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US Army Report Criticizes Handling of Fight Against Terror - 2004-01-13

The Bush administration's handling of the global war on terrorism, including the decision to invade Iraq, is being criticized by an unexpected source: a study published by the U.S. Army's War College.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld routinely acknowledges the war on terrorism will be neither quick nor easy.

But Mr. Rumsfeld also asserts repeatedly that the United States will not back down from its commitment to fight that war, especially when it comes to the ongoing struggle with insurgents loyal to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. "We will continue taking the battle to the terrorists. And as the president has said, the coalition will stay as long as it takes to finish the job, and leave only when the task is finished," he said.

But a newly-released report published by the U.S. Army War College has taken issue with the Bush Administration's decision to invade Iraq.

The 56-page study by defense expert Jeffrey Record calls the U.S. intervention in Iraq "an unnecessary preventative war of choice" that was "a detour" from the global war on terrorism.

It criticizes, as a "strategic error of the first order," the administration's linking of the al-Qaida terrorist organization and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.

The study is accompanied by a disclaimer stating its views are those of Mr. Record, a professor at the U.S. Air Force's War College, and not those of the Army or the Department of Defense.

But Douglas Lovelace, the director of the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute that published the study, hails the analysis as what he calls "a contribution to the national security debate over the aims and course of the war on terrorism."

Nevertheless, at the Pentagon, senior officials do not appear to be pleased. Bryan Whitman, a top Defense Department spokesman, admits he has not seen the study but suggests its conclusions are irresponsible. "Any study that concludes that we should not aggressively pursue the global war on terror would be irresponsible. In fact, it is inconceivable to me that any responsible government would not do everything possible to protect its citizens," he said.

The study says the administration's identification of a multitude of enemies, including rogue states, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist groups of global, regional and local scope, may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and non-states that pose no serious threat.

Mr. Record, a former staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also asserts U.S. military involvement in Iraq has strained the armed forces. As he puts it, the war has saddled the armed forces with costly and open-ended imperial policing and nation building responsibilities outside the professional military's traditional mission portfolio.