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June 25, 2012

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By way of anecdote, I talked (in Winter 03/04) with at least one enlisted soldier who was in on the ground in Spring 2003 who was convinced that we'd found WMD and that the American people were not told of this. I didn't make any arguments otherwise (say, that every time we discovered a single rusted-out mustard gas canister the Bush admin. tried to turn it into a national headline) out of respect for the guy's service. Presumably, this isn't something that one person invents on their own. I wonder how pervasive WMD rumors were on the ground... would definitely be interested in hearing from other people.

For what it's worth, I was hugely biased in the other direction having convinced myself in Summer 2002 that there was little chance that Iraq possessed any WMD of note and next to zero chance of any active program or weapons posing an immediate danger. Powell's presentation was telling in that it had zero direct evidence (compare it to the Cuban missile evidence against a nation much better at keeping secrets). The evidence that he *did* present would've been very damaging to our ability to stop a bio-weapons program were it actually true. Several times each, Bush, Powell, Cheney, Rumseld and Rice expressed total certainty that Iraq had WMD. At no time was it evident that any of them were concealing intelligence that would help their case (yet there was plenty of indication well before the war that they were stretching what evidence they had). Every hint of Iraqi non-cooperation would result in a Bush freakout (e.g. a remote controlled airplane of terror).

At the time, I didn't see a rational argument for Iraq likely possessing WMD that went beyond "Clinton thought he had them" and even that was arguing out of ignorance of the Clinton administration's actual Iraq policy. Yet, no person could appear on television and be taken seriously while opposing war without first acknowledging that Iraq likely did have WMD or a WMD program to some degree.

I think much of why people still believe this nonsense is because the news media never acknowledged its near uniform complicity in reporting feelings instead of facts when it came to WMD. Here's a few influential folks on ABC's This Week a month after the invasion when it was clear that there was no widespread WMD program of any sort:
ZAKARIA: "There will probably be some [WMD]. I'm convinced there is some, otherwise why would he have foregone so much oil revenue?"
WILL: "Now, the question is did they go out in the desert one night, dump the weapons, destroy them in a way that we can't find the evidence of and not tell us because they enjoyed the sanctions? I don't think so."
KRUGMAN: "I think if there, the point, I mean, we'll find something. I find it hard to believe we won't find something. We've defined weapons of mass destruction way down."

"I say "so-called" because the run-up from September 11 to Iraq convinced me that the officer corps is neither braver nor more knowledgeable than I am, when it comes to basic issues of war and peace."

Well, duh, it's a gov't bureaucracy, how could it be competent?

I say "so-called" because the run-up from September 11 to Iraq convinced me that the officer corps is neither braver nor more knowledgeable than I am, when it comes to basic issues of war and peace.

Your link goes to an article where you discuss this, then cut the legs out from under your own argument:

Yet AFAIK members of the military were more in favor of invading Iraq than the general public, and stayed in favor of the war longer (though my google-fu doesn't lead me to any concrete data; correct me if I'm wrong).

So, in short: you have this idea that members (Rank and file? Flag officers? All of the above?) of the military were in favor of the Iraq invasion, have no evidence to back that up, conclude that you're right because no one has provided evidence (really, no evidence has been provided either in support or refutation), and then use that unsupported conclusion as a basis for further discussion in another post.

Or have I got that wrong, somehow?

Slarti:

The best evidence I can find says:

Officers tend to be not only more partisan, but also more Republican, with GOP affinity strongest among the highest ranks.
The only survey there seems to have been on the subject
shows that many West Point cadets view political conservatism as part of being an officer
I'm saying:

1. Military officers skew Republican, and the skew increases as you go up-rank.

2. AFAICT military officers above the level of Major, like other Republicans, were in favor of the invasion.

3. Now I'm asking if flag officers, like other Republicans, believe Iraq had WMD.

Do you have evidence against any of these steps?

2. AFAICT military officers above the level of Major, like other Republicans, were in favor of the invasion.

Actually, most weren't. This was also pointed out in comments to your previous post. Although military officers are not allowed to buck civilian leaders (that's part of the Constitutional role of the civilian Executive over the military), it was a highly publicized fact that military leaders were, by and large, against the war.

Also see this.

Although I don't have time (and doubt there is information on) whether they believed the lie about WMD, that's really not relevant. Officers are not supposed to publically criticize the Executive branch and its policies; they are supposed to carry out the mission of the President.

Let me make a brief comment as to this: "For them this isn't an abstract issue, it relates directly to their error of so-called expertise. I say "so-called" because the run-up from September 11 to Iraq convinced me that the officer corps is neither braver nor more knowledgeable than I am, when it comes to basic issues of war and peace."

Doctor Science, this attitude (that you know more about various professions than people who study and do work daily) is a bit grating. Even if you think that, maybe it would be more polite not to make it so obvious. In this particular matter, you clearly don't know 1) that it's improper for military to publicly disagree with the civilian leadership, 2) that, even so, many officers questioned the wisdom of going to war in Iraq - doing so within their legitimate authority as tacticians, and 3) that their job is not to state publicly whether they "believe" in the war, but rather to design strategies to win it.

Oops, lost the links. See this, and this.

1. Military officers skew Republican, and the skew increases as you go up-rank.

2. AFAICT military officers above the level of Major, like other Republicans, were in favor of the invasion.

3. Now I'm asking if flag officers, like other Republicans, believe Iraq had WMD.

Do you have evidence against any of these steps?

Not arguing 1). 2) is an assumption, though. You seem to not realize that you haven't given any evidence at all that it's true to any extent.

One source of data is the Military Times polling here. Of course, one should appreciate that MT's readership is not an unbiased sample of the military; their polls include a demographics section that can help you calibrate what their readership looks like, but they tend to skew older, whiter, and more officery than the military as a whole.

They don't ask about WMD per se, but they do ask "Should the US have gone to war in Iraq?" and the "yes" answer rate is 42%. Now, I'm struggling to think of a coherent reason to say "yes" besides WMD. What are the alternatives? That Iraq was responsible for 9/11? That's even more insane than believing in WMD. That Hussein was a bad person? There are lots of bad people in the world and we're not going to invade all their countries.

Actually, most weren't.

I disagree. If you read books about the war, starting with Ricks', you get a very different picture. There was actually a lot of support for the war in upper echelons of the officer corps. There were certainly people who dissented, but there was a large number that were in favor. Also, you're getting a very distorted picture by looking so early on in mid-2002. The truth is, there was an accommodation: the DOD civilian brass put forth crazy ideas, the military said "impossible", and they both compromised. After that compromise process happened, the higher echelons were far more supportive of the war.

sapient, your second link says something a bit different than you think:

But there was a broad consensus among the varied experts that if President Bush decided to use military force to remove Mr. Hussein – as many in Congress expect – the Pentagon could not assume that the Iraqi military would collapse without a fight or that Iraqi opposition forces could carry on the fight alone.

First, note that the "experts" are all think tankers or retired military, not representatives of the current officer corps. And second, note precisely what they're saying: they're not opposed to the invasion, they just think it will take more work to pull of than the Bush admin did.

It strikes me that Doc's #2 is not a necessary precondition for surmise #3.

Sapient's links (assuming a high truthiness content)indicate a pre-invasion officer corps pretty much inclined to "take Saddam out", but a wide divergence as to how to do it.

If most Republicans believe SH had WMD's and most officers are Republicans, then do their opinions diverge, in aggregate, from the poll results of their political tribe? I would be inclined to guess they most likely do not, but I'd have to admit to having no hard evidence in hand.....I do however, have obvious predjudices.

Don't those count?

Commendante/0

The links show that there was a reluctance to pursue the policies that were being put forth by the Bush administration. Again, there is a huge reluctance on the part of military people to take issue with Executive policies for the reason that the military is not supposed to do that. (This is how we control the fact that we don't live in a military dictatorship.) The elected civilian government is supposed to make policy, such as war, and the generals are supposed to take orders, and give their opinions as to whether stuff is "doable." This is why, bubbap, it seemed like "a pre-invasion officer corps pretty much inclined to 'take Saddam out', but a wide divergence as to how to do it."

I think it's really ridiculous to make assumptions about whether the officers believed in WMD, as a reason for taking out Saddam Hussein. There is absolutely no evidence for it. Most of the evidence points to the fact that officers were worried about invading Iraq for a lot of reasons, and that because they felt that it was their duty to do it, they tried to design the most effective plan.

See also this by Lieut. Gen. Greg Newbold:

"Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort."

In other words, his impression (from being there at the time) was that people, for the most part, didn't act on their beliefs, either because they were too timid, or they felt that their duty forbade it. Most of the officers were not in favor of the invasion.

Also, this post references some good data on partisanship of the senior officer corps.


In other words, his impression (from being there at the time) was that people, for the most part, didn't act on their beliefs, either because they were too timid,

sapient, have you ever met a flag officer serving in the US military? I have. They're really not timid people. In order to reach that rank, they've gone through an agonizing multi-decade long process the filters out timid people.

or they felt that their duty forbade it.

They felt their duty forbade saying that Tommy Franks' war plan was a half-assed piece of garbage? Really? I've read Newbold's critique in book form and as I recall, he seemed particularly incensed that people weren't pointing out the obvious defects of the plan within the military, i.e., where their duty did not forbid anything.

Most of the officers were not in favor of the invasion.

There's no evidence this is true. I've read Newbold's writings in books and I really don't think he believes that at all.

Can't find the numbers anymore but some time after the fall of Baghdad there were some polls about what people in the US believed about a number of Iraq related topics (at least one in combination with a survey about media consumption). A non-negligible part of the population (almost exclusively Fox consumers) believed that Saddam used WMD on US troops, including nukes. I still can find some links to claims that Saddam used nukes gainst his own people (but those may not be independent). Not even the greatest liars at Fox or in the Bush administration had claimed that. But the general miasma of lies, misleading claims etc. had created a situation where at least a million people believed stuff beyond what they were told to believe.
I think after the trumped-up claims of 'he had WMD and we found them' became untenable, the most common way to deal with it was 'he had them and smuggled them to Syria/Iran/somebody-else before we arrived' (=>'we have to go to Damascus/Tehran/Place X next').
---
Personally, as a notorious cynic, I expected that WMD would be found. Not from Saddam's stocks but planted for the purpose of being 'found' using US stocks nearing their sell-by date. But either the administration was even too incompetent for that or it had come to the conclusion that is was not worth the effort because the lies did not even need material support.

Damn, someone loves him some big brother.

I think it's really ridiculous to make assumptions about whether the officers believed in WMD, as a reason for taking out Saddam Hussein.

Red herrings! Red Herrings! Wolverines!!!! Aggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!! LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!

I DON'T BOTHER To read what DocktoR Herr Science wrote. I RIGHT my own stuff, and address questions in my own hed becasue nobody else's questions are worth ANSWERING and my questions come pre-packaged with irrefutable answers.

connamante/0

Turb: sapient, have you ever met a flag officer serving in the US military? I have.

Me? Met? I know several flag officers. One former flag officer (not on active duty during Iraq) is running for Democratic representative in my Congressional district in the seat of Tom Perriello. I come from a military family. Please don't be lecturing me about the personalities of people who have attained certain rank in the military.

It's true that after the disillusioning era of Vietnam, and because we had an all-volunteer military, Republicans are over-represented. They aren't all Republicans, and even the ones who are probably are atypical because they spent their life in a multicultural workplace that demanded discipline of a kind not found in other kinds of professions. I think it's ridiculous to generalize as to whether they believe lies in an area which they probably, themselves, have some personal knowledge. I find Doctor Science's posts, where she claims knowledge of professionals whose work she's never done, rather arrogant and offensive.

Ugh, always enlightening.

bubbap, cheers!

I find Doctor Science's posts, where she claims knowledge of professionals whose work she's never done, rather arrogant and offensive.

I find the fact that our elite officer corps is completely incompetent to be offensive. We are talking about a group of people and institutions that have failed spectacularly. With no accountability.

Dr Science has every right to criticize these people and institutions given their massive public failure.

sapient, how many of the flag officers that you know so well are timid?

Turbulence, please elaborate. In your essay, please include what power military officers have as opposed the the Executive.

sorry, typo: "as opposed to the Executive, under our Constitutional government.

please include what power military officers have as opposed the the Executive.

Well, when the executive branch asks you to draw up a war plan and when your own framework for such plans requires you to specify something, anything at all for phase IV planning and you just don't even bother, that's a failure to competently exercise power. The correct thing to do is to either tell the executive "we can't make this war plan work because we have no idea what to do about phase IV" or tell the executive "you wanted a plan? here's a plan, but it is a complete fracking disaster because we didn't bother fill in the critical sections that we had previously decided are vital. if you use this plan, disaster awaits."

Now, we know for a fact that uniformed leadership never did either of those things. They half-assed the plan because...they're not very bright. They failed in their jobs. And after failing so publicly, did they acknowledge their failure either as individuals or institutions? No, they ran to blame everyone else on earth. It was the State Dept's fault. It was the Turk's fault for blocking our northern invasion plan. It was Feith's fault. It was 4th ID's fault for being slow. It was the National Guard's fault. Etc etc.

Look, Ricks, whose article you cite, has gone on record as saying that Gen Franks is too stupid to understand the difference between strategy and tactics. What kind of broken ass institution elevates a man who can't explain that difference to be commander of CentComm? What kind of people sat on his promotion panels happily promoting him up through the ranks over decades without noticing that this guy is an idiot?


I'm still curious: how many of the flag officers that you know so well are timid?

Links, Turb? Or just rants? I thought so.

I don't know what "timid" means or in what context. All of the flag officers I know are reticent.

Look, Ricks, whose article you cite, has gone on record as saying that Gen Franks is too stupid to understand the difference between strategy and tactics. What kind of broken ass institution elevates a man who can't explain that difference to be commander of CentComm?

I don't know General Franks, or his IQ. I don't dispute that there are problems with the military as an institution, or that there are people (as in every organization) who are wanting. My problem with you and with Doctor Science is that neither of you have any information, and no personal experience, yet you deign to judge everyone and everything. That's okay with me when it comes to politicians, where it's our duty as citizens to provide a "report card" in the voting booth. It's not okay when it comes to professions with which you have zero personal knowledge. It's arrogant and presumptuous.

But fine with me, Turbulence, because you're just substantiating everyone's opinion of you.

And, like Doctor Science, you probably think that editors should have the wherewithal to tell their publishing corporations to go to hell. Because editors have the power to do that without starving for the rest of their lives. On and on.

Regarding arrogance and stupidity: I'm a huge fan of the ivory tower, and the University of Virginia faculty, and Teresa Sullivan. That's what's keeping us all busy these days in my town. I respect PhD's and people who have studied within their discipline and teach college, etc. In the current controversy, the Board of Visitors (the 1%) resent the fact that the UVA faculty make an upper middle class income (or even, maybe, a low-level wealthy income). So I'm firmly behind people who are educated and experienced in their field.

That's why I think it's ultimate BS (and I don't mean bachelor of science) that Doctor Science is so freaking arrogant about other people's fields of discipline. It's one thing to offer an opinion. It's quite another to claim that you are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than people who consider these issues every single day.

sapient: "It's quite another to claim that you are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than people who consider these issues every single day."

Dr. Science: "I say "so-called" because the run-up from September 11 to Iraq convinced me that the officer corps is neither braver nor more knowledgeable than I am, when it comes to basic issues of war and peace."

Ta da!

Links, Turb? Or just rants?

If you want links, you can start with Ricks' book Fiasco and then read Gordon and Trainor's book Cobra II. You can even read them online at Google Books or Amazon. Alternatively, you could read LtC Yingling's piece "A failure in generalship" and the debate it sparked.

I thought so.

Er, you thought what?

I don't know what "timid" means or in what context. All of the flag officers I know are reticent.

Then why did you write his impression (from being there at the time) was that people, for the most part, didn't act on their beliefs, either because they were too timid?


My problem with you and with Doctor Science is that neither of you have any information, and no personal experience, yet you deign to judge everyone and everything.

I've read a lot. You don't seem to have in this case. And I think lay people, after studying extensively can certainly offer informed critique.

More to the point, the military's own framework required that Franks' war plan include serious phase IV planning. It didn't have any. This is a critique that has been made by a bunch of military people (I didn't originate it).

It's arrogant and presumptuous.

Are you saying it is arrogant and presumptuous for me to mock Franks for making a war plan that said nothing about phase IV operations? For failing to satisfy the military's own requirements? If you think that we can't even criticize insitutions for failing to uphold their own standards, well, I'm not sure there's much to discuss.

you probably think that editors should have the wherewithal to tell their publishing corporations to go to hell.

Alas, I have no idea what you're talking about. Perhaps you could clarify and connect it to the ostensible topic of discussion here?

Julian, again: Do you not get the fact that the military was not responsible for the decision to invade Iraq?

You, Doctor Science, Turbulence, etc.: just continue to live in a parallel universe. The military does not make policy. Get it? The military is, under the constitution, the tool of the Executive civilian branch of government.

Or are you under the impression that military officers could have convinced Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz that invading Iraq was not the smart thing to do? Give me a f**ing break. You are shockingly ignorant.

This is a critique that has been made by a bunch of military people (I didn't originate it).

What? A bunch of military people critiqued something that happened in the Iraq war? I thought that military folks were unanimously for the invasion and duped by the WMD argument - isn't that what you and Doctor Science posited? So all of your criticisms are towards one General - Franks? (I'm sure you have read some books, Turbulence, by people who had the very same perspective as you do. Did you read some books by some flag officers? Were they morons?)

What a sad thing that Hilzoy's blog was bequeathed to such an intellectually bereft bunch.

It is probably inevitable that rearguing the Iraq war is going to generate a lot of heat, but it might be best to simply state your beliefs rather than try to poke holes in what other folks say. That's directed at everyone in general and no one in particular.

I don't have much contact with flag officers here, being in Japan, though I do meet a fair number of servicemen here, but I'm not sure if asking them what they think about Iraq WMD is a good conversation starter.

Scott Ritter, when he was in Tokyo giving a speech (and I note that he has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration claims about WMD), was asked about how he defined a WMD and he said something to the effect of 'a platoon of Marines is a weapon of mass destruction'.

What I take away from comment is that the definition of WMD is so fluid that any ability to conduct offensive operations might be classed as a WMD. I'm not suggesting that flag officers are using some sort of redefinition of sorts (though perhaps non-military Republicans might, which then draws into question the connection Dr Science draws between Republicans and flag officers) , but given that WMD is a term that lacks a concrete definition (and the question doesn't define it), I think that there are going to be problems with determining who believes what.

Blue Girl Red State would have serious issues that Republicans dominate the ranks of serving officers - and she has reasons to be interested. And the premise of this post is blather from the get go.
Yet there are factors affecting opinions of the enlisted which deserve to be aired/investigated. Religious indoctrination and political gamesmanship has gone so far as to include instructor time in training institutions - in Israel too - for known racists. But Islamophobia, religious intolerence, and profiling are all of a piece with the entrenched forces that produce the likes of Glenn Beck.
One would not want trained killers to sympathize with their victims. The incidence of remorse and suicide is far too high as it is.
Officers are people of superior intellect, even if naive before their blooding. They are likely to investigate dissenting views such as http://www.leadingtowar.com/watch_online.php
I contend Valerie Plame/Wilson was most likely outed because she would not go along with the Cheney gang's manufactured intel promoting a toothless old tiger as dangerous when the proof he was not was routinely verified by examining military related installations in the country embargoed against normal trade. Aluminum tubes for processing yellowcake into fertilizer are not that exotic a technology so as to fool anyone who cared for long.
No. The military would have been aware of the thrust to destroy Iraq as a nation. All the rest was window dressing around that objective.
But what might routinely be said to pundits could be quite different !

I thought that military folks were unanimously for the invasion and duped by the WMD argument - isn't that what you and Doctor Science posited?

No, neither of us has ever posited such a thing. I certainly don't think that ALL high ranking military folks bought the WMD line.

So all of your criticisms are towards one General - Franks?

Again, no true at all. My criticisms are very much directed to the institutions which systematically elevate incompetent people to positions of tremendous responsibility.

(I'm sure you have read some books, Turbulence, by people who had the very same perspective as you do. Did you read some books by some flag officers? Were they morons?)

One of the books I read is by the same journalist you cited earlier. As for the others...Col Yingling isn't a flag officer, but that might be because publicly writing an article for Armed Forces Journal called "A failure of generalship" is a good way to ensure that you never become a general. Cobra II was written by USMC Lt General Trainor.


What I take away from comment is that the definition of WMD is so fluid that any ability to conduct offensive operations might be classed as a WMD.

I really don't think this is true. I've read a lot of military stuff and I've never, ever encountered anyone using the term WMD to describe a non chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon. I really can't fathom using the term to refer to a squad of marines.

But perhaps my observations are incorrect. Can you point to a few more uses of the term that clearly encompass a squad of marines?

Note that the DOD dictionary defines WMD as Chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties.

Given that WMD was used as a justification for going to war with Iraq, a non CBRN definition really makes no sense. How could we go to war with a country because they had a squad of marines?

As I said, that was the quote from Scott Ritter when I heard his talk in Tokyo at the Foreign Correspondent's Club and it was in response to 'What is your definition of a WMD'. I wasn't trying to claim that that is the general understanding of WMD, I am suggesting that it points to the underlying psychology, which is that if one feels strongly that Iraq should have been completely stripped of all offensive capability, any large scale capability morphs into a 'WMD'.

The survey makes no definition of a WMD, but I suspect that some of the people questioned may have classified something like a dirty bomb as a WMD (note that answering affirmatively were 14.9% Dems, 26.9% independents and 26.1% other/not sure).

And just to make things clear, I'm not making any claims about any reasons for going to war, I'm just trying to understand the responses in the survey.

A dirty bomb is a radiological weapon. So it is a WMD according to the DOD definition.

I really don't think anyone, anywhere, was insisting that the United States had to invade Iraq because Iraq had a dozen man squad of marines. That really makes...no sense at all.

Okay, dragging up old, possibly inaccurate memories here.

IIRC, wasn't there one (or more?) top-ranking officers that were "retired" after expressing doubts about the wisdom of invading Iraq? (either the "why" or the "how") An officer doesn't have to be "timid" to see the wisdom in keeping their mouth shut and following orders when the alternative is flushing their career down the toilet for no good outcome.

Second, I have a somewhat-vague memory of a highly-detailed invasion plan, including all the post-invasion details, that had been prepared by the Pentagon well before the invasion. And that Bush/Cheney/Rummy discarded because they didn't like how much it would cost and how many troops were required.

Snarki, I think you are referring to Eric Shinseki

top-ranking officers that were "retired" after expressing doubts about the wisdom of invading Iraq?

Shineski was forced out for testifying before Congress that he thought the invasion would require a few hundred thousand soldiers. Publicly critiquing the plan was obviously bad for your career. But there was tons of support within the higher echelons for the plan. In fact:

Some observers have claimed, incorrectly, that the Joint Chiefs were opposed to the CENTCOM commander’s plans. General John Keane, who, as the Army Vice Chief of Staff attended almost every session in the Pentagon’s secure planning room, stated:
The Joint Chiefs asked questions, but when Phase III, Major Combat Operations [sic] went to the President it had the thumbprints of the Joint Chiefs on it, as well as Phase IV. That is another thing that is not fully understood. People attacked it as Rumsfeld’s troop list and he kept the size of the force down. It was Tommy’s [Franks] plan and the Army supported it. That is the truth of it.84

Now, keep in mind, those comments are by GENERAL Keane. That excerpt is from On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign, The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003—January 2005, a 720 page study of the war published by the US Army Combined Arms Center at Ft Leavenworth KS. Although the study wasn't written by a general, I understand that several generals are involved with the Combined Arms Center.


I have a somewhat-vague memory of a highly-detailed invasion plan, including all the post-invasion details, that had been prepared by the Pentagon well before the invasion.

Not really. There was a CentComm plan that was discarded because it was believed that US military capabilities had improved and Iraqi capabilities had degraded; thus Franks started fresh. There was also some State Dept planning on the future of Iraq, based on a series of working groups, which produced huge volumes of documents, but nothing that could be called a plan in any sense; some of that material could be adapted into a plan perhaps, given lots of time and money.

The most important benefit we get from the planning process is when plans prevent us from doing what we're planning to begin with. The truth is that there is no plan in the world that could have resolved de-Baathification issues that Bremer promptly stepped into. If you de-Baathify, like Bremer did, you make the security services unemployed, greatly augmenting the insurgency. But if you don't, you practically beg the Shia and Kurds to launch an open civil war. This is a fundamental problem and no plan can fix it. What a plan can do is surface this problem during the planning process (BEFORE THE WAR) so that you can back to your political superiors and say "hey, during planning we discovered that there's no way to prevent violent conflict from tearing the country apart...maybe we should rethink this invasion since that's not consistent with the end goals you've given us".

This is why Franks' ignoring of the phase IV planning was so disastrous: he ignored the planning which forced other groups to do it after the invasion began. But if you don't start planning for phase IV until after soldiers are already invading Iraq, obviously none of the issues that your planning surfaces can affect the decision to go to war, let alone all of the setup before the war.

Snarki, the State Department also had a multi-volume plan for post-invasion Iraq. Rummy threatened anyone even mentioning that plan in his presence with instant firing. There was iirc a more or less explicit order not just to ignore that plan but to not follow it in any way. In other words, if the State Department is for it, you must be against it, even if they coppied it from your own older plans (cf. GOP Congress vs. Obama; same idea).

I'm guessing that Ritter was making fun of the term WMD when he said that. I think it's always used to refer to chemical, biological, or nuclear (including radiological) weapons, as Turb said, but people have also claimed (no links handy) that in reality, chemical weapons are no more deadly pound for pound than conventional explosives. So maybe that's what Ritter was trying to say in a somewhat imprecise and colorful way.

On the subject of generals, it's interesting to me how American culture seems to have changed since I was young. Generals used to be figures of fun, ridiculed on shows like MASH. I guess that was right after the Vietnam era. Nowadays they are usually treated with reverence, even liars like Colin Powell

Depressing thread, for multiple reasons.

As to the question posed: I'm sure some did, but I've no way of knowing exactly who did and didn't. And I'm not sure it matters in the end, because it was blatantly obvious that it didn't really matter. The political leadership had decided they wanted a war, and a war they were gonna get. If you objected, you'd be ignored (at best), sidelined, or forced out (at worst - Shineski, whose sin was saying we needed more troops to do it right, not that we were going to war with a pile of BS as our casus belli). I find it difficult to believe that military leaders could have talked Rummy, Cheney and The Decider into dropping their war.

The failure was primarily political. Solution: avoid electing people who surround themselves with NeoCons. Ideally, avoid "liberal interventionists" too, though in practice this is difficult.

What a sad thing that Hilzoy's blog was bequeathed to such an intellectually bereft bunch.

Ok, I am going to have to pull the WTF lever on this one. Seriously: WTF are you talking about? If you think you are less intellectually bereft than those who are actually authoring posts, you are welcome to go ahead and give it a go.

Slarti: Ok, I am going to have to pull the WTF lever on this one.

Nominations for what a "WTF lever" should look like are now open.

Seriously, I'm totally amused by the concept of a WTF lever. Too many martinis at lunch I guess.

Maybe it should be a WTF button. Or a WTF machine. Yes, a WTF machine. Though I think that's called "the internet," as I'm currently demonstrating.

Maybe it should be the WTF cord. Like this:

Or maybe it should look more like this:

Donald, in a sense, yes. From my impression of the talk (the transcript is at the link, but not the questions), Ritter was basically saying that the question of WMDs was not really an issue, because the Bush administration wanted Iraq disarmed completely. And for someone who wants a country disarmed completely, you root out every bit of offensive capacity. The point was not to take away WMD, however they are defined. The point was like the WWI Versailles treaty, where every piece of equipment that could have been used to wage war was disbanded, destroyed or taken away. The problem is, if you include things like dirty bombs, any developed country has the capability to manufacture WMD. So making sure that Iraq had no WMD essentially means putting them to a state where they are no longer a developed nation. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Looking over the talk, I see now that it took place immediately before Colin Powell was to address the UN, 9 years ago. Time flies

WTF button is already taken:

They went with lower-case? Wankers.

And no I'm not "trying you" wtf button, WTF?

lj, that's an interesting theory, but I think you're conflating unrelated things together:

(1) what the Bush administration actually believed about WMD,

(2) what the administration tried to communicate to the military (or the press, congress, etc) and

(3) the logical implications of purging Iraq of all traces of WMD development capability

Those are all different things. For (1), I have no idea what the admin believed in its heart of hearts. For (2), if you read the books I listed or skim through On Point II, it is very clear that the Bush admin didn't talk to the military about this incredibly maximimalist idea of purging Iraq of all military capability, even a squad of marines. When the admin laid out campaign goals for CentComm, they just didn't talk about that sort of end state. They did talk about NBCR (nuke, bio, chem, radiological) weapons. In fact, Franks seemed to assume, based on his discussions with Rumsfeld, that when all was said and done, the Iraqi Army would still be there, containing most of the same people. That assumption is not compatible with your maximalist argument.

Now regarding (3), I happen to agree with you that, if you took the admin's statements about eliminating Iraq's WMD capabilities seriously, well, that would involve killing every Iraqi with an undergrad degree in chemistry or chemical engineering at the very least. Any of those people could make chemical weapons in their kitchen. And that's obviously insane. But my thinking here is that the Bush admin never bothered following the logical implications of their WMD capabilities argument. We're talking about people who are...not very bright.

I'm not putting a theory forward about what the Bush administration believed, I'm suggesting that this is a source for some of the 63 percent of Republicans who agree with the proposition that Iraq had WMD when it was invaded. (I also assume that any number of people missed the nuance of 'when it was invaded' and assumed the sentence was the same as 'before it was invaded', which would be a very different proposition if you include the time while they were fighting Iran). I just used the Scott Ritter quote to show how someone who was not sympathetic to the Bush administration case could view WMD in a maximalist manner.

I am thoroughly amused by a thread with 50 contributions and nobody (well, maybe that bubbap feller...but I'm prejudiced)actually took the good doctor on directly...i.e., her query as to whether or not current (Republican)flag officers buy into the WMD legend to the same extent as their GOP hoi polloi brethren do.

And Sapient? Great satire, right? Right?

Well, to me, it felt like we were going to reargue the Iraq war. so I didn't see a need.

But the doctor's argument as I see it, is that the reason to go into Iraq was because they had WMD, and flag officers wanted to go into Iraq, so they must believe there were WMD.

Unfortunately, there were lots of other possible reasons. None that I think are worthwhile, but reasons nonetheless. Flag officers might have liked an opportunity to test themselves and their men and see how they measured up to previous generations. They remembered the Iraq-Iran conflict and felt that geopolitically, it was important to oust Saddam. Felt that it was fundamentally a mistake to leave Saddam in place after Gulf War 1. And on and on.

And there is also the problem of timing. The survey is a current one, so it is quite possible that flag officers have diverged from those who took the survey. But, as Slarti pointed out, step 2 is an assumption and there is no evidence that it is true.

I think it is important to figure out just what is going on with the 63% figure. I'm not trying to be an apologist, but I think just assuming that they are all delusional is sort of a cop out. Some reasons for the high number
-inadequate parsing of the question (when we invaded versus before we invaded)
-an expansive definition of WMD (which would include the capacity to reconstitute WMD)
-conflation of GW1 and GW2

and there may be other ones as well.

I think the doctor is right about the belief being a tribal marker, but the jump to flag officers seems unfounded imho.

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