Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 12, 2004; Page A12
A scathing new report published by the Army
War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the
war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary"
war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that
may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.
The report, by visiting professor Jeffrey Record, who is on the
faculty of the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama,
warns that as a result of those mistakes, the Army is "near the breaking
It recommends, among other things, scaling back the scope of the
"global war on terrorism" and instead focusing on the narrower threat
posed by the al Qaeda terrorist network.
"[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is
dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its
parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the
anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than
it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an
endless and hopeless search for absolute security."
Record, a veteran defense specialist and author of six books on
military strategy and related issues, was an aide to then-Sen. Sam Nunn
when the Georgia Democrat was chairman of the Senate Armed Services
Committee. In discussing his political background, Record also noted
that in 1999 while on the staff of the Air War College, he published
work critical of the Clinton administration.
His essay, published by the Army War College's Strategic Studies
Institute, carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of
the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the
Pentagon or the U.S. government.
But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., the director of the
Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries
Record's 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it. "I think
that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really
needs to be considered," he said.
Publication of the essay was approved by the Army War College's
commandant, Maj. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., Lovelace said. He said he
and Huntoon expected the study to be controversial, but added, "He
considers it to be under the umbrella of academic freedom."
Larry DiRita, the top Pentagon spokesman, said he had not read the
Record study. He added: "If the conclusion is that we need to be scaling
back in the global war on terrorism, it's not likely to be on my reading
list anytime soon."
Many of Record's arguments, such as the contention that Saddam
Hussein's Iraq was deterred and did not present a threat, have been made
before by critics of the administration. Iraq, he concludes, "was a
war-of-choice distraction from the war of necessity against al Qaeda."
But it is unusual to have such views published by the War College, the
Army's premier academic institution.
In addition, the essay goes further than many critics in examining
the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism.
Record's core criticism is that the administration is biting off more
than it can chew. He likens the scale of U.S. ambitions in the war on
terrorism to Adolf Hitler's overreach in World War II. "A cardinal rule
of strategy is to keep your enemies to a manageable number," he writes.
"The Germans were defeated in two world wars . . . because their
strategic ends outran their available means."
He also scoffs at the administration's policy, laid out by Bush in a
November speech, of seeking to transform and democratize the Middle
East. "The potential policy payoff of a democratic and prosperous Middle
East, if there is one, almost certainly lies in the very distant
future," he writes. "The basis on which this democratic domino theory
rests has never been explicated."
He also casts doubts on whether the U.S. government will maintain its
commitment to the war. "The political, fiscal, and military
sustainability of the GWOT [global war on terrorism] remains to be
seen," he states.
The essay concludes with several recommendations. Some are fairly
noncontroversial, such as increasing the size of the Army and Marine
Corps, a position that appears to be gathering support in Congress. But
he also says the United States should scale back its ambitions in Iraq,
and be prepared to settle for a "friendly autocracy" there rather than a
To read the full report, go to