Army War College report blasts war on terrorism
By Thomas E. Ricks
Costa Times) WASHINGTON - 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.
The report, by visiting professor Jeffrey Record, who is on the faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking point."
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-Qaida 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."
Record, a veteran defense specialist and author of six books on military strategy and related issues, was an aide to former Sen. Sam Nunn when the Georgia Democrat was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In discussing his political background, however, Record noted that in 1999 while on the staff of the Air War College, that he published work critical of the Clinton administration.
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 don't necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon, or the U.S. government.
But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., the director of the Army War College's 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."
Larry DiRita, the top Pentagon spokesman, said he had not read the Record study. He added: "If the conclusion is that we need to be scaling back in the global war on terrorism, it's not likely to be on my reading list anytime soon."
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 before by critics of the administration.
Iraq, he concludes, "was a war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against" al-Qaida.
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 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 scoffs at the administration's policy, laid out by Bush in a November speech, of seeking to transform and democratize the Middle East.
"(T)he 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."
The essay concludes with several recommendations. Some are fairly noncontroversial, such as increasing the size of the Army and Marines Corps, a position that appears to be gathering support in Congress.
But Record 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.
Copyright: Knight Ridder.
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