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Memorandum: The Real Experts on Iraq

To: Interested Parties
From: Robert O. Boorstin, Senior Vice President for National Security

We would like to draw your attention to remarks made last week on the Bush administration's Iraq policy by two of America's most decorated and knowledgeable military leaders. Their message: by failing to plan for the post-war period, the Pentagon has created a situation that demands more troops and a genuine effort to internationalize the operation. They also warn that the White House's focus on Iraq has weakened our position in the war on terror – and that a strategy to track down those who pose the greatest threat to the American people is desperately needed.

Army Gen. Eric Shinseki defended his February 2003 prediction that the Army would need several hundred thousand troops to secure post-war Iraq. At the time, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz publicly criticized the estimate as "wildly off the mark" and "outlandish." Like others who have told the truth, Shinseki, a 38-year Army veteran who served as Army Chief of Staff from 1999 to 2003, was discredited and effectively removed for his remarks. His address was covered by WXIA-TV Atlanta and can be found at c-span.org.

Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command, criticized the Pentagon for ignoring military advice and going to war in Iraq without adequate planning for the post-war period. Zinni, a 39-year Marine veteran, served as the Bush administration's Special Envoy to the Middle East, directed strikes against Iraq and al Qaeda, and led troops in Somalia and Vietnam. His remarks at the University of San Diego built on comments made in a recent interview with Inside the Pentagon.

Highlights from their remarks.

  • Troop levels. Shinseki stood by his estimate for necessary troop levels in Iraq. "My concerns were that this was going to be more difficult than any of us would have liked, and was going to take more effort than others might have thought," Shinseki said. The purpose of the military is to create a secure environment for real peace activities. If you do not create this safe environment, there are undesirable others who are only too happy to fill the void."
  • Lack of planning. Zinni noted, "To go into it without a plan and to go into it without really understanding the scope of the problem and the nature of the problems they were going to run into really shocked me. Because it was knowable. And beforehand, people were warning them, not to mention the last four commanders at CENTCOM… And it just seemed like they were oblivious to it all. They just were plowing ahead."
  • CPA mistakes. According to Zinni, the Bush administration made mistakes "from not knowing the situation. One was disbanding the Iraqi army. A second was de-Baathifying way down to the level where he lost his trust of the Sunnis and probably eliminated a lot of the people who understood the infrastructure and how it ran… [third], we didn't arrive there with any plan to rebuild the economy."
  • Securing an international coalition for Iraq. Shinseki noted that "legitimacy is a powerful tool. It's as least as powerful as military force. But you have to make your case for it." In a similar vein, Zinni called for a new U.N. resolution to get the "U.N. and more importantly, for other nations especially in the region, to help us out."
  • Don't forget about Afghanistan. Zinni argued, "Iraq was a distraction… it probably took away from resources and things that should have been put into the Afghanistan business… We don't want to return to warlordism there. That's what I fear could be happening." Shinseki said, "My sense is that there's more capability that needs to be put in Afghanistan…the farther you go away from there [Kabul], you have some tough challenges to deal with… the mission as it's being conducted requires more capability."
  • Winning the war on terrorism. Shinseki concluded, "We need visionary leadership. Not hectoring, not lecturing, but visionary leadership. Winning this war against the terrorists will succeed not because we hunt down every extremist warrior, but because we're able to change the global environment for the better in some measurable way. And to have any hope of creating that kind of change, it would take strong, visionary and credible leadership."

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