tv The Presidency Evaluating the Iraq Surge CSPAN February 9, 2020 8:00pm-10:01pm EST
address. our climate change, and violence. teen vaping. college for ability. mental health. and immigration. -- gun violence. -- college affordability. the winners for this year's studentcam competition will be announced march 11 with the prize of $1000. >> next on the presidency, this is the third and last program can back at president george w. decision07 iraq search to increase amerco troop levels. we hear from a pattern of scholars who responded to previous observations by former bush administration officials and who offer comparisons to similar military decisions by other presidents. for presidential history at southern methodist university in dallas hosted this event. so. without further ado is my pleasure to introduce the chair
of this panel who is the executive director of the center at the diversity of texas at austin and he has unique button certainly dual perspective of being a person who has studied decision-making in the white house and been a part of decision-making in the white house. he was invaluable to member -- an invalid memory of making the connection and interviews that were the underlying factor and base of this entire project work so i think you for that. and i turn the macron over to you. -- the microphone over to you. [applause] >> thank you, jeff. i'm honored to moderate this panel with four dear friends and valued colleagues. there is a concern afoot that as a moderator i might let it go to my head and try to interject myself too much in the discussion. so i will sit down there while they make their presentations
and will come back up here during the actual queue time. you have the detailed bios of the speakers in your program so first ist repeat those professor richard amerman. his bio says he recent retitle retired from temple university. he does not know the meaning of the word retirement, i know him well. we are close friends and collaborators and the state department historical advisory council and he continues to be active as a scholar and mentor and is an active citizen in the guild of national security scholars and historians. next to him is a professor l leffler of the university of virginia. again, another titan in the field of genetic history. i started reading his books as an undergrad and continued anymore as a graduate student and continue to benefit from his looks today. our foure only one of who does not technically have a
chapter in this collection. without giving up too much in the peer review process let's he played an important role ourpproving a process interloper on the panel of shockeyns is dr. cory applico scientist and protége of the great noble prize in the economist thomas schelling frankly, cory is a long time a dear friend and former colleague from the bush administration as well. roles inany important academia and think tanks and currently runs the international institute for strategic studies in london. and is frankly a better historian than many card-carrying historians. so we are honored to be here. and finally professor andrew preston. a canadian by birth and citizenship, did much of his dedication and studies in the u.s. and is now professor and u.k. at cambridge. also different and a contributor
to the book. with that we are going to turn it over to our panel. each will be reading his or her comments from and then we will have a q&a. please join me in welcoming the panel. [applause] >> it is set up like it is otherwise i am sure will would the microphone to his level and i would've had to be jumping up and down to reach at. me say how thrilled i was to join this project, to accept jeff's invitation. drama controversy and applications and i would say ongoing applications that attended the bush administration's decision to surge in iraq, for any historian of u.s. foreign relations and i will escrow the were historian, the subject is really
irresistible. i will underscore the word historian. that makes it attractive to contribute at what is really a first cut at history. morning inssed this both sessions, the archival evidence is still classified. most of it. and it will remain so for a decade and probably more. if i have one thing to all of you who participated, do everything you can to get this material released. i spent a lot of time with the archives and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get any material released in any presidential administration and that is going to be a problem for the future. that, we do have access to the oral testimony of a remarkable number of pivotal
contributors of all different levels, which really is virtually unprecedented for this type of project. i also had a more personal interest. i have been studying national security decision-making and policymaking for some four decades. 1970's whenk in the i began to export foreign policies of the eisenhower administration, which has come up several times largely because those processes have become legendary even though the assessments of them can often be diametrically opposed. i will come back to that but you can understand why a project aimed at drilling down into such a momentous yet, located decision held such appeal for someone like myself. you can also understand therefore easily why that appeal
grew greater as i poured through the entries. emerged,us quickly really surfaced, among the contributors, regardless of their position or perspective, that the process was outstanding. i think that has been reinforced today. the adjectives ran from textbook to model to highly effective. and the worst that could be said of them was they were good. except for a few who lamented that the prospect took longer and even then there was an upside to the link that took and that has been dashed to the the length.ok -- describe the process estranged. in that sense it worked and that it enabled president bush to
make a courageous decision. i think there is ample evidence that was the case. and though courageous does not ,ecessarily mean wise or right it was perhaps better than the alternative. ofnted, in a number respects, this consensus was predicable given the nature and to some extent the conception of the project. that's the famous adage history is written by the victors. churchillto winston although historians do not know if he really did say it. to make sense that applies to oral histories. the judgment of those interviewed in this case, and i think this was reinforced today and i'm not suggesting it was wrong, is that the decision to search was a good one largely
the outcome was good. was the right one. this seemed to true even to those who were not on board. at least early on. and those like condoleezza rice would be an example of that. she did not come on board until the end. but she said she was very proud of how they, how the whole process unfolded. conversely, those who might be called the losers, donald rumsfeld for example, in terms of this context. cannot through the fault of the project, they were silent -- and not to the fault of the project, but they were silent. they were not interviewed. or do not agree to be interviewed. same case for george casey and many of the other military leaders. now don't get me wrong.
what we learned from the oral --tories it's originally original, highly informative and fascinating. for aterrific grist student of national security decision-making and provides us a history of the search beyond anything -- of the surge beyond anything we were privy to before. originally, it is a first cut. we have to keep that in mind. in many ways it wets our appetite for more of the story. appetite.ur for more analysis and word documents. more analysisr and more documents. and what scholars often called
the missing dimension of international relations which is intelligence. that was mentioned there. i have a personal interest in this. i would like to know not only the correlation between the intelligence and decisions, what kind of input it was. but what i think is a fascinating question, is whether that took place in the intelligence community -- whether the reforms that took place in the intelligence committee between 2004 and 2005 had any effect in terms of how the consumers of intelligence did so. i was interested in peter's 2007nt which he said in that intelligence could not guarantee. of course intelligence can never guarantee. all it can do is inform and reduce uncertainty. one of the reforms, which is near and dear to my heart, was that the intelligence would have different types of scenarios. which was not a was easy for the intelligence -- for the
consumer, but nevertheless that was pivotal and it was required. to me that as a whole other story or parallel story which i .ould loved to be explored again, i do not know how and when it might be. let me circle back to the process itself. and to reiterate that it was my study of eisenhower's foreign and national secured he policies in the 1950's, and the architecture that generated them, that was the initial spark for my interest in national security decision-making. and, you know, in many ways, and while i am reluctant to use eisenhower as a model, and i sort of did, and when will read my essay, he laughed at me for doing it, and the same thing happened at the workshop. so i'm ready to sort of get it again. [laughter] but i am not suggesting in any way that all the administration's should mimic
that architecture. or what i suggest that administrations do not have to adapt their processes to the demand of the contemporary and varmint. what today we conventionally refer to as the interagency andess, is much broader much more complex than it was back in the 1950's. and for that matter, through the end of the cold war. for example, today's national security council dwarfs in size and scope and authority anything that eisenhower put together and institutionalized in the 1950's. conversely, i would argue, and this might be something that would be interesting to explore in the second volume are the third weimar the fourth i am. the power -- the second volume or the third volume or the fourth volume. and the power of the state department under eisenhower remained the core of the policy process, and the secretary of state who was the unparalleled
spokesman of the foreign policy communicate. -- trinity. and -- of the foreign policy community. that power has receded even as the power of the pentagon hat is increased. -- depend on has increased. that power at receded even as the power of the pentagon increased. and there's a situation and that is also important and personalities have come up in several different contexts, in terms of the conversation, that no president since eisenhower with the possible exception of george hiv bush, i have to say mention that because jeff is here, none of has possessed any close to his reputation, stature, or therefore experience or political capital and, you know, because of his military authority, i think it was no one class. so that was sort of very
important. nevertheless, i think the fundamental pillars of his process rs applico today as they were -- his process are as applicable today as they were then. i will mention a couple of them, including, which would engaging the right people at the right level at the right time, providing an environment conducive to evoking constructive debate that cuts across agencies line and to which the president is an debateess, ensuring the surfaced all options and scenarios, the success for which requires a custodial manager, national security advisor, who sort of walks a fine line between honest broker and policy entrepreneur. and finally, some sort of mechanism that ensures once a decision is made and implementation begun, monitors
the progress to decide whether or not some sort of change is necessary. i am not claiming that process or architecture or models, i am a historian and not able to go scientist, and that every president must be able to devise and architecture that he buthe is comfortable with, i will argue that all of those elements should be present. in one form or another. and now i will quickly go over my criticism, which will limit how much i can be criticized for it. happy to discuss anything further during the question and answer. with, there was not a mechanism to trigger a review. or a monitor. , eisenhower had an appendage of the national security council, many of you know this, called the operation
core dating board. it never worked as -- operation coordinating board. it never worked as well as it was intended that it did as sure that secretion of a policy could not continue indefinitely -- it did and sure that execution of a policy could not continue indefinitely without an appraisal of that policy. be as veryld intervals. in this case there was no mechanism to trigger that review. automatically. and even though from late 2005 -2006, many national secured officials and entities at different levels expressed profound concern with u.s. policy and direction, that there was not a review. meetings. many, many meetings. referred to in interviews as stylized. but they do not mr. lee get them
to where it needed to go -- they did not necessarily get them to where they need to go. finally, elements of the nsc really forced a review. and yet it took place covertly. clandestinely. i do not know what word you want basically, in which it cut out the secretary of defense at many of the services or the uniformed military. again, that really could not have happened and then that leads to what was mentioned and what i consider one of the strangest episodes in decision-making history, which is that which surrounded the that june, inting which it was two and that the theing never really got off
again for a variety of different reasons. i'm just going to quickly summarize, but my never general point is that even though. then there is the issue that comes out clearly that the nsc does conduct its own informal review. you have other ones going on. developss the nsc that a preference if that would be the word or at least puts on the table the notion of having a doubled down strategy which ultimately cap becomes the surge. it is not generated by one of the agencies. so it is difficult, again, that would be, that is in violation of the sort of the eisenhower model, in which it would have input up, it would had to have been mentioned unless no one thought about it at all. early in the process. nsc and thet of the
staff, and particularly the credit of steve hadley and so many of those who are here, attesting to the other eisenhower principal, that the organization, no matter how good it is, really is only as good as the individuals who are part of it, so in this case, it really was the individuals, that sort of, negate everything i said, because it compensated for what i consider really flaws in the structure, relying on sort of extra governmental inputs, officials outside the formal chain of command, concealing some of the deliberations from others, or whatever, the nsc did ultimately arrive at a recommendation that enabled president bush to make this courageous decision, a decision that the nsc wanted it to make and clearly president bush wanted to make, at least for the second half of 2006. it surely was a courageous decision. although i will leave it to
history as to whether or not it was the wisest decision or the right one. the question is whether the system works. maybe it did, if the fact that the barometer is that the policy ended up where they wanted to be . but i do not think that is the right question. so i mean, i would like to ask those who are involved in it if they were writing a textbook on decision-making process, is whether this is the path wait they would recommend to get from point a to point b. and i think not. and i hope not. thank you very much. [applause] >> so first of all i want to begin by thanking the organizers. i think it was really inspiring this morning and earlier this
afternoon, inspiring as a scholar and even more importantly, inspiring simile as an american citizen, to listen reassessmenttful of the decision-making that went into this surge. i think it is incredibly impressive for us as americans to think that we have had such people, whether we agree with their decisions or disagree with their decisions, making policy and the highest echelons of the white house, the state department, and the pentagon and elsewhere. us asooves all of americans to think how different things are today, and how consequential it is that we do not have serious, thoughtful
minded people engaged in the process comparable to the ones we have heard today. i also want to preface my remarks by saying that i do not have a stake on this volume. i was not interviewed for it. i have not written an essay for it. i was an outside referee. i also hope that peter fever will take my comments thoughtfully as an objective signar, because i did not the letter as an academic and 2002, opposing the war. and i'd like to think that have come to whatever views i have had, which are pretty complex and textured, about the decision to go to war and about the aftermath. and just because i'm an academic, i do not necessarily have vested opinions, politically inspired.
probation!n >> ok 10 minutes from now i probably will not get your approbation. but at least i'm on probation now. i was asked make some overall comments about the book and the surge. i think it is a wonderful book. the interviews are really illuminating. edited.me is seamlessly the interviews are brought together in a very effective way. excellentde an chronological overview of the decision to surge troops in iraq. essaysadmired the because they offer such
different perspectives. there is an essay by three of the key policymakers, steve hadley and megan o'sullivan and peter. one essay by them. and then six or seven other essays by very renowned scholars, three of whom appear on this stage. about allgnificant the essays, is that they make you think really deeply about strategy, and president bush's overall decision-making. what i want to do in the 10 minutes or so that i have is to talk about these three patters. process. strategy. an overall decision-making. process, terms of richard, whom you have just heard, is very critical of the
process. so are some of the former policymakers, like philip alico. nonetheless, in my judgment, steve hadley and peter fever and megan offer a compelling defense of the process in their essay. they make two really important points. that the process get the president most of all the option he wanted. secondly, the big point they make is that even more importantly, the process enabled the president to forge a consensus among top officials, which was no mean a compliment. of course -- no mean accomplishment. as you have heard, richard was not convinced. what he does in the volume in a very systematic way, is to compare bush's national security
council to ike's national secret counsel process. richard claims -- ike's national security council process. richard claims president bush was not sufficiently involved from the inception of the process, that the process was belated. that it was stove piped or siloed until nearly the end. and that the outcome was predetermined. think, isteresting, i that steve hadley and peter fever and megan o'sullivan do not really directly rebut those criticisms. and they do not say that there process is a model, that it is a text book model. they clearly do not make the claim that they were trying to emulate eisenhower's process, the process that president eisenhower employed so
effectively. that is not what was on their minds. the make the larger point, throughout their interviews and throughout the volume, that we , that the morning process worked. that is what counted, the process worked. that word is used over and over again. i would say this assertion that the process worked invites examination of strategy. not simply process, but strategy. what does it really mean to say that it worked? volume, bob jervis, one of the most renowned scholars of international relations in decision-making in the whole world, bob dervish notes that there is much dispute among experts about whether the surge
made a lasting difference or whether it was even decisive in the short run. in part, doug lute underscored that today and said there were many other ingredients that made the surge work rather than simply the deployment of american troops. saysrrent developments, bob jarvis, like the sunni awakening, they have to contribute more to the outcome, more to way making the surge work than the deployment of additional troops itself. is far tooervis skeptical of the short-term impact of the surge. in my opinion, the surge did work in the following way. the surge worked in that it significantly mitigated
sectarian killings according to the newly published history of the army in the iraq war, a volume that just came out, it points out that not only deathvilians casualty and significantly decline after the , but that insurgent attacks declined from about 140 2007 toin early virtually none on a routine day in 2009. , at suggests that it worked least tactically.
along with other scholars, i am inclined to question whether the , although ae surge tactical success, was a strategic success. , they do ang it theirful job in interviews and the essay. explaining how changing -- the changing assumption that motivated the surge. they illuminate how they interrogated previous assumptions and reconfigured them. what is interesting both in their essay and the interviews is that they actually say rather
little about overall strategic goals. they often allude to the mission. but they do not specify the missions goals. in 2002 and 2003, when the iraq, thetion invaded ofls were to rid iraq weapons of mass destruction and bring about regime change. was to make sure that the iraqi government would not hand off weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups with global ambitions. certain was to make would not be a threat
to its neighbors. goals actually had been achieved by the end of 2003. mostly by confirmation that iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. nationbuilding was embraced mostly after it became clear weaponsq did not have of mass destruction. took place, it seemed like the new goal was to bring about an democratic iraq
that could sustain itself. there is little discussion of how democratization and nationbuilding related to overall capability and strategic interest. at one point, in the decision-making process, she said, i cannot write a paper about an emerging consensus, agrees withone anyone about foundational issues. see the foundational asue elucidated in satisfactory way.
perhaps they were addressed. but those documents have not been declassified. that is a real shame. it constitutes a real obstacle to any final conclusion about the strategy and the process behind the search. the absence of both documents does not deter some scholars and for amakers from calling more favorable overall assessment of president bush as a decision-maker. the interviews and several essays suggests that the surge
was a courageous choice for president bush. he went against public opinion. against his secretary of defense. .is secretary of state against condi rice, donald rumsfeld, all of them were initially against the surge. president bush orchestrated a decision that everybody eventually agreed upon. during the next 18 months, the ande did reduce violence sectarian killings. should these generalizations inspire a reinterpretation of president bush and the iraq war?
i do not think so. mid-2006, the prevailing policy was failing. the choice was, double down the reposition, or carefully withdraw. president bush, even the opponents of the surge, could face a pullout and acknowledged feet. wledge defeat. the only option was the last card, the surge. science calls this prospect theory. all people are most inclined to be big risktakers when they face
defeat. you don't need prospect theory to explain this decision. you only need to know the personality and character of george w. bush. confident,oud, wholligent, stubborn man believed his credibility and reputation as president would be forever blemished if he lost the war. the credibility and reputation of the u.s. would be if the countryed lost the war. you,i want to hear from bush allegedly said to the joint chiefs, is how we are going to win, not how we are going to
leave. received some evidence that the surge could work. he was informed that the brigades could be used in an effective manner in and around baghdad. he learned about the sunni awakening. he felt that he could work with the iraqi leader. the odds were still low. everyone seems to have thought it was a real gamble. really gutsy. that is why the book is called the last card. a key question is, when odds are low, does it make sense to take such a risk?
this is a really significant issue. how do you know that you should take such a risk? the odds going into it were perceived as rather low. it makes sense to take such a risk. president bush thought so. outcomedisastrous coming from the defeat was far more consequential than the chips he was about to invest. the surge might not work, but if it, his reputation and record would not be much worse than it already was. the surge might not work, but if it failed, the reputation and record of the u.s. would not be so much worse than it is --
already was because of the imbroglio in- iraq. does the decision reveal a skilled policymaker rather than a lucky one? i don't think so, for the following reasons. bush's actions were terribly belated. since the fall of 2003, if not observers2003, grasped that the security situation in iraq was perilous. there were 12,000 civilian deaths in 2003.
from the onset, local commanders like general sanchez and civilian officials like paul bremmer, the head of the coalition provisional authority, ,s well as pentagon leaders they all warned that there were in adequate forces. president bush was slow to deliver those forces. he was hamstrung by donald rumsfeld. his staunch commitment to a lien force stifled an early re-examination of policy. bush left his secretary of defense in office far too long. defense wasy of
hated by many. rumsfeld was a vicious and condescending person. withines of communication the coalition provisional authority had been terrible. he belatedly assumed responsibility for the torture at abu ghraib. he offered to resign. to president bush referred -- refused to accept his resignation. the revolt of the generals would have made bush look weak. rumsfeld was critiqued because his performance was deplorable. the president should have fired him. failure to do so was a grave
error. augment overall forces. some oppose the surge because they thought it would break the force. finally, president bush skillfully guarded their assent by promising to enlarge troop exchange forll in jcs support of the search. -- the surge. if this was good policy then, why was it so belated? why did it not take place earlier? war,president bush went to in my view that decision was
understandable. thought tove enough the postwar situation in iraq. to thesident assented consequential decision like the abandonment of the iraqi army without deliberative processes in the spring of 2003. those decisions have terrible long-term ramifications. his definition of interest and strategic goals, like democratization, were elusive, grandiose, and ultimately unachievable. saidme of the commentators in the previous session, americans have to understand the limits of their power. that was not understood.
the tactical success of 2006 and is dwarfed by the strategic miscalculations and bureaucratic that hadonality beleaguered the bush presidency since its inception. the just published official , itory of the army in iraq is filled with citations and real documents and extensive interviews. commissioned by general approved byelf and the current chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. it concludes on the last page, in the following manner. " the failure of the united strategicachieve its
objectives in iraq was not inevitable. it came as a byproduct of a long series of decisions, acts of commission and omission. made by well-trained and making whatleaders, seems to be reasonable decisions. at one point, in the waning days of the surge, the change of strategy and the sacrifices of many thousands of americans and iraqis had finally tipped the scales enough to put the military campaign on a path toward a measure of success. , it was not to be. the compounding of fact of arlier mistakes combined with
series of decisions focused on war termination ultimately doomed the fragile venture." surge,think about the that is the conclusion by which i would concur. [applause] i have the civil military chapter in the book. as i was reading through the interview, the thing that struck me so strongly was how desperately i wish i could have this administration. the process was elegant. what -- much of the criticism. incredibly me an difficult decision to make for the president to have two had made.
the process worked in a way that helps the president to get to where he wanted to go. the bushk in administration from 2002 to 2005. be reading these interviews because so much had changed. that is where i disagree. he is acting as though there is a continuum and the president's own behavior. i have three points i want to make. were not serious civil military difficulties in the run-up to the 2006 surge. there were very serious civil-civil difficulties, mostly in the form of the secretary of defense. there was a misconception that the process labored under about
civil military affairs and in particular the way that the principal actors, except for the president, conflated how they dealt with active-duty military and how they dealt with veterans. the third thing i want to talk about is hadley's dictum. steve hadley, and a different context, gave a fundamental insight about government processes. they have to actually suit how the president takes on information and how they make decisions. that is what is so beautiful.
let me talk a little bit about these. i don't agree that the process was clandestine. secretary rumsfeld knew the review was going on. one of the most things that was most shocking to me was in the aftermath of the samara mosque moment ofat is the realization for everyone in the administration that the strategy is failing. the secretary had a reaction that was an affirmation of the nature of the struggle, not that
the strategy is failing. that is a window into why secretary rumsfeld was such an impediment to getting the strategy right. his fundamental job is translating the president's political objectives into military plans. much of the failure sits at his feet. condi rice says in interviews that they plan for the invasion was inadequately resourced. the secretary of defense was evasive when she and other members of the cabinet tried to press him on things like the stability.
how do you create the ?resident's objective cheneyesident acknowledged a disconnect between stability and secretary rumsfeld sire drawdown forces. that is the difference between 2003 and 2006. shock, theamara joint chiefs of staff start to review in theater. and in the pentagon. process begins to move.
i wish i worked in that administration. it was an elegance of orchestration to produce the reconsideration. of 2006,s october secretary rumsfeld was saying as war in iraq is not going badly as people said and more troops would make a difference. his recommendation was to accelerate the drawdown of troops. secretary rice said the reason she did not discuss the reviews on their way was the cabinet did not want to provoke the secretary of defense. that is such a colossal failure. it claws at my heart.
civil and military relations in the u.s. are structured the way they are with the unquestionable subordination of the military to elected civilian leadership. it is gestured that way in order to prevent a standing army from becoming a threat to democracy. that is why civil-military such a big subject and the american model gives our military such wide latitude in the making of policy. contingent on the unquestioned acceptance that they will do what the elected political leadership sites. decides. i saw nothing anywhere in nt of the interviews that said they would do that. the white house staff
worried about was the military not supporting the strategy. about where are we going to get the troops is a difficult one. i did not see any signs that there was an actual reason to be concerned about subordination in the military. that is a beautiful thing. be very grateful for it. critical of the decision is the conflation on the part of many in the white house, with the exception of the president, that these retired military officers speaking out, calling for rumsfeld to be fired , rumsfeld could not be fired for six months. oft would be a violation civil-military norms. that is actually not true. i love that the person who had
it right was the president himself. he said, i am not going to do anything different based on what these guys say. ofalso made the distinction treating them as just another political actor. treats the right way to veterans when they engage in the political process. they are just another political actor. treating it as a civil-military judgment may make it complicated. what is different between 2003 and 2006 and comes through so beautifully and poignantly in the interviews is that the president took ownership of the process and outcome.
the white house chief of staff said, the president i saw at those meetings was noticeably different than the one i saw in every other context. the white house chief of staff said the president was deferential to the military used -- views. he did not have the confidence and rigor of challenge that he had in other circumstances. the president was solicitous of the military views. all of this is before the process of the nsc set in motion. steve hadley deserves the credit for making the process amenable to the president to get him wider apertures of information.
when the challenge came for the chief of staff of the army that we don't have the forces, i thought it was actually striking. this is not recounted by the president. but by several other people. when he was confronted with the chief of staff saying, i fear this will break the army, his rebuttal with say, losing a war will break an army. that is exactly commander stature. mmander-in-chief stature.
president bush said the military's job is to figure out a win. the president's job is to figure out if we want to win. that is what happened in 2006. [applause] >> good afternoon. it came up earlier if academics can or can't admit that they made a mistake and got something wrong. in my case, there is no way around that. my students always remind me.
i am always making predictions are saying this will probably happen. or this can't happen. and i get it wrong more often that i get it right. i think my students for constantly reminding me of that. organizers.ank the all of the people who accounted to putting on this incredibly wonderful event. this really stimulating day. not just in terms of editing the book. thank you to all of you for ofcking around for six hours really intense, detailed discussion. something that is complicated. i was expecting the room to empty out by the time we get to the last speaker.
we got advance access to these incredible oral histories. the end product is this incredible resource that historians will be coming back to again and again in the coming years. not just for american historic policy but students of american politics. and the politics of national security. reading the oral histories has been illuminating and enthralling. my own chapter looks at the parallels between the vietnam war and erect.
-- iraq. i had been invited to think about this historically. i have written not only a buck but several articles on american policymaking in vietnam. i would approach these oral histories. initially i thought that is what i had to do. i had a little bit of skepticism as to whether that would hold. i knew there were lots of parallels. but i didn't know what i would find in oral histories. not only were there lots of unspoken parallels and links, but the policymakers and military personnel who gave these oral histories talked about vietnam constantly.
in vietnam, lyndon johnson faced two critical moments when he was asked to surge troops. the first time came in july 1965. his national security advisor and secretary of defense went to thepresident and said, current policy is unsustainable. we either have to get out or we have to go in much bigger. johnson initiated a review process and discussion process. johnson was faced with another
february and march of 1968 in the wake of the tet offensive. to a lot of people around the world, the south vietnamese and the united stes had suffered a calamitous setback, if not an overwhelming defeat. we need tens of thousands of more u.s. troops to consolidate gains. johnson initiated a review process. surge troops. to he halted operation rolling thunder.
announced that he would not seek or accept the democratic party's nomination and would not run for reelection. what i wanted to do with iraq with the decision to surge troops was examine bush's decision in light of johnson's decision. there were all kinds of other ways i could have approached the parallels. there is the obvious issue of nationbuilding. there is the other side of the coin. this notion that as we stand
down, they stand up. we will support the vietnamese military. there was the specter or shadow and thinking about whether to get rid of him. the policymakers, almost to a person, as well as historians and journalists, pretty much everybody agreed that that was a critical error. overthrow of a leader and not have a plan for the instability that followed. it was probably predictable.
that is what drew the u.s. into the war. on really shaky ground. and on terms that made the u.s. occupation of south vietnam look profoundly illegitimate. there are all kinds of ways we could explore iraq in light of vietnam. i want to touch on three conclusions that i draw from this examination. one is about process. , when started my chapter i was invited to examine these oral histories and write my chapter, my first book was on mcgeorge bundy, national security advisor to kennedy and johnson. he invented the position as we know it today.
he made the national security advisor. that is when people started referring to the position in those terms rather than as a special assistant to the president for national security affairs. nsc staff ande their role in the escalation of the war. i am already a process nerd in a historical sense. was howuck me today often process comes up again and again from the practitioners and scholars. the process for the surge worked despite its idiosyncrasies and the fact that you might not dried up exactly like that.
a genuine consensus was reached even when opponents were brought in to the process. way tore brought in in a reach a consensus when it didn't exist beforehand. i think stephen hadley deserves all the praise he has been getting. process had a lot of idiosyncrasies. it was designed to neutralize donbetter enders like rumsfeld, who disagreed with the policy and wanted to do something else. it certainly was a better process, even if it was not perfect. thinking about vietnam, good process does not always produce good policy. vietnam at that time was an example. wisdom,onventional
there was no consensus for war in elite circles in washington in 1964. there was no assumption that because we were fighting communists in south vietnam and we had a long-standing commitment there, we would go to war. there were all sorts of people who were arguing against sending troops, as the secretary of did,e dean rest did -- rusk but many people said we should get out. lots of people in congress and the media and the joint chiefs of staff. there was no groupthink, no sleepwalkers. if there was a consensus, it had to be forged. the person who did that was mcgeorge bundy, the national security advisor.
when you read the oral histories from the johnson era, almost nobody complains. in similar ways that people have praised stephen hadley. they talk about how fair-minded he was, that he was a honest broker. nobody felt that they were cut out of the process or that their views were not heard. this process that produced consensus also produced a disastrous policy.
sometimes, bad process does lead to good policy outcomes. decision in of the 1968 when johnson decided not to surge troops. process.a terrible you had a new secretary of state. rusk served all eight years. time, he had been national security advisor for over two years. these guys are really experienced. clark clifford comes in and he is brand-new. he sidelined the president. that is the really remarkable thing about the decision. surge troops.
he wiped it to grant general -- westmorelan'ds request for more troops. people agree with that. i think the good policy outcome was to begin disengagement. sometimes bad process can provide good policy. process about iraq produce good operational outcome, with bush showing skillful leadership in this instance. it still did not solve the larger strategic problems. a very good process does not necessarily address all of the concerns.
the oral histories highlight the argument that in a volatile environment, security must come before sociopolitical reform. day, if thef the security situation is so volatile, you need to provide security. that insight provided much of the basis for the surge. i think there is a lot of logic for that. it is irrefutable logic. providing very elaborate models for how we will go about doing that reform. tot same logic led people argue for the americanization of the war, the surgeon troops in
vietnam, to stabilize matters. vietnam, between those two all that did was conceal the greater strategic problems that loomed over everything. rgenson's decision to su troops stopped the freefall. there was not a modernization of south vietnamese society. these oralreading histories in the discussion today, i've don't believe iraq could have escaped that fate. with aas a problem concept of collective memory. there are problems with oral histories.
every historian knows that. i don't mean the everyday human errors that cloud one's memory. i am talking about the very nature of collective memory itself. inception -- assumption that collective history is there to be discovered. and that it is neutral. i think that is highly problematic. collective memory is not usually organic. collective memory does occur but not naturally. it has to be made and forged. it is a social process, a political construction. it does not just happen out of nothing. that is what the oral history
participants were doing. they were creating a collective memory. the collective memory forged surgewas not only that the was successful, which is not what wasntested, but being forged here was that the surge achieved victory for america and erect -- iraq. the oral histories here do not prove that. there is an assumption that the people who gave these oral histories, that is self-evident. victory was attained. that brings me to my third and final point. the surge cannot be considered a victory because it was a means
to an end. it was not the war itself. the surge was a success. no question about that. yet it might have created conditions for victory but that is up for debate. how long is long enough to count in the end? was it enough time? into it have molded iraq good order? policymakers in vietnam faced the same question. with vietnam, we know there was never enough time. no amount of time that was sufficient what americans wanted to achieve.
i suspect the same is true in iraq. here the analogy to lbj helps more. the same logic that says the surge was a total victory would to say, i havej one the vietnam war. i stopped the freefall. south vietnam has not collapsed. the job is over. i would say that the surge got the u.s. back to square one. a position that they faced in the spring of 2003. it did not win anything in and of itself.
there is tremendous value in these oral histories. i encourage you to read and by the book. it is an incredible piece of historic scholarship. an incredible primary source for future generations. i will certainly come back to them again, and again, and again. but they are only part of the story, not the whole story. thank you. [applause] >> i have lots of questions and little time. i believe there may be questions
from the audience. i will dispense with the four pages of potential questions and comments i had written out here. i will just put one question to the other panelist that you can take in any number of directions. i wonder, for the three historians here, if there is anything we can learn by comparing or contrasting the decision-making on the surge, with four other episodes from relative recent american history.
might be nixon-kissinger and their decision-making in vietnam. you imply president bush did not have any other options. but nixon and kissinger showed that there was one, you can leave the war, you can lose it. the second might be more focused. the carter administration. the third might be the reagan administration in beirut. is there anything in that process? the fourth might be choice h w beh in the fall of 1990 to in the first gulf war. it is seen as a great success.
operated in some ways in a similar manner. they were looking for tactical them toves to enable achieve what they regarded as victory. victory was an independent south vietnam. the way they thought they could do it more effectively was by valuating -- but also escalating. it is wrong to see them in 1969 as withdraw when they in many ways intensified the waring and expanded the significantly into cambodia and laos. and intensified the bombing of
north vietnam. there are tactical similarities. the preoccupation, which is legitimate, with the nation's credibility and reputation, and their personal credibility and reputation, those things were at stake. these are very agonizing decisions. >> i want to add one to your list. the reagan administration's decision to pull out of lebanon after the bombing of the u.n. headquarters. i was panic stricken cycling through them. i missed it.
both with the carter thenistration decision and decision about lebanon is that they cast a very long shadow about the capability of the american military to manage the wars in which they were fighting. it was a reminder that if you give the american military time to figure out what they are doing, they can figure it out. the adaptability of the american , the criticism that is , how come damming nobody anticipated that a weaker adversary would take an asymmetric strategy and drive the cost up?
a generation of military leaders who come out of that think and much more limber ways about the nature and use of military force. >> of those four examples, one does not belong. the last one with president w bush. dubya bush -- h was at contest the surge success. the first three examples were failures. the fourth one was a success. is a really strong correlation between process and outcome. you have the most dysfunctional underal security systems
nixon and carter and reagan. that failure leads to those failures of policy. in the george h.w. bush years, it is textbook. you get a good policy outcome. the larger strategic questions, we can ask those but there is a strong correlation. in defense of nixon and kissinger, these are smart people, the national security council staff and advisers and certainly in the next and and carter administrations, really smart people but very dysfunctional. under nixon and kissinger it is dysfunctional but that dysfunctionality is i think necessary for for the brilliance the opening to china, which i don't think could have happened with an interagency review.
key, when we discussed this, is how do we define success and failure? how do we define what worked or didn't work? cori thought i was saying that the surge was a failure. i don't think the surge was a failure. i thought i made that clear. the surge was an operational success, a technical success. iraqiolutely reduced civilian deaths and it absolutely almost eliminated, , insurgent, attacks attacks on american soldiers. the key question to my mind, and i think that andrew and i were on the same line of thinking, is whether that operational and
tactical success means that there was an overall strategic success. >> i want to litigate this. >> we should litigate it. here is that many people, and this relates to the comments about collective history of an administration, collective memory, that we andld highlight the surge think that president bush was in 2006,ecision-maker 2007 that he was in 2003, therefore we should have a much more favorable view of the administration of george w. bush , are think in the long run people going to really remember the surge, or are they going to decision to initial
invade iraq that turned out to be so flawed? that is not because, i'm not saying it was misconceived. but i think it turned out to be theed, partly because national security decision-making process worked so badly. and i do think, by the way, you keep saying president bush was different in 2006 and 2007 that he was in 2003. he really took control in 2006 with the decision and the outcome. bush i do think president was different in 2006 and 2007 because of the experiences he had gone through, but in 2003, he also took responsibility for the decision and the outcome. he was very pleased initially to do so.
and he was a guy who thought he was in control, and this would work. and it turned out that many of the decisions that he made, i would say right after the invasion, turned out to be incredibly flawed, and that is why in the official history, when they say, when it concludes with a focus on decisions that were made that were never sufficiently overcome. pulsates through the entire course of the administration, and suggests an inability to have the capabilities to achieve the strategical, supposedly democratization and nationbuilding. >> much of what you say is in or mislead persuasive and i think especially -- is enormously
persuasive and i think especially the long view of 2000 three will be the decision that frames the bush administration. why i think the surge in 2006 was more than a technical or operational success is that as the security situation stabilizes in 2007, iraqis start to practice normal politics. you start to get cross-sectarian voting, first you get voting without violence, you get cross-sectarian voting, you get political compromise that was not a feature of iraqi politics ever before. that i think is the strategic success. >> i want to make two very quick points. , i'm not going to enter into the debate as to whether it was a strategic success or not because i'm not ready to reach that conclusion yet. i think again, that is a problem
or a benefit of being a historian. , me with a microphone is a dangerous thing because i tend to scream anyways. just want to sort of leave that for a verdict. the other thing i want to say in terms of these different cases that perhaps we haven't discussed as much is the timeframe in which the policy process is being played out. a number of the cases that you mentioned, it was really telescoped compared to this think there was an advantage to how long it took for the process to unfold. and in many cases, particularly in kissinger-nixon, whether you is aabout china, this great example of a policy precedent that unfolded over the sort ofspite
dysfunctionality in many ways of the process, i think it ended up , i'm not sure it was a strategic success, but i think the policy unfolded in a way that served the president very well. >> time for questions from the audience. we have one right behind you. spentname is bob and i two and a half years in combat in vietnam. first time, as you were talking about, was with the surge, february 1968, i was with the. we went over there and i would like to know if anybody is aware of a single major battle in that the u.s. military lost. zero.d venture to say
we lost that war not because of the military, but it has a political decisions that were made in the u.s. my second tour was with studies and observations group. i don't know if you know anything about them, because it was very top-secret organization that did cross-border reconnaissance into laos, cambodia, and north vietnam. it is no longer classified so that's why i can talk about it. but what happened in 1970 and 1971, nixon started using protocols on us that significantly reduced our ability to defend ourselves when we were in those countries. and he did that because he was preparing to go into china and open it up. and he didn't want to threaten
china. so if you have any comments on that, i would appreciate it. >> so i take your point about winning the battles and losing the war. is because the military strategy required a level of period of including a time that was beyond what was politically salable for the president. one of the things that is so impressive about the decision to initiate the surge is that they managed to beat the clock. that is, the american public was growing ready to stop doing this and they managed to correct course in a way that the civilian leadership hadn't managed to correct course in time to stay ahead of public disgruntlement in vietnam. >> thanks for those comments and
insights. i would only add to it that i would agree with you that the war was lost for reasons of politics. i would say the more important place to look was in indochina rather than the politics of the united states. i'm thinking especially of the ion. youof vietnamizatyi were literally there, i'm just a scholar who looks at it but from what i know about what happened, with the rest of the south vietnamese military, they were to this incredibly large force and were trained really well. by 1970 five, selfie and him had something like the fourth largest air force in the world, one of the largest armies, just south of vietnam, one of the largest armies in asia and they are not a good fighting force because they have by that point very little legitimacy in selfie and him. the political process in south vietnam has almost no legitimacy
. when they are tested in 1970 in cambodia, and especially in 1971 and 1972 with the easter offensive, it is a route. the north vietnamese beats the hell out of them. if it wasn't for the u.s. military, that war would have ended much earlier. vietnam would have been 1971.ied in 1969, 1970, that leads me to believe if you are in that kind of situation, where you are dealing with political and cultural and social issues that are beyond the capability of the u.s. military, no matter how effective it is as a fighting force, it is able to control, if you are to say we will do whatever it takes to win, the west military would still be there and it would still be refereeing a civil war in which the united states doesn't have the answers to vietnamese questions. i agree with you, the reasons for the failure in vietnam were
political but in vietnam. add one thing to to that, which goes to what andrew said in his presentation. westmoreland requested 205,000 more troops in february 1968, he fully expected to get them. earl weaver fully expected him to get them. clifford, interestingly, was brought in as secretary of defense because unlike mcnamara, johnson expected he would approve it. his reason for not approving it, and he did staff it out and he was very explicit, is that congress was not going to support this at this point. are is at, there remarkable parallel between what was going on in congress at the same time and i think cori is
right in terms of beating the clock. in vietnam, basically the horse had left a stable as far as kissinger, and that was what was poisoning the well. and why johnson was so surprised. so it was political. it had nothing to do, westmoreland said we have them on the ropes, let's knock them out. it was also the gold crisis and there for other things going on so it was considered by the most political of secretaries of defense, clark clifford, that this was politically unviable at that point. >> [indiscernible] won. we hadn't had the political problems in the won. we would have .> we could go on about this was no longerues
a player at that point, which happened to have been what we learned over the last several years. >> my name is larry, university of texas at dallas. i enjoyed your talk. likealked about players rumsfeld and how they were involved in the process. nobody mentions much about vice president cheney. we have seen movies and stuff that talk about what he did but how do you feel cheney was involved in any of this? >> that is a good question for the policymakers themselves who observed it. to really beme able to answer your question with any degree of authority, is that vice
president cheney was not a in the eventsr leading up to the surge. he was obviously a participant. the, i also feel, contrary to most people, that vice president cheney was not the determinative factor in 2002 and 2003, as well. there is a lot of belief, especially among critics of the war, that cheney was manipulating the process. everything i have learned about decision-making in the united states suggests to me that the president always makes the
decision. and almost everything suggests to me that the president knows, and everyone around him knows that he is the person who is going to make the decision, and there is an institutionalized, deference, as there probably should be, to the president. i maybe wrong, but when i read the interviews, especially those integrated into this volume, one of the things that simply strikes me as a reader of the narrative, and steve will probably talk about this this evening and megan and peter have their own views, but i think timmy, when i read literally the interviews, what is striking is that they knew what president
bush really wanted. and they knew that president bush did, quote, "not want to lose," whatever that might mean, he wanted to win, whatever that might mean. in bothe illuminates esa and the interview, as well, how incredibly skillful he was. i'm incredibly appreciative of the process, that he was able to into athis option process in which all the key players didn't really want to consider it. that took, you know, enormous sk ill. the point is, i think, that people who were closest to bush knew what he wanted, in this case probably vice president cheney knew what the president wanted, and probably also agreed with it, but i absolutely have
, viceeling that cheney president cheney is not the determinative factor in 2006-2007, nor the determinative factor in 2002-2003. >> to add one quick point, it comes through clearly in the interviews that vice president cheney is bringing in alternative people for the president to talk to, retired general jack keane, some of the people from the american enterprise institute like fred kagan, who were doing some thinking about that. he wasn't marginal to the process, but i agree with mel's judgment that he is not this asming, dangerous figure characterized in a lot of movies. it is just aabout
ridiculous movie. we have time for one final question and it is going to go to professor engel, one of our hosts, who can -- i cannot turn down. >> first-come i would like to say no matter what you think of the moral of the movie, it is a very entertaining movie. i would like to ask a question to this panel, the esteemed historians. i would like you cannot question the question, because you could -- like you cannot question the question, because you could, but that would lead us down a deeper notit hole as to whether or 65, 66 or 67 is applicable to iraq. the question is, when the history of the surge is written, what do you think people will draw as the principal lesson you -- lesson? >> remember, you can't question
the question. you want to go first? reiterate my basic fame, tactical success, operational success, does not dwarf overall strategic failure. the reasons why there was strategic failure are very complex and they relate back to earlier decisions, as well as a deeper understanding of the complexities of iraqi society that had not been appreciated and could not be overcome. but i think people will say, what i think is striking in the tacticalwas in fact a success shaped by incredibly worked in a, that thatnarrow way, and maybe
is all one could have been anticipating. it is hard to know because the administration leaves just as , tactically really most successful. what would have happened subsequently if the bush administration were there? it is really hard to say, especially in the context that no one should ever forget, there was a catastrophic financial crisis going on simultaneously. i also think it would be extraordinarily interesting to compare president bush the 2007-2008aker in iraq with president bush the decision-maker in the financial crisis. have no idea i
what conclusions would come from that, but i think it would be extraordinarily interesting and would help people sort of come to some larger generalizations about the president as a decision-maker. be somewhat more narrow sense i am still not willing to make a judgment about the strategic success. but as someone who still won't accept that this was such a good process, what i will say that thetake away for me is that individuals who populate the process are more important than the process itself. richard'sl notice refusal to take a stand command it reminds me just of the little kissinger said, what you think of the french revolution? he said, it is still too early
to tell. a i think the lesson will be reaffirmation of what edmund burke said in 1775, that the use of force alone is but temporary. it makes of do for a moment but it does not remove the necessity for a- it may subdue moment but it does not remove the necessity. >> i can't believe i have to follow that. i don't know about lessons but i read this people book, when they do the history of the surge they will think, what might have been if this process had been in place in 2002, 2003 and if the people had been there in 2002-2 thousand three a cup because i can't -- 2003?t is because i can't help, that is what i was thinking when i read this book, thinking it would have been different in a better
way. >> that is a great conclusion. >> i believe our time is up at least for this session. before you join me in a round of applause for our panelists, and you will do that, let me remind you that this channel may be up but our edification is not. in thisresume at 7:30 room. a lot of hard questions have been raised, i a lot of controversial opinions voiced. those will be resolved with perfect clarity by steve, so don't miss that. >> however, i highly recommend you go to hughes tried auditorium, which is where the keynote will be held. there will be a reception beforehand and i really cannot thank everyone enough for not only putting in a long day but putting in a productive day and to everyone here who made this project possible, whether you
are a person involved or a person who studied, thank you very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] every sunday at 8:00 p.m. and midnight, we feature the presidency, exploring the presidents, their politics, policy, and legacies. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend featuring museum tours, archival films and programs on the presidency, the civil war, and more. here's a clip from a recent program. 1800s, massive numbers of these people were in whatuth and west
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of our next. a chain of iron about 100 feet long was passed through the hasp of each padlock and we were handcuffed in pairs. you can get a better sense of the forced connection of people in this image. you can see these two guys in front are changed together at the wrist -- chained together at the wrist and the guy on the front right is chained to people behind him by the ankles. and other watch this american history programs on our website, where all of our videos archived. that's c-span.org/history. >> article two is adopted. >> do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of donald john trump, president of the united states, now pending, you will do it justice according to the constitution and laws, so help you god?
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professor black also discusses the experiences of a young u.s. army colonel named dwight eisenhower during a 1919 cross-country motor convoy, and how it influenced his later support for a national highway system. the national world war i museum and memorial cohosted the event with the linda hall library and the dwight d. eisenhower presidential library, museum and boyhood home. >> brian black is one of the faculty who spearheaded the creation of an environmental studies major at penn state altoona, where he currently serves as the head of the arts and humanities division. his research emphasis is on the landscape and environmental history of north america, particularly in relation to the application and use of technology. his first book used the pennsylvania oil boom of the