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Reflections on the War in Iraq - Part III: Execution [112c]

Updated on August 23, 2016


MY VIEWS ON WAR are situational. Wars are a horrific, but sometimes necessary instrument of political power; I am not one to say they should never be used; I don't even say they should be used pre-emptively because you can never predict every situation that may confront a nation. But, in ALL cases, war should be used rarely and very carefully. History as shown, however, most recently from Vietnam, that when a nation decides to go to war, there should be no holding back. It should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible with the maximum amount of resources the nation has available to it and with careful, complete, and comprehensive strategic, operational, and tactical planning for pre- and post-war operations.

We didn't do this for Vietnam and vowed never to make this mistake again; when I went to Air War College in 1991-1992, they drilled that concept into our heads. As I have said in other hubs, I was a supporter of our involvement in Vietnam and even had to volunteer to serve over there after I finished flight training in 1972. I am still convinced America made the right decision in trying prevent North Vietnam from overrunning the South; to me it was both a humanitarian and national security issue. I felt the same way for Panama, Iraq I, but not Granada; I feel the invasion of Afghanistan clearly a just war.

And now, on March 30, 2003, when President Bush ordered American troops back into Iraq second time to finish what many thought his father had left undone, we were committed to another, simultaneous war. Consequently, my views about what we must do in Iraq had to change and as a result, I because a reluctant, but nevertheless resolute supporter of strong action in Iraq; I absolutely was against being there in the first place, but, once there, it was clear we must prosecute the war with as much ferocity, focus on purpose, with clear objectives as possible with no turning back.

Of the wars, or combat actions I listed so far following Vietnam; Granada, Panama, Iraq I, Afghanistan, and Iraq, in only three of those, Granada, Panama, and Iraq I, did we follow the dictum we learned from Vietnam on how to fight such engagements. It is obvious to me that President Bush II, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld never attended Air War College for they did, at the strategic level, about everything wrong that you could think of from six months before they pulled the trigger.

MUQTDA AL-SADR The Cog in the Wheel
MUQTDA AL-SADR The Cog in the Wheel | Source
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS Saved The Day For America | Source

How Not To Fight a War

I won't spend too much time rehashing all of the failures of the Bush administrations in executing their war, but I do think some highlighting will be beneficial. The ineptitude of the trio who ran the Iraq war, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, only became clear in hindsight, but hints of the lack of planning and lack of understanding did come soon after the invasion began.

The initial invasion plan, the operational and tactical plan seemed to be sound; Hussain's forces crumbled under superb execution by our troops. But then things started to fall apart as indicated by:

1) the lack of control our forces had over Iraq's nationaltreasures and museums; there apparently was no plans to secure these extremely valuable historic and cultural artifacts and records; it is not like they didn't have plenty of time and man power to do so.

2) a complete lack of understanding of where the sentiments of the populuslay; thinking the Shi'a majority would automatically lay out the red carpet for us, not realizing they were still very angry over President Bush I leaving them to hang out to dry and die after the first Iraq War.

3) a complete lack of understanding of the tribal hatred between the Sunnis, Shi'a, and Kurds and the nature of tribalism.

4) a refusal to learn from the history of the British in Iraq and an apparent determination to repeat their mistakes.

5) a refusal to learn from Vietnam about how to fight counter-insurgency operations (the cold-war, tank-oriented lobby in the military never lost control even after the Vietnam fiasco)

This all became apparent just a year or two into the war, not too long after "Mission Accomplished" was declared by the President, where there were many more years to go and several thousand lives yet to be lost. "Mission wasn't Accomplished" because, instead of applying overwhelming force history shows was necessary, Rumsfeld convinced Bush he could "win" this war on the cheap; he lied and he violated many basic rules of warfare in doing so.

There is also no question anymore that the Sunni's intransigence, the al-Qeada's appearance and growth, and the radical Shi'a cleric Sayyid Muqtadā al-Ṣadr (Arabic: سيد مقتدى الصدر) revolt, caught Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld completely by surprise; except for Sadr, this should not have happened, they were predictable. They, and the American military were not prepared to dealwith the ensuing three-pronged onslaught. America suffered from a mishandled war from 2004 to 2007, until President Bush finally "saw the light" and changed tactics, with a little help from Senator McCain and a plethora of Democratic critics, to a proper counter-insurgency operation run by actual military counter-insurgency professionals, headed by General Petraeus, instead of cold-war left-overs.

The war was at it heights as was the death rate and cost when the surge began and General Petraeus took over changing forever, I hope, the way we fight these wars. The new way of fighting began in Feb 2007 and was fully implemented by Jun 2007, when the last of the surge troops arrived; casualty and hostility figures began to fall dramatically, never to rise again after four long years of futile, then failing effort; we were heading toward another Vietnam.

$900 billion spent, over 33,000 wounded, over 4000 killed. Such is the price of hubris and ineptitude.

On December 20, 2011, the battle flag of the last American forces from Iraq reached American soil, the Iraq War was officially over.


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    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Credence, I have a feeling we aren't that far apart in reality and the real difference is that I am not stating my position effectively such that it reflects what you suggest, because there is little I disagree with in what your say, yet still gets across my feeling on never letting another Soviet Union take hold in the world, nor becoming isolationists. Maybe that will come out in other hubs that I write.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      ME, the hegomony that you speak of is pretty expensive. Besides being obligated to take on all the worlds problems, how have we benefitted? We have been shown the limitations of miliary power, as it appears that people are going to do as they please ultimately, anyway. Everybody snuggles under the nuclear umbrella we provide, without cost to them.Being number 3 does not mean that I have to submit to domination from someone else. The focus is now on economic affairs as the concept of who has the biggest battleships was a measuring stick a century ago. We need to focus on being number one in R&D, education, economic growth that is sustainable, saber rattling never seems to get us there.

      We may have to agree to disagree on this one. We may not have an objective of conquest in a military sense, but American influence has been counterproductive in many circumstances. By our example we perpetuate the "big stick' attitude of using your status to imtimidate others. While, it may seem unrealistic to think that nations could coexist as equals, we have to diffuse the bomb that will unravel our world at some point.The arrogant big shot by definition can never be the benovolent good guy, not really. Perhaps, it is from the perspective of who is observing.

      Thanks for listening...

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Very good question Credence! To me, the answer is this: In individual society as well as the society of Nations, history has shown there are always those who do want to be number 1, and once there to maintain it at all cost. That cost generally means the loss of freedom for those who are number 2 and below, especially if those others may have or could develop the ability to challenge those in power.

      Further, in most circumstances, America being an exception for most, but not all, of its history, those on top want to expand their control because they know somewhere outside their control is someone who may challenge them; the Communists, Christians, and Islam are a prime example of this expansionism, both for survival reasons, but for philisophical reasons as well.

      So, this long-winded pre-amble is just to say, a good offense is the best defense. From America's survival, striving to be a benevolent number 1 is the best way to ensure our way of life for us, and maybe calm down the world around us, than becoming isolationist; which has failed each time we have tried in the past.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Yeah, ME, I am an addict with too much time on his hands

      Why is the drive to be number 1? I don't know that I want to pay the price for being number 1 as it seems more fraught with disadvantages for the man in the street and is form of bragging rights that has no real substance. I could be a Denmark with more attention spent on internal matters and less on controlling the planet. We all know that hindsight is always 20/20. The real issues were not so much Communism, but the need to control others from an economic standpoint. What do you think were the real reasons surrounding the Cuban revolution. You are right, we shouldn't let our guard down, put having 1000 military installation around the globe is overkill. Let's focus on our own defense in the least globally invasive way possible. As we learned in school eventually enough kids will get together to bring down any bully. We need better diplomats as we have seen that the 'big stick' idea his limited practical application in todays world. Just a few thoughts, Cred 2

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I see you can't tear yourself away from reading this stuff, even on the Holidays, either Credence. I don't think the measure of the justness of action isn't intitially the amount of treasure or lives it will cost or whether we will win or lose; none of those things are known at the outset. Rather, it should be the righteousness, the raison d'etre, the altruistic objectives, the national security interests that should be the guiding principle's. These then are weighed against the expected costs based on the strategies chosen to accomplish the ends.

      In the case of Vietnam, Kennedy started out on the right foot, only to be foiled by the military, Johnson, and then Nixon. The war didn't have to cost so much in money or lives, not did it have to be lost. Even so, those things still don't bear on whether we should have tried in the first place; personally, I think we had a clear national security interest in containing Communist expansion, at least as we saw the world at that time. In hindsight, that view today, may not necessarily have been the correct one to have held but was colored by our virulant, fundamentalist Christian-fueled Godless, anti-Communist paranoia that was rampant in America at the time; Joe McCarthy was long off the scene, you know.

      You are very right, because of our resource constraints, we can't police the planet; therefore, we have to pick and choose our fights carefully. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon us, for national survival, to remain the sole superpower. Consequently, we must maintain control of the world agenda one way or another; one would hope by friendly, beneficial alliances rather than by arrogance. But, in any case, we can never let our guard down, now waste our goodwill, both of which we have done over the 40 years.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      I am still convinced America made the right decision in trying prevent North Vietnam from overrunning the South; to me it was both a humanitarian and national security issue. I felt the same way for Panama, Iraq I, but not Granada; I feel the invasion of Afghanistan clearly a just war

      We may disagree here, when I look at the casualties and money spent Vietnam it was an abyssmal failure. This is all just geopolitical games that we can no longer afford to engage in. Afghanistan is justified as a direct pursuit after an enemy who has attacked American soil, all the rest, I question. Panama and Granada were skirmishes. IraqI was superb because of international cooperation and shared risks and burdens.

      We cannot, due to restraints on the treasury and material resources, police the planet as the right seems to endlessly advocate, nor do I have a desire to. The planet has been a ball of confusion since the beginning, so what makes us think that we can untangle the yarn? World War II was really the last good war. We cannot afford anymore Koreas and cold war politics.

      As always this is a great article, happy holidays Cred2

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Yep, and never learn a damn thing from it!

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 6 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Your welcome's old Horrors for me. 8 years of horrific madness. And for people to say "Oh forget it, it's over"...I will never understand that attitude.

      To me, bringing that madhouse to Justice is the answer to our problems now.

      But not enough people agree, and they will sail on as if it never happened.

      Anything we face since then is simply the reaping of what they sowed, IMO.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      BTW, thanks for the link to Mother Jones, LoveMyChris, it was great; brought back old memories.

    • My Esoteric profile image

      My Esoteric 6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thanks for your comment LoveMyChris, glad to see one. In both cases, the questions are too simplistic although Jone's is more relavant, while Wilkerson's too glib, even it is part of the answer.

      There are many studies that actually answer Congressman Jones' question however, which is actually directed at the more moderate Republicans and most Democrats. But, if you study the McCarthy period during the Red Scare in 1950s, for a wonderful example of the "Lemming" effect.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 6 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Here's interesting info:

      "At A congressional hearing examining the march to war in Iraq, Republican congressman Walter Jones posed "a very simple question" about the administration's manipulation of intelligence: "How could the professionals see what was happening and nobody speak out?"

      Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, responded with an equally simple answer: "The vice president."

      Timeline of lies:


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