3 Aug 2007
Owen Bennett Jones of the BBC recently interviewed General Richard Myers, General Jack Keane and General William Scott Wallace. Jones conducted a tough interview and proposed the following topics for discussion.
Too Few Troops and No Post war Planning
Myers: "That's often said but simplistic." The Military advice was that General Franks plan of liberation (not occupation) was the right plan. General Abizaid, the Arab scholar who replaced Franks was adamant that too many troops could "tip the balance" and would be counterproductive. We underestimated the post insurgency. The insurgency was very slow to start. April 2004 was when the military began to understand what was going on.
General Schinseki, in hindsight, was absolutely right about the need for hundreds of thousands troops. In terms of the invasion we had the right force but failed to anticipate counter-insurgency which resulted in wrong force compositions and levels to confront insurgency. "We did not adjust our strategy."
General Wallace: As he was marching to Baghdad did not think he had enough troops but says that as events played out, we had the right force to do the task of defeating the Iraqi military and toppling the regime. We underestimated the post regime insurgency.
On one hand, Generals Myers and Wallace thought we did a good job of reacting to the insurgency but General Keane says we did not adjust. Once the enemy voted on that strategy and we did not adjust our strategy to accommodate what the enemy was doing. We chose not to protect the population and the Iraqis couldn't protect them. The correct thing to do would be to have defeated the insurgency instead of pushing the Iraqis to do it.
Myers: It was not clear that a new strategy was needed until the Samarra mosque bombing.
Wallace: There was point in the campaign when the center of gravity shifted from the regime to the Iraqi people and we were slow to pick up on that shift.
On Paul Bremer
Keane: Keane twice disdained Bremer as the so-called "Proconsul envoy" who summarily rejected initial plans to retain the Iraqi army. We destroyed the central government. It was offensive for Bremer to be on Iraqi television every two weeks telling the people what his desires for the country were.
There was no or little dialog with the three Generals concerning the decision to disband the Iraqi army. Keane remembers no discussion. Myers said, "We did not get enough debate in Washington." Keane remembers nothing. Myers said, "We did not have a good fulsome debate."
Their relationship with the politicians
Myers: I reject the conventional wisdom that Secretary Rumsfeld dictated to the military. Rumsfeld may have been rough and tough but he insisted on everyone giving him military advice. Their was never a problem giving advice to Rumsfeld or Bush.
Keane: Rumsfeld worked everyday in a collaborative way with the Military. The relationship with Rumsfeld was collaborative and collegial. Blaming Rumsfeld and the President is dead wrong and the senior military leaders bear as much responsibility as the civilian leadership.
The civilian leadership didn't get it straight from the Generals
Myers: History will show that the military provided the best advice that they could at the time, unfettered by political considerations. It is preposterous to think that all members of the joint staff acquiesced to civilian leadership.
America has lost and Iraq is a Disaster
Wallace: We have not lost but we have not won. It is going to take additional time to sort out the situation. Part of it is our problem, part of is the wherewithal and the commitment of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people.
Myers: Iraq is not a disaster but a precipitous withdrawal would be a "real disaster" that would affect the entire region and is a world problem that the international diplomatic community (the countries of the region and the perm five of the UN must formulate a strategy to help Iraq.
Post surge strategy
Myers: To provide security to the Iraqi people and allow space for the political process to work.
Keane: There's a huge change in momentum in '07 as opposed to '06. Now, we have the offensive and momentum. We have finally recognized that security is a necessary precondition for political development and economic progress. We tried to do it complementary and it didn't work. There has been an enormous and underreported improvement in security. There is a grass roots change that has taken place in the country that is very significant and when we look back at '07, we will see that's when the defeat of al-Qaeda began. Despite all the rhetoric in the country, it will continue into '08. More than a 50-50 chance of political reconciliation, "more having to do with the Sunnis determination to get it rather than the central governments willingness to give it."
Wallace: In this type of operation, the decisive element is that which occurs after the military operation is over.
Myers: 21st century warfare requires all instruments of national power, not just the military instrument. We keep referring to Iraq as a military problem but two huge pieces are economic and political diplomacy.
Keane: Two big lessons. The National Security apparatus served us reasonably well during the cold war but is completely and wholly inadequate to serve us post 9/11. The inter agency effort does not have the speed and effectiveness. We are now over relying on the military and compensating for the lack of effort of the other agencies. After Vietnam, we purged ourselves of the lesson of counter insurgency but irregular warfare is going to be used against us again because it disarms our technology and we have got to be prepared for it.