Cheney’s Quagmire and the USMC

Mr. Cheney: Quagmire or not?

 In 1994, ex-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney spoke with C-SPAN’s Bruce Collins about why U.S. forces did not go on to Baghdad during the first Persian Gulf War: “How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.”

Innocently retrieved from the C-Span archives last month, this snip of video has Desert-Stormed the Web, with over a million views on YouTube and counting. Mary Ann Akers gives the best account of this video resurrection, but there is more to this episode than the current Vice President’s embarrassment by his past video posturing.

It may not be the C-Span archives, but I was poking around a favorite information source, the free book bin outside Capitol Hill Books  (the used book store across from Eastern Market) and found a volume of readings from the 1993 U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College for the course Operations Other Than War (OOTW). It is an amazing compendium, and includes a message from Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin L. Powell, excerpts from the Small Wars Manual, and articles by Michael Schoelwer (“The Failure of the U.S. Intelligence Community in Low-Intensity Conflict: The Pattern of Warfare in the Modern World”), Colin Gray (“Combatting Terrorism”), Camille Rougeron (“The Historical Dimension of Guerilla Warfare”), and Dennis M. Drew (“Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: American Military Dilemmas and Doctrinal Proposals”). There are also documents and articles on Peacekeeping Operations.

The volume brings home the absolute appropriateness of the first Gulf War decision from a purely military perspective, without even examining legal and diplomatic considerations. I cannot imagine the agony of Marine officers who took this course and then had to execute George W. Bush’s instructions and order those under their command into combat in Iraq. Those officers certainly knew those Marines were headed straight into Chaney’s bloody “quagmire.”

In an interview on February 23, 2007, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked Chaney: “Back in 1991, you talked about how military action in Iraq would be the classic definition of a quagmire. Have you been disturbed to see how right you were?”

Chaney responded: “Well, I stand by what I said in ’91. But look what’s happened since then — we had 9/11. . . . You wish there was never a casualty, Jonathan. Always regret when you have casualties, but we are at war.”

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