Execution & Concept of The Iraq War

By 36 Comments 168 views

Interesting post by Matthew Yglesias on the Iraq war:

The past week saw a lot of “what did I get wrong”-type articles about Iraq and they frequently put me in the mind of the incompetence dodge. I note that one frequent way in which people argue for the proposition that poor execution, rather than an underlying flawed concept, are at the root of the Iraq disaster is to simply observe that mistakes were made in Iraq. For example, here’s my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg:

What the world is confronting five years after the invasion—the mess that Gen. David Petraeus is attempting to clean up today—was almost entirely preventable. It’s not only my encounters, inside Iraq and outside, with senior figures of the Bush administration that have convinced me of this; the investigations conducted by George Packer, Tom Ricks, Bob Woodward, and Michael Gordon, among others, have unearthed thousands—literally thousands—of mistakes made by this administration, most of which were avoidable.

What I wonder is what kind of evidence could disprove this line of reasoning. Suppose we were looking back on some military venture that was doomed to fail. Now suppose some supporter of that venture were arguing to us that, no, it wasn’t doomed at all — the trouble was the incompetence. The supporter can even find all these examples of incompetence — why here are all these decisions that got made! And the decisions worked out poorly! How inept! How dare you say it was doomed to fail? I mean of course a group of people who set out to do something unreasonable are going to wind up implementing their agenda poorly. What would a flawlessly-executed but doomed-to-failure war look like?

My argument would be that almost all wars seem “doomed to fail” from the outset (almost, since I can’t believe any honest individual thought we couldn’t win in Iraq). Who would of thought, in the late 30’s, that Hitler could of accomplished so much and taken over much of Europe? Most people would of said it was doomed to fail from the beginning. No way the man could take over almost all of Europe and driven deep into Russia. But everyone was proven wrong. Yes, he was eventually beaten, many years later, and AFTER he had taken all the terrortority no one thought he could take.

Wars are never neat and tidy affairs seeing as how your opponent also wants to win and will adapt to your strategies to gain the advantage. Having hindsight is always nice, in the real world we don’t have the luxury of it. You plan for what you think will happen, when it doesn’t then you need to adapt. One thing they beat into our heads while in the Marine Corps was that you always “adapt and overcome,” which is exactly what happened in Iraq.

One other point….who in their right mind would of thought that Iraq was doomed to fail? The best trained military in the world with the best soldiers in the world carrying the best weaponry in the world was going to get beat by Iraq?

Come on…..if we want to win there is no doubt we will win.

Our enemy understood they couldn’t beat us militarily (well, they did after getting their asses handed to them) and they adapted. They used the North Vietnamese method of turning the peaceniks loose hoping we lose the will to win……hasn’t worked yet, thankfully. But its a neverending battle making sure the Democrats and their cohorts in the MSM are not allowed to dictate what the truth is, as they were able to do in Vietnam.

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

36 Responses to “Execution & Concept of The Iraq War”

  1. 2

    Lew Zealand

    Most people would of said it was doomed to fail. But it didn’t.

    Oh, that’s a true Coke-on-the-monitor moment. Ummm, it did fail. In fact, it was the greatest military defeat in history. I wish I could turn on the snark, but faced with such complete idiocy, it seems pointless, like trying to outwit an amoeba.

  2. 3



    There have been no military defeats (failures) in Iraq, and so if the mission fails, it will not be the fault of those who fought. It will be because people other than soldiers and Marines lacked the will to succeed; the will to confront challenges, to brave the enemy, and to brave polls.

    I do not believe the US has failed or will fail.

  3. 5



    Lew, while I can see and understand the confusion, I believe Curt’s talking about the “Execution & Concept of The Iraq War” and the Hitler WWII reference seems to have thrown you off the main point: Wars are won in the will. Of course, you’re right that things didn’t work out at all for the Axis in WWII, they DID work out splendidly until-UNTIL-people had the will to stand up, take on the tough challenges (polls be damned).

  4. 6



    I probably could of worded that better but my point was that he accomplished so much before being beaten. No one thought he could of accomplished that much, no one…..and what he did was take over almost all of Europe, and hell…almost Russia also. Are you that partisan that you honestly believe someone doesn’t know how World War II ended? No need to answer that, you already did.

  5. 7

    Doc Washboard

    I probably could of worded that better but my point was that he accomplished so much before being beaten.

    If a Lefty posted something like this, you would have been immediately on the attack with the, “Spin all you want, Doc, but we know what you originally said.” Mike’s America would have chimed in with, “Doc, this reveals more than ever that you are the world’s biggest idiot. But remember: if you call me an idiot, I’m nuking your post. BLAR-HAR!!”

    When a Righty does it, though, everything’s copacetic.

  6. 8

    Doc Washboard

    There have been no military defeats (failures) in Iraq, and so if the mission fails, it will not be the fault of those who fought.

    You’re correct; there haven’t been any massive failures. I imagine that we could hold out in Iraq indefinitely, bleeding treasure and American lives. It sounds like a bad idea to me, though.

  7. 9



    Baloney. I may disagree with many lefties, some vehemently, but I am not so retarded that I would believe someone doesn’t know how World War II ended.

  8. 10


    Absolutes on win and lose are premature. History and success (or failure) has no end date.

    With formal surrender in previous wars, there was a definitive end to military combat. But the win or lose status was actually determined over time. i.e. the world is not speaking German, the governance of Germany became decidedly less genocidal and engaged with the western world. Yet had Hitler been replaced with another “master race” advocate, the SS revitalized, that military win would have been temporary. Only time was the marker for success in history for both Germany and Japan.

    But earlier wars were against States who could surrender as an entity. Today we are combating ideology, with forces of loosely associated thugs and gangs who owe no allegience to a State, or even to each other over time. They will never be totally eliminated. One can only hope other States control the human cockroaches in their midst, and cooperate with intel.

    EXECUTION? Thre’s always been blunders and missteps in wars. It is how the military strategists adjust with each event that determines efficient execution. I know of no “exit strategy” for previous wars. What kind of idiot came up with that notion anyway? I place no faith in a military that says “we’ll fight for 6 years, and if it doesn’t go our way, we’ll come home”. Talk about one for the “huh??” files…

    CONCEPT? I am privvy to details to judge overall strategy. Tho laymen deem thenselves expert enough to criticise a particular battle and it’s execution, they are unaware of the overview strategy at the top level.

    But this is my observation. Was the strategy to get Iraq to be a model for the rest of the region? Yes. Was part of the strategy to get all Muslim countries to reject not only the jihad movement, but the 3rd world conditions that come with Islamic/Shariah law? Yes. Was another strategy to breed infighting amongst the enemy? Nope… but that’s sure a bonus that’s happening. YES!

    With those strategic goals, there is notable progress. The Iraq government, merely 22 months old, faces the task of unity between factions more extreme than our own DNC/GOP divides. Iraqis themselves took control at the local level and bond against the jihad movement within their borders. Provincial elections are coming up in Iraq, which will aid that “bottom up” structure that has been successful so far.

    Universally, the decline of jihad approval amongst Muslims. Their desperate and brutal rules of engagement have played against them, and the Muslim world is slowly turning their back on their methods. And it is with Muslim intolerance for violent oppression, and rejection of Shariah/Islamic rule, that the “war” will ultimately be won.

    Winning? Yes, but not won. Failure. Nope… not unless we abandon them before they ask us to go, and thwart their chances for future success in time.

  9. 12

    Lew Zealand

    The hilarity stems from the fact you used a Jonah Goldberg style argument “the fact the German eventually lost only strengthens my point”. Yes you could have (not, of, by the way, have) termed it better. Or, simply not said anything.

    Though I’m warming to the inevitable path of that particular argument; should, for instance, the US decide to go to war with a huge, neighbouring country, say, oh, Iran, a la barbarossa, it’ll all end the same way. Massive, crushing, humiliating defeat for the invaders.

  10. 14

    Lew Zealand

    Also, Vietnam is also a very silly argument. France? Check. US? Check. China? Check. If there was a World Cup for wars, the black pyjama clad guys would be Brazil.

  11. 15



    Massive, crushing, humiliating defeat for the invaders.

    Rofl, yeah….we’ve had a massive, crushing, humiliating defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. That statement pretty much tells me all I need to know about your partisanship. Go back to DummiesU, KOS, & Sadly No!…..I think that brain cell deficient crowd suits you better.

    If there was a World Cup for wars, the black pyjama clad guys would be Brazil.

    Except that we won every battle except the battle against people like you back home.

  12. 16

    Richard Romano

    “If there was a World Cup for wars, the black pyjama clad guys would be Brazil”

    I believe the death toll (Iraq and Afghanistan) is something around 50-1, their deaths vs. ours. I don’t think Brazil would want to be associated with Islamist fools. Here’s one:


    It’s not even close — it’s just that idiots like you buy into the terrorists’ aims: to sow chaos in order to turn the American people against the war. It almost worked — now it’s only relegated to idiots like you, and the left wing ideologues on those sites Curt lists.

  13. 18

    Gregory Dittman

    At some point the U.S. government is going to have to define stabilization.

    To me it looks like the security matters are gone. With Al Qaeda on the run and Muqtada al-Sadr quit there doesn’t look like a security problem the Iraqis can’t handle and more than the U.S. military. The threat of a civil war is over. If there was going to be a massive civil war it would have happened. There could be a massive civil war at any time in the future there there could be another civil war in the U.S. some time in the future. I believe the hold up is that the generals and politicans are scared how they will be viewed historically if things go wrong that they are afraid to wrap things up.

    The problem now is a matter of infrastructure which can be sorted out be putting the Iraqis to work building stuff. This could be handled by thousands of advisors. In 1963, South Vietnam had 16,000 foreign advisors.

  14. 19


    At some point the U.S. government is going to have to define stabilization.

    More “definition”s… sigh. Stability would be when, totally left to their own devices and military capabilities – Iraq is able to secure itself sans US coalition forces hel, and continue a forward thrust with their Assembly legislation. This would include not only troop/police training, but the needed support sidebars… from ammo and weaponry present to issue, to an effective intelligence agency. Bummer for Iraq security when they have guns, but no ammo. Also a factoid I’ve read. They have cash for purchase, but no viable appropriations/allocation system for the treasure yet. Guess it takes a while to get those national bank/accounting systems down pat.

    Any any of you with more current info? Please leap in an update/correct me please.

    AQ hasn’t left. Neither has al Sadr, who’s just taking a sojourn to grab enough seminary education to make his lineage and position more credible in areas outside Sadr City. And both will remain, and have the ability to return to arms on quick notice with any Iraq instability.

    Bottom line, it’s not about Iraq coming thru a civil war. It’s Iraq coming thru a rebellious takeover by Islamic jihad factions after our departure…. local or foreign jihadists. It matters not. Both render an elected Iraq government obsolete.

  15. 20


    INRE the budgetary procurement status of the new Iraq govt, this is the last report I am aware of…

    As CentFla mentioned in another thread, would be nice if Iraq spent some of their reconstruction cash… and spent it wisely. But there are reasons for this holdup, and related to the “stability” of Iraq.

    This report was issued Jan of this year.

    The World Bank found that Iraq’s procurement procedures and practices are not in line with generally accepted public procurement practices, such as effective bid protest mechanisms and transparency on final contract awards. Iraqi procurement
    laws and regulations are composed of a mixture of Saddam Hussein-era rules, CPA Order 87 requirements,15 and recent Iraqi government budgetary practices. The complexity of Iraq’s contracting regulations combined with the inexperience of many new Iraqi officials has led to a pervasive lack of understanding of these laws and regulations, according to State officials.

    Evidently agreeing on a Constitution is one thing, but their budgetary procurement process is still lacking.

    An excerpt from the “Results in Brief” section:

    The government of Iraq faces many challenges that limit its ability to spend its capital project budget. First, Treasury officials noted that violence and sectarian strife delay capital budget execution by increasing the time and cost needed to award and monitor contracts, and by reducing the number of contractors willing to bid on projects.

    Second, these officials stated that recent refugee outflows and the de-Ba’athification process have reduced the number of skilled workers available and contributed to the exodus of these workers from Iraq.

    Third, U.S. and foreign officials also noted that weaknesses in Iraqi procurement, budgeting, and accounting procedures impede completion of capital projects. For example, according to the State Department, Iraq’s Contracting Committee requires about a dozen signatures to approve projects exceeding $10 million, which slows the process.

    There is much to go thru here that sets the brain cells a’whirl – including a section discussing US efforts to help them improve their budget execution. Not to mention the charges of corruption based on a 2006 survey by Transparency International. **Then again, it should be noted this survey was done during the interim Iraq govt, and prior to the permanent government formed mid-2006

    Then again, government and corruption – even in the US – go hand in hand. I would not be surprised to see corruption from people who have based survival on opportunism under Saddam’s regime.

    **NOTE: I confess no knowledge of this organization. It’s on my “to do” research list…

    The point is, that isn’t not merely violence and political progress. The details of running a govt, like appropriations of Central Bank monies (neede to fund police, army, etal) must be in place. Hard to fight an interal rebellion if the paperwork for ammunition, police and army pay, tanks, etal, are held up by paperwork.

  16. 21


    Scott said:

    “There have been no military defeats (failures) in Iraq, and so if the mission fails, it will not be the fault of those who fought.”

    How do you define a military defeat (failure)?

  17. 24



    definitely a military failure. Good point Doug, but the kind I’m talking about are failures due to enemy action. I’m curious, what effect do you think AG had on the war? Isn’t any enemy gain related to AG a propaganda defeat, and if so…what is the purpose of such propaganda?

  18. 25

    Philadelphia Steve

    The articles are saying bacisally what I have been: That the incredible levels of incompetence on the part of the Bush Administration have negated everything they claim to have accomplished.

  19. 26


    Phillie Steve, there was not a complete turnover of military employees inherited by the Bush admin from the Clinton admin. Would you not agree that many military failures may just stem from those leftover personnel? Under Clinton, they were not tested in such a war, and often you can’t weed out the inadequate until they leer their heads under pressure.

    Just as FEMA, not stocked from top to bottom with Bush appointees, had never been tested to the degree of Katrina. It was a mess before Katrina, but who knew since they never had to rise to such an occasion.

  20. 28


    I think AG was a disaster for us. It shifted Iraqi and Middle Eastern perception of us from liberators (in the sense of Operation Iraqi Freedom) to occupiers.

    Prior to the scandal,

    “More than half of Iraqis in a survey done primarily in March and early April said their nation will be better off in five years because of the U.S.-led invasion, but 55 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of the United States.”

    As the CNN poll shows just over 50% was generally the norm for almost all things Iraqi and American/British. Yet after the AG scandal there was a substantial change:

    92% felt the CPA were occupiers
    85% wanted the CPA to leave before or after the coming elections
    79% of the violence has increased because people have lost faith in the CPA
    71% were surprised by AG
    54% said all Americans behave as the Abu. G. guards

    20-40 percent increases in how we are negatively perceived. These numbers have generally remained constant since the AG scandal.

    To ‘win hearts and minds’ with those numbers you essentially have to let the older generation die off. The reality was that the AG scandal tore us up in Iraq and then internationally:

    Then there was other consequences:
    American troop casualties spike:

    Even Bush himself says, just after the AG scandal (he doesn’t mention the scandal — just the concurring dates): “Given the recent increase in violence, we will maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary.”`

    Note, also, the DoD starts their increase in violence trend (see chart) concurrently with the AG scandal; and it remains generally constant for over a year, until the mosque bombing and then goes much higher:

    In the Arab world views of America hit new lows after the scandal:

    Consequently, civil war and ethnic cleansing, CPA attacks, kidnapping, violence of all kinds and shapes edged up . Did the AG scandal cause this? I don’t know. No one can know that. However, the pattern is there, but causality is tricky. However, I think it is not unreasonable to argue that we gravely lost Iraqi respect and trust in the AG scandal and consequently lost command and control of the country after the event– and we haven’t gotten their confidence back– they think we are foreign occupiers. It was a huge military failure and effected our mission gravely.
    There are certainly enemy gains related to AG that are propaganda.

    “Isn’t any enemy gain related to the AG [scandal] a propaganda defeat” for us? I find this question to be very complex and too loose to be unpacked carefully, so until I can understand it clearly i can’t comment.

  21. 29

    Philadelphia Steve

    Re: "Phillie Steve, there was not a complete turnover of military employees inherited by the Bush admin from the Clinton admin."

    Of course.  Once again we hear the official Conservative theme song: "It’s not George Bush’s fault for anything.  It’s all Bill Clinton’s Fault".  Sung by Conservatives at evey opportunity, every time, every where.

    Will there ever arrive a day when Conservatives actually hold their own accountable?  Of course not.  Republican Party rules forbid it.

    Re: “I think AG was a disaster for us.”

    Agreed 100% It will take a generation before American can repair this damage, if ever. All the “punishment” of the lower level troops who were in the pictures will not undo those images, now being shown in Saudi Arabian sponsored fundamentalist schools to children throught the Islamic world. Donald Rumsfeld should have been fired onthe spot, Frog Marched out the door and pilloried in the town swauare, and perhaps we might have recovered. Instead he was extolled by the Vice President as the “Greatest Secretary of Defense in History”. That compounded the damage. William F. Buckley was correct when he stated that, in a Parlimentary sytem, even George W.Bush would have (in his opinion) resigned over something like that.

    That is why I am so vehement about the US publicly denouncig the use of troture, despite the claims of “success’ by the “24” fans. By doing so, we are declaring to the world, “and we’ll do it again”.

  22. 30


    Are we winning this war? Well, I guess you could say we haven’t lost anything yet…other than the lives of our soldiers. And for what purpose? How about a little bit of domination for oil because that’s what our country’s government is looking for over there. Do you think America really has an advantage because "we are the best"? So it has become an issue of world power now, has it? If you think America is going to win with "no doubt," just think, "What have we won?"

  23. 31


    MataHarley said: "Phillie Steve, there was not a complete turnover of military employees inherited by the Bush admin from the Clinton admin."

    Phillie Steve responded: Of course.  Once again we hear the official Conservative theme song: "It’s not George Bush’s fault for anything.  It’s all Bill Clinton’s Fault".  Sung by Conservatives at evey opportunity, every time, every where.

    Steve,  this comment is so full of horse manure and personally insulting that I hardly know where to begin.  Fact is, civil servant and Pentagon officials span *many* administrations – from Clinton’s AND previous admins.   And those inherited may be old school in warfare, and not adept at planning and managing an urban guerilla war against a stateless thugs who call no nation home.  

    I have a problem with many government officials, and most especially the GOP in Congress.  I have a problem with many of Bush’s appointees.  And I have many problems with his domestic policies.  Fact is, I’m not a fan of Congress or our government in general.  It’s become so large and cumbersome, it’s nigh impossible to manage.  And both sides of the aisle do nothing but make it more expansive.

    Yet if one disagrees with you, it’s the conservative label insults and clump groups together with extreme personal assault. Let me throw one back at you. You are the iconic mouthpiece for the liberal progressive movement in this country. Tolerance, my ass. You demonstrate the most vile aspects of intolerance while waving the “tolerance” banner.

    So don’t be putting words in my mouth.  Most especially *yours*!  My thought patterns are not so partisan and Neanderthal.

  24. 32


    BTW, Steve.  I apologize for my personal ire at you.  But you’re being a real yo yo.  But so you know where I’m coming from…

    Civil employees and many Pentagon employees are inherited from previous admins.  I couldn’t say that the Bush admin inherited employees from Bush 41. There was 8 years inbetween.  Thus the Clinton admin inclusion.

    However, had the previous admin been a Bush 42 instead of 41, my comment would have been the same.

    It’s more than plausible that the things that you want to blame Bush for actually eminate from civil employees and military personnel that could have been there for years, and beyond the 15 years it would take to be hired under a different POTUS.

    And none in the previous admins (so you, Mr. Hypersensitive, don’t feel I’m singling out Clinton) have been tested for the magnitude of natural disasters (i.e. FEMA/Katrina) or wars (i.e. those experienced in urban guerrilla warfare in Iraq) that we are facing now.

    Sometimes a CIC just doesn’t know who’s up to the task until the task hits the fan.

    However the particular admin POTUS was not my point.  My point is, you have a tendancy to think if your next door neighbor farts, it’s Bush’s fault. Or, as ChrisG says, much more distinctly,  on the passport thread:

    This was entirely predictable. Once again Steve absurdly blames the Bush Administration for all of his projected woes. President Bush does not hire contractors, general employees, or virtually anyone else, for the State Dept, DoD, or any other government organization. No President does. They select the few people at the top who are there a few years. The organization is run by career GS workers.

  25. 33

    Philadelphia Steve

    Re: "Yet if one disagrees with you, it’s the conservative label insults and clump groups together with extreme personal assault."

    I state that because the very first thing I can count on seeing in the response to any post about a blunder made by the Bush Administratio starts with, "well… it all began during the Clinton Administration…" and never gets beyond that.


    And, BTW, thank you for the apology for showing your anger.  I took no offense whatsoever.  While it may appear illogical, being told that I am full of horse manure is not offensive (to me), as opposed to the childish name calling ("go out and play..") type comments that seek to discredit anything I say merely through the use of schoolyard taunts.

    There may be no logic to my making those distinctions, but I do.

    No offense taken.  Have a great day, though.

  26. 34

    Philadelphia Steve

    Re: "This was entirely predictable. Once again Steve absurdly blames the Bush Administration for all of his projected woes. President Bush does not hire contractors, general employees, or virtually anyone else, for the State Dept, DoD, or any other government organization. No President does. They select the few people at the top who are there a few years. The organization is run by career GS workers. "

    So the Conservative position is that "no one is accountable for anything negative consequences, ever".  Everyone can do anythihing and no one is responsible since "the systemn" is around forever.

    Of course, when it comes time to hand out credit, Conservatives have been very quick to give themselves high fives every chance they get.

    Does that mean that "Morning in America" was really due to Carter Administration holdovers?  (Conservative answer:  "Of course not, SaintRonald was the perfect president and everything he did was great and he never did any wrong").  The "holdover" story only applies to bad things that happen during Republican Administrations.

  27. 35


    premium_subscriber, subscriber

    This was entirely predictable. Once again Steve absurdly blames the "conservatives" for all of his projected woes.  Steve, your asinine "conservative" BS is as tiring as it is flatly wrong.

    No Steve, THIS Conservative’s position (as opposed to your fantasy ‘conservative’) is that we need HUGE reforms in the GS hiring and retention system along with real reduction in government size and scope (yes, in case you missed it, I did not give president Bush one of your idiotic "passes" for this issue).  Reforms which are not going to happen under the government workers union’s watch even though some were tried.  There is a joke about GS employees, they are like a broken shotgun.  They do not work and you cannot fire them.

    Now, I work with quite a few great GS workers who do everything possible for us to succeed.  However, the poor ones, and the powerful ones who are entrenched in their fiefdoms are impossible to displace and they know we (military members placed in charge of them) will be gone to a new assignment in 18 mo to 2 years.  These GS workers will still be right where they were before.  This is especially true in the higher level GS/SES levels. 

    The same holds true for ANY Presidential administration.  Cabinet officials/appointees tend to last one term or less and any changes they make can be undone by the career workers.  This is becoming more and more of an issue and will continue to be one, no matter who is elected until serious reform is forced upon the government.  As I said, I do not see that reform coming from any candidate or political direction (Center-right or Left) any time soon.

  28. 36

    Philadelphia Steve

    I do not agree with your assesment of the situation about problems being due to career government employees countering political appointments.  Afer all, the horse show judge in charge of FEMA was a political appointee.  And the Gonzalez Justice department purged quite a few career employees, in favor of Loyal Bushies.

    But I appreciate your frustration with trying to implement change, and being frustrated by organizational inertia (contrary to many comments, the corporate world can be a bureaucratic as any governmental entity, it’s just that in their case the situations do not make headlines).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *