What brought the U.S. to this sorry state of affairs?
WW: The fundamental reason, I believe, is that we are not interested in what works best in combat. Instead, our defense structure in Washington is interested in other things. In Congress they’re interested in jobs and campaign contributions. In the Pentagon they’re interested in various political and bureaucratic agendas. They’re not paying attention to the lessons of combat history. A bloated, declining military structure is the result.
Surely you’re not suggesting that our leaders in uniform, as opposed to those interfering civilians [sound of Wheeler laughing] aren’t interested in producing the most combat-efficient force possible?
WW: I was laughing because that’s the bilgewater that they keep on pumping – and believing, I’m sure – on Capitol Hill. If you look at the record, a lot of our military leadership is very questionable. During the 2003 march to Baghdad the commanders had to pause simply out of panic at the minimal opposition they were facing, coupled with some poor weather and a supply problem. None of the commanders warned the public, or the president, about the problems that we encountered in Iraq. People point to [former army chief of staff] General Eric Shinseki as the great hero who told us that we needed a larger invasion and occupation force and was ignored. That argument simply doesn’t work. The idea that more Christian, white American soldiers occupying an alien country would have prevented an insurgency is ridiculous.
See also CDI's Straus Military Reform Project.