March 19, 2013 Leave a comment
Remember what you were doing ten years ago this week? I surely do. I was sitting fascinated, watching the American, British, and Australian forces make the conquest of the largest army in the middle east look easy. It’s already ten years since the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I remember sitting there half the night watching the embedded reporters send back videotape of what looked for all the world like a road march. Never have the armies of freedom looked so all-powerful. Remember Iraq had fought Iran to a standstill for ten years, but they barely laid a glove on our forces.
To the point of listening to Baghdad Bob tell us how they were winning as we watched American armored forces drive by the hotel in Baghdad.
Nothing like it in recent history
And remember too, it was America’s war. No matter what they said later, the war had wide (and bipartisan) support. Naval War College professor of national security affairs Stephen Knott had this to say behind the Wall Street Journal’s paywall in an op-ed last weekend.
In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had “stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to “develop nuclear weapons.” Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that “a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam’s] hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, “we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing” WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would “likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.”
Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.
If Mr. Bush “lied,” as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that “regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq’s] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin.” Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that “it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years.”
According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.
The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.
We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war. […]
We ran into some trouble later on, of course. A good bit of it is structural to the American armed forces.
This is what I mean. The American forces are by far the best combat force ever seen in the world, they can go farther and faster than anybody anywhere, and destroy anything in the way. (The British and Commonwealth forces aren’t very far behind.) But because of the high level mechanization, American forces are always short of straight leg infantry. This was true as far back as World War II. In some ways our army was founded on the Indian campaigns, we can move very far and very fast (although with a large logistic tail). We can destroy almost anything, and do it quickly.
But men with bayonets are always in short supply, and to occupy a country what you need most are guys with bayonets, and ears, and mouths, to interact with the natives. That’s the other thing, ask the locals around any of our armies, their ruling classes may hate us but almost without exception the common people love the American grunt. They’re the best ambassadors we could ever have.
I think Rumsfeld made it worse in Iraq by trying to make war on the cheap, and so the shortage of infantry was even worse than it had to be. But it is the structure of the army that is the basic cause.
I’m not sure there is an answer, really. The American army is basically an expeditionary force, designed for complete victory over any opponent, anywhere. If that is the mission, unless we add follow on forces that are basically leg infantry, with limited transport, and added exposure to casualties, and more expense, this is the best we can do. Often we have allies or indigenous forces that can help with the constabulary mission but not always.
Shock and Awe, it’s what we do and no one has ever done it better
- We paid a heavy price in Iraq … but think what would have happened if we’d backed away (thesun.co.uk)
- Tom Cotton’s truths about Iraq (powerlineblog.com)