SEN. BIDEN: The hearing will come to order.
(Aside.) Hey, General; how are you?
Yesterday, Mr. Chairman, I introduced a Senate resolution, along with Senators Hagel, Levin and Snowe, expressing opposition to the president's plan to, from our perspective, deepen the military involvement in Iraq. And that resolution, Senate -- Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 -- was referred to this committee.
As you and I have discussed, it is my intention to schedule a committee action on that resolution today. But you have asked me, totally appropriately, to hold this matter over until next week, and unless something has changed -- which is totally consistent with the practices of this committee -- we'll honor that request, and it will be held over until next week. That's appropriate.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Yes, until next Wednesday.
SEN. BIDEN: Until next Wednesday.
And last night, I say to our colleagues, we issued a notice of a business meeting for next Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. to consider this resolution.
Gentlemen, welcome. What a distinguished panel. Our focus today is on the military strategy that must complement a political and diplomatic strategy in Iraq.
We have a profound appreciation for the sacrifices and courage that the men and women you led, and are being led by others now, have made for this country, in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, but particularly folks today in Iraq. They have done everything -- in my seven trips over there that I've observed -- they have done everything that's been asked of them, they have done it incredibly well, and they've done it without question.
But their efforts do not take place in a vacuum. Were Iraq purely a military conflict, we would have prevailed a long time ago. But as we all know, the situation is far more complex. It combines elements of classic insurgency, fundamentalist terrorism, criminality and, increasingly, an intensifying sectarian civil war.
All this occurs against the backdrop of a fragmenting country in a failing state. I, quite frankly, think I worry more about the country just fragmenting than the civil war. I realize they're (sic) hard to make these clear distinctions and what constitutes what, but it's clear to me that -- let me put it this way: I'm not at all certain we have a clear and coherent mission for the United States armed forces in such an environment, and I'm not sure I've heard one yet.
What's the proper sequencing of military and political efforts? Is security a prerequisite for political settlement? Or is a political settlement a prerequisite for military success? What stresses are multiple rotations in Iraq placing upon our armed forces? And what are the implications for ability to respond to future crises?
To help us answer these and other questions, we are joined by four witnesses with formidable records in leading our armed forces:
General Barry McCaffrey served in the national -- as the director of National Office of Drug Control Policy from '96 to 2001. The poor guy had to deal with me almost every day when I was chairing or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, but it was a great pleasure for me. Prior to that, he served as the commander in chief of the Southern Command. The recommendations he has presented after his trips to Iraq over the last couple years have been valuable and, in my view, farsighted.
General Jack Keane served until 2003 as the vice chief of staff to the Army. He has contributed to a recent report, which I read in whole, which lays out a plan to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq in order to stabilize Baghdad.
General Joseph Hoar, who has always made himself available to this committee and the Congress and me in particular, is a very familiar face. He retired from the Marine Corps, after a distinguished career, in 1994. In his last three years of active service, he was commander in chief of U.S. Central Command.
And General William Odom, whom we've called on many times and gotten the benefit of his wisdom, retired as director of the National Security Agency in 1988. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and teaches at Yale University -- perhaps most relevant for our discussion today -- in his current role in planning and assessing the, quote, "national pacification plan" during the Vietnam War.
We look forward to the testimony of all our witnesses. And I will place in the record a longer exposition of their distinguished records, but in the interest of their time, I will leave it at that. And I will turn to my colleague, Senator Lugar.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for this hearing and for the ongoing series of hearings in which we're trying to come to grips with our situation in Iraq.
As this committee continues inquiries, Congress is contemplating nonbinding resolutions disapproving of the president's strategy. It appears, however, to me that such resolutions are unlikely to have an impact on what the president does, and even as Congress begins to stake out political turf on the Iraq issue, the president's moving forward with his troop surge.
In recent days, both the president and vice president asserted that, irrespective of congressional reaction to the president's plan, the administration will proceed with additional deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq. Now, although many members have genuine and heartfelt opposition to troop increases, I'm unclear at this stage that any specific strategy commands the majority of informed opinion inside or outside of Congress. One can find advocates for the president's plan, for troop increases larger than the president's plan, for partition of Iraq, for an immediate withdrawal of American forces, for a phased withdrawal, for a recommendation of the Iraq Study Group, even for other plans.
In such a political environment, we risk having reasoned debate descend into sloganeering. Notions of, quote, "protecting democracy" or, quote, "achieving victory," end of quote, mean little at this point in our Iraq interventions. Nonbinding resolutions may be appropriate, but in the face of a determined commander in chief, their utility for American policy is likely to end with their passage.
If Congress is going to provide constructive oversight, we must get into the weeds of the president's current policy in ways that do more than confirm political opposition against it. And regardless of how we voted any given resolution, we will still be confronted with a situation in Iraq that requires our attention and our participation.
Yesterday we tapped diplomatic experts to discuss the regional context of our efforts in Iraq, and next week we'll explore the necessary economic elements. Today, we have the benefit of an outstanding panel of former military commanders who have given much thought to Iraq. They bring with them many decades of combined experience in our Army and Marine Corps.
The discussion that will unfold today may have some familiar rings. On February 11, 2003, this committee -- the Foreign Relations Committee -- assembled a panel of military experts, including one former CENTCOM commander, to analyze the military situation in Iraq.
I stated on that day, and I quote: "Success in Iraq requires that the administration, the Congress and the American people think beyond current military preparations and move toward the enunciation of a clear post-conflict plan for Iraq and the region. We must articulate a plan that commences with a sober analysis of the costs and squarely addresses how Iraq will be secured and governed and precisely what commitment the United States must undertake," end of quote. These statements, which Chairman Biden and others echoed, still hold true today.
The president has presented his plan to the American people, and it has been further articulated in hearings by Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates and General Pace. But I don't believe that we have yet an adequate understanding of what is intended militarily, how this military strategy translates into Iraq political reconciliation and how the plan will be adjusted when it encounters obstacles.
As veteran military planners and strategists, our panel's opinions will be helpful as we analyze the president's proposal and attempt to provide responsible oversight. And we're grateful for this opportunity to pose fundamental questions about our capabilities and our tactics on the ground in Iraq.
To begin with, I would ask our experts to give us their views of the military significance of the president's planned deployment. Can 21,500 additional American troops make a discernible difference in Iraq? Can this boost in our capability stabilize Baghdad? Quite apart from political constraints, how long can the United States sustain this deployment militarily? Have we accounted for the likely obstacles to military success?
The president tends to embed troops with Iraqi units -- a recommendation of the Iraq Study Group. In this strategy -- is this strategy likely to succeed? And to what extent are Iraqi units infiltrated by officers and by enlisted personnel whose primary loyalty is to a militia, a tribe or an ethnic group? What risks do these competing loyalties pose for U.S. troops embedded with those units?
Any long-term stabilization strategy, other than perhaps the deliberation partition of Iraq, depends on the training of Iraqi forces. This has been true for several years now, and members of this committee have focused much effort on getting accurate answers to questions related to Iraqi troop training. But are we making progress in training the Iraqi army, and do Iraqi units have the capability to undertake difficult missions on their own? Perhaps more importantly, what rational evidence exists that an Iraqi army will be cohesive and will operate under the limitations imposed by the central government?
Dr. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution testified in our first hearing of this series that there only about 10,000 -- 10,000 -- politically reliable forces in the Iraqi army. Do Iraqi units have sufficient equipment and logistics capability to operate effectively, and, if not, can we safely remedy those deficiencies? How much U.S.-provided equipment is being transferred to militias?
Now, Congress has a duty not just to express its views but also ensure the commander in chief's course is scrutinized. And in anticipation of funding requests and other policy decisions, our committee is committed to this course, and I remain hopeful that the president and his team will engage us in a meaningful way. And we thank our witnesses today for helping our understanding.
SEN. BIDEN: Gentlemen, let me begin by making two points before I call on the witnesses.
One, there have been some positive comments made about the quality of the witnesses that we've had before the committee. I want to make it clear that this has been a total joint exercise, that Senator Lugar's staff and mine, and Senator Lugar and I have -- this has been -- I mean, either one of us could have been chairing this and get into the same place we got to for cooperation. I think it's important for people out there to know that -- number one.
And number two, Senator, I wish more than the few people on this committee had paid heed to your opening salvo back when we were contemplating going into Iraq. We might not be where we are.
But having said that, let me -- I know I have four high-ranking military guys before me, and I want to make sure that I go according to protocol here. I'm just an Irish kid who's not real big on protocol. I've never learned it very well.
But I understand, General Keane, that you technically outrank McCaffrey, but McCaffrey was in the Cabinet, so we're going to start with McCaffrey first. (Laughs.)
General McCaffrey, General Keane, General Hoar and General Odom, I invite your testimony in that order. I know we're always telling you to hurry. I don't care whether you hurry. I think what you have to say is very, very, very important to us. We'll put your entire statements in the record, but I don't want you to feel too constrained to rapidly just, you know, spit it all out in a few minutes here. We're really anxious to hear what each of you has to say.
So, General McCaffrey.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, Senator Biden, Senator Lugar and the other committee members, it's really an honor to be here. I will briefly try and make seven points, and I look forward to responding to your own questions.
As you know, I am in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Kuwait, and I've tried to follow this issue closely, partially from a position as a faculty member at West Point. So I've been using that position to try and stay engaged and objective and nonpartisan on both homeland security and international security issues.
The first is, it seems to me that the situation in Iraq is clearly desperate but is not terminal. I see no reason why this beleaguered nation of 27 million people, with all of its problems, couldn't be turned around by sensible strategy and a sensible application of resources.
Now, having said that, if you take a snapshot of what's going on in Iraq today, which is well known to all of us in the room, there is, you know, looking at the situation -- 26,000 killed and wounded; maybe $400 billion expended; probably 3,000 Iraqi civilians murdered per month; hundreds of thousands of internal and external refugees; a brain-drain flight of the middle class and professional classes of Iraq out of the country; our allies are leaving us -- make no mistake about that -- and will be largely gone by the coming summer; and when you look at Iraq's six neighbors, none of the them, with the exception of the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, perhaps, have positively engaged in support of the ongoing situation and, indeed, are unlikely to do so.
How would you characterize the ongoing struggle? And there has been what some term a semantics distinction on is it a civil war, what's the nature of the struggle? Are they dead-enders, are they Ba'athists? Is it only the Saddamites trying to come back into power?
I'd say there's four struggles going on, only two of which are crucially important to U.S. national interests. There's no question there's massive criminality and a dysfunctional police force, meaning urban neighborhood police forces. And if you're an Iraqi mother, that may indeed be the most significant challenge you have, fearing abduction of your children, extortion, robbery, the lawlessness of the streets. It's not a strategic interest of the United States.
The second comment -- which I may be a lone voice in -- although there is a foreign fighter jihadist element in Iraq, as a general statement, I do not believe we are generating international terrorism inside Iraq that remains a direct threat to the United States or our Western allies. And indeed, when you look at the operations of the tier one Special Forces units in particular, we have been devastating in our effectiveness against these foreign fighters. By and large, 70 to 100 a month come into the country, and they're dead within two weeks. So I would argue that is not a strategic concern of the United States.
Third, there is -- no question -- a Sunni insurgency against what, in sort of a legal fiction, is an established government to regain power. So there's an element of insurgency there, and I would assume that a decade from now, Anbar province will still be in a state of lawless insurgency.
Finally, fourth, regardless of how we parse the phrases, in my judgment, Iraq has been in a civil war darned near from the time we went in there. It's a struggle not just for political power but for survival in the world that will exist after the expected U.S. withdrawal. In my judgment, the Iraqis and I have come to a similar conclusion that we're going to be out of there, by and large, in 36 months. And so they're watching the backfield in motion. I apologize for the sports metaphor. They're saying, "How do I live through the next phase of Iraq's existence?" And it's difficult for them to sort that out.
Second observation: the Iraqi army.
Michael O'Hanlon, who, along with Tony Cordesman, may be two of the most astute people watching this issue. I'm disturbed by the notion of 10,000 politically reliable troops. I've been in a lot of Iraqi army battalions that I think are patriots; they're courageous; they're mixed Shi'a and Sunni, largely Sunni officers, in many cases with Republican Guard backgrounds. They do lack training; they do lack a political legitimacy for the government that they allegedly are supposed to fight for, but I would also underscore they are also grossly inadequately equipped and resourced.
And so if somebody wanted to talk about a surge of U.S. support for Iraq, I would question why are Iraqi infantry battalions have 30 Toyota trucks, a collection of junk Soviet small arms, no artillery, no helicopters, no tactical airlift. And the numbers which I've been banging away at for the last three years are 5,000 light-armored vehicles, a couple hundred U.S. helicopters, 24 C-130s, all U.S. small arms, at least a battery of artillery for Iraqi division. And the pushback will be -- and some of it is legitimate -- "Wait a minute; we're concerned about the ensuing large-scale civil war." The other pushback is, "Look, we're not talking about fighting maneuver warfare against our neighbors; this is internal counterinsurgency."
Can you imagine the commander of the 1st Cavalry Division being told to hand over his light-armored vehicles, "Don't operate with our counter-battery fire at the fobs" that are under nightly rocket and mortar attack?
We've got to equip the Iraqis. If we're going to spend $8 billion a month fighting these people, why wouldn't we consider a shot over the coming three years of equipping them so they can replace us as we withdraw? And we will withdraw.
Point number three: economic reconstruction.
There is a good argument you can't do economic reconstruction effectively unless you have security. I understand that linkage. I cannot imagine you -- the Congress provided $18 billion-plus in economic reconstruction aid. Much of it was badly spent, badly supervised. And by the way, much of it was implemented by 85,000 contractors. Maybe that's a right number. Maybe 600 were killed. Maybe 4,000 were wounded. Without that contractor effort, this war would have ground to a halt two years ago.
But when you look at it, the president's current proposal says $1 billion in CERP money, which is well received by our battalion and company commanders, who want to do small projects and engage local Iraqi political authorities. But I would argue if we're not willing to put $10 billion a year, pledged for five years, into Iraq, we've said the only option we're moving forward with is the U.S. armed forces.
So again, I would say we must stand with Iraqis. And the answer you get now to the administration is, "Our allies have pledged $13 billion; they've got to come through." That's silly. They're not going to come through. And a lot of it's loans, not pledges, anyway.
Bullet number four: There's much discussion on the hopelessness of a political dialogue with Syria and Iran, the hopelessness of really negotiating with Sunni insurgents who see their survival at stake. I respect and understand that. Many of us in this room have been involved in hopeless negotiations that went on for a decade or longer and eventually bore fruit, though, I would argue, there must be an Iraqi lead and an internal political dialogue. I say internal --
SEN. BIDEN: I beg your pardon. You say, "Iraqi lead" --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Iraqi lead, not U.S. The Iraqi government needs to be compelled, shaped, encouraged to open a dialogue, perhaps in a safe place like Saudi Arabia, and talk to their internal factions as well as their neighbors.
Bullet number five: I'm privileged to teach at West Point -- policy classes, American government. I always remind the cadets that Article I of the Constitution -- and I don't mean to sound like I'm lecturing -- says the Congress of the United States has the responsibility to raise and equip an army and navy. That is not the responsibility of either of the other two co-equal branches of government.
Your Army -- somewhat the Marine Corps -- are broken. Our equipment is broken. Hundreds of our armored vehicles are lined up at depots. It has been grossly under-resourced. We are in a position of strategic peril. In my judgment, our manpower is inadequate. I've been saying 80,000 troops short in the Army, 25,000 in the Marine Corps. Our recruiting is faltering. There is unquestionably, on the bottom end, a decrease in the quality of the kids coming into the United States Army now. We're encountering all sorts of problems we didn't see some years ago. You must fix the Army and the Marine Corps, or we will be incapable of responding to the next crisis.
Bullet number six: Our Air Force and Navy play a vital but modest role in the ground combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are the primary and, in my view, deterrent force to greet the Chinese as they emerge into the global arena as a major economic, political and military power. Fifty-five billion dollars, minimum, have been drained out of Air Force and Navy budgets and gone into small-arms ammunition to shoot at Iraqi insurgents and Afghans.
We must fix the Air Force and the Navy, or a decade from now, we will rue it.
Final notion: I personally think the surge of five U.S. Army brigades and two Marine battalions dribbled out over five months where potentially they might start drawing down in November and where their mission allegedly would be to get down to detailed granularity to fight a counterinsurgency battle in a city of 6 million Arabs who are murdering each other with 120 mortars, drills and car bombs is a fool's errand.
However, I don't think it's the most significant part of going forward, which, I would argue, is equipping Iraqi force and economic reconstruction and political dialogue.
I would argue very strongly, though, that -- this guy, Secretary Bob Gates, who comes in with modesty, international connections, experience; General Dave Petraeus, who may be the most talented person I ever met in my life -- he is one terrific soldier; and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who I've observed in the U.S. Embassy Pakistan -- he may be the best ambassador I ever saw -- that the three of them ought to be allowed to get in there and exercise discretion.
The response is, I would urge the Senate to be cautious in giving steering instructions to our wartime commanders and to allow them to assess the situation and tell the administration and the Congress what tools they need. I don't mean political sense. But I mean steering instructions in which we try and modify the tactics or the operational guidance.
On that note, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to share these ideas, and I look forward to responding to your own questions.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
GEN. KEANE: Thank you, Senator Biden, Senator Lugar and members of the committee for inviting me.
My judgments today are informed by multiple trips to Iraq and also as a member -- Secretary Rumsfeld, when he was the secretary of Defense Policy Board, and received continuous and update briefings on Iraq and very aware of what the intelligence situation there is for the last three-plus years.
I wanted to start by making some assumptions. And some of these are obvious, but they still need to be made. One is that obviously we're facing a crisis here in Iraq. Time is running out. This government, as imperfect as it is, is on its way to being fractured -- an all-out civil war; we won't have to debate whether there is one or not; it will be obvious to everyone -- and also leading to a failed state. With that, it requires a re-look at what we are doing.
And the second assumption is that security is the issue that subsumes all other issues in Iraq. It is a necessary precondition now to be able to make political progress, economic progress and social progress. That's the harsh reality of it. Look at the political strategy we had -- has failed. And that's the truth of it. And we underestimated the political culture in Iraq.
The fact is, the Iraqis do not compromise. When you lose, you lose forever. For an educated society that they are, the level of violence that they choose to resolve their problems is staggering. And we underestimated, I think, the psychological impact of what 35 years of repression meant to the Shi'as, for the most part -- to the Kurds, to a lesser degree. And while we all know about the Shi'a- Sunni schism that exists for hundreds of years, certainly truly understanding what that meant in political terms is another reality.
So this country is not ready for what we tried to achieve politically. That's the truth of it. And that political strategy has failed. And with that failure, we have to accept the recognition that the Sunni insurgents, who are the main issue here -- and by that I mean is they decided to not accept the occupation, they decided to not accept a new form of government, and they are enabled by the al Qaeda. I agree with my esteemed colleague Barry McCaffrey that the al Qaeda is not as much a threat as we make it out to be, and we have done considerable damage to it. But, nonetheless, what it could become, in terms of an al Qaeda sanctuary, is something we all have to be concerned about.
This Sunni insurgency, since the winter of '04 -- I'm talking November, December -- the Sunni insurgents believed that they were winning in Iraq. And then they raised the level of violence in '05. And then in '06, when they saw the government coming, after the constitutional referendum in October and the general election in December -- they, enabled by the al Qaeda, provoked the Shi'as, getting what is predictable: an overreaction, on their part, to the level of violence that they introduced by the mosque bombings that we're all aware of and the assassination squads that they inflected on the Shi'a. It is predictable what they got, and they welcome that, because they want to fracture this government.
So when we say, as part of our political strategy, we have to reconcile the Sunnis, bring them to the reconciliation table, throw amnesty on the table in front of them, put oil in front of them, they want none of that, because they believe they want all the oil, and they believe they're going to get it. They believe they're going to get back control of this country. Now whether we think that's realistic or not is sort of irrelevant. The fact is, they believe it. And we see that by reading the documents that they're exchanging with each other, listening to their conversations with each other and we know where they're going.
So, Maliki has no leverage with the Sunni insurgency. That is the harsh reality of it. So the political strategy has failed. The military strategy has failed because we put our emphasis primarily on training the Iraqi security forces. We made a conscious decision in the summer of '04, when we changed from Sanchez to Casey and we developed our first campaign plan -- the truth be known for '03 and part of '04, we were, by and large, conducting conventional operations against an insurgency. And then we brought a new commander in, and he developed a new strategy, and it had a number of components to it. The military component -- and central to the strategy, was train the Iraqi security forces so they could defeat the insurgency. It was never, ever our mission to defeat the insurgency.
This was full of risks, but it was achievable. It over-relies on a political strategy to work -- that is, attempt to bring the Sunnis into the government, and they will not seek their objectives through armed violence. But the fact is what? The enemy never bought it, they didn't agree with it, and we have always underestimated this enemy. If there is one constant we have here, it is that we have under-estimated this enemy from the beginning.
In '05, they raised that level of violence over what it was in '04. And they believe they're well on their way to doing what they want as a fractured state. And that put at risk our strategy. Why did it put at risk our strategy? Because it raised the level of violence way beyond the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to cope with it. In my judgment, even if they were fully trained and fully equipped, they will not have the capacity to deal with this level of violence.
And so we keep chasing this thing, and we can't get there. We should have adjusted that strategy sometime in '05. I think there was enough evidence. I was still supportive in '05, so I'm not hiding behind some continuous criticism here. I did not start to make a change in my thinking -- while I had concern in '05, when I started publicly talking about it and privately with leaders was in the summer of '06. So I'm part of the problem as well, in terms of not adjusting to the strategy. But when you look at it harshly, the fact is, we should have made some accommodation in '05, knowing that the Iraqi security forces will never be able to reach this ever-increasing level of violence.
Now all the things we want to do with Iraqi security forces make sense -- fully equip them, give them better-trained advisers, give them more advisers, and make that force a lot larger than what it is, and embed U.S. forces it in. All of that makes sense. Problem is, we can't solve that Iraqi security force problem in time, dealing with this crisis that's in front of us. The government will fracture before we get the Iraqi security forces to a high enough capacity level to cope with the problem. And those two points I'm making are essential to understanding my perspective on this.
As part of the strategy -- the military strategy -- if we made the decision not to defeat the insurgency, we made a conscious decision not to protect the population. And that was a conscious decision. So our emphasis has been on training the Iraqi security forces, not securing the population. We left that to the Iraqis. And what has happened in '06, and is very clear to us, is that the Iraqis cannot protect the population. We have never chosen to protect the population ourselves.
So we have a problem, because the Shi'as are running wild, and they waited two and a half years -- and I think there's something to work with, given the fact that they did wait two and a half years, other than some selected death squads that came out in '04, and a couple of other incidents. For the most part, since the inception, the Shia's held their fire, thinking that the Iraqis and us would protect their population. After the mosque bombing in February and the level of violence that the Sunnis and the al Qaeda inflicted on the Shi'a, they were provoked.
Maliki has no instrument to deal with the Shi'as. And that's the truth of it. When we say, we've got to put pressure on Maliki to get the Shi'as to heel, what can he use? He has a conversation with a Shi'a leader -- al-Hakim or Muqtada al-Sadr. We know who these people are; we know they're seeking political advantage; we know what they're doing is horrific. And I'm not dismissing any of that, but what is Maliki's political leverage over these people? They look at him right in the face and say: "What are you talking about? You can't protect us, and the Americans choose not to. What are we going to do? We have to protect ourselves." So not only are they protecting themselves, they've gone on the offense. We have got to give Maliki some leverage to be able to use with those leaders. That is an assumption that we have to consider.
And the other one is "hard" is not "hopeless." This thing is complex, to be sure. I mean, the Sunni insurgency is not a monolithic; the Shi'as are not a monolithic; they fight among themselves. You have the al Qaeda in there, and we have huge amounts of criminality. So it is a complex human problem, but it is a human problem. And when you break it down into its components, I believe it's also resolvable by humans. We do not have to wring our hands and say, "This is hopeless, this is too hard, and we can't resolve it." I believe this can be resolved, and it certainly is worth trying.
So it begs the question, "What can we do?"
While the purpose of this discussion is military -- and I will focus on that -- clearly, a comprehensive strategy to deal with the political, economic and diplomatic is very important. The other elements are national power: Iraq should be looked at as a regional problem with global implications and using the resources in the region to help it. I'm not going to spend time discussing that because I think your interests are other here, and I'd be more than happy to take that in Q&A's.
But in terms of the military strategy itself, can we do something, or is it just too late, and do we have enough forces to do it?
When I look at that problem and analyze it, the answer is yes. The Iraqis, the insurgents and the Shi'as chose Baghdad as the center of gravity, driven mainly by the Sunni insurgency. Al Anbar would have been the place to start to change the mission and the strategy, but Baghdad is the center of gravity. We have no choice. We have to start there.
And the mission and the change is, secure the population. Why? Because that will bring down the level of violence, and it helps you to focus on truly what is really important, which is driving the problem in Iraq -- is the Sunni mainstream insurgency is driving this problem. That is why the al Qaeda is there to enable it, and they provoke the Shi'a violence that we're dealing with today. And I'm not saying that you just focus on them -- far from it -- but you have to stay focused on what is really the issue, so you can get to the Sunnis eventually and solve the problem.
The military problem is one, and mission is secure the population in Baghdad. And when you look at Baghdad, it's 6 million, for sure. But where do you start? In my judgment, there is key to reign. And the key to reign is the Sunni-Shi'a mixed neighborhoods. Before they redistricted, just recently, those are 23 districts east and west of the Tigris River where the Sunnis and Shi'as live, and there are, as you know, some cleansing going on in there today, horrific as it is. But that is a good place to start. The population is 1.8 million - 1.8 million. And you go into those neighborhoods, and your operation on the ground is different.
Now we're going to get a little tactical here, so you can understand it -- the operation itself -- and I think you want to understand it. What we have done in the past, we have been in Baghdad before so there the reference is, "Well, we've done this in the past. Why are we doing this again? It looks like more of the same." And that's a reasonable point. The place and the location is the same, but what we're going to do is very different. We were never able to secure the population in Baghdad. Why? We never had enough resources to do it. We never had enough U.S. resources to do it, and we never had sufficient Iraqi resources even to get close to it.
So what we did in Baghdad in those two other operations, and what we have done similarly in Fallujah, Samarra, Ramadi, is we went in there, as you know, and we cleared out the insurgents or the Shi'a death squads from the neighborhoods. That was step one. We never had the resources to stay there and protect the people. We took the resources we used to clear out that neighborhood, and we would go to another neighborhood. And then what happened is predictable, as it has happened in the major cities where we've done this. In the neighborhoods in Baghdad, the same thing happened. The death squads, the insurgents and the al Qaeda came back, as well as criminals, to terrorize and intimidate and also to assassinate those who had been cooperating with our forces and with the Iraqi security forces.
This mission: We would clear out of that neighborhood, but we would fold in the neighborhood Iraqis and U.S. combined, and they would stay in that neighborhood 24/7 and not go back to their bases. Their mission would be to protect and secure the population.
Now, why is protecting and securing the population so important? Why are we so focused on this? Because the simple reality is, when you protect that population, it is the population themselves then that begins to isolate the thugs and the killers that have been preying on them. They begin to give it up. It takes time to do this. It's not done in a few weeks.
You have to bring an economic package as well. And I thought an economic package would be basic services and then a tier-two package, which would have an incentive with it only based on cooperation for enhanced quality of life. And that connection you make with that population through local officials starts to begin to isolate the insurgents in that neighborhood. We're there to protect them, and they begin the isolation of them because they want no part of them. They start to have some connection to their local government and also to the central government indirectly.
And I don't want to be Pollyannish about it -- certainly the central government is very problematic. But that's the basic nature of the issue. So you begin with 1.8 million. You're not dealing with 6 million. And the force ratios -- we've done the analysis -- are right to deal with that: five brigades there, four brigades that are already there -- U.S.
Now where I part with this plan a little bit -- why we would put the Iraqis in the lead here makes no sense to me; I don't understand that. I know the Iraqis want to do that, and why we would do that when we're trying to conduct the most decisive operation we've done yet --
SEN. BIDEN: General, do you think they mean that? I'm not being facetious.
GEN. KEANE: That's a good question. I think they do mean it. I think it's fraught with problems, and it just makes it that much more difficult to work for Petraeus and Odierno to work out something militarily. Here's what we -- when we say "Iraqi in the lead," that means the Iraqis have a chain of command on the same streets that the U.S. has a chain of command on, and we do not have unity of command; therefore, you don't have unity of effort. And every time we do something like that -- and all these guys sitting at the table can cite examples of it -- we have military problems.
So, Petraeus, Fallon and Odierno have got to resolve that. But the fact is that the force ratios are right to be able to deal with that problem. And it relies on U.S., principally, to solve this problem. Make no mistake about it. That's not being said politically, but the reality is it relies on U.S. forces to help solve this problem, assisted by Iraqis, to be sure.
That's the basic nature of the military application of this strategy.
Now, what about Sadr City, and what about the rest of Iraq?
Well, the rest of Iraq -- the Sunni enclaves to the west -- when you analyze it, there's not a lot of violence there.
We need to put minimum force there and provide economic packages to them to assist or raise up their quality of life.
To the east is the problem with the Shi'a militias and Sadr City, and it is a problem.
I would think this: If we can resolve that problem politically and not militarily, then let's try it. And by that I mean, if we go in and secure the 1.8 million people who are Shi'as and Sunnis in the mixed neighborhoods, and we are demonstrating an evenhanded approach to doing this, and al-Hakim and Sadr and the vigilante groups will know whether we're successful protecting their people in a number of weeks. At some point in the spring or summer, if we're effective here, Maliki, for the first time, has leverage with Sadr and al-Hakim in a sense that now he's protecting his people. And it would seem to me he has leverage over them, at a minimum, to get them to pull back from offensive operations. It would be too ambitious to think he could begin to disarm them at that point, because they're not going to buy that, but at least to stop offensive operations, pull back behind his barricades. He gets political leverage to do that. That is worth a try.
If that doesn't work, then we have to deal with that militarily. I mean it's feasible to deal with it; it's not desirable to deal with it. What you will do is you will unite the Shi'a militias. They're not united now. If we go into densely populated Sadr City with a military force to do what we're doing in the mixed neighborhoods, they will unite, and it will be a much larger problem that we have to deal with. I think it's avoidable, and we should certainly try to avoid it if we can.
So that is the basis of what we're talking about. There's a supporting operation in Al Anbar, mainly because that's the sanctuary for the al Qaeda, that's the Sunni mainstream insurgency's base. And it occurs to you, when you look at this, you need a supporting operation not to secure the population in Al Anbar -- we don't have enough resources for that -- but to conduct aggressive offensive operations to disrupt, to interdict and to challenge that insurgency that's in Al Anbar, so that they cannot undermine the operation in Baghdad. That's the basic for it. And you need additional resources to do that, so that you can have more aggressive military operations than what we have right now.
I need to emphasize the importance of the economic package to the success of this operation and also to the use of the other elements of national power. The military leaders' frustration, when you hear them speak about it -- and many of you who have been to the region know this -- they have believed that their activities, while central in Iraq, in terms of military operation -- they realize that -- but it's disproportionate in terms of effectiveness from the other elements of national power, in terms of the political, economic and diplomatic. And the interagency effort in Iraq has been a failure, and that's the truth of it. We've got to be honest about it.
So there's still a concern now as to how effective are we going to be at this point, with the things other than the military. And that is a concern that many of us have. And it remains to be seen. There is a plan, but that doesn't mean that we're going to have the kind of execution that we need, because in the past the execution hasn't been what it should be.
So, in wrapping that up, that is essentially the military outline of what we will do in Iraq. The leaders to do that -- in General Odierno, who is the operational commander, he's been in command about a month, wants to do this, knows how to do this and is working on detailed plans to do it, assisted by the Iraqis; secondly, General Petraeus -- and I agree with General McCaffrey's comments about him -- he's extraordinarily well qualified to do this, very thoughtful and wants to do this, agrees with the plan -- he can speak for himself.
And I think Fox Fallon, Admirable Bill Fallon, who is hands-down the best combatant commander we have right now. And I applaud the administration for taking their best guy and putting him in the most difficult neighborhood, even though he's working with a challenging neighborhood himself, with China, North Korea and radical Islam in Indonesia, et cetera. But clearly taking the best we have and putting them in this command -- and also with the new ambassador -- I think this new team that's going in there is as important as the strategy is itself. And I truly believe they're going to make a difference, and I know you're going to enjoy working with them.
I thank you for the opportunity to make some comments, and I look forward to your questions.
GEN. BIDEN: Thank you, general.
GEN. HOAR: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, distinguished members of the committee: I thank you for this opportunity to appear before you for the third time to discuss the war in Iraq.
This administration's handling of the war has been characterized by deceit, mismanagement, and a shocking failure to understand the social and political forces that influence events in the Middle East.
In August of 2002, I cautioned this committee about the lack of war-termination planning. There was no phase four planning, and we saw the results of that. At the time, I used the metaphor, "What happens when the dog catches the car?" An axiom to take home is, wars don't end until the losers decide that they end. And we are very much in that category today.
During my last testimony, I indicated we were looking into the abyss. Sadly, the new strategy -- deeply flawed solution to our current situation, reflects the chronic inability of this administration to get it right. The courageous men and women of our armed forces have been superb. They have met all the challenges of this difficult war. Unfortunately, they have not been well served by the civilian leadership.
I returned from the Middle East two days ago. I also had the opportunity before the holidays to speak with several senior active- duty members of our armed forces. In virtually every case, knowledgeable people -- military, political, academic - the solution to solve this civil war in Iraq is political, not military.
There is an acknowledgement in Washington that it is, after all, political.
Having said that, the proposed solution is to send more troops, and it won't work. The addition of 21,000 troops is too little and too late. This is still not enough to quell the violence, and without major changes in command and control of forces within Baghdad, the current setup for shared control is unsatisfactory.
The centerpiece of a change of direction should be to demand that the Iraqi government make significant changes in policy; to constrain Muqtada al-Sadr; to disarm militias; to purge the police, and to move rapidly on a host of other pressing issues.
If Mr. Maliki's government can show progress by stepping up to meet these political changes, then the issues of more troops would merit some consideration.
Insurgencies are resolved by attacking root causes. Today, among the root causes is the presence of American forces.
The Economist magazine this week, quoting a survey, indicates that 61 percent of the Iraqis approve of attacking coalition forces. Recently, the secretary of State, in response to a question of this committee, indicated there was no alternative plan to the president's current strategy.
I urge this committee to insist that an alternative plan be developed and briefed to the relevant committees of Congress. It should include diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran. It should also include a significant role for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, plus Egypt and Jordan.
These countries reluctantly supported the invasion of Iraq. If we fail, the consequences for Iraqis' neighbors are dire. President Mubarak said the invasion of Iraq was a catastrophe. Early departure will be even a greater catastrophe.
Hamad bin Jasim, the foreign minister of Qatar, said recently that the GCC was not consulted in the surge strategy. It's time we took our friends in the region into our confidence.
The goal of the plan should be to prevent the Middle East from falling into chaos, should Iraq become a failed state. Victory in the conventional sense is no longer possible. Our goal today in Iraq should be to achieve a paradigm shift that will give the people of Iraq an assured degree of stability and justice.
A final thought: T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was an adviser to Winston Churchill when he was the secretary of colonial affairs and presiding over the British debacle in Iraq in the 20th century. Lawrence told Lord Curzon and other members of the British Cabinet the following: "You people don't understand yet the hole you have put us all into."
Gentlemen, lady, we are in a hole. In the Marines, we say, when you're in a hole, stop digging.
I'd be happy to answer your questions.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
GEN. ODOM: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for this opportunity. It's a grave responsibility to testify before you today, because the issue of the Iraq war is of monumental importance.
You have my written statement --
SEN. BIDEN: It was placed in the record, General.
GEN. ODOM: -- and it (fields ?) a lot of the questions that particularly Senator Lugar raised, and I want to direct mine more to some that you raised and try to create a strategic framework against which you test any of these ideas that are being advanced.
And I think you can test some you've heard here; some I think you will find persuasive in that regard, and others not so.
Four points seem to me to define the realities that we have to deal with, and to make us realize that we are creating contradictions in the way we look at this by saying things like, "It will be a catastrophe beyond all believe if we withdraw," et cetera. It is a catastrophe because we're there. But let me go further and explain why this is the case, and why unraveling this paradox involves doing some things we might otherwise make - would no bring that outcome.
The first is the contradiction in war aims and what we're trying to achieve politically in the region.
The war aims, if you recall, that the president stated were: destroy WMD, overthrow Saddam's regime -
SEN. BOXER: Could you bring the mike -
SEN. BIDEN: General, could you pull that mike closer to you, if you don't mind.
GEN. ODOM: Yes.
The three -
SEN. BIDEN: That's great; thank you.
GEN. ODOM: The three war aims the president said were: to overthrow Saddam, find WMD, and create a liberal democracy - a pro- American state there.
The first two - one of the first two is irrelevant because there was no WMD. The second one has been achieved, and the third one is creating a disaster.
Why is it creating a disaster? That takes us to the second point: If these war aims don't serve U.S. interests and we're committing forces to pursue goals that don't serve our interests, whose interests are served? The interests that are primarily being served by our invasion are first Iran's.
No one could have been more pleased to see us overthrow Saddam. No one has been more supportive of our program to create a democracy there - in fact the Iranians were advising the Shi'ites all along "do what the Americans tell you" -- that's why the Shi'ites initially didn't enter this insurgency fight -- "because the Americans are putting you in power." And now that is becoming obvious to everybody, and if you want to understand why we aren't going very far with any kind of troop increases out there, I think that's sort of the crux of it.
The other parties whose interest is being served is al Qaeda's. Osama bin Laden's list of people to destroy do not have the United States - or at least for a long time did not have the United States up very high. All secular Arab leaders were ahead of us. So we have knocked one over for him, and opened up a country and given him a training ground for cadres that did not exist before.
Now, I've gone back and been reading my Clausewitz on this, and I could cite numerous passages to show to the point that I would sum up and say the following: There is no way to win a war that's not in your interest. And that's what we're doing. And once you understand that, then a lot of other things become kind of simple.
The third thing is to understand that the war is not confined to Iraq. We in the military try to do order of battle - figure out how many enemy are against us. One of the great problems in Vietnam, one of the great problems in Central America and other places where we had client states dealing with insurgencies was a failure to look at the order of battle beyond the boundaries.
We face maximum 26 million Iraqis. They're not all against us, but, as you hear General Hoar said, 61 percent are for attacking us. Others are not happy to have us there. So the potential order of battle on the other side is several millions, against our 150(,000), (1)60,000 after the surge.
We should also include a large portion of the Iranians. They may not be directly involved, but the Iranian state can provide an enormous amount of resource and influence on this area. They're not in there big time now; they could get in. So when you start adding troops to change the order of battle, you've got to think of the other side - many other sides involved here - their capacity to change the order of battle.
You can be sure that the so-called moderate Arab states are not benignly sitting aside - setting aside and watching this. I cannot believe that resources are not flowing from some of them into the Sunni coffers and supplies are not coming their way - certainly from Syria, but probably other ways.
So, when you start beginning to add up who we could be facing -- we could be facing several states, populations in states where the regime may be on our side but the public is not - of scores of millions against us. That's just not a good situation to be in.
Now let me move to my third point.
My third point is that the U.S. does need to have other allies - other countries involved in solving this. That's the only way you'll change the order of battle significantly and put it in our favor.
I don't think we will have very effective cooperation from the states around Iraq until we withdraw. To me, that is a precondition to getting any kind of cooperation. Why should they - why should Iran cooperate with us while we're suffering so? Why should some of these other people cooperate with use while we're suffering so? I mean, they're wallowing in schadenfreude over this.
But when we start pulling out, things -- their view of the world experiences a polar shift.
Iran doesn't want a highly unstable Iraq, nor do most other countries in the area want an unstable Iraq.
If we provided a forum after we left, I have a feeling these people might show up, if you invited them. None of them could hold a forum and get the others to show up. They may not like us, but they might find us pragmatically a useful host.
I would say this is also true in Europe. The Europeans have been delighted to see us suffer there - not all of them, but some. Why should they change? They've been proven right; we got ourselves into a hole they warned us not to get into. I think if we get out, they will soon realize that they are going to suffer the aftermath of this earlier and probably more severely than we did.
Therefore, a withdrawal is not the road to defeat - it's the precondition for reframing your strategy for interests that you are in for a campaign that is in your interests. And I want to say that you overcome the political, strategic, and military and diplomatic paralysis by beginning to get out. As long as we're in, we have no - we're frozen - we don't have much room.
Now let me suggest a new strategy. And it's not a new one; it's a return to an old one. The reason I think about this this way is that I was the planner in the Carter administration for the so-called Persian Gulf security framework. And I had to look at that region and think about what it meant when the shah fell - and that was after the shah's collapse that we began to try to figure out what to do next.
Well, as I looked back, I could see that clearly since the 1950s, we had if not an explicit at least an implicit American strategy of keeping a foot in three camps: the Arab camp, the Israeli camp, and the Persian Iranian camp. As long as we had a foot in all three camps, the military requirements for maintaining a balance in the region were not high.
When we lost our footing in the Iranian camp, they became very high, and that's why the Persian Gulf security framework's central component was the central command. There were many other aspects to this, and President Carter understood clearly that we needed it. He also understood something else: That should be temporary because it was costing us more to stabilize by having Iran as an opponent.
We saw that getting back into some sort of cooperative relationship with Iran was very much in our interest. And there were also many objective interests for Iran to want back into the relationship. Every administration since then, until this one, I think has realized that.
The Reagan administration made some very clumsy and feckless efforts to engage in Iran, but the strategy, the aim was right, even if the operational tactics in diplomacy were wrong. I think the first Bush administration didn't pay a lot of attention to it until the Gulf War, and then they knew they had to do something about it then. The Clinton administration tried, maybe not enough.
But when this administration found itself fighting the Taliban, it found Iran highly cooperative. So I can go down a list of objective reasons why Iran should come around.
There's another factor here that -- why you want Iran back in the game on your side.
Iran is being used by Russia now in a most unnatural alliance - it's very unnatural for Russians and Iranians to ally; there's no precedent for that in their history, and I think the Iranians pay a price for that. It gives the Russians a spoiling lever in the region.
So a new strategy has to have as its aim not winning a victory in Iraq per se, but re-achieving regional stability, and any strategy that doesn't set regional stability as its goal and then begin to allocate diplomatic efforts and military efforts to re- achieve that strikes me as seriously wanting.
The problem with the administration's strategy in Iraq is that the means they have used to pursue regional stability has undercut regional stability - both spreading democracy and the techniques of nonproliferation have accelerated proliferation and added to instability. Therefore, I don't think you can get yourself out of that muddle militarily, diplomatically, any other ways, by parsing these things into particular military, political, economic components.
You have to come back, bite that bullet, and understand that withdrawal from Iraq now on some responsible phased schedule - but a serious and irreversible schedule - is the only thing that will change the polarity of the situation to give this president an opportunity to design a strategy that has some prospect of victory.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, General.
Impressive testimonies - thank you very, very much.
Let me begin by - and we'll do eight-minute rounds, if that's okay, and if our colleagues have an opportunity to stay, maybe we can have a second round.
I know everyone's not here, but is that all right with you, Mr. Chairman?
What I've tried to do with these talented panels we've had is -- as you've spoken, and as I've read your statements - try to discern where there are points of agreement and points of departure, so if we could sort of start from there, at least it helps my mind order things a little better.
There's universal judgment here that the mission - the strategy and the mission thus far, and they're separable, have thus far been a failure, that there's a need for a new strategy and a more clearly defined mission. A new strategy for the region - you all say the region is important, so you can't just view Iraq as a stand-alone proposition, and secondly, that the mission inside Iraq has to be more clearly defined, and that the third thing you all agree on - I think, correct me if I'm wrong - is the allies are leaving; this is a wholly owned American subsidiary here. I mean, there really isn't anybody else in the deal, as a practical matter, and no one's coming; if anything, people are going. Correct?
Another thing that you all seem to agree on is that somewhere between if we surge, we really have to do it and stick around, and -- or we shouldn't even be surging; we should be using a different method, from announcing or in fact beginning a withdrawal that's real-time, a real plan, from General Odom's standpoint, to beginning to shift the burden more clearly - or shift the help more clearly to being able to enable Iraqi forces, as General McCaffrey says.
General, I've been seven -- there seven times, and talking to our guys on the ground, our women on the ground, they say they wouldn't do what we asked the Iraqis to do. They wouldn't get in a Toyota pickup truck and, you know, arrive at such and such a place or go to such and such a deal.
And so here are the - General Odom, your strategic vision here is -- I think I find not only fascinating, but I think I agree with it, which is that the irony of all ironies is the, the underlying rationale -- not just for Iraq but for the region -- has been a mistaken rationale, which is the way we were going to have our interests solidified and sustained and increased was to deal with the word you didn't use, "regime change." The way to deal with the Iranian situation -- we no longer have a foot in the Persian camp, so get rid of the - get rid of the present Persian camp.
GEN. ODOM: I would even go so far as to say I'd pay the price of saying I'm not going to oppose all that strongly the Iraqi and Iranian nuclear weapons program if they become our ally.
SEN. BIDEN: Yeah. And -
GEN. ODOM: I would buy that -- I would buy that deal, it's so important.
SEN. BIDEN: So that -- so let me ask some specific questions that we get asked a lot, I get asked a lot.
General Keane, I've read what you've written in the past as well. This is not -- you know, like I'm not going to be Tim Russert and, you know, flip up the chart, and, you know, this is what you said last time. But the essence of what you said here today, if I read your testimony correctly, is that you do think that pacification of the population, which has not been a mission - by the way, I agreed -- the irony is, (three/two ?) years ago in this committee and two years ago on the ground with General Chiarelli and General Casey, and before that -- and General Abizaid -- and before that their predecessors and O'Donovan, an old Marine -- not old Marine, a Marine. My argument was, why aren't we protecting the populations?
Because I'd get in a humvee and we'd fly through a neighborhood at 35 miles an hour. And the Iraqis looked at us as a distraction or as a problem, not as anyone who's going flying through the neighborhood is going to have a cop in the corner to protect him. It wasn't going to enable their kid to go, as I used to say, from their home to the equivalent of the corner store to bring back the milk.
And so -- but I've reached the point, General, where I think that we've passed that point. And so my question for you, General Keane is that -- is the -- what we're told -surging 21,000 troops, 17,000 of which would go into Baghdad, into those 23 neighborhoods, although they're saying they're not limited to the 23 neighborhoods; I don't know if politically they're saying that - and they're saying that it will be Iraqi-led. The secretary of State was very precise about; there's not going to be any American knocking on a door; it's going to be an Iraqi and we're going to be in a background, you know, situation, and that we're going to be - this is a short duration.
Can a surge plan work with those parameters? Iraqis in the lead -- if that's true -- Iraqis in the lead, a short duration, as General -- I think you said, McCaffrey -- General McCaffrey says five months to ramp it up, or one of you said it, and to get to that peak of an additional 17,000 and then start to draw it down in November. Is that workable, or should we tell the American people that, from your perspective, the only way it can work is you've got to make a significant commitment here for a significant amount of time, meaning at least the next year or so?
GEN. KEANE: No, that's not workable.
When you analyze this, it'll take you three to four months to clear the neighborhoods, to get them - to bring the level of violence down. And then you bring in a protect force that will stay in those neighborhoods, both Iraqi and U.S. And then that will take months as well, to be able to change the attitude of those people in there to where their quality of life experience starts to change rather dramatically and they're getting back to some sense of normalcy. So now you're into the fall and winter of the year in Baghdad alone, to be able to do this.
Now will there be some progress where people will see it and -- some near-term progress? I would think yes.
SEN. BIDEN: But that only works if they stay, if you all stay; you've got to stay around.
GEN KEANE: But only if you stay. And then the economic packages have to come in. And Baghdad is a -- is a beginning, not an end. So you have to go to Al Anbar and secure that population, and I think you're doing that in '08.
SEN. BIDEN: Yeah. Well I think -- you know look, people and my colleagues are tired of hearing me say this, but I just - no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. You just can't sustain it.
And so if we're going to do this thing, this surge, we should just tell the American people what is the only possibility of it working -- in my humble opinion listening to you and some of your colleagues in and out of uniform still -- which is that you've got to do more of it, if you're going to do it. If it has any shot, you've got to do more of it and you've got to do it for a longer period of time. You've got to sustain it, and you've got to expand it beyond Baghdad.
I happen to be in you camp, General Odom. I think the only way you get any movement is you've got to be moving the other direction to change the dynamic here. But -
GEN. ODOM: Well, I'm a dissenter on increasing anything now.
SEN. BIDEN: No, no, I understand that -
GEN. ODOM: Okay, I just -- you said that I agreed to that.
SEN. BIDEN: All -- no, no. What I'm - I understand that.
Those who I've spoken to who say increase say if you're going to increase, you better have a plan to increase that has multiple pieces to it: one, that it is sustainable for an extended period of time because you've got to go clear, hold, maintain, build up and so on, and that takes time; and two, you're then going to have to move from those 23 neighborhoods to Anbar province, and God only knows what we may or may not have to do relative to Sadr City, depending on how they accept or don't accept this as confirmation we're good guys and we're not going to hurt them and we're helping their cause.
The other side of the equation is whether or not you draw down and the perils of drawing down create this catastrophe where we have a regional war that spreads across as a consequence of this civil war spreading across the borders.
I -- one could -- General McCaffrey, why do you think that - let me just say it, and then I'll ask you to respond.
In my trips to Iraq - I haven't been there since Fourth of July - speaking off the record, because a lot of you guys in uniform at the time were in a difficult spot with a guy like me and others coming over there and you have a mission stated by the Pentagon; you may or may not agree with it, but you've -- so you're in a tough spot.
But one of the reasons when I asked, General, several folks with more than one star on their shoulder why we weren't equipping the Iraqis more, they gave me the answer that we may just be equipping death squads and equipping competing factions of a civil war and we may come to regret it.
Do you think that's the reason they haven't equipped, or do you thing there's another reason, or other reasons?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, I think, first of all, it's a silly response because it implies "I believe we're going to lose and therefore I won't start a program that's a prerequisite to success because I don't think it's going to work," which, again, would argue for beginning withdrawal, and let's give up on this thing.
I'm not sure that equipping the Iraqi army is going to work -- providing 3(,000) to 5,000 light-armored vehicles and 150 U.S. helicopters and decent small arms. But I do know that we're not going to pull the 1st Cavalry Division out of Baghdad until there's an Iraqi army that can go - they took 12,000 killed last year, for God sakes. We're asking them to take on a mission for which they are inadequately resourced.
I think the, you know, the second argument that I've heard is, "Come on, these are simple people; they don't understand how to do U.S. small arms," which is ridiculous. These people had the fourth largest air force on the face of the earth. They were flying MiG-29 fighter aircraft. They're pretty clever people. Of course they can operate this equipment.
I think there was an argument said, "You'd be -- you don't understand the nature of the struggle; it's really - they're not here to threaten the Syrians and the Iranians, they're here to conduct counterinsurgency." But again, you know, the tools that were used - we're pretty good at this, actually. You know, counterinsurgency operations in urban areas up in Tall Afar with this very bright colonel, we did a classic job. But we did it trying to minimize U.S. casualties.
And then the final argument, that I actually think is the major argument - and I don't pretend to be an economist, but if we've got giant U.S. internal domestic budget problems with decreasing taxes and increasing expenses and you're shooting up $8 billion a month in Iraq, and a billion or more in Afghanistan - when I -- the first time I came back three years ago and I argued for equipping the Iraqis, a Wall Street Journal reporter - in fact I came down to see you, sir, if you remember -
SEN. BIDEN: Yes. Oh, I remember.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: He added up all the numbers -
SEN. BIDEN: Got me in trouble; I argued for equipping them too.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, they added up all the numbers and they said, "That's silly - it's something like $5 billion to do what he's suggesting." But the illogic of shooting $8 billion a month at them and not being capable of equipping people so you could get out just escapes me.
So, I think the generals are over there in a box, and if you ask them the question, "Have you got enough equipment," they'll say yes. The real question is this distinguished OMB Director Rob Portman, why haven't we paid for this program and why hasn't the Congress authorized it?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, my, my time is up. Matter of fact, the first time I've gone over here. I apologize.
I agree with you about Petraeus and Crocker. I spent five days with Crocker and that -- after he -- three days after which - I think it's three or five days after he opened up the Afghanistan embassy that had been closed in Kabul. He is really a serious, serious guy. And I don't know anybody better than Petraeus. That's the only thing that gives me pause about this. And he supports it, but I still don't get it.
I yield to Senator Lugar.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
As I've listened to you, I'm not certain that any of the four of you - and you can correct me if I'm wrong - believes that the so- called benchmarks that are being suggested by our new policy can be met certainly not within a period of a year or maybe two years. By the benchmarks, I mean the working out of an oil solution, and including distribution as well as new findings and resources; the autonomy issues -- that is, which provinces are going to be allowed to come together, in some formation, and therefore what will the role of the central government be vis-a-vis these autonomous regions? Or maybe even a third point, and that is, can there be recognition by all sides of a national army - something that is common to the central government but not to the autonomous regions.
Now, as we have heard rhetoric with regard to our plan, the thought is that Maliki and/or the government that he heads must meet certain benchmarks, and they must do so fairly promptly, the implication being that if the benchmarks are not met that we will withdraw - maybe so, maybe not.
The question that I have of you is, politically, is it conceivable that President (sic/Prime Minister) Maliki and his government could meet any of these benchmarks within a year or two, and secondly, is it conceivable - picking up General Keane's point - that there is a citizenry that in the event that we get rid of the malefactors for a period of time and hold the territory, that citizens will in fact discourage the insurgents - discourage people from arming themselves?
From what I'm listening to from the others, I would gather that you feel there are inclined to be a lot of people who are going to continue to arm themselves because they see this as a terminal problem - that either somebody prevails or does not, and that there is not a good government ethic for the moment in trying to pull together to somehow back a central government or Maliki or somebody else. If that is the case, then, perpetually people will be arming themselves and will be shooting at each other -- and whether it's Baghdad or wherever else they try to resolve their situations.
Finally, the third question I want to ask, and then I'll retire for your responses, is in the event that we get into a withdrawal strategy, should the withdrawal be complete? Or, should we in fact retain some forces in Iraq, as opposed to the general region, on the basis that we would still like to try to help the training or equipping of an Iraqi army and some forces for the future, and/or that we offer a sense of stability to the surrounding countries, that they would not need to intervene immediately, whoever they may be, and for whatever purposes - because we're still there. And furthermore, because of our presence - even diminished in terms of numbers - we have an opportunity if not to convene the neighborhood in diplomacy at least to have a better basis on which to conduct diplomacy vis-a-vis Iraq or the Middle East by having a presence.
Or, should in fact the withdrawal be complete - staged, orderly, but out of there? In essence, troops and/or ships of the fleet or air units, or what have you, in the region, but not in Iraq.
Do any of you want to try on any of those for size?
Yes, General McCaffrey.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Senator Lugar, the last point, withdrawal, was one of the things that really got me energized out of that Baker- Hamilton report. It scared me half to death.
The notion that we've got a domestic political problem; it's going to be difficult to ask either political party to explain in 2008 what they did about this mess, so we will pull out our combat forces except for some unspecified, over-the-horizon modest rescue cavalry presence, we'll put 30(,000), 40(,000), 50,000 Americans scattered about Iraq, we'll embed them in squad-sized units at Iraq company level, not speaking Arabic, not having a support structure, and therefore our casualties, our political vulnerability will disappear and we'll be out of there. That, it seems to me, is a recipe for disaster on the order of what happened in Mogadishu, except instead of 150 casualties, it'll be 5(,000) to 15,000.
So I have urged the president personally, and others, that as you draw down -- I arbitrarily picked the floor. You've got 15 brigades there now; you think you're going up to 20 - that seven brigades, a couple of divisions and a Marine regiment - that if you decide to go below that level, you can pull them out of the urban areas and get them in concentrations - get out of Iraq. I think we are inviting a major disaster. You know, and I feel very strongly about it.
So, again, the withdrawal in the short run -- I think precipitous withdrawal would probably be a terrible blow to our interests in the region.
SEN. BIDEN: Just following up that, the president even suggests if the benchmarks are not met -- after all he's met with Maliki, others have met, and they've got assurances and this is Maliki's plan - but if you can't meet these situations, then is the president's logic that we withdraw, as you understand his plan?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I don't think - we have - the current administration, I don't think, has any intention of withdrawing from Iraq.
SEN. BIDEN: Benchmarks or not?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: They're going to try to muscle this thing out in the next 24 months, with an urban counterinsurgency plan that I personally believe, with all due respect, is a fool's errand.
So I - I'm looking for the economic component, the peace negotiation component, and the arming the Iraqi component as a way to cover our withdrawal from Iraq.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Senator Lugar, may I intervene just to ask you a question and our panel?
Because I don't think you answered the question, General.
We're threatening consequences - what are the consequences?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: There are none. Nor are there any -
SEN. HAGEL: No - well, what are the consequences, in your opinion? I know he has not, I suspect, asked you that, but what Senator Lugar is asking then - this rhetoric - you either do this or else. We heard Secretary Rice say this. So, in your opinion, what are those consequences? We pull out?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, if you don't have an economic incentive, you can't withdraw it. If you're not equipping their military forces, you can't stop equipping them. If there's no peace dialogue to be enforced or encouraged with our good offices, you're left with 15 Army and Marine combat teams fighting among 27 million angry Arabs. So I personally think, in the short run, the current strategy is nonsensical.
SEN. LUGAR: General Hoar?
GEN. HOAR: Sir, I'd like to first of all say that I agree with General McCaffrey, but there is a larger issue, and that's the regional issue.
The countries in that region that have supported us are scared to death of the possibility of a failed state that is aligned politically with Iran, and while Bill Odom, I think, makes some very good points, there may be an interim step in there where you have an Iraqi government that is responsive to the Iranian government. And so we must stay in the region. The possibilities of destabilizing Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait are quite large.
SEN. LUGAR: And by region, you don't necessarily mean Iraq, right?
GEN. HOAR: That's right. This is quite different from Iraq.
SEN. LUGAR: You might still get out of Iraq but stay in the region.
GEN. HOAR: My crystal ball would say that in 2008, the presidential candidates are all going to favor getting out.
SEN. BIDEN: General Odom?
GEN. ODOM: Yeah, the benchmark business, I think you've pretty well unraveled. It's a charge or a demand that you can't implement. And it reminds me of Vietnam.
When you start to these metrics, what it tells you is you don't have the political apparatus on the other side to run the country, and you're trying to run it by ventriloquy. (Laughter.)
And I, in a book I wrote on internal wars, that was what I called most U.S. cases of supporting client states against insurgencies. You know, we can't own them like the British owned Malaysia because we don't run colonies. So we pay them to say and do what we think that they will do, and of course, we eventually lose, or we paste it over is some way where it looks like a success - I've heard some people say that the success in El Salvador is an example. I'm looking around for any place where there's been a success that you could say is a precedent for having any optimism about Iraq.
Well if you look more closely at El Salvador, you discover that the real reason the insurgency dried up there was that President Bush, the first Bush, got a deal with Gorbachev to cut off the outside support. And what we allowed was elections where the old death squad parties changed their label, came back in, won the elections; the insurgents weren't running their own tax structure so they dried up, and the death squad people are back in action today.
Now, you know, if you want to side with the Sunnis and their organizational capability and -- in this war you might have some success in Iraq. But, that makes you say, "Well, where's Saddam when we need him?"
Saddam was stabilizing. You know, getting rid of Saddam insured that this thing would come unglued.
Now, will the population stop fighting if we can give them security and if we give them an economic package?
Look, politics is about who gets what, when and how. Military is merely the most extreme form of this. And the military will determine who gets what, when, how in Iraq.
And what is there to be got? Huge oil revenues. And we can't offer an economic package that's going to match that. So the idea that we're going to have some economic package that's going to get us out of this strikes me as just not looking at what's at stake.
The order of battle is just not properly set up here, what you're against. And the countries who get the oil will have to run the country with an iron-hand regime that can have a democracy or a pro- U.S. government.
That's another thing that we ought to understand now: Nobody can rule Iraq and keep it from fragmenting who's pro-American. So you know that a priori. It's like somebody - suppose we were in the middle of our civil war and somebody parachuted in from Britain and said, "Well, we're going to resolve this; you people negotiate, et cetera." I mean -- we would think they're crazy.
And finally, I want to make this point on withdrawal complete or not. I agree with General McCaffrey; you started getting out, get out all the way. You can stay in the region. You can stay in Kuwait. We can stay on carriers, or we can keep a force that can be airlifted in. So forced projection back into the region was essential element of the CENTCOM from it's very beginning and has been on up into today.
So the notion to get out of Iraq does not mean you're leaving the region. And that - we should never leave any mistake about that.
SEN. LUGAR: General Keane?
GEN. KEANE: Yes, in reference to the benchmarks, I think it's within Maliki's capability to certainly offer reconciliation and amnesty to adjust the de-Ba'athification program, some of the mistakes that have been made with it, and certainly to do something about the oil law. The problem with all of that is the Sunnis aren't coming to that table. That's the reality of it. We have to face that reality.
The Sunnis absolutely believe that they are winning. And these measures, though prudent from our perspective, are not going to be persuasive to them when they believe that they can fracture this government and they can begin to have their way. It's unclear, you know, how you go from fractured government to civil war to failed state, and return to Sunni power. I mean, they don't describe that, but clearly, they want to leverage that. So I don't think the benchmarks are going to have any impact on the Sunnis, is my point.
Now, security on the streets: Establishing security on the street is an achievable issue. I mean, the fact that we just throw up our hands and say people are always going to kill each other, and a population in a given city in a place in the world will always be at risk. I don't accept that. We can provide security. We provide it for own people. We can provide security in Baghdad despite some of the horrors of the conflicts that have taken. It is a definable problem that can be achieved. It has to do with resources obviously, to be able to do it.
The withdrawal strategy, certainly - what would happen to us during a withdrawal -- one is, we will be shot at going out as that country begins to fracture around us. That's the issue.
And Brookings has done a thoughtful analysis and it maybe someone you should consider bringing over here if you haven't done it already. Ken Pollack did an historical analysis of when you do have a civil war, what is the spillover effect and what are some of the conditions that drive a spillover effect that lead to a regional war? And is Iraq one of those that could lead to a regional war?
He admits when they started this process they thought maybe not, but when they finished the historical analysis, he and his colleagues agreed that Iraq, in all likelihood, would spill over into a regional civil war because of the conditions in the countries around them and their interests and the stakes that are there.
And then we have a much larger problem, and that's where I part company with General Odom. We have a regional civil war raging there; we brought that on by our precipitous withdrawal. And what are our challenges then and what are our options in terms of dealing with that? Do we have a stake and an interest in it? We are sitting on top of the second largest oil reserve in the region. And it puts the other oil reserves in the region also at risk. These are realities that we have to deal with in terms of our own economic interests.
So those are huge problems, I think.
Again, the benchmarks: In the end, it's not going to work; strategy is achievable on the streets. And withdrawal, in my mind, does lead to a fractured state civil war with the likelihood we will have a regional conflict then.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
GEN. ODOM: Can I make a brief comment? We already have a regional civil war. We've got one right now.
SEN. BIDEN: As I understand your position, General, you're saying that if in fact we start the withdrawal that will wake up surrounding nations to their interests and avoid that.
GEN. ODOM: As I said, that we don't have enough military power in the region to prevent the war. And to get it, we have to start getting out to gain allies.
SEN. BIDEN: I realize we've done it a little bit differently here, folks. I've let people go over, even the questions of mine; I will do that for each of you as well. I mean, we try to end your questions by eight minutes, but if these guys -- I find this -- I hope you all find it equally as enlightening hearing them disagree.
General Keane, there's a famous expression attributable to G. K. Chesterton; he said: "It's not that Christianity's been tried and found wanting. It's been found difficult and left untried." That to me is sort of the dilemma I have about Iraq, which end of that whether we've actually tried.
But Senator Boxer -- Chairman Boxer.
SENATOR BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, for what you're doing, and Senator Lugar, in allowing us to take our time and listen to these wise people.
Each of us may have different opinions as to who is responsible for this horrific situation in Iraq. But I know all of us agree that our military troops have done every single thing they've been asked to do. Their work made three elections possible -- actually, two elections and one referendum possible in an amazing show of strength, I think. And now there's an Iraqi government that's been freely elected.
And so the question before us today is how much more our brave men and women in uniform should be asked to sacrifice in order to support the Iraqi government, when 70 percent of the Iraqi people want us to leave within a year and 60 percent -- 61 percent of the Iraqis say it's okay to shoot an American soldier.
And General Odom, I really thank you for mentioning that statistic because it amazes me how many people just ignore it. They say, "Oh, the Iraqi government wants us here and there."
What about the Iraqi people? Over 60 percent of them say it's okay to shoot an American soldier and now our president wants to send more of our own into that circumstance.
I believe personally our military personnel have sacrificed enough. I'm staunchly opposed to the president's plan for the surge because to me it's time, as the Iraqi Study Group said, for a major conference -- and this is also something my chairman has called for for a very long time -- to find a political solution to a civil war.
Now, instead, this new policy that we thought was coming turns out to be really a military surge. That does not a new policy make.
So it seems to me we're asking our troops -- or the president is, and I'm hoping that a majority of senators will not agree with this -- but the president is asking them to do the impossible: to rectify the gross failures of political leaders in both the United States and in Iraq, and to turn Iraq around using military means when almost everyone I know agrees we need a political solution.
This is far more than unfair. It's an enormous risk. And we should listen to General Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, who recently told Congress that the burden on the Army is simply too great and that at the current pace of deployments, quote, "We will break the active component," unquote. I mean that's stunning. And the strain on our service members is intensifying.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice I asked a pretty simple question that got a lot of notoriety, which is, who pays the price? And so I'm going to continue asking that at today's hearing and offer up some facts.
Clearly, service members suffer horrific injuries, lose their buddies in combat. It's the military families who have to learn to adapt to a severely wounded service member or to the fact that their loved one is never coming home.
It's the soldiers who are being sent on multiple tours -- two, three, four -- and are spending years away from their families. Marines are making similar sacrifices. And it's the service members who are facing problems as a result of their experiences -- their combat experiences.
One area I've been focusing on, Mr. Chairman, is the mental illness including post-traumatic stress. Both are skyrocketing, and I won't go into all the stats except to say the rate of suicide for the Army nearly doubled between '04 and '05.
I became so concerned about mental health problems among our men and women in uniform that, with the support of Senators Warner and Levin, I was able to establish the Defense Task Force on Mental Health.
The task force, which is headed by Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley -- if you don't know him, he is quite a wonderful man -- is currently in the process of conducting hearings around the nation.
I mention the task force because I want to briefly tell you about one mother who testified before the task force whose son committed suicide after returning from his second tour in Iraq. His mother spoke of conversations she had with her son. And I'm not going to go into the details of this. It's too graphic.
But suffice it to say his reaction to seeing dead and blackened bodies in Iraq and seeing his own commander killed in front of him -- I understand that these are the horrors of war. I am not naive about that; indeed, I know these are the certainties of war.
And that is why making mistakes in a war have an immeasurable cost. You cannot put a number to it. It is not like making a mistake in politics. It is not like making a mistake in business. It is not like making a mistake on the football field.
And so this brings me to my first question and I'd like to ask it to General Odom.
I am concerned about the will of many individuals in the current Iraqi government to truly pursue a policy of national reconciliation.
And in this months Atlantic Monthly, in an article called "Streetwise," the author, a former assistant secretary of Defense, details the pervasive security problems that are destroying Iraq and the failures of the Iraqi government to effectively confront them.
In particular, the author details the refusal of Prime Minister al-Maliki to take on the Shi'ite militias who we know are orchestrating horrific sectarian violence against the Sunni population.
One lieutenant colonel is even quoted as saying he knows of, quote, "police chiefs who have been relieved of duty by the Maliki government for cracking down on militia members."
How confident are you, General, that Nouri al-Maliki and other Shi'ites -- particularly the hardliners in the Iraqi government -- are truly committed to national reconciliation with their counterparts?
GEN. ODOM: I don't think they're committed to it at all, and I think as General Keane said here, the Sunnis certainly are not committed to it. And I don't think the Shi'ites have ever been committed to it.
I was very impressed with Ahmed Hashim's book on counterinsurgency in Iraq, a man who's spent quite a bit of time there as a reserve Army colonel, who said that his many discussions throughout Iraq was that the Shi'ites feel it's their turn to own the country and own the oil. They're not about to give that up.
SEN. BOXER: Well, this is very --
GEN. ODOM: I think also I'd make one other point about --
SEN. BOXER: Please.
GEN. ODOM: -- Mr. Maliki and the government. They live in the Green Zone. If you want to see who owns and runs Iraq, look at the people who do not look for U.S. for security and live outside the Green Zone. Otherwise, you don't have any troops. You have a government who has no administrative capacity to implement so if you tell them to implement these things, you're asking to do the impossible. That's why most all these economic and other programs that we've opposed have not the least prospect of success.
SEN. BOXER: Well, thank you, sir. I have just a little bit of time left so I will ask one more question.
But I wanted to say this is the point that my chairman has been making over and over again. He has said -- asked very specifically, "Can you ever imagine a situation where a police force that's dominated by the Shi'a are going to go into a Sunni neighborhood and actually be able to patrol?"
And not one person -- no matter what their views on this -- has ever said I can imagine it.
So I worry -- I fear. We know these things. These are the things we know. And yet we're going to take our young people already stressed to the point -- to a terrible point -- and put them in such a circumstance where they're partnering with a partner who we're really very nervous about.
So my last question, because of time, I want to ask General Hoar this question: What does it mean when only 35 percent of service members approve of the way that the president is handling the Iraq war?
GEN. HOAR: I've noticed here in Washington a change, Senator, among senior military people. I think there is a growing disillusionment among the senior people. I attribute it to the mismanagement of this war and more specifically to the fact that the civilian leadership is tone deaf.
The execution of Saddam Hussein on the first day of the Sunni feast day of Eid -- these kinds of things should never happen. And yet you can't expect us to be successful unless we have an understanding of the culture. And I think that our colleagues on active duty have come to the conclusion that we're not up to the task.
There was an editorial last week in one of the English language Egyptian newspapers that blamed the United States for the execution of Saddam Hussein; and among the Shi'a population throughout the Middle East he has become a hero and a martyr. And that's because, again, of our inability to see the consequences of particular actions in the region.
SEN. BOXER: Did you mean among the Sunni?
GEN. HOAR: Yes.
SEN. BOXER: Because you said Shi'a. Among Sunni --
GEN. HOAR: I'm sorry, I meant Sunni.
SEN. BOXER: Well, I just want to thank you very much.
After listening to this I'm hopeful that with a bipartisan surge here in the Senate, maybe we can turn this around.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator, thank you very much.
I want the witnesses to know, and I don't know how much time they have, but the freshman members -- we have a remarkable -- (laughs) -- group of new people on this committee -- are required to attend 11:30 meeting, at least on the Democratic side. They ought to be able to be back within, I'm told, 20 minutes to half an hour. I think that'll take that much time anyway before we get there.
But if you're able to stay until they get back, which will be about around 11:00, which I think will be -- excuse me, around 12:00 -- because they have some very good questions. If you're able to do that I'd appreciate it.
I just want to explain as they get up, it's not lack of interest; it's another obligation.
Is that correct, General?
So Senator Hagel.
SEN. HAGEL: Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Gentlemen, as I was sitting listening attentively to each of you -- being an old Army sergeant I always listen attentively to generals and respect generals -- I was thinking, Mr. Chairman, this panel before us represents I suspect around 150 years of distinguished service to this country. That's pretty remarkable, and you all deserve, certainly, our thanks. But also remarkable is the fact that you are each still engaged on behalf of this country and are willing to come before the people of our nation through the appropriate congressional committees and state your concerns, your thoughts, your solutions. And for that, this country owes you a great deal. So thank you.
Mr. Chairman, as we all know on this panel, these are not only military leaders. These are some of the best geopolitical thinkers in our country. They have had to be not only very acute geopolitical thinkers but practitioners of all of these dynamics in the commands that they have held and the successful careers that they have accomplished.
We could spend hours -- and I suspect if it was up to the chairman he would -- keeping you all here. But we don't have hours and I have a limited amount of time and I do have a couple of questions.
But I want to go to a point that General McCaffrey made and I think all three would agree. I believe you said, General, you are concerned that we are putting our generals in a box in Iraq.
I too am concerned about that, and as we sit here and lavish great, deserved praise on Crocker and Petraeus and Fallon and others who will be the new team for us, we are putting them in a box because if the policy is flawed, it won't make any difference how brilliant and wonderful and dedicated and smart they are.
They are doomed for failure if the policy is flawed. I think our policy is flawed.
I appreciate the four of you articulating some very specific areas where that flaw exists. And I wish our country could hear this, because this is not about politics; this is not about theory; this is not about bean counting. This is about something very real for our short-term and our long-term interests in the country.
To that point, here's a question for each of you. You noted, I suspect, this morning in the front page of all the papers that in an interview yesterday the prime minister of Iraq was quite critical of the president of the United States, was quite critical of the secretary of State of the United States.
One specific thing he mentioned about Secretary Rice -- I believe she made that comment before this committee last week that the Maliki government was living on borrowed time.
Well, if I was the prime minister of Iraq, specifically Prime Minister Maliki, I might have some issue with that as well. I'm not certain that was a particularly astute thing to say, but Secretary Rice can answer for herself.
Surprisingly enough, we say a sovereign government, sovereign country. So the prime minister of this sovereign country -- sovereign prime minister -- takes some issue with its strongest ally -- secretary of State -- saying this guy is living on borrowed time.
President Talabani said a couple of weeks ago -- and this goes right back to a number of points you each have made, in particular you, General McCaffrey -- being quite critical of this administration in training Iraqi troops, not providing Iraqi troops with equipment, not doing the things that President Talabani believes at least -- and I suspect he speaks for a number of Iraqis -- that we should have been doing.
Well, does that not present to all of us some sense of disconnect or contradiction or some dynamic here? On one hand we are about to make a commitment of at least 22,000 more troops in the most dangerous parts of Baghdad, where there will be more casualties and billions of dollars of more money going in. But yet we have a government that is sovereign saying these things about our leaders. Now that may not strike you as strange. It strikes me as strange.
So how can then you put these great people that we are putting over there -- all our military -- asking them to do the things they are doing, and have done brilliantly as has been noted here today, with that kind of disconnect with the two governments? How does that possibly work? How can that work?
We talk about poll numbers and confidence of the American people -- and the Iraqi people has been also noted here this morning. Well, no wonder. Does that not confuse both publics? Does that not confuse the people of the Middle East when we have these major criticisms of each other publicly?
You all have noted in some detail some of the other specifics. So I would like each of you in the time I have to reflect on that.
I do not know how this country can execute any kind of a policy when you have two different governments supposedly sovereign. We say they're a sovereign government but we're in the shadows over here threatening them. We're in the shadows over here saying, "Well, we will pull out security."
Question that Senator Lugar asked, which was a very important question: What are the consequences? Words have consequences. Words have meanings. We should have figured that out four years ago before we got ourselves in the whole, as you all have suggested. We should have thought about that.
We did on this committee. A lot of us asked tough questions and many of you came before this committee and gave us some pretty good answers.
We didn't listen. We are where we are. We're not going to go back and unwind the bad decisions.
We can't, obviously, leave the Middle East just as all of you say. That's a false choice. That makes no sense and that's silly, and those that try to make a political dynamic out of this do a great disservice to this country in both political parties. This isn't a political issue. This is the most significant, divisive issue facing this country since Vietnam -- since Vietnam.
And we are in a box, just as General McCaffrey said, and we are putting our soldiers and our Marines in even more of a box and asking them to do things that they can't possibly do.
Now if you would each respond to that observation about the two governments being in conflict and thinking that somehow we're going to be able to move forward and hold hands with a constant bludgeoning and public humiliation of our so-called sovereign allies -- how will that play out then with the new policy that the president announced on Wednesday? Can it work with that kind of relationship?
I'll just start at the front end, General McCaffrey, and go down the line. Thank you.
And thank you again, each of you, for your service and for coming before us today.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I've listened, Senator Hagel, very closely to General John Abizaid throughout this war. I admired him for 30 years. You know, I love to introduce the guy. He's bilingual in Arabic, you know, a Stanford fellow, and an Olmsted Scholar, and on and on. Plus he got the -- he's a real fighter -- Ranger company commander, Airborne battalion commander in combat.
And you know, from the start I think he understood this conflict, tried to be candid in his dealings with the civilian leadership, and then loyally followed his instructions.
Where we are now -- looking at a snapshot of the notion of largely withdrawing our combat forces and embedding trainers, minus the equipment, minus the economic peace, minus the peace negotiations -- it's almost an out-of-body experience to me to listen to that argument as to why it would work, why you would be putting 10 U.S. Army soldiers at company level, 40, 50 in a battalion. They don't speak Arabic. There's dual chains of command.
What -- why would you think that's going to work? Why would they operate a police storefront station in the nine districts of Baghdad? Where is there support base?
And you know, I listen -- out-of-body experience -- getting denounced by former Attorney General Meese and Vernon Jordan on CNN that I obviously didn't understand the nature of combat advisers.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, that's obviously clear. That's clear. You haven't had much experience.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, it struck me as novel --
SEN. BIDEN: By the way, for the record, that is an attempt -- a very poor attempt -- at humor on my part. (Laughter.)
GEN. MCCAFFREY: But it struck me as novel that, you know, I spent one of my earlier combat tours -- the 1st -- the 2nd Vietnamese Airborne Battalion -- they spent 10 months getting us ready to go to include language training. We clearly weren't there to inspire and take command of those battalions. We were a liaison element to U.S. logistics, intelligence, combat, fire, et cetera. I think that's the only useful role we will play with well-equipped and reliable Iraqi army forces.
So the notion that we will take -- it will be like the (Ceylon ?) rebellion of India that we're down there with our guys sort of subverting their own chain of command they're going to do the right thing. It strikes me as laughable that we would think that would work.
What I think might work -- and again, like you, I'm searching for, given where we are, what's the best outcome? Get them more legs to this stool -- economic and political and equipment -- and start getting out at some measured pace, which hopefully we will communicate to the Iraqis and not to our enemies. I don't -- since we can't keep a secret I don't see how it would work, but I do think we're coming out.
General Hoar said next president's pulling the plug on this operation. I don't think there's much doubt about that. So how can we get it where it looks like it's sort of working in 24 months? And that's Petraeus's challenge.
SEN. HAGEL: Thank you.
GEN. HOAR: Sir, I've had some experience with advising as well in Vietnam, and I agree with Barry's assessment.
But to the specific question that you raised: I think there's two elements of this. One is that Maliki is in fact the prime minister and he is feeling his own position as being the senior political person in the country, and certainly would take umbrage when he is criticized by the president and the secretary of State, which in my judgment is unfortunate.
I think the next issue down, though, is to watch Maliki and see what he has to say about what we've asked him to do. I think the first indicator is he's apparently appointed a lieutenant general from the south, a Shi'a, a guy that has not got a good reputation with working with U.S. military.
I think that's an indication where this thing is going, and I think day by day we will see the decisions that he makes in order to meet the requirements the president of the United States has put on him. And I don't think we're off to a good start.
SEN. HAGEL: Thank you.
GEN. ODOM: Well, I think you framed the issue very clearly.
The only thing I could add was this was imminently foreseeable. Once you cross the border invade the country this kind of outcome was inexorably going to be the case, and we're just now getting around to it.
The issue is not whether that's the case. The issue is whether you're going to face up to it or continue to buy a stock that is falling. I think this is a sunk-cost proposition, to put it in economic terms. If you want to lose more money keep buying the stock. This place is headed to bankruptcy.
SEN. HAGEL: Gen. Keane?
GEN. KEANE: Yes. Thank you. I think that's a great question. It really is, who is Maliki and who is a Maliki government? I don't believe our government -- I don't pretend to speak for them -- but I don't believe our government truly knows that answer.
I mean, is Maliki genuinely interested in a unified government with the Sunnis participating in it at some level of consequence for the Sunnis? Or is he truly interested in a Shi'a-dominated government and living on the emotion and psychological energy from 35 years of repression and appealing to that power base?
I don't think we really know that answer, to be honest. This government has been in power less than a year. His criticism, I think, is flapping his wings. He's got probably a right to make criticism like that. I'm more interested in what he does and what are going to be his political steps here forward. We have an opportunity to strengthen his hand here.
And remember, this military operation -- its only intended purpose is to seek a political solution. That's what this is all about.
So hopefully this will strengthen his hand so that he can move in the right direction. But I don't know myself who he really is and what that government really is.
SEN. HAGEL: Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: May I?
SEN. HAGEL: Sorry.
SEN. BIDEN: No, go ahead.
SEN. HAGEL: No, I'm done. Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: I just wanted to -- would you fellows like a five- minute break? Why don't we break for five minutes and you can take a break back here if you'd like. And the staff can show you if you need the phone or anything else.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Feingold, please.
SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D-WI): Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman, again for all of these hearings and for what you're doing here.
And let me thank all of you, Generals, for testifying in front of the committee today on such an important issue. You are all outstanding citizens, and I sincerely appreciate the service you've given to our country.
Before I get to my questions, let me say that I was struck by your opening statements. While you differ about how we can best address the profound implications of the conflict in Iraq, you have all highlighted, directly or indirectly, how damaging this administration's present course in Iraq is to our national security.
Each of you, directly or indirectly, highlighted how important it is for our government to change course in Iraq. And each of you alluded to the fact that the solutions in Iraq will not come from military efforts or from maintaining such a sizable military presence there indefinitely.
I respect, of course, the opinions you've shared with us. And I'd like to spend a few minutes with you talking about how we can start preparing strategically to redeploy our brave troops from Iraq.
So, what I want to do is, without debating about when redeployment should occur, I think this is a valuable forum to share your thoughts, as retired senior military officers, on how we should plan and execute a redeployment strategy that will protect the safety of our troops in Iraq and that will help position our forces and our government for success in other efforts, including counterterrorism efforts throughout the region and the world.
Again, I'm not interested in debating today when or why we should redeploy. I'm operating under the assumption that we should at least prepare to do so and that each of you will have valuable insights as to what we should be thinking about and how we can best do that while protecting our troops and strengthening our national security.
So let me begin with a general question for all of you. Putting aside the political debate about whether or not the United States troops should remain in Iraq and for how long, I think we can all assume that the United States will, at some point, begin a redeployment, or a drawdown, or a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Clearly, this is something we need to plan for.
So I'd like each of you to briefly discuss what you feel would be the important elements of a redeployment plan, and how we can redeploy U.S. military personnel safely while mitigating any negative impact on the Iraqis and our allies in the region.
GEN. HOAR: Yes. Thank you, Senator.
I think that there are several things. First of all, as a preface to your point, I think it's essential that we go ahead and talk to Syria and Iran about the region and what can be done.
I think Syria is the easier of the two. I think while we still have a very serious problem with respect to Lebanon, we have a country that right after 9/11, when they were helping us, was willing to open up the peace process, and we rebuffed them. I think that we would help solve some other problems in the Middle East if we could come to some agreement, as we had early after 9/11, with Syria.
With respect to Iran, we have allowed the Brits, the French and the Germans to work with Iran. We are the only country that has any traction with respect to we have their money; we have them embargoed; we have not given them political recognition. We have a lot of things that we could offer.
Beyond that, within the region, we already have a sizable presence in Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE and Qatar. We need to stay in the area. We need to keep combat troops in the area. We have the capacity for over 10,000 troops in Kuwait, and we could keep them very close to that area if we needed to.
But we need to engage the neighbors -- all of them -- and of course that includes the GCC plus the two, Egypt and Jordan. It should also include Turkey because they have a dog in this fight as well.
SEN. FEINGOLD: So the notion, I take, would be to safely redeploy troops to some of the places you've mentioned?
GEN. HOAR: To stay engaged in the region.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Okay.
GEN. HOAR: But we need to engage the other countries in the neighborhood.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you. General McCaffrey?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, Senator, one caution.
It seems to me that the idea that with 150,000 troops in combat in Iraq who are failing to achieve our political and military purpose -- that we can actually start sending out, and we can perch on lily pads in the region, and maintain influence -- I think is nonsense.
The Kuwaitis, the Persian Gulf coast states, the Saudis and others -- if they see us in a determined, strategic withdrawal -- are not going to be inclined to give us an alternative. They will now find ways to accommodate Iranian influences and others.
So I don't believe, and I've heard people suggest that -- clearly we ought to remain engaged: 10,000 troops in Kuwait, maybe a brigade, a Marine battalion, a float, that kind of thing. But if we start coming out, our military power in the region will go down to a percent or so of what it is today. Not that today is necessarily useful.
Secondly, I think that clearly the only part of the redeployment that's easy is get out of the Iraqi cities: Get into brigade and division protected positions in the south, and Tallil air base, and out at Balad, and out in the western province of Anbar; and protect yourself and be a force in readiness to protect the Iraqi government in the event of a coup; intervene -- threaten the Syrians and Iranians by our presence.
So getting out of the cities, not taking part in urban warfare, is step one.
Then finally, I would be -- and again, it's a caution -- I'd be very careful, as either a retired military officer or a member of Congress, to get involved in the tactics of disengagement. The political question is the important one for the Congress to answer.
SEN. FEINGOLD: That's fair, General, let me just --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: It's not clear to me what that answer is.
SEN. FEINGOLD: If I can respond, I think that's a fair point.
In order for someone to responsibly vote for the policy, we want to know from people like you that it can in fact be done. And so that's the spirit of it, not being interested in trying to micromanage it or me making the decisions.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think we could --
SEN. FEINGOLD: What I want to know from these hearings, and I think that's one of the reasons it's so good the Chairman is doing it is that this is something that can be done.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think we can come out in six months. And I let the Washington Post op-ed I wrote with you -- and I think, you know, literally, we could be out of there in six months: Close down the whole thing, set fire to our ammunition stockpiles, fight down quarters back to the sea and the U.S. Navy, and withdraw.
The consequences of that might be catastrophic. But the withdrawal could clearly be achieved.
SEN. FEINGOLD: I understand your feelings on that. But I do appreciate your practical observations as well.
GEN. ODOM: You know there are two levels to approach this; and I think the level of practical implementation -- the issue is which question to ask. You've got to go back and ask the questions that they're raising.
And I think you ask how much sea and airlift we have on the inventory of other places in the region you can keep people. Then you have these issues come up as to whether they're still welcome when we pull out. And I don't think that's something we can lay out here at that table.
But these are the questions that should be put to the joint chiefs and to the CINC on a contingency basis. They should, in my view, already have been put to them. They need to think about all scenarios from an uncontested withdrawal down to fighting your way out.
And I think the kinds of concerns about whether the Saudis and others -- Kuwaitis -- will want us are open and that talking about that with them early, and what you'll do about the Iran and Arab clash -- conflict -- that's really going to be serious after this -- that's got to be dealt with.
And you've got to talk to those people so that they understand what you're willing to do. And they've got to let you know what they're willing to do to begin to develop a strategy toward that.
In my earlier remarks, I made that point. That's one of the things you develop once we start seriously getting out. If people are not already engaging us in those -- asking the kinds of questions you are for the American government -- we should be asking them.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, I really appreciate that comment. Because -- (laughs) -- you know, as I said to some people at the Intelligence Committee Hearing, you know, since we didn't have a real plan getting in, we darn well better have a plan to get out and talk about it a little bit. It doesn't mean that everybody agrees. But we ought to have a plan instead of just being in --
GEN. ODOM: I would add one last point about this.
You know, everybody sees this so-called catastrophe. There's just going to be a big blood bath, all these sorts of things. Well, I heard that about Vietnam, and it wasn't nearly as bad as a lot of people thought it would be. And I'm prepared, for strategic reasons that I introduced earlier, that if there is a big terrible disaster, we're just going to have to accept that. That's a cost we have to bear.
My own guess is that it won't be quite that bad because people's interests, the neighbors' interests, in having this thing destabilize on a regional basis will not be -- I don't think they'll want that, and therefore not immediately throw into the fight and expand it without some other provocations.
SEN. FEINGOLD: I think that's a very insightful remark. Thank you, General.
GEN. KEANE: Thank you, Senator.
Well, you know, I disagree with the withdrawal policy and the consequences will take place. But from a military practitioner's point, certainly that's a military operation; we know how to conduct it.
Certainly I would keep nothing in the south. I would go north to Balad, where there is a very good base there. I would pull everything out of the Green Zone in Baghdad.
I would pull out of Victory, except for a very small security detachment there to maintain the -- keep the airport running. And if we could contract that out, we'd probably contract that out and let them do it. Pull us out of there. I'd also pull out of Al Anbar as well.
So you would pull back from the major contentious areas. And I agree with General McCaffrey: probably six to eight months, you could execute a military operation to do that. You'd be concerned about the safety of your forces certainly; while you're doing this, it would be preeminent for you.
But it is a military operation. We know how to do it; if the military had the mission, they would develop the plans to do it and execute it properly.
SEN. FEINGOLD: Thank you, generals. I thought your answers were very helpful and responsive, and I appreciate it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Voinovich.
SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R-OH): Thank you. I congratulate the Chairman for the hearings that he's been having on this issue.
And I thank you very much for being here today.
Mr. Chairman, one of the books that had a large impact on my decision-making in terms of Iraq was a book by Ken Pollack. The title of it was "The Threatening Storm - A Case for Invading Iraq." I don't know whether you read it or not. But I really would be interested if we could get Mr. Pollack here before the committee to kind of share with us what his opinion was at that time and what his observations are now that we've been involved in Iraq.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator, I think that's a good idea. I want to make it clear these aren't going to be the totality of the hearings we're going to have on Iraq. These are the opening important salvo. So I think that's a great idea. I will pursue that.
SEN. VOINOVICH: The other book that I read -- and my staff says you shouldn't mention it because the guy's a Frenchman who was in London -- Gilles Kepel, "The Fight (sic/War) for Muslim Minds." I read that about two years ago. And after reading that, I started to come to the conclusion that we were completely misreading this area of the world. And by that I mean, I concluded that Mr. Sadr and his family have been revolutionaries for a long time, that they're populists and their goal in life is to take over the -- take over Iraq; that Sadr in his mind wants to be the next Ayatollah of Iraq and, ultimately, probably wants a theocracy.
And I kept asking the questions in closed sessions: How can you have a unity government with Sadr? How can you do it? And today, as you know, he's a dominant figure there. I really don't know where Sistani is anymore. He's kind of disappeared from the scene.
But as I analyze the situation, the Shi'ites were out of power and the Sunnis were in. Now they're in. I think they're going to want a Shi'ite-dominated government. And the question is, what happens to the Sunnis? The Sunnis are there, and I think one of you mentioned that Saddam's now the hero in the Sunnis. What we fail to realize -- at least from what I read -- is that you've had this struggle between the Shi'ites and the Sunnis for many, many years.
And the question is, if we get out and things start to unravel, what's going to happen? Pollack says a regional -- you could have a regional confrontation between -- I mean both of them, from what I can understand, want to dominate the area, from a religious point of view. Saddam Hussein is a Sunni, and he's got al Qaeda in there working to try and, you know, get as many Sunnis on board to his way of thinking.
The question I have is this: Do you end up with a regional conflict and, the most important -- here's the question I really want to get at: If the leaders in the region, Shi'a and Sunni, understand that this place could blow, what are the incentives for them to come together to try and figure out some political solution in Iraq today?
In other words, is there enough out there -- you've got 700,000 refugees, you're probably going to have a lot more, there's a lot of disruption that's going on in these respective countries -- is there enough incentive for them to get involved in this? And then you've got to think about the Saudis: If they start really beating up on the Sunnis, are the Saudis going to get involved in that? Are they going to not be able to not get involved if they're killing Sunnis in Iraq?
So that's basically it. And then, you know, what's the time to do that? We're talking about a surge. Some will argue a surge after the surge, then maybe that's when we should do it. My way of thinking is, if I were calling the shots, I'd get at it immediately because the real issue, I think, here is a political solution and whether or not there's enough out there to get people to come together to cut some kind of arrangement and calm things down in the region.
GEN. HOAR: May I give a crack at that, Senator?
I would say, first of all, that the countries you mentioned are all -- their governments are all dominated by the Sunni. They all have substantial Shi'a minorities, and they're all terribly worried about this.
My understanding today is that the Secretary of State is traveling in the region to encourage these governments to put pressure on the Sunni in Iraq to support the central government, which is quite different from the question that you asked, which is the bigger one: What are they going to do when this thing goes to a catastrophe?
And I think this is why we need to be talking to them right now. The Saudis' answer to this question is to build a wall, which, in my judgment, will be about as successful as our efforts to put a barrier along the DMZ there in Vietnam or the current planned one between Mexico and the United States. Barriers don't work.
The point is, we need to be engaged with them and explain to them that they are in serious trouble if Iraq craters. And they need to get involved in taking some steps now to protect their own political arrangements in their own countries.
SEN. VOINOVICH: General Hoar.
GEN. ODOM: I think you put your finger on a key issue, which I tried to highlight in my opening remarks -- that the war was never in our interest, that it actually was undercutting our interests in the region: regional stability. Because by going in and knocking off Saddam we ensured that this kind of conflict would eventually come about. And what we've been trying to do ever since is evade the inevitable. And I tried to explain that the alignment of forces is such that no matter how much we surge in Iraq, other surges from outside, with money or people themselves, can more than counter that.
So I think you're exactly right, and the only option left open to us, if we're going to get back and try to achieve regional stability is to get out. And it may cost us a lot. It may not cost us as much. But we can't turn our strategy around unless we do. That's the precondition. So, I agree with you, and I think it's really hard; it's the thing that has everybody stopped in this debate.
If they want to realize that you don't have a choice to stay in there and get what was originally defined as victory -- victory would be a liberal democratic pro-America Iraq -- if you realize that's a mirage, then maybe you'll wise up and realize that you've got to adjust to those realities.
That is the crux of the issue we're facing. The issue -- at what point do you say that's a mirage and we're not going to pay anymore in pursuit of it?
GEN. KEANE: Well, you have to remember that the Sunnis really do want it to blow. I mean, the armed conflict that they are prosecuting is to fracture this government and create the conditions for all-out civil war and a failed state.
That is what they want. So, I mean, the issue is, can we do anything --
SEN. VOINOVICH: General, excuse me, how can they conclude that they could win militarily?
GEN. KEANE: I agree with that. It makes no sense.
GEN. ODOM: I don't. But go ahead.
GEN. KEANE: It makes no sense. But, nonetheless, that is what they believed. Out of the anarchy of a failed state, they believe it suits their political objectives better than any course they have right now. That's a fact.
So is there something to work with there? Right now there's nothing to work with. That's a fact. And you've got the Sunni Arab states that are cheerleading the insurgency, not directly aiding and abetting, like Syria is, the insurgency, and the Iranians in terms of the militias but, nonetheless, cheerleading it.
You have to change that. You have to deal with the Sunnis and convince them that their political objectives cannot be achieved by armed violence. And I think we can do that. We can start to change that equation. And then you have something to work with. Right now, there is nothing to work with.
Now they're not monolithic. I'm not suggesting that they are. And there are different groups there, as we all know, and their former regime element, the Saddamists, are clearly different than some of the other more mainstream. But the fact is that they want a fractured government.
So we have to stabilize the situation; bring this level of violence down; convince them that they cannot achieve their political objectives by armed violence; then Maliki has something to work with. And the question is: Is Maliki willing to work with it?
SEN. VOINOVICH: You just said it. Here, I wrote it down. That you're not sure -- who is Maliki? Does he want a unity government? Does he want a government that's just dominated by the Shi'a? There's -- and we have, you know, we've got some real reservations about this guy.
GEN. KEANE: We do. And at the same time, I don't think we just pull the plug and deal with the consequences.
What I'm suggesting is, despite those reservations, despite the fact we don't know -- and I don't think anybody truly does know -- we should strengthen his hand. And we've got an opportunity to do that.
SEN. VOINOVICH: But the question I've got is: I was out at Bethesda two days ago and visited a guy who was in Baghdad. He has many year-old boys. Got about eight guys he was responsible for. He said -- he described, he gets up every morning and tries to keep his guys alive. He's in one of the neighborhoods, and they've got some open -- houses that are not occupied, so they check them out. They get some information from some people that maybe they ought to look into this; and he said they take potshots from them, but they never engage them. And then he said, he doesn't know how it happens, but they just constantly -- these improvised explosive devices keep showing up on the street, and their job is to deal with it. One of them he dealt with; and he's not sure whether he's going to see or not again, and his arm, and so forth.
He said, "Look, you know, this is my third term over here; I've got two kids out in California." He said, "I'm out of here."
And the thing is that we forget sometimes what impact is this going to have on -- you know, we talked about the generals and, you know, how do they feel about this thing?
I mean there were times I saw Abizaid at the end of the meetings. I don't know. I'm not sure they weren't tears, but this guy was emotionally involved in this issue. He was really concerned, and he felt -- he was just frustrated. I know he was. We were beating up on him with these questions.
How does this impact on, you know, those people; and how does it impact on the men that we're going to be calling in to go into this thing when there's so many questions about whether or not this thing is going to work a lot, and they're putting their life on the line?
GEN. KEANE: Well, the human dimension of this is certainly staggering. All of us have been around this most of our adult lives. And we have a sense of what this is.
Their sacrifice is they represent a body of people in the United States that have true honor in every sense of the word. When you ruck up and become a soldier, a Marine, an airman, or a Navy guy, I mean, you're always going to get some orders that you don't like; but being a soldier is about following your orders regardless.
SEN. VOINOVICH: The fact is we have a civilian-controlled in terms of the military in this country.
GEN. KEANE: Sure.
SEN. VOINOVICH: We have something to say about that.
GEN. KEANE: And you do. All I'm saying is that their performance is absolutely extraordinary.
What I'm trying to suggest is that we, for the first time, give them some of the conditions so that they can be successful. And I don't believe they've had those conditions, and that's one of my concerns.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Let me ask you this: If you gave them the conditions, and you went in there -- but you really believe in your heart that the end result was going to be a Shi'ite-dominated government, that they're going to take over, and that Sadr and company are going to take, you know, be the ones in charge, and end up with a theocracy -- if that's what you really believe was going to be end result, then why would you stick them into a situation that means that a lot of them are going to not come home?
GEN. KEANE: If we knew that for a fact, then we'd probably -- we'd have no business doing it. It would be absolutely irresponsible to do what I'm suggesting or what the United States is about to do. That would be irresponsible if that's what we knew.
And by the way, in terms of General Abizaid, what a magnificent leader he truly is and the sacrifice that he's made. And we probably haven't had a smarter guy put his mind on this problem, and certainly it is a really difficult problem. So the emotion that you see there is a reflection of that.
Every question that you've asked him he's probably asked himself many, many times, over and over and over again. And that's why I think you see some of that emotion, because he knows what he represents: He represents the honor of all those men and women who are serving so loyally and so dedicated.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Does anyone else want to comment?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, a quick comment.
SEN. VOINOVICH: Is it okay?
SEN. BIDEN: Yes, sure.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: It seems to me that I would define success in Iraq from where we now are. A successful outcome would be: that we're there for 10, 15 years, with 50(,000) to 75,000 troops; we're out of the urban areas; there's a loose federal structure of government in which the Shi'a and the Kurds mostly have autonomy for internal security in their areas; and that our primary role there is to deter outside active intervention to guarantee against a counter-coup; and to protect the Sunnis from the justifiable rage of the Shi'a. That, to me, would be a successful outcome.
It wouldn't mean $8 billion a month. It wouldn't be a thousand killed and wounded a month. But it would be an enormous commitment of U.S. resources and power.
If we're not willing to see that as an option -- if we don't think it's worth it -- then I personally would flip over and start arguing for a measured but deliberate withdrawal from this current strategy.
Because I do not believe we are there to fight a counterinsurgency campaign or to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. We're trying to stand up a government, get the economy going, get a security force in place, and get out of there.
SEN. BIDEN: General, I want a clarification on the last point you just made.
The two political incentives you indicated -- political dynamics that need to be in place for that outcome to occur -- is, essentially, let the constitution in the regions, them being able to form regions like the Kurds had, where they have local control over their local police, their local security. Correct?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: That's already happened.
SEN. BIDEN: No, I know. It's a plan I've been promoting, and everyone up to now has been saying --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, I think there's always anxiety about the notion of --
SEN. BIDEN: I just think it's inevitable. It's already done.
I mean, it's like the idea of -- I'm not suggesting that it works, but I don't know how anything works without those two pieces in it.
GEN. ODOM: I'd like to comment on both of these --
SEN. BIDEN: I'm sorry; I didn't realize you didn't comment.
GEN. ODOM: No, the --
SEN. BIDEN: I realize I'm going over --
GEN. ODOM: I think General Keane is quite right about most of what he said about the Sunnis. But I'd like to add another dimension to understanding their behavior as to why they're determined to try to do this no matter what and that the odds may not look very good to them. The alternative for them is to be decimated by Shi'ites. All U.S. policy -- I mean by all U.S. policies are empowering the Shi'ites. They've done it from the day we came in there. And now we're in the position, do we side with the Shi'ites and win? Well, you don't want that because you don't want that clerical government. And why should the Sunnis sign up for that?
I would say don't count the Sunnis out. The Ba'athist party is based on Leninist-Stalinist organizational principles. That organizational administrative capacity is lacking on the Shi'ite side. And a minority could eventually win this thing.
I'm not saying it will. I don't think anybody knows who can win. But we've been too quick to count the Ba'athists out. And we're too quick to attribute far too much administrative political capacity to the Shi'ites. I see it in Sadr and some of these limited groups, but not in the aggregate.
I would make one last point on the partition business. The problem with that is you end up presiding over ethnic cleansing, which we're doing anyways right now.
SEN. BIDEN: It's not partitioning. If you read the constitution --
GEN. ODOM: No, if you start that way, it won't stop with the constitution.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, General, no, I understand. But my problem is we -- they voted for a constitution. The constitution explicitly says, in the constitution, anybody -- any governorate can decide to be a region and when you are here are the authorities and powers you have.
They already wrote into the constitution the Kurds have that status. They've already written into the constitution that, in fact, this is how it would proceed. They've already voted for the enabling law to do that. It's like pushing a rope. I mean, you know, if we want to change something, we'd better change it. But I agree with the overarching principle, the strategic notion you've laid out.
I'm now trespassing on my colleagues' time in a way that I won't. I've let everyone go over, so that -- and let me make one last point administratively. We -- I want to explain why we don't have an afternoon hearing. We were going to have Congressman Hamilton. And Secretary Baker initially indicated he did not want to participate in these hearings. He subsequently has called and indicated that he would be prepared to do that, and Congressman Hamilton indicated that he would think it best that they appear as the chairpersons of the Iraq Study Group. And we worked out a common time, which I think is the 30th, where they're going to be here. I want you to know that's the only reason the afternoon schedule has changed. That's bad news for you guys because, if you can, I'd like you to be able to stay to, not through the afternoon, but maybe well into the lunch hour here to answer these guys' questions.
But anyway, my friend from Florida, the clock is yours.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Well, before you get to the clock, could General Odom -- he was continuing to answer, and I wanted to hear the remainder of that answer --
SEN. BIDEN: Well, sure.
SEN. NELSON: -- about the partition.
GEN. ODOM: Well, constitutions don't necessarily have to be written on paper. And I've always been impressed with a Russian proverb that Stalin loved: Paper will put up with anything written on it. (Laughter.)
So you'll have a constitution until the rules have been agreed on by the elites. Who are the elites? Anybody with enough guns or money to violate the rules with impunity. If the elites agree, the constitution will stick. If they don't, it won't.
The elites don't agree in Iraq; therefore, you don't have a constitution. And you will have violence until somebody wins out. That may be a long time. But until somebody can restore order on part of the terrain or all of it you won't have order.
SEN. NELSON: Mr. Chairman, I've said this to you privately, and I just want to say publicly that this is an outstanding series of hearings that you are doing. And I am very grateful -- and I am particularly grateful because of the candor that we are hearing from different points of view at that table. And that is in marked contrast to the lack of candor that we have had in witness after witness representing the administration over the last six years. I erupted in this committee last week with the Secretary of State in just saying that time and time again I have not been told the truth.
Now, I want to ask you all a question because I want to understand this. How can, over and over, the representatives at the highest level of the United States military come in here and shave what they are saying to us? And I would say that the one exception is -- and it's not just here, it's also on other committees, including the Armed Services Committee -- and I would say the one exception to that is General Abizaid.
You all are -- you've achieved the highest levels of the United States military. We're supposed to be getting the truth from the military, and we haven't -- over and over. Why?
GEN. KEANE: I'd like to take that on.
Well, first of all, I think you have got the truth from them. Look, if John Abizaid and George Casey put together a strategy in Iraq, that was principally theirs; and that strategy had the political objective to it, and it had this military objective to it that we've discussed, which was transition to the Iraqis' security forces.
And they believed in it.
There's a thought in this town that this is really Secretary Rumsfeld's strategy and he's forced it on these generals, and that's one of the reasons why they never asked for more troops.
Well, I think John Abizaid -- I find that very insulting to these generals to think that. That they wouldn't have the moral courage to stand up and tell the Secretary one, the strategy needs to be changed, or two, they need more troops as a manifestation of that change.
They believed in the strategy they were executing, and they felt it would work. And I believe that. And I think when John or George talk about they don't need more troops, I think they've been very sincere about that -- that that's their belief. I don't think they're shading the truth whatsoever. And I find it insulting to suggest that they are.
SEN. NELSON: Well, you didn't hear what I said. I said the one exception is General Abizaid.
GEN. KEANE: Mm-hmm (Affirmation.) I heard that.
SEN. NELSON: And, indeed, he sat at that table last -- it was November or December -- and said that he did not think that they needed additional troops.
GEN. KEANE: And I believe that's their conviction.
SEN. NELSON: Well, I believe it too. But for the last six years, we haven't been -- over and over we've had generals come up here and say, "The war is going very well. Victory is right around the corner. We have 350(,000)-400,000 Iraqi troops that are trained."
You all have worn that uniform. You knew that wasn't true. Why are they saying that?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: You know, this is a very difficult subject certainly for us to address. And there -- I might add, there's a good reason why I was never the chairman of the JCS. But let me sort of underscore -- there's a bit of unfairness to how you characterize this.
First of all, if you pick up the phone or visit a senior military officer in the field, and you say, "Off the record, tell me what you think," you will get 100 percent of what they think. And so throughout the last four years, the Congress has unmistakably heard from field level officers right through general officers. You know, Senator Biden has been in and out of there. They talk to them explicitly every time he's on the ground. So you knew what was going on, and you allowed the Secretary of Defense and his senior people to come over here and baldly mischaracterize the situation: that there is no insurgency going on, this is just like Germany in '45, just like the American Revolution, its crime rate in D.C.
The denial of the evidence in front of their eyes has been preposterous: the broken army equipment, the country is currently at strategic peril, and it was the Congress's job to raise and equip an Army and Navy, and people were telling you that.
So when you had Dr. Chu come over here and say, "We're not having a problem on recruiting." We're now taking 42-year-old grandmothers into the Army, and their current health is so good that, unlike 40 years ago, there's no degradation in standards, while we quadruple the number of non-high school graduates, quadruple the number of people with moral and criminal waivers and clearly had degraded the input to the army.
So again, I wouldn't focus on the obedient generals and admirals who made their views known to the secretary and his people, and then came over here and signed up to support the president's budget and his strategy.
SEN. NELSON: Is that --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think there's been a huge failure in the United States Congress in both parties to speak up and provide oversight on this disastrously, incompetently mismanaged war.
SEN. NELSON: Is it -- is it -- and I'm asking because I admire each one of you. Going ahead in the future -- so that we can get correct information upon which to make, hopefully, correct judgments -- is it the responsibility of an admiral or a general to sit at that table and be silent when the Secretary of Defense says that the Iraqi army is well trained and they have all these thousands of -- excess thousands of troops that are ready to do the battle?
Is it the responsibility of admirals and generals to sit there and be silent when the Secretary of Defense and others in the civilian position say that we're meeting our recruiting goals and we don't have a problem in the reserves and in the National Guard? Help educate us --
GEN. ODOM: Can I --
SEN. NELSON: -- to understand so that we'll have a filter of which to sort out truth from non-truth in the future.
GEN. ODOM: Can I try and answer this?
SEN. NELSON: Please.
GEN. ODOM: I used to discuss this issue with the late General Goodpaster. Because when I was in Vietnam, I was understood then -- because I was a Soviet specialist -- that we were fighting a war that strategic consequences of which were much more in the Soviet interests than ours: the containment of China and of North Vietnam. So it was very analogous to the present situation where we've charged off on a war that achieves our enemies' goals and not ours.
Now, I was really upset in that war. We never heard from senior generals, and I used to think that generals were a menace to the national security because they didn't do that.
One retired general did speak out, Marine General Shupe, and I remember him extraordinarily well for that. He faced -- he stood up and then took the heat on it. And you've had a young officer, a very outstanding young officer, H.R. McMasters, who's written a book "Dereliction of Duty," which he lays the blame on the joint chiefs for not standing up to McNamara.
And when I pressed General Goodpaster as to how to come down on this, and I think this is a real dilemma -- particularly ones that senior officers face, but you face it even on -- do you break with the policy and put out the unvarnished truth and quit? Or, do you say, as Goodpaster -- I said it seems to me there's a very persuasive argument for that, which -- is that not professional integrity?
He says, "Well, isn't it also an issue of professional integrity to stay with these people and try to help them in spite of themselves?" In other words you're really copping out if you don't kind of do the best you can to get on with them, don't want to confront them head on, stay within the policy balance, and try to save the day.
So I don't think there's a clear-cut answer to this. But in this war, it seemed to me, as it was in the Vietnam War, after you've been there for a while and quite a few things were becoming further clear, the argument for abandoning ship and no longer doing the best you can to help these people was being reached. But each individual has to decide what he thinks is professional integrity in that regard. (Laughter.)
GEN. HOAR: I'd like to add to the comments that have been made.
I think that all of us agree that civilian control of the military is an immutable concept. There's no question that the president and vice president and the people that they have appointed, with advice and consent of the Senate, are the people that make these decisions. The difficult question is: How do you break with your boss when you don't agree with him? I would like to think that all of us would stand up and be counted. But I don't think it's that easy. Because I have written and spoken repeatedly in the last four years about my objection to the way this war has been handled, I find that in some forums this question comes up.
There are a lot of active-duty officers that believe they are not responsible for speaking up, that they have to follow the leadership of the civilians that are over them. I don't think that's true. But I think it would be an interesting question in the Senate Armed Services Committee when a man is -- or a woman, for that matter -- is nominated for a third or a fourth star to ask this question.
Eric Shinseki, to the president of the United States, voiced his discontent with the plan to invade Iraq, and he was publicly demeaned for that.
I'm not sure, given that kind of behavior, how people respond to this. I would prefer not to go into individual cases and circumstances, but I don't think in all cases people have been entirely candid.
SEN. NELSON: In the last six years, we've had a credibility problem. And what I'm trying to get at is the truth. And I'm asking four generals, whom have given extraordinarily candid testimony today, of how to solve this problem on a going-forward basis. I'm not talking about those officers lower down in the chain of command. I'm talking about the officers that come here and present testimony to us and sit by as if corroborating the testimony of their civilian bosses.
GEN. HOAR: I think it would help if you could frame the question in a way that you would ask them their personal opinion of the value of a particular course of action. I think that's how General Shinseki first went public -- is my recollection. He was asked in the Senate Armed Services Committee if there were enough troops and some other questions, and he gave his honest response.
SEN. NELSON: I asked him the question. And the question was: How many will it take, and for how long? And he said several hundred thousand for several years. And for that, he was significantly -- well, we know the rest of the story.
GEN. HOAR: I think that's the key, though, Senator. If you have enough understanding of the issues to ask the hard questions directly, I think you have a better chance of getting the answer.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for this extraordinary panel.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank all of the generals for their service, individually and collectively, to our country and for their insights today. I had another hearing, but I read all of your testimony last night, and I got a synopsis of some of your answers, and I want to pursue some questions.
I would say to my distinguished colleague from Florida that one of the things I would think that would make it easier is to put witnesses under oath, in which case they would feel compelled to make sure that they gave an answer that would not put them in violation of the law. And that might be something that the chairmen of the committees, when appropriate, might consider.
You know, General Keane, let me start with you.
I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, based upon press accounts, that you and Dr. Kagan are sort of like the architects of the president's latest plan. Is that a fair characterization?
GEN. KEANE: All I can attest to is that I made a recommendation to the president, and I'll let him speak in terms of what he thought of that. I do know that the plan, as the administration has announced, is remarkably similar to what we had talked about -- you know, Fred and I. But I wasn't privy to their, you know, staff deliberations.
SEN. MENENDEZ: You made those recommendations directly to the president, did you not?
GEN. KEANE: I made a recommendation to the president, yes.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And were there others? Was the vice president involved?
GEN. KEANE: Yes.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And in the recommendations that you made, did you offer any form, in addition to the escalation, did you offer any form of benchmarks that you thought were needed to be established and consequences for benchmarks not achieved?
GEN. KEANE: No, I did not.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Now, let me ask you this. I understand that during your answer to some of the questions you said that Iraqis should not be in the lead on this mission. Is that correct?
GEN. KEANE: Well, yes. I have problems with it because, one, what that really means when you say Iraqis are in the lead is we're going to have two chain of commands. Obviously, we're not going to work for the Iraqis, so we'll have our own chain of command, and the Iraqis will have their own chain of command.
That has not been the case in the operations that we've been conducting in Iraq to date. The Iraqis have been responding to us when we're working combined operations together.
So we've made a conscious decision here to make this their operation, and we're in support of it.
My problem with that is we're talking about a partnership. I think that's a business term. It's not a military term. It doesn't have much application on a street where you have soldiers from the Iraqi military who are responding to orders from a different chain of command than the United States soldiers are responding to.
And that doesn't make a lot of sense to me militarily. Politically, it probably makes lots of sense --
SEN. MENENDEZ: Let me ask --
GEN. KEANE: -- but militarily, it does not.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Let me ask you this. Does it matter whether the Iraqis show up or not for our purposes of executing this plan?
GEN. KEANE: It does matter that they show up.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Does it matter that they show up in the quantities that we have been told that they need to show up at?
GEN. KEANE: We can afford for them not to show up in some of the quantities that are expected. This plan takes into account that the Iraqis may not be able to meet all of their expectations, as they have in the past failed to meet those expectations as well.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Does it matter about the quality of the troops that will show up on the Iraqi side?
GEN. KEANE: Well, certainly it does. Certainly it does. The Iraqis, as you well know, are a mixed group. Some perform well, and some do not perform well at all.
SEN. MENENDEZ: And here is my concern, in addition to my opposition to the war, my vote against it, and my opposition to this escalation. But even as I try to understand it, I cannot fathom for the life of me how it is that every administration witness that has come here -- the secretary of state, most pointedly, but others as well -- have clearly made the case, the administration has tried to sell this, that this in an Iraqi initiative, that Iraqis will be at the forefront, that they will conduct the missions and we will be in support of them.
And I just don't understand when I hear -- and I will give you the title of architect for the plan -- how it is possible that we are being told that by the administration and the American people to get a sense that the Iraqis will finally be at the forefront of their own security and their fight for their own security and we will be in support of it when, in reality, you know, both in a command-and- control structure and, as you just described, as your concern about it, and that is exemplified by a New York Times article this Monday where U.S. and Iraqis are wrangling over the war plans and exactly who commands what, and when there's a dispute, what happens.
And then we see today's article, or NPR story, where Kurdish soldiers are being sent as part of this overall effort and the Kurds don't know the area, they don't speak Arabic, their deployment is a question of extreme "unpopularism," and there's a real question -- even one of the commanders of the team of American military advisers say there have already been desertions and that out of the battalion of 1,600 Kurdish soldiers, he only expects a few hundred to show up.
So we are being told by the administration that, in fact, this is an Iraqi plan, Iraqis are going to take the lead, they're going to show up en masse and that we are in support of that. And everything that we see unfolding is that we clearly are in the lead, we clearly are at point, we clearly are going to be at the greatest risk.
And if that's the truth, versus what we are being told, how is it that -- aren't we rolling the dice? General, when you say -- and I think it's a very true comment -- when you say that, in fact, we don't know what Maliki is all about, we don't know what his true desires are, aren't we rolling the dice for someone and something -- that we're putting a lot of capital both in lives and money without knowing where it's headed? And why would the Sunnis -- why would the Sunnis, based upon everything that we're doing, even listening to you, where you suggest that the Sunnis want an all-out civil war, a failed state. It's a better course than anything they have right now. It's a better course than anything they have right now because they're not doing very well under the present political process.
So if that's the case, we sound like we are going to be at the lead. We are going to be at the lead of helping Shi'as ultimately suppress Sunnis under the goal that that will put them into submission so that they will ultimately accept whatever deal is granted to them.
That, to me, is not a recipe for success. Now, tell me where I'm wrong in this.
GEN. KEANE: No, I agree with you. And as I said, I think there are real problems there.
What I would ask you to do is, in terms of the operation itself -- is pause a little bit. Let's get General Petraeus into this country. Get him confirmed up there. Get him into the country. Let him be able to analyze this himself. I mean, obviously he's doing it from afar here, but it's not the same as the fidelity he will have there. He knows a lot of these Iraqis himself. And I think he's capable of working out a much better command-and-control relationship than this appears to be right now and resolving some of those differences so that we do not have problems, you know, on the streets of Baghdad or in Al Anbar because of who's in the lead and who's not.
I think it's resolvable, and I would ask you to give him an opportunity to resolve it and get on top of this situation.
SEN. MENENDEZ: But not resolvable is taking a roll of the dice on the lives of America's sons and daughters and it's national treasure on a government that we have no idea whether they are committed to the political reconciliation that's necessary.
General Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said to us in an answer to a question in a briefing -- he said we need to get -- to have the Iraqis to love their children more than they hate their neighbors. And that's probably a powerful truism, but it doesn't come through military might, achieving that, that they love their children more than they hate their neighbors.
And so it's beyond just whether or not the military equation; if we don't know that we, in fact, have a partner who is truly willing, with benchmarks and consequences for not meeting those benchmarks, to move in the political process as well, we're risking the lives of America's sons and daughters for a venture that has already gone bad and doesn't seem to change. And I find that a problem. And I'd love to hear any of the other generals, their views on this if they have any, as a final question.
GEN. HOAR: I think your questions are well founded, Senator.
SEN. MENENDEZ: General Odom, you and I met awhile back, and one of the things you said is about standing up, getting Iraqis to ultimately stand up as Iraqis. In standing up, it seems to me that a good part of this mission needs Iraqis to come together and stand up as Iraqis. How do we get them to have that national spirit versus the sectarian spirit they have right now?
GEN. ODOM: Well, that's an issue that D.H. Lawrence (sic/T.E. Lawrence ?) faced; it's an issue the British faced, it's an issue Saddam faced, and --
SEN. MENENDEZ: And it's an issue we face.
GEN. ODOM: -- they didn't know what the answer was.
Fear, terror and repressive organizations.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much. Do you have any -- you have time for another.
Senator Casey, thank you.
SEN. ROBERT P. CASEY JR. (D-PA): Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I want to reiterate what was mentioned before about the way these hearings have proceeded and the panels you have put together in concert with Senator Lugar, and we're grateful for that. And I know we have much more to do, but in particular today, when I look at this panel and listen to what you've said -- I've heard most of it, probably 80 percent, in and out of here for other committee obligations -- but it brings to mind something my father said when he was governor of Pennsylvania. The night before the 1991 Gulf War, he was talking about the troops and obviously asking the people of our state to pray for the troops, but he also said something I'll never forget. He said we pray for the troops, but we also pray for ourselves that we may be worthy of their valor.
And I think by your service and your own valor, you've proven yourselves worthy of that on the battlefield as well as the testimony today and the dedication you bring to these issues, and the scholarship you bring. And I'd love to talk to each of you about politics and diplomacy, because you bring a lot more to this table than just your military experience and knowledge. But because of limited time and because of your experience, I want to focus on the military questions as best I can in the limited time.
I have one question about Iraqi security forces' preparedness, but I guess the underlying premise of my question is that, and that in itself is a question, is this issue that's been -- we've read about it in the press over the last couple of years, but it doesn't get much attention, as much attention now as before: Level 1, Level 2 readiness based upon Pentagon definitions.
A, is that kind of measuring stick operable still today, and B, if it is, based upon your information and your knowledge, how many Iraqi security forces do we have trained at Level 1, meaning in my layman's term, that they can take the lead independently, and Level 2, meaning that they take the lead with American forces supporting them?
So maybe, General Keane, if you could start?
GEN. KEANE: I can't get at the number. I've been briefed on it a number of weeks ago, and I just can't re-find the number of terms of who's Level 1 and who's Level 2.
Look at the -- the command in Iraq was using these different levels as a measuring stick to measure the capacity of these forces, not just in terms of their performance but in terms of the number of people they had in it, where had they been trained, did they get through those gates in terms of officer NCO training and how much time did they have in operational units, what is their equipment status?
It's something very similar that the United States units go through every single month in assessing their own readiness, so it was not too surprising that officers who grew up with that system imposed that as a basis for making an evaluation.
And I think where it serves a useful purpose is in attempting to allocate resources and realizing, you know, where you're having your shortfalls. And for that, I think it had some merit. I think we also got too bogged down by it, you know, bureaucratically, in terms of what it meant to us and made far too much of it, in my judgment.
But the -- look it, the overall issue dealing with the Iraqi security forces is they still are not at the level where they can cope with this violence, certainly by themselves, and will not be for some time. That's the harsh reality that we have to deal with, and that's the problem I have with just turning it over to them. Because the level of violence will go up in '07; in fact, it's predicted to go up in '07 unless we do something about it. So that would mean even further step towards a fractured state and anarchy.
So what this is about is bringing it down to a level where they can cope with that reality, and it buys time for their growth and development. We need to improve those forces. All the things that have been suggested by the ISG, and that make sense to me in terms of strengthening our advisory program; making certain they're better educated, our advisers; that they have much more cultural awareness than they currently have before they go over there; there's more of them; embed some U.S. forces with them as well. And I would grow the size of the Iraqi security forces, also.
So, I mean, your emphasis is a right one. The Iraqi security forces truly do matter. I mean, they are our exit strategy. We have to turn this over to them at a level where they can perform. But to help them, we must bring the violence down, in my judgment, so they can cope with it.
SEN. CASEY: Can you just put two numbers on this, if you can?
A, do you know any kind of a rough estimate of how many forces you think -- forget Level 1 or Level 2, just generally you think are prepared to take on this responsibility, and B, whatever that number is, what do we need to get to? I mean, because I think I'm like a lot of Americans. We need to have some kind of standard where we can say at some point in terms of troop numbers and readiness, depending on how you define that, we're at a point now where we can have consequences that flow from that in terms of our own troops.
And I know it's not always -- (inaudible) -- can't do a numerical, specific or precise numerical determination, but I mean, how are we doing in terms of identifying the number of troops they have to take on this responsibility? Are we way off? Are we halfway there? Is there any way you can put a number on that?
GEN. KEANE: Well, I still think -- the administration, you know, where we are is 325,000, and that totals all of it. Out of that is about 125,000 would be Iraqi military forces. The rest are broken down into police and national police and border guards, et cetera.
In my own mind, the best organization of the Iraqi security forces is their army. They have performed the best, and even they have serious problems. Sixty-five percent of them, on average, show up any single day for duty. Some of them are on leave, and some of them are just not showing up for duty. We call it absent without leave or deserting. So that's still an issue and will continue to be an issue.
I think you have to grow the size of this force, the military piece of this force. At 125,000, I think it has to go beyond 300,000 itself, and we would need advisers to do that.
The army size of the force, while it is their strongest institution in Iraq -- the numbers of that force is inadequate. The quality of the force is improving. It's not satisfactory where it is. That's the truth of it. And I think strengthening it with our advisory program and some of the other steps we're going to take, certainly with better equipment and most importantly, the appropriate equipment, all make sense. But that still will take time, to get them to where they need to be.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you. And I want to leave some time for the others to respond to that.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, I might just add, because I basically agree with Jack Keane, we should never, by the way, run too quickly to conclusion.
I've been in Iraqi battalions that I thought were patriots, courageous, convinced that they're going to create a new Iraqi nation, and so far, not an Iraqi army battalion has flipped over to the other side so that at 2:00 in the morning, suddenly they seize their advisory group and they declare themselves to be Shi'a militia. That's good news, and we shouldn't discount it.
I also believe that there has been such deliberate deception on the part of the secretary of defense and his senior people over the caliber, the status of these forces, that it boggles the mind.
SEN. CASEY: In terms --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Callous, open, disingenuous explanation -- putting Iraqi protective security forces as part of total numbers, inventing a force that was growing at 100,000 per 60 days. How could that be true? Where's the equipment? It was utter nonsense.
SEN. CASEY: Do you mean deception in terms of numbers? Saying where we are?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Sure. Numbers, caliber, equipment, reliability -- they were making it up.
Now, where are today? Probably -- and I watch numbers out of Cordesman very closely because I think he tries to be objective and neutral -- I think there's less than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers who show up on a given day to defend the country. There's 27 million of those people. It is a tiny force. It's much smaller than the U.S. military presence in country.
Now, many of the other services are either inadequate, incompetent or uniformed terrorists under the control of one faction or another, so you've got less than 100,000.
Their equipment status is so bad that were they U.S. units on this mission, they would be declared ineligible for military operations. They have no equipment appropriate for their task.
And then finally, going forward -- because I've been saying look, you know, three years from now we're going to be gone, and we're going to be gone, make no doubt about it -- who's going to be flying helicopters in Iraq? It's not going to be the U.S. Army. I think we've got probably a thousand aircraft there right now. It probably takes 36 months on a crash basis to manufacture a Blackhawk, train the crew, put them in the field and have them flying. Have we started that process yet? And the answer is no. And therefore, three years from now, there will be no solution. There won't be an Iraqi security force adequate to maintain internal order.
Now final thought because I, you know, I think the five-brigade surge is a surge of the wrong stuff, but if I was a three-star commander, General Odierno, a terrific soldier, I'd want five more brigades because in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad today -- and I got this directly from General Abizaid -- the neighborhood will beg us to not leave. So having a U.S. Army battalion and Marine battalion there clearly dampens down the violence. It's a good thing. They're honest kids. They're, you know, they're spending CERP money. Lots of good things come out of it.
So my only question is how do we create conditions so we can leave?
The presence of the U.S. forces is a boon to Iraq. It was a gift to take that monster out of power and hang him. All that was a good thing. Now we're trying to figure out how do we stand up a state and get out of there? And a prerequisite is not to just say we're going to go in and clear and hold neighborhoods in Baghdad with U.S. privates.
GEN. HOAR: I can't add anything to Barry McCaffrey, sir.
GEN. ODOM: I would ask you to ask a prior question.
Do you know any examples where you've had weak governments where foreigners have gone in and stood up their military, and it was a success? I don't know of any.
SEN. CASEY: The United States.
GEN. ODOM: When you try to get -- well, there was political leadership. The Congress was in charge through the whole thing. You could have said it pulled a coup, but it was Americans standing up. It wasn't other countries coming in and doing it by ventriloquy. So I think it's a bit like trying to put a roof on a house before it has the walls built up, and we got the cart before the horse in dealing with -- (inaudible) -- the Iraqis.
SEN. CASEY: You mean, the civilian government is the foundation of the house. Yeah.
GEN. ODOM: That's the way it happens in most places. And very often, the military -- I mean, there were so many military regimes in the world because military power is political power. And if you stand up the military first, there's a high chance you'll have a Praetorian regime take over. That's what we found all through Africa and South America in our 1950s, '60s, '70s military assistance programs to these entities.
SEN. CASEY: I have lots more, but I know I'm over.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Webb.
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Again, I am the last person between these people and lunch. Appreciate all of you hanging around. I appreciate your testimony.
I've been able to know some of you personally, read articles and editorials that have been written about this issue, written by people at the table, over the years. So, I want you to know that I respect the service of everyone at the table, and I certainly respect the integrity of everyone at the table.
No matter where the views on this, this political-military interface that we've been debating is probably the hardest issue in terms of how our government works. I've dealt with it every way you can deal with it, I think, in my lifetime.
General Odom, I would like to say to you that I very much appreciate your writings over the past several years. They have been invaluable, I think, in providing a strategic umbrella under which we're able to examine the implications of our policy.
This is a challenge that is not simply in Iraq. As you have written and as other people have said, this challenge can only be addressed regionally and beyond. It relates to the stability of the region. It relates to our ability to fight the war against terrorism elsewhere. It relates to strategic challenges that are in other than the region, and we really do need to address this for the well-being of our military and our country, I believe.
General Hoar, I'd like to say to you, first of all, General Keane mentioned a phrase a little while ago: moral courage. One of my great heroes was General Bob Barrow, who was commandant of the Marine Corps and used to say frequently that there's physical courage and then there's moral courage, and moral courage is quite often harder than physical courage. And the courage that you showed standing up, speaking out about this early, along with people like Tony Zinni, who also commanded CENTCOM; people like General Shinseki, General Newbold, who I admire greatly, and General Van Riper and others, I think is going to stand as a mark when history looks at where we have gone and how we, hopefully, will get of this, in a way that retains our national esteem around the world -- or regains our national esteem around the world.
General McCaffrey, I want to clarify one thing that you said about the Constitution. You said it twice, and I'm not a constitutional lawyer; I am an attorney. But the language in the Constitution about armies and navies comes from two separate phrases in Article I, Section 8, and this is important, I think, when we examine what our responsibilities are in terms of looking at how the military has been used in this war. The Constitution empowers the Congress to raise and support armies, but to provide and maintain a navy. And the distinction was put there for a reason. With the historical experiences in Continental Europe with turning over standing armies to monarchs and having militaries used for adventurism.
So when I look even at the issue right now of increasing end strength in the Army and the Marine Corps, and I'm very -- I had a lot of experience when I was ASD in looking at army force structure and strength and, as you know, I'm intimately familiar with the force structure difficulties in the Marine Corps right now. But my cautionary note has been that I don't want to put a vote in place that will ratify what I believe has been the lack of strategy, just through the momentum of the fact that we have troops at risk.
I mentioned that to Secretary of Defense Gates last week. He told me that there were off-ramps, as he called them, in case our troop levels in Iraq went down. But that's one question that I'm going to be asking and I hope my colleagues will be asking -- is that the justification for these increases in end strength should take into account, hopefully, what I would see as a reduction in force structure.
I have two questions.
The first is, General McCaffrey, on your proposal to -- or your suggestion that $10 billion a year be put into development programs. I know that you have a good bit of experience in this. You're on the boards of, according to your bio, of companies that are more than likely doing business in Iraq. I'm concerned about accountability of the funds that have been spent. I'm also concerned about where this money would come from. Are you suggesting a reprogramming or an addition to the budget?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: By the way, I am on the board of directors of one company, DynCorp, that's very heavily involved in providing 3,000 or 4,000 people in Iraq and several hundred, I believe, in Afghanistan. And I frequently make a point to underscore -- because there's a debate inside the profession on how come contractors are on the battlefield providing almost all of our long-haul communications, our logistics. For God's sake, it's incredible.
I'd prefer to have an active military force that does most of these functions, but the facts of the matter are, they're not there. And without these contractor operations, we would grind to a halt immediately. So I'm inclined to say, let's treat them with respect because they're getting killed and wounded in huge numbers, and actually, when you talk to these kids or older, single women, they see themselves doing a patriotic bit -- KBR, Halliburton, et cetera. But that's an aside.
I think, back to your central question, the notion of development program -- I'm not sure you can spend $10 billion a year successfully in Iraq. The Congress provided $18.6 billion; it's all gone, essentially. The president just said he wants $1 billion more CERP funds, local employment.
I don't know that, given the lack of security, given the nature of the Maliki government, that that would work. I am confident that if our only trick in this game is let's put five more brigades in downtown Baghdad and fight neighborhood by neighborhood, this is a loser. So I told the president two years ago, when the development money runs out and when Congress won't provide more, that's the day you lost the war. So, I would have great oversight of $10 billion a year, or $1 billion a year. Is it going to be spent effectively? You probably ought to look at waste, fraud and abuse on U.S. or other contractors, but I think it's just a vital aspect of moving forward.
SEN. WEBB: I obviously am new to this position, but that's one of the concerns that I've had looking at the conduct of the war --
GEN. MCCAFFREY: A legitimate concern.
SEN. WEBB: Over the past several years.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Right.
SEN. WEBB: -- trying to figure out where all this money has gone already.
This is a general question, but I'll go first to General Keane: Your comments very heavily involve the Sunni. You know, we need to stand up to the Sunni insurgency. And one of the concerns that I've had on that is, given the divisions -- the obvious divisions -- in the country, that we're almost in what would be called a strategic mousetrap here. Where the harder we fight against the Sunni insurgency, the more the Shi'a population is empowered and the more influence Iran has in Iraq. I'm interested in the views of all of you about the notion of that mousetrap.
GEN. KEANE: Well, I think it's a concern, certainly.
I just mention that because when you try to define the problem, I find it useful to go back and understand how we got here. And it was the Sunnis who were rejecting the -- our occupation, and rejecting what we believe is a new form of government. And they started this, and al Qaeda enabled it, and now we have, obviously, considerable sectarian Shi'a violence that's provoked by the Sunnis.
You have to -- certainly, if we go into these neighborhoods, as I believe we will, we're going to deal with al Qaeda, we will deal with Shi'a and we will deal with Sunnis, to be sure, at the tactical level. And we'll have the capacity to deal with all of that.
Your question is much more of a strategic one in terms of are we picking sides here, and what are the implications of that.
We are where we are. We have a government, and that government is a fledgling government at best, trying to find itself. It's grown out of a consensus, and it has factions in it, and by anybody's definition, it's weak. What I think we need to do is help it and strengthen it, and by doing so and working with the Sunni insurgency, we can get the Sunnis to participate in a way that they're not willing to do now. And I'm absolutely convinced we can push back on the Shi'a violence by truly protecting the people.
We can't be Pollyannaish about this. We know that Sadr and others are using the violence against their people to seek their own political advantage and leverage in the country. That's a given. But the reality is also that by bringing that violence down, you start taking their issue away from them that justifies what they're doing. So I'm hopeful that we can do something that's very constructive here.
And it is a military application of force designed singularly to get a political solution. It's the only reason why we're doing this. You buy time for the growth and development of the Iraqi security forces, which helps in our ability to exit the country, and then you strengthen Maliki's hand, both with the Sunnis and with the Shi'as, so that we can get a better form of government in terms of representation. And move the Sunnis to that table, and take away what is now their single option and what they believe is their only option, which is continue the armed violence. So you have to deal with them, but certainly you also have to deal with the Shi'a violence that's there and the incredible level of that has took (sic) place.
I recognize the mousetrap, but I still think we have to go ahead and work this because it's the only thing we can do, I believe, that will strengthen the government that we currently have. The benchmarks by themselves, to me, don't mean a lot. I don't think you're going to get anything out of it.
SEN. WEBB: General Hoar?
GEN. HOAR: Yes, sir.
I hesitate to recite history to you, but when the two principal institutions in that country, the armed forces and tribalism, were destroyed or dismembered as a conscious policy of this government, you automatically reduced the possibility of finding good outcomes. Ninety-five percent of the people in Iraq belong to a tribe, and tribes transcend religion and ethnicity.
The armed force is a no-brainer. There should have been a de- Ba'athification at the top and retained that, all of that, that went with it. So we have few institutions to fall back on. And so, as a result, we're trying to build from the bottom up, and in my judgment, you can't get there from here. It's too late. We're asking too much of what needs to be done.
SEN. WEBB: General McCaffrey, do you have comment?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think I'd actually agree with General Odom's characterization and maybe perhaps come to a slightly different conclusion.
When you step into Iraq, took out a cruel, ruling elite -- maybe 15 percent of the population has dominated the military, the intelligence service, business, academics, et cetera --and you said, we're going to institute democratic reforms, then you gave the government to a Shi'a, Kurdish overwhelming majority who had been abused for hundreds of years if not for 30 plus by Saddam and his criminal regime, so that was the outcome we understood when we set foot in the country.
I'm not sure that's necessarily unacceptable if we maintained a presence to ensure that there wouldn't be a violent decimation retribution against the Sunnis. If we kept peace with their neighbors, I'm not quite sure why a government of Iraq that was more closely aligned by far with Iran than Saddam's seven-year war against the Iranians -- I'm not quite sure why that doesn't suit our own interests.
I do think that we ought to have a regional focus. Our focus should be peace and some form of stability, and that our -- as you have said, though -- the current mousetrap, in my view, is our strategy is failing and our current responses, it seems to me, will not break out of the box.
SEN. WEBB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
Gentlemen, I just have a few closing questions, if I may. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your perseverance as well as your answers.
To continue in the conundrum that my friend from Virginia has mentioned here, and one of the reasons I always have trouble -- I'm not being facetious of this administration -- is understanding their strategic objective.
Internally in Iraq the premise is, as stated clearly and articulately by General Keane, that the idea that if we gain control of the insurgency, who are needlessly going after our troops but also killing and fomenting this sectarian war by going after Shi'a indiscriminately, that somehow the Shi'a will feel they can stand down and the political process can begin.
Let's assume that's true.
At the same time, the president has clearly enunciated, and I'll just read from a -- I don't know if this is true in terms of factually, but it seems clear overall, I mean, it's true.
At the same time, the administration and the president clearly stated that he is going to do all he can to deal with Syria and Iran, but particularly Iran, and I'll read from a quote from the Middle East outline:
"Analysts working for the Bush-Cheney White House predict that a concentrated military attack against Iranian targets will weaken the regime and lead to the toppling of the government of Syria as well."
Now everything I read, and I -- one of the things you all are incredibly good at, but I've been here 34 years. I've learned to read between the lines. I don't always read it accurately, but there is always a message between the lines.
The president didn't have a throwaway phrase in there about Iran, in his speech. To me, that was the red light that went on for me, beyond the surge. Of the things that concerned me about the speech, more than anything else was the emphasis on Iran.
Again, it seems to me to raise the conundrum mentioned of a mousetrap -- whatever you want to say -- is that, at the very time we are taking on the Sunnis, which, I can tell you from my personal discussions, upsets -- upsets -- our allies in the region, taking them on internally. They are very uneasy about that in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt and other places.
At the very time that's happening internally, the Shi'a, who seem satisfied with that, are very upset that we seem to be focusing on the Shi'a influence in the region outside the country.
So I don't know how you square that. I don't understand strategically how you can accomplish both objectives. Am I missing something, or am I over-reading? Anyone? Yes, sir.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Fight on. That's the short answer, sir.
The longer answer is, there are people, Seymour Hersh among them, that have been writing for the last eight or 10 months in The New Yorker about the plan to attack Iran.
I think that replacing an officer with ground combat experience at CENTCOM with an admiral, by sending a second carrier battle group into the Gulf, by sending Patriot batteries into the region, are -- I would use a slightly different word than you, but ominous nonetheless.
I would tell you a story that I believe to be true.
Hamad Bin Jasim, the foreign minister of Qatar, went to Tehran. He told the Iranians that while his government had supported the U.S. efforts in Iraq, that he would not -- their government would not support any adventurism towards Iran.
The Iranians told him that he had it all wrong -- that they do not have the capability to strike the United States but, if attacked by the United States, they would attack infrastructure targets up and down the Gulf, among those countries that have supported the U.S.
If I were going to do this, I would assuage the concerns of my friends in the region by bringing Patriot batteries in.
I don't know why you have two carrier battle groups in the Gulf when fixed-wing air -- while an essential part of any campaign doesn't require a lot of airplanes on a day-to-day basis. And why you would have an admiral in charge of CENTCOM when you have two essentially ground combat operations going on in two separate campaigns -- would all indicate to me that there's something moving right now towards Iran.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, it's separate -- I happen to agree with that. You would know much better than I would, to be able to read what these moves meant. That's how I read it. But I'm trying to get even at the more fundamental question about I never can understand -- there seems to be no coherence to the strategy of this administration. From the beginning, we seem to have a little of this, a little of that, and the objectives, the stated objectives, the stated missions, seem at odds with one another.
Let's just, again, let's assume it made sense to go into Iran (sic/Iraq). Here you have the present, Shi'a-dominated government opening up meetings with, trying to establish a diplomatic relationship with, Tehran. Trying to extend a relationship to Syria as well, at the very moment we seem to be trying to satisfy them internally by staying out of Sadr City, focusing on the Sunni. But at the same time at odds with their stated -- or at least apparent -- foreign policy, regional policy.
That's the part that it seems like we keep, you know -- we're our own worst enemy in terms of the strategic notions that we have, and they seem inconsistent.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think you, again, pose another principal strategic challenge we're facing.
I personally have gone in to see the secretary of state; my travels in the region, listening to our allies in the Persian Gulf, and I used with General Hoar a corny story. I started my first platoon sergeant in the 82nd Airborne. He said, "Sir," he said, "don't you ever threaten people in public. But make sure if you do threaten them, you can carry out your threat."
We've had a combination of public threats to the Iranians which has horrified our allies, which, it seems to me from a strictly military perspective, are sheer insanity -- that we would try and end a nuclear capability of the Iranians, take down their defense in the process of doing it, neutralize their naval threat to the Persian Gulf oil supplies, and to do it while we have 150,000 GIs stuck 400 kilometers up into Iraq, with our lines of communication back to the sea and the safety of the Navy going through 400 kilometers of Shi'a population.
So this doesn't make any sense. I hope it's just a lower-level notion -- well, you're always supposed to put a carrier out there to empower your ambassador's demarche -- but if it goes beyond that, this is truly the most significant blunder in strategic thinking we will have seen since World War II.
GEN. HOAR: One brief comment.
SEN. BIDEN: Yes, sir.
GEN. HOAR: I'd like to commend you for bringing up that paradox and putting the light directly on Iran.
If I were in your position or members of this committee, I would be thinking about how I will vote when an apparent Iranian terrorist accident -- attack -- occurs on the U.S. in some -- that's not necessarily the U.S., but against some of its interests -- in the future, and the war cries for bombing Iraq -- Iran -- go up.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, quite frankly, General, I'm thinking of going farther than this. I haven't discussed this with my colleagues yet. I'm in the process of trying to draft legislation that would make it clear that the authorization for the use of force that was passed, which I think is essentially -- no longer has relevance. It was put forward to take out Saddam; it was put forward to deal with weapons of mass destruction. If they were there, they ain't there now. They never were, in my view, but -- and he's gone. So what's the raison d'etat for this? Are we now going -- but clearly, I want to make it clear. I've been around here too long.
I take this guy -- excuse me, I take the president seriously when he says things that seem to me to be outrageous. I'm not being a wise guy, now. I'm not trying to be disrespectful. I give you my word. But I take it seriously because I really -- the first time out, well, we gave the president the authority to move forward, Lugar and I had a resolution that was much more restrictive than the one that passed and the authorization use of force. And remember, everybody has -- not you guys - but everybody has sort of a selective memory about the moment. The moment we were voting on that, the issue was do we lift sanctions on Saddam, which the rest of the world was pushing, or do we give the president the political clout to demonstrate to the world that we stood with him in insisting they stay on by giving him this authority to use force, if need be.
And we had assurances. No, no, no, no. This is not going to -- we're not going to use the force. We're not going to move forward. And then the writing began to be on the wall when every time it looked like Powell was making progress diplomatically, there'd be a deliberate effort to undercut that coming from the administration.
And the press now says, you know, it was obvious to everyone that these guys were going to do that. It wasn't obvious. They acted responsibly on Afghanistan. They did it in the right way. They marshaled authority. They had the bill of particulars. They put forward the indictment. They sent folks out around the world, to the world capitals, including our friends and enemies alike. They dealt with Iran. They dealt -- I mean, it was done logically and it was done rationally, and it gave some of us hope -- and remember what was being written at the time, gentlemen. I know you do remember.
What was being written at the time -- I was having scores of interview requests, and some of you were. Has the administration become internationalist? Have they become -- has the president changed his mind? Has he moved from neoisolationism to engaging the rest of the world?
And there were all these articles written in December, after we gave him the authority but before we went to war.
And so the idea that everybody knew they would be, in my view, as incredibly irresponsible as they were is then -- and matter of fact, back in the days when I was chairman before that, we wrote a committee -- again, not a whole lot of difference between Senator Lugar and me on these things. And we wrote a report, and it was an extensive report, before any authority was given. Not the day -- what happens the day after Saddam? We wrote an extensive report saying no, the decade after. The title of the report was "The Decade After."
Now the reason I bother to state this, gentlemen, is that it seems to me that we still don't quite have a strategy. But let me get down to a tactical question and then, with one other question, let you all go. And I really appreciate you doing this.
From a military perspective, again, I spent a lot of time, as I think General McCaffrey knows, a lot of time with General Petraeus, in theater, in e-mails. I mean, I find the guy to be exactly what you all advertise him to be -- that's my impression of him -- a really smart guy. Well, it's often suggested by my friends who have a different view about, quote, "the surge," who think it's a good idea, that look at what he was able to do up in the north. And my instinct is, we're comparing apples and oranges here, and that's what I want to ask you -- a tactical question: Is the difference between fighting foreign jihadis and domestic insurgents, Ba'athists, Saddamists, et cetera, and trying to stop a sectarian war?
In the north, where Petraeus did so well in Mosul and in Tal Afar, my recollection was the issue there, there was not a civil war. It wasn't predominantly Shi'a killing Sunni, Kurds killing Shi'a, et cetera. It was dealing with an insurgency trying to kill American forces and prevent an Iraqi government from becoming a reality.
Now, I may be wrong. Could -- any of you are willing to -- you don't have to comment and you're all welcome to, but tell me. Is there a difference?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I think you've summarized it correctly.
I remember going up to see Dave Petraeus and his command post in Mosul, and he had an unbelievable grasp of how you go about economically, politically, militarily jumpstarting the region. He had incredible interpersonal relationships with the Arab leadership. It was a phenomenal performance.
He understood the disastrous judgments of Mr. Bremer, et al., in the central government: standing down the army, firing the officer corps, de-Ba'athicizing the country.
He goes back to a totally different situation.
SEN. BIDEN: Absolutely.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: I'll guarantee you he understands that.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I have no doubt that he does. I mean, let me put -- I've thought there is a fundamentally different circumstance, and if it is, I'm confident he understands it. I am just perplexed as to what happens. My prediction, for what it's worth, and I obviously am not a military man, but I do know a fair amount about policing. I've spent the bulk -- as you know, General, I mean, I've become a student of that for 35 years. What's needed here is essentially community policing, and that is a long, long investment. That is a gigantic -- even in a metropolitan city in America, where there's not a civil war. And I just -- I don't whether we have the stomach for it or the capacity.
And my guess is you're going to see Sadr being smart enough to stand down; take his folks out of uniform; put them in civilian clothes; drop the checkpoints; take away the rationale for the U.S. military to move on Sadr City; hopefully, us go -- to use your point, General, go do their work. It's like, who're we benefiting? Go do their work in the Sunni areas, and then step up.
But that's neither here nor there.
Last question -- it really is the last question, gentlemen.
Underlying -- the underlying issue here for me is, assume I buy into the rationale that you need a military solution before to create an atmosphere in which a political solution can emerge. And assume that I were convinced of that -- and I said at the outset in my strong opposition to this surge that if you somehow convince me there is a connection between, and a correlation and agreement between an underlying political objective and agreement and the military, I could see the possible rationale for it.
But here's my problem. When, General Keane, you talk about to give -- I shouldn't say, I don't know who used the phrase, actually. Give the Iraqis some breathing space -- I don't know if that's a term of art used by the administration, I don't know where we heard it -- but breathing space by bringing order in Baghdad to allow for a political settlement to emerge, is there any evidence anywhere that even if tomorrow we drop 500,000 troops into Iraq, completely shut down the civil war temporarily, that that is going to change the conditions that are required for the Sunni and Shi'a to make some serious, serious, serious and dangerous political concessions?
What makes us think that that would have SCIRI or Da'wa conclude that we're going to give a big chunk of the revenues to the Sunnis?
What would make us think that the Sunnis are prepared to sign on to essentially Iraq -- a Sunni constituency equivalent to Kurdistan?
What makes us think that these giant dividing issues are going to be resolved?
Is there any reason to think that, even if there is not a single Iraqi killed in the next six months, there's an incentive to make these very difficult political decisions that have to be made to allow this country, once we lift the siege, to live together?
I've not seen any. There may be. That's the question I have, and that's the last question. As I said, I really trespassed on your time, but you're all so darned good, I can't resist.
SEN. WEBB: Senator, let me -- can I just --
SEN. BIDEN: Sure.
SEN. WEBB: I want to make sure I understand what you're asking.
You're -- and I was thinking about this before and I ran out of time. Your question is basically, will restoring order automatically trigger political momentum?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, restoring, and not even automatically. Is there any evidence that restoring order will make the Da'wa, SCIRI parties, Sadr's party, the Sunni tribal leaders and the Sunni party more inclined to settle what everyone acknowledges is the underlying problem: their significant political differences?
And if so, what are those differences that have to be resolved so that when we do step back and say it's yours, fellows, that it's not going to immediately return to the sectarian chaos that exists today?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Can I give a quick -- I'll give you a fairly short answer. I don't think there's any evidence for that. The question as you've posed it has been addressed since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, and there've been efforts again and again to give somebody time to put it together. They've always failed.
In Vietnam, I used to address this issue in the Pacification Development Program.
The country fields a mission for more money for Vietnam would come out from the embassy to the MACV headquarter for staffing. And they'd say well, they need more time. They're not ready to take over yet. So we can't give them all they want, but let's give more of what they want. So, you know, leave an incentive for them to -- we won't give everything, but we won't let them thaw.
So I pulled the files out for the last six years. (Laughter.)
Every year you'd had the same argument, and every year the amount of money they wanted and we were willing to give them went up.
Well, I caused a little disturbance by suggesting that to do this is like advocating that a drunk man drink more in order to sober up. And then I've since seen a lot of literature in other countries, cases where if you -- the worst thing you can do to help a client against an insurgency, an internal war, is to give them help. An internal war is about who's going to rule and who's going to rule is the guy who can tax and control the resources. And if you give these guys time, through money and resources, they will use you as their tax base and their opponents will take over the domestic tax.
SEN. BIDEN: But now I'd I would point out just as a matter of -- I know, I love that quote, and I must admit I thought I was a relatively good student of the communist revolution, but I love that quote: "Paper will put up with anything written on it." That was Stalin's, I guess you said?
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Well, it's an old Russian proverb.
SEN. BIDEN: An old Russian proverb. I must admit, I'd not heard it before. But having said that, there still is a paper with stuff written on it out there, called a constitution, and if you look at the constitution, an interesting thing. The central government as envisioned by the Iraqis has no taxing power. There is no taxing power.
GEN. MCCAFFREY: Then it's a joke.
SEN. BIDEN: I mean, the irony is, I had this little debate with Prime Minister Maliki, who, for the sake of discussion, I'll acknowledge he has this overwhelming difficulty and it may be putting too much on him, et cetera. But we were meeting; I asked what he was going to do about such-and-such, he said, "That's already taken care of in the constitution." I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, you and I" -- this was in Baghdad in July 7, 8, 9, 10; I don't know when it was. I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, you and I may be the only two people who read the constitution."
It's fascinating. The strong central government our government keeps insisting on under the organizing principle of that government, the constitution, the central government has no power to tax. Explicitly. Explicitly. And it explicitly states the governates, the 18 of them, have explicit power if they choose the title region rather than governate, to maintain their security. And in Kurdistan, if I'm not mistaken, General, you can't even fly the Iranian flag -- Iraqi flag. And no Iraqi forces are allowed within what is now called Kurdistan.
And I don't know. I just -- anyway, you understand.
GEN. KEANE: May I have one comment, Senator?
SEN. BIDEN: Yes, please, General.
GEN. KEANE: Yeah.
To accept the premise that you just suggested is -- you know, that insurgencies are regular warfare, internal conflicts. When they're challenging like this and they're difficult, it's hopeless, that there's no way to be able to resolve it. And I don't suggest for a minute that this is not very difficult and something General Petraeus is fully aware of, what his challenges are in front of him, and they're very different than what he faced in Mosul -- much more difficult.
But the reality is that you can use military force to compel people's will. You can change their will using force. You can begin to set some conditions to get some political results.
The question that will remain -- I'm convinced we can do that. The question remains for me, which I've tried to be as straightforward about it as I can --
SEN. BIDEN: You have been.
GEN. KEANE: -- is the government itself.
Where, even if we do that, where will their political will would be? I would like to think that after we have strengthened his hand and that he can bring the Sunnis to the table and the Shi'as are back behind their barricades and the violence has gone down, that those benchmark things then make sense. But it remains an open question. I'm not going to try to put a spin on this. It's not my style.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I'm not suggesting you are, General. I think you've been straightforward.
GEN. KEANE: But the fact is that I believe you can establish some conditions to get some results. It'll still be Maliki's government, whether they're committed to those results or not.
SEN. BIDEN: Anyone else?
GEN. HOAR: Sir, I think that many people in this government misunder -- or they don't understand the depth of enmity that exists between Shi'a and Sunni. This is big time and real, and it has been for centuries, as we know.
And my view, as I indicated to you earlier, is that if you got some political movement on the part of Maliki, then you could perhaps talk about troops. But if he's not committed to make hard choices early on, there is no chance of pulling this thing out, in my judgment.
SEN. BIDEN: Gentlemen, you've been incredibly generous with your time, your knowledge, your wisdom and your straightforwardness. It is refreshing, it is welcome; it is needed. I thank you all for us taking you through the lunch hour.
We are adjourned.