A sobering op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal by Mackubin Owens, a professor at the Naval War College. He raises a disturbing possibility, suggested by Bob Woodward's recent book on the Iraqi troop surge and the decision-making that accompanied it.
Professor Owens states the issue bluntly: "Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq." He describes senior military leaders who actively lobbied against the surge concept and its implementation:
Although the conventional narrative about the Iraq war is wrong, its persistence has contributed to the most serious crisis in civil-military relations since the Civil War. According to Mr. Woodward's account, the uniformed military not only opposed the surge, insisting that their advice be followed; it then subsequently worked to undermine the president once he decided on another strategy.
In one respect, the actions taken by military opponents of the surge, e.g. "foot-dragging," "slow-rolling" and selective leaking are, unfortunately, all-too-characteristic of U.S. civil-military relations during the last decade and a half. But the picture Mr. Woodward draws is far more troubling. Even after the policy had been laid down, the bulk of the senior U.S. military leadership -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, the rest of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Abizaid's successor, Adm. William Fallon, actively worked against the implementation of the president's policy.
Owens also observes that military leaders played a role in creating the mess that existed before the surge. As the insurgency grew, then-JCS Chairman General Richard Myers and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, stuck with the strategy of "standing up" Iraqi security forces, so the U.S. could stand down. That policy was supported by General Abizaid and General George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, among others.
We know what happened. The surge worked, and Myers, Rumsfeld, Abizaid, and Fallon are all retired. But that begs an obvious question: if Woodward and Professor Owens are correct, why are General Casey and Admiral Mullen still serving?