Summary: David Kilcullen and Spencer Ackerman provide a rare moment of truthful insight about the Iraq War. Such things are considered inappropriate for public consumption in 21st century America (they disturb the proles), so both ask us to ignore their impolitic remarks and get on with the long war.
America’s expedition to Iraq will give future historians many moments of glee amidst their somber contemplation of a war costing so much, yielding so little, yet declared victorious by so many. One such lighter moment occurred this week. In this, as in so many key moments about the Iraq War, David Kilcullen is a central figure.
Kilcullen speaks honestly about the Iraq War
“A Counterinsurgency Guide for Politicos“, Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent, 28 July 2008 — Eighth in a Series: The Rise of the Counterinsurgents. Excerpt:
After nearly seven years of costly strategic ignorance in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a coming handbook written mostly by a former top aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus seeks to instruct senior civilian policy-makers about the complexities of counterinsurgency.
“Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-Makers” takes the lessons learned by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan and elevates them to the highest levels of national strategy.
… Asked for comment, the handbook’s chief author, David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, explained that it tells policy-makers to “think very, very carefully before intervening.” More bluntly, Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq “stupid” — in fact, he said “fucking stupid” ** — and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual’s lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.
“The biggest stupid idea,” Kilcullen said, “was to invade Iraq in the first place.”
Kilcullen attempts to back away from his comments
“My Views on Iraq“, David Kilcullen, posted at the Small Wars Council blog, 28 July 2008 — Like all his writings, it is brilliant and subtle. The opening:
Spencer Ackerman, in yesterday’s Washington Independent, claims I told him the Iraq war was “f*cking stupid”. He did not seek to clear that quote with me, and I would not have approved it if he had. If he HAD sought a formal comment, I would have told him what I have said publicly before: in my view, the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was an extremely serious strategic error.
Ackerman gives Kilcullen some covering fire
“Sources Holler Back: Kilcullen Edition“, Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent, 29 July 2008 — Excerpt:
In the course of a piece I’m proud of about David Kilcullen’s forthcoming strategy-level counterinsurgency handbook, I included a profanity-laden quote from him about the wisdom of the Iraq war. This was a mistake on my part and I take full responsibility for the fact that it overshadowed what I consider Kilcullen’s valuable, serious, and hard-learned counterinsurgency insights.
… In the course of our conversation about his handbook, Dave made these and other points about the war, which are included lower down in the piece. I included the profanity because I thought it underscored the depth of his commitment to try to dig American strategy out of the morass of Iraq, which I and many others view as uncomplicatedly admirable. What I should have realized is that the profanity overwhelms the broader points presented in the handbook and about Dave’s personality and professional vision. For that, I apologize, not only to Dave, but to my readers, who I hope will pay attention to those broader points despite my error in judgment.
The media, handmaidens to modern war, kick sand in our eyes
“Iraq war stupid, Aussie David Kilcullen tells US“, The Australian, 2 August 2008 — Excerpt:
DAVID Kilcullen, the Australian counter-insurgency expert who advises US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has stepped into a political minefield after being quoted as saying the decision to invade Iraq was “f..king stupid”.
… Dr Kilcullen told The Weekend Australian yesterday that he had been misquoted, but in a lengthy blog he posted this week on the Small Wars Journal website he did not deny the comment, saying the journalist reporting it “did not clear the quote with me”.
… He had said previously the Iraqi invasion would be tougher than the Bush administration had anticipated, but his blunt statement this week shocked Washington insiders. … Asked if the comments damaged his position at the State Department, a spokesman told The Weekend Australian: “David never claims to have said what you say he said. I believe this is much ado about nothing. As he says himself, his views in general have been pretty clear.”
That concludes this week’s moment of truth about the Iraq War.
We hope you did not find this too disturbing. You are to immediately forget all this, so that we may continue preparations for the next several foreign wars. These efforts include intensive propaganda to convince you that the Iraq War is both victorious and beneficial for America — necessary beliefs to prepare for the larger war in Afghanistan and the wars following that.
Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
For more about Kilcullen, including links to most works by and about him: The Essential 4GW reading list: David Kilcullen.
Go here to see an archive of my posts about the Iraq War.
My reviews of Kilcullen’s work
- Why we lose at 4GW: an analysis of Kilcullen’s “Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency”.
- What if bin Laden were smart, like Dr. No or Ernest Blofeld? 28 Articles: a guide to a successful insurgency against America
- America takes another step towards the “Long War“— a comparison of Kilcullen and that key figure of the Cold War, George Kennan.
- Stories or statistics? Read and compare to find the truth! – a discussion of Kilcullen’s “Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt”.
- Kilcullen explains all you need to know about the Iraq War – a discussion of Kilcullen’s “Counterinsurgency in Iraq: Theory and Practice.”
- Roads in Afghanistan, a new weapon to win 4GW’s? – Kilcullen talks about roads, in Rome and Afghanistan.
- Another “must-read” presentation by Kilcullen about COIN – Kilcullen discovers the “Darwinian ratchet.”