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US generals & iraq

Excellent article in the Armed Forces Journal, by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, who has served two tours in Iraq, as well as tours in Bosnia and Desert Storm. Whatever you think of the morality or wisdom of the invasion of Iraq, few conscious mammals think it’s proved either a good idea, or a well-executed activity. Yingling blames US Generals for a lack of moral courage, and intellectual creativity. He also implies condemnation of Pentagon civilians leaders for ignoring good advice – and choosing generals who agreed with their rosy and naive projections about the invasion, especially on troop numbers; and Congress, for giving up its oversight role. The real implication though is, to me, the important one: if the US people had really been told what was required (essentially a 4x increase in US troop presence in Iraq, which would likely have required … the DRAFT), likelihood is that they might have reevaluated their passion for war.

Here are some choice quotes:

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America’s generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory.


For more than three years, America’s generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America’s generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation’s deployable land power to a single theater of operations.


Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail.

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