War College Study Calls Iraq a ‘Detour’

Times Staff Writers

A report published by the Army War College criticizes the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism as “unfocused” and contends that the war in Iraq is “unnecessary” and a “detour” that has diverted attention and resources from the threat posed by Al Qaeda.

The report warns that the administration’s global war on terrorism may have set the United States “on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and non-state entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.”

The report by Jeffrey Record, a visiting research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, calls for downsizing the war on terrorism and focusing instead on the threat from Al Qaeda, the terror network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well as other sites around the world.

“The global war on terrorism as presently defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military and other resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security,” Record wrote, concluding his 56-page monograph. “The United States may be able to defeat, even destroy, Al Qaeda, but it cannot rid the world of terrorism, much less evil.”


Record calls the war in Iraq “an unnecessary preventative war” that has “diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable Al Qaeda.” The Iraq war was a “detour” from the war on terrorism, he said.

The Army War College, located in Carlisle, Pa., trains military and civilian officials in the theory and application of military strategy using land-based forces. The report contains a disclaimer stating that it does not necessarily represent the views of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government.

In the foreword to the report, found on the Internet at,

Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., the institute’s director, said the monograph was offered “as a contribution to the national security debate over the aims and course of the war on terrorism.”

Record, a former staff member for the Senate Armed Services Committee, has written six books on military issues. He also teaches at the Air Force’s Air War College in Montgomery, Ala.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based research organization that focuses on military affairs, said: “There’s no question that Iraq has diverted U.S. attention from the war on terrorism. However, [the U.S.] invaded Iraq to resolve a potentially more serious threat that American intelligence indicated was quite urgent -- that being the threat of weapons of mass destruction.... All intelligence estimates pointed to an urgent threat.”

Daniel Benjamin, a member of the National Security Council staff in the late 1990s, said, “The criticism does not seem out of line with many of the conversations I have had with officers in every branch of the military.”