Tuesday, May 02, 2006

ex-Generals and strategy

This is going to be a weird post, because I'm pretty sure I don't have all the info on the topic. But I want to make this post, if only to generate some healthy stepping stones for criticism and debate on the issue.

Alot of ex-generals from the 80's, 90's, and even a few generals who served in the GWOT have take the time to bash Rumsfeld and his Iraqi War Plan. Specifically, they're bashing him for not putting "more troops on the ground" in Iraq during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom. They might be right; they might be wrong. I don't want to make the mistake of engaging in partisan attacks on them because frankly, they ARE military, and as such, they deserve my undying respect and they deserve every bit of honor.

However, Rumsfeld also deserves that same respect and honor, and I will also balk at even the ex-generals making ad hominen attacks on him. If they want respect, give him respect too, and shitcan the "he's killing American soldiers!" schtick. It makes them sound whiny, defensive, and it does not serve in the stead of an arguement. They'd be far better off articulating their own positions, rather than trying to give the media red meat in going after Rummy. Oh, and I'm not even sure what they're doing- in terms of the red meat attacks- is allowed in the military, active or not active duty.

However, is the "more boots on the ground" concept an actual strategy? Or is it a "it wasn't my idea!" type of pass-the-buck excuse? It's no secret that the generals in the US Army are very much anti-Rummy. This comes from a bunch of different viewpoints. Some are Cold Warriors (like Ralph Peters, btw) who don't like the fact that Rumsfeld wants to change the US military away from the hidebound concepts of massing armor and infantry for cataclysmic confrontations with the WARSAW PACT, or something in Asia. Rumsfeld wants to create a US military that can meet massive conventional war scenarios, but also meet more local insurgency and quick deployment scenarios as well. He's put the emphasis on basically re-creating the US military on a SPECOPS/Marines format. This is also part of why the Army's pissed off; they're being told to become the Marines. Full disclosure- I support Rumsfeld's plans in reshaping the US military in this fashion. I'm also willing to say that he's made mistakes, but I mean that in the same way that Ulysses Grant or George Patton made mistakes.

Another group are the Clinton-era generals, who may have been political generals who got their job by kissing ass like politicians do. That may be the case, but I think it's more a case of their views of the US military in the post-cold war era. Without the Soviets and the Iraqis "contained" after 1991, they turned to do more global peacekeeping operations rather than head on military confrontations. It was something more on the lines of a cost-benefit analysis and corporate managed system than what you had before the 1990's and after. Their track record was one of very timid action- the aftermath of Mogadishu, Bosnia, Kosovo, Operation Desert Fox, and the response the USS Cole and Embassy Bombings. Limited operations, with limited insertion, and limited gains (as well as limited to no casualties). It could well be a top-down arguement from the Clinton Administration (which admittedly had more of a law-enforcement attitude) than something designed from the military, but these generals would probably not have liked the idea of a "storm of steel" vis a vis the 1980s or the 2000's. Casualty lists and political polls meant everything to them, one way or the other. They never would have done OMAHA Beach, but rather, would have timidly accepted doing UTAH Beach.

Neither of these two groups do I really have any fault with. They served their times well, and still should speak up and make criticism. But is their criticism in regards to Rummy I think have a few problems:

1) What would "more boots on the ground" actually accomplish? They weren't needed in the actual Operation Iraqi Freedom (and you could make an arguement the shutdown of the Turkish/Northern Iraqi front did more to hurt the Coalition than not having a 500,000 man army). They aren't needed now. During the fall of 2003 through to the fall of 2004, would it have made a difference? My personal feeling is that they could have a better arguement for saying that Rumsfeld's Pentagon didn't react quickly enough to the insurgency, rather than any other arguement. That being said, he DID react to the insurgency by the fall of 2004 and frankly, from then to the present day, the US Army has done pretty well, despite what the media's saying.

2) In going with the fact that the US Army has preformed well since the fall of 2004, why have they not pointed this out? And what also, would they have done in the stead of Rumsfeld? I have heard no actual fleshed out strategies for dealing with the insurgency/terrorists in Iraq other than the "boots on the ground" concept and alot of complaining about combat casualties. They may have an arguement I haven't seen, though. But without that arguement, their "boots on the ground" statments come off as far more like talking points than anything else. I think this is important, because alot of what I'm hearing is hyperbole, and there's not enough real constructive criticism going on.

3) Notice also that we're not hearing anyone complain from SPECOPS, the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force? Why is this just an Army issue? Shouldn't it be a issue that crosses throughout the Armed Forces? I could be wrong here, and that there have been other branches complaining, but I don't see that. It's just the army. Why is that the case, and why haven't the other branches been speaking out?

4) With the ex-generals who were not involved in the GWOT, how much of what they're saying comes from their inside sources in the military, or from watching the mainstream media? How much reliance should I or shouldn't I place on their statements? On top of that, I do know a few of them have books coming out- General Zinni does- and that their statments are clearly timed to coincide with their book tours. Should their statements then be construed as timely advertising for their book tours? With Zinni, I find it highly disengeuous to be playing this game at this time (not necessarily for those who DON'T have books out).

5) Also, what about the Iraqis? Is there any complaints coming from their commanders? So very little of the debate actually centers around the fact that the whole arguement is taking place right in the middle of Iraq. Seriously, shouldn't the generals on both sides of the arguement be taking into account that there are other players involved in the game here? This also includes the Coalition forces. Speaking of them, why haven't I heard their ex-generals complaining as well?

6) Some current and former generals have also come out in support of Rumsfeld. Why doesn't this get played up more, and what kind of criticism do the ex-generals who don't support Rummy have to say about their support of him?

7) Bush handily won the military vote in 2004. They also are re-enlisting far ahead of the targeted numbers. Asides from the normal gripes that soldiers deal with, I haven't heard much from them at all during this whole debate. hy doesn't any of these arguements deal with the common soldiers?

8) Throughout American history, there have been many issues of civilian-military command. Lincoln and McClellan never got along- to the point where Lincoln demoted and fired McClellan. Burnside also completely screwed the military over worse than anything Macnamara could have done in 'Nam. FDR (and everyone else) hated MacArthur; that's why Eisenhower was chosen as the Supreme Allied Commander. Patton also repeatedly got himself into trouble during WW2- and he was the US's best general. Truman fired MacArthur when he got bitchy about the Korean War and started openly defying Truman's orders. Clinton fired General Clark when he disobeyed orders and damn near started a conventional war with Russia during the Kosovo War. And I'm reading a book on the Yom Kippur War- the Israeli commanders constantly clashed; the Egyptian commanders constantly clashed. But they both effectively fought the war. And so did the Union Army in the Civil War, and the Allied Armies in WW2. Should this problem also be viewed within this same prism? The whole story needs context. Is this the right context, or should there be another one? I personally view this as just one more notch in the whole arguement over civilian-military command, and it's just broken out into the open more thanks to the 24/7 news cycles.

This could all be pedestrian, but these questions need to be answered. As it is, neither the ex-generals (with the possible exception of Zinni, who I think is clearly playing the political shell game) nor the Rumsfeld camp are in the wrong at this point. So much of it's muddled by the red-meat-gotcha journalistic attitude of the mainstream media. These generals- on both sides- should not be given a free pass just beacuse of prevailing political attitudes on either side of the spectrum. Criticism is healthy; demagogurey is not. Let's ask real policy and strategy questions, please, and not engage in "baby-seal killer!" type of whining.

UPDATE: A few more points I want to add:

9) Why haven't these ex-generals also gone after Bush and Tommy Franks? What is it about Rumsfeld that makes them go after him, and not the others?

10) why is the media playing up Colin Powell's position in all this? It's been proven already that Powell was behind the push to go to the UN, which backfired, and then Bush turned towards Rummy and Wolfowitz for the war plans. So Powell basically felt he was "betrayed". Spare me that whiny bullshit. Powell's adept at the political game and he has had an axe out for Bush for years now, ever since Rummy won the arguement over the Iraqi War. He's spent all his political capitol trying to say "neener neener, I told you so!" if only so he can get back at his rivals in the Bush Administration. He's proven himself to be politically adept at being a grade A schmuck. I don't trust a goddamn thing he says on this issue, if only because of where he stands on it. I'd rather listen to Zinni, and I don't want to at that.

11) If these ex-generals are so intent on getting rid of Rumsfeld, who do they want Bush to replace him with? I pray they're not thinking Powell, because that would be the stupidest shit I've ever heard. I haven't heard any names being bandied about; and I also haven't heard any reason to kick Rummy out during the middle of the GWOT. Is that a smart idea? What kind of message would that send to the troops, and to our enemies? Would it be one of "hey, we got someone better in place to kick ass!" or would it be "Gee, all we need to do is prove to the ex-generals that we can cause casualties and they'll always have the trump card of playing political musical chairs with their SecDefs!" I think it would be closer to the latter.


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