Tony Snow: ‘I’m Not Sure Anything Went Wrong’ In Iraq

By: E&P Staff

Surely, at this stage, the White House would be willing to admit that conditions in Iraq following the 2003 invasion haven’t gone exactly according to plan? White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about this today at the daily briefing, following the release of military documents from 2002 that revealed that the U.S. expected that by now a token American force of 5,000 would be able to keep things under control in Iraq — and the occupation would require only a two or three month “”stabilization”” period.

“”What went wrong?”” the reporter reasonably asked.

Snow replied: “”I’m not sure anything went wrong.””

He elaborated: “”At the beginning of the Civil War, people thought it would all be over at Manassas. It is very difficult — no, Jessica, the fact is, a war is a big, complex thing. And what you’re talking about is a 2002 assessment. We’re now in the year 2007, and it is well-known by anybody who has studied any war that war plans immediately become moot upon the first contact with the enemy.

“”For instance, a lot of people did not think that we would have the success we had moving swiftly into Baghdad. All I’m saying is that — what happens is, you’re looking at a pre-war assessment, and there have been constant assessments ever since. A war is not a situation where you can sit down and neatly predict what exactly is going to happen. You make your best estimates, but you also understand that there are going to continue to be challenges, there are going to be things that you don’t anticipate, there are going to be things that the enemy doesn’t anticipate. And the most important task, frankly, is to continue to try to assess near-term and mid-term to figure out how best to address the situation.””

The briefing continued as follows.

Q But this estimate was monumentally wrong.So would the President, knowing what he knows today, still have decided to go into Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes. The President believes that we did the right thing in going into Iraq. The question is, should you saddle any military planner with an expectation that they’re going to have perfect insight into what happens five years later? Aand the answer is, of course not. And I think if you talk to military planners, they do their very best under a situation. As you know, many reporters who were in the field then probably had different views about how things might be today.

The fact is, the war is — I know it’s becoming a clich , but it’s true — it’s a highly complex enterprise. What you end up doing is you make your best guesses going in.It turns out, for instance, their assessment that they would be able to move swiftly into Baghdad was absolutely right. But you have — it is pretty clear that some of the other assessments were wrong, and you deal with it.

Q Is the President being equally unrealistic about his current assessments of Iraq and Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: No.And the President is also not making a five-year assessment. What he’s talking about is a highly specific plan that deals with Baghdad security, it deals with Anbar, Diyala, and a little bit up north.It is being done not only with military planners, but in concert with the Iraqis. If you take a look at the Baghdad security plan, it is something that, to use a term of art in the military, it’s highly granular; it’s very detailed in terms of trying to develop strong and credible forces in nine separate districts within Baghdad. There is a parallel operation in Anbar province, which, incidentally, has been highly successful, and I believe your colleague who has just come back will be able to tell you about that.

And so what you have here is it’s still a war-time situation. Nobody is going to promise that you’re going to have a specified result within a period of weeks or months, but you have to make your best guess about what is required to achieve success. And after a very considerable period of study and consultation with people in all — sort of all walks of life when it comes to dealing with these issues, including the Iraqis, we’ve come up with a joint plan for trying to deal with Baghdad security first, and also security in other areas. Let’s remind people that about 80, 85 percent of the country is relatively peaceful at this juncture.


E&P’s “”Nightly Video”” features a preview of singer/guitarist Richard Thompson’s song commentary on Iraq.

Click here to watch.

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