Presidents and strategy

Hugh Hewitt interviews Max Boot:

HH: Now my next question is really a political question, but it goes to the comprehensive section of your article in the Weekly Standard about the turn from the Abizaid/Casey strategy to the Petraeus strategy, or Petraeus/Mattis strategy if you want to call it that, and that is did Bush impose the strategy on Abizaid and Casey? Or did he and Rumsfeld ask them, and accept their idea of the best approach. Both great men, great warriors, great American servants, but where did that strategy come from, Max Boot?

MB: I think the strategy sincerely came from General Abizaid and General Casey. I think President Bush was clear all along that he would take the best military advice that he could get, and that was the advice that he was taking, and it was a well intentioned strategy, it was the light footprint approach that Rumsfeld was in favor of, that Abizaid and Casey were in favor of, which basically thought that the less we did, the better, and the more the Iraqis would step forward to take control of their own affairs. That was a perfectly reasonable strategy, but it simply failed, and we know it failed, and so it was time to try something different. And you know, frankly, I wish President Bush had tried a different approach earlier, because I think it had been apparent earlier that that strategy wasn’t working, but better late than never, and finally, he decided to change his defense secretary, to change his commanders on the ground, to try something different, and that’s what we’re doing now, and I think it’s incredibly important that we give General Petraeus and his team a chance to at least try to be successful, and to show what they can do over the course of at least a year or more without reaching to any premature conclusions about how the new strategy will work out.

HH: ... As you look back at Bush, has he been too passive in this?

MB: I think he has been too passive, and this struck me in an Oval Office meeting that I and a few other writers had with him back in last fall, where he kept talking about all the mistakes that Lyndon Johnson made, and what he basically took away from the Vietnam War was that presidents should not micromanage the fight. And okay, there’s some truth to that, but that, you know, presidents also have to make sure that they’re getting the best strategy and the best generals. And if their generals are not implementing a successful strategy, they have to be willing to change. And I think President Bush finally woke up to the need to do that sometime around last fall, but I wish he’d done it a little bit earlier, because if we’d change courses earlier, I think it would have been easier to make greater progress. But even now, I don’t think that the war is lost by any stretch of the imagination. I think there is still a decent chance that we can salvage a good outcome in Iraq, if we just stick with the strategy that we’re implementing now.


HH: Well, I called it a telegram to the Taliban. Does the enemy read this and follow this, in your opinion, Max Boot?

MB: Oh, absolutely, and I think there’s this very naïve attitude that oh, well, we can pull out of Iraq, it won’t be a big deal, and then we can concentrate our resources on the real fight. In Afghanistan, ignoring the fact that Iraq right now is the front line of the struggle against al Qaeda, and if we give up there, it will be a tremendous boost to al Qaeda, similar to defeating the Red Army in Afghanistan. And they’re not going to be content with fighting us in Iraq. They’re going to go fight us in Afghanistan, and the situation there will deteriorate, and they’ll fight us elsewhere around the world, and we would have to grapple with that. So there’s not an easy exit strategy by simply saying oh, this is no big deal, we don’t have to worry about it. We do have to worry about it. The cost of defeat will be very heavy.
Hewitt adds:

If you scroll through the interviews I have conducted this week, you will see that Democrats in the Senate and the House are willfully, even perversely, ignorant of --or willfully blind to-- the stakes and the conditions in Iraq. They seem to believe that this is a winning political strategy. I don't think so, not even in the short term and certainly not in the long term. Munich was very popular for a short time --from the signing of the agreement on September 29, 1938 until the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, or until Hitler's nature become unmistakable even to the most appeasement-oriented Chamberlain supporter. The consequences of the left's surrender sickness will be obvious sooner or later. It is only the costs that are obscure at this point.

That the Democrats are being willfully ignorant is clear. They are aided in this by a public that is also ignorant to the consequences of the proposed action. That comes from a failure of leadership at all levels and in both parties. Democrats war being carried on a tide of ignorance right now. When they are thrown on the disastrous shores of defeat they will blame others. Taking responsibility is something they avoid at all costs.


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