Question: Why was the administration so slow in responding to the crisis in Iraq?
Jim Woolsey: I don’t know. The U.S. historically has reacted pretty quickly, at least in modern times, to changes in enemy tactics. We didn’t fight well on land for the first year of World War II for ‘42, much in neither North Africa or the islands like Tarhuna, but we got better fast because the military is very candid in their after actions reports and the things that have to be corrected. Lincoln, it took him two years to get his strategy and his general right, and he almost lost the 1864 election to McClellan. If Sherman hadn’t burned Atlanta, he probably would have. So that was a close one. But Vietnam, it took them over three years in one way or another to give up on search and destroy, and to move toward clear and hold strategy that made it possible for Abrams really to defeat the Viet Cong. People forget that in ‘73 the Viet Cong were essentially defeated. There was a pretty decent peace treaty with the north. That’s what led to the exchange of prisoners, all of that. The Viet Cong didn’t defeat South Vietnam or the United States. What won the Vietnam War for the North was a main force, armored invasion of the south in ’75. And the U.S. was so war-weary by that point that Congress didn’t support even using air forces and air power to help hold them off, and they defeated the south Vietnamese. But I guess what one would conclude from that is that if you can make all your changes in the first year of a war – these are very rough historical analogies – you can probably start winning. You can probably keep the American people’s support. Two years is right at the margin, but three years is a very long time of continuing to fight a losing strategy. And that’s what Johnson did with Westmorland in the Vietnam War, and that’s what Bush has done with his generals in this war. Three years is very, very hard to come back from.
Recorded on: 7/2/07