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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Newtie's Strategery

So Wolfie and his safari jacketed cohorts finally realized that war isn’t a movie or a video game. Actual humans are getting killed. I’m relieved they woke up. The surreality of videophone wargasm was really starting to get to me.

There is also the beginning of some rumbling that while there is still no uncertainty as to the outcome of the war, there is some question about the timing and the strategy. General Wesley Clark says in his interview in Salon today:

Well, I said two to three weeks. But that was all premised on our having our force there and being ready to go at the outset. Of course we weren't. The 4th Infantry Division was in ships off the coast of Turkey. The 1st Armor Division was still in Germany. The First Cavalry was still at Fort Hood.

Why would the Pentagon start the war if not all the troops were in place?

I can't explain it. I can't defend it; I've never seen the plan. This is the decision that was made. It might work out; then again, it might not.

Does this mean you'll change your prediction from two to three weeks?

It may be longer than that, but it's still early. So I'm not changing my prediction at this point

Of course, he says there is absolutely no chance that we will be defeated, but he echoes here again this question of why we adopted a plan that leaves our rear flank vulnerable and what in the hell was the hurry? (And how could we let things get so out of hand in Turkey?)

I think I have the answer buried in a little
Washington Whispers
column in US News and World Report from earlier today:

Travels with Newt

The universe of ousted House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to expand. Not only is he giving advice to war planners at Central Command, but he's also suggesting policy strategies to the White House and offering lines for Bush speeches.

Seriously, this is not the first we’ve heard of Newt being involved in the war planning.

Paleotraitor Robert Novak said as much way back in October:

Hawkish civilians, in and out of the government, have been suggesting that Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard will throw up its arms in surrender. No serious person believes that. The question is whether an uprising of the persecuted Shia majority will be enough to overthrow the Baghdad regime without heavy application of U.S. force. If there is no effective revolt, the generals and their friends on Capitol Hill worry that the unknown plans may not call for sufficient U.S. forces.

The concern goes to the executive style of Don Rumsfeld, who recalls the forceful and abrasive qualities demonstrated by war secretaries in the mold of Edwin Stanton during the Civil War. To his credit, Rumsfeld has attempted to toughen up the officer corps, softened by standards of political correctness during the eight Clinton years. However, the officers who thought that happy days were here again on the day that George W. Bush became president have been disappointed.

Their disappointment stems from Rumsfeld's inclination, born of a turbulent lifetime in governmental and corporate affairs, to make decisions within a restricted circle. That includes war planning. According to Pentagon sources, the secretary does not consult the uniformed service chiefs. Participating in the immediate planning are Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the Central Command, and a few officers from the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

What most bothers the generals, however, is Rumsfeld's preference for outside advice.For example, Pentagon sources say a frequent consultant with the secretary is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an amateur military expert and member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. There is no distribution through the Pentagon of such advice.

Generally, this advice probably follows the longtime line by Richard Perle, the Policy Board's chairman, that indigenous Shia forces will do most of the fighting to dislodge Saddam…

True, I cannot prove that Newt Gingrich is an architect of a battle plan that appears to have split the difference with the military --- theoretically giving them their requested number of troops, but not deploy them on time and insist that they rush to Baghdad and mop this thing up by May so the medal ceremonies can give FoxNews a needed lift for sweeps. But, it sounds so like him. Filled with hubris and macho bravado, sure that all he has to do is snarl convincingly and the other side will give up. It didn’t work with Clinton so he thought he’d try it on Saddam.

However, I know for a fact that Dick Cheney has a history of sticking his chickenhawk beak into battlefield planning. Frances Fitzgerald writes in the New York Review of Books:

In “A World Transformed,” the memoir that he and Bush senior published in 1998, [Brent] Scowcroft makes it clear that while all Bush senior's top advisers had different perspectives, the fundamental division lay between Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and everyone else. By his account, and by those of others in the administration, Cheney never trusted Gorbachev. In 1989 Cheney maintained that Gorbachev's reforms were largely cosmetic and that, rather than engage with the Soviet leader, the US should stand firm and keep up cold war pressures. In September 1991 Cheney argued that the administration should take measures to speed the breakup of the Soviet Union—even at the risk of encouraging violence and incurring long-term Russian hostility. He opposed the idea, which originated with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, that the US should withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and South Korea. As a part of the preparations for the Gulf War he asked Powell for a study on how small nuclear weapons might be used against Iraqi troops in the desert.

This is the guy who has almost unlimited power today. Only Junior could stop him and, well…no need to even go there.

Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf related some even stranger stuff in his memoir, reviewed here in 2000:

Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.

I certainly believe that policy and goals should be left to the elected and properly appointed civilians. But, the actual battles really need to be conceived and run by professional military planners. And, maybe they were. But, these reports of interference by Rumsfeld’s claque of armchair generals and political hacks rings very true. Rumsfeld is a micromanager of epic proportions and his good friend and closest confidante Dick Cheney has a history of liking to play GI Joe with real GI Joes.

It sounds like the generals won on the issue of troop numbers, but that the political leadership was so enamored of their “they’ll greet us with rose petals” scenario that they may have jumped too soon, discounting the military’s caution about their rear flank. Turkey, we know was a complete screw up from the get-go and probably has resulted in some serious last minute scrambling to make up for it. Josh Marshall expands on
this piece
in the Washington post and explains why it was so damned dumb:

Buried in the last graf of this article in Saturday's Washington Post comes this ...
But one senior U.S. official acknowledged that U.S. pressure in recent months has backfired, saying that at one point Pentagon officials insinuated to Turkish politicians that they could get the Turkish military to back the request for U.S. troop deployments in Turkey. "It was stupid stuff. These are proud people," he said. "Speaking loudly and carrying a big stick wins you tactical victories from time to time, but not a strategic victory."

I am still hoping for a quick win and minimal loss of life. I don’t want to see anything bogging down. It’s bad for everyone. But, if Don Rumsfeld, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney are micromanaging the battle and overruling the military as Cheney sought to do in Gulf War I, this could get very bad. Rumsfeld and Cheney are very likely running the war and they have brought in the brilliant Gingrich to write the Contract on the Middle East.

It pays to remember that Newtie was stabbed in the back by his own best friends and lost his speakership when he miscalculated and thought the Republicans would gain 30 seats and ended up losing 5 instead. As a strategist, he leaves a lot to be desired. But, it is not impossible to believe that he and others might have insisted on a half assed battle plan that is making the job more difficult than it should have been if they’d listened to something but the sound of their own voices.

And by the way, in case anybody had remaining illusions that this dream of taking on the long term responsibility of rebuilding the country and establishing democratic government was for real, the newspapers report:

[Out of a request for 74.7 billion] Bush's request had only $543 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq, $1.7 billion to rebuild the country and nothing for a peacekeeping effort after the war. Prior congressional and private estimates suggested the long-range expenses for those efforts would be many billions of dollars, though administration officials are hoping allied nations will help with the financing.

Let’s hope they don’t have the crack team that negotiated with Turkey do the asking.

Note: For a little bit of insight into Newtie's thinking --- not to mention a fine list of all the Tom Clancy novels and spy thrillers he reads, check out his copious book reviews on Amazon.

(Strangely, reading them almost made me like him just a little bit. He obviously loves books.)

"The Secretary of Defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days," said a retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan. "He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

He added ruefully: "As in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, we are using concepts and methods that are entirely unproved. If your strategy and assumptions are flawed, there is nothing in the well to draw from."

In addition, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, which they said resulted in a number of mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

uh oh