Eric Shinseki, a former chief of staff of the Army, Japanese-American and first Asian American four-star general, Hawaiian and wounded Vietnam Veteran, has been appointed to head the Veterans’ Administration on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Here is what he said to Congress just before the Iraq War:
Sen. CARL LEVIN (D), Michigan: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army’s force requirement for an occupation of Iraq, following a successful completion of the war?
Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff, ’98-’03: In specific numbers, I would have to rely on combatant commanders’ exact requirements, but I think–
Sen. CARL LEVIN: How about a range?
Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI: I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground force presence.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.
THOMAS WHITE: All of us in the Army felt just the opposite, that there was a long history of that being absolutely true, that the defeat of the Iraqi military would be a relatively straightforward operation of fairly short duration, but that the securing of the peace and the security of a country of 25 million people spread out over an enormous geographic area would be a tremendous challenge that would take a lot of people, a lot of labor, to be done right.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ: In short, we don’t know what the requirement will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.
It wasn’t about the war, it was about the peace. And Eric Shinseki was right.