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The Failures of Lt. Gen. Sanchez

By Jack Kelly

In his weekly radio address, President Bush gave thanks for American servicemen "who risk their own lives to keep us safe."

Democrats chose retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez to deliver a rebuttal.

"I saw firsthand the consequences of the administration's failure to devise a strategy for victory in Iraq that employed, in a coordinated manner, the political, economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States. That failure continues today," he said.

LtGen. Sanchez endorsed the Democratic measure pending in Congress to condition continued funding for the war on a timetable for troop withdrawal.

"Although we cannot withdraw precipitously from Iraq, we must move rapidly to minimize our force presence," he said.

Martin Peretz of the New Republic suspects Democrats want to withdraw troops from Iraq quickly because they don't want to win there.

"I suspect that so many Democrats are so deeply hostile to a forward foreign policy and their minds so deeply embedded in the notion that you can negotiate successfully with fanatics and tyrants that they wouldn't mind a prophylactic victory for the enemy," he wrote Monday.

If you want to lose a war, who better to deliver that message than a loser?

Mr. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, is a retired three star general instead of a serving four star general chiefly because the Abu Ghraib prison scandal happened on his watch. But that may have been the least of his failings. The year he was in charge was the year the insurgency took root.

"Fairly or unfairly, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez always will be remembered as America's incompetent field commander in Iraq," wrote counterinsurgency expert "Abu Muqawama" on his blog. ("Abu Muqawama" is Arabic for "father of resistance.") I think much of the criticism of Gen. Sanchez ought to be directed at the more senior leaders in the Army at the time, because the poor man was virtually set up for failure. Not only was he just a three star in what should have been a four star billet, he was a newly minted three star. He had less experience in and knowledge of Iraq than any other general officer who served during the war. It is no reflection on his personal qualities to say that he was an appallingly bad choice.

But though Ricardo Sanchez had lots of help in becoming a failure, and lots of company, the fact is that he was a failure, and that most of the responsibility for being a failure rests on the shoulders of...Ricardo Sanchez.
Sanchez implies "that somehow he was a blameless bystander and not the one entrusted with day-to-day operations during the critical year following regime change in Iraq," noted the Small Wars Journal. "It appears that Sanchez did not have a problem with U.S. strategy at that time. Moreover, as the senior commander he had the authority to take measures that could have lessened the impact of a failed or nonexistent strategy had he so desired."

It does seem odd that Democrats would excoriate Gen. David Petraeus, architect of the strategy that has turned things around in Iraq, and embrace Gen. Sanchez, especially since it was Democrats in Congress who led the criticism of him during the Abu Ghraib affair.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson likens Gen. Sanchez to other "whistleblowers" such as former CIA officer Michael Scheuer and former National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke who were failures at their jobs.

"In all these cases there is a dismal pattern: a mediocre functionary keeps quiet about the mess around him, muddles through, senses that things aren't going right, finds himself on the losing end of political infighting, is forced out or quits, seethes that his genius wasn't recognized, takes no responsibility for his own failures, worries that he might be scape-goated, and at last senses that either a New York publisher or the anti-war Left, or both, will be willing to offer him cash or notoriety -- but only if he serves their needs by trashing his former colleagues in a manner he never would while on the job," Mr. Hanson said.

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