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Advocates of Iraq War Misgauged Difficulties

September 12, 2003

Re "Winning the Peace, Quietly," Opinion, Sept. 7: In the rush to invade Iraq, Max Boot was one of the pundit-advocates of a war that would radically change the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. He anticipated an easy victory over the Saddam Hussein regime, but he completely misgauged the difficulties of consolidating U.S. control in Iraq. The extravagant promises made by Boot and many of his neoconservative allies revealed little understanding of the dynamics of Iraqi politics and society, which is not surprising given the ideological blinders they favored. What is surprising is that Boot now thinks that winning wars is a matter of consulting a tally sheet of military successes. It is precisely the high-blown promises of the consequences of toppling Hussein, from Boot and others, that set a standard for success that the Bush administration cannot meet. The war in Iraq, notwithstanding superior technology and gung-ho Marines and soldiers, is on the brink of being a strategic defeat. Boot is contemptuous of the Vietnam parallel, but he needs to reflect on the difference between battlefield victory and strategic success.

Augustus Richard Norton

Professor, Anthropology

and International Relations

Boston University


So Boot, riding with the U.S. Marines, assures us that we are "winning the peace" in Iraq. Having talked to "everyone from privates to three-star generals" (but not Iraqis), he quotes Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis: "We've got the bastards on the run." So, three remote-controlled bombs aimed at the Marines' vehicles exploded; never mind, they missed. So, a Marine corporal even asked him to cover a handcuffed suspect with a 9-millimeter pistol. I guess Boot is another graduate of the Geraldo Rivera school of journalism. So, if Iraqis smile at our troops, that means they like us, right? If we had just stuck to our guns in Vietnam, everything would be fine today. If Boot ever wants to give up his position as senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he has a promising future as a writer on "Saturday Night Live."

Michael Miller

Los Angeles

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