Army War College Study Trashes Bush and PNAC War on Terror
A new study published by a visiting professor at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, finds that the Bush Administration’s War on Terror is misguided in its efforts to broadly go after rogue regimes, when it should be focusing its efforts on real and imminent threats like Al Qaeda. The story on the study, written in today’s Washington Post by Rummy’s least favorite Pentagon reporter Thomas Ricks, points out that the head of the institute is not distancing himself from the study, although Rummy’s chief mouthpiece Larry DiRita naturally dismisses it.
In essence, what Professor Jeffrey Record, a former aid to Sam Nunn is saying, is that the PNAC agenda is doomed to fail our national security interests by placing this country in an ongoing state of fear and war while we go after multiple targets and regimes without actually improving our security. Record specifically points out the folly of the Iraq war as an outgrowth of a war on terror, and says the Iraq war was a war of choice and a distraction from the necessary focus on Al Qaeda.
A scathing new report published by the Army War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary" war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.
It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the "global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.
"[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."
His essay, published by the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government. But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director of the Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries Record's 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it. "I think that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really needs to be considered," he said.
Publication of the essay was approved by the Army War College's commandant, Maj. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., Lovelace said. He said he and Huntoon expected the study to be controversial, but added, "He considers it to be under the umbrella of academic freedom."
Many of Record's arguments, such as the contention that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was deterred and did not present a threat, have been made by critics of the administration. Iraq, he concludes, "was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda." But it is unusual to have such views published by the War College, the Army's premier academic institution.
In addition, the essay goes further than many critics in examining the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism.
Record's core criticism is that the administration is biting off more than it can chew. He likens the scale of U.S. ambitions in the war on terrorism to Adolf Hitler's overreach in World War II. "A cardinal rule of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number," he writes. "The Germans were defeated in two world wars . . . because their strategic ends outran their available means."
He also scoffs at the administration's policy, laid out by Bush in a November speech, of seeking to transform and democratize the Middle East. "The potential policy payoff of a democratic and prosperous Middle East, if there is one, almost certainly lies in the very distant future," he writes. "The basis on which this democratic domino theory rests has never been explicated."
He also casts doubt on whether the U.S. government will maintain its commitment to the war. "The political, fiscal, and military sustainability of the GWOT [global war on terrorism] remains to be seen," he states.
The essay concludes with several recommendations. Some are fairly noncontroversial, such as increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, a position that appears to be gathering support in Congress. But he also says the United States should scale back its ambitions in Iraq, and be prepared to settle for a "friendly autocracy" there rather than a genuine democracy.
The premise that an effort to target whole nation states for change under the umbrella of a war on terror, instead of focusing on the perpetrators themselves or those who directly support them as international criminals is an emerging counter-theory to the PNAC approach. Professor Andrew Bacevich of Boston University among others has postulated that Democrats can plow fertile ground in arguing against such regime-changing overreach and support instead a more focused approach in dealing with such groups as international criminals. Such arguments go at the core of the PNAC approach and challenge its assumptions and chances for success, and need to be explored further.