The Generals' Fantasy Wars

When consummate Rumsfeld critic Ralph Peters finally comes to the conclusion that maybe the senior level military commanders running the war just might have had something to do with the mess in Iraq, you know an earth—shattering revelation has just occurred.  Unfortunately, Peters' public unburdening has come two years too late to save one of the most effective defense secretaries in history.

AT and a few others have dared to suggest the same point about senior military leadership a long time ago.  So, now that the supposed source of all that is wrong in our defense establishment has been ushered out the door, I will now follow in the footsteps of my fellow commentator and internet radio host Rick Moran  and declare that the time for circumspection concerning our military hierarchy has passed.

One of the major criticisms of the SecDef was his unyielding desire to modernize the military over all else.  It may be a shock to some people, but the Army's deep thinkers have been playing around with alternative warfighting concepts and associated hardware long before Rumsfeld assumed office.  Slamming Rummy over his near—religious devotion to all things transformational is the height of hypocrisy.

This whole transformation  initiative actually came about in the 1990s, in an effort to cope with drastically reduced end—strength and defense budgets.  Digitization, light forces, and post—modern theories on battle were rationalized  as the wave of the future.  Operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and the air war against Serbia only reinforced false notions of painless conflicts. 

Criteria for success consisted of demonstrating proficiency at proving the 'no—cost' theory of battle instead of doing what it takes to win wars.  Academic credentials replaced tours with troop units, and frankly, a few leaders had no objective grasp of reality about the nature of war, especially if we ever ran into hard—core fanatics who were not interested in sitting at the bargaining table.

Years later, after one of the most successful offensives in military history, our huge advantage in Iraq was frittered away by quickly returning to the 1990s comfort zone.  Presence patrols were reported euphemistically as 'offensive operations,' humanitarian aid supplies had priority for shipment over spare parts for combat systems, and bartering with the enemy became standard operating procedure.

Yuval Steinitz in Haaretz sums it up nicely.  His scathing critique of the IDF in last summer's war against Hezbollah could just as easily apply to our own senior leaders in Iraq:

'...we ceased to speak of our desire to defeat the enemy or destroy its military capability by means of a knockout and began to nurture a culture willing to settle for a "victory in points" or "engraving" something 'in their conscience.'  ... 'victory' became pejorative and we began to speak of the 'appearance of victory' or the 'effect of victory on the conscience.'  This presumably could be achieved at a relatively low cost in human life.'

In Iraq, the response to increasing attacks on both Iraqi security services and US forces was to officially deny the presence of die—hards of Saddam's Army, while pinning the blame on some mysterious 'insurgency' run by Al—Qaeda's second—in—command, Abu Musab al—Zarqawi.  The problem is, once he was killed, the finest troops in the world went back to their base camps and allowed the cadre of the Special Republican Guard and the Iraqi Intelligence Service to continue their campaign of terror and attrition.  They weren't quitting no matter how many schools or hospitals we built.

The military theorists and think tanks need to gaze into their navels some more.  If I understand them correctly, they are convinced President Bush's remarkable and forward thinking democratization strategy in the region has failed because they didn't hunt down and kill the enemy with purpose and passion.  And that respnsibility falls on ... Rumsfeld?  Cheney?  The President?  Maybe they all need to go back to school, or better yet, just go home.

A press briefing with Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Commander of Multinational Corps, Iraq, says volumes about the this sad situation.  Say what you want about the press, but this is an excellent question from Bob Burns of the AP.

'...I'd like to take you to back to your comments about what's happening in Anbar province.  When General Zilmer conducted an interview earlier this week to talk about the report, he said that defeating the insurgents is not his mission.  And my question for you is, whether you're talking about Anbar or any other part of Iraq, when did you reach the point in the counterinsurgency fight where you're not fighting to win?'

This is the highly credentialed answer.

'Well, we are fighting to win, but we understand that winning is a combination of a whole bunch of things in this insurgency we're fighting, and as I've indicated time and time again, this is different than any other fight I believe the United States of America has ever found itself in. And I quite frankly think that this is a fight that will characterize —— many of the characteristics of this fight will be characteristics of future fights if we get into them.

'It is a blend of both kinetic and non—kinetic effects, and the non—kinetic effects are many times as important and often more important than the kinetic effects. And that's what's different. And that is really what Pete Devlin said in his report, and I think he was right.  We need political support, we need economic support at Al Anbar. When we do that, it will have an effect on security in Al Anbar and drive down security.'

Huh?  Patton, Ike, MacArthur, and Lee are turning over in their graves.

The supreme irony of the campaign against Rummy and the President is that by all indications, both listened intently to their generals in the field and gave them free reign to pursue their post—modern warfighting theories into oblivion.  But if the President or the SecDef would have taken drastic action and fired the lot of them, they would have been accused of being LBJ and McNamara reincarnated.  A couple of buttinskis unnecessarily restrained our troops in the field, and got rid of those who opposed their devious war plans.

The American people have spoken, and soon the Democrat—controlled Congress won't have Rummy around to serve as their whipping boy.  Iraq needs a real victory over Saddam's forces and the terrorists. Iran and Syria are waiting in the wings.  Come January, the left and the generals will be on the clock to prove to us how Rumsfeld was wrong.

It's time they delivered.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of American Thinker.

When consummate Rumsfeld critic Ralph Peters finally comes to the conclusion that maybe the senior level military commanders running the war just might have had something to do with the mess in Iraq, you know an earth—shattering revelation has just occurred.  Unfortunately, Peters' public unburdening has come two years too late to save one of the most effective defense secretaries in history.

AT and a few others have dared to suggest the same point about senior military leadership a long time ago.  So, now that the supposed source of all that is wrong in our defense establishment has been ushered out the door, I will now follow in the footsteps of my fellow commentator and internet radio host Rick Moran  and declare that the time for circumspection concerning our military hierarchy has passed.

One of the major criticisms of the SecDef was his unyielding desire to modernize the military over all else.  It may be a shock to some people, but the Army's deep thinkers have been playing around with alternative warfighting concepts and associated hardware long before Rumsfeld assumed office.  Slamming Rummy over his near—religious devotion to all things transformational is the height of hypocrisy.

This whole transformation  initiative actually came about in the 1990s, in an effort to cope with drastically reduced end—strength and defense budgets.  Digitization, light forces, and post—modern theories on battle were rationalized  as the wave of the future.  Operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and the air war against Serbia only reinforced false notions of painless conflicts. 

Criteria for success consisted of demonstrating proficiency at proving the 'no—cost' theory of battle instead of doing what it takes to win wars.  Academic credentials replaced tours with troop units, and frankly, a few leaders had no objective grasp of reality about the nature of war, especially if we ever ran into hard—core fanatics who were not interested in sitting at the bargaining table.

Years later, after one of the most successful offensives in military history, our huge advantage in Iraq was frittered away by quickly returning to the 1990s comfort zone.  Presence patrols were reported euphemistically as 'offensive operations,' humanitarian aid supplies had priority for shipment over spare parts for combat systems, and bartering with the enemy became standard operating procedure.

Yuval Steinitz in Haaretz sums it up nicely.  His scathing critique of the IDF in last summer's war against Hezbollah could just as easily apply to our own senior leaders in Iraq:

'...we ceased to speak of our desire to defeat the enemy or destroy its military capability by means of a knockout and began to nurture a culture willing to settle for a "victory in points" or "engraving" something 'in their conscience.'  ... 'victory' became pejorative and we began to speak of the 'appearance of victory' or the 'effect of victory on the conscience.'  This presumably could be achieved at a relatively low cost in human life.'

In Iraq, the response to increasing attacks on both Iraqi security services and US forces was to officially deny the presence of die—hards of Saddam's Army, while pinning the blame on some mysterious 'insurgency' run by Al—Qaeda's second—in—command, Abu Musab al—Zarqawi.  The problem is, once he was killed, the finest troops in the world went back to their base camps and allowed the cadre of the Special Republican Guard and the Iraqi Intelligence Service to continue their campaign of terror and attrition.  They weren't quitting no matter how many schools or hospitals we built.

The military theorists and think tanks need to gaze into their navels some more.  If I understand them correctly, they are convinced President Bush's remarkable and forward thinking democratization strategy in the region has failed because they didn't hunt down and kill the enemy with purpose and passion.  And that respnsibility falls on ... Rumsfeld?  Cheney?  The President?  Maybe they all need to go back to school, or better yet, just go home.

A press briefing with Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Commander of Multinational Corps, Iraq, says volumes about the this sad situation.  Say what you want about the press, but this is an excellent question from Bob Burns of the AP.

'...I'd like to take you to back to your comments about what's happening in Anbar province.  When General Zilmer conducted an interview earlier this week to talk about the report, he said that defeating the insurgents is not his mission.  And my question for you is, whether you're talking about Anbar or any other part of Iraq, when did you reach the point in the counterinsurgency fight where you're not fighting to win?'

This is the highly credentialed answer.

'Well, we are fighting to win, but we understand that winning is a combination of a whole bunch of things in this insurgency we're fighting, and as I've indicated time and time again, this is different than any other fight I believe the United States of America has ever found itself in. And I quite frankly think that this is a fight that will characterize —— many of the characteristics of this fight will be characteristics of future fights if we get into them.

'It is a blend of both kinetic and non—kinetic effects, and the non—kinetic effects are many times as important and often more important than the kinetic effects. And that's what's different. And that is really what Pete Devlin said in his report, and I think he was right.  We need political support, we need economic support at Al Anbar. When we do that, it will have an effect on security in Al Anbar and drive down security.'

Huh?  Patton, Ike, MacArthur, and Lee are turning over in their graves.

The supreme irony of the campaign against Rummy and the President is that by all indications, both listened intently to their generals in the field and gave them free reign to pursue their post—modern warfighting theories into oblivion.  But if the President or the SecDef would have taken drastic action and fired the lot of them, they would have been accused of being LBJ and McNamara reincarnated.  A couple of buttinskis unnecessarily restrained our troops in the field, and got rid of those who opposed their devious war plans.

The American people have spoken, and soon the Democrat—controlled Congress won't have Rummy around to serve as their whipping boy.  Iraq needs a real victory over Saddam's forces and the terrorists. Iran and Syria are waiting in the wings.  Come January, the left and the generals will be on the clock to prove to us how Rumsfeld was wrong.

It's time they delivered.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of American Thinker.