April 11th, 2008
11:21 AM ET

Gen. Paul Eaton: In Iraq, where is the cavalry?


The Bush administration has chosen to abandon our under-equipped and over-burdened military to fight alone in Iraq.

After successfully alienating potential allies in the prosecution of our war in Iraq, this Administration continues to view our first truly interagency war as a purely military event.  The absence of credible State Department participation in this fight and the absolute failure of the rest of the Executive Branch to participate in this war leaves the entire burden upon the shoulders of our Soldiers and Marines.

To witness press and Congressional preoccupation with the military commander at this week’s hearings and mild interest in State’s man, Ambassador Crocker, one would surmise that they don’t understand, either.

Iraq is not the plains of Germany during the Cold War.  Iraq is an insurgency.

Our commanders need the application of the full power of the United States to bear upon the fight in Iraq.  We need a focused and determined Diplomatic Surge within Iraq - and without.  Every interested player –- and that includes all border countries, Israel and Egypt –- needs a seat at the table.  Interests need to be identified and let the negotiations begin.  Not unlike the Egyptian/Israeli accord or Dayton.  

This is hard diplomatic work, and is apparently beyond our current Secretary of State’s intent or capability.  The recent example of Turkey’s attack into Iraq is the most recent indicator of our failure to work a competent diplomatic program.  A fully engaged diplomatic effort would address internal tensions that bedevil the Al Maliki government and foster competent internal government.

We need to get angry Arab men off the street, gainfully employed.  The rest of the President’s cabinet and their departments are very much needed by our military.  We need a reinvigorated Provincial Reconstruction Team program – new life to an idea that worked very well for the French in Algeria.  In the words of one commander, “I don’t need more combat troops, I need agriculture and water experts.”  Yet Commerce, Transportation, Education, Treasury and the rest of the President’s cabinet have been AWOL in this war.
General Petraeus was polite during the hearings.  He never once complained.  He never asked the President:  “Where is the cavalry?” 

– Maj. General Paul Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commander of Iraqi Armed Forces and their development command







Filed under: Raw Politics
soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Albert Abernathy

    When you have an intellectually challenged administration, what do you expect.
    It was the dumbest idea imaginable to go into Iraq in the first place so why would you expect any kind of push to get the government working.
    First, there will never be a viable democracy in Iraq as we know democracy and I doubt if there can be any kind of democracy in Iraq for it has been ruled by kings, warlords, tribes, religious leaders, dictators, gangsters for the last 6 thousand years and we have an administration is going to GIVE THEM A DEMOCRACY.
    There has never been a country that was given A DEMOCRACY and there never will be a country that can be given a democracy.
    The only two powers that a country can be given is a dictatorship and military rule period.
    Anyone with an ounce of brains should know that.
    A democracy has to be wanted by the people so bad they will spend their blood to get it.

    April 11, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  2. Frank Neel, Hebron,Ky.

    Does the legacy of the children of the "greatest generation" strir a murmur in the heart of corporate media?

    April 11, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  3. salafiyyah

    “WE DID NOT ALIENATE! The rest of the world is not pulling their weight!”

    "The rest of the world is not obligated to “pull their weight.” Most countries are more than willing to let the US stew in Iraq. A wise decision on their part, I would say."

    To Felix: You want other countries to help clean up the mess we made, even though a vast majority of them didn't want anything to do with the invasion? Typical American attitude.

    April 11, 2008 at 10:01 pm |
  4. MB Shaw

    The general is absolutely correct. The Bush Administration started all this mess and then left it up to the military to solve it. They miscalculated everything from DAY-1. The whole administration especially Rice has done zero. Their grade is zero!!

    April 11, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  5. charlie, atlanta, ga

    if even half the money we spent militarily in iraq had been and would be spent on economic stability both abroad and at home ... no insurgencies, no terrorists, would be threatening us ... we have a lazy excuse for a president who unfortunately has and continues to embarrass us ... january 2009 will not come soon enough ... i only hope whoever replaces the current court-jester will at least have a work ethic ...

    April 11, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  6. Brandyjack

    Star Ship Troopers may be the solution to government problems.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  7. christopher neal

    obviously, Felix is not very educated. I read a poll that only 21% approve of this war. Now I know what percent he belongs in. Obama '08!

    April 11, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  8. r williamson

    I propose a National Amnesty Program; for every Senator, Congress Person, and all of their Aides....... renounce every back-room deal, bribe, etc. and all is forgiven..... IF, everyone will show up for work and deal with the Nation's pressing issues in good faith....if not .... mandatory prison time.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:52 pm |
  9. Ron Richmond

    Isn't the monumental incompetence of this Administration Impeachable? Until we get off our Butts and march on 1600 pennsylvania Avenue in numbers that overwhelm the city, we're screwed by this Administration!
    Simple as that!

    April 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  10. r williamson

    OK ... who's next in line ... if we oust the Pres./ Vice Pres. (incompetent/treasonous) .... what's the next step in an election year... we could have turned Afganistan into a garden by now, with women trained to run and maintain backhoes/dozers/well drilling equip/etc.... those $billions a month could have done a lot of good, but there's a culture of corruption at home that prevents American "Quality" from reaching the Mid-East..... what's the underlying cause? Voter apathy?. I'm a native Texan (our original thought was .... George is a "Goober" let him run for national office ... get him out of Texas)..... that backfired.
    So, let's bring the best Military in the world home....let the Mid-East collapse.(it will anyway)... and take care of business here.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  11. howard

    a bit closer atttention might go a long way.... for us all.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  12. TOM

    Was this war based on 9-11? why does China have more American cash than America? Why is Hydrogen Fuel invent-able and not invented yet? Why is Greed, Power and Money the leading reason of leaders today? And WHO THE HELL CAME UP WITH NAFTA??? Those people were the real demise of America. I WANT A HERO.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  13. Mike in NYC

    “Every interested player –- and that includes all border countries, Israel and Egypt –- needs a seat at the table.”

    Quick correction on my part - he was not including Israel and Egypt with border countries. My bad.

    My comment on the involvement of those two nations in Iraq still stands.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  14. Mike in NYC

    "Every interested player –- and that includes all border countries, Israel and Egypt –- needs a seat at the table."

    Strange statement. Neither of those are "border countries" with Iraq. Then again, Eaton is no doubt aware that Israel has been involved with the Kurds in northern Iraq for decades, and regional Sunni powers like Egypt most likely had a hand in arming Iraqi Sunnis.

    Felix wrote:

    "WE DID NOT ALIENATE! The rest of the world is not pulling their weight!"

    The rest of the world is not obligated to "pull their weight." Most countries are more than willing to let the US stew in Iraq. A wise decision on their part, I would say.

    April 11, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  15. Annie Kate

    At this point I would be surprised if Bush came out with a sensible plan on anything much less Iraq. The last 8 years have only proved that he likes to play cowboy with a shoot first never ask questions mentality. We should et the Iraqis figure it out for themselves at this point – it is their country not ours and we should have never gone there to begin with. As Ben Franklin said, "Guests like fish begin to smell after 3 days" – after 5 years there is really a stench from our occupation. We need to hand over the country to its citizens and come home and not feel like we were appointed policeman of the world.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 11, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  16. Brian

    I hear a lot of complaining about this administration, but no well-thought solutions being offered. Since everyone blogging seems to be an expert strategist and political prodigy-slash-prophet, I'm sure you can craft some masterful road map to peace in Iraq. I 'm confident you will account for all contingencies that may (the prophet's role in this fledgling debacle) arise.

    By not standing behind your FREELY ELECTED leaders, you inhibit the their influence over those above mentioned allies.

    Thanks, "so-called American's" for creating a scenario where our troops must go to war behind a headless President, created by his own people. Since we're quoting television...

    "Cold enough world without gettin' gone against by your own." -Deadwood

    April 11, 2008 at 8:58 pm |
  17. Shayne

    Your Stupid Government , ruined this country by unlawfully attacking it ... you americans really are starting to annoy me ...


    April 11, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Michael, Canada

    Things in Iraq will only get better once the occupation ends. Bush can spin it anyway he likes but the fact remains Iraq is under US occupation. Decisions about Iraqs' future continue to be made in Washington. The US needs to disengage from Iraq.

    Do Americans know that the people of Iraq have somehow managed to live in ME for thousands of years without American 'help'? Why are Americans so arrogant as to presume Iraqis cannot manage their own affairs?

    April 11, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  19. Greg

    Send video games over there and get the teens addicted to them. Busy doing nothing is better than busy fighting. We could have won an all out war but doing police action within a country of many sects is dumber than the average bush.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  20. felix

    WE DID NOT ALIENATE! Ther rest of the world is not pulling there weight!

    April 11, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  21. Dave Weldon

    My view is that the U.S. shouldn't be in Iraq in the first place. Saddam at least kept the peace between the Sunnis and the Shiites. The U.S. should just extract itself completely from Iraq and let the insurgencies fight it out between themselves. And, who cares about Iran – so far they haven't threatened anyone. Let the Iranians fight with the insurgencies.
    There is no need for U.S. military involvement unless national security is "directly" threatened.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:33 pm |
  22. MapperJohn, North Carolina

    Very good point General Eaton. Unfortunately the current President only lives in a Cold War/WWII frame of mind and he does not even understand that or we would not have jumped into this quagmire in the first place. The US was never a strong a colonial power in the same sense as France so we have no understanding of or interest in dealing with the locals except under our our terms.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
  23. frank odom

    General Eaton,
    It is good to see upper echelon people stating the truths instead of hiding behind their pensions, scared of offending someone higher up.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  24. frank odom

    It seems like we learned nothing from Vietnam.... I never dreamed after coming home from that horrible "war" that America would be duped into another action that is daily maiming and killing our young soldiers, all for the whim of a pitiful president... I was brought up in a military family, and my dad instilled in me a love for my country, but when I had to tell him goodby to leave for Vietnam, I wish he had sent me on my way to Canada instead. The policy makers need to be the ones that should have to go to Iraq and ride the Humvees.... in terror that a improvosed munition is going to go off any minute. We need to be out of Iraq!!!!

    April 11, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  25. Jack L

    There are ways to effectively fight an insurgency, many of them do not use bombs or bullets. This, America, is a thinking man's war- so strap in for the long haul and get creative, because bullets alone will not win this one.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  26. Dr. Ted Baehr

    Where is the Cavalry indeed? When IS the hill where our God, Jesus H. Christ, was crucified and died and was raised for our sins? That is the question our overly-secular Congress needs to ask itself, and answer! If we are to conquer Iraq completely, our soldiers will need more weapons and more powerful bombs to get the job done and protect our Freedoms!

    April 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm |
  27. fozzy

    There is no cavalry to come to the rescue. The militay does it all because, quite bluntly, the military has all the resources - manpower, budget, etc. The military wants agriculture and water experts? Then shift some of its budget to the Agriculture Department, etc. so that they can hire/train/supervise such programs. State Department FSOs sent to Iraq complain that all they can do is sit around desks in the 'Green Zone' because everywhere else is so violent they need military protection – and the military doesn't want to provide it. (Not even Blackwater can fill the gap). The U.S. DoDhas more Public Affairs officers than the State Department has Foreign Service Officers (and they have to cover the entire planet). the U.S. Air Force alone has more Arabic speakers than the State Department.

    The *entire* State Department foreign service officer corps is under 7,000 people (after several years of expansion). Divide that by 140+ nations that they need to cover, plus stateside duties, and you'll see why - even though Iraq has the largest US Embassy staff in the world - the military still dwarfs it. Employees of Departments like Agriculture, Education, etc. are not equipped nor trained nor compensated for operating in a combat zone. You can't just order a GS-10 accountan or education specialist t to pack his /her bags and jump into the middle of a war, particularly when there isn't enough military to protect him/her. They didn't sign up for that, often wouldn't qualify for that, and probably couldn't contribute meaningfully anyway.

    Cavalry? The only horse we've got is the U.S. military. No one else is trained or has the resources to both provide security and reconstruct at the same time - no matter how many "cost plus" contracts we throw out. As for the idea that "worked well for the French in Algeria", just ask yourself: In the end, how did that turn out for the French?

    April 11, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  28. Peter Nagy

    General Eaton, I'm glad you are out of Iraq. Better be here badmouthing our president then doing a lousy job there.
    You like so many readers, choose to hear and report only the bad aspects of the war. Probably your grand father had the same opinion when Hitler went into Poland.
    You would rather have the IED detonate on our streets rather then Iraq
    It doesn't matter what our president decided to choose, there are always people like you, pointing fingers.
    Saddam left us no choice, but to go to war, or coward ourselves in some military office, and hope everything is going to be OK.
    He never came clean, and decided to play games. NOBODY at that time could bet their life that Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass destruction.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  29. omara

    Most Americans that are fed up with this administration would normally get a little excited when a high ranking military man speaks out about the unconscionable ineptitude of the leadership in this country especially when it concerns the war. Now i see a mere seven responses to what he wrote and most of those seem to want to analyze what he wrote rather than deal why he wrote it.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  30. Walter

    I'll tell you where the cavalry is... they are at bases all around the word waiting for orders to deploy from their Commander in Chief but when he wanted to commit the forces needed to get the job done the cut and run liberals and the media who is in bed with them cried and whined and second guessed everything the President did. The President got on national television after 9/11 and said the war on terror would be long and tough but the media and the dems expected this things to be mopped up overnight and when they weren't they personally attacked the President, the military, and pulled their support for the US and backed the terrorists. When the President announced the surge last year Harry "we lost: Reid attacked the President, Pelosi attacked the idea, and the other cut and run Dems did the same thing. Jack Murtha and Joe Biden took the time to consistently attack the troops too (Murtha – "muderous thugs", Biden – "our troops are terrorizing women and children") So don't ask where the cavalry is. Despite everything and the shameful treasonous conduct by the Dems in this, the President has had the gut to stay the course, take the attack to the terrorists on their soil, and much to the dismay of the Dems, has NOT allowed an attack to happen here. Looks to me like Barack or Hillary first would not have the guts to do what this President did (like their Dem brother Bill showed he would not do when faced with a terrorist act) and second they would conduct the operation by the results of polls and not by their convictions!!!

    April 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  31. Rigo

    I was in the Cavalry
    We are everywhere
    Perhaps you should explain what you mean
    I think it's just poor planning and bad Leadership that led us to where we are today
    Really though

    April 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  32. S Goyal

    The comment "America has come to be known as a shoot first country. " can not be more true. I think this is the worst disadvantage of being a super military power. Possessing the most number of lethal weapons has blinded us and gotten us into what I call a 'video game mentality.' But guess what, real life is not like easy.
    Multi-lateral dialogue is the best weapon to use in the middle east. It may hurt a few EGOs but has proven over time to have long lasting and much desired results. Military should be the last resort and is only appropriate for cases such as the Third Reich.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  33. Toby Hill

    All the critics of this administration's Iraq policy will get their opportunity to prove themselves right but they need to keep in mind that if it gets worse on their watch they must take full responsibility and let the critics bash them 24/7 without offering excuses.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  34. mark

    This is silly. The agencies of government are all working very hard to rebuild Iraq, schools, hospitals and infrastructure have been rebuilt. Trade and development agencies are working hard to develop the economy and create jobs. Please don't post this poor journalism, The Major may have served his country well and I don't want to take away from that, but he has not taken even a quick glance at the websites of any of the US's trade or development agencies to see the massive efforts at work in Iraq.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm |
  35. Thomas

    where is the cavalry in Iraq?!? gainfully employ angry Arab men?!?

    Where is the help going to come from here at home? If even 1% of the $$ spent over there had been kept here at home all the "bitter" people Obama refered to might be able to actually care about overseas issues. Fix OUR economy then we can be a nation builder oversees.

    I served oversees, in Afghanistan, and trust me when I say that the troops are much more concerned about coming home to help their own families then they are making sure that they help angry Arab men become gainfully employed.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  36. Jorge

    Unfortunately, this war was not properly planned and we are still waiting for someone in this administration to come forward and admit the lies and mistakes that lead us to the war in the first place. We cannot win this war, plain and simple. Regardless of all the progress (if any) portrayed by the news and the administration, there are too many players involved in this conflict.
    What we haven't understood is the fact that Iraqis were better before the war. Yes, there were under a dictatorship. Yes, Saddam Hussein wasn't the nicest guy around; however, He kept the country under control. Who will keep Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other? Captain America?
    When an administration doesn't have a national agenda or a way to resolve domestic issues, it directs the public attention elsewhere. That's what this administration did. Education, health care and economic situation of this country is worst now than when Mr. Bush took office.
    However, I am a big believer that this was the choice of the American people when they voted for Mr. Bush (I didn't). Next time, instead of complaining, make an intelligent decision at the voting polls. Thank God, a few more months and this nightmare will be over.....

    April 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  37. ColinNZ

    You will never win hearts and minds by bombing the hell out of the population, starting with 'shock and awe' in 2003 and continuing today. You destroyed Falluja and will never recover those mostly Sunni hearts and minds who in vast numbers would have lost loved ones in the massacre. Now you are destroying Sadr City and other southern populations and so will forever lose those too. One minute you hail a regional leader as your friend, the next you persecute the same. You have no credibility left in Iraq and around the broader globe. You have lost support and trust from some of your most established allies. If ever three words summarised it all perfectly, they are 'you have lost'.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  38. Dick, SOME WHERE.

    impeach bush and cheney, strip them of there finances and put them in jail where they can't do any more harm to this country and the world and get our troops out of there.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  39. Bill

    Three "I"s for the administration's prosecution of this phony and immoral war : indictment , impeachment , and imprisonment. Lock 'em all up.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  40. Ricky P.

    Anderson none of this is surprising with this Admin. I'm so sick of it. The soldiers and marines need help, they need a president who really cares about there well being and getting them home safely. Not one who thinks they can continue fighting forever who messed up rotations, then coming home and waiting months and months for there checks...president bush should be ashamed of himself.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  41. Raphael

    you get what you vote for america...

    April 11, 2008 at 7:30 pm |
  42. Janet, Los Angeles

    Excellent points General. But the fact that you are making them when the war is entering it's 6th year illustrates the fact that there is no cavalry, and there never was. And at this late date, "President" W and his Buds ain't lookin for one. This administration has never had any concept of the need for or use of diplomacy anywhere, so expecting them to pick up on it now is a waste of time. Just look at their "diplomatic" attempts toward the problems in Israel and the West Bank. That lasted all of five minutes. Because of the current "administration's" stupidity this country will be stuck in Iraq and Afganistan (remember that one?) for a very long time and the next administration will bear the brunt of George Bush' failures.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm |
  43. gerry

    Sounds to me like Major General Paul Eaton is stating the same things that Barack Obama has stated.

    Clearly, the Iraq government is taking advantage. With over 100 billion in cash in the bank, why is America paying the salaries of 100,000 reconstruction workers?

    It's time to press the diplomatic surge and bring the troops home.

    April 11, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  44. Slater

    You made a key point about getting angry Arab men off the streets gainfully employed, and "We need a reinvigorated Provincial Reconstruction Team program – new life to an idea that worked very well for the French in Algeria. In the words of one commander, “I don’t need more combat troops, I need agriculture and water experts.” Yet Commerce, Transportation, Education, Treasury and the rest of the President’s cabinet have been AWOL in this war."

    True words that hit home fairly hard. As a small town American, I am just now realizing how badly this "war" was organized from the beginning. Reading your words just confirms what I already felt. My fear is that it was organized so badly form the onset that is is going to be an impossibility to get out of there at all. Meanwhile, my grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying the the money back that we are borrowing from China and the treasury.

    So many screw ups, so little time.

    April 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  45. Lisa

    "Where's the Calvary?" Who cares - this administration won't listen to them anyway. It only hears what it WANTS to hear - and the good General and Ambassador did just that.

    And how does one propose to 'gainfully employ' angry Arab men when this country cannot 'gainfully employ' angry American men (and women)?

    This "war" was entered without a strategic plan and we continue to – as Melanie Griffith's character in Working Girl said at the end of the movie – "make the rest up as we go along". It's a little hard to have diplomatic talks and expect others to help when there is no plan to follow, when the rules and playbook change on a literal daily basis.

    Hopefully, come January when a new administration is in place, these issues will realistically be addressed and the efforts necessary to actually have a cohesive alliance will begin. Until then, we'll just continue to stumble along ... and hopefully not too many more lives will be lost as a result of this administration's continual missteps.

    April 11, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  46. Michelle

    I am not sure America can recover. We are losing our
    influence around the world militarily and economically.
    You name it and we are in trouble. It seems
    as though everything leads to Iraq and how the war
    has done some serious damage to America. How do
    you fix 6 years of damage? Definitely not in the first
    term of a new president.

    April 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  47. Selina

    I certainly agree with the writer. America has come to be known as a shoot first country. There no longer is any diplomacy and that's what's going to get us into the most trouble. Our founding fathers would be rolling over in there graves if they knew half the mess that our federal government has made of this country. I can certainly understand what Michelle Obama was saying when she made that remark that offended everyone. Support the troops, not the occupation!

    April 11, 2008 at 12:20 pm |
  48. Justin, Chicago

    Sounds like all wishfull thinking to me.

    April 11, 2008 at 11:44 am |
  49. Judy Stage Brooklyn MI

    General Eaton, Your solutions will have to be passed on to the next president and administration because this one certainly is not listening.

    April 11, 2008 at 11:34 am |
  50. Hannah

    We definitely need to get all of the surrounding countries together to sit down and hash out a plan as to how we are going to handle Iraq and get it back on track. As it stands now I think we are the only calvary to save it! That can't last long. I mean our men and women are getting worn out going between Iraq and Afghanistan. Something needs to be done and fast.

    April 11, 2008 at 11:34 am |
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