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Sunday, June 13, 2004

Another War College Warning

Jeffrey Record and Andrew Terrill of the Army War College have co-authored another interesting study about Iraq from their home at the Army's think tank (the Strategic Studies Institute). Actually, Record was a visitor in Carlisle (PA) last year; he normally resides at the Air War College in Alabama.

Like Records's previous study on Iraq and the war on terror, and one by Antulio Echevarria II on US warmaking, this report is receiving publicity because it is fairly critical and/or skeptical of the US mission in Iraq.

Indeed, this latest study aims to draw explicit comparisons to a famous quagmire. The title? "Iraq and Vietnam: Differences, Similarities and Insights."

Reuters had a story about the report in May, when it was released:
"In Vietnam, we were trying to prop up a government that had little legitimacy. In Iraq, we're trying to weave together a government and support it so it can develop legitimacy. Both are extremely hard to do," said co-author W. Andrew Terrill, of the War College's Strategic Studies Institute.
Legitimacy in the context of the Iraq war was the theme of one of my first few posts on this blog.

As Bob Johnson has noted, this study demonstrates that "it's not just a few left wing 'whackos' thinking along those lines."

Record and Terrill, of course, do not find many military parallels between Iran and Vietnam. Rather, they focus on the political similarities and foresee:
dire consequences if the political lessons of Vietnam go unheeded. "Repetition of those failures in Iraq could have disastrous consequences for U.S. foreign policy," it says.
Hmmm, what kind of political failures?

For some reason, the SSI link to the report doesn't always work, but the Reuter's story has these tidbits:
Given that Iraqis have known nothing but authoritarian rule since the country's inception, it's impossible to say whether U.S. policy will succeed, the authors say.

Insurgent violence could also grow after the June 30 handover, when the run-up to elections magnifies divisions among rival ethnic, religious and tribal groups, all well-stocked with weapons and ammunition.

"The main threat to state-building in Iraq lies not in the insurgency in central Iraq but rather in the potential for the recent uprising of Shi'ite militants to reignite, expand, and include large elements of that community, or the development of the kind of sectarian civil war that plunged Lebanon into near anarchy for almost two decades," the report says.
So, one major potential problem is internal to Iraq.

But another involves domestic US support for the war:
With U.S. deaths in Iraq now at 791 and taxpayer costs expected to soar above $180 billion, the authors are cautious about the longevity of U.S. public support.

"Americans could become very impatient should the rationale for a continuing and costly U.S. occupation of Iraq shift to a more direct focus on uplifting the Iraqi people, especially if the Iraq public appears ungrateful," their report says.
As I wrote some weeks ago, this support hinges at least in part on public diplomacy.

The polls, currently show that the public has turned against the war.

I guess Bush's recent speech at Carlisle, linking Iraq to the war on terror, flopped.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:57 AM

    very interesting article! I will follow your themes.
    Can I subscribe to your posts on Twitter or on your Facebook profile?