John Mearsheimer on WikiLeaks Iraq logs

John Mearsheimer debates the WikiLeaks war logs with Patrick Mansoor, a former Petraeus aide.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER, University of Chicago:
[I]t does make it very clear how horrible the violence has been in Iraq since we invaded in 2003. And it also is quite clear from the documents that the United States has played an important role in making that violence happen.

Not only do the documents show that American soldiers and airmen have killed large numbers of civilians. It’s also clear that we didn’t do much at all to stop the Iraqis from torturing and murdering prisoners. This was a huge mistake on our part. […]

Iraq was not a sovereign state. The United States invaded Iraq. And we basically ran Iraq for many years, including many of the years in which these abuses were taking place. We were in charge.

[I]t’s quite clear from the documents that numerous cases are found where Americans were reporting these abuses. The problem is that people further up the chain of command, both the military and civilian individuals, didn’t do anything to stop it.

There is no question that the Americans knew what was going on. It’s not like this was happening in the dark, and we only suspected it and didn’t really know about it. We knew about it, and we didn’t do anything to stop it. We effectively turned a blind eye. And this was strategically foolish and, I think, morally bankrupt. […]

Well, it seems to me, from looking at these documents and reading all the press reports, that this kind of wanton violence just goes hand-in-hand with civil wars and with counterinsurgencies. I mean, anybody who has studied the history of counterinsurgency knows that those who are engaged in that kind of warfare invariably commit all sorts of crimes. So, I would think that what this tells us about Afghanistan is that, as we increase the number of forces, and as we begin to move more and more against the Taliban, what we will end up doing is killing more and more civilians.

And Afghanistan will end up looking a lot more like Iraq. I don’t see much hope at all that we will learn any positive lessons from what we have done in Iraq and then apply those positive lessons to Afghanistan.[…]

First of all, the American military has always been a firepower-heavy military. And many of General McChrystal’s subordinates were complaining about the fact that they weren’t using enough firepower. And I would be willing to bet a lot of money that, as the war goes on in Afghanistan, we use more and more firepower as a way of preserving American lives.

And the end result is that more and more Afghani civilians will die. But even when we try to use military force in a discriminating way — take the Predator aircraft that we use to kill terrorists from the sky — all of the evidence is that we’re killing about 10 civilians for every single — quote, unquote — “terrorist” that we kill.

So, what you see is that we’re killing lots of terrorists. And I bet, five or six years from now, when the next thump of documents comes out from WikiLeaks, we will see much of what we have just seen with regard to Iraq.

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