Bush Admits Mistakes, Says Troop Levels Not Among Them

President Bush admitted mistakes in Iraq War planning in a Q&A session yesterday, but said that he would not change the troop levels if he had it to do over again.

President Bush today said mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level he ordered in the initial strike, saying he would have committed the same number if given a second chance. Recalling his pre-war conversations with Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasion and is now retired, Bush told a business group in Irvine, Calif.: “The level that he suggested was the troop level necessary to do the job, and I support it strongly.”

[…]

The president, taking questions from members of the Orange County Business Council, also defended his decision to mount the war, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Asked if he would have invaded Iraq, knowing what he knows now, Bush said: “We’re constantly adjusting on the ground to meet an enemy which changes. But on the big decisions of sending the troops in, I’d have done it again.”

This is an odd stance to take, since it defies conventional wisdom and because the war plan demonstrably called for sending in substantially more troops but was thwarted by the Turkish parliament. Still, even the reduced troop level was more than adequate for the initial “major combat operations” phase. It was when it turned to nation building and counterinsurgency that things went awry.

Bush said the United States erred in attempting large reconstruction projects soon after the invasion was completed. “It didn’t make any sense” undertaking these projects because “they became convenient targets for the enemy,” he said. ” . . . I’m getting down in minutiae. But there are some tactics that, when I look back, that would have done differently.”

That’s almost certainly true although, ironically, one of the great criticisms is that we have been slow to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. From a sheer public relations standpoint, therefore, I’m not sure we could have postponed the effort.

He also said the United States underestimated the nature of the threats U.S. and Iraqi forces would find inside the country. “You know, every war plan is perfect until it meets the enemy — and it’s fine on paper until you actually start putting it into practice,” he said. ” . . . Decisions, you know, like preparing an Iraqi army for an external threat. Well, it turns out there may have been an external threat but it’s nothing compared to the internal threat.”

That one is a head scratcher. Indeed, by the time we got around to training Iraqi forces, it was quite obvious that there was an immediate, internal threat.

This will likely generate a lot of buzz:

Later, Bush said: “I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there’s an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody’s soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.”

That this concept is at the core of the American experience, including the premise of the Declaration of Independence, will not stop critics from interpreting this a Bush getting his foreign policy direction from God.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. – There has been a minor kerfuffle over the last few days over Yale s hiring of Michigan historian Juan Cole , best known these days as the author of the controversial Informed Commen t blog, for a prestigious contemporary Middle East studies chairBush Admits Mistakes, Says Troop Levels Not Among Them Outside Beltway – President Bush admitted mistakes in Iraq War planning in a Q&A session yesterday, but said that he would not change the troop levels if he had it to do over again. President Bush today said mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq

  2. Blogniscient says:

    Crooks and Liars | #4/24/2006 21:45:59# Both E&P and the Washington Post covered Bushs speech today. FOX carried it, but not as far as the Q&A so I was only able to get a smal…Bush Admits Mistakes, Says Troop Levels Not Among Them

  3. MrGone says:

    Of course they had enough troops. The only problem was that there were too many Iraqis.

  4. LJD says:

    I love the irony of the ‘bring-the-troops-home-now’ crowd make the argument that we should have subjected MORE of our sons & daughters to IEDs.

  5. Roger says:

    The sad irony is that if we’d have used enough troops in Iraq to begin with, there wouldn’t be IEDs going off everywhere. Off course, if we’d have focused on getting Al Qaeda instead of engaging in a senseless pre-emptive war boondoggle in the first place, the point would be moot.

  6. Radical Thoughts…

    Editor & Publisher is apparently trying some of its own advice, attempting to gin up controversy with the headline, Bush Says He Tried to Avoid War ‘To The Max,’ Explains How God Shapes His Foreign Policy. A provocative headline, but……

  7. LJD says:

    …because your omnipotence and/or crystal ball tells you that IEDs would not be going off in Iraq (there’s so much love among factions if not for the U.S.), and Bin Laden and Al Qaeda would be deposed.

    Dude, please volunteer to work for the DHS, they so badly need your ‘skills’.

  8. Editor and Publisher tries to whip up controversy with misleading headline…

    Check this headline out:
    Bush Says He Tried to Avoid War ‘To The Max,’ Explains How God Shapes His Foreign Policy
    WOW – explosive, eh? If you read on into the article, though, you’ll see how misleading the headline really is:
    Bush a…

  9. RJN says:

    This was never about anything except establishing a base in Iraq to protect Israel. Everything was for Israel’s benefit. Bush may, or may not, have understood this.

    It did not matter that the three factions would separate; Saddam Hussein is the one who held them together. None of the Iraqi people mattered, nor did the well being of the United States. The “Idea” was to just get in there and build a powerful, secure base. Tell any lie, broadcast any nonsense; just get the base.

    I don’t think it matters if Bush has a clue that the above is the reality. What will descend from this, of course, is Armageddon. It will take 8 years, or so, but it is a comin’.

  10. Roger says:

    No LJD, not a crystal ball. Common sense tells us that if we had secured the environment, then the environment would be secure. Duh! I don’t know if Al Qaeda and Bin Laden would be “deposed” if we had gone after them, but the likelihood certainly would have been higher. Don’t you think? –Oops. Silly question.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Careful Roger, you might “cross a line’!

    LOL

  12. Roger says:

    Thanks for the reminder, anjin-san. I’ll try to be more careful!

  13. LJD says:

    You guys are really funny. Completely avoid any of the issues… Fail to rebut comments made without using personal attacks or name calling… More witless banter.

    I’m laughing it up. Keep your heads in the sand. When your party accomplishes its retreat, and I turn out to be right, I’ll be the one protesting at your funeral.

    (How’s that for totally pointless and inflammatory commentary? I learned from the best.)

  14. Roger says:

    LJD, you completely avoided my point. You didn’t rebut my comments. You used pointless profanity. We’re still waiting for you to turn out right. Good luck. We’ve been right all along. You never seem to learn.

  15. Roger says:

    Ok, maybe I was unfair. LJD, a fair chance to impress. On your repeated comments that “more is less” re fighting terrorists or killing Iraqis, what war has ever been won by sending too few troops to get the job done?

    Will you avoid the point or support your claim? Will you use ad hominems or witless banter or just provide an honest, rational answer to support your position and rebut mine?

  16. LJD says:

    Your favorite administration, at the suggestion of the miltary consultants at his service (all the Generals he never listens to), has opted for the use of special forces in Afghanistan and likely the mountains of Pakistan to root out Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and their Al Qaeda stooges. The reason special forces (and avaition) are being used, is that they are more adapted to this type of mission: Where you get locals to help you locate the enemy, and capture him, as opposed to creating an all out blood bath complete with civilian casualties that ‘you guys’ always seem to think are intentional.

    The task is equivalent to the finding of a needle in a haystack. But that doesn’t mean that OBL is NOT on the run. He’s not exactly sauntering around the streets of Kandahar buying figs and tobacco. In addition, there are tribal customs and national sovereignity to respect. We don’t want to set back the gains we’ve made towards reaching representative government that we have accomplished so far (that anyone on your side fails to recognize at any level).

    I seem to remember the same comments made about catching Saddam in Iraq. But guess what, we finally got his ass. Now ‘you guys’ and your MSM are fueling the reprehensible ‘Saddam’ show, where WE are the bad guys! Ha!

    The option to send in more and more troops will help the situation exactly how? More logistical support? More targets? More money spent? The post is about troops levels in Iraq, yet the more ‘you guys’ scream about raising the level there, the more you scream about bringing them all home now. Kind of hypocritical, or at least confused.

    So what it boils down to is… the assumption that moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is more effective is just that- YOUR ASSUMPTION. Your attempt to apply some economic theory to the GWOT is laughable. Do you have any experience in the application of military resources on which to base your assumption? Remember, we have never fought a war like this before. Our troops should be credited for their ability to adapt to new changes, and to perform their jobs with the utmost discipline and professionalism. The sad truth however, is that ‘your’ attempted jabs at the administration actually reach to those doing the job much more than they do the President. Frankly, it sucks.

    So there, How’s that for coherent thought, without calling any names, or even ‘blindly supporting the President like a robot’. I doubt you will rebut anything, becuase to do so you would have to make some more shit up.

  17. LJD says:

    original comments not posted for some reason…
    sorry if this is a double-tap

    Your favorite administration, at the suggestion of the miltary consultants at his service (all the Generals he never listens to), has opted for the use of special forces in Afghanistan and likely the mountains of Pakistan to root out Bin Laden, Zawahiri, and their Al Qaedaa stooges. The reason special forces are being used, is that they are more adapted to this type of mission: Where you get locals to help you locate the enemy, and capture him, as opposed to creating an all out blood bath complete with civilian casualties that ‘you guys’ always seem to think are intentional.

    The task is equivalent to the finding of a needle in a haystack. But that doesn’t mean that OBL is NOT on the run. He’s not exactly sauntering around the streets of Kandahar buying figs and tobacco. In addition, there are tribal customs and national sovereignity to respect. We don’t want to set back the gains we’ve made towards reaching representative government that we have accomplished so far (that anyone on your side fails to recognize at any level).

    I seem to remember the same comments made about catching Saddam in Iraq. But guess what, we finally got his ass. Now ‘you guys’ and your MSM are fueling the reprehensible ‘Saddam’ show, where WE are the bad guys! Ha!

    The option to send in more and more troops will help the situation exactly how? More logistical support? More targets? More money spent? The post is about troops levels in Iraq, yet the more ‘you guys’ scream about raising the level there, the more you scream about bringing them all home now. Kind of hypocritical, or at least confused.

    So what it boils down to is… the assumption that moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan is more effective is just that- YOUR ASSUMPTION. Your attempt to apply some economic theory to the GWOT is laughable. Do you have any experience in the application of military resources on which to base your assumption? Remember, we have never fought a war like this before. Our troops should be credited for their ability to adapt to new changes, and to perform their jobs with the utmost discipline and professionalism. The sad truth however, is that ‘your’ attempted jabs at the administration actually reach to those doing the job much more than they do the President. Frankly, it sucks.

    So there, How’s that for coherent thought, without calling any names, or even ‘blindly supporting the President like a robot’. I doubt you will rebut anything, becuase to do so you would have to make some more crap up.

  18. LJD says:

    The silence is deafening…

  19. Roger says:

    You didn’t answer my question, LJD. Makes my point. No, the silence isn’t deafening, it speaks volumes.

    If special forces are actually being deployed in Afghanistan, et. al. only now, they’re about 5 years behind schedule, don’t you think? Actually, LJD, you’re mistaking a Rovian attempt to create a distraction from Rumsfeld’s problems for substance. (Did you notice how Rummy’s name was pasted all over the reports on this?)

    “You guys” are responsbile for the Saddam show trial? What a fantasy world you live in. The Repubs control EVERYTHING, LJD. Get a grip. How could “you guys” be responsible? Who are “you guys”, anyway?

    Sending more troops vs. bringing them home? Don’t send any troops to war for the Pres’s jollies. In the event our nation is attacked or facing an actual threat requiring military action, send enough troops to get the job done. If you realize the Pres. lied you into an unnecessary war, get the troops the hell out of there as soon as practical. Whats’ confused about that, besides yourself, I mean.

    If you’re attacked by a group of Saudi’s based in Afghanistan, send everything you’ve got at them and annihilate them. Don’t send all but a few (relatively speaking) to kill Iraqis instead. This stuff is not difficult, LJD, except for you and the other neocons.

  20. LJD says:

    O.K. reading comprehension not your bag. I guess I have to be more direct for you slow learners. Your question: ‘what war has ever been won by sending too few troops to get the job done?’

    My answer:
    1.) This is not like any war we’ve fought in history. To reword your question, what war have we ever fought where the enemy was not a country?
    2.) ‘Too few troops’ is YOUR ASSUMPTION.

    Seems like you’re so full of it is clouding your vision.

    If special forces are actually being deployed in Afghanistan

    Not just IF, not just NOW, but continuously since we first stepped foot into Afghanistan. You need to find another news source.

    The Repubs control EVERYTHING

    Just a funny example of your disturbed paranoia. At least it partially explains why you like to ignore facts. BTW ‘You Guys’ are the ones who create conspiracy theories, deny everything positive, embellish everything negative, in your attempt to lose this war for us, because hating GW is more important than your country.

    Donâ??t send any troops to war for the Presâ??s jollies

    You’re just being dense here. IT is clearly evident you do not understand the GWOT, how the military works, or how your government works.

    If you realize the Pres. lied you into an unnecessary war

    LIED- your assuption.
    UNECESSARY- also your assumption.

    Donâ??t send all but a few (relatively speaking) to kill Iraqis instead.

    What percentage of our fighting force is in IRaq? Don’t you know? DO the math. YOU GUYS make this stuff up to fit your ideology. Making stuuf up doesn’t help argue for your cause, it discredits eveything you say. …and you accuse GW of ‘lying’. You’re lying to yourself, man!

    But I do like how you think we’re ‘killing Iraqis’. Not the President or the administration, our guys. Not creating collateral damage, not killing terrorists, but ‘killing Iraqis’. You wonder why I got so upset when Anjin said I was willing to kill ‘just any arab’. When will you guys realize the ones you criticize are the same ones you owe your freedom to? Way to support the troops.

  21. Roger says:

    1) You are correct, we’ve never gone to war with a noun before if that’s what you mean. If in fact you’re referring to Al Qaeda, one example would be our pursuit of Pancho Villa’s bandits who also attacked us on American soil. We didn’t call that a war, then again I’ve never heard of the Al Qaeda War, either. Hmmmm.

    2) Enough troops–your assumption. The results to date sure seem to support my assumption better than yours, LJD.

    I wasn’t claiming special forces were just now being deployed, LJD. I was commenting on the story being trumpeted just now. See, LJD, a Rovian smokescreen. Sure, they’ve been there all along. Why the sudden press as if it’s news–and with Rummy’s name attached? Isn’t Rove a good distractor? Thanks for reinforcing my point.

    The Repubs control everything is shorthand for legis/jud/exec. Are you playing stupid on purpose again? I allow you may not be in this case. I could have been clearer.

    LIED–those pesky facts are biased against Bush.
    UNNECESARY–those pesky facts . . .

    LJD, you tell me what precentage of our troops are in Iraq vs. Afghanistan, and then tell me how wrong I am, relatively speaking. On this one I know you’re playing stupid on purpose.

    Killing Iraqis– the neocons bombed a major metropolitan area of a major world city full of inoffensive, non-threatening civilians and you watched it all on TV and delighted in the “Shock and Awe Show” brought to you by the neocons. Pretty low life stuff, that.

    Oh, the faux patriotism once again. Yes we all know your deep concern for our troops. Hey, they can die in an unnecessary war just as easy as a justified war. Hoo-rah either way. No concern of yours.