‘Cakewalk’: Remembering those who said the Iraq war would be short

“It’s going to be a two month war, not an eight year war."

As the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war passes, many are looking back at what is now considered by most to be one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history. After the 2003 invasion, the U.S. would suffer over 4,000 casualties and many more Iraqi civilians killed before America’s combat mission finally ended in 2011.

Over seven years of war. Today, it is worth remembering those who said it would be a short war.

All of them were strong advocates for the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

CBS News reported in November 2002, “There will be no World War III starting with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Thursday, and rejected concerns that a war would be a quagmire.”

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said during a radio interview just four months before the war, “The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990.” 

How long, then? Not even six months, Rumsfeld predicted. “Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that,” he said. 

Former Rumsfeld assistant, Ken ‘Cakewalk’ Adelman

Ken Adelman was an assistant to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld during the Ford administration and would later work for the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century.

A strong supporter of the Iraq war, it was Adelman who predicted it would be a “cakewalk,” similar to how he described Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait in 1990.

One month after the war began, Adelman seemed to think the U.S. had already won, writing at the Washington Post, “It was a cakewalk last time, during the first Gulf War. Granted, I’m an incurable optimist, but even I could never have envisioned the coalition controlling the enemy capital within three weeks — less than half the time, with less than half the U.S. casualties, of the first Gulf War.”

“But now is an occasion for pride, and for thanks to our fighting men and women and those leading them,” Adelman said. “My confidence 14 months ago sprang from having worked for Don Rumsfeld three times — knowing he would fashion a most creative and detailed war plan — and from knowing Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz well for many years.”

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward recalled Adelman’s column a year later, in April 2004, as the war continued, worsened, and would still carry for over six more years.

Woodward wrote, “On April 10, 2003, Ken Adelman, a Reagan administration official and supporter of the Iraq war, published an op-ed article in the Washington Post headlined, ‘Cakewalk’ Revisited,’ more or less gloating over what appeared to be the quick victory there, and reminding readers that 14 months earlier he had written that war would be a ‘cakewalk.’ He chastised those who had predicted disaster.”

The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol

The editor of America’s flagship neoconservative magazine said just one week into the war, “George Bush is not fighting this like Vietnam.”

“It’s going to be a two month war, not an eight year war,” Bill Kristol said on C-Span on March 28, 2003.

The Iraq war ended up lasting just three months shy of eight years.

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunterhttp://LibertyTree.com
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for Rare.us.