By DAVID GREEN
As the war in Iraq enters the fourth year, the Bush administration remains as optimistic as ever—both about the manner in which the conflict is progressing and about prospects for a victory. Those views run counter to those expressed by most Americans and even by several officers in the military.
In a review of the past three years, the thoughts of a small-town newspaper editor don’t stand much ground against those who are better versed in the subject, such as war supporter Anthony Cordesman, a well-known expert on Middle East affairs who is often called on to explain and advise.
Cordesman recently reviewed seven original objectives of the war.
1. Getting rid of the weapons of mass destruction: This was pointless, he said, since it was taken care of before the war.
2. Liberate Iraq: Security is worse now for the average Iraqi than before the war. Liberation was attempted without any meaningful plan to handle the consequences.
3. End the terrorist threat: He says that threat never existed in Iraq in the first place. Now, terrorists have serious involvement in the country.
4. Stabilize the Gulf region: The opposite has occurred. New tensions have arisen, anger at the U.S. has increased.
5. Secure energy exports: Iraqi oil exports have decreased since the war began and predicted increases won’t be seen for many years.
6. Make Iraq a democratic example to transform the Middle East: Iraq is not a model of anything, Cordesman says. Opinion polls in the region show that the U.S. is now feared and distrusted more than ever.
7. Help Iraq become a modern economy. Most new businesses are shells, start-ups or war related enterprises, Cordesman states, and youth unemployment averages more than 30 percent nationwide.
In short, he says, being a superpower is not enough. Fighting wars requires both a realistic strategy and the ability to implement it.
Cordesman still holds some hope for success, despite what he calls “disastrously incompetent” administration of the effort.
William Odom, a retired lieutenant general who ran Army intelligence and later the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, has called the Iraq venture “the greatest strategic disaster in our history.”
Nonetheless, a year from now we will observe the fourth anniversary of the war as the president vows to stay the course until he achieves victory.– March 22, 2006