The Enablers: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and The Quality of Military Advice Before the Iraq War, 2001-2003.

Geisinger, Thomas, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Zelikow, Philip, History, University of Virginia

The Iraq War has entered history as one of the United States' greatest blunders. Rarely has any foreign policy decision gone so rapidly, publicly, and badly wrong. Most early scholarship on the war focuses on the civilian leadership in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon and in the National Security Council, where a handful of zealots attempted to reshape the Middle East and the world. In what has become the stock Iraq War narrative, the US military was frequently ignored and sidelined by Rumsfeld and his lieutenants in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This project uses new material to demonstrate that Pentagon civilian leadership was frequently enabled by a culture of compliance at the highest levels of the uniformed military. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, far from the sidelined and helpless observers of the standard literature, were fully aware of war plans against Iraq from the beginning, and at every turn endorsed and supported the course toward conflict. Caught unprepared for war in Afghanistan, and with only a rudimentary and outdated plan for Iraq, the Joint Chiefs and their staffs were late to properly identify the risks of a military commitment in Iraq, and failed to properly advise the President as a looming mismatch between US strategic goals and available resources became clear. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, emerges as an emblem of a larger cultural pathology in the US military. Was the "best military advice" the Chairman is required to provide the President simply a rubber stamp for entrenched policy preferences in 2002 and early 2003?

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Iraq War
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