Who betrayed the military?

Douglas Hanson
The exchange and rebuttal  about our failures in prosecuting post-WW II conflicts to total victory has brought to light critical issues that need to be resolved for ensuring success in the Iraq Campaign and the larger Global War on Terror.  However, in an otherwise reasonable critique of Greg Richards' comments, Col. Snodgrass makes an astonishing charge against the President:
In my opinion, Bush has betrayed the military by not enlarging the force to cope with the enormous worldwide mission he has given it, by not sending enough force to Iraq to deal with an insurgency, and by not trashing the Vietnam-era limited war ROE and destroying the logistical resupply sources for the war in Iran and Syria.
While I have strongly spoken out for the need for additional resources and troops, Col. Snodgrass goes over the top by first, even levying the serious charge of betrayal, and second, by dumping on one man the Herculean task of cleaning up the fetid swamp that is the DC political and military establishment.  In my opinion, Snodgrass is simply continuing a Vietnam era tradition of placing all responsibility for failed wartime operations solely on the political leadership in an attempt to defend Pentagon and flag officer bureaucratic shenanigans.  Therefore, the record needs to be compared to the Colonel's broad-brush assertions.

Snodgrass reminds us that "Bush came to office pledging to the U.S. military that ‘help was on the way.'"  I also complained about this unfulfilled promise last summer, but provided detail on some players in the military hierarchy who were more interested in turf protection and deflecting past misdeeds than in winning wars.

The troop strength question and the need to expand the force are hot-button issues that have been fraught with deception and media spin much to the delight of former and current leaders who after 9-11, continued to play the 90s game of sandbagging the Congress and the President on troop requirements.  Snodgrass seems to think GW, who by all accounts, respects and values military judgment should have been able to peek into the darkest recesses of the minds of generals who played fast and loose with the facts during congressional testimony on strength figures and unit readiness.

As a seasoned player in Washington, perhaps Rumsfeld should have seen through this charade, but he didn't; or if he did, he certainly failed to fix the problem.  Therein is the real issue. 

We can fault the President and his SecDef for tolerating this sorry situation and for ignoring the need to clean out the Pentagon cesspool; but the mess is largely of the military's own making .  Claiming that the President "betrayed the military" is like complaining the new CEO won't underwrite your previous deficit spending and concurrently place the blame on his new VP for operations for the fabricated financial reports that were submitted to the board for the past decade.  This of course, has been the standard tactic for deflecting responsibility for outcomes in war: blame the boss using pithy media-supplied sound bites, or simply gloss over  gross battlefield incompetence.

On funding the war, Snodgrass pays special attention to "the typical Republican attempt to ‘do defense on the cheap.'"  I also agree with his assessment in a general sense, especially concerning the party that has historically portrayed itself as being the pro-defense bunch.  But leaving out the disloyal opposition is disingenuous, especially since the entire Congress collectively holds the purse strings to fund an expansion of the military.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton and the DLC convened in July of 2005 and announced an initiative to increase our troop strength by 100,000 to ensure victory in Iraq (stop laughing).  Here's the catch; Americans must vote for Democrats to regain the majority in Congress for this to happen.  Of course, the good Senator and her compatriots fail to explain why something so vital for the war effort would have to wait until January of 2007.  I guess we'll all find out the secret plan to boost our troop strength in the next few weeks (I'm not holding my breath).

In addition to typical Capitol Hill political maneuverings over money, Snodgrass apparently forgets that the administration has been using the same appropriation model that FDR and our WW II Congress used to fund that global conflict.  However, there was a critical difference in force readiness that spoke volumes about our military leadership and its beltway money games.  FDR and Congress funded a two year military build up prior to Pearl Harbor, while GW and the American taxpayer had to spend an additional $46 billion to bring our deployable troop strength up to what it should have been on 9-11 - a level that for years was repeatedly touted by the beltway military machine as reflecting reality.

Life's good, if you don't really have to deliver on your ability to deploy troops to battle.  Pity the Commander-in-Chief who actually has the chutzpah to order our military to war without permission from those who ostensibly work for him.

And finally there's the question of the limited-war ROE.  Again, I have addressed the need for a concerted regional approach  to winning the war that entails dealing with Iraq's neighbors.  So, are we to believe that the President was solely responsible for not lifting limited war restrictions?  Was this another of his "betrayals?"

Absolutely not.

Col. Snodgrass cites Col. Harry Summers' excellent book, On Strategy to educate us on our basic misunderstanding of the geo-strategic alignment during the Vietnam War.  But he neglects to mention Summers' equally important revelations of our military's flawed approach to accomplishing the strategic goals of the war, as vague as they were.

Simply put, while LBJ and McNamara micro-managed the war and had a habit of shunning advice from the Joint Chiefs, the military for its part had little, if anything to offer the civilian leadership.  Keeping quiet or being "yes" men on important strategy sessions for fear of digging into someone else's rice bowl or perceiving a threat to one's career was the order of the day for operations in Iraq as well as in Vietnam.

Prior to major GWOT operations, several public accounts confirm that the President pointedly asked military leaders if the units and support assets assigned were sufficient for victory.  This was also GW's primary concern for any decision on reconstruction operations.  Here is what he got in return for all of his deference to his generals:
  • A campaign in Afghanistan that while successful, played up "new wave" warfare using Special Forces and precision munitions as the end-all-be-all, while ignoring the decisive contribution of indigenous mechanized forces.  See; we can do it on the cheap, said CENTCOM.
  • A classic lightning campaign in Iraq that toppled a regime, and then ignoring  tens of thousands of loyal Baathist troops and intelligence operatives still roaming the countryside.  Without hunting down and killing or capturing the sizable remnants of Saddam's forces, a transition to stability and support operations was made based on an overwhelming desire to just get the hell out.
  • The military denied  that its own units recovered substantial amounts of WMD despite open source accounts and eye witness reports.  The Defense Intelligence Agency also fought release of unclassified documents supporting an Iraq-Al-Qaeda link.
This of course, was all Bush's fault.

Col. Snodgrass can certainly make the case that the President and the SecDef were extremely lax in keeping the American's head in the game, and were indecisive in altering the course of the war in contravention of the tons of advice from highly credentialed  active and retired soldier-statesmen.  But in light of an embedded opposition to all things Bush, and the missteps and power plays in the military establishment, I must ask: who has really betrayed whom?
The exchange and rebuttal  about our failures in prosecuting post-WW II conflicts to total victory has brought to light critical issues that need to be resolved for ensuring success in the Iraq Campaign and the larger Global War on Terror.  However, in an otherwise reasonable critique of Greg Richards' comments, Col. Snodgrass makes an astonishing charge against the President:
In my opinion, Bush has betrayed the military by not enlarging the force to cope with the enormous worldwide mission he has given it, by not sending enough force to Iraq to deal with an insurgency, and by not trashing the Vietnam-era limited war ROE and destroying the logistical resupply sources for the war in Iran and Syria.
While I have strongly spoken out for the need for additional resources and troops, Col. Snodgrass goes over the top by first, even levying the serious charge of betrayal, and second, by dumping on one man the Herculean task of cleaning up the fetid swamp that is the DC political and military establishment.  In my opinion, Snodgrass is simply continuing a Vietnam era tradition of placing all responsibility for failed wartime operations solely on the political leadership in an attempt to defend Pentagon and flag officer bureaucratic shenanigans.  Therefore, the record needs to be compared to the Colonel's broad-brush assertions.

Snodgrass reminds us that "Bush came to office pledging to the U.S. military that ‘help was on the way.'"  I also complained about this unfulfilled promise last summer, but provided detail on some players in the military hierarchy who were more interested in turf protection and deflecting past misdeeds than in winning wars.

The troop strength question and the need to expand the force are hot-button issues that have been fraught with deception and media spin much to the delight of former and current leaders who after 9-11, continued to play the 90s game of sandbagging the Congress and the President on troop requirements.  Snodgrass seems to think GW, who by all accounts, respects and values military judgment should have been able to peek into the darkest recesses of the minds of generals who played fast and loose with the facts during congressional testimony on strength figures and unit readiness.

As a seasoned player in Washington, perhaps Rumsfeld should have seen through this charade, but he didn't; or if he did, he certainly failed to fix the problem.  Therein is the real issue. 

We can fault the President and his SecDef for tolerating this sorry situation and for ignoring the need to clean out the Pentagon cesspool; but the mess is largely of the military's own making .  Claiming that the President "betrayed the military" is like complaining the new CEO won't underwrite your previous deficit spending and concurrently place the blame on his new VP for operations for the fabricated financial reports that were submitted to the board for the past decade.  This of course, has been the standard tactic for deflecting responsibility for outcomes in war: blame the boss using pithy media-supplied sound bites, or simply gloss over  gross battlefield incompetence.

On funding the war, Snodgrass pays special attention to "the typical Republican attempt to ‘do defense on the cheap.'"  I also agree with his assessment in a general sense, especially concerning the party that has historically portrayed itself as being the pro-defense bunch.  But leaving out the disloyal opposition is disingenuous, especially since the entire Congress collectively holds the purse strings to fund an expansion of the military.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton and the DLC convened in July of 2005 and announced an initiative to increase our troop strength by 100,000 to ensure victory in Iraq (stop laughing).  Here's the catch; Americans must vote for Democrats to regain the majority in Congress for this to happen.  Of course, the good Senator and her compatriots fail to explain why something so vital for the war effort would have to wait until January of 2007.  I guess we'll all find out the secret plan to boost our troop strength in the next few weeks (I'm not holding my breath).

In addition to typical Capitol Hill political maneuverings over money, Snodgrass apparently forgets that the administration has been using the same appropriation model that FDR and our WW II Congress used to fund that global conflict.  However, there was a critical difference in force readiness that spoke volumes about our military leadership and its beltway money games.  FDR and Congress funded a two year military build up prior to Pearl Harbor, while GW and the American taxpayer had to spend an additional $46 billion to bring our deployable troop strength up to what it should have been on 9-11 - a level that for years was repeatedly touted by the beltway military machine as reflecting reality.

Life's good, if you don't really have to deliver on your ability to deploy troops to battle.  Pity the Commander-in-Chief who actually has the chutzpah to order our military to war without permission from those who ostensibly work for him.

And finally there's the question of the limited-war ROE.  Again, I have addressed the need for a concerted regional approach  to winning the war that entails dealing with Iraq's neighbors.  So, are we to believe that the President was solely responsible for not lifting limited war restrictions?  Was this another of his "betrayals?"

Absolutely not.

Col. Snodgrass cites Col. Harry Summers' excellent book, On Strategy to educate us on our basic misunderstanding of the geo-strategic alignment during the Vietnam War.  But he neglects to mention Summers' equally important revelations of our military's flawed approach to accomplishing the strategic goals of the war, as vague as they were.

Simply put, while LBJ and McNamara micro-managed the war and had a habit of shunning advice from the Joint Chiefs, the military for its part had little, if anything to offer the civilian leadership.  Keeping quiet or being "yes" men on important strategy sessions for fear of digging into someone else's rice bowl or perceiving a threat to one's career was the order of the day for operations in Iraq as well as in Vietnam.

Prior to major GWOT operations, several public accounts confirm that the President pointedly asked military leaders if the units and support assets assigned were sufficient for victory.  This was also GW's primary concern for any decision on reconstruction operations.  Here is what he got in return for all of his deference to his generals:
  • A campaign in Afghanistan that while successful, played up "new wave" warfare using Special Forces and precision munitions as the end-all-be-all, while ignoring the decisive contribution of indigenous mechanized forces.  See; we can do it on the cheap, said CENTCOM.
  • A classic lightning campaign in Iraq that toppled a regime, and then ignoring  tens of thousands of loyal Baathist troops and intelligence operatives still roaming the countryside.  Without hunting down and killing or capturing the sizable remnants of Saddam's forces, a transition to stability and support operations was made based on an overwhelming desire to just get the hell out.
  • The military denied  that its own units recovered substantial amounts of WMD despite open source accounts and eye witness reports.  The Defense Intelligence Agency also fought release of unclassified documents supporting an Iraq-Al-Qaeda link.
This of course, was all Bush's fault.

Col. Snodgrass can certainly make the case that the President and the SecDef were extremely lax in keeping the American's head in the game, and were indecisive in altering the course of the war in contravention of the tons of advice from highly credentialed  active and retired soldier-statesmen.  But in light of an embedded opposition to all things Bush, and the missteps and power plays in the military establishment, I must ask: who has really betrayed whom?