NATO on the Ropes vs. America’s Iraq Mess: Response from General Jim Jones and Harlan Ullman to Charles Krauthammer


Jim Jones.jpg
I have come by a letter from former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Jim Jones and frustrated conceptualizer of the military’s “shock and awe” strategy Harlan Ullman to the editor of the Washington Post that has not yet been published — but which probably will be in several days.
Ullman, a close associate of Colin Powell for many years, conceived “shock and awe” — and watched the combined civilian and military leadership misapply this doctrine during the invasion of Iraq. For some time, Ullman has been a regular, passionate critic of the Bush administration’s incompetent management of America’s national security portfolio.
This letter from Jones and Ullman responds to a column by Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post last week.

from James L. Jones and Harlan Ullman
April 4th, 2007

ullman.jpgWriting in last Friday’s Post, Charles Krauthammer summoned the proverbial “man from Mars” to make the case that Iraq, not Afghanistan, was the central front in the war on terror. Krauthammer argued that while Afghanistan was a “totally just war,” Iraq was strategically the more important.
Krauthammer’s argument however is myopic. One reason is his failure even to mention NATO. For the first time in its history, NATO is engaged in a ground war, not against a massive Soviet attack across the northern plains of Germany or in Iraq against insurgents and al Qaeda, but in Afghanistan. In committing the alliance to sustained ground combat operations in Afghanistan (unlike Kosovo in 1999), NATO has bet its future. If NATO fails, alliance cohesion will be at grave risk. A moribund or unraveled NATO will have profoundly negative geostrategic impact.
Defeat in Iraq or Afghanistan obviously will have dire consequences. In both places, political not military solutions will bring success. As we have argued before, where we are losing in Afghanistan is in the battle to create a fair and just legal and judicial system; overcome rampant corruption; build a police force; control the drug production epidemic; and bring jobs and employment opportunities to the Afghan people.
Whether any well-meaning Martian would choose Iraq as the more important war or not is unimportant. What is important is that to prevail in Afghanistan, more than military force is needed. Until Washington, Brussels and Kabul address these glaring deficiencies, as in Iraq, the outcome will be too close to call.
For the past four years, General James Jones, USMC (Ret) served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe overseeing Afghanistan. During that period, Harlan Ullman, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, served on General Jones’ advisory group.

A lot of folks are not acknowledging the serious structural damage to major institutions like NATO from America’s crusade in Iraq and the festering problems in Afghanistan. Ullman and General Jones suggest that there is serious structual fatigue that can’t bear the weight of further bad decisions and incompetence.
And yet Cheney keeps singing the same delusional tunes.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “NATO on the Ropes vs. America’s Iraq Mess: Response from General Jim Jones and Harlan Ullman to Charles Krauthammer

  1. Propagandee says:

    Right on cue, as I was reading this, CNN reports that 7 NATO troops were killed in Afganistan today by IEDs, which are proving to be just the most obvious cross-fertilization occurring between Iraq and Afghanistan.


  2. Spo_K_Calb says:

    Jon U.
    Your comment re: the lost goodwill after 9/11 is dead on.
    The following is an excerpt from U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns’ speech on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks …
    “… the very first good news for Americans came from this headquarters, early in the morning of September 12, the news that the NATO allies had invoked Article 5 of the Washington treaty for the very first time in Alliance history. NATO’s message to America was that you were with us — the attacks of the previous day were an attack on all 19 of the Allies.
    Do not underestimate the importance of that first, great act of solidarity and alliance to the American people. Europeans and Canadians shared our pain and loss. You flew your flags at half staff across the continent; you queued in long lines to sign condolence books in Berlin and Madrid, in Leuven and in Warsaw, and in Vancouver. You held candlelit vigils. You filled churches, synagogues, and mosques with mourners.”
    ( a bit later in the speech … )
    ” … we Americans remember something else today: that despite our awesome power, we cannot go it alone in the world. America needs our friends and, especially, our NATO Allies. Neither isolationism nor unilateralism can ever be America’s course.”
    About two or three years later, “poof” – all of this goodwill is gone as GWB and Cheney essentially do the opposite of what Burns said we should not do.


  3. Mackie says:

    “So that they could play at toughguys and finally give their think-tank generated, delusional agenda a spin-test.”
    Well said, Jon. It’s odious that people who’ve never served dare play international chess with our soldiers. And regarding Krauthammer’s judgement of the behavior of the detained Brits, he needs to sit down and shut-up. He and his brethren have done enough getting us into this mess.


  4. JonU says:

    Krauthammer, of course, ignores the point that the Bush Administration and the neocons created the Iraq “front”. There was no need for it. Our enemy, the enemy that attacked us on 9/11, was in Afghanistan.
    Unilateral invasion of Iraq should never have happened. We expanded our own “front” unnecessarily, many times over. And no, there was not any significant Al Qaeda activity inside Iraq prior to our invasion. That is a flat out lie.
    Questions of morality and legality aside, and simply from a strategic standpoint, our invasion of Iraq was colossally stupid. We simultaneously increased the reach of our enemy, committed far more of our military resources to a political problem, and dangerously destabilized the entire region.
    And pointing out it hasn’t payed for itself is an epic understatement.
    Perhaps as tragic, in terms of a missed opportunity, we lost all of the goodwill the world exhibited to us in the period immediately after 9/11. Even France said, “We are all Americans.” That goodwill, that sense of potential community, was thrown away by the neocons. So that they could play at toughguys and finally give their think-tank generated, delusional agenda a spin-test.
    Krauthammer and his ilk are damn fools. It continues to amaze me how people who are so tragically wrong so often (i.e. the neocon pundits), continue to pull paychecks for it. Meritocracy? Not in conservative circles apparantly.


  5. Carroll says:

    Carroll: If either one were “winable”, Iraq would be more so than Afghanistan.
    Posted by Homer at April 7, 2007 10:04 AM
    I use winnable in the sense of becoming somewhat stable or livable conditions if you will, no matter what kind of goverment, and an economy that can bring a living of some kind to the majority.
    Just look at Afghanistan, it it mostly mountainous terrain, little land is usable for cultivation, most of their forest has been used up, they do not have enough water resources, they are land locked, they have some mineral resources but not much modern to process them….and no one is pouring investment money into Afghanistan. No one has ever coveted Afghanistan for anything except a cockfighting ring for communist vrs anti communist wars and etc. and a passthru.
    Iraq does have resources and if and when their civil war ends and whatever type of goverment will be emerges, Iraqis at least have the remains of a past economy and education base to rebuild on. They will have suitors in the reigon becuase of their location competeing for their favor, for good or bad, but Iraq has more to work with than Afghan.
    I am using winnable in terms of what a “win” would be to people in those countries…what our US empire builders consider a “win” will never happen.


  6. Matthew says:

    Steve: Our institutions can’t “bear the weight of further bad decisions and incompetence”? Every Bush decision is a bad decision. You better hope they have a lot of brush to clear in Crawford this summer.


  7. Homer says:

    Tom S: Where do I say Iraq is “winnable?”
    You never wrote “winnable”.
    And I never intended to attribute “winnable” to you.
    I wrote “anyone” to prompt you into sharing your thoughts into who might see Iraq as winnable.
    Carroll: If either one were “winable”, Iraq would be more so than Afghanistan.
    How so?
    I look fwd to reading your post.
    Iraq is and will continue to be a pro-Hizbollah, pro-extremist Iranian, anti-American, anti-Israeli, Shiite fundamentalist government.
    (Rem.: Al-Dawa’s ties to Hizbollah are long. Hizbollah took hostages to secure the release of the Kuwait 17, ie Al-Dawa members)
    The US cannot continually depose Iraqi heads of state until we get an Allawi.
    The vast majority of Iraqis want and have wanted for a long long time a Islamic fundamentalist republic.
    Islamic fundamentalism does not go hand in hand with American values.
    The US lost.
    The US is fuct.
    Sad to think Iraq is what the Bush admin has done inadvertently in response to 9/11.


  8. diplodocus says:

    As L Wayne Merry stated in an article in the March 2003 issue of “The National Interest”, NATO went “out of area” in order not to go “out of business” and is basically now the Pentagon’s “toolbox”. No wonder some European countries are reluctant to have their troops fighting the Pashtuns. They know their history and are well aware that foreign armies have never done well in Afghanistan, with the notable exception of Alexander the Great


  9. Dirk says:

    Actually there is some good news in Afghanistan. It turns out that the Uzbeks and Tajiks that moved to the Frontier areas of Pakistan are now in major feuds with their hosts. This is the delayed result of the peace treaty that Musharraf made with the tribal clans that form the cross border allies if the Taliban.
    The Arab/Uzbek/Tajik guests became too overbearing and tried to gain control of the frontier areas which then triggered the feuds with their hosts.
    This will hopefully lead to less cross border attacks against Afghans and NATO, but that remains to be seen.


  10. Den Valdron says:

    Okay, here’s the bad news in Afghanistan.
    We’ve allied with regional warlords against the dominant ethnic group. The dominant ethnic group exists and crosses both sides of the Pakistan/Afghan Border. The dominant ethnic group tribes on the Pakistan side have virtual independence from the Pakistan government. Infrastructure in nonexistent. The economy is based on either subsistence, smuggling or heroin.
    NATO forces have no clear strategy, are undermanned and underfunded, and suffer from lack of coordination. Reconstruction efforts were underfunded and have failed.
    The good news: There is none.


  11. bAkho says:

    Bush Refuses To Set Timetable For Withdrawal Of Head From White House Banister
    April 2, 2007 | Issue 43•14
    WASHINGTON, DC—Though critics have argued that he does not understand the futility of his current situation, President Bush announced today that he has no plans to remove his head from its current position: wedged painfully between two balusters on a White House staircase.
    (Quite good. They even make up a quote from Hagel)


  12. Carroll says:

    If either one were “winable”, Iraq would be more so than Afghanistan.
    Aside from chasing the Taliban around, doing something in Afghanistan to make it what we consider halfway livable for the Afghans would take half a century of slow work and mounds and mounds of investment from the world. If there is anywhere in the world that requires thinking outside the box it is Afghanistan. IMHO.


  13. Tom S says:

    Where do I say Iraq is “winnable?”


  14. Homer says:

    Tom S
    Why would anyone think Iraq is still winnable?
    The Iraqis elected a pro-Hizbollah, pro-extremist Iranian, anti-American, anti-Israeli, Shiite fundamentalist government WHICH the US will no doubt have to fight once its done training and equipping it thanks to the blood and treasure of the USA.


  15. Pissed Off American says:

    Hmmm. Speaking about “delusional”, I see McCain has stated he might have “mispoke” about the picnicking opportunities Bagdad has to offer. Geez, and I was so looking forward to a CNN live special broadcast of a Bush/McCain mountain biking excursion across greater Baqdad.


  16. Homer says:

    SC: Defeat in Iraq or Afghanistan obviously will have dire consequences.
    Please, get real: The US has already lost badly in Iraq years ago.
    Does anyone seriously think that the Al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Al-Sadr, and several million Iraqis are going to simply discard their DECADES OLD PASSION to transform Iraq into a Shiite fundamentalist state?
    To think that Iraq will be a true ally to the US is pure delusion.
    Iraq will **never** recognize the right for Israel to exist.
    All is and has been lost for the US long ago.


  17. Tom S says:

    I was at a meeting recently where Michael Scheuer stated that Afghanistan was all but lost already, in large part due to the fixation of the US on Iraq.


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