Monday, August 28, 2006
About half way through Thomas F. Ricks' superb Fiasco, the best account of the ongoing conflict in Iraq I've read. Detailed reporting, and an even more impressive critical synthesis of that reportage. Essentially a 500-page "briefing book" whose strategic lessons are as applicable to running a chain of used bookstores as they are to occupying and pacifying a hostile foreign nation. The book bristles with insights, including many like the following:

"The Army War College, the service's premier educational institution, became a leading center of dissent during the occupation period, with its analysts issuing scathing reviews. Containment of Iraq had worked, while the Bush administration's hadn't, argued a study written by Jeffrey Record and published by the War College's Strategic Studies Institute. He argued that a war of choice had been launched that distracted the U.S. military and government from a war of necessity in Afghanistan and elsewhere that already was under way. 'Of particular concern has been the conflation of al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat,' Record wrote.

This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored crucial differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. 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 resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism) but rather a detour from it.

The unexpectedly difficult occupation, Record added, had 'stressed the U.S. Army to the breaking point.' This was not some politician or pundit offering that assessment but an official publication of the U.S. Army."

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