WASHINGTON (IPS/GIN) – The Bush administration’s failure to accept advice on Iraq from its military and foreign service officers has led to policies that have fuelled the insurgency against U.S.-led forces in the occupied nation, says a letter signed by some 500 national security specialists.

Released Oct. 12 by a group called Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy (S3FP), the letter calls the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq the United States’ “most misguided” policy since the Vietnam War.

“The results of this policy have been overwhelmingly negative for U.S. interests,” according to the group, which called for a “fundamental reassessment” in both the U.S. strategy in Iraq and its implementation.


“We’re advising the administration, which is already in a deep hole, to stop digging,” said Barry Posen, the Ford international professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the organizers of S3FP, which includes some of the most eminent U.S. experts on national-security policy and on the Middle East and the Arab world.

Among the signers are six of the last seven presidents of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and professors who teach in more than 150 colleges and universities in 40 states.

Besides Prof. Posen, the main organizers included Stanley Kaufman of the University of Delaware; Michael Brown, director of Security Studies at Georgetown University; Michael Desch, who holds the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the Bush School of government at Texas A&M University; and Jessica Stern, at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who also served in a senior counter-terrorism post in the National Security Council during the former Clinton administration.

“I think it is telling that so many specialists on international relations, who rarely agree on anything, are unified in their position on the high costs that the U.S. is incurring from this war,” said Robert Keohane of Duke University in North Carolina.

Their critique mirrors an unprecedented statement released by 27 retired top-ranking foreign service and military officials in June, many of whom said they had voted for Pres. Bush in the 2000 election.

The 27, called “Diplomats for Change,” accused the administration of leading the country “into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain.” As their name suggested, they called for Pres. Bush to be defeated in 2004.

The new statement’s signatories also include a number of retired government officials, some career military and foreign service officers, and political appointees in Democratic and Republican administrations, who are currently working at colleges and universities.

Much of their critique echoes arguments voiced by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry who, in recent weeks, has pounded away at alleged failures in the way Pres. Bush has prosecuted the “war on terrorism,” particularly with respect to Iraq.

“We judge that the current American policy centred around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists,” S3FP writes.

“One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy–an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.”

The letter noted that “many of the justifications” provided by the administration for the Iraq war, including charges of an operational relationship between al-Qaeda and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his program for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), have proven “untrue” and that North Korea and Pakistan pose much greater risks of nuclear proliferation to terrorists.

“Even on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious: the war itself has killed over a thousand Americans and unknown thousands of Iraqis, and if the threat of civil war becomes reality, ordinary Iraqis could be even worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein,” it argues.

Since the invasion, policy errors “have created a situation in Iraq worse than it needed to be,” adds the letter, which said the administration ignored advice from the Army Chief-of-Staff on the need for many more U.S. troops to provide security and from the State Department and other U.S. agencies on how reconstruction could be carried out.

“As a result, Iraqi popular dismay at the lack of security, jobs or reliable electric power fuels much of the violent opposition to the U.S. military presence, while the war itself has drawn in terrorists from outside Iraq.”

While Saddam Hussein’s removal was “desirable,” according to the scholars, the actual benefit to the United States was “small,” particularly because Iraq posed far less of a threat to the United States or its allies than the administration had asserted.