The National Defense University is an elite military institute funded by the Department of Defense. Both President Dwight Eisenhower and Gen. Colin Powell studied there, and diplomat and historian George Kennan — best known as “the father of containment” — taught at the university.
Given the institution’s ties to the Defense Department, it’s therefore significant that it has chosen to publish a withering critique of the Iraq war written by Joseph J. Collins, a former senior Pentagon official who served under Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Collins’s conclusions were based, in part, “on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations,” and were completed in fall 2007. From his study:
Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle. […]
The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen. Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. […]
To date, the war in Iraq is a classic case of failure to adopt and adapt prudent courses of action that balance ends, ways, and means. After the major combat operation, U.S. policy has been insolvent, with inadequate means for pursuing ambitious ends. It is also a case where the perceived illegitimacy of our policy has led the United States to bear a disproportionate share of the war’s burden.
Collins also notes that “senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect.” He insists, however, that he is not trying to lay blame on his former bosses.