Sunday, June 14, 2015

In White House’s Iraq debate, military brass pushed for doing less

By Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan June 13 at 2:18 PM, WashPost

As President Obama was weighing how to halt Islamic State advances in Iraq, some of the strongest resistance to boosting U.S. involvement came from a surprising place: a war-weary military that has grown increasingly skeptical that force can prevail in a conflict fueled by political and religious grievances.

Top military officials, who have typically argued for more combat power to overcome battlefield setbacks over the past decade, emerged in recent White House debates as consistent voices of caution in Iraq. Their shift reflects the paucity of good options and a reluctance to suffer more combat deaths in a war in which America’s political leaders are far from committed and Iraqis have shown limited will to fight.

“After the past 12 years in the Middle East, there is a real focus by senior military leaders on understanding what the endgame is,” said a military official, “and asking the question, ‘To what end are we doing this?’ ”

The military’s reluctance belies a prevalent narrative in Washington of a cautious president holding back his aggressive generals. The Pentagon’s position was most evident in the White House debates after the surprising retreat of Iraqi army and police in Ramadi last month.

(More here.)

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