I should have pushed sooner for a more effective military strategy, because from 2004 to the end of 2007, Al Qaeda took advantage of this gap, using indiscriminate killings that provoked Shiite militias to respond in kind. The vicious spiral was finally reversed by the change in strategy the president put in place a year ago.
-L. Paul Bremer, Where Was the Plan?
I did not believe the American-led coalition could prudently leave Iraq the day Baghdad fell. Coalition troops were essential to support a new Iraqi government. But I was astonished (and dismayed) that we did not turn to well-established and broadly representative opponents of Saddam Hussein’s regime to assume the responsibilities of an interim government while preparing for elections. Our troops could have remained, under the terms of a transparently negotiated agreement, to help the people of Iraq build their own society, something we didn’t know how to do and should never have tried. After five years of terrible losses, they may now be getting that chance.
-Richard Perle, Too Heavy a Hand
Our government knew how to destroy but not how to build. We had toppled a regime, and in coming months we would dismantle Saddam Hussein’s bureaucracy and disband his army. But we did so with absolutely no understanding of how to build a liberal democracy, or even a stable, rights-regarding government with broad popular support.
Such a government requires a prosperous economy, a secure society and sufficient cultural unity to allow everyday interaction among different ethnic groups in workplaces, schools, hospitals, the army and the police. Protecting the symbols of a common and proud heritage is Democracy Building 101 — at least for anyone who understood anything about Iraqi history and culture.
-Anne-Marie Slaughter, Das Loot
If we leave behind a raging civil war in which the Iraqi people are incomprehensibly worse off than they had been under Saddam Hussein and the Middle East more threatened by the chaos spilling over from Iraq than they ever were by the dictator’s arms, then no one will care how well-intentioned our motives.
For that reason, what I most wish I had understood before the invasion was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration. I had inklings of it to be sure, and warned of the inadequacy of some of what I saw. But I did not realize that as skillfully, cautiously and patiently as George H. W. Bush’s administration had handled its Iraq war, that was how clumsy, careless and rash George W. Bush’s administration would treat its own.
-Kenneth M. Pollack, So Much for Good Intentions
Some have used Iraq’s political immaturity as further proof the war was wrong, as if somehow those less politically evolved don’t merit freedoms they are ill equipped to make use of. We would be better served to understand how the free world can foster appreciation of the building blocks of civil society in order to help other victims of tyranny when it is their turn.
-Danielle Pletka, There’s No Freedom Gene
The weapons, we now know, were some combination of relic, bluster and ruse. We focused on the nerve-agent feint, and got roundhoused by the insurgent hook. I wish we could all go back to those nights in the Kuwaiti desert, when a more sober assessment could have changed the way we fought, and maybe lessened the likelihood that we’d still be fighting five years later.
-Nathaniel Fick, Worries Over Being ‘Slimed’
The Republican-dominated Congress failed us by refusing to hold the necessary hearings and investigations the Army desperately needed. Without hearings, the Army could not advance its case for increasing the number of troops and rearming the force. The result is an Army and Marine Corps on the ropes, acres and acres of broken equipment, and tour lengths of 15 months because we have too few troops for the tasks at hand.
-Paul D. Eaton, Congress in Recess
Within a year, our forces went from imminent defeat to creating the prospect of success, using a great deal of firepower, killing and capturing many enemies, but binding the local population to us at the same time. The intellectual framework came from Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno and their advisers. But the deep understanding, skill and compassion that made it work came from service members and the many civilians who put their lives at risk for the benefit of their country and Iraq.
-Frederick Kagan, The Army Grew Into the Job
It was even more of a surprise to watch the Bush administration fail, from 2003 to 2006, to come to grips with creating effective counterinsurgency programs, focused aid and development efforts, political accommodation and effective Iraqi forces. As a Republican, I would never have believed that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would waste so many opportunities and so much of America’s reputation that they would rival Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy for the worst wartime national security team in United States history.
-Anthony D. Cordesman, Worse Than Lyndon Johnson’s Team?
Delicious Snacks Distract Congressmen From Horrors Of War