Friday, April 18, 2008

Antiwar Rush to Judgment on Alleged Pentagon Surrender Report

The left blogosphere's in a fit with the news from a new National Defense University study painting the Iraq war as "a major debacle."

McClatchy News and the Miami Herald have a posted
a scandalous piece on the report, but a look beneath the headlines indicates a bit more going on.

The author of the report is a former Defense Department official, Joseph Collins. It turns out that Collins, according to
his biographical sketch at Defenselink, worked under Deputy Defense (and arch neocon) Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and was later appointed to assistant secretary of defense for stability operations. Collins, in 2003, suggested Iraq had much greater potential for post-conflict stability than did Afghanistan, which at that time was in the early rebuilding stage following Operation Enduring Freedom:

Even though torn by the Iran/Iraq war and recovering from the recent regime change, the more-developed Iraq is in a better state than Afghanistan, he said. One key difference between the two is the higher degree of education and wealth due to oil resources in Iraq, which gives it "the potential to sort of pull itself up by the bootstraps."
Well, seeing that we are currently "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps" after four years of ups and down - and widely acknowledged strategic mistakes - we might wonder what explains Collins movement away from his earlier upbeat aguments, particularly given his apparently close professional relations to top Bush adminstration Iraq war advocates.

For answers to these questions, check out
Small Wars Journal, which reports that the media's taken Collins' study out of context:

The Miami Herald piece on a NDU "occasional paper" (Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath), quoted alternately as a Pentagon or NDU study, raised some flags here at SWJ. So we asked the author, Joseph Collins, to provide some context. His reply:

The Miami Herald story ("Pentagon Study: War is a 'Debacle' ") distorts the nature of and intent of my personal research project. It was not an NDU study, nor was it a Pentagon study. Indeed, the implication of the Herald story was that this study was mostly about current events. Such is not the case. It was mainly about the period 2002-04. The story also hypes a number of paragraphs, many of which are quoted out of context. The study does not "lay much of the blame" on Secretary Rumsfeld for problems in the conduct of the war, nor does it say that he "bypassed the Joint Chiefs of Staff." It does not single out "Condoleeza Rice and Stephen Hadley" for criticism.
Here is a fair summary of my personal research, which formally is NDU INSS Occasional Paper 5, "Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath."
This study examines how the United States chose to go to war in Iraq, how its decision-making process functioned, and what can be done to improve that process. The central finding of this study is that U.S. efforts in Iraq were hobbled by a set of faulty assumptions, a flawed planning effort, and a continuing inability to create security conditions in Iraq that could have fostered meaningful advances in stabilization, reconstruction, and governance. With the best of intentions, the United States toppled a vile, dangerous regime but has been unable to replace it with a stable entity. Even allowing for progress under the Surge, the study insists that mistakes in the Iraq operation cry out in the mid- to long-term for improvements in the U.S. decision-making and policy execution systems.
The study recommends the development of a national planning charter, improving the qualifications of national security planners, streamlining policy execution in the field, improving military education, strengthening the Department of State and USAID, and reviewing the tangled legal authorities for complex contingencies. The study ends with a plea to improve alliance relations and to exercise caution in deciding to go to war.

SWJ Editors Note: Unfortunately this is not the first instance - nor will it be the last – of highly selective use of source quotes and excerpts as well as distortion of context by members of the “mainstream media” in reporting on recent events and trends in Iraq…

This distortion will continue as long as we're in Iraq, for no amount of progress will satisfy war opponents who are politically committed to an American defeat in Iraq and the larger Middle East.

This is just one more antiwar rush to judgment, outbursts that need to be repeatedly discredited with reasoned, sober assessments and rebuttals.