Let me tell you something---I AM a soldier and have been one for nearly 50 years. Indeed, I have spent the majority of my adult life taking care of soldiers and no small portion of that time trying to keep them alive in places where people were actively trying to kill them. The first principle of military leadership that I was taught by some pretty great and battle hardened soldiers like Jim Barron, "Dutch" Shoffner and John (Shali)Shalikashvilli was that you don't gamble with your soldiers lives, or unnecessarily put them in harm's way. Precisely because it was necessary, I was very much in favor of the incursion into Afghanistan after 9/11. Although, thanks to an inept set of leaders including the Secretary of Defense, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, the CINCCENT (Franks) and, indeed, the President (who gave Rumsfeld his head)----they went in WAY TOO LIGHT!! Even to the extent (at Tommy Franks' insistence in Operation Anaconda) of leaving their artillery behind (a decision that, as an Artilleryman and fellow battalion commander with Franks in 1st Armored Division, still boggles my mind). That invasion was the right thing to do because that's where the bad guys were and are. Indeed, robbing troops from the Afghan effort in order to bolster the Iraq operation, in my opinion, contributed directly to the subsequent resurgence of the Taliban and their allies. And guess what---with the drawdown of US ground forces after the demise of the Soviet Union---we did not have enough soldiers in the active force to do both Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously and do them well. Don't forget, Al Qaeda fighters were and are in Afghanistan----there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq until we got there!!! (A point that the aforementioned Mr. Davis dismissed this morning when he was rationalizing the need to remove Hussein because he was harboring Al Qaeda! Baloney!!!)
That brings me to Iraq. When all the sabre rattling about invading Iraq was going on, I polled several of my colleagues, all of whom are former senior military officers and all of whom have ACTUALLY heard a shot fired in anger. Not one of us thought that invading Iraq was a good or smart thing to do. First, there was never any connection (except, perhaps, in Richard Perle's mind)between 9/11 and Iraq. If you wanted to invade a country with connections to 9/11, you should have invaded Saudi Arabia, since 17 of the 19 highjackers were Saudis. Second, The WMD argument seemed, to us, specious and, even if is was true, the WMD didn't, in our view, represent a "clear and present danger" to the US. Third, given that you invade, this was another case of not having enough force structure to do what we call "secure the objective". Fourth, addressing the "after the fact" spin reason/rationale for invading, which evolved into "...bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqis..." because Saddam was a rotten guy who mistreated his own citizens. So what if he was rotten? I have a headline for you---that part of the world has no shortage of rotten guys who mistreat their citizens. And, by the way, what makes you think that they (the citizens) were longing for democracy? It's not like they have a four thousand year history of TOLERANCE!!! And, by the way, Winston Churchill got it right---democracy is hard and the worst form of government except for all the others---it's a graduate course in civics---we're still working on ours for crying out loud!! And the "perceptive" Paul Wolfowitz ACTUALLY posited that this Iraq thing would be successful in a WEEK!!!
One more point and I'll stop. Does anyone REALLY believe that by fighting in Iraq, we were protecting America's freedom? That may play well on Sean Hannedy, but not in my foxhole. I will never forgive the G. W.Bush administration for ruining my Army by sending it into what Joe Galloway, co-author of "We Were Soldiers Once--And Young" has correctly characterized as an "elective war" in Iraq when we should have been concentrating on the justified combat in Afghanistan. If they hadn't done that, I doubt that Afghanistan would have become the mess that it is now.