Sunday, April 20, 2008

Measured in blood and treasure

"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle." This is a claim you'd expect to hear from a critic of Bush's foreign policy. But this was written by a former senior department of defense official, Joseph J. Collins. In the paper, Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath, he goes on to say, "Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees."

The latest of the Institute for National Strategic Studies' occasional papers published by the National Defense University Press, this one was released this month. The paper notes that the biggest cost of the war to the treasury is yet to come. "No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans' benefits or the total impact on service personnel and materiel," Collins wrote. And contrary to Bush's justification du jour for invading Iraq, he reports that our efforts in Iraq have caused it to become an "incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East."

Americans are in agreement that until recently, things have gone very poorly in Iraq. But since the 'surge,' the situation in Iraq appears to be improving. Does that mean there's light at the end of the tunnel? Unfortunately, Collins believes that "despite impressive progress in security during the surge, the outcome of the war is in doubt." He states that, "It is arguable whether the Iraqis will develop the wherewithal to create ethnic reconciliation and build a coherent national government." For many analysts, the war looks like a 'can't win.'
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.
Collins lays the blame at the feet of the President for the impact made by "senior U.S. national security officials" when they "exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect." They not only treated our allies this way but they even treated our own Congress autocratically.

Collins has substantial credibility to make such claims. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. He retired in 1998 as a Colonel in the United States Army after 28 years of service. He was also a Special Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. He makes Bush's claims that the war in Iraq is not a debacle ring hollow. Hopefully America now recognizes the folly of choosing war.

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