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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sour Grapes:
   MG finding suit of armor not so shiny

The backlash against the retired (with pension) generals who have recently called for Rumsfeld's head has begun.

Melana Zyla Vickers offers her General Unrest critique of retired Major General John Batiste's Rumsfeld critique, leading with a reference to what I would characterize as "pigs at the trough",

The chow line of retired generals waiting for Donald Rumsfeld's head to be served on a platter has been growing longer by the day.

James Joyner, a Bronze Medal recipient now posting at OutsideTheBeltway, offers a point-by-point refutation of Batiste's charges.

Vickers' reference to "a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice" is unfounded, and damn near contemptuous, but only because the UCMJ is not applicable to retired servicemen.

But even on that bed of sand, Vickers makes some good arguments (all emphasis is mine):

Why now?

It's just that the generals are doing it now, in a media pile-on, with a message that sounds a whole lot like "throw the bum out now that we have our pensions" and not at all like "in hindsight, we made some mistakes, here's how to do things better."
The message of today's U.S. generals, meanwhile, sounds petulant: If the Iraq war was prosecuted in a manner so far removed from their military advice, why didn't they put their jobs on the line when their opinion could have had an impact on the war?

(me - like Gen Billy Mitchell between the two Great Wars and Gen Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War; but even they should have retired their commissions before speaking out, instead of risking court-martial)

He did it, he did it!

The retired generals' message, timed as it is so far after the fact, focused as it is on one person, combined as it is with a lack of humility, in several cases, about their own central roles in the gummed-up Iraq war, and omitting, as it does, any substantive advice on how to do things differently, makes it seem, well, contemptuous. Worse than that, it's chicken.

Charges refuted by Joyner and Vickers

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims to be the man who started the Army’s transformation. This is not true. Army transformation started years before this administration came into office. The secretary’s definition of transformation was to reduce the Army to between five and seven divisions to fund programs in missile defense, space defense and high-tech weapons.

The most the generals have said is that Rumsfeld did harm by proposing to reduce the size of the Army (something he did not actually do)

This is unfair to Rumsfeld on two counts. First, he doesn’t claim to have invented transformation, just to have ramped it up and redirected it. And it was never just about high-tech weaponry but also about jointness and eliminating wasteful programs. Like the Army’s Crusader. And Rumsfeld has not cut the size of the Army.

The national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib can be traced right back to strategic policy decisions. We provided young and often untrained and poorly led soldiers with ambiguous rules for prisoner treatment and interrogation. We challenged commanders with insufficient troop levels, which put them in the position of managing shortages rather than leading, planning and anticipating mission requirements.

Abu Ghraib was primarily a military failure, not a civilian one. From an incompetent Reserve general to poorly supervised Reserve MPs, this national embarrassment lays squarely at the boots of poor soldiers, not poor civilian leaders. It is a military problem long predating Don Rumsfeld that we pretend that part-time Reserve and National Guard soldiers are interchangable with active duty professionals.

Nonsense. There's every reason to believe Abu Ghraib would have been guarded by reservists no matter the number of active duty forces in Iraq. And surely responsibility for Abu Ghraib rests with the full-time commanding officers of the U.S. military, not with the dozen or so poor-slob reservists who got punished in the end.

We took down a regime but failed to provide the resources to build the peace. The shortage of troops never allowed commanders on the ground to deal properly with the insurgency and the unexpected. What could have been a deliberate victory is now a long, protracted challenge.

Gen. Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi army troops in 2003-04, says it is scandalous how long it has taken the U.S. to train the Iraqis and hand the security of the country back to them. He claims he was powerless to step up the training efforts when he was in charge.

Scratch below the surface and discover the following: Eaton, when he was responsible for training the troops, was preparing Iraqis not to fight the insurgency that now grips the country, but for "external defense" against Iran and other neighboring states. Talk about being focused on the wrong priorities. Talk about a mistake with real costs in Iraq.

But blame lies with Rummy and the civilians, the generals say, not with them. Ultimately, the generals sound like old union bosses in a tired, ailing industry, collecting their pensions and taking pot shots at "management" for staff reductions, cost cutting, and other pet concerns.

The problem is not the number of troops but the type. We simply lacked adequate Special Forces, military police, psychological operations, and civil affairs personnel to do the job. The fault for that lies squarely with generations of military officers who ignored reality on the ground and the lessons learned through several 1990s peacekeeping fiascos, preferring to do things the way they had always been done.

and let us not forget, as I pointed out in an earlier sour-grapes piece, that Bush brought Gen. Shoomaker in from retirement to be his Amry Chief of Staff, BECAUSE of his forward-looking experience in Special Ops in direct counterpoint to former chief, Gen. Shinseki, who opposed much of the transformation agenda. This ended up pushing generals like Batiste one notch down from that gold rung at the top of their career ladder. Can anyone spell resentment? s-o-u-r-g-r-a-p-e-s.

For all these reasons, we need to hold leaders accountable. There is no question that we will succeed in Iraq. To move forward, we need a leader with the character and skills necessary to lead. To date, this war has been a strategic failure. On the ground, operationally and tactically, we are winning the war on the backs of our great soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and their families. Americans deserve accountability in our leaders. We need a fresh start.

This is platitudinous nonsense. If “there is no question that we will succeed in Iraq,” then the entire rest of the article is obviated. This sounds like the whining that came from Vietnam-era officers who claim that they would have won if only their hands hadn’t been tied behind their backs by the civilian leadership. The military can not simultaneously take credit for all the good and escape all the blame for the bad.

Most of the decisions are made at the operational level and day-to-day success is measured there. Ultimately, the strategic measure of the war will be purely political: The success of the Iraqi government.

Batiste so much as says the war continues to go according to their "winning" plan in his article: "There is no question that we will succeed in Iraq...On the ground, operationally and tactically, we are winning the war," he says.

So what's the problem?


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