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Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BLASTING THE BRASS....Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, one of the officers responsible for the Army's success in Tall Afar last year, has penned a blistering attack in the Armed Forces Journal aimed at our current military brass:

Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War....Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq....Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

....In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

....After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency....After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public....The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship.

Phil Carter, who returned last year from a tour in Iraq, is impressed:

This is an incisive and brilliant article — it is precisely the kind of ruthless self-examination which is so necessary for an army at war. Unfortunately, Lt. Col. Yingling is one of the few officers with the moral courage to make this point so far. Although I've heard this argument made (in somewhat less sophisticated fashion) by a number of military friends and colleagues, I have not seen it made publicly and on-the-record by many. That speaks to a moral decline within the American military, and perhaps to the triumph of careerism over integrity. Perhaps I'm exaggerating here, but given the scope of these failures, I'm disappointed to see so few officers speaking out like this.

Here's a question: Careerism probably explains why criticism like this is so rare among military officers, but why is it also so rare even among civilians? I suspect there are several dynamics at work. First, criticizing the brass seems a little too close to criticizing the troops, and no one wants to be caught anywhere even colorably close to that. Second, especially among liberals, no one wants to take the heat off the Bush administration, and sharp criticism of the military leadership inevitably suggests that the White House might not be entirely to blame for the Iraq debacle. And third, there's a legitimate question of how strongly general officers should push back against their civilian leadership. There's a line where that pushback morphs into bureaucratic resistance to presidential will (Bill Clinton ran into this more than once, where military leaders essentially manufactured scenarios that made presidential action impossible), and no one is quite sure where that line is.

These are understandable concerns, but they're hardly compelling reasons for silence. Among other things, Iraq has made clear not just that our military isn't equipped to effectively fight non-conventional wars, but that even now it continues to be largely uninterested in fighting non-conventional wars. It would rather have its toys, and in this it's aided and abetted as it always has been by a Congress more interested in military pork for constituents and contributors than it is in figuring out what our military really ought to look like ten years from now. Yingling's article is a wakeup call.

Kevin Drum 1:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (112)

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/national_guard_tattoos;_ylt=AqBnWuQRxJ8b77SfhaLX.c4DW7oF

What big Army thinks of it's Reserve Component Soldiers

Posted by: klyde on April 27, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

If we wanted advice from Lt. Col. Yingling then we would have hired real Panda bears.

Posted by: Matt on April 27, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Cats in 5, 4, 3, 2, ......

Posted by: none on April 27, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq

Yep. Have to agree Bill Clinton's military policy in the 1990's was an utter failure. The proper conclusion to draw is failures in Iraq was due to Bill Clinton and unfortunately President Bush was forced to fight the War in Iraq with Clinton's army instead of the army he envisioned.

Posted by: Al on April 27, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't there some kind of military regulation about publicly dissing your superiors? I suspect Col. Yingling's career is over. I wonder what he has lined up for after?

Still, it's good to see this. Can the Democrats run him for Congress in '08?

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 27, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Al rushes to blame Clinton (big surprise, huh?) but the problem existed before Clinton and will exist in perpetuity until systemic corrections are implemented. A good place to start is for Congress to review the records of flag-ranks upon their retirement. If Congress determines that they did not perform in a satisfactory fashion, bust them in rank.

A few stars torn from epaulets would get the attention of those remaining.

Just look at the career path of Casey - rewarded for carrying Rummy's water with the Secretary of the Army billet, and a spot on the Joint Chiefs. The only thing missing is his Medal of Freedom.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Which Clinton policy was that, Al? Specifically, what reform did he block? It's the military itself that failed the task of reform, a task widely recognized before Clinton even took office.

Because of its failure at reform, we went fought Iraq II with much the same military that we fought Iraq I.

Posted by: idlemind on April 27, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Careerism probably explains why criticism like this is so rare among military officers, but why is it also so rare even among civilians?

Because the Republican Party only cares about the military insofar as it's useful to the party's "strong on defense" branding, and the GOP -- as you go on to indicate -- distorts any criticisms from Democrats as unpatriotic?

criticizing the brass seems a little too close to criticizing the troops

No, it really doesn't, but it's often portrayed as such by dishonest individuals who seek to hide their incompetence by pretending criticisms of policy is an attack on the troop -- in short, Republicans -- aided by a witless, stenographic media.

Second, especially among liberals, no one wants to take the heat off the Bush administration, and sharp criticism of the military leadership inevitably suggests that the White House might not be entirely to blame for the Iraq debacle.

How do you figure? The military leadership that appointed by Bush and whose advice Bush accepts hardly sields Bushs from culpability for his fecklessness and incompetence.

In other words, if the brass is incompetet, and the White House does nothing about it, the White House is incompetent too. The concepts -- like Bush's mendacity and incompetence -- are not at all contradictory.

It might be nice if you didn't buy too much into Republican framing, Kevin.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

irst, criticizing the brass seems a little too close to criticizing the troops, and no one wants to be caught anywhere even colorably close to that.

For Crissakes, why not?

I am sick and tired of all this "support the troops" bullshit.

Let's get some things straight: They are right wing props who disproportionately support Bush. They have engaged in widespread brutalization of civilians and have engaged in torture. They are cowards, who lurk behind body armour and Bradley vehicles, wielding massive weapons - rather than fighting mano a mano. They are loosing this war and the reason is not that they are being betrayed by antiwar protestors but rather because they are getting their asses kicked.

So fuck the troops.

Posted by: Thinker on April 27, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

The military should organize a coup against the Bush administration. So we can be lead by the Generals on the ground...

Posted by: elmo on April 27, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Careerism probably explains why criticism like this is so rare among military officers, but why is it also so rare even among civilians?

Actually, the military officers with the rank to criticize, and the civilians in government, are both working with the same mentality: criticism of military policy will ensure your next job won't be in lucrative military industry. It's all about the money.

Posted by: Wapiti on April 27, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Al, it's good to see that you are back to utterly missing the point. Consistency is your crowd's only virtue. It's amazing how George W. Bush is such a weakling that Bill Clinton is still causing all his problems after 6 years of insane power-grabbing. Yours too, apparently.

Yes, Kevin, careerism is the answer to all your questions here. Me-tooism dominates every field. It's all hacks all the time, even in areas where originality is supposed to be the hallmark.

And that, too, is obviously Bill Clinton's fault.

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm having a rough day at work. Could you please expedite the kitty blogging? Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

-mgmt

Posted by: Angela on April 27, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the reason that criticism like this is so rare is that it's not accurate. Our military defeated the Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan very rapidly, despite the fierce Afghan winter. They defeated Saddam's troops very rapidly. This is a much better military than the one that lost in Vietnam.

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 27, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

> There's a line where that pushback morphs
> into bureaucratic resistance to presidential
> will (Bill Clinton ran into this more than
> once, where military leaders essentially
> manufactured scenarios that made presidential
> action impossible), and no one is quite
> sure where that line is.

Clearly the traditional media sets that line 7,000 miles farther toward the Radical Right when a Democratic President is in office, and makes not only looser but blurry when a Republican takes the chair.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on April 27, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the reason that criticism like this is so rare is that it's not accurate.

Who to believe, serial liar and neocon fool "ex-liberal" or LTC Yingling...

This is a much better military than the one that lost in Vietnam.

Then one would imagine we wouldn't be losing in Iraq.

Oh, wait -- "ex-liberal" does imagine that.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"This is a much better military than the one that lost in Vietnam."

ex-lib, do you have any idea how pathetic this sounds? Soon you'll be writing about how handily the Italians routed Ethiopia.

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

You are deranged, ex-liberal, and by your own admissions on other threads, you don't know squat about the nuts and bolts of daily military life.

The Taliban was beat back - but it was not defeated.

Why don't you listen to this wife take Bill Kristol to task?

You know, I don't normally appeal to "moral authority" to score points in a debate, but with you that is hard to do sometimes, since you simply have none, and like it or not, I'm up to my eyeballs in it on this subject.

By the way - What Yingling says is precisely what I have been alluding to for a year, based on conversations that I have had with friends at the bar in the O club.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

"That speaks to a moral decline within the American military, and perhaps to the triumph of careerism over integrity. "

Ah yes, the decline. Tell me, when exactly did this morally superior American military, full of heroes, exist? When it complained mightily about the immorality of the Mexican-American war? When it refused to attack the Spanish in the Spanish-American war? Perhaps it was the WW2 military described in Catch-22? Or the bright shining city on a hill of the Vietnam military?

Posted by: Maynard Handley on April 27, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

> There's a line where that pushback morphs
> into bureaucratic resistance to presidential
> will (Bill Clinton ran into this more than
> once, where military leaders essentially
> manufactured scenarios that made presidential
> action impossible), and no one is quite
> sure where that line is.

Are there any examples of this?

Posted by: Chris on April 27, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

[our military] defeated Saddam's troops very rapidly

I think you missed the part where Saddam's troops, a.k.a "the insurgency," are still launching attacks against our military on the order of dozens of times a day.

In other news, President Musharraf of Pakistan reported today that the government of Afghanistan is "losing the battle against the Taliban," who've successfully retaken a southern district after inflicting mounting casualties in the past two years. Apparently someone forget to finish that war in their haste to start a new one.

What's really fascinating is watch by you assert that a decorated and experienced career officer responsible for one of the very few actual short-lived successes in Iraq doesn't know as much as you do about the military.

You know, I've seen commercials form lawyers that say you can sue the doctors that delivered you if you were deprived of oxygen at birth. Maybe you should look into that.

Posted by: trex on April 27, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Win?

Two questions:

1) Is it possible for a Christian army to win a war of occupation in a Moslem nation?

2) Is it possible for a Moslem army to win a war of occupation in a Christian nation?

Both questions have the same answer: No.

All this talk about winning in Iraq is just so much worthless horseshit...

Stupid stupid stupid America....

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on April 27, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-lib doesn't remember that Taliban attempted to fight the US on US terms. They entrenched to defend fixed positions, and were promptly pinned down and pounded by US air power, guided by CIA operatives and Northern Alliance fighters. Taliban was defeated, but not destroyed. They have now adapted, and presumably will not repeat their earlier mistakes.

In 1939, an obscure colonel was promoted to brigadier general over 100 more senior officers. That colonel was George Marshall, one of the architects of the US victory in World War II. Can anyone imagine such a thing happening today?

Posted by: Tom S on April 27, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

The higher officer corps in the US military has become heavily fundamentalist Christian. If it is incompetent and is not serving the interests of the USA, then it may trace back to the mind-limiting effects of religious fundamentalism.

Posted by: paul on April 27, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree to some extent. I think the reason people don't like to criticize the generals is two-fold. For one, people on the right don't like to criticize the generals, because they don't like to criticize the military in general. But they'll do so if it takes the heat off of Bush. People on the left, and I hate to say this, don't like to criticize the generals mostly because-unless they are students of military affairs (including beauracracy) they don't understand exactly how the generals are to blame for some failed policy. Liberals-at least those like myself-I don't think are generally afraid to go after the generals because they don't really associate them with the "troops", the boots on the ground actually fighting the war. But seriously, you have to be a Phillip Carter or a Fred Kaplan or a William Arkin to really "get" the kind of stuff that Yingling is talking about here. Consequently, much of the blame for things that probably rightly belongs to the generals is put on President Bush and his cronies instead. Not that they should be spared of course for what they've done wrong (including using the military to their political advantage) but to really fix a problem you have to understand the cause.

Posted by: Xanthippas on April 27, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Generally speaking, that is.

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

When the article became available on-line yesterday, my husband (a retired Major, who left service rather than serve this president in the wake of the selection) sent four emails with "Holy Shit!!!" in the subject line. Within two hours he had received five more.

Yingling is well respected - perhaps the best known lite Colonel in any branch of service. He is the one guy who could write this article.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS (aka G.C.) >"...A good place to start is for Congress to review the records of flag-ranks upon their retirement...A few stars torn from epaulets would get the attention of those remaining..."

Why wait for retirement ?

Let us start w/Peter Pace. Truly a disgrace to the uniform he wears. Bust him to private (E-1) and discharge him.

The problem has actually been around since the Korean "police action"; these jerks have given a bad name to cronyism. Of course it is all about the money as is Dick & George`s Excellent Iraq Adventure.

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

Remember Deep Throat ?

[And yes, I HAVE spent time in the armed forces of the U.S.A. so go suck eggs Puppets of Rove]

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it..." - Helen Keller

Posted by: daCascadian on April 27, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why anyone would think that careerism would keep our high ranking military officers quiet on this issue. Shinseki went before Congress and said that several hundred thousand troops would be needed for postwar Iraq and we all know how his career prospered, right? Nobody came to his defense as I recall.

Of course I don't recall there being a lot of top ranking officers contradicting Shinseki at the time either. That should have been a clue to some.

One thing you could say about Rummy, when he wanted to send a message he knew where to aim it...right between the eyes.

Posted by: majun on April 27, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"...especially, among liberals, no one wants to take the heat off the Bush administration..."

Not just especially among liberals. Exclusively among liberals.

What you've quoted from these articles doesn't impress me. It makes me wonder if they weren't designed, in fact, with just that purpose --- to take the heat off of the Bush administration.

Because the substance of the "fault" of the military brass is laid out as:

1. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

2. ...America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public.

First, I'd like to see evidence that they didn't explain the magnitude of the problem to the president. If they tried to explain, and it was clear Cheney wasn't interested in hearing, what more would we have had them do? Should they have all resigned in protest at that moment? Taken hostages? What?

Second, since when is it the generals' responsibility to "portray the intensity of the insurgency" to the public? Isn't that the job of the press?

All I see are complaints that the top brass didn't find some kind of way to fight with the Bush Administration and then go around them when that failed.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm just as glad that our military doesn't get together and coordinate plans to bypass the presidency.

The responsibility does not lie with the military. It lies with us. And those we elected to office.

Posted by: catherineD on April 27, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Flag ranks got an 8% COLA for FY 2007. Ground pounders? A whopping 2.2%.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The indictment is of the Generals who, looking at what happened to Shinseki, sold out. Yingling does not name names - he indicts the system.

The ones he directs his scorn toward war are those who played Rummy's game to save their own asses.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...Was that superfluous "war" up there a Freudian slip?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't that the job of the press?

Yes. And Knight-Ridder/McClatchy did just that.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton, in pure Clinton fashion, simply re-branded the neo-con military wishlist as his own. (He even embraced "regime change" in Iraq.) As a result, flaming nimrods like Al criticize him. Why? Because he's Clinton!

Proving something or other. Mostly that flaming nimrods like Al have great futures squatting behind the men who work the soft machine.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 27, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

catherineD >"...The responsibility does not lie with the military. It lies with us. And those we elected to office."

Boy, talk about self loathing. Why do you hate "We the people..." so much ? Someone take away your lattes ?

I have some advise for you. Let your mind leave junior high school ASAP. Seriously.

"...you cannot save your face and your ass at the same time..." - vachon@shadrach.net

Posted by: daCascadian on April 27, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the reason that criticism like this is so rare is that it's not accurate. Our military defeated the Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan very rapidly, despite the fierce Afghan winter. They defeated Saddam's troops very rapidly. This is a much better military than the one that lost in Vietnam.
Posted by: ex-liberal on April 27, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

1. The military did not lose in Vietnam. It was sent to do the impossible. The politicians that approved that War lost it by pursuing an impossible strategy, just like the White House Today.
2. The military is better today because it is all volunteer and no draftees.
3. You miss the point of the General's comments. Yep we smashed the Taliban and the Revolutionary Guards of Iraq real good. Those were both convential operations NOT counter insurgency operations. We're getting our asses handed to us strategically because we did not plan or organize the military for the counter insurgency portion of both conflicts. Again we will win all the battles and lose the war because our strategy is wrong.

Posted by: Northern Observer on April 27, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Time to do what Roosevelt and his nominee General Georges Marshall did in 1939:

>

http://cdi.org/friendlyversion/printversion.cfm?documentID=3837

Posted by: Fifi on April 27, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Let's not overlook the fact that pre-9/11, Don Rumsfeld's major priority at the Pentagon was "transformation" of the U.S. military structure. It wouldn't surprise me if Rummy was picked for that job precisely because he was such an arrogant prick that he was supposed to wear down military opposition to major changes.

Then 9/11 happened and we had a SecDef who was such and aggravating jackass that apparently NOBODY wanted to deal with him. Remember Rumsfeld saying that the President never asked for his opinion about invading Iraq?

It wouldn't suprise me if it eventually turns out that Rumsfeld was this huge bottleneck that a lot of Iraq warnings never got past.

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on April 27, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

The quote:

In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt promoted Brig. Gen. George C. Marshall over the heads of sixty more senior generals to four stars. With Roosevelt's backing, Marshall began firing generals who could not shake the bureaucratic mindset replacing them with unknown captains, majors and colonels. Among these was George S. Patton, Jr., an old, irascible colonel whose abrasive personality, and independence of mind made him unpopular with the Army hierarchy. Marshall promoted the unpopular Patton. The rest is history.

Posted by: Fifi on April 27, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I am sick and tired of all this "support the troops" bullshit.

Think about what an awkward position I'm in: I support the war but oppose the troops.

Posted by: Stefan on April 27, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the U.S. military does very little to train military officers in military theory.

Officers are trained in technical skills and faddish corporate management techniques.

The United States lacks a critical mass of people to have high level discussions about the writings of Sun-tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Harry Summers and Paul Yingling.

This lack of basic knowledge means the media and both political parties have a lack of people to discuss military issues in any meaningful way.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 27, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

The military produces flag officers (generals and admirals) that are in-sync with the authoritarianism of the Right and inclined to take orders.

U.S. society shouldn't expect the flag officers to be leading the objections to a war pushed by a Right Wing POTUS.

Other groups and institutions have to be part of the skepticism, like the media and Democratic Party.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on April 27, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

A good place to start is for Congress to review the records of flag-ranks upon their retirement. If Congress determines that they did not perform in a satisfactory fashion, bust them in rank.

A few stars torn from epaulets would get the attention of those remaining.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM |

Hmmm, political purges of the officer corps didn't work out all that well for Stalin at the start of WWII.

But given your demeanor, as gathered from what you post here, I'm guessing you would have made an excellent Commissar in the Red Army. Eh, comrade?

Posted by: Chicounsel on April 27, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: paul on April 27, 2007 at 2:52 PM:
The higher officer corps in the US military has become heavily fundamentalist Christian. If it is incompetent and is not serving the interests of the USA, then it may trace back to the mind-limiting effects of religious fundamentalism.

ding ... ding ... ding ... I believe we have a winner here folks!

Posted by: G.Kerby on April 27, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Perhaps the reason that criticism like this is so rare is that it's not accurate. Our military defeated the Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan very rapidly, despite the fierce Afghan winter. They defeated Saddam's troops very rapidly. This is a much better military than the one that lost in Vietnam.

Clinton's fault, no doubt.

Posted by: Tom Ames on April 27, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK
political purges of the officer corps didn't work out all that well for Stalin at the start of WWII…Chicounsel at 4:20 PM
Perhaps you missed the comment above on General Marshall's purge of the American officer corps, but need I remind you that Stalin's Red Army defeated Germany? I should also point out that the current Republican Party is widely regarded as being Stalinist in its complete subservience to an incompetent and inarticulate leader. Posted by: Mike on April 27, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

On Retirement could not be misconstrued as a political purge of the active military, and you know that. you are just an intellectually dishonest toad.

Now - please go fetch a permalink to anything I have posted in two years of engaging in commentary here that indicates I would have made "an excellent Commissar in the Red Army."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

By the way - the purge is underway - and the secular officers with the ability to think independently are the victims. And this goes to evangelization of the officer corps.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS, great input and you seem to have some good connection to the active military. I have two thoughts on this: First, it does seem that the military (like many police departments) encourages its people to develop an insular attitude; a "nobody really understands unless they've been in uniform, and thus only military people are allowed to criticize the military" attitude a/la Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men." The public eats this shit up, so it makes it hard for civilian leaders to really stand up to the brass. Second, I do think the prevailing religiosity in the higher ranks of the service is problematic as it gives many of these guys a higher "sense of duty" that I'm afraid may someday conflict with a more secular approach to governing (the latter is something I fear more in the abstract going forward than any Iraq related criticism). Do you or your husband have any thoughts on these issues.

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on April 27, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS,
the purge is underway

Seriously? That is worrisome. I'm not even going to make my "onward Christian Soldier" joke.

Posted by: Tripp on April 27, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

By the way - the purge is underway - and the secular officers with the ability to think independently are the victims.

A very capable (but atheist) officer friend of mine was passed over just last week, and is preparing for civilian life.

Posted by: me2i81 on April 27, 2007 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

Tripp: The system they are using to purge the officers who don't "go along" is called "Up or Out." Mid-level officers are forced out after 20 if they do not move up. The most famous victim of this system is Charles Swift, the Naval JAG officer who successfully argued the Hamdan case in front of the Supreme Court. He embarrassed the military, his promotion was yanked, and his career ended.

Doug-E-Fresh - I'm working on a thoughtful response to your questions...first pass through the test you answer the easy q's, right?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Pat Tillman was an atheist and we all know what happened to him.

Posted by: majun on April 27, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody that doubts reports of the increasing Fundamentalist tenor of the Officer Corps should read Mikey Weinstein's book about proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. It's called "With God on Our Side" and makes it clear that for a large contingent of the Brass, the 1st Amendment has become a triviality and is regarded as less important than what they believe their faith dictates. That's scary on a whole lot of levels.

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on April 27, 2007 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

our military isn't equipped to effectively fight non-conventional wars

Our military is equipped to effectively fight non-conventional wars. Our society is not equipped to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians with troops on the ground in order to subdue them.

Unfortunately, our society, and military, is equipped to bomb tens of thousands of civilians to death from the air, but that tactic does not subdue them properly. This is then used as a propaganda theme that our military is not equipped properly and starts new rounds of funding for intangible goods that cannot improve the well being of its citizens.

War does not solve the problems rogue political groups willing to use violence present. Non-state actors cannot be defeated by military means. Nations cannot be occupied and expected not to engage in insurgency to defend themselves against foreign invaders. There is no military force type available than can subdue an entire nation's population. The only way to do that is kill hundreds of thousands or even millions. I hope our society never has more than 30% of its population that is willing to kill wholesale like that. Actually, living in a nation where 30% of the population is willing to kill on that scale is frightening and why I rail against that part of our national character.

Posted by: Brojo on April 27, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Flag ranks got an 8% COLA for FY 2007. Ground pounders? A whopping 2.2%.

Well Blue Gal, there is not much to add to the quality of ones life when you live in a foxhole...oh wait, their dependents...

Posted by: elmo on April 27, 2007 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Shinseki was the top General in the Army, when Wolfowitz et al had him summarily humiliated it had the desired impact on all the rest. The Bushies also went out of their way to work with Generals who weren’t the sharpest sticks in the stack. Nobody ever accused Franks of being an Einstein, although he was smart enough to get out early. Sanchez was a disaster – lots of heavy handed breaking down doors in the middle of the night, rounding up innocents, torture, and just general bad behavior toward the Iranians, all to convince them they should be on our side.

An ex-military friend told me less than 50 percent of the West Point class of 2000 is still in the army. The retention rate for 2001 is reportedly worse. Multiple combat tours and lack of a coherent strategy is sapping morale. Another civilian friend attending a mixed civilian/military course at the war college commented that the speakers discreetly but openly commented on the bad feelings of the officer corps toward the Bush administration, an open secret to anyone who cares.

Posted by: fafner1 on April 27, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

"By the way - the purge is underway - and the secular officers with the ability to think independently are the victims. And this goes to evangelization of the officer corps."

- Blue Girl, I love you to death, but I'm going to call BS on this. There are a lot of troubling things about the way we promote officers. Most notably a zero defect mentality (which can encompass embarrassment, or just a high profile) and what seems to be an increasing disdain for intellectualism, advanced study, etc, in favor of purely operational experience. Coupled with "up or out", these things cause all kinds of problems. Given that, it seems to be premature to blame the problem of faith.

There HAVE been some terrible command climate issues in certain places, as Doug points out, but that doesn't add up to roving bands of suitably conservative chaplains scrubbing OERs for appropriate candidates for advancement. Speaking from my own (limited) experience, I don't even think it adds up to something more subtle that. Command climate problems are just that - problems to be fixed.

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

You ask some good questions, Kevin. Most Americans, liberal or conservative, equate militarism with patriotism. They have been brainwashed so long that they think we have to throw endless wads of money at the Pentagon to be good Americans. I don't happen to think that - neither did most of the Founding Fathers. They abhorred the idea of a standing army and look at what we have today. They would be appalled.

War lovers will always find imaginary enemies so horrible to concoct justifications for looting the public purse and taking away our civil liberties. A truly patriotic American needs to shout these people down and remind them that the Army should be conscripted and only come together in a time of national crisis. Attacking a third world country like Iraq was not such a time.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on April 27, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

...it does seem that the military (like many police departments) encourages its people to develop an insular attitude; a "nobody really understands unless they've been in uniform, and thus only military people are allowed to criticize the military" attitude a/la Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men." The public eats this shit up, so it makes it hard for civilian leaders to really stand up to the brass.

It puts us on the horns of a dilemma because at it's very core, there is a kernel of truth. I am as open minded as they come, and I snapped at someone recently in an ethics class (okay, that wasn't the place for him to make broad-brush assumptions) and before I realized it, words to that effect flew out of my mouth.

Second, I do think the prevailing religiosity in the higher ranks of the service is problematic as it gives many of these guys a higher "sense of duty" that I'm afraid may someday conflict with a more secular approach to governing (the latter is something I fear more in the abstract going forward than any Iraq related criticism).

I am frightened by it as well. I have been watching in horror for about 15 years - ever since our happy little Titan II / SAC family was scattered to the four corners of the earth when the SAC mission was complete, and SAC reemerged as the "Strategic Command."

We were in a unique situation for the first 2/3 of my husbands career. For instance - Davis-Monthan is a TAC base, and we were the one SAC squadron there. We went unnoticed and were largely ignored. Then one day we woke up and we were in the military.

Before SAC dissolved, I never spoke to a chaplain outside base orientation, other than in line at the commissary. That changed perceptibly about 1993, and has gotten progressively worse since. We started keeping our heads down.

Mikey Weinstein is a Mensch and everyone should read his book. Everyone should also read the NY Times series by Laurie Goodstein, and anyone who wants to and can't access it should send me an email, and I will pull it from behind the pay wall.

And an aside to Brojo:

Actually, living in a nation where 30% of the population is willing to kill on that scale is frightening and why I rail against that part of our national character.

Actually, we live in a nation where 30% are willing to give those orders to the 2% who actually serve.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

After WW I the military was mothballed. We still won WW II in less time, against mightier foes, than it has taken to arrest bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Posted by: Brojo on April 27, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I love you too, hotrod - We were in a unique spot for a long time, and the difference was pointed up sharply after SAC dissolved.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Doug,

Re your first point on the insularity of the military culture - to some extent it's probably unavoidable. There are certain aspects of the service (and I certainly haven't experienced all of them) that just can't be explained. Coupled with the fact that it's a very, very, complex profession (not a trade, not a job, a profession), even if you like the accountant sitting next to you in the bar, there's going to be a gulf there.

I would point out that recent experience with civilians with limited experience imposing their will on the military has been fairly disastrous. Rumsfeld may have been a naval officer of some modest accomplishment, but he brought in hoards of dilettantes with alot of ideology and arrogance, but very little wisdom or experience. They inserted themselves into operational decisions with predictably awful results. Some of them aren't readily apparent - e.g. the troop draw down in Europe. An idea with some modest degree of rationality (relocating some forward forces back to the US) was turned over to the Little Dougie Feith Amateur Hour. The end result was just stupid, and there are going to be second and third order effects (notably related to access to training resources\land and other logistical issues) that I have no idea how we're going to resolve. I'm not involved with it, so maybe there are fixes, but I would bet they didn't come out of Feith's office.

I don't know that there's a magic answer. The most obvious is better civilians. Secondarily, I would say that strategic decisions and high level resource decisions have to involve civilians. Operational and tactical stuff should be more the purview of the uniformed service, but not to such an extent as to divorce the services from oversight. This is almost the exact opposite of the Rumsfeld Pentagon, where very high level civilians, including Rumsfeld himself, tried to exert control at the lowest levels, while we drifted at the top. In short - greater wisdom, particularly from civilians, will fix more than any policy ever would.

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

After WW I the military was mothballed. We still won WW II

Early on the results were tragic, and pointed up the need for a standing army. Those early losses are a big reason why we didn't mothball it again after WW II.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

BG - "We were in a unique spot for a long time, and the difference was pointed up sharply after SAC dissolved."

The Air Force does seem to have had more of these climate issues than the Army (my service), so our perspectives are a bit different. Not sure why the difference in the services.

WARNING - Anecdotal evidence applied to emotional issue follows -

Personal experience - I was at a training school. It was adversarial in nature, not a "gentleman's course" i.e. a lot of yelling and screaming, push ups, rushed for time, stressed, etc. We were herded into the chapel\assembly hall (combined on this small base) for a commander's speech. After the speech, the chaplain gave a short, low key service, prayer, etc. In the rush for time, cadre forgot (and it was an honest mistake) to give a chance for those who didn't want to attend to step out. It was believers who spoke up about that, and the chaplain who made sure it didn't happen again.

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think keeping a large military after WW II was a mistake and the reasons for it propaganda. Our large standing military has led to the occupation of Viet Nam, Panama, and Iraq.

I am not certain what tragic results you are writing about, but the Philipines would not have been a tragic defeat in 1942 had we not had an occupying army there. The poor soldiers who suffered from the Japanese occupation of the Philipines should not have been there in the first place.

Posted by: Brojo on April 27, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Brojo,

This isn't the first time you've been awfully cavalier with the gruesome loss of life suffered by the US in the early days of WWII. The last time, I referred you to Rick Atkinson's (of the WaPo) "An Army at Dawn", and I'll do so again.

Sadly, though BG's larger point is quite correct, we did draw down again after WWII, and paid horribly again in Korea. I'll refer you to Clay Blair's "The Forgotten War". More anecdotally, I'll tell you that the motto "No more Task Force Smiths" (after the first American unit to make contact in Korea) is still heard occasionally in the Army today.

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

"I am not certain what tragic results you are writing about"

North Africa (the subject of Atkinson's book) doesn't count? We didn't have anyone there before the war. How about Pearl Harbor? Guam? Wake?

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK
These are understandable concerns, but they're hardly compelling reasons for silence. Among other things, Iraq has made clear not just that our military isn't equipped to effectively fight non-conventional wars, but that even now it continues to be largely uninterested in fighting non-conventional wars. It would rather have its toys, and in this it's aided and abetted as it always has been by a Congress more interested in military pork for constituents and contributors than it is in figuring out what our military really ought to look like ten years from now.

It doesn't help that almost no one doing visible political commentary takes military transformation as a serious issue. The public has nothing to weigh besides the benefit of the jobs produced by the "pork", so of course the incentives for members of Congress are to produce the pork. On jobs, the environment, trade, etc., there are outside interest groups working to draw public attention to the issues, and putting pressure on leaders.

Military transformation? Nothing. If you are extraordinarily interested in the topic, you can find books making recommendations on it, but its not an issue that gets any public attention.

The money for the toys, does, though, and its easy for people to see the benefit from jobs in their area.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

The American military suffers from the same problem that any state bureaucracy suffers from, the difference being that the shortcomings have so much more tragic results. A state bureaucracy cannot hardly ever be disbanded, no matter how poorly run, even when it is non-essential, which of course doesn't apply to the military. When Enron is managed by blatant frauds, Enron ceases to exist. This is extremely unlikley to happen with a government bureaucracy, no matter how inept or corrupt, like, say the Bureau of Indian Affairs, decade after decade. It cannot happen to the military.

The solution? Damned if I know that there is one. The American military was ill-prepared in 1939, 1951, 1963 and 2001. Heck, when Rumsfeld asked the Joint Chiefs for a plan with which to attack the Taliban, the initial response was that it would take 6 months to take meaningful action. It's a shame Petraeus or someone else (I have no expertise with which to judge) wasn't in command vis-a-vis Iraq from the beginning, but who was the last Prsident who had the self-confidence to brush aside the deadweight at the top? Eisenhower or Roosevelt? Truman fired MacArthur, of course, but much later than he should have.

Posted by: Will Alen on April 27, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

hotrod, thanks. I feel bad about those gruesome losses of life but am arguing from a different pespective than battles and tactics. The gruesome death march the Japanese made our soldiers from the Philipines endure was unnecessary because they were captured while occupying another country. I am not making light of their suffering, but pointing out they were not serving there to defend the islands from the Japanese. The early defeats in Korea I am hardly familiar with, but I do not think having a larger standing army would have prevented them. Our soldiers were either placed in harm's way to achieve political goals, were in the wrong place at the wrong time due to poor military planning or the surprise attacks by the N. Koreans and Chinese caught everyone off guard. I will also point out that the US soldiers were not in America, but another country where a civil war was brewing. It was politicians who put them there, and not from a lack of military strength.

Instead of trying to win the next war, I am trying to prevent it. In my lifetime the US has only fought wars of aggression. If the US comes under attack, like in WW II, I have confidence in our ability to mobilize and wage defensive war in a timely manner. I am not calling for the abolishment of the military, but a reduction of its preparedness to invade and occupy, which even the mothballing after WW I did not prevent.

North Africa could have been avoided. The soldiers were sacrificed for politics. It may or may not have been good politics or tactics or strategy, but it is not a good enough reason to stay perpetually prepared to wage world war. Guam and Wake Island were tragic. Would having a larger military have prevented the loss of life the soldirs suffered? Not having military bases outside of our national territory would have.

Posted by: Brojo on April 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM |...But given your demeanor, as gathered from what you post here, I'm guessing you would have made an excellent Commissar in the Red Army. Eh, comrade? Posted by: Chicounsel on April 27, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Still waiting for you to back this up...Except you can't - you just made a scurrilous drive-by accusation with no basis in fact.

This makes you a damned liar.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK
Instead of trying to win the next war, I am trying to prevent it.

The more question there is about your capacity or will to fight and win if attacked, the less capability you have to deter attacks. As demonstrated at Pearl Harbor.


Instead of trying to win the next war, I am trying to prevent it. In my lifetime the US has only fought wars of aggression.

Assuming, generously, you are referring to wars initiated during your lifetime (so that this is just barely possible), rather than those fought during your lifetime (in which case it is not), this is true if you are a 4 or 5 year old, but don't you claim to have voted for Nader in 2000?

If the US comes under attack, like in WW II, I have confidence in our ability to mobilize and wage defensive war in a timely manner.

If the US comes under attack, it won't be an industrial war like WWII where distance is nearly as effective a defense, and we won't have time for the long ramp-up that occurred in WWII. In WWII it was a herculean task for the most advanced nations to get any attack across either the Pacific or the Atlantic ocean. That is no longer the case, and in not too long it may not be the case for even second-tier powers.

I am not calling for the abolishment of the military, but a reduction of its preparedness to invade and occupy, which even the mothballing after WW I did not prevent.

While this is a nice thought in the abstract, military capacities are not so nicely pigeonholed into "good" and "bad" capacities. The capacity to invade is not neatly separable from the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, the capacity to occupy a defeated enemy is not neatly separable from the capacity to stabilize a friend that experiences a disaster.

We cannot prevent future aggression by blunting our military capacities in general and hoping that with a military so blunted, our leaders won't dare to use it aggressively.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Chicounsel wrote: given your demeanor, as gathered from what you post here, I'm guessing you would have made an excellent Commissar in the Red Army. Eh, comrade?

Ah, the John Birch Society wing of the conservative movement is alive and well.

Personally, I find the right's ridiculous obsession with Communism to be adorable. But then again, the Soviet Union was always more important to the right in this country than the left.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

The military did not lose in Vietnam. It was sent to do the impossible. The politicians that approved that War lost it by pursuing an impossible strategy, just like the White House Today.
Posted by: Northern Observer on April 27, 2007 at 3:31 PM

I agree completely with that statement. If you look generally at wars that we have "won" in the past, they tended to be about existential survival of the country (WWII), or throwing out someone who occupied a friendly country (Gulf War I). The latest war was just a bad idea period. I suppose one could equate "bad idea" with "impossible strategy".

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo,

I genuinely don't mean to be a jerk. I get along with lots of people I disagree with on this or that. I really do value civility, and until I decide someone is a rotten human being (and you certainly don't seem to be), I try to preserve it. So while it's probably not possible for the following not to be personal, please don't take it hatefully.

I have no claim on being the fount of all wisdom. But your 7:13 post is so filled with internal contradictions, unreasonable interpretations of history, logic flaws, and basic factual errors, I don't really know how to address it. I was going to laundry list my problems with it, but it would take awhile, and it still wouldn't be likely that we'd agree. So I'll leave it to you - if you're wondering where I'm coming from, let me know, and I'll try to make time to come back here and address the timeline of Phillipine independence, the territorial status of Wake and Guam, the logic flaw in approving (morally) of WWII but not the North African Campaign, or the um, unreasonableness, in calling the Korean War a brewing "civil war".

Just because I think certain aspects of defense\security affairs are interesting, doesn't mean that I think war is a good thing. A soldier should no more want more war than a really good trauma surgeon should want more car wrecks. War is no more separable from the horror of an screaming 18 year old trooper bleeding out from a shattered abdomen than it is from the horror of a group of refugees shattered by a shell falling short (no, I haven't been downrange yet). But to deny conflict is to deny an aspect of the human condition. And while I'm more than happy for someone to sit down and say, "No, hotrod, we can do the hard work of coming up with better security\diplomatic arrangements to diminish conflict and military spending than you would have come up with on your own", your 7:13 post shows a certain detachment from reality that diminishes your credibility, no matter your personal decency.

I don't really expect this to change your view, but hope it will help you understand where I'm coming from.

Posted by: hotrod on April 27, 2007 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

When our standing military is constructed along the lines of the Swiss model then sanity will have returned to these united states. Until then it is all about corporate welfare to prop up corrupt tribes of the mind disguised behind fancy PR campaigns.

Our spaceship is far too fragile to continue to play these insane games of our collective history.

The first step is to ensure EVERYONE has adequate access to life support (food, health care & shelter).

The time has come to begin the transition.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." – Buckminster Fuller

Posted by: daCascadian on April 27, 2007 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

The new John Paul Vann?

Posted by: Urban Sombrero on April 27, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let's be frank. Who was the head of the Joint Chiefs under Clinton? Who was the Secretary of State under Bush in the lead up to this war?

Next, who was the President who told us that "mission accomplished" meant this war was over? And is now telling us that the war must go on indefinitely? It wasn't the generals who failed America, it was the voters and the Administration that failed America? And the Congress. Now a Congress controlled by another party is trying to hold folks to the fire and everyone is jumping out of the woodwork to tell us whose side they were really on. To be fair, that was political suicide while the Republicans held the Congress. Now that they don't we get to hear even more criticism of the past efforts.

But, frankly, given the limited resources, both in leadership, materials, and soldiers, why aren't more of those officer who can see the problem just saying we should get out of Iraq and now?

Posted by: parrot on April 27, 2007 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Much of the problem isn't the military, it's civilian militarists, who love war, who wish they had been there [insert specific war] doing all the heroic stuff, who think that if we go in [unfortunate country x], we'll be heroes, win easily, have a cakewalk, be greeted with flowers, have songs written about us, etc. I'm referring not just to the neocons, but to their marriage in hell with the media.

I don't have a clear impression how much career military believe this kind of thing. Probably combat soldiers need to, but officers and generals should not. Unfortunately, their careers depend on going along with it when the civilian militarists get going.

Posted by: sara on April 27, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Shalikashvilli. Followed by Ralston. Powell packaged and peddled this clusterfuck.

Yingling is the one - the only - command-level who could say this and survive. He is pretty damned close to unimpeachable - witness the fact that he was not slandered by sundown as evidence of same.

He is a combat arms officer--not a flunky, not a LTC Rick Francona, not a joke, not a wannabe--He commands the 3rd ACR - they are as combat arms as a heavy unit can be. They are the tip of the spear and they are the heaviest hitting unit, man for man, in the arsenal.

He had to go first...and look for more to follow.

My two cents, for what it's worth...


Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

Re: The Roosevelt/Marshall purge of the military in '39 and 40. Think of who is in the White House right now, think of the track record that individual has with choosing subordinates, and pray -- Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Confucian, Atheist, whatever your religion or lack therof, pray -- that Bush doesn't decide to try something similar to what Roosevelt did.

Posted by: Martin Gale on April 27, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

BGRS (aka G.C.) >"...He had to go first...and look for more..."

Ah yes, leadership.

Let a thousand seedlings bloom.

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." - Gandalf the Grey

Posted by: daCascadian on April 27, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Okay - fair warning - I am on the verge of blogging drunk. Both of my daughters arrived unannounced with a months worth of laundry and new SO's...One of them stopped at Costco for Maker's Mark...

If a Navy brat who grew up to be an Air Force wife were ever to become Secretary of the Army (they know my work. It ain't happenin') I would bypass the bird and just slap stars on Yinglings shoulders right now.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

ROTFLiberalAO: "Is it possible for a Moslem army to win a war of occupation in a Christian nation?"

Good question, and one in which there is some historical evidence that generally supports a cautiously affirmative answer.

The Ottoman Empire -- predecessor to the modern state of Turkey -- occupied large swaths of southeastern Europe from approximately 1450 until 1912. At their height of power in 1683, their armies were camped at the gates of the Austrian capital of Vienna.

While uprisings did flare up from time to time, most notably by the Greeks (who achieved their independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830 with British naval assistance) and the Romanians and Serbs (both of whom achieved theirs in 1878 thanks to massive Russian military intervention), the Ottoman Turks were generally viewed by the Balkans populace as a relatively benign presence. The Turks depended in large part upon home rule for their disparate subject peoples, and in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, their populations gradually converted to Islam.

As the Ottoman Empire's military capacities declined markedly throughout the 19th century, reductions in Ottoman territories usually came about not as any direct result of internal discord, but most often by foreign military aggressions and interventions, most notably by Russia, Austria-Hungary, the British Empire and Italy.

The Turkish presence in Europe was generally reduced to its present-day borders surrounding the Dardenelles and Istanbul following the Balkan Wars of 1908 and 1911-1913, which resulted in the independence of Albania and Bulgaria, Serbian annexation of present-day Macedonia and Kosovo, Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italian annexation of Tripoli in North Africa (present-day Libya) and the Dodocanese Islands (Rhodes and the surrounding islands off the SW Turkish Aegean coast), and the Greek annexation of present-day Thrace and Crete.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 27, 2007 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

That much needed purge in 39 also started Eisenhower on his way to the top - For those Patton fans, read Rick Atkinson's excellent, afore mentioned, "Army at Dawn". You will find that Atkinson is none too fond of Patton, who did not fare well in the much needed exercise in North Africa - Where the hell would our Army have been trained to fight, Brojo/Hostile? Carrying wooden sticks from Ft Riley to Camp Polk, and then eastward to South Carolina - Much of the Cavalry actually rode horses on those 40 manuvers. Roosevelt correctly, in my not too humble opinion, overruled his Generals with the decision to begin our fighting there - Oh yeah, the Big Red One would have come up to speed running around Ft Riley and partying hardy in Junktown.

And, if the Evangelicals are not moving rapidly in the military Chaplain corps, why is Rep Todd Akin of Missouri and the American Center for Law and Justice under Jay Sekelow fighting so hard for a measure to pass the Senate, a version of which has passed the House, whereby the Evangelicals will be granted more free rein on proselytyzing. Now, if we could all turn to Leviticus in our "Soldiers Bibles" - you know the ones that Holcomb Books passes around to all of our military - the bible with the Official Seal of the US Army, which of course has not been authorized for use, but, then, who should quibble over such a tiny detail of separation of church and state.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 27, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

And for those Patton lovers out there, please do read, as suggested supra, Rick Atkinson. Do not rely on Frank McCarthy's misleading movie "Patton" - McCarthy produced both "Patton" and "MacArthur" - McCarthy had been a Brig Gen during WWII and he wanted to glorify old Georgie a touch too much - Patton was not ready to lead in North Africa - He did not face Rommel in North Africa as the movie would lead one to believe - Than "But, I read you book" by Patton about Rommel's tactics was pure BS- Rommel had already departed for Germany on sick leave before Patton took command - Georgie was spending most of his time trying to prepare forces for the invasion of Sicily. Georgie was "good" at slapping ill soldiers - Tough man, standing there with his stars and wearing his pearl handled guns, slapping a defenseless GI - Fuck Patton.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 27, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Martin Gale: "RE: The Roosevelt/Marshall purge of the military in '39 and 40. ... {P]ray ... that Bush doesn't decide to try something similar to what Roosevelt did."

What purge? Please expound and cite sources, please -- I'm genuinely intrigued by your suggestion that FDR and Gen. Marshall presided over a military purge. If you can, please tell us how Messrs. Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Nimitz, and Clark survived such a purge.

It is my understanding that FDR had actually reversed the reduction of the Army that was initiated by the Hoover administration during the Great Depression, and used it to form what became the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Army's overall command structure was thus preserved, which allowed the United States to rapidly fill out its ranks to meet the challenges of World War II.

Of course, I only have a B.A. in American history, so what the Hell do I know?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 27, 2007 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Never mind, Martin Gale. I got all the info I needed from thethirdPaul.

I wouldn't have called that much-needed command realignment by Pres. Roosevelt a "purge", per se. Those senior officers -- a relative handful, really -- were passed over for promotion, including my own grandfather, who at the time was a full-bird colonel who commanded the Army garrisons protecting Boston and Portland, Maine.

I'd have to say that, historically speaking, it all worked out well in the end, and my grandfather certainly held no grudges. He was transferred to the general staff at the War Department in D.C., then to command the Army Air Corps' Gardner Field in Taft, CA, before being sent by the Roosevelt administration to work directly with the legendary "Wild Bill" Donovan, who was in the process of forming the OSS.

Now, what Joe Stalin did to the Red Army during that same period was more in line with what I consider to be an actual military "purge". Thousands of officers whose loyalties to the regime were consideredd questionable were summarily executed. That physical eviceration of the Red Army's officer corps cost the Russians dearly in the early days if its involvement in World War II.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 28, 2007 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, I only have a B.A. in American history, so what the Hell do I know?

I'm too humbled by your credentials to fashion a proper reply.

Posted by: Martin Gale on April 28, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

There are only three things that concern me about Lt.Col. Yingling's article.

He refers to "the long war" several times so I assume this has entered the military lexicon as an assumed truth.

He assumes, without offering justification, that the armed forces need to be bigger. I just wonder if any career officer would ever consider them big enough? And with a war makin' CinC I guess they never could. He even begs the question whether the forces can remain profesional!

He says nothing of any allies in this "war" which I find both incredible and dangerous.

Which is why the responsibility lies with the civilians, as he suggests, and, ultimately, the President. At this last I hold back my laughter.

I can only imagine the generals and potential generals spluttered over their coffee at the thought of being rated by peers and inferiors, and dropping rank for poor performance.

Wow. Generals responsible for their actions. That would be novel.

Posted by: notthere on April 28, 2007 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

As BGRS said, Yingling is well known and respected. He has written previously about leadership issues, although not in quite so pointed a fashion; see, e.g., The Army Officer as Warfighter, Military Review, Jan-Feb 2003.

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Could someone--anyone--then explain why when Jay Garner wanted to use the 18 months worth of work and planning the State Department did before the war and put the person who headed up that work on his (Garner's) team at ORHA, Garner was told he could not? That directive came from someone "very high." Who was that? If it was a civilian (maybe Cheney or Rumskull?), then the military brass does not deserve all the blame.

Posted by: WCharles on April 28, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

WCharles -- this is where I diverge some what from Yingling, too.

Here's how I see the conversation:

Military, including Shinseki: You really need about 400,000 troops in Iraq for security and order.

Bush, et al: No, we are just talking about the military defeat of Saddam. Cakewalk after that.

Military, including Shinseki: Our best estimates are that we still need about 400,000 on the ground.

Bush, et al: Thank you General. There's the door. NEXT! All we are talking about is the military defeat of Saddam and his forces. We reckon 170,000 or so, 200,000 max.

Military, Casey, Pace, etc.: Can do!

Bush, et al: Excellent. Go plan it. Dismissed! . . . . . . OK. Now about that pesky State Dept. We need to short circuit their bright ideas so we can install our puppets. Ideas?

============
And so it goes. War by cabal. As we have an energy policy by cabal. Contracts by cabal. Administration by cabal. Emergency response by cabal.

You get the picture.

So the military are and are not to blame.

Militarily the war was won when Bagdad fell. I know some will disagree, but the war ended with the capitulation of Iraq. We became the occupying power. Should have been a total shift in emphasis. From there on out it's primarily a political problem.

The military won. It was done. All, and I mean ALL the decisions since then are primarily political and all the fault for mistakes and errors and failure lie at the feet of the boy-idiot. Period.

Posted by: notthere on April 28, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

WCharles -- I assume the "18 months worth of work and planning the State Department" is in reference to the Future of Iraq Project? Garner addressed some of that some time ago (see here), although not your specific assertion--do you have more information/references?

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

has407--Your assumption is correct. I believe the "very high" directive was described in James Fallows's article "Blind Into Baghdad." I might have seen the "very high" directive elsewhere. I'll check...

Posted by: WCharles on April 28, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

notthere: this is where I diverge some what from Yingling, too

In what way? If anything, Yingling is laying the blame squarely on the military, and the leadership in particular.

While there may be differences of opinion in the size/money required for the military, that is a function of many variables. I personally would prefer less, but I find nothing to argue about with Yingling's fundamentals--fundamentals that have held true for centuries.

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

has407--From the Fallows article:

Garner was also affected by tension between OSD and the rest of the government. Garner had heard about the Future of Iraq project, although Rumsfeld had told him not to waste his time reading it. Nonetheless, he decided to bring its director, Thomas Warrick, onto his planning team. Garner, who clearly does not intend to be the fall guy for postwar problems in Baghdad, told me last fall that Rumsfeld had asked him to kick Warrick off his staff. In an interview with the BBC last November, Garner confirmed details of the firing that had earlier been published in Newsweek. According to Garner, Rumsfeld asked him, "Jay, have you got a guy named Warrick on your team?" "I said, 'Yes, I do.' He said, 'Well, I've got to ask you to remove him.' I said, 'I don't want to remove him; he's too valuable.' But he said, 'This came to me from such a high level that I can't overturn it, and I've just got to ask you to remove Mr. Warrick.'" Newsweek's conclusion was that the man giving the instructions was Vice President Cheney.

Posted by: WCharles on April 28, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

WCharles -- Thanks. That rang a bell. From Blind Into Baghdad:

Garner had heard about the Future of Iraq project, although Rumsfeld had told him not to waste his time reading it. Nonetheless, he decided to bring its director, Thomas Warrick, onto his planning team. Garner, who clearly does not intend to be the fall guy for postwar problems in Baghdad, told me last fall that Rumsfeld had asked him to kick Warrick off his staff. In an interview with the BBC last November, Garner confirmed details of the firing that had earlier been published in Newsweek. According to Garner, Rumsfeld asked him, "Jay, have you got a guy named Warrick on your team?" "I said, 'Yes, I do.' He said, 'Well, I've got to ask you to remove him.' I said, 'I don't want to remove him; he's too valuable.' But he said, 'This came to me from such a high level that I can't overturn it, and I've just got to ask you to remove Mr. Warrick.'" Newsweek's conclusion was that the man giving the instructions was Vice President Cheney.
(emphasis added)

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

WCharles -- Sorry, didn't see your post before I posted. Looks like Cheney is the bag man. No surprise.

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

In what way?...

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Because Yingling outright blames the military command. But you can make some space for them if the CinC ordered them to restrict their judgement to military necessities and to leave the political judgements to the bright sparks surrounding the preznit.

Anyway, I note that what Garner says about Warrick in July 2003: "...When I asked for him, he just never showed up. He was never part of the team...." is somewhat at variance with the later Fallows article: Rumsfeld asked him, "Jay, have you got a guy named Warrick on your team?" "I said, 'Yes, I do.' He said, 'Well, I've got to ask you to remove him.' And so on.

And somewhat reinforces the impression, on reading the PBS transcript, that he wasn't being fully forthcoming.

Posted by: notthere on April 28, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

notthere -- As to Garner's comments about Warrick, I agree that he appears to be dissembling in the PBS interview. The best I can figure is that Warrick was told somewhere along the line of either bowing out or being forced out, and he chose the former.

As to Yingling, I think there is some additional context needed, and that is missing in the Military Review article. While that article repeats much of what Yingling has written in the past, there is much that is missing. Specifically (see link in my previous post):

As officers advance in seniority, the necessity of wielding arms in accordance with America’s ideals becomes ever more important. In America’s short history, the world has grown smaller and more dangerous, and the U.S. Army has necessarily grown larger and more powerful. So powerful a force can be an instrument of good or evil, depending on the character of those who command it. The officer is duty bound to achieve the aims of policy through the application of violence. However, that violence must be applied in a manner consistent with America’s laws and treaty obligations as well as her sense of decency.
That was--in my interpretation--a warning (or maybe a backhanded slap) to both the military and civilian leadership, and in no way excuses the military leadership.

Posted by: has407 on April 28, 2007 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

The war was still immoral and illegal, Kevin. And in the hands of George W. Bush, it was destined to be fucked up, as well as immoral and illegal. It wasn't the wrong tactics that caused no WMDs to be found.

Posted by: Good Al on April 28, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Bacevitch quoting Mills (in the year of my birth):

Thus has the condition that worried C. Wright Mills in 1956 come to pass in our own day. "For the first time in the nation's history," Mills wrote, "men in authority are talking about an ‘emergency' without a foreseeable end." While in earlier times Americans had viewed history as "a peaceful continuum interrupted by war," today planning, preparing, and waging war has become "the normal state and seemingly permanent condition of the United States." And "the only accepted ‘plan' for peace is the loaded pistol."

Posted by: Brojo on April 28, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

The soldiers won the war. The politicans lost the peace. Saddam is gone, his nukes are gone (if there were any) his army is gone, and Iraqi shite are free. If Iraqis want to remain free they will have to fight for themselves. I don't want to lose any more friends trying to conquer people.

Well done warriors. Now let's find Bin laden then come home so we can drink some beer!

Posted by: America 1st on April 29, 2007 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

And our friends at the Corner check in from their alternate dimension with this gem.

Let's see: he's a serving officer, so we can't diss him for sniping from the safety of retirement. He's been in Iraq, so we can't call him a long-distance quarterback. (Of course, teh "no doubt" is a nice bit of snark.) But he says we're doing something wrong! Things are going badly! - [smoke coming out of ears] - [Abort/Retry/Fail] - I know, let's blame the AP for publishing it! We'll even make up a "quote" from the AP!

(Follow the link to AP and read the story - NR's block quote is made up from whole cloth. How do you call these clowns on crap like this?)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070427/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_officer_s_assessment


Posted by: tina on April 29, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, original link didn't come through.

http://tank.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YmMyOTBiMmQyMTI2MzE2YTE5N2U5YTM5ZWE5YjYwOTA=

Posted by: tina on April 29, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

I like how they singled out the AP - but the AP just picked up on a piece published in Armed Forces Journal.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 29, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I've read the article written by Lt. Col. Yingling and I'm trying to figure out what the argument against his article is?

Can anyone here make a clear statement (or statements) as to where he is wrong? Or are we simply flapping about our own idealogical soundbites because a touchpoint has been reached?

Posted by: Bad Rabbit on April 30, 2007 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Bad Rabbit, the article by LTC Yingling was very well put together and his arguments are quite suscinct. However, you must note what he is attempting to achieve by writing it. As a soldier he is attempting to get dialogue moving within a inherently bureaucratic organization. To that end I believe he has done an exceptional job. I only wish that his article was more widely read.

While LTC Yingling seems to be of the belief that it was the job of the brass to tell the Administration how hard it would be, I believe that the Administration already knew but chose to ignore the obvious implications of their decisions. I would suggest that while the US military has internal challenges that must be addressed, there is a broader issue that we as a nation-state face. How do we project our power around the globe in a way that is consistent with our political and national culture. Many of the failings of our military brass stems from our inability to consistently define and project an image of oursleves on the international stage and that is the role of our government, not our military.

Until the citizens of the United States recognize that we are the primary imperial power in the world and that our political, financial and military actions define the political enviornment of the world, we will not fully grasp the effects of our actions. Going into Iraq, the citizens of the USA should have been made aware that we not only would have to win the war, we would have to win the peace. It would require decades of commitment. Not only military commitment but civilian commitment. Not only the commitment of soliders lives, but our tax dollars as well.

No one ever stood up and made people face that fact. Post 9/11 was all revenge and glory not practical analysis and discussion. While "rally around the flag" is useful and important, people also should have recognized that the price of regime change is high and that we were going to be paying it long after the Administration declared "mission accomplished". Sadly our political figures didn't prepare our citizens for the inevitable and that is as large an omission as that of our military brass.

Posted by: small dog, big fight on May 3, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Indeed

Posted by: America 1st on May 5, 2007 at 4:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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