Anthony Cordesman, security analyst who questioned US policy, dies at 84

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Anthony Cordesman, a former intelligence analyst who became a prominent commentator — as well as a frequent critic — of U.S. policies in the Middle East and beyond during decades of war and turmoil has died. , on Jan. 29 at a hospital in Alexandria, Va. .

Dr. Cordesman had health problems after bowel surgery, his son Justin said.

To the public, Dr. Cordesman was known for his regular media appearances, including as an ABC News analyst and op-ed contributor to news outlets including The Washington Post , at key events that included the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and the current Israeli war in Gaza.

In Washington policy circles, Dr. Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Dr. Cordesman a lot consulting roles included helping the Department of Defense assess the regional impact of Israel’s victory over Arab forces in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Dr. Cordesman’s expertise covered how actions by US policymakers and military leaders ultimately play out. These are what he called the “grey areas” of war and foreign affairs, where calmer strategies and real policy are needed and, in his view, the United States often falls short. .

He made comments that showed the US reliance on military superiority as a potential liability at times when far more subtle policies are needed. America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan offered countless lessons to be learned, he said.

He described himself as a tepid supporter of the invasion of Iraq, saying he was “48 percent” certain of the intelligence reports about Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Once the requests were confirmed to be made or decorated, Dr. Cordesman interfered with US military and diplomatic measures in Iraq even as he provided behind-the-scenes advice to commanders and clients.

His early judgments became the story of Iraq writ large: How the administration of President George W. Bush proceeded to rebuild the post-Hussein government and military in Iraq. That opened the door to Iranian influence with Iraq’s Shiite majority and the rise of Shiite militias – along with rival Sunni groups that have created their own insurgency, sometimes with links to al-Qaeda.

“We didn’t really prepare to liberate Iraq,” Dr. Cordesman said in a 2006 interview. “Basically, we sent in a bull to liberate a china shop. As a result, the legacy is in many ways very damaging. Iraqis are worse off, on average, as individuals, than they were before we invaded.”

As the Islamic State seized territory in 2014 – pulling US air power back into Iraq less than three years after Americans officially ended combat operations – Dr Cordesman frame the battles as part of the US legacy of disruption after the initial successful invasion.

“The United States has never articulated viable grand strategic goals, made effective efforts to create a stable post-conflict Iraq, or demonstrated to the Iraqi people that its presence truly serves the interests,” he wrote in 2020 after the Islamic State was driven from key areas. such as the northern city of Mosul. (More than 4,400 US servicemen and at least 150,000 Iraqis were killed in the Iraq War.)

In Afghanistan, Dr. Cordesman often scoffed at the idea that the Taliban and other groups could be defeated by military means alone. “We either need long-term commitments, long-term effective resources and strategic patience — or we don’t need enemies,” he wrote in The Post in 2008. “We will defeat own “

In 2021, the Taliban returned to power two decades after being overthrown by the US-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks, which had been led by al-Qaeda from bases in Afghanistan.

In the end, Dr. Cordesman asked if the United States had written its case before years before by failing to build alliances with tribal leaders or develop effective armed forces in Afghanistan. The war’s death toll includes more than 2,400 US servicemen and tens of thousands of Afghans.

“The main question is not why the war was lost,” he wrote in the CSIS study, “it is whether it was worth the cost of allowing it to escalate and extend.”

Dr. Cordesman’s perspective on the division sometimes embraced ideas with little support in Washington, such as the need for open dialogue with Iran. However, according to the long-term policy of Saudi Arabia as an essential security partner.

He maintained that view even after Saudi security agents, widely believed to be led by the crown prince, butchered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. in 2018. Dr. Cordesman strongly criticized the crown prince for the death of Khashoggi, who contributed to the Post opinion section, but appealed to keep the killing from disrupting strategic ties.

“His killing, whether intentional or accidental, was truly despicable,” he wrote. “What could anyone in the Saudi royal court have expected the final result or in information?

In one of his last essays for CSIS, Dr. Cordesman took a grim view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the Gaza war had all but destroyed the prospects for a negotiated peace. on both sides. (Dr. Cordesman once drew sharp criticism from rights groups in 2000 for a CSIS study that allegedly suggested that Palestinian security forces should pressure terrorists with interrogation techniques that “a ‘completion’ of torture.)

“In short, the real question now is not how this war will end, but why it won’t,” he wrote in early November. “Rising to nowhere is not a strategy – it’s a disaster.”

Anthony Huff Cordesman was born in Chicago on August 2, 1939. His father was a graphic artist, and his mother was a sociologist whose work included a fellowship at the University of Chicago. His family was forced to move from Oak Park, Ill., to an area near the university after threats and complaints about their help in finding a home for a Black chemist, Percy Julian, in the White suburb of the city. some, said his son.

Dr. Cordesman graduated from the University of Chicago in 1960 and received a master’s degree degree the following year from Tufts University School of Law and Diplomacy. He completed his doctorate from the University of London in 1963.

He served in intelligence analysis positions at the Pentagon and the State Department in countries including Egypt and Iran, and at NATO in Brussels and Paris. From 1988 to 1995, he served as national security assistant to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the Senate Armed Services Committee and was a civilian assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense.

He joined CSIS in 2000 and most recently served as the organization’s emeritus chair of strategy.

The more than 50 books he wrote or co-authored covered a range of foreign and defense policy issues including Iran’s nuclear program and China’s military reach in Asia. In “Arab-Israeli Military Forces in an Age of Asymmetric Wars” (2006), Dr. Cordesman analyzed the capabilities of military forces throughout the Middle East.

His marriages to Sally Lermond and Carole Foryst ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter, Bridget, from his first marriage and sons Justin and Alexander from his second.

Dr. Cordesman’s prolific pen embraced a passion far removed from political advantages and military brass. He contributed articles and reviews for audio magazine Absolute Sound, including an annual bests list called the Golden Ear Awards.

He said he got hooked on high-end audio gear while working at a stereo shop in Chicago as an undergrad to help with tuition. “My professional life has been in national security,” he wrote, “but I’ve never lost touch with the upper end. “

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