Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pavlov's Scholars of War

Fredrick W. Kagan is the latest military scholar to pitch in with his "solution" to the Iraq problem. In a meandering piece modestly titled "Blueprint for Victory" the West Point professor argues that an "Iraqification" strategy will not defeat the insurgency, and that…
The obvious solution is therefore what it has been for several years: to begin to increase the size of the U.S. Army. Any such increase would not produce usable units for a year or perhaps two, and so this suggestion has been repeatedly rejected, since the premise of the CENTCOM strategy has always been that victory is just around the corner. If the Army had been increased in 2001, 2002, 2003, or even 2004, as was suggested each year, there would already be additional forces available. If the Army begins to increase now, new troops will still come on line before the end of Bush's term. We may well need them, for the challenges we face are unlikely to be resolved quickly. Weighing the costs of adding new soldiers against the costs of protracting--or, worse still--losing the war reveals the folly of depending on optimistic prognostications.

In other words, Kagan urges that we increase the U.S. footprint in Iraq through at least 2008.

I've always had mixed opinions about Kagan. I agree with much of what Professor Kagan has written, especially his criticism of Donald Rumsfeld's network-centric warfare concepts.

But at the end of the day, Kagan always says something to remind me that he's one of them.


If you didn't know it already, the appearance of his article in Bill Kristol's The Weekly Standard should tip you off that Fred Kagan is a dyed-in-the-wool neoconservative. In fact, you'd be right to say that neo-conning is the Kagan family business.

Fred's father Donald Kagan is a Yale historian who became a "staunch neoconservative" in the 1970s. Just prior to the 2000 election, Donald and Fred co-authored While America Sleeps , a "frightening story" of post Soviet era threats that called on America to increase arms spending.

Brother Robert Kagan , also a scholar, was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century. With fellow PNAC founder Bill Kristol, Robert wrote the 1998 New York Times article " Bombing Iraq isn't Enough " that asserted:
If Mr. Clinton is serious about protecting us and our allies from Iraqi biological and chemical weapons, he will order ground forces to the gulf. Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed.

Fred Kagan is himself a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent conservative think tank.


When the insurgency in Iraq clearly became unmanageable, neocons like Kristol and the Kagans who pushed for the invasion began distancing themselves from Donald Rumsfeld, who was also a member of the PNAC cabal. That things have gone so badly, their argument goes, is because of Rumsfeld's mishandling of the war. At no time will they suggest that maybe the invasion itself was a bad idea, or that unnecessary wars of occupation are the worst possible way of conducting foreign policy.

So we'll continue to hear talk from right wing intellectual elites about "we should do this or that" to solve the Iraq situation that will amount to nothing more than the "stay the course" mantra.

It's a sad fact that military academia is almost exclusively populated by people who make a living promoting war as a superior tool of national power. You'll find very few professors at our service academies and war colleges who will argue that a half trillion dollars a year in defense spending is, perhaps, a trifle excessive. That sort of thing doesn't put one on the fast track to a department chair or a cushy fellowship with a conservative think tank.

The Frederick Kagans of this country not only want to deny the possibility that they were wrong about Iraq. They have a vested interest in ensuring that America maintains a foreign policy of aggressive military intervention, and perpetuates itself as an imperialistic oligarchy.


  1. Cry stay the course, and let slip the profiteers of war.


  2. Yep. If you look at what corporations sponsor all those conservative think tanks, you'll find a lot of big millitary industrial players.


  3. Speaking of Kristol, did you catch him on The Daily Show (last night, I think?) I thought Stewart handed Kristol's head back to him . . . but I am partisan.

  4. I saw him come on, but couldn't watch. Glad to hear John gave him hell.