I would have predicted back in 2007, when the surge was just beginning. Perhaps, just once in the Middle East, the pessimists will be proven wrong.

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Nervously Waiting

Anticipating Obama’s speech at West Point, David Brooks writes:

What’s emerging appears to be something less than a comprehensive COIN strategy but more than a mere counter-terrorism strategy — shooting at terrorists with drones. It is a hybrid approach, and as we watch the president’s speech Tuesday night, we’ll all get to judge whether he has cut and pasted the different options into a coherent whole. It’s not the troop levels that matter. What matters is how this war will be fought.

Some very smart people say that the administration’s direction is already fatally flawed. There is no such thing as effective COIN-lite, they argue. All the pieces of a comprehensive strategy have to be done patiently and together because success depends on the way they magnify one another.

Others are concerned that there will be too much “exit strategy talk.” Tom Ricks observes:

Perhaps most importantly, is his heart in it, and can he bring along a good portion of the American people, especially part of his base? Or is he gonna say we’re giving it 12 months and then we’re outta here? … If he uses the phrase “exit strategy,” or dwells on the subject, then you’ll know you’re probably looking at a one-term president. In other words, file under “Jimmy Carter,” not “Abe Lincoln.”

All this, of course, is what comes from months of public agonizing and a sense that domestic politics, and domestic political advisers, had overtaken the process of developing a winning war strategy. In a feverish effort to keep the unplacatable Left placated, Obama runs the risk of making his own job — leading us to victory — more difficult.

This is obviously not a role he relishes nor a process he has excelled at. There are choices to be made: McChrystal or not, exit-strategy limited or not. It is excruciating to watch the White House try to please this and that constituency as if this were an ag bill. But as Donald Rumsfeld once said of the Army, we fight wars with the president we have. This president has a chance to — for once — put aside pedestrian domestic concerns and demonstrate he understands both the nature of our enemy and the requirements of fighting a self-described critical war. If he does that, the politics will sort themselves out. If not, he’ll have far greater problems than keeping Nancy Pelosi happy.

Anticipating Obama’s speech at West Point, David Brooks writes:

What’s emerging appears to be something less than a comprehensive COIN strategy but more than a mere counter-terrorism strategy — shooting at terrorists with drones. It is a hybrid approach, and as we watch the president’s speech Tuesday night, we’ll all get to judge whether he has cut and pasted the different options into a coherent whole. It’s not the troop levels that matter. What matters is how this war will be fought.

Some very smart people say that the administration’s direction is already fatally flawed. There is no such thing as effective COIN-lite, they argue. All the pieces of a comprehensive strategy have to be done patiently and together because success depends on the way they magnify one another.

Others are concerned that there will be too much “exit strategy talk.” Tom Ricks observes:

Perhaps most importantly, is his heart in it, and can he bring along a good portion of the American people, especially part of his base? Or is he gonna say we’re giving it 12 months and then we’re outta here? … If he uses the phrase “exit strategy,” or dwells on the subject, then you’ll know you’re probably looking at a one-term president. In other words, file under “Jimmy Carter,” not “Abe Lincoln.”

All this, of course, is what comes from months of public agonizing and a sense that domestic politics, and domestic political advisers, had overtaken the process of developing a winning war strategy. In a feverish effort to keep the unplacatable Left placated, Obama runs the risk of making his own job — leading us to victory — more difficult.

This is obviously not a role he relishes nor a process he has excelled at. There are choices to be made: McChrystal or not, exit-strategy limited or not. It is excruciating to watch the White House try to please this and that constituency as if this were an ag bill. But as Donald Rumsfeld once said of the Army, we fight wars with the president we have. This president has a chance to — for once — put aside pedestrian domestic concerns and demonstrate he understands both the nature of our enemy and the requirements of fighting a self-described critical war. If he does that, the politics will sort themselves out. If not, he’ll have far greater problems than keeping Nancy Pelosi happy.

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The Fiasco in Iraq

The title speaks for itself: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005. Tom Ricks, the military correspondent of the Washington Post wrote that book in 2006.

Here we are two years later and we see a short item  – together with a chart — in today’s Post by Tom Ricks that shows some numbers that also, as the author says, “pretty much speak for themselves.

The chart shows

a major improvement in the safety of driving around Iraq with the U.S. Army. In January 2007, about 1 in 5 convoys in Iraq was attacked. By the end of last year, that ratio had fallen to 1 in 33. By April, it was just 1 in 100.

One reason the attacks have declined is that many Sunni insurgents have switched sides and are now on the U.S. payroll, in local militias that U.S. officials call the “Sons of Iraq.” Another is that al-Qaeda in Iraq has come under severe and prolonged attack over the last 12 months, with many of its leaders killed or captured. Finally, the redeployment of U.S. troops out into the Iraqi population, along with a rise in the quality of Iraqi forces, has helped produce better intelligence on the people carrying out roadside bombings.

Let’s hope that this particular “fiasco” continues.

The title speaks for itself: Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005. Tom Ricks, the military correspondent of the Washington Post wrote that book in 2006.

Here we are two years later and we see a short item  – together with a chart — in today’s Post by Tom Ricks that shows some numbers that also, as the author says, “pretty much speak for themselves.

The chart shows

a major improvement in the safety of driving around Iraq with the U.S. Army. In January 2007, about 1 in 5 convoys in Iraq was attacked. By the end of last year, that ratio had fallen to 1 in 33. By April, it was just 1 in 100.

One reason the attacks have declined is that many Sunni insurgents have switched sides and are now on the U.S. payroll, in local militias that U.S. officials call the “Sons of Iraq.” Another is that al-Qaeda in Iraq has come under severe and prolonged attack over the last 12 months, with many of its leaders killed or captured. Finally, the redeployment of U.S. troops out into the Iraqi population, along with a rise in the quality of Iraqi forces, has helped produce better intelligence on the people carrying out roadside bombings.

Let’s hope that this particular “fiasco” continues.

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Soft Power and Secular Schools

Gary Anderson is a smart cookie. A retired marine colonel and one of our most respected counterinsurgency strategists, he was also the first person to publicly warn about the dangers of an insurgency after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was so impressed that he asked Anderson to go to Baghdad and offer advice to Ambassador Jerry Bremer. Bremer ignored his advice (a tale told in Tom Ricks’s Fiasco), which was one of many mistakes he made.

The rest of us should pay attention when Anderson puts forward an idea, as he does in this Washington Times op-ed. He argues that we should pay for schools in the Muslim world that offer an alternative to the madrassas that churn out too many religious fanatics:

We should fund a series of academies in each locality where a madrassa school exists. Its curriculum would be two pronged. Mornings would teach the three “Rs.” Afternoons would be devoted to some kind of vocational training such as masonry, electrical work, and carpentry. The graduates would come out being able to read and write along with a marketable skill. The madrassas would not be able to compete.

No doubt this proposal will be met with howls of outrage on Capitol Hill from eminent congress persons who will protest that more should be spent on schools in their districts, not in foreign countries. But, as Anderson points out, this is not charity–this is self-defense. It’s not enough to capture or kill suicide bombers. We need to stop more of them from being created, and it makes sense to offer Muslim men an alternative to strictly theological education.

Of course, secular education is no cure-all. Witness how many senior Al Qaeda leaders are engineers (bin Laden) or doctors (Zawahiri). But schooling can be part of a larger “soft power” strategy to complement the hard power on display in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gary Anderson is a smart cookie. A retired marine colonel and one of our most respected counterinsurgency strategists, he was also the first person to publicly warn about the dangers of an insurgency after the fall of Baghdad in the spring of 2003. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was so impressed that he asked Anderson to go to Baghdad and offer advice to Ambassador Jerry Bremer. Bremer ignored his advice (a tale told in Tom Ricks’s Fiasco), which was one of many mistakes he made.

The rest of us should pay attention when Anderson puts forward an idea, as he does in this Washington Times op-ed. He argues that we should pay for schools in the Muslim world that offer an alternative to the madrassas that churn out too many religious fanatics:

We should fund a series of academies in each locality where a madrassa school exists. Its curriculum would be two pronged. Mornings would teach the three “Rs.” Afternoons would be devoted to some kind of vocational training such as masonry, electrical work, and carpentry. The graduates would come out being able to read and write along with a marketable skill. The madrassas would not be able to compete.

No doubt this proposal will be met with howls of outrage on Capitol Hill from eminent congress persons who will protest that more should be spent on schools in their districts, not in foreign countries. But, as Anderson points out, this is not charity–this is self-defense. It’s not enough to capture or kill suicide bombers. We need to stop more of them from being created, and it makes sense to offer Muslim men an alternative to strictly theological education.

Of course, secular education is no cure-all. Witness how many senior Al Qaeda leaders are engineers (bin Laden) or doctors (Zawahiri). But schooling can be part of a larger “soft power” strategy to complement the hard power on display in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Odierno’s Departure

Nadia Schadlow has an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal pointing out why it would be folly to move General Petraeus out of Iraq prematurely. This is a point that others, including me, have previously made, but Nadia adds an important historical dimension by noting all of the major generals, from George Washington to Creighton Abrams, who have spent years overseas directing American war efforts. By those standards, Petraeus’s deployment abroad, while lengthy and strenuous (counting a tour in the Balkans, since 2001 he has spent 50 months, or more than four years, overseas), is not out of the norm.

What is abnormal, as Schadlow shows, is the American military’s current penchant for rotating almost everyone in the war zone after six, twelve, or, at most, eighteen months. (The State Department and CIA operate under similar policies.) That rotation policy is understandable when it comes to grunts who have to deal with combat and all its stresses. It makes less sense for headquarters staffers who serve in relative comfort and safety. (I stress relative, since life in Iraq or Afghanistan will always be a lot less safe and less comfortable than being stateside.) Turning over personnel constantly can lead to a loss of invaluable experience. Newcomers can take months to get up to speed, and in the meantime momentum may be lost.

That is a real concern because right now the entire headquarters staff of Multi-National Corps-Iraq is leaving Iraq along with its commander, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno. They are being replaced by an entirely new group of staff officers led by Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin. While Austin arrives to positive publicity, he has not wracked up the kind of invaluable experience that Odierno has during the past year while working with General Petraeus to direct the successful surge. Odierno arrived to some negative notices (in particular from Tom Ricks, author of Fiasco) but he is leaving to almost universal acclaim. The changeover will probably go smoothly, but there is a real risk of friction and loss of momentum.

The Defense Department should rethink its rotation policies. After Vietnam, the military rebelled against the policy of replacing individuals rather than entire units. The individual-rotation policy meant that often combat formations were made up of strangers—a deadly handicap in the heat of battle when esprit de corps is all-important. But while the unit rotation policy and 12- to 18-month tours make sense for combat units, they make less sense for staff officers, who could be deployed for longer periods and whose departures could be staggered to avoid a vast loss of experience such as the one we are now facing in Iraq.

Already General Petraeus and his predecessor, General George Casey, have served for longer than a year at a time, and so have a few of their key subordinates. It would make sense to extend that policy a bit more broadly.

Nadia Schadlow has an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal pointing out why it would be folly to move General Petraeus out of Iraq prematurely. This is a point that others, including me, have previously made, but Nadia adds an important historical dimension by noting all of the major generals, from George Washington to Creighton Abrams, who have spent years overseas directing American war efforts. By those standards, Petraeus’s deployment abroad, while lengthy and strenuous (counting a tour in the Balkans, since 2001 he has spent 50 months, or more than four years, overseas), is not out of the norm.

What is abnormal, as Schadlow shows, is the American military’s current penchant for rotating almost everyone in the war zone after six, twelve, or, at most, eighteen months. (The State Department and CIA operate under similar policies.) That rotation policy is understandable when it comes to grunts who have to deal with combat and all its stresses. It makes less sense for headquarters staffers who serve in relative comfort and safety. (I stress relative, since life in Iraq or Afghanistan will always be a lot less safe and less comfortable than being stateside.) Turning over personnel constantly can lead to a loss of invaluable experience. Newcomers can take months to get up to speed, and in the meantime momentum may be lost.

That is a real concern because right now the entire headquarters staff of Multi-National Corps-Iraq is leaving Iraq along with its commander, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno. They are being replaced by an entirely new group of staff officers led by Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin. While Austin arrives to positive publicity, he has not wracked up the kind of invaluable experience that Odierno has during the past year while working with General Petraeus to direct the successful surge. Odierno arrived to some negative notices (in particular from Tom Ricks, author of Fiasco) but he is leaving to almost universal acclaim. The changeover will probably go smoothly, but there is a real risk of friction and loss of momentum.

The Defense Department should rethink its rotation policies. After Vietnam, the military rebelled against the policy of replacing individuals rather than entire units. The individual-rotation policy meant that often combat formations were made up of strangers—a deadly handicap in the heat of battle when esprit de corps is all-important. But while the unit rotation policy and 12- to 18-month tours make sense for combat units, they make less sense for staff officers, who could be deployed for longer periods and whose departures could be staggered to avoid a vast loss of experience such as the one we are now facing in Iraq.

Already General Petraeus and his predecessor, General George Casey, have served for longer than a year at a time, and so have a few of their key subordinates. It would make sense to extend that policy a bit more broadly.

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This Just In: The CIA? Fallible.

On its front page yesterday, the Washington Post breathlessly touted a Bob Woodward scoop—namely that CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Iraq Study Group on November 13, 2006, that “the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible.”

If you read deep into the article you find that there is some doubt about what Hayden actually said. Not surprising, since Woodward seems to be working from interviews with participants relying on their memories rather than from a transcript. He quotes a “senior intelligence official familiar with Hayden’s session with the Iraq Study Group” who qoates Hayden as saying “The current situation, with regard to governance in Iraq, was probably irreversible in the short term. . .” [emphasis added]

Whatever Hayden said, it’s hard to see why this is treated as front-page news. Is there anyone left in Washington who thinks that the CIA is an infallible oracle when it comes to the future of Iraq? (Or anyplace else, for that matter?) Its track record is spotty, to say the least. But then no intelligence analyst, no matter how astute, can predict all the twists in turns in a conflict that changes all the time.

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On its front page yesterday, the Washington Post breathlessly touted a Bob Woodward scoop—namely that CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Iraq Study Group on November 13, 2006, that “the inability of the [Iraqi] government to govern seems irreversible.”

If you read deep into the article you find that there is some doubt about what Hayden actually said. Not surprising, since Woodward seems to be working from interviews with participants relying on their memories rather than from a transcript. He quotes a “senior intelligence official familiar with Hayden’s session with the Iraq Study Group” who qoates Hayden as saying “The current situation, with regard to governance in Iraq, was probably irreversible in the short term. . .” [emphasis added]

Whatever Hayden said, it’s hard to see why this is treated as front-page news. Is there anyone left in Washington who thinks that the CIA is an infallible oracle when it comes to the future of Iraq? (Or anyplace else, for that matter?) Its track record is spotty, to say the least. But then no intelligence analyst, no matter how astute, can predict all the twists in turns in a conflict that changes all the time.

I am reminded by this of another Washington Post scoop, by Tom Ricks, that ran on September 11, 2006:

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

Just as that dim assessment was being issued, the tribes in Anbar Province were turning against Al Qaeda. The result, almost a year later, is that violence in the province is down 80 percent and the political outlook is improving. In fact, the phenomenon of tribes turning against Al Qaeda is spreading from Anbar to neighboring provinces.

The CIA was undoubtedly right back in November that the short-term political outlook for Iraq was not good. It still isn’t. But as we have seen in Anbar, trends can change—dramatically.

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A Crisis in Generalship

In the new issue of the Armed Forces Journal, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and a distinguished veteran of two combat tours in Iraq (three, if you count Operation Desert Storm), has written a blistering critique of American generalship. His article is attracting well-justified attention, such as this Washington Post article by Tom Ricks and Gabriel Schoenfeld’s short take on it here.

Yingling’s article flies in the face of attempts by some civilian and military critics to lay the blame for all that has gone wrong in Iraq exclusively at the feet of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders. No doubt Bush and his cabinet are guilty of appalling errors of judgment; ultimately the buck stops in the Oval Office. But, as in the Vietnam war, our senior military leaders deserve their share of blame for trying to fight an insurgency with the tools and tactics of conventional war.

I have been hearing grumbling for a while from the uniformed ranks about the quality of their senior leaders. But until now, few soldiers have had the cojones to speak out publicly. Yingling has broken the code of omertà, at considerable risk to his own career.

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In the new issue of the Armed Forces Journal, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and a distinguished veteran of two combat tours in Iraq (three, if you count Operation Desert Storm), has written a blistering critique of American generalship. His article is attracting well-justified attention, such as this Washington Post article by Tom Ricks and Gabriel Schoenfeld’s short take on it here.

Yingling’s article flies in the face of attempts by some civilian and military critics to lay the blame for all that has gone wrong in Iraq exclusively at the feet of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders. No doubt Bush and his cabinet are guilty of appalling errors of judgment; ultimately the buck stops in the Oval Office. But, as in the Vietnam war, our senior military leaders deserve their share of blame for trying to fight an insurgency with the tools and tactics of conventional war.

I have been hearing grumbling for a while from the uniformed ranks about the quality of their senior leaders. But until now, few soldiers have had the cojones to speak out publicly. Yingling has broken the code of omertà, at considerable risk to his own career.

Yingling writes:

Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990′s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security-force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990′s followed the cold-war model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America’s generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq’s population. . . . Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. . . . After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America’s generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. . . . After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America’s general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. . . . The intellectual and moral failures common to America’s general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship.

Yingling goes on to suggest that the solution lies in more congressional oversight of the promotion and retention of generals. Senior officers who fail at their assignments could even be retired at a reduced rank.

Whether involving the barons of Capitol Hill more closely will resolve this crisis is, of course, debatable. But there is no disputing Yingling’s cri de coeur: “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

That has to change. And the most effective means of change is not more congressional micromanagement. It is a President who takes his responsibilities as commander-in-chief as seriously as Lincoln or FDR did. Although President Bush reportedly read Eliot Cohen’s book on the subject—Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime—he has not so far been nearly as vigorous as our most successful wartime leaders in holding military leaders accountable for their successes and failures. And, as Yingling notes, we’re paying the price in Iraq for that lack of oversight. Left to their own devices, generals often get it wrong.

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