In a scathing analysis, a former senior Pentagon official has called the war in Iraq “a major debacle” that created an incubator for terrorism and emboldened Iran.
“Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle,” Joseph Collins wrote in “Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and its Aftermath.”
Published by the National Defense University, Collins’ paper is striking in that it comes from one whose position from 2001 to 2004 put him near the center of decision making that led to the war.
He was deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations when the United States invaded Iraq, only to find itself mired in the now five year old struggle to pacify the country.
Collins said the price of the war has been damage to US standing in the world, strains on the US military, and a negative impact on the war on terror, “which must now bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers.”
“Compounding all these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance US national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East,” he wrote.
As have other analysts, Collins pins the failure in Iraq on a lack of post war planning and the refusal of overconfident policy makers to commit enough troops to pacify Iraq after the invasion.
He blames Donald Rumsfeld, the domineering former defense secretary, for pushing for a small invasion force, and former CPA chief Paul Bremer for formalizing the US occupation, thereby alienating Iraq’s Sunnis, with little consultation with Washington.
Collins said the war was a “classic case of failure to adopt and adapt prudent courses of action that balance ends, ways and means.”
“After the major combat operations, US policy has been insolvent, with inadequate means for pursuing ambitious ends,” he said.
The Pentagon’s effort since early 2007 to build up the overall size of the army and marines “is not likely to provide much relief in Iraq,” he said.
“Ironically, the surge is clearly proving that even another 30,000 troops on the ground could have a positive effect on population protection and counterterrorism.”
“We still await political progress — the ultimate goal, and one that is entirely in Iraqi hands,” he said.