Decades of hard experience taught me to be wary of the "military wisdom" espoused by generals and academics. Any two "experts" in the field seldom agree, and their "vision" is always clearest in hindsight.
Having served under him during the Kosovo War, I'm automatically leery of anything General Clark has to say about armed conflict. But, by golly, a lot of what he has to say in "Before It's Too Late in Iraq" is spot on.
Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right.
We need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq – a strategy the Administration has failed to develop and articulate.
We needed to engage Iraq's neighbors to insure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them, to isolate Iraq from outside supplies, leadership, and manpower, and to gain from them resources and support to alleviate the burdens on the US.
The US was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action.
Why, in June, 2005, over two year into the mission of training Iraqi forces, was the President announcing such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units, or training Iraqi Ministries to conduct anti-terrorist operations?
A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces.
With each passing month other intervening factors compound the difficulties and probably reduce the chances for the mission in Iraq to succeed.
President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam – failing to craft a realistic and effective policy, and in its place, simply demanding that the American people show resolve.
Unfortunately, Mister Clark's observations are less about the Iraq situation than they are about his next run for the presidency.
Yes, Mister Bush and the neo-conspirators have done everything wrong for all the wrong reasons. And yes, as Clark suggests, we must employ other-than-military tools of power like diplomacy to bring about a stable Middle East. But the kinds of things Clark talks about are basic tenets of sound foreign policy--stuff generally taught at the college freshman level.
Then again, a "sound" foreign policy would be vastly preferable to the kind we've gotten from the Bush administration.
Don't get reeled in by strategic soothsayers who try to give you the notion that there's a magic formula for creating a fairy tale ending in Iraq.
It's already too late for that.
Tomorrow: A Total Crock of Krepinevich.