Decade of War: ‘Military attempting to rein in Washington’

A recent Pentagon draft report has highlighted how “strategic leadership repeatedly failed” in a decade of US-led wars. Lawrence Freeman from the Executive Intelligence Weekly told RT it is now the military keeping a bellicose White House in check.

A copy of the May 23 draft military report entitled a “Decade of War” was published last Thursday by Inside the Pentagon, despite technically remaining an internal document.

In the report the Department of Defense admitted it has repeatedly failed to understand and react to the actual combat realities being faced by troops on the ground.

"In operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a failure to recognize, acknowledge and accurately define the operational environment led to a mismatch between forces, capabilities, missions and goals," the report read.

The document also mentions that unlike previous conventional wars, “success in many of the operations over the past decade depended on capacity building and achieving sustainability of gains that were made during operations."

The report further stated that this focus on capacity building within the context of asymmetrical conflict “taxed the military and the US government overall, as they were often not prepared for these tasks, especially on the scale demanded in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Poor planning for peacekeeping missions stemming from “strategic leadership” failures resulted in a US military that was under-equipped and ill-suited to tackle the mission at hand in Iraq and Afghanistan, the paper continued.

When completed, the report “will be used by senior leaders” to develop US military forces for the future, Joint Staff spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Cindy Fields said.

Lawrence Freeman told RT that the document signals that the military establishment is clearly attempting to rein in the political establishment’s interventionist tendencies, which have stretched US forces to breaking point.

RT:What is behind the Pentagon’s decision to write such a report – might they be trying to ease public criticism of two unpopular wars?

Lawrence Freeman: I think you have to realize the military right now in the United States is playing a very critical role. [It is] the key and major institution that is pushing back against President Obama and a NATO commitment for an intervention into Syria, very much like President Putin is pushing back very aggressively from Russia. And the military know that their institution has been under attack and the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq did not have a mission. They were military deployments, they have destroyed a portion of the military because there was no mission to actually carry out any policy in Iraq or Afghanistan and the military is fighting back and defending itself.

RT:The report suggests US troops were largely unprepared for missions, and lacking the necessary training. Can you highlight examples where this was the case?

LF: The United States, if it goes into a country, it carries out regime change, which we carried out in Iraq and we carried out in Afghanistan. Then the military is stuck in a horrible position because they are not trained for this. This should not be the policy of the United States. The military was not properly given supplies; you have combat missions where the military men and women were deployed…on repeated missions, which has produced the highest suicide rate in the military ever. The point is that the president of the United States, first President Bush and then President Obama in Afghanistan, did not define a clear mission for the military, and did not declare a clear American policy mission for the development of these countries. And therefore the military were thrown in from the very beginning to make up for this vacuum. And that’s the problem that we have today. The United States government is functioning under what you would call the Blair doctrine – Tony Blair’s doctrine – a responsibility to protect and to intervene to change regimes at will by the consensus of the international community. This is the biggest problem our government has and this is what the military is fighting against right now.

RT:Or without consensus, I would add. We’ve been hearing a lot about regime change when it comes to Iran. Should the US start training it soldiers to prepare for this because they weren’t ready for Iraq and Afghanistan? What happens if they go into Syria: the same mistakes?

LF: That’s exactly the point that I’m making. General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has opposed a military intervention into Syria, into Iran precisely for this reason. That once you start these kinds of interventions, especially in those countries, you’re going past a point of simple combat. You’re threatening the danger of nuclear war. Because President Putin and others have made very clear they will not agree to a UN Security Council [resolution] for such intervention. The military right now is saying ‘NO, NO, NO! Don’t stick us in another one of these situations, we don’t want this, and if you do, this thing could escalate to an actual nuclear war, and we’re opposed to this.’ So I would say that the military right now is probably more sane and more thoughtful in defending the interests of the United States than President Obama is at this moment.