Evan Smith: Your memoir, Wiser in Battle, is bracingly candid. For somebody who spent 33 years in the Army, you’re fairly critical of many of the people you worked with and their prosecution of the war in Iraq.
Ricardo Sanchez: It was excruciatingly painful for me to write this book because of the value of loyalty that we embrace as warriors in service to our country, but in the end it was about precisely that issue, loyalty, and where those loyalties lie. I felt my loyalty had to rest with the country, with what was best for America. In the military we tell ourselves that we learn while we’re fighting so we can protect our soldiers. As I look back, it’s clear to me that we do not, as a nation and as an Army, really understand the political and military decisions that led us to the point where we are today or the strategic mistakes we made. We have refused to address the occupation [of Iraq by U.S.-led forces] with any sense of objectivity.
ES: Tell me what those strategic mistakes were. What should we have done differently before the invasion?
RS: We should have ensured that we were planning with the totality of national power. We were embarking on a regime-change mission in Iraq, and history tells us clearly that when you occupy a country in the aftermath of those types of military operations, you’re going to have a very significant requirement to rebuild governments, businesses, security forces.
ES: So this was a manpower issue.
RS: Not just manpower but resources and dollars and coalitions that had to be built.