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American Government Involvement in Iraq

Introduction

Washington Post author, Thomas E. Ricks does a commendable job in showing readers why the Iraq war was a disaster from its inception. Through numerous interviews and analyses, the writer gives evidence on this concept. Subsequent portions of the paper will look at his assertions in detail and some opinions shall be given on whether these arguments are plausible.

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The author’s claims

Ricks (2006) firmly asserts that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was a big mistake. He claims that this could be seen even before the Invasion began. First of all, President Bush exaggerated the role that Saddam Hussein played in the war. As if that was not enough, he had very little international support to proceed with the war but he ignored that anyway. It wasn’t just external forces that advised against this invasion. Even members of the US defense force felt that the war was a blunder. Those that realized the inevitability of these actions actually tried to come up with plans that would at least ensure success there.

An example was the previous Army chief of staff. He submitted reports to his seniors claiming that the US needed a substantial presence in Iraq in order to carry out its mandate efficiently. Many other Generals in the US Army also felt that it was wrong to invade Iraq; an example includes Generals Zinn. However, these pleas fell on deaf ears; the serving Defense secretary (Rumsfeld Donald) and his Deputy mistook this war as a light mission that could be implemented speedily and smoothly.

A number of parties in the US Defense system also felt that the US had not adequately prepared for the invasion. Members of the State Department were often found arguing with members of the Defense Department. Uniformed military members would often argue with members of the Coalition Provision Authority on Iraq and this eventually led to deep division even before the war started.

Not only was opposition to this Invasion a solid reason for not carrying it out, but there was also poor planning on the part of the US government through the military. The latter group was well aware of the eventualities and problems that could emanate out of such an invasion but they chose to push that aside. They did not bother making preparations or allocating enough resources to deal with such eventualities. The consequences of these haphazard actions led to numerous casualties, death, financial disarray in the US, and a tarnished image of the country.

Ricks (2006) supports his arguments through the use of numerous military documents obtained both personally and from other secondary sources available to the public. He also cites several other documents printed by newspapers, books, and other common media platforms.

In the book, the author believes that the biggest problem with the US invasion of Iraq was the lack of strategy. He affirms that the United States needed to answer a few questions first before entering there and they included: who the US was, why the US was invading Iraq, how they were going to achieve their objectives and the kind of manpower necessary to do so. Ricks (2006) claims that if the military had figured out the end goals of the war then perhaps, they would have succeeded in Iraq. Instead, it was quite shortsighted in its approach. All it was concerned about was the issue of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Very little attention had been given to what would happen once this mission had been accomplished. In other words, members of the military had no idea what they needed to do in order to restructure the governance structures of this country, streamline the criminal justice systems in Iraq, and how to ensure that the people of Iraq could access basic amenities. The army had confused two completely separate issues: overhauling Iraqi structures and enforcing regime change. (Ricks, 2006)

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Upon invasion of Iraq, there were still a series of problems that continued to fuel the war even further. Since members of the US army had been poorly trained or briefed on their mission in Iraq, they ended up doing what they thought was best for themselves and disregarded the people of Iraq. Military supervisors were equally haphazard in their decisions. In fact, this was the reason why there were some reported cases of abuse by the US military. Ricks (2006) further claims that the army was so preoccupied with its own safety to the point of causing harm to civilians in Iraq but if the military had a sound strategy in Iraq, they would have realized that the last thing Iraq needed was excessive force. Instead, attention should have been given to the restoration of governance in Iraq especially after the regime change. In fact, the author adds that perhaps the US’s fortunes would have changed if the country had deployed more forces to counter the looming insurgency.

The latter insurgency was not a new thing to the US army. It had dealt with a similar situation in Vietnam. However, when certain military personnel advised senior government representatives to borrow a leaf from the Vietnam War, the latter individuals quickly dismissed that advice. This failure to pay attention to such well-informed recommendations is what contributed to the prolonging of the war.

Another tactical failure that the US Army committed was trying to handle everything by themselves without engaging Iraqi citizens. After overthrowing former President Hussein from power, the Army immediately removed civil and military Iraqi officials from their positions. The US did this despite warnings by security analysts in 2002 concerning such actions. Failure to listen to such knowledgeable persons led to growing disdain for the US within Iraqi. In fact, Ricks (2006) interviewed an Iraqi citizen who claimed that he did not understand what the US had come to do in his country. He wondered what exactly the US was after when it had asserted that it had come to ‘liberate’ the Iraqi people. This citizen felt a lot of remorse against the United States in general because the latter thought that they could eradicate Iraq’s morals, customs and traditions and make them replicas of the West. While this individual may not have accurately captured the US’s purpose in his country, he showed how confusing the US mission was and how members of the military were sending all the wrong signals to the Iraqi people.

Ricks (2006) adds that none of the objectives for which the war had been set were achieved as there was no successful regime change enforced in Iraq. Instead, a small insurgency became a massive one. Additionally, the US did not achieve its mission of stamping out the Al-Qaida. In fact, they gave the latter members a new target and renewed vigor in attacking the west.

An analysis of the author’s assertions

There is no doubt that Thomas Ricks dedicated a lot of time and effort to preparing the book because he substantiates his arguments with very credible sources. He also manages to inject fresh insights into the war as he goes out of his way to trace the root causes of the problems in Iraq. Unlike some anti-Iraq war writers, the latter individual gives concrete claims as to why the war went wrong. Examples include failure to prepare for the war, disregarding expert opinion, lack of a strategy, poor planning, conflicts between various defense stakeholders, poor leadership from within and without the military, failure to counter an insurgency, and lack of a vision to eventually exit the war.

The writer also chose a good title for his book because it gives a potential reader an idea of what the book will talk about even before reading it. The term “Fiasco” denotes the disastrous causes and effects of the Iraqi war and the author does not fail to cite several examples of why the war was a disaster. In fact, the whole book is about what caused the Fiasco, how Americans are dealing with it, and what can be done to overcome this fiasco. (Ricks, 2006)

Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the fact that this author engaged in some overstatements here and there. For instance, he claims that the Iraqi war was the biggest mistake that the US has ever made in any war. However, he does not give readers reasons why he thinks that this is so. If one uses the most common parameter to assess the intensity of war i.e. numbers of casualties, it is clear to see how this claim is a bit inflated. The number of US soldiers that died from the Iraq war does not even come close to the casualties from the Vietnam War which were approximated at five thousand shies of 100000 deaths.

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At some point, the author has also been carried away by his disapproval of the Bush generation to the point that he makes unfounded allegations. For example, when he discussed why former Vice president Cheney supported the extermination of the Iraqi President, he asserts that this change of his viewpoints may have been brought on by some health complications. This is clearly irrelevant since there is no link between changing one’s opinion about something and having a physical health condition. Besides the latter, this author is so devoted to discrediting the Bush personnel that he sometimes makes premature conclusions. For instance, he asserts that the US military was too eager to employ recent technologies such as PowerPoint presentations. He further adds that this was indicative of the light-handed manner with which the Army had taken on the Iraqi mission. The author has therefore managed to make a very positive aspect about the military negative. There is no problem in utilizing such technologies and comparing them to failure in planning is a bit premature.

Nonetheless, one cannot fail to recognize the organized way with which the author comes to his conclusions about poor leadership and direction in the Army. He does this by looking at what happened at the beginning of the war and then follows this up with monthly analyses of the goings-on in Iraq. For instance, in the Month of May 2003, the Iraqi Army was dispersed and then in the month of August that same year, he recounts how the Army made a resolve to be extreme with this particular group.

On the flip side of this issue is the fact that the book places too much attention on the beginnings of the Iraq war. Most of the details outlined in the book start from 2002 and run through to 2004. It is, therefore, possible to see how this work will quickly lose relevance in the American public because it is too event-specific. The author would have improved his writing if he had placed such occurrences within a historical setting. By choosing to dwell on specific exchanges, decisions and the like, ideological perspectives are missing from the book. Perhaps it was difficult for the author to inject such analyses as he was a journalist and at the time of his writing (Pritzker, 2009), the war was still ongoing, and therefore making conclusions on the matter would have been preemptive of him.

The book is about the war in Iraq, it should therefore contain viewpoints from different parts of the debate. Thomas Ricks would have appeared more neutral if he delved into the history and culture of the Iraqi people. Although he made a point of interviewing some Iraqi people as he has several quotes from the latter group, there is still an underlying need to look at things from their culture. This could have added even more depth and insight into the book.

Ricks (2006) is sometimes overtaken by the need to carve out clear wrongdoers and victims. In an attempt to make his book interesting, the work tends to classify actions as either black or white. However, any expert on war and the Iraqi invasion, in particular, can quickly assert that things are not always this simple. There are certain things that the Bush administration had no way of knowing prior to the war. This also underscores the unpredictability of war and the repercussions that it can cause. In an attempt to find a well-laid-out story for such a difficult war, the author has compromised his objectivity in looking at all sides of the coin.

Conclusion

Despite his shortcomings, the author has succeeded in offering a lucid explanation concerning the war in Iraq. He has managed to do this through various angles and insights. He has also not fallen short of the reader’s expectations in looking for support for his claims. This, therefore, serves as a good reference for future undertakings in war. Nonetheless, the author would have improved his work a little more if he refrained from vilifying a vast number of Bush personnel and instead looked at facts more objectively.

References

Pritzker (2009). Thomas Ricks. Web.

Ricks, T. (2006). Fiasco, The American Military adventure in Iraq. NY: Penguin Publishers

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 15). American Government Involvement in Iraq. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/american-government-involvement-in-iraq/

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