After Failed Strategy, Tactics, Slogans, the U.S. Needs New Direction on Iraq - San Jose Mercury News
| Aug 27 2006
No question, Saddam Hussein was an evil man. But it is now clear that the administration's strategy was "regime change'' sold to the Congress as a threat of weapons of mass destruction.
It turns out that this administration has been wrong at almost every turn.
First, there was a massive intelligence failure. The administration misused the intelligence that was there, and it pressured analysts to find bits and pieces that supported its claims.
In the end, the intelligence product was misleading and wrong. And I, for one, would not have voted to authorize the president to use force if I had known then what I know now.
Second, the administration consistently made inflammatory statements that proved to be false and sought to spin the war in an excessively positive light -- ``We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud''; ``Mission Accomplished''; ``We'll be greeted as liberators.'' If only its plans were as good as its slogans.
Third, there were major tactical failures after the ``shock and awe'' of the initial campaign:
- Failure to produce an adequate follow-on force.
- Failure to protect the infrastructure.
- Failure to stop the looting.
- Failure to engage the insurgency early on.
- Failure to enforce the border.
- Failure to protect the streets.
- Failure to secure munitions dumps.
Most important, a failed de-Baathification policy that stood down the entire Iraqi army and prevented civil servants who were Sunni Baathists from working: doctors, nurses, government workers.
The effect is double-edged: It fueled an insurgency that has grown over the past three years, and at the same time, it left Iraq's ministries and government operations without qualified people because only Sunni Baathists were eligible for these jobs under Saddam. The policy is still largely in place and enshrined in the new constitution through a High Commission for De-Baathification.
As a result, Iraq continues to be a nation in chaos. Yes, there is a permanent government in place. But the ministries do not function properly; terror, kidnappings and assassinations continue on a daily basis.
Iranian influence is growing, and Shiite militias dominate the police.
Civilian killings now top 3,000 a month, and a Sunni-Shiite civil war is emerging, with U.S. forces caught in the middle.
It is clear we need a new direction. ``Staying the course'' is not the answer.
Here is what I believe needs to happen:
- The president, I believe, would be well served to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and bring in a new leadership team. Rumsfeld is a stubborn leader who does not admit mistakes, show much flexibility or listen to many others. He seems to really know what he wants to do, and he's going to do it no matter what the cost.
- Develop a clear timeline and exit strategy and share it with Congress and the American people. This war has gone on for 3 1/2 years and the time has come to have Iraqis take primary responsibility for their security. I believe that we should begin to redeploy our forces by the end of this year and have the vast majority out by the end of 2007.
- Transition the American mission to one of logistics and training, and get U.S. forces out of the middle of this brewing civil war.
- Redeploy substantial numbers of U.S. forces to areas of need: Afghanistan, where the Taliban is coming back, the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and other hot spots in the war on terror, which most certainly continues.
President Bush may sometimes be ``frustrated'' with the war.
But this frustration pales in comparison with the anger that many Americans are feeling -- that this war was launched based on a faulty premise, executed poorly and carried out with no accountability.
It's time to chart a new course.