Requiring Commitment: Crowe: U.S. in Iraq for Long Haul under 'Stay the Course' Scenario

Article excerpt

The United States should prepare itself to be in Iraq another decade or so if it chooses to "stay the course" as many Bush administration supporters favor, retired Adm. William Crowe said Thursday.

Crowe spoke before human resources professionals and others gathered for a labor and employment law and benefits conference at the Cox Business Services Convention Center.

Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1985-1989 and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, lives in Maryland but grew up in Oklahoma City.

Crowe said officials have made some key mistakes, including grossly underestimating the war's cost and expecting the Iraqis to welcome the incursion.

"Both of these assumptions were wildly off the mark," he said.

At one time, Crowe said, defense officials pegged the war's possible cost at no more than $2 billion, although it has cost between $200 billion and $400 billion at this point.

Crowe also said not much thought was given to how to address postwar economic and political conditions in Iraq. He said this lack of planning is the cause of many of the U.S.'s current problems in Iraq.

"There were serious errors that had to be dealt with on the job," he said.

Crowe said civilian leaders did not listen to military estimates of the number of troops needed, adding that the number of troops and amount of equipment in use in Iraq is placing a strain on the nation's military.

He said the U.S. Army and Marines are at "full stretch" and that so much equipment is being employed in the war that some stateside troops are being trained in computer simulators.

"These sorts of problems cut deep," he said.

Given Iraq's tribal, faction-ridden history, officials erred by not thinking beyond getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

"All of the normal indicators are flashing red," he said.

Crowe said that some Iraqi leaders want the U.S. to stay in their country for now, while between 60 percent and 90 percent of Iraqis want U.S. troops to leave. He also said U.S. unilateralism has alienated many countries.

"Whatever we do, we're going to pay a high price for," he said.

Crowe said that staying the course in Iraq must have strong public support, because it will require "gargantuan sacrifices" and substantial continuing investment by the U.S.

"The administration must be crystal clear with the American people," he said. …

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