On a visit to Delaware, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said Wednesday that the current trouble in Iraq was predictable and the Bush administration should have been better prepared.
"I think this is a failure of planning," said Perry, secretary of defense under President Clinton from 1994 to 1997.
"I think it is pretty clear we have a serious insurgency fight on our hands in Iraq and will have for sometime to come," he said. "My own estimate is that we need more troops on the ground and will need them for a long time if we are going to bring order to that country."
Perry, who is an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, was at the University of Delaware to speak to a class taught by professor and former CNN correspondent Ralph Begleiter. He also discussed U.S.-China relations during an evening speech at Mitchell Hall.
Perry said U.S. troops are stretched too thin with commitments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas around the globe. The United States has about 135,000 troops in Iraq, and Perry said military experts he has talked to believe twice as many may be needed to stabilize the nation.
Perry said he supported invading Iraq on the premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. However, he said, the premise "turns out not to be correct." While President Bush says the world is a better place because Saddam has been removed from power, Perry said he has "a hard time reading the papers thinking anyone is better off, considering what is going on in Iraq."
Perry said the Bush administration should have worked to get broader support for the Iraq war, "instead of this pick-up team of a coalition."
He said it may be difficult, but it is not too late to try to bring in NATO as Perry and the Clinton administration did in Bosnia.
Perry told about 30 students in the journalism class that he never expected U.S. troops to still be in Bosnia 10 years later. He said he and the Clinton administration were perhaps too optimistic. Perry said the Bush administration is even more naïve if they expect to successfully get out of Iraq any sooner, where the fighting and divisions are much more intense.
He said the Bush administration's June 30 deadline for a hand-over of sovereignty in Iraq seems unrealistic.
"It would be a wonderful idea if we had someone to hand over to," he said. The question of a hand-over is also "academic," he said, if the United States can not re-establish order and security.
Without additional international support, the U.S. will need to increase the size of its military, Perry said.
He also said it is easy to predict that the extensive use of National Guard troops in Iraq, "will play havoc with National Guard recruiting."
In his talk to students, Perry primarily spoke about his time as defense secretary, relations with North Korea and the end of the Cold War.
UD senior Star Gibbs, 22, said he was impressed hearing first-hand from a policy maker.
"He was witty" said Leah Geib, 20, a junior. "He helped simplify some tough international issues."
Perry, a Pennsylvania native, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and teaches at Stanford University.
Reach Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.