Many millions of Americans all over the country are committed to supporting our troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. The message can be seen everywhere, pasted on car bumpers and posted on Web sites.
But how exactly can we best “support the troops”?
Every page of this book is about how we can--and must--support the war effort and the troops that carry much of the burden of it, principally by promoting coherent and informed policies. But for the sake of troops on the front lines, it is also important that we focus clearly on what their role in this war is and what they will need to perform it. This chapter will explain their mission in Iraq (and elsewhere) and the factors that have complicated it.
Understanding the Challenge
The “War in Afghanistan” and the “War in Iraq” are the obvious arenas of the current conflict, and these operations are certainly the most difficult and dangerous tasks we’ve entrusted to our soldiers so far. But these arenas are really just two fronts of a far larger, and extremely complex, conflict: the War for the Free World.
Waging Three Kinds of War
This larger conflict consists of three elements: a conventional war, a counterinsurgency war, and a war of ideas.
- The conventional war. In identifiable geographic “theaters of operations,” our troops confront known enemies using traditional military means.
- The counterinsurgency war. A battle that must be fought almost everywhere, not only with conventional troops but also using secret (covert) means, against a largely unknown enemy (or enemies) who target civilian populations.
- The war of ideas. An array of nonmilitary weapons of political warfare and strategic communication--laptop computers, Web sites and blogs, and radio broadcasts--can help secure victory and may save soldiers’ lives.
Although this multifaceted war may be different from those that preceded it, victory will come as has been the case in other great conflicts: step by step, in a string of engagements, battles, and campaigns. We know that progress may be difficult to track, whereas setbacks, such as deadly suicide bombings, will be highly visible and widely reported.
Moreover, victory in this war is unlikely to be signaled by a formal surrender or treaty. In some of the places in which we are fighting--or will fight--the victory can only come from within the local society, when popular opposition to Islamofascist regimes and their allies decisively rejects the totalitarian ideology that fuels this conflict.
A Long-Delayed Offense
Tragically, in spite of two decades of provocation, it took the attacks of September 11, 2001, to bring the United States to the point of employing military means against the terrorists’ safe havens. We can pinpoint the beginning of the overt conflict as the attacks by Islamofascist agents on the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979 and the American embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in the early 1980s.
Prior to September 11, the United States was playing a generally defensive game in response to those attacks and others that followed. Washington (like the rest of the Western world) generally adopted a law-enforcement approach (in other words, a defense-only strategy) to deal with international terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Islamist groups (see Step 5).
- The Clinton administration’s response to al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 was a single cruise-missile strike on a training camp in Afghanistan.
- Michael Scheuer, who formerly ran the CIA’s al-Qaeda task force, documents at least ten instances when the United States failed to take advantage of an opportunity to go after Osama bin Laden. As a direct result, bin Laden’s embryonic terrorist organization was able to create a secure base of operations in Afghanistan.
We lost a lot of ground in those two decades--literally. The U.S. military today has been tasked to recapture territory that was lost in those years to our terrorism-wielding enemies.
By now, however, America’s armed forces are applying a hard-learned lesson: no nation can win a war by defense alone.
- By playing defense, we allow the adversary the advantage of choosing the time, place, and level of his attacks. This strategy also permitted the enemy to create and maintain safe havens in which to organize and orchestrate his next offensive.
- Winning wars is about defeating hostile forces, whether disciplined conventional armies or loosely organized terrorist cells--denying their capacity to wage war and their will to continue the fight. To accomplish these goals, the war must be taken to the enemy.
The Dangers of One-Way “Dialogue”
But even after the September 11 attacks compelled the United States to go on the offensive, the war effort was hampered from the outset by a dangerous misconception. Much of America’s political leadership was persuaded that, before military force could be employed, every opportunity for “dialogue” and negotiation had to be exhausted.
In the case of Afghanistan, fortunately the delay was brief. The Taliban mistakenly believed that the United States would not or could not destroy their regime. They foolishly refused to surrender bin Laden, and the United States was free to move swiftly to prove them wrong.
Launching the Iraq front of this war was a very different story. Much is written daily about the problems of planning and intelligence gathering that hampered that operation. But it is clear that America’s military effort was undermined, most of all, by the many months of planning that was afforded the regime of Saddam Hussein while the United States deferred a military attack in the name of “giving peace a chance” at the United Nations.
A Compromised United Nations
The critics’ clear purpose was to block U.S. action against the regime of Saddam Hussein--a state sponsor of terror that had
- repeatedly used weapons of mass destruction on its own people and its neighbors
- refused to comply with UN-imposed weapons inspections
- pledged to exact revenge for its humiliation in Operation Desert Storm
- celebrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (the only country to do so openly).
In the post-September 11 world, President Bush was right to regard such a regime as an intolerable threat.
Yet, various United Nations bureaucrats, ostensible U.S. allies (notably, France and Germany), and Russia and China were determined to prevent President Bush from eliminating that threat. Without the UN Security Council’s blessing, they reasoned, the White House would be politically unable to take action against Iraq. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan went so far as to declare that, unless the UN authorized the use of force (a nearly unprecedented circumstance), military action would be “illegal” (see Step 10).
We now know that a number of those who opposed the liberation of Iraq were in Saddam’s pocket, if not actually on his payroll. There was much to be gained, on many sides, from the continuation of the UN’s porous “Oil for Food” program in Iraq.
It is often alleged that the Bush administration’s policy to liberate Iraq was motivated by a U.S. desire for Iraq’s oil. It should be clear by now, however, that oil was more of a consideration for at least some of the governments who cooperated with Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Six months of diplomacy ended, predictably, in failure. In the end, the American-led “coalition of the willing” was able to overthrow the Iraqi paymaster and his brutal regime without UN approval. Regrettably, however, we were not able to do so before material harm was done to the cause, both in Iraq and beyond.
The Lessons of Iraq
The diplomatic delay was costlier than is generally understood. A regime that had constructed elaborate underground facilities was granted ample time to organize a strategic retreat, so as to continue a semblance of a terrorist regime as a well-equipped, well-funded insurgent mob. The delay, moreover, allowed our adversaries beyond Iraq to develop a coordinated response to any assault on that country.
The consequences of delay were grave indeed. Saddam Hussein’s government used the delay to damaging effect. He had learned a hard lesson from his 1991 defeat in Operation Desert Storm: he had counted on a UN process to forestall a U.S.-led invasion of Kuwait--a grave miscalculation.
In 2003, therefore, he hedged his bets. In the event that his friends at the UN failed to deliver on their promises to prevent another invasion--this time, of the Iraqi homeland--Saddam began planning the insurgency that continues to claim lives of coalition and Iraqi forces, and of countless civilians, to this day.
Iran, Syria, and Saudi Islamists also took advantage of the breathing space to gain a foothold in Iraq:
- By the time the United States finally went to war, the chief source of international news for Iraqis was the vitriolic al-Alam, an Iran-based Arabic-language television network.
- Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Iranian intelligence services collaborated with the Syrian government to plan their own campaign of insurgency and destabilization; U.S. forces later captured Iranian infiltrators, along with documents outlining Iran’s plans for destabilizing liberated Iraq.
- Iran’s Syrian allies established a kind of covert passage to transport terrorists--many of whom came from Saudi Arabia--into Iraq.
- North Korea, like Iran, exploited the window afforded by America’s dithering with the UN, as well as the distractions associated with the subsequent invasion, by ramping up their respective long-standing covert nuclear weapons programs.
A Squandered Opportunity
But if the diplomatic delay was a valuable opportunity for enemy tacticians, it was also a lost opportunity as far as U.S. preparations were concerned. Keenly aware that any war preparations would be viewed as undermining the negotiations over weapons inspections, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice decided to defer any action on two critically important initiatives:
- A full-up postwar planning office for Iraq. This would have been the “command center” for serious work on alternative post-invasion scenarios and possible responses.
- A Free Iraqi Force consisting of trained Iraqi exiles. The U.S. military had begun to train just a handful of Iraqis when the invasion was launched. Instead of helping to liberate their country, these volunteers sat out the first weeks of the conflict in Hungary, huddled around radios listening for news.
This is why, in the post-invasion period, the insurgents seemed to have a free hand for so long. We were woefully ill prepared to contend with the insurgency prepared by Saddam, the Syrians, Iranians, and Saudis for post-invasion Iraq.
There were further ramifications to this lack of preparedness.
In Iraqi eyes, a Free Iraqi Forces component could have spelled the difference between occupation and liberation. On April 9, 2003, in a pivotal symbolic event, to be shown again and again in news clips, it was an American Marine corporal--and not an Iraqi--who draped a flag over the statue of Saddam Hussein; and it was (famously) an American flag rather than the flag of Iraq.
On the ground, U.S. troops lacking Iraqi interpreters lost critical early opportunities and made inevitable errors of judgment. The U.S. mission in Iraq has suffered ever since from the lack of a trusted, proficient Iraqi military partner. It has proved difficult indeed to train a new Iraqi army in the field, under fire from a determined and well-supplied insurgency.
Diplomacy is not always a neutral tactic. We need to be especially wary of accommodating the demands of parties whose standard mode of operations is to use diplomacy to block U.S. interests, especially when we have reason to believe that, as with Iraq, such negotiations will make it more difficult to support our troops and protect our vital interests.
Just as military preparations may undercut negotiations, the reverse is also true: negotiations can forestall military preparedness, without necessarily resolving the underlying conflict. In this case, it can be argued, diplomacy was a diversion that proved damaging to our vital interests and especially harmful to our fighting forces.
“Engaging” with the Enemy
The “reconciliation” negotiations conducted in Iraq post-invasion have proved, similarly, to be a non-neutral tactic. The theory has been that efforts to bring enemy forces into the political process will promote security. Unfortunately, among Islamist radicals (and in Middle East societies generally) such a process is likely to have the opposite effect. Premature reconciliation is seen as a signal of weakness and thus invites further violence.
We tend to forget that President Bush’s decision to oust Saddam Hussein was initially popular with the vast majority of Iraqis. Iraqis celebrated their liberation. Many greeted American troops warmly. For a time, Iraqi men, women, and children cooperated with U.S. troops, alerting them to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and fingering insurgents.
The honeymoon collapsed, however, amid confusion about U.S. intentions. Initiatives that American civilian and military personnel intended as constructive acts of reconciliation were seen by ordinary Iraqis as incipient betrayals--as collaboration with the feared Baathist thugs.
Americans can scarcely imagine what it is like to have lived for thirty-five years under the sort of capricious and utterly ruthless repression imposed by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist dictatorship. In such an environment, it becomes second nature for everyone, citizens and officials alike, to keep their heads down. No one will risk doing anything that could get them or their families in serious trouble. One develops a keen instinct for survival, highly attuned to the slightest signals emanating from the power structure.
Iraqis were confused, therefore, when, shortly after the fall of Baghdad, Gen. Jay Garner (the first American director of postwar reconstruction in Iraq) had dinner with an Iraqi businessman named Saad al-Janabi. Al-Janabi was widely known as a key member of Saddam’s Baath Party, a man who had been closely identified with one of the dictator’s most feared subordinates and relatives, his late son-in-law, Hussein Kemal. For Iraqis, Garner’s outreach to one of Saddam Hussein’s key allies was an ominous sign that the United States was considering some kind of deal with the Baathists.
This perception played into profound Iraqi fears. Would the Americans once again abandon the people of Iraq to their jailers? This had been the story once before, when, after the Gulf War in 1991, President George H.W. Bush had encouraged Iraqis to rise up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein. When many of them did so, the United States failed to come to their aid, and thousands were slaughtered. Americans may have forgotten the episode, but Iraqis most assuredly remember.
For their part, the Baathists took a similar message from the American attempt at outreach and reconciliation. For Garner to dine with al-Janabi signaled that the United States had no intention of rounding up regime officials and bringing them to justice. Power was within their reach, if they would only go for it. Meanwhile, the Iranian government could point to such evidence of American outreach as a way of convincing Iraq’s Shi’ites that Tehran, and not Washington, would be their reliable protector.
The Costs of “Re-Baathification”
The policy of “engaging” the enemy has very serious implications that go beyond the matter of how our intentions may be perceived. U.S. officials, critical of the Iraqis’ de-Baathification program, largely refused to support it. Indeed, the American leaders in Iraq have actually engaged in re-Baathification, a process that can be directly associated with increased violence and insurgency.
The U.S. “big tent” approach, for example, merely served to transform Mosul from a relatively peaceful city into a “no-go” area:
- Rather than confront Baathists and Islamists, it was decided to empower them. This was a catastrophic failure. After one of Saddam’s former generals, Muhammed al-Maris, was put in charge of the Iraqi Border Police at the Syrian border, Mosul became a transit point for insurgents.
- Another former Baathist general, Muhammad Kha’iri Barhawi, was selected as Mosul’s police chief. By day, Barhawi served the new Iraq, but by night he plotted the return of the “old guard.” In November 2004, with U.S. forces preoccupied with Fallujah, Barhawi handed control of Iraq’s second-largest city to insurgents.
- The outreach extended to Islamofascist elements, too: in Mosul, Islamists were placed on the city council and in key security positions.
To be sure, Mosul became relatively calm. But that quiet was purchased at a high price. “Reconciliation” led not to genuine peace but to the Islamicization of the city and the creation of a new safe haven for the export of terror. Americans, as well as Iraqis, are dying as a result.
Never Reward Violence
Terrorists--like a malignancy--must be eliminated rather than soothed with a diplomatic Band-Aid. It is an extremely grave mistake to try to co-opt them with concessions. Just as ransoming hostages engenders further kidnappings, rewarding violence sparks a cascading increase in violence.
Consider Fallujah. On March 31, 2004, terrorists in Fallujah ambushed, killed, and mutilated four nonmilitary U.S. security contractors. The following day, President Bush declared, “America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.”
But in the eyes of our opponents, America was indeed intimidated: the payoff for terrorism came swiftly. For twenty-four days, Coalition forces had encircled Fallujah. But now, instead of taking the city and ridding it of its “thugs and assassins,” the United States decided to empower them. It turned the city over to a newly created “Fallujah Brigade”--made up of former insurgents.
Upon learning of the deal, the Fallujah insurgents drove through the streets shouting, “We redeem Islam with our blood.” Minaret-mounted loudspeakers declared, “Victory over the Americans!” In the twenty-four days that followed the creation of the Fallujah Brigade, car bombings increased by 600 percent. Ultimately, Fallujah had to be taken by force, but this delay cost us dearly in Iraqi and American lives and in Iraq’s confidence in the U.S. commitment.
The War for Public Opinion
Our opponents in this war, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, respect strength, not compromise. They are merely emboldened by signs that their strategy of murder and mayhem is succeeding in the critical battle they believe they can win: the contest to influence American public opinion (see Step 8).
For all the loose talk comparing this conflict to the Vietnam War, there are more differences than similarities between them. Today’s enemy, however, clearly has learned the central lesson of Vietnam: a strategic victory over America becomes possible at the point when the American public becomes so demoralized and alienated that it insists the war be abandoned.
The insurgents’ car bombs and suicide attacks are not really a military tactic. Instead, these are weapons in the war for public opinion--Iraqi and American. The aim is not to win converts to their cause but simply to convince the liberators, and the liberated, that their efforts are futile.
This is why the terrorists in Iraq seek to slaughter as many Americans, Iraqis, and Coalition personnel--military and civilian--as possible. Their key aims are to obscure any evidence of progress, to escalate the costs of securing the new Iraq, and to thus lend support to those Americans who imagine that we can safely pull out our troops and walk away.
Surrender Is Not an Option
Anyone who thinks we can just walk away from the “war” in Iraq--as we ultimately did in Vietnam--lacks a clear understanding of either of these conflicts.
The American defeat in Southeast Asia had a profoundly adverse effect on our security, prestige, and influence. It not only signaled to our foes that large-enough casualties would cause us to retreat; it also put American allies throughout the world on notice that we would abandon them if we thought doing so would serve our interests. Simply put, the surrender of 1975 was the nadir of American power in the late-20th century.
But the effects of abandoning Iraq would be far worse. It would hand the Islamofascists and their allies a far more significant victory than did the boldly executed attacks of September 11. It would validate the Islamists’ most powerful recruiting tool: their claim that weak Americans and other infidels will inevitably be defeated by the jihadist warriors--that the future belongs to a new despotism, which seeks to impose the pitiless tyranny of radicalized Islam.
The effect on friendly nations would be no less devastating. Especially in states that are themselves under threat from the Islamists, many will conclude that their best hope lies in appeasing these enemies rather than expecting us to help defeat them.
Finally, our defeat in Iraq would validate the means by which radical Islamists have fought in Iraq: mass murder and assassination. There can be no doubt that terrorism would intensify all over the Free World--including within the United States--as dogmatic Islamists recommit ruthlessly to pursue their stated goal of a worldwide caliphate.
What Needs to Be Done
If failure is not an option, what needs to be done to support our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere?
1. Win in Iraq
For the time being, we cannot responsibly consider--and we should stop debating--any major reduction of U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq, let alone their complete withdrawal. Instead, we need to make a redoubled effort to accomplish the following tasks:
The Military Imperative
Use our troops to deny the enemy safe havens and isolate them from the populations they rely on for cover, support, and recruits. This task will require the number of U.S. troops in the country to remain at its current level for the foreseeable future. (Indeed, there may need to be temporary increases in our deployments, to help assure security at the time of critical referenda and elections.)
Be a Reliable Ally
Work to restore the confidence of the Iraqi people in our commitment to their future security and freedom, by making no further outreach or concessions to Baathists, Islamofascists, and others associated with the insurgency.
Develop the Iraqi Security Forces
Continue to build and support strong, well-disciplined, and well-trained Iraqi security forces. There are now roughly 170,000 Iraqi personnel in various stages of training, including army, national guard, police, and other security forces. By the end of summer 2006, these forces will number 250,000 courageous men and women, who daily take the fight to the enemy in the face of threats and violence directed against them and their families.
Iraq’s growing forces need our training to develop not only military skills but also a strong sense of ethics, honor, and respect for civil-military relations at all ranks and grades. Without an ethos of selfless service to the public, the trainees are unlikely to earn the respect and confidence of the Iraqi people.
We also need to provide Iraq’s security forces the equipment they need to execute their duties, including “up-armored” Humvees and heavier armored fighting vehicles; more powerful weapons, such as artillery and mortars; and aircraft, especially helicopters. They also will need adequate communications, logistics, and maintenance capabilities.
U.S. forces will, of course, leave Iraq at some point in the future; but we must reject any notion that an arbitrary date should be set for their withdrawal. Such a deadline would certainly encourage the terrorists to bide their time, preparing a new offensive in which they will no longer be facing U.S. troops. Top U.S. and Iraqi commanders must instead develop a plan that ties U.S. force withdrawals to the achievement of specific goals, related among other things to benchmarks of size, sophistication, and battlefield effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces.
2. Stay on the Offensive
In Step 9, we will consider nonmilitary strategies for dealing with various actual and potential adversaries. Whether or not those strategies are successful, we need to be mindful that, if we fail to keep our enemies off balance and on the run, we risk having to fight them some day within our national borders. If nonmilitary strategies are insufficient, military options are called for.
3. Transform the Military
With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government--executive and legislative branches alike--allowed U.S. military capabilities to erode dramatically. Although officials continued to claim that America’s military was adequate to fight two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously, our enemies readily understood that this was merely “talking the talk.”
We must do everything necessary to maintain the military forces we need today and to prepare for the likely needs of tomorrow. Given the stakes, we simply cannot afford to undergo the sort of hollowing-out that will result from trying to wage war on the cheap.
Current preparedness requires that we:
- meet the costs associated with the war effort
- ensure that we sustain the technological edge of our armed forces
- continue to field the most professional and best-trained forces in the world
- maintain the ability to project power rapidly and globally.
Even though we are currently facing determined, aggressive foes in Afghanistan and Iraq, these campaigns cannot distract us from the need to prepare our military--every element of it--for tomorrow’s major battles. There are two essential elements to this effort.
Assure That Our Troops Have the Resources They Need
We need make a realistic commitment to supply the resources needed to accomplish our military aims. This can best be accomplished by increasing the defense budget in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP). Currently, defense spending consumes roughly 3.2 percent of our GDP--a small fraction of what we committed when, during past wars, our national survival was at stake as it is today. Congress should increase defense spending to the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2006, 4.5 percent in fiscal year 2007, and 5 percent in fiscal year 2008.
Budgeting at this level (and backed by rigorous oversight and budgetary review) will permit our military to meet the pressing demands of its day-to-day combat operations, and make possible necessary, and in some cases long overdue, modernization programs.
Target the Leaders of Terrorist Organizations
We must Enhance the U.S. capability to target terrorist leaders, even on the territory of neutral or friendly countries, if necessary. This may require creating dedicated combined-arms units that can pack more punch than our Special Operations forces. Such units could include elite conventional ground combat elements as well as dedicated intelligence assets, unmanned aerial vehicles (such as Predator, Global Hawk, or Scan Eagle), and mobility capabilities (notably, the formidable V-22 tiltrotor). These units should be located in theaters of interest and ready to move at a moment’s notice.
4. Fashion New Alliances
The current War for the Free World will be a long one. It will have to be fought in, and primarily by, those nations where the threat has arisen. That is why the United States must aggressively pursue the creation of new alliances designed to support the long-term global war on terrorism. These alliances will entail:
- arrangements less formal than the NATO model, yet more durable than the ad hoc coalitions created to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq;
- long-term relationships that will support sensible intelligence sharing, training, interoperability, and multinational operations. Such relationships can make partner countries less vulnerable to becoming sanctuaries for terrorist organizations.
5. Recognize the Real Limits of Diplomacy
Our experience in Iraq, both before and after the conflict, underscores the importance of being realistic about the potential drawbacks of diplomatic negotiations involving implacable and duplicitous, yet patient, adversaries.
It is a firm tenet of democratic foreign policy that it is invariably better to discuss differences than to fight over them, and this is surely true, as far as it goes. However, if the real choice is between fighting a weak enemy today or a stronger one tomorrow, the diplomatic process may be merely a dangerous illusion. To the extent that discussions buy precious time for our foes to become more dangerous, they merely postpone the conflict to a time and circumstance of the enemy’s choosing.
6. Provide Quality Intelligence
In recent years, the U.S. intelligence community has been repeatedly criticized for a variety of shortcomings, including serious problems with the quality and conduct of intelligence gathering and analysis. CIA Director Porter Goss has begun to make personnel and management changes, in the face of stiff resistance from below and above; he deserves our strong support.
The following critical changes must be made (including undoing some recent, ill-considered reforms that have only made matters worse):
Encourage More Risk-Taking and Competitive Analysis
Intelligence analysis today is a bland, cautious, stultified business. Analysts are generally gun-shy--afraid to stick their necks out or to offer well-supported yet imaginative conclusions about the workings and intentions of secretive and hostile states.
The analyst who is inclined to be more creative is likely to be required to “tone it down,” to toe the accepted “party line.” To question the agencies’ preferred conclusions--which, by the way, bear a startling resemblance to the conventional wisdom of the foreign policy establishment and the New York Times editorial board--is to jeopardize one’s career.
Do Some Serious Housecleaning--in Both the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Analysis “Shops”
Careerists, many of whom were chosen by and promoted during a Clinton administration hostile to effective intelligence operations, should be replaced with professionals capable of thinking outside the box--the kind of thinking our adversaries often engage in. CIA Director Goss has made some modest personnel and other changes aimed at reforming CIA analysis but not enough to serve our urgent needs in time of war.
Bring Intelligence Professionalism into the State Department
The most political “intelligence” agency is the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR). INR’s highly partisan officers are closely allied with very liberal State Department careerists (see Step 10). Although INR is a small organization and nominally writes analysis only for the secretary of state, it is obtrusively active in interagency assessments, especially National Intelligence Community papers.
The mainstream media and some Democratic members of Congress have lionized INR for “getting it right” on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) programs. This claim is only partly true. INR did object to some aspects of the pre-war intelligence assessments of Iraq’s WMDsprogram (mostly concerning an alleged Iraqi nuclear weapons program). The bureau did not object, though, to the intelligence community’s analysis that Iraq had covert chemical and biological weapons programs. And INR was dead wrong when, in 1991, it objected to analysis that Iraq had a covert nuclear program before the Gulf War.
INR’s problems stem from unavoidable conflicts of interests arising from its peculiar composition and mandate: INR is ostensibly an intelligence agency, yet it is located within a policy agency and staffed by State Department officers. To correct this conflict, at least half of INR’s personnel should be managers and analysts on loan from other intelligence agencies. And to minimize the overt politicization of INR intelligence support, the bureau’s career officers should be required to attend intelligence analyst training courses at the CIA and the DIA and to serve on assignments in these agencies for significant portions of their careers.
Liberate U.S. Intelligence Collection
American efforts to gather intelligence through human and technical means has long suffered from bureaucratic problems that inhibit our ability to gather crucial information and to transmit it quickly to policy makers and commanders in the field. The human-source intelligence divisions (HUMINT) at CIA and DIA are especially bureaucratized, oriented to meeting internal agency goals that have little to do with needs of policy makers. Innovation and risk taking are, accordingly, discouraged.
Although most details regarding the CIA human intelligence operation are classified, the House Select Committee on Intelligence published this summary in the unclassified version of a June 2004 report:
After years of trying to convince, suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reaching changes to the way it conducts its HUMINT mission, . . . CIA, in the Committee’s view, continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff. The damage to the HUMINT mission through its misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations, and a continued political aversion to operational risk is, in the Committee’s judgment, significant and could likely be long-lasting.
Undo Recent, Harmful Intelligence “Reforms”
Putting U.S. intelligence on a true War Footing will mean more than reforming the intelligence community. It will also require dealing with and undoing ill-advised changes implemented over the past year, at the recommendation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (“The 9/11 Commission”). These changes--including, notably, the creation of a new layer of bureaucracy, in the form of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and his staff--were previously considered, and rejected, by the Congress. They were quite sensibly resisted by the Bush administration, until a combination of political circumstances induced the president to acquiesce and appoint Ambassador John Negroponte to serve as the first DNI.
A number of serious problems have flowed from this “reform.” For instance, the DNI’s office has sapped so many resources from CIA and DIA offices to create its new bureaucracy that intelligence support of senior policy makers has actually been reduced. And Ambassador Negroponte has put two Foreign Service colleagues in key positions for which they are poorly suited: Thomas Fingar as Deputy Director for Analysis and former ambassador Kenneth Brill as Director of the National Counter-Proliferation Center.
Thomas Fingar, now Deputy Director for Analysis, was previously part of the problematic and politicized management of the INR. The questionable accuracy of his testimony against John Bolton’s nomination to be UN ambassador raised doubts that he can assure the integrity and competence of the intelligence community’s analytical personnel.
Ambassador Kenneth Brill, newly named Director of the National Counter-Proliferation Center, was a perennial apologist for proliferators in his prior post as U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Shortly after he took up his current duties, the intelligence community leaked its conclusion regarding Iran’s weapons program: They decreed that Iran was, incredibly, at least 10 years away from having nuclear weapons. (This bizarre analysis is discussed in Step 9.)
This catalogue of intelligence deficiencies is not news. Factors such as these, however, contributed to the inability to collect and disseminate intelligence that might have either forewarned of the September terrorist attacks or produced accurate information on the true state of Iraq’s WMDs programs. That being so, it is deeply troubling that they remain largely uncorrected.
Our military forces, government policy makers, and law-enforcement officials all rely heavily on the work of the intelligence community. As long as it remains seriously dysfunctional in many areas, neither our military nor our civilian leaders will receive the quality of intelligence they require to prevail in this war.
We can win this War for the Free World being waged against Islamofascism and its sponsors only if we clearly understand how to support our troops--the men and women who are putting their lives on the line every day for our country.
If these various lessons can be learned and corrective actions taken as part of putting America on a real War Footing, the U.S. military and intelligence communities will be able to perform their vital roles in this global conflict. By so doing, they will give us the time and opportunity to implement the other, nonmilitary steps described in the chapters that follow.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.