Yesterday Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the Senate Armed Forces committee on the stark realities of fighting ISIS and that ground forces might be necessary.
“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committees, using an alternative name for the group.
Pressed during questioning, Dempsey said he “would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of ground forces.”
Obama has maintained that American forces will not have a combat mission in Iraq.
They also made sure that the senators knew this would not be a quick war.
In their testimony, Hagel and Dempsey sought to brace the nation for a long war with an uncertain duration and outcome, repeatedly telling senators that they would make adjustments to the strategy as necessary.
That is no great comfort to anyone; certainly not to the military or their families, or to the rest of a country that has been engaged in a war that has lasted longer than both World Wars combined. But at least neither Mr. Hagel or Gen. Dempsey sugarcoated it. Remember this?
On March 16, 2003, days before the war started, [Vice President Dick] Cheney sat down with the late Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press” for what still stands as the most revealing of the prewar interviews. Cheney was adamant that “to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.”
“We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” he famously said and proceeded to play down the very sectarian divisions that are plaguing the country now.
There will be no World War III starting with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared [in November 2002], and rejected concerns that a war would be a quagmire.
“The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990,” he said on an Infinity Radio call-in program.
He said the U.S. military is stronger than it was during the Persian Gulf War, while Iraq’s armed forces are weaker.
“Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that,” he said. “It won’t be a World War III.”
So, America, would you rather hear the roses-and-rainbows line that it will be short war — troops home by Christmas — or a long hard battle joined with hesitant allies against an intractable enemy? If I had to choose, I’d rather hear that Hagel and Dempsey are wrong. I already know that Cheney and Rumsfeld were.