In his first public comments about the Iraq war since stepping down as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz decided to open with a variant of the classic "mistakes were made" Washington mea culpa. Except that, in this case, it wasn't so much that mistakes were made, as "we were clueless." Eli Lake reports for the New York Sun:
"There were two issues about enough troops," Mr. Wolfowitz, who served as deputy defense secretary between 2001 and 2005, said yesterday. "One was enough troops for the major combat. A lot of people said we didn't have it, and obviously we did. There was a very difficult balance that had to be struck between surprise, which meant a smaller force, and enough troops or a lot of troops, which meant a much slower force and potential of many disastrous consequences."
But on the question of postwar troop levels, Mr. Wolfowitz said he would have preferred to augment the American presence with trained Iraqis. "The other 'enough troops' issue was enough troops for afterwards. And I think on that point, yeah, we were clueless on counterinsurgency," he said.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, declined to comment, saying he had not yet seen the comments.
"I think I said in my comments quoting Doug's book, no one anticipated this insurgency, a lot of people were slow to recognize it once it started," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "And I do think a real failure -- I assign responsibility all over the place -- was not having enough reliable Iraqi troops early enough and fast enough, because I think a sensible counterinsurgency strategy would not be to flood the country with 300,000 Americans, but rather to build up Iraqi forces among the population."
Oh, Wolfie. Seriously. Can we talk?
When you say the American government was "pretty much clueless on counterinsurgency," you really mean that you were pretty much clueless, right? Because within an hour's drive of your office, you would have found thousands of people with actual experience in post-conflict stability operations and counterinsurgency. That group includes (but is not limited to):
- Gen. Eric Shinseki, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee it would take "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" to secure post-war Iraq.
- The team lead by RAND's James Dobbins, who put together estimates of what it would take to secure Iraq based on historical analysis. Using troops-to-population ratios from previous occupations, RAND projected that it would require anywhere from 258,000 troops (the Bosnia model), to 321,000 (post-World War II Germany), to 526,000 (Kosovo) to secure the peace.
- The entire Army and Marine Corps peacekeeping and small wars community, which developed tremendous institutional knowledge about these issues in such places as Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Latin America.
- The State Department's Future of Iraq project -- for although they were not planners writing an operational plan per se, they understood something about the resources required to provide stability in post-war Iraq.
- National security experts at the Army War College, who, prior to the invasion, provided insights into the challenges of post-war security, stability and reconstruction in Iraq.
So Wolfie, it's simply not true that the American government was "clueless" about counterinsurgency. Not true at all. Rather, officials like you chose to keep yourselves in the dark by refusing counsel from those who knew something about counterinsurgency. And you actively stifled dissenting views by criticizing officers like Shinseki as "wildly off the mark." Clueless is not the word I would use to describe your mistakes.
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