Interview with a Special Forces Captain: On the American Reaction to War

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates & Soldiersphoto © 2009 The U.S. Army | more info (via: Wylio)
Tyler is currently a Captain studying for a Master’s Degree in Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School. He served a year in Iraq as an Infantry platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division, and three tours in southern Afghanistan as a Special Forces Detachment Commander and Operations Officer. In the first of this multi-part interview series, Tyler and I discuss the American reaction to war. His last name has been intentionally omitted from this interview. 

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Question: Did The U.S. Accomplish The Enemy’s Goal?

I am currently fighting through an intense full body cold and am sweating profusely as I type, so I’m going to skip today’s opinion piece in favor of a question for you.

As you’ll see in this article, one of Osama bin Laden’s lesser-known grievances against the U.S. had to do with our inexpensive access to oil (a mere $11 dollars per barrel back in 1998). At that time, bin Laden demanded that the cost be adjusted to $144 dollars per barrel, and claimed that the West had “stolen” $36 trillion from Muslims in the middle east by paying far less.

Now here’s where it gets creepy: One month after 9/11, the New York Times wrote about possible “nightmare” scenarios that would deliver bin Laden’s goal. One of those decisions would be a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which would put oil supplies at risk.

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Iraq: mission accomplished, and home in six months?

I just finished reading the newly released ‘Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won The War In Iraq.’  Many remember the President’s infamous visit to the aircraft carrier in May of 2003, where he emerged from a S-3B Viking aircraft wearing a flight suit and later gave a  “victory” speech that was premature to say the least. The title of the book borrows from the huge banner that hung behind the President as he spoke to the cameras on that day- only this time it’s meant to be tongue in cheek.  It’s a quick read and a pretty devastating one, too.

“Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.” -George W. Bush, March 6, 2003

‘Mission Accomplished’ works so well because it is really just a compilation of quotes- about Iraq and related matters- spoken by everyone from the hawks at the top of the Bush Administration to the trumpeters in the media. The authors (Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky along with illustrator Robert Grossman) frequently interrupt the rhetoric with factual rebuttals and clever sketches, but they mostly let the politicians and pundits hang themselves by their own words.

“Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction and to free a people that have suffered far too long.” -George W. Bush, April 14, 2003

These two guys did a massive amount of research, and I want to share a bit of it with you in hopes that you’ll share your thoughts with me. First, a look back at the stated mission in Iraq (keeping in mind the previous two quotes): 

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