Press Roundtable: Gen. Joseph Hoar, USMC (Ret.)





1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

MR. PHILIP J. CROWLEY: Thanks for coming to the Center for American Progress, and we’re extraordinarily pleased to welcome a very fine Bostonian, a fellow Red Sox fan. You all are familiar with General Hoar’s distinguished background and C.V. I won’t repeat it here. I think – but like particularly my wife, I grew up in Needham in the suburbs of Boston. My wife grew up in Cambridge, so flowas and dowas and cahs and – but, as a Bostonian would say, “this is wicked hard stuff.” (Laughter.)

GENERAL JOSEPH P. HOAR: You know, and the truth of the matter is, people actually talk like that. Having just spent three weeks in Massachusetts, and as somebody that still has a very discernible Boston accent some 40-odd years after having lived there, it’s just amazing that you hear those kinds of things, P.J.

MR. CROWLEY: Right, right. But obviously Iraq has been out of the news for the last couple of weeks. I’m sure someone in the White House believes that is also the media’s fault for whatever good news has happened there over the past – since we’ve focused on the hurricanes, so we’re coming up on obviously a very significant milestone, October 15, notwithstanding the president’s language of “stay the course.”

I’ve no doubt that Field Marshall Karl Rove has a map leading out into 2006 with a number of exit ramps, because I don’t think they want to go into the midterm elections with 138,000 troops in Iraq, so I think they’re lighting candles between – every day between now and October 15 that they get the outcome that actually all of us do need. Certainly, if October 15 comes and somehow they’re able to avoid having three provinces in the Kurdish area – the Sunni area reject the constitution, then that is a significant step forward. Obviously, if that does not happen, it’s a vacuum that the extremists will be happy to exploit.

But either way, there are some very difficult decisions to be made about what our troops can still accomplish in Iraq and how the prospect of bringing out some, and eventually all of them, affects our standing in the region. And with that, General Hoar, from his background as the former commander of U.S. Central Command, was kind enough to agree to come by and share some of his thoughts.

So, General, I think you’re going to start off with –

GENERAL HOAR: Just a couple of thoughts to kind of get things going. I can’t begin without once more saying that this was the wrong war at the wrong time fought with incredible incompetence on the part of the civilian leadership. And despite this, that our armed forces continue to serve with courage and determination and in many cases great personal sacrifice. One data point is just the increase in divorces among Army and Marines that have gone back for repeat tours – not unlike the Vietnam experience, by the way – that a woman will stand for this one time, but two, three times is –

MR. CROWLEY: Or men.

GENERAL HOAR: I beg your pardon?

MR. CROWLEY: Or men.

GENERAL HOAR: Or men. Yeah, okay. Thanks, P. J. You’re so good.

Anyway, I think for me it’s important to say that, up front, this thing was wrong from the beginning, and so as is often the case, it’s very hard to make it right once you start down the wrong road. I’m not at all optimistic about the outcome. I think part of the reason is that our leadership – civilian leadership has got it wrong. Once the government was overthrown, the requirement from there on in was for political leadership; for the politics to take the lead, rather than the military side.

There needed to be somebody there that had special envoy status with access to the president, somebody that could call up the president and say, “What do you think?” P. J. and I were just talking about a few minutes ago about George Mitchell and Mr. Clinton during the Northern Ireland issues where there was a constant set of discussions in how we ought to do it – gaming it, questioning it – and the president was deeply involved in the issues and understood the issues, and traveled and talked. We don’t have that. By default, we’ve had three successive civilian leaders out there, all of whom in my judgment have been ineffective; one bordering on criminal, but the other two relatively ineffective as well.

And as a result, the object out there is to kill more Iraqis. I want to tell you that you cannot win this war by killing Iraqis. Now, that ought to be self-evident, but it apparently is not.

MR. CROWLEY: Which one was criminally –

GENERAL HOAR: The one that got the Medal of Freedom. (Laughter.)

GENERAL HOAR: A friend of mine said, “Too bad Mr. Chalabi didn’t get one, too.” The point is that this process, as P. J. alluded to a moment ago, is absolutely critical to the success of this venture. If through the ratification and through the election of a new government – if we can’t get it right this time, the civil war that is ongoing out there is going to get so bad that it probably will be beyond fixing. And there just needs to be a new paradigm with a civilian calling the shots and with a security program and a developmental program that supports his political agenda.

In the list of security things, first of all you have to protect this electoral process that’s ongoing. And then the second priority would be to continue to train Iraqis, but to redouble our efforts and to make sure that they have the appropriate equipment and so forth. Stop conducting search-and-destroy missions out over territory that you’re not going to occupy after you’ve carried out these sweeps, and concentrate on the population centers and the political side of things.

After January, I would say that the security requirements would be to, first of all, redouble our efforts to train Iraqis and protect the new government, and to build combat support and combat service support organizations that could support an Iraqi institution within the Ministry of Defense. In other words, it’s not going to be enough in the long term to just have battalions out there. You’ve got to have somebody that repairs trucks. You’ve got to have people that move supplies. And if we’re going to get out of there, we’ve got to be able to create this kind of logistics center or organization that can handle this kind of work, and we’ve got to organize a ministry of defense in order to run it.

And I think that, with respect to military actions, we could reasonably expect to draw down sometime next year if you have Iraqis that can handle areas in the Kurdish area and in the south, and that the U.S. forces are largely going to be deployed against the Sunni opposition. But I think that, in order to put all of this together and to make sure that the Iraqis can handle it, it’s going to take a couple more years, I think, at a minimum, and that’s only assuming that the political process goes forward and we can redouble our efforts in terms of the training and standing up of new organizations to support the Iraqi combat units.

The development piece of this, I think, is terribly important. We largely lost the confidence of the Iraqi people when we were unable or unwilling to protect the facilities and infrastructure of the country immediately after the fall of the government. Since then, we have not been able to replicate in Iraq the power generation that existed in the last few months of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Similarly, we have huge numbers of people unemployed. This is a country that employed tens of thousands of people in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, put people to work building roads, bridges, buildings; putting artists to work painting murals””all kinds of things to get people to work. This is the kind of thinking that, in my judgment, is going to get people working out of the city, not hanging around in coffee shops listening to mullahs telling them what they ought to be doing. Services and facilities, particularly power generation, are key, and there’s, in my judgment, a willing workforce to do that.

The outcome, as I’ve said, I think is uncertain. But don’t think about – when you think about Iraqi democracy, don’t think about Iowa. Think about Lebanon, you know, and that’s again best case. It’s going to be messy.

The Shi’a are not going to roll over and be terribly willing to accept major Sunni participation in the government. It’s too much to expect, in my judgment, but I think the next four or five months will be critical.

I want to leave you with something that I think is really important. I was in the Middle East on a trip of five countries this past winter, and in Saudi Arabia there seemed to me to be agreement that, regardless of what happens in Iraq, these jihadis that are now there – we don’t know how many, or at least I don’t know how many there are – of 15 to 20,000 bad guys, how many of them are hardcore guys that are going to continue to fight? But regardless of what happens, these people are going to be well trained and be out of a job, and they’re going to disperse into the local countries and continue their work.

And so it seems to me that the Defense Department not only needs to think about disengaging in Iraq, but to develop the contingency plans if you wind up with a full-scale insurgency in, say, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or if these people redouble the efforts of Hezbollah and Hamas in Israel.

I think that, regardless of what happens in Iraq, the consequences of this ill-thought-out operation are going to be with us for years to come and we are going to continue to have to have a military presence there because Osama bin Laden has told us who the bad guys are. It’s first and foremost the United States and Israel, and then beyond that the apostate Arab states; read: those countries that have been supportive of us, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE.

So on that happy note, let’s – I’d be happy to answer any questions or expound on anything that I’ve said.

MR. CROWLEY: Just to mention, Stan Crock from BusinessWeek and John Barry from Newsweek are the two that have come in. Let me take the chairman’s prerogative here and ask the first question.

Picking up on that last point, is there any real prospect for some regional cooperation? I’m certain that at some point in time, whether we do it or the Iraqis do it, they will try to expel the foreign fighters from their country. They’ve got no desire to have them fester there, but then what happens? Looking at this, is there any prospect in your mind based on your experience with the neighboring countries – is there any – how would you try to build any kind of meaningful regional cooperation that has Iraq –


MR. CROWLEY: – inside it?

GENERAL HOAR: First of all, the best case is that we have a nominally democratic Islamic state friendly to the United States, and then we could expect that they would try and expel the jihadis. The other possibility is an Islamic state aligned with Iran that is not likely to be interested in our concerns, and that has the interests of the Shi’a populations that exist in considerable numbers in mind””similar, population-wise, to Kuwait and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. They are the dominant people in Bahrain, too.

So best case is that we’ve got the Iraqis helping us. I can tell you that there is not much of a spirit of cooperation among those Arab countries. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the six states save Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, are nominally in agreement that they will work together. They rarely work together. It’s a – no, I’m not going to say “They don’t work together.” John would write it down and then I’d be in trouble.

But they don’t normally work together very well. There is, in my judgment, an Arab identity that people have empathy for other people that are in other Arab states, but they are less inclined to become directly involved or to come to the aid of another Arab state. And, again, it’s going to take American leadership if it happens.


Q: Are you familiar with Robert Pape’s book, Dying to Win?

GENERAL HOAR: Oh, somebody was just telling me about it the other day. I have not read it.

Q: Well, his basic argument is he looks at the 331 suicide terrorists – suicide bombings and does an analysis and shows that there’s a – the highest correlation is with countries in which there is a foreign military presence of a different religion. He’s not advocating pulling back yesterday from Iraq, but he says, basically, that the foreign footprint is the greatest motivator – appears to be the greatest motivator based on his statistical analysis. That suggests, going forward, that the policy might be not to have a presence in the region a few years. How do you respond to that logic?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I think there’s a couple of issues. The country that has had the most telling presence of U.S. forces, of course, has been Saudi Arabia from ’91 until what?

MR. CROWLEY: 2003.

GENERAL HOAR: Thank you. We were there 12 years. We had a pretty significant force in Saudi Arabia, a force that I might add paid almost all the bills for us. This was an extraordinary set of circumstances. From my recollection, $30 or $40 million a month.

But I would tell you in my judgment –

Q: The Saudis paid us?

GENERAL HOAR: Yes. I would tell you, in my judgment, that the Saudi involvement in 9/11 and the involvement of people from other countries out there has a much deeper basis from which it came, and it has – it has to do primarily with colonialism and what colonialism does to a society. And we – I just reviewed a movie for the Council on Foreign Relations, and I’m going to, I guess, moderate some discussions about it: The Road to 9/11. And the people who put this thing together completely – in my judgment, completely missed the point.

When you talk about the Middle East, if you don’t talk about Balfour and Sykes-Pico and McMahon and General Mott and Gertrude Bell and that whole crowd of people and what’s been going on out there throughout the 20th Century, you can’t begin to understand the dynamic that exists today. And we are the direct linear descendants of those colonial overlords. And that, in my judgment, is the problem, and we’ve done very little to dispel that belief.

Q: General –

Q: You can take it further than the 19th Century.

GENERAL HOAR: Well, of course. (Laughter.)

Q: I mean, the study of the West in – I used to live in Egypt. The study of the West in Egypt, particularly I have to say Britain, is wholly disgraceful from Mohammed (going onward ?).

GENERAL HOAR: Of course. My good friend that I visit every time I go to Cairo, his name is Hitler Tantawi. Now, his father didn’t particularly like the name Hitler. He did that out of disprect for the Brits in the 1930s. (Laughter.)

Q: General, you seem to be talking about a possible way forward in Iraq. It reminds – seems similar to what you and I went through as ink blots in Vietnam – Krulak, (unintelligible), and those people.


Q: Would – you’re talking about something that’s going to take awhile. Do the American people have the wherewithal at this point, after all that’s happened, to stick with it?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, the problem always is that when you start out on the premise that you’re going to war for weapons of mass destruction and the linkage between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, which were completely false, it’s very difficult to carry this thing forward in a way that makes sense to the American people.

Now, the Congress and the press gave these people a bye, and it has now become clear to the American public that this thing was flawed right from the start. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

Now, the point is that we have stirred up a hornet’s nest that we’re going to have to try and stay with it and do the best we can. But my point is for – to your point, the idea that you can go out into the western part of Iraq every couple of months and do a sweep and disrupt towns and villages, kill a whole bunch of people, bring a whole bunch of people in to interrogate them, and then walk off and leave that piece of ground for another couple of months before going out and doing it again – this is very reminiscent of our Vietnam experience.

If you’ll permit me a sea story: In 1966, I – my first time out there, I was an advisor with the Vietnamese marines, and we were up along the DMZ and there was a Vietnamese airborne battalion that got in trouble in a place called the marketplace, which was just north of Con Tien. That battalion had 211 soldiers killed that day, and we went to relieve the pressure and we covered for them. We stayed there the next day and were involved in a pretty good-sized fight. And the bad guys broke off because of the artillery and air – the whole works.

But any number of months from 1966 until the Americans disengaged in that area, if you ever wanted a fight, all you needed to do was go to the marketplace, and you got a fight. And they killed 20 or 30 of our people and we killed a couple hundred of theirs, and then everybody went home again, and then at some unpredicted time in the future we went back up to the marketplace and did it all over again.

And the answer was that Ho Chi Minh won as long as he didn’t lose, and these guys are in the same category. They are on an entirely different track than we are. This is the George Washington plan: don’t get decisively engaged, hang in there, sooner or later events are going to change and the foreign invaders are going to lose.

Q: Well, most of it – you said militarily the analogy of Vietnam is depressing for those of us of a certain age.


Q: But the political analogy is the complex part of it. Ho Chi Minh was a national figure, even in the south. They offered something: they offered nationalism – Vietnamese nationalism – which had been a goal for 1,000 years.


Q: Though we misread him.

GENERAL HOAR: Yes, yes. Yes, Otto, we all know the sad story. (Laughter.)

Q: Okay.

GENERAL HOAR: I don’t mean to minimize it.

Q: Yeah, I know.

GENERAL HOAR: I’m with you. I’m with you.

Q: But the political side, these guys aren’t offering anything except “we’re against the Americans and whoever cooperates with them” and it seems that – what’s the strategy to counter this nonpolitical agenda of the insurgents?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I think there are two different agendas afoot out there, Otto. One, of course, is that you have the ascendancy of the Sunnis under the protection of the British starting in 1917. The wonderful old imperial trick: pick out a group of people that are in the minority and tell them if they do what you ask them to do they’ll be okay; if not, they’ll all be dead. And so a friend of mine described what’s about to happen is, if you could visualize Alabama in 1950, where the whole government was dismissed and replaced by black Americans. The gulf between Sunni and Shi’a is far deeper than most people in this county understand, and so there is a political imperative here driven by religious motivation. So that’s one piece of it.

The second piece is that these outside guys are there – are religiously motivated to get rid of the United States and Israel and the apostate states who are largely grouped or somehow connected with al Qaeda; I don’t think they are under their direct control, but philosophically they have that approach. And so you have essentially two groups of people that want to see us out and want to see us discredited and humiliated.

I don’t know whether any of you saw this piece in the Sunday New York Times. It’s the first time I’ve seen anybody write about Irgun and Begin in about 25 years, about how Begin had said the way we’re going to get rid of the Brits is to discredit them and disgrace them and humiliate them. And, of course, the terrorist attack against the King David Hotel – 91 people killed – was exactly that, and it was the thing that drove the Brits out of Palestine. And this is what we’re facing: we’re facing people that are going to humiliate us, they’re going to show how we’re weak and ineffective, and try and drive us out.

Q: Can I ask you to elaborate on your point about not conducting search-and-destroy missions in, I guess, places like Tal Afar and then leaving again? Is there any choice? If you don’t have enough troops in the country to occupy these places, I mean, isn’t it worse for your political standing in the country to let the insurgents take control of the town?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I watch – let me give you another example: Fallujah. The four civilians were killed, bodies desecrated, hung up on the bridge. The president said this will not stand. “Heads will roll,” I think is what he said. There was –

Q: It was an unfortunate phraseology.

GENERAL HOAR: Yeah. This discussion went on about going after Fallujah. The Brits and the Marines said it was a bad idea; that these guys had wandered into an area they shouldn’t have been. It’s unfortunate, but was this worth going into a city of 300,000 people, which would – as I think most of you know, this was not an integrated city that just sat in the middle of the desert. There’s several hundred people out and about in towns, smaller villages close by.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that the White House directed that the attack be conducted. The attack started. We started losing people, and we were told to pull them back out again. Now, everybody knew that we were going back in after the U.S. elections were over. You could count on it, and so we did. And guess what? Zarqawi wasn’t there after we largely reduced the city to rubble. And I read in the newspaper that the bad guys are coming back in again.

Now, what’s the benefit of that aside from the fact that there were pictures all over the internet of a group of Marines standing in a mosque with their weapons, with their boots on. A friend of mine, an Iraqi Christian, said, “There is no hope to ever make a case for what the United States is doing now.” That was his accompanying comment when he sent me the picture on the internet. This thing went all over everywhere.

Q: But what I’m trying to ask you is, I don’t understand if you’re – it seems to me that if you’re not going to go in there after the insurgents when they sort of coalesce, that you might as well withdraw from the country as a whole because you’re ceding territory to them and you’re, in effect, humiliating yourself because you’re letting the world know that you can’t go in.

GENERAL HOAR: Well, the point is, there will be a time when you can, if the Iraqis are trained up sufficiently, but you shouldn’t go in if you’re not going to stay.

Q: Right.

GENERAL HOAR: And that’s my point. Going in and coming out. I can’t be –

Q: But the Army is falling 78 percent short of their recruiting goals this year as things are. Where would they get troops to expand any occupations?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, they’re going to come out. I mean, General Casey has indicated that they’re going to come out. I’m blocking on the name of the retired four star whom I know but can’t think of his name now that recently did a report having been out to Iraq and –

Q: General McCaffrey.

GENERAL HOAR: Yes, thank you. And indicated that the Army is going to be facing a train wreck here next year when the Reserves and the National Guard guys have all got to go home. And so I suspect, having been in the recruiting business, that the pressure to make numbers in the Army to get the people into those organizations must be huge. And I don’t know how we’re going to do it. I don’t know where they’re going to come from. We are offering pretty significant inducements right now.

There’s a possibility that the president will ask the American people to sacrifice. And if some of the people in government might set the example by people of the wealthy class having their children sign up to serve, as they did in the Second World War, it might be different.

Q: What about maybe a tax cut to pay for – (laughter) – I mean, tax increase to pay for the war? No, tax increase I mean. It was just a Freudian slip.

Q: You’re closer to reality.

GENERAL HOAR: But, you know, the only people that have – in my judgment at least, that have sacrificed anything are the people in uniform and their families.

Q: You still maintain close ties with the active duty Marines. In Vietnam, we started losing our NCO corps on the third rotation. Marines are going to – when one MEP goes back at the end of this year in January, they’ll be on – some of the guys will be on their third rotation. Retention now is really good, but can even a corps sustain that –

GENERAL HOAR: It’s extraordinarily hard. I can tell you that the problem is, as you point out, Otto, it’s the families. The guy’s got to lay in bed – or a woman – with their spouse – how’s that P. J.? Did I get it – (laughter).

MR. CROWLEY: You’re doing fine, Joe.

GENERAL HOAR: – and explain why it is that they’re going back for one more time in the dead of night, and I’ve had that experience and it sucks. It’s a hard job to sell that to the wife and kids. And I think it’s going to become increasingly more difficult, no matter what the individual servicemember wants to do, I think it is very hard to continue to treat a family this way. This has been going on now for three years, because these guys didn’t all of a sudden just appear in Kuwait ready to go to war two and a half years ago. They were leaving three years ago to go out there. And it’s constant, constant, constant.


Q: Small question and a large question. If you don’t have the search-and-destroy missions out in the country and you focus on those populated areas – think of Baghdad – the sort of narrow question is, how do you secure the road from downtown to the airport, which we evidently have been unable to do?


Q: And the larger question is, let’s say we do have to draw down. And the real issue here is: who’s the strongest tribe. And the strongest tribe is going to stay. That’s the problem with our going and coming back. We might take them out, but we’re not going to stay (in the region?). How do you create a stronger Shiite tribe, essentially, which numerically is superior, but may not have the same firepower as the Sunnis because they know where all the arms arsenal is, but if that’s what you need to do as a practical matter – forget about democracy stuff and all the other stuff, if that’s what you got to do, how do you do that?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I think it’s happening in a sense because I understand that many of the military guys that are in the Iraqi forces now are Shi’a. And I think that the practical end of this thing is going to be that you’re going to have an army that’s dominated by the Shi’a.

Q: Are they going to be capable? Are they going to be, in fact, stronger?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I don’t know whether they’re going to be capable or not. We’ve been making the parallels with this Vietnam business. It was apparent to most of us by 1970 that we weren’t staying, took us another five years before we fled, and – but it was all dependent on the Vietnamese to be able to defend themselves and take care of themselves.

Q: That’s one difference that goes in the other direction from Vietnam. The South Vietnamese had no particular interest. The Shi’a do have a greater interest than the South Vietnamese, obviously, to defend themselves because they had been screwed for so long. Now they have the potential, but they’re going to have –

GENERAL HOAR: They’re going to run the country, but it’s going to wind up as a civil war. I mean, the civil war is ongoing now. I mean, it has been moderated by the U.S. presence, but if the Sunnis keep fighting against these guys, I think that Mr. Sistani is going to lose his patience and say, “Let’s go kick some ass.”

MR. CROWLEY: And what happens to the Kurds in that –

GENERAL HOAR: The Kurds and the Shi’a have made a deal. You create the conditions for me to have a confederated state in the north and I will support you in a confederated state in the south. That was exactly what we had hoped was not going to happen, that we could count on our friends, the Kurds, to press the issue, but it doesn’t work that way.

Q: What happens –

Q: The likeliest outcome isn’t (unintelligible) that, yes, we have a relatively small civil war if we’re lucky. India, Pakistan (unintelligible) whatever it was – a million, a million two or something like that. Plus, then you have, as in India and Pakistan, massive population movements: the Shi’a move out of the Baghdad area that the Sunnis hold. That’s it. Isn’t that the likeliest outcome?

GENERAL HOAR: I don’t really know. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out, but I think that, unless this political process that we’re in the midst of right now with the ratification and the election of the government – unless that works, I don’t see much alternative to civil war, John.

Q: Could it spread? What if the Sunni neighbors see Iran and Iraq – you know, a Shi’a stronghold –

GENERAL HOAR: Scared to death of it.

Q: Do they have the capability of doing anything about it?

GENERAL HOAR: Not really, I don’t think, but this is a problem. I can tell you, in Saudi Arabia the dominant group in the eastern province, which is where most of the oil is, are Shi’a. And the Saudis pay attention to them and where they are and where they live and so forth. I mean, once they decided to go after al Qaeda, they knew how to do it. They know how to do political surveillance within the country.

The fact that they haven’t changed their alliance with the Wahhabi is the most troubling aspect. I mean, they’re going to go ahead and kill every al Qaeda in the country. There won’t be many captured, I don’t think, because they know how to do this. But I think the long-term problem is: does the relationship between the ruling family and the Wahhabi continue? And I say “Yes,” although I think King Abdullah would like to see it end – but he’s not of that group and his mother was a Bedouin and he has a different agenda. But we look at Saudi Arabia as a monolithic state; it is not. It’s a royal family with as many views as there are princes.

Q: The president keeps talking about Iraq being a stabilizing force, an example to the whole region – (Laughter.)

Q: Well then, who owns it? (Laughter.)

Q: – which is a scary thing, but the more likely aspect is that this civil war starts out and you’ve got the Shi’a-dominated Iran, you’ve got the Sunni-dominated Saudis, the – Syria which is split down the middle with the Kurdish element and scared to death of going in any direction. We end up with a regional war, everybody feeding their own whatever –

GENERAL HOAR: Let me make it worse. And the Kurds secede and the Turks invade. I think that’s a real possibility. And Israel is in bed with Barzani, the new billionaire. You know, Barzani and the other guy, the guy that’s the president –

MR. CROWLEY: Talabani.

GENERAL HOAR: – Talabani, are both billionaires courtesy of UN oil. And how did the Kurds get all that money? Who was in charge of the Kurds during all that period? Us.

Q: General Maud was here a couple – not here, but he was in town a couple weeks ago, and he was reviewing what went on or didn’t go on and saying if there was a plan for political development, civil development, reconstruction as they were going in, he didn’t know about it. And he seemed to be suggesting – I don’t know -he seemed to be talking about future operations. I don’t know what he thinks about the current operations, but that there be, in military planning, some kind of – somebody’s got to focus on political reconstruction efforts within this scene. He almost seemed to be talking like a State Department guy in every squad, almost.

His – I mean, but the thinking is, he said, it just didn’t happen at the beginning, and – I’m almost rephrasing what I asked you the first time in that: if it wasn’t done at the beginning, can you even begin to talk about what you’re talking about?

GENERAL HOAR: It was done. Tony Zinni had a plan that was developed during Desert Fox.

Q: Well, it didn’t happen. It wasn’t –

GENERAL HOAR: It didn’t happen, but you can’t say there wasn’t a plan.

Q: It wasn’t –

(Cross talk.)

GENERAL HOAR: State Department had a plan. Army War College had a plan. Plenty of plans for phase four, just Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t have a plan.

Q: You keep talking about making the Vietnam comparison; maybe it’s our age. Well, let’s go back even further. Rumsfeld keeps comparing it to our revolution and constitutional development though it’s nothing –

GENERAL HOAR: Well, it’s true, but we’re on the wrong side. (Laughter.)

Q: But he always talks about democracy is messy –

GENERAL HOAR: We’re the Brits. (Laughter.)

Q: So, and the question is, the means of communications in the 1780s was a little slower than today. Is it at all possible that the American public, let alone the world, can wait for the period of time, like it took us with our – you know, to work our way through the Articles of Confederation and finally make a nation out of our Heinz 57.

GENERAL HOAR: This is part of the hubris of this crowd that would think that in a country where 95 percent of the population was tribal, where it had been under various colonial rules for however long – since the caliphate I guess – that all of a sudden this thing was going to turn around overnight. By the way, I just finished reading McCullough’s book, 1776. We’re in there. (Laughter.)

Q: They cite that book all the time.


Q: All the time.

GENERAL HOAR: Yeah, but we have red coats.

Q: There are a lot of Kurds in Philadelphia.

Q: Talking to you about the problems that the military has seen now in developing counterinsurgency doctrine and institutionalizing it – I mean, we’ve gone back essentially to an (inaudible) simply (inaudible). And yet there were – I mean, there are and have been very smart people in the Marine Corps and in the Army in the last 30 years.

GENERAL HOAR: Well, this argument goes back to the Vietnam War. You alluded to it a while back. I mean, there was real difference of opinion about how to conduct the war in Vietnam, and the Army continued to be enamored of going off into the countryside and having these great set-piece battles. And the Marine Corps’ view was to stay in the population centers and gain control. I –

Q: (Off mike.)

GENERAL HOAR: Yeah, yeah. And I – you know, there obviously are a lot of differences, but I think there has been a long tradition in the Marine Corps because of our experiences in the ’30s in Latin America about doing this kind of work, that the Marines are – have been and are interested in conducting these kinds of operations.

Some of my counterparts, retired generals in the British Army – we have long discussions about this stuff. The Brits know how to do this for the same reason that we do. Our imperial effort was in Latin America. The Brits were all over the world. Some of my relatives said the reason that the sun never set on the British Empire is God wouldn’t trust them. (Laughter.) But that remains – whatever.

The point is that even in the most recent military operations in Northern Ireland, the emphasis was always on gaining intelligence and getting sources to tell you what’s going on – turning guys to your side by whatever means: coercion, money, whatever. And this is the part of this thing that we don’t do very well. Saddam Hussein kept peace among the tribes by buying off the tribal leaders, just as the Brits did in that country years ago.

We did it in Afghanistan. If you’ve read any of the recent books – you know, with guys going out there literally with suitcases full of money. And in some ways it worked and in some ways, of course, particularly going after Osama bin Laden, it didn’t work. But for the most part, it was brilliantly conceived on the front end and worked pretty darn well. So there’s an ability to buy these guys off as well, I think. I mean, that’s the way it’s been there in the past.

Q: If they called you back on active duty and made you chairman of Joint Chiefs or whatever, is it – do you see any way to head off this disaster? I mean, you –

GENERAL HOAR: I think – this is – we’re all complicit in this, those of you in the fourth estate, those of us that did serve and are serving, all gave the president a bye on this thing. This thing was just absolutely doomed to failure from the start, in my judgment. And, you know, people in Congress on both sides of the aisle three years ago this month, last month, in the hearings, they bought into this beacon for democracy business, and I don’t know where it came from. I knew where it came from, but I don’t know what the thinking was that could cause people that were considered to be rational, and in some cases intellects, to buy into it.

Q: 9/11.

GENERAL HOAR: And I’ll give you an example: Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz went to Ankara to talk about opening the second front into the north of Iraq. What’s never been published was that he didn’t go to sell the 4th ID. He went to sell the Brits.

Now, you go to Turkey, in a country where history is measured in centuries, and try and reintroduce British ground forces into that country. Think about how much success you’re going to have. The answer is none.

Now, there’s a guy that everybody talks about as a defense intellectual. You don’t have to read a heck of a lot of history to understand how fruitless that effort was.

Q: Maybe he was doing what his boss told him to do.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, of course, the difference was back in ’90 it was Baker that went to sell the Turks on the Gulf war – different style.

GENERAL HOAR: Well, Jim Baker is a very accomplished guy, as we’ve seen again and again and again.

Q: The issue with some of the Turks was that they could go in.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, yeah. It’d be hard to sell the Kurds on that, as we found out.

GENERAL HOAR: And that chapter is not closed yet about the Turks – the Kurds going in, because they have this enormous domestic problem, and if the Iraqi Kurds give the Turks an excuse, I think it could be very serious.

MR. CROWLEY: And that would happen if the Turks – if for some reason the Europeans start to really slow down and create roadblocks on EU accession, that tells the Turks, no, they’re never going to do this. And the Turks have nothing to lose.

GENERAL HOAR: They’re not ever going to do it.

Q: But the Kurds have such a good thing going, they probably don’t want to upset it.

GENERAL HOAR: Not now. Not now.

MR. CROWLEY: If we all presume that somewhere along the line somewhere in the first six months of 2006, for a combination of military and political reasons, there’s going to be some sort of beginning of a disengagement – walk us forward from there. How – I mean, Stan brought up Pape’s book. The other dimension of Pape’s book was that one of the reasons why insurgent groups resort to terrorism is because it works. How do you disengage in the least damaging way? Because you have this perception of cut and run –


MR. CROWLEY: – and it’s oversimplified but you’ve got to get out without presenting an appearance that they’ve won something.

GENERAL HOAR: Okay. You declare that you’ve won in Basra and assorted other places in the south – relatively quiet. You cede responsibility down there largely to the Shi’a to maintain peace and order. My belief is that we’ve largely done that with the Kurds already. You maintain forces that could be heli-lifted into those regions if the local Army guys start to get in trouble.

We need to put American advisors with Iraqi units. Having had some experience in this business – it does two things – but as long as an American is with a local unit, they know that they’re going to be supported: if they get into trouble, there’s going to be an American response whether it’s air or artillery or whatever. It could be troops on the ground. But if you’ve got whatever number – two to five to six, whatever – embedded in an Iraqi battalion, you stiffen their resolve because they know they’re not going to be left out there and hung out to dry. So you’re going to need to do that, and you’re going to need to continue to do it after the withdrawal begins. And the guys who do that are essentially career force people, and so that doesn’t solve the problem, but it moves it from one group of people to another.

Then, in the Sunni triangle, you’re going to have to concentrate your best Iraqi forces. You’re going to have to back them up. You’re going to have to do what we’re doing now in this current operation. You have U.S. units and Iraqi units conducting operations side by side, and you still have Americans with the Iraqis so that they have access to artillery and aviation, medivac, and so forth.

And so that would be the sequence. And I think it will be terribly important that the Iraqis have other types of security forces – like border control and things like that – that they can do by themselves. Again, with some American backup to be able to fly in if it looks like they’re going to really be in serious trouble, because bunches of guys way out on Anbar province by Syria are going to be very vulnerable to attack if they’re out there all by themselves. But, sooner or later, the Iraqis are going to have to start to do it.

So that would be the way I would see the contraction beginning, but I think that you’re going to have to have some number of troops there for a very long time. Now, is that number 40,000 or 30,000? My guess is it would be in that range someplace. It would be maybe three brigades with all of their combat support, combat service support, advisors, and assorted other kinds of people. I think it would look something like that. Maybe five, but not less than three. A division or two for the – of folks.


Q: (Inaudible) aside, putting together two things. What Otto said about the other side not offering anything and what you said about the need for intel in counterinsurgencies raises the question of why – until we found Saddam Hussein, there was always the fear among Iraqis that he would come back. Well, that’s not an issue. His sons are not coming back. Why hasn’t there been more cooperation and ability to get any intel? Has it been the rotation; that we develop relationships and people leave and the new people don’t have the networks in their relationships? And what do you do about that? You keep people there forever? I mean –

GENERAL HOAR: Well, let me – Barry McCaffrey skirted on this on his report. He talked about the frequent rotation of civilians and he meant civilians in the largest sense of all the government agencies out there. There are U.S. government civilians that are spending three-month tours and six-month tours out there. You cannot make this work with people rotating that rapidly, so that’s a part of it.

Can you imagine trying to convince an Iraqi, if you’re going to be there for three to six months, that you have his best interests at heart and that we’re going to work together to make sure it happens? And by the time – in a society where personal relationships are everything – you know, in this country all of us are thrown together. We don’t know one another, but if we get a common job, we go around the room, we shake hands, we sit down, and a leader emerges and we start to work and we put something together and we make it happen because somebody sent us here to get a job done.

It doesn’t work that way out there. Nobody will work with you until they take your measure, figure out who you are, and whether or not you’re a suitable person to do business with. And if there are guys coming and going every three months – here we go again, Otto, with the Vietnamese business. At the end of the war we were putting guys out as province advisors for two years, and allowing them to have their families in the Philippines so they could fly home once in a while to see their families. Why can’t we put families in Jordan or Kuwait or Cyprus and have a liberal policy so that a guy could get to see his family from time to time?

I don’t know exactly how it works. I know when the Marine Corps tells you that you’re going to Iraq and the policy is seven months or 12 months or whatever it is, you go. I’m not sure how that works in the State Department, CIA, and other agencies.

Q: But the military rotations – a lot of the military can develop their relationships, too, and then it was predicted during – after the first rotation that there would be a problem and there was, because those relationships were severed and the new guys didn’t have any intel, but you can’t –

GENERAL HOAR: Well, and –

(Cross talk.)

Q: – two years.

GENERAL HOAR: And McCaffrey has said the same thing about the senior military leadership, the top guys; that they should stay out and there should be some accommodation for their families so that they’re not living by themselves for two years out there or whatever it is. I agree.

Q: If you say “a long time,” do you transition into some sort of almost permanent party kind of structure? And if so, what’s the tradeoff in terms of perceptions that we’re occupying Iraq versus benefits of showing a long-term commitment?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I think that the key way to get around the occupation business is in the affirmative statement that we have no interest in oil and we’re not going to build any bases. To my knowledge, this has yet to be said. Am I wrong about that?

Q: Well, I think they say it, but it’s – but there’s always wiggle room.

Q: They kind of wiggle around for the bases, that thing.

GENERAL HOAR: You know, in –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it was their original plan.

GENERAL HOAR: In these kinds of societies, where nefarious plans are a dime a dozen and there’s always some sort of a deal going on, and they think that the Israelis killed Arafat, all of this weird stuff, that if you don’t have these kinds of declarative statements – “we’re not staying,” “we don’t care about the oil,” “we don’t care who gets the oil,” “do business any way you want with the oil,” “we’re not interested in it,” and “we’re building bases, but we’re going to leave them to you as soon as you can run your own country.” I think it would be useful out there to be able to say that.

Q: Well, do you think that people would actually believe it?

GENERAL HOAR: Well, it would be better than leaving it ambiguous. I mean, that’s where we are today.

Q: I think I remember Larry DeRita saying we are not putting permanent bases in Iraq, but the question is: what’s a permanent base? Because probably the bases in Germany weren’t permanent either, right?

GENERAL HOAR: Mm-hmm, or Japan.

Q: Right.

MR. CROWLEY: We basically advertised this as an hour, but any last questions, last comments?

GENERAL HOAR: I’m not very optimistic about this thing. I’m not optimistic –

Q: You sure disguise that well. (Laughter.)

GENERAL HOAR: I hope I’m proved wrong, but I think to the degree that I am wrong, it’s going to turn on the events of the next few months. If we can make a success out of this political process that is moving forward now, I think we have a chance. If we kick the ball into the stands again, I think that it’s pretty much beyond reach.

Q: Well, this administration has said with every political milestone, whether it was the national assembly, the constitution – whatever it was, that was going to stop the insurgency. That would really put (off mike). It hasn’t done squat.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, how many corners do you turn before you get back where you started? (Laughter.)

GENERAL HOAR: Well, I think after the elections in January there was a period of euphoria. I think people that participated in the election had a sense that they were a part of something, but we were unfortunately unable to capitalize on that and so we lost that momentum. And this is why I think that the protection of the electoral process, the ratification and the election of a new government, has got to be a trying requirement for security. Can’t let these guys get killed, blown up in their front yards and their driveways or shot down in front of their children – can’t do it.

Q: (Off mike) that that euphoria you talked about was related to enormously high expectations, which could not have been met. Now maybe expectations are so low we can finally climb over the bar.

GENERAL HOAR: I think the thing that’s so interesting is expectations – everybody’s expectations – certainly the way this thing has gone has not met the expectations of the U.S. government. Our new intelligence czar did an abysmal job of doing the kinds of things that this government wanted to do in terms of elections and how they were organized and one person/one vote, and then shepherding these guys through the writing of the constitution. I mean, how much did they do the way we wanted them to do it? Not much. I mean, they did it their way.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s the best argument against colonialism and imperialism. No control exerted.

GENERAL HOAR: Well – but we don’t – that’s – that whole issue of colonialism and imperialism has passed out of the American consciousness.

Q: We know – we know (because we were always?) at the White House. We had exactly that in Somalia. It was here when we came in. All we were going to do was bring relief to the famine (unintelligible) but that meant, of course, that we were going to destroy the power of the guy running the big city, whose control over (unintelligible) was the source of his power. And we were then very surprised when he objected.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that was a combination. I mean, Boutros Boutros-Ghali had the view that we would expand, and he was one of the great proponents of expanding that mission.

GENERAL HOAR: Yeah, there was a guy named Mohammed Ali. Not the boxer, but the other Mohammed Ali that had an Egyptian interest in Somalia, so that there were two centuries worth of Egyptian interests in Somalia.

Q: (Sort of?) the headwaters.


MR. CROWLEY: Which –

(Cross talk.)

MR. CROWLEY: Which that young fellow named Jonathan Howe is more than happy to –

GENERAL HOAR: Thank you. Nice to meet you.