Monitor archives:
Copyrighted material

Iraq War Was Strategic Error, Army War Scholar Says

"Bounding the Global War on Terrorism"
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- In a new attack on Washington's invasion of Iraq, a paper published by the U.S. Army's War College has sharply criticized U.S. strategy in "the war on terrorism," calling the invasion of Iraq an unnecessary "detour" that diverted attention and resources from the battle against al-Qaeda, according to published reports Jan. 13.

This surprising finding comes as bitter accusations were levelled at the administration by a former senior Bush administration official in a new book.

Jeffrey Record, author of the study posted on the college's website, said the United States had made a cardinal error by presenting al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single monolithic threat, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action," Record wrote.

"The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from security of the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda," he said.

"The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT (global war on terrorism), but rather a detour from it," he said.

U.S. military officials, for their part, have played down the report, according to the BBC news online.

"They say the views are those of the author alone and do not represent any official policy.

"They said staff and students at the War College are encouraged to be critical and that the college was founded to promote independent analysis.

"Still, the suspicion will be that the views are shared by some in the U.S. Army."

The British Broadcaster's Washington correspondent went on to say that 'they also echo many of the criticisms made by the administration's political opponents'.

In a disclaimer, the Army War College's Institute for Strategic Studies said the paper did not necessarily represent the views of the war college or the military.

Nevertheless, it raised for discussion within the military a critique of the Iraq war that has gained currency as U.S. forces have failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and become embroiled in a contested, open-ended occupation.

Record, a visiting professor at the U.S. Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama, who served as an aide to former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, said the United States had set goals for itself that are "unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security."

Washington's ability to sustain the war politically, militarily and fiscally is "an open question," saying that already unanticipated ground force requirements had brought the army "to the breaking point."

He said the United States should be prepared to settle for stability rather than democracy in Iraq, and international rather than U.S. responsibility for the country.

Publication of the report coincided with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revelation that Bush had been looking to attack and invade Iraq even before reaching the White House and long before 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Responding to O'Neill's comments -- which came a week before Bush was due to make his annual State of the Union address -- the U.S. President admitted supporting regime change in Iraq, as had previous U.S. administrations, according to the BBC.

But Bush suggested that 'the task had only become urgent after the terror attacks on America in September 2001,' the BBC added.

Now, the Bush administration seems bent on punishing O'Neill with suggestions of possible investigations into whether the former Treasury secretary has violated laws of secrecy.

A Treasury department spokesman said it had asked its inspector general to see if disclosure laws were violated, reported the BBC.

O'Neill made the statements in an interview with the CBS "60 Minutes" news program Sunday.

He has contributed to a book on the Bush administration called The Price of Loyalty by journalist Ron Suskind, for which the former secretary provided thousands of documents for research purposes.

Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols said that, although it was customary for officials to take documents when they left office, a document marked as secret was shown on the program.

"He said the proposed probe would focus on how possibly classified information appeared on television and the inspector general could then "take appropriate steps, if necessary," he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor January 15, 2004 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.