September 27, 2006

General Eaton: Excerpts From Opening Statement

Major General Paul Eaton, another senior military man who served in critical capacities in Iraq, testifying on the Hill earlier this week:

The most important function of government is to assure the security of the governed. Iraqis believe the same and observed to me that it is “better to live for 40 years under a dictatorship with order than 40 days of chaos.” The United States has failed to secure the peace after having artfully changed the Iraqi regime. We went in with a bad plan. We have failed to understand the strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare in Iraq, and are responsible for the current state of affairs in a country the size of California with a population of 27 million souls. The leadership that has lead us to this point fails today to understand the strategic planning requirements to solve the Iraqi dilemma, stating essentially that their strategy is to stand up Iraqi Security Forces and to withdraw U.S. forces. Stay the course is not a strategy.

For the U.S. now, viable Iraqi Security Forces — read “Iraqi security” — is not a strategy; it is the end state, the objective. The strategy is in the “how” to get to the objective. It is basic military planning to identify the objective first, and then to develop the operational lines that will enable the achievement of the objective. The failure to properly lay out objective and operational lines for Phase IV has lead to lost time, resources and the loss of diplomatic and political capital. Most importantly, it has presented the opportunity for the insurgency to flourish with the ensuing sectarian violence, in the security vacuum Mr. Rumsfeld allowed to develop — with a very high human toll.

The Beginning

Much has been written and spoken about the insufficient troop strength to manage Phase IV of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and the lonely position taken by then Chief of Staff, General Shinseki, who called for several hundred thousand soldiers — not for the defeat of the Iraqi Army, rather for post-conflict work. Phase IV planning was amateurish at best, incompetent a better descriptor. This planning reflected the Rumsfeld dogma of using just enough troops for a precarious Phase III. Phase IV planning failed to identify the end state and the means of getting there. The critical component, the establishment of the New Iraqi Army, consisted of a two-page Powerpoint briefing developed by General Franks and approved by Mr. Rumsfeld. The key points of the briefing were that the Iraqi Army would be volunteer and representative of Iraq’s population; would restrict recruiting to avoid political and criminal undesirables; and would be trained by corporate trainers, not Soldiers. The goal was to develop nine light motorized Infantry battalions the first year, eighteen more the next year.

While serving as the Commanding General of the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, I was given the order to go to Iraq to create the Army on May 9, 2003, one week after the President’s speech aboard aircraft carrier Lincoln. To state the obvious, a very late order. I spent the next three weeks in meetings with my future boss, Mr. Walt Slocombe, and my team at Fort Benning to lay out the way ahead.

I reported to Baghdad on June 13, 2003, and met with Colonel Roland Tiso and four other men borrowed from the CENTCOM staff to craft the future of Iraq’s Army. The Joint Manning Document (JMD), the document that would provide me a staff of 248, would not begin to be filled until October, and would never hit the 50% mark. Between June and October 2003, I relied upon a revolving door of volunteers and men and women on loan from other staffs for between two and six weeks, dependent upon their donor unit.

It was immediately clear to all of us that we were an economy-of-force operation, a very low Department of Defense priority. Efforts to establish alliances by reaching back to the United States met with indifference at all levels. As the Coalition Provisional Authority became increasingly challenged, my operation became increasingly isolated from U.S. Armed Forces. Our allies stepped into the breach - I am very grateful to Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Jordan, Poland, Italy, and Romania for their very talented soldiers and their country’s assistance. Iraqis would very soon join my staff with superb results.

In the first two weeks, we identified the training location, let the contracts to build out the barracks, contracted the training to the Vinnell Corporation, found the uniforms and weapons and designed the Iraqi Army. Recruiting the Army began on July 7, 2003, and training began upon completion of a battalion set of barracks, on August 2, 2003. We were directed to avoid use of U.S. military assets at all costs, and to use Iraqi sources for all equipment possible. Our budget was $173 million for year one, with the objective to create nine battalions.

Two weeks into training it became obvious that we had a flawed plan — we needed soldiers to train the Iraqi Army, not contracted civilians, regardless of their competence and stellar prior-military backgrounds. We set out to change Secretary Rumsfeld’s plan.

I traveled to Jordan to set up a potential equipment buy, but found another opportunity. The Jordanian Army is the most professional Arab Army and was willing to assist. We set up a plan whereby the Jordanian Army would retrain officers from the old Iraqi Army for 10 weeks, exposing them to a professional Army, under the British model, with strong leader competencies. Those men in turn would receive non-commissioned officers trained by coalition forces at our training base in Kirkush, Iraq, and create the cadre that would train Iraqi recruits. Iraqi veterans training Iraqi soldiers under the oversight of ten-man Coalition Support Teams (CST) per battalion of Iraqi Soldiers. This is really the U.S. COHORT model of unit development.

I briefed this plan, essentially a second phase in my operation based upon a requirement to adapt, to Mr. Rumsfeld on September 5, 2003, and got his approval to proceed with an accelerated adapted plan that would produce an army of 27 battalions and associated command and control, from national to squad in the first year, and start the Navy and Air Force, with a budget of $2.2 Billion. We laid out our basing plan for the Iraqi Armed Forces and the architecture for the three services. At one point the Secretary stuck his finger at me and said, “Just don’t make this look like the American Army.” Still don’t know what he meant. He also stated that we were his last priority, behind Police, Border Troops, Iraqi National Guard or Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC), and Facilities Protection Service (FPS).

That “last priority” comment would prove interesting. We had a superb team of men and women who knew exactly how to man, train and equip an Army; a budget of $2.2 Billion and a huge manpower pool from which to draw an Army. I would discover later that priority one — the Iraqi police — was an unfolding disaster.

We began to implement the plan aggressively with the arrival of the $18 Billion supplemental that held our budget, sustained a serious setback with the Pentagon rejection of the equipment contract and another when Mr. Wolfowitz withheld $253 Million destined to build out a division’s set of barracks. The Deputy Secretary was reportedly unhappy with the development of the Iraqi Police and held these funds hostage. I did not yet have responsibility for the Police. These decisions would delay unit development for several months.

In February, Mr. Wolfowitz sent then-Major General Karl Eikenberry to assess ISF development. His conclusions were that the Iraqi Armed Forces were on track, but that Police and Border Troops were not. He ordered that money and personnel should be diverted from my operation to support police development. A zero-sum game.

The result became what would be my third phase of ISF development. I reconfigured my headquarters to become the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC), with two subordinate headquarters, CMATT and CPATT, or Civil Police Assistance Training Team. I gained 23 men from Steve Casteel and a new British Brigadier to head up CPATT. On March 9, 2004, I was now charged with development of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Iraqi National Guard, Iraqi Police, Border troops and Facilities Protection Service.

Our initial assessment revealed a stunning lack of progress, a failure to understand the man, train and equip functions, an unworkable command and control network, a logistics and administration system that didn’t work — in short, a national police and border force that were in complete disarray, ill-equipped, and with untrained leadership in dysfunctional facilities. We had a lot of work to do — we had lost nine months.

General McCaffrey’s recent report reveals that Iraqi Security Forces, the second most important security forces on the planet after our own, continue to lack fundamental equipment. The Secretary of Defense has failed to resource his main effort, the objective to stand up the ISF enabling us to withdraw U.S. forces.

The Man in Charge

The President charged Secretary Rumsfeld to prosecute this war, a man who has proven himself incompetent strategically, operationally, and tactically. Mr. Rumsfeld came into his position with an extraordinary arrogance, and an agenda — to turn the military into a lighter, more lethal armed force. In fact, Rumsfeld’s vision is a force designed to meet a Warsaw Pact type force more effectively.

We are not fighting the Warsaw Pact. We are fighting an insurgency, a distributed low-tech, high-concept war that demands greater numbers of ground forces, not fewer. Mr. Rumsfeld won’t acknowledge this fact and has failed to adapt to the current situation. He has tried and continues to fight this war on the cheap. [all emphasis mine]

Heckuva job, Rummy!

Posted by Gregory at September 27, 2006 07:42 PM
Comments

This is the most detailed critique of Rummy I've seen; perhaps you've seen this before (often?). Thanks ...

Now, back from dinner and googling him, I note that he has previously complained about Rumsfeld's 8000 mile screwdriver; micromanaging stuff. Yet on the other hand, Rummy had no big training plan to start with, so was allowing Gen. Eaton a pretty free reign.

And it looks like Gen. Eaton did a pretty good job, but that April 2004 Fallujah failure of the Iraqi forces didn't look so good.

He was doing well, the guy in charge of the Iraqi Police (WHO was that???) was failing. The failing gov't program gets more cash at the expense of the succeeding program -- this is a surpise to somebody who has seen gov't do anything?

Of the various efforts, Iraqi police, army, border, facilities, it would be good to know which ones got how much money, when.

As I re-read him more critically, Eaton early states: "We have failed to understand ... and are responsible for the current state of affairs "
Sorry, no.
the terrorists who do the murders are responsible, first;
the Iraqis who support the terrorists, from common goals or fear, are responsible, second;
and only in third place are the light forces of Rummy responsible.

In this view, the General wants to win Vietnam again, with massive invasion and controlling everything, and making the USA responsible for everything. This shows great arrogance of assuming US responsibility, and contemptuousness of not allowing the Iraqis to be responsible for themselves.

My second read critique of Gen. Eaton does not exonerate Rummy -- but if Gen. Eaton thinks we need more of what McNamara and Gen. Westmoreland tried in Vietnam, I flatly don't believe him.

That the fast efforts were ad hoc, 2 pages of powerpoint, seems OK to me. The fact that the Iraqi police were failing is a bigger problem, but Gen. Eaton doesn't really touch on this.

Another general wanting "more troops" meaning "more control over the incompetent Iraqis who can't do anything themselves and need the USA to sort things out" -- well, Rummy won that argument in practice.
Only about 3000 US dead so far seems like a good, "B", job. No longer "A", but far from incompetent.

Please let me know if the good Gen. makes a clear statement that he believes more US troops would mean a) lower cost AND b) fewer US casualties. If not, it's not clear he believes his own "more troops" policy advice. If so, I'll respect him more but still disagree.

We need 10-20 years in Iraq to help Iraqis win. The biggest Bush/ Rummy failure was an unwillingness to discuss the LONG time needed. The US public will be more willing to stay for 10 more years with the fewer troops we have, than if we had had more.

Because any change now is a political admission of failure, I support continued "stay the course" strategy as the best "how" to get to the end point: viable Iraqi Security. The General has failed to explain how his concept of more US troops gets to that end point sooner (I think later), or cheaper (I think more expensively), or with less loss of US life (I think more), or with fewer Iraqi deaths (this one might well be true).

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 27, 2006 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Only about 3000 US dead so far seems like a good, "B", job. No longer "A", but far from incompetent.

Wow. What's a "C" job look like?

Please let me know if the good Gen. makes a clear statement that he believes more US troops would mean a) lower cost AND b) fewer US casualties.

Here, you left out c) eeking out some possible chance of actually winning the war, thereby making the world a safter place. Which, after all was the whole point of the invasion, right? I assume we're all in agreement that it had nothing to do with securing oil fields for exploitation by the president's political donors.

Posted by: Nick Aubert at September 27, 2006 11:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Grey,
I would say that you ignore the first key point: that a governed people need a certain level of order, that 40 years of stable rule under a dictator is often prefered to 40 days of muderous chaos.
If we had not allowed anarchy to florish in that first year, we could have done much better.
Before you can have Locke (democracy/civil liberties), you need Hobbes (the monopoly of legitimate use of violence by the state). Rumsfeld ignored the needs of Hobbes, devoting a mere two power point slides to it (through his subordinate, Franks). Power point! Two slides! To the fundamental aim of a government, which we did become.
This is not a Vietnam analogy, because we never toppled the government of South Vietnam and cleansed its political structure of the entire ruling party, like we did in Iraq. We did indeed own the country because we decapitated the entire government and declared all of its leaders outlaws and war criminals.
I think the point of the general is that we destroyed our chances for success at the beginning, when we actually had a chance. Any resivoir of goodwill with the Iraqi people has run dry, based in some on our incompetence and some on the tortures we committed in Saddam's old prisons.
Stay the course. Reminds me of another saying. When you're in hole, you can't dig your way out.

Posted by: agorabum at September 27, 2006 11:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, Liberty Dad, no problem so long as yours ain't one of the 3,000 dead.

I love how you wingnuts throw around words like "liberty" and "freedom" put those stupid yellow ribbon magnets on your cars, and pay all of these superficial tributes to the troops and 9/11.

There's another military maxim that you kool-aid drinkers don't seem to remember: don't reinforce defeat. In case you're not aware, that's the common sense corollary to "Stay the course."

You people have ruined this country and you make me sick.

Posted by: gonzo at September 28, 2006 12:53 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The most important function of government is to assure the security of the governed. Iraqis believe the same and observed to me that it is 'better to live for 40 years under a dictatorship with order than 40 days of chaos.'"

Charming. No doubt our founding fathers were motivated by the same sentiment.

You have turned the corner, and admitted you were mistaken in promoting the war to begin with. Super! The ability to admit mistakes is among the things that make you a great pundit, and one who is well worth reading. As a fellow bungler, I welcome you to the club. Allow me to suggest that, under the circumstances, you can stop obsessing about the Rumsfeld scapegoat now, and move on to considering how we can best cope with the scrape we have gotten ourselves into. You no longer need him as a fig leaf, because you have had the courage to admit you were wrong.

The same does not go for all the failed generals and other military brass losers you have been trotting out on your blog. They still need the fig leaf, because they need an alibi for their own failure, and are too gutless to admit that failure. That execrable, grandstanding whiner, Batiste, is a case in point. How can you be taken in by such a bankrupt martyr? Sniff the air a bit. The foul odor of sanctity is unmistakable. "I left the military on principle on November 1, 2005, after more than 31 years of service. I walked away from promotion and a promising future serving our country. I hung up my uniform because I came to the gut-wrenching realization that I could do more good for my soldiers and their families out of uniform." C'mon, Gregory, can you really take this guy seriously? Let's see, after 31 years he can retire on a full pension and get a six figure job double dipping for one of the beltway bandits. What sacrifice! What generosity! Tears of gratitude are running down my cheeks! A promotion and a promising future after 31 years? What was he bucking for? Field marshall? Pope? Lord of the Sun and Moon? This guy's problem isn't Rumsfeld. This guy's problem is that he's a loser. He's an embarrassment to my alma mater.

Many serious insurgencies have been defeated with far fewer resources, far fewer men, and far less access to high tech weaponry than are available to our military in Iraq. I suggest you read the history of the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya, for example. The British won there with resources that are insignificant compared to what we have in Iraq. The fundamental difference between their success and our failure was the genius, creativity and initiative of their leadership.

Our military leaders in Iraq are highly competent, in that they are well able to wield our high tech military machine against conventional enemies. Faced, however, with an unexpected and bewildering insurgency, they have been plodding, unimaginative, and unable to adapt. They have failed. We had the same problem in Vietnam. We were too competent to be defeated militarily, but we lacked the creativity and genius to win. It is a problem that has plagued us for a long time, and one that we have, obviously, not overcome. Wars are not won or lost by Secretaries of Defense, no matter how incompetent. They are won or lost in the field by the leaders responsible for understanding the situation and doing what it takes to win.

Rumsfeld certainly gummed up the works, but the Rumsfelds have ye always with you. An extra 300,000 or even 500,000 troops would not have guaranteed victory with our current military leadership. Westmoreland was always pleading for more troops in Vietnam, and he got them. Did it change the result? We don't need whiners casting about for a scapegoat. To begin, these people need to shut up and soldier. Beyond that, we need one or two leaders of genius a hell of a lot more than we need more troops. The demand for leaders of genius is a tall order. They don't show up on command. They are, nevertheless, essential, if we are ever to win conflicts like Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

I suggest that what we need in Iraq is not more heavy infantry or armored divisions, untrained in counterinsurgency operations, and likely only to increase our casualties and provoke greater opposition among the people we are trying to help. They are likely to do more harm than good. One wonders where, exactly, we're going to find all these extra troops to begin with, strapped for manpower as we are already. What we need to do is start thinking about the fundamental changes we need to make in our current military system to promote genius and creativity. Lincoln's technique was to gather up an armful of generals and throw them out, one by one, until he found one who could win. The rub there is that Lincoln was a genius himself, and Bush is not. I don't have any miracle formulas for success. I do know that we have to start thinking and working towards a system that will allow the kind of leaders to emerge who can win in chaotic, unplanned for and unprecedented situations such as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. If we can't produce such leaders, we might as well stand aside and let someone else have a go at being the hegemon.

Posted by: helian at September 28, 2006 01:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My boss had a semi-brilliant idea on how to deal with Iraq and Iran: outsource it to China and/or India. They both got a billion people. Plenty of warm bodies to throw at the insurgents, or terrorists or homicide bombers or whatever we're calling them this week. We pay each one $10,000/yr American to go over there, we bring all the Americans back here. If it grinds on for decades, who cares? It's still providing lots of stateside jobs for consultants, military contractors, etc., with none of those flag-draped coffins coming back here to bum everybody out.

There. Now was that so damn hard?

Posted by: LL at September 28, 2006 01:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Liberty Dad has some sense.

If you really want to try to improve our tactics, you ought to reverse the Bushian doctrine of throwing all the American Arabic experts in jail (& secret torture cells), and start recruiting them for pacification, so you can start using anti-insurgency tactics -- that means engaging the locals like allies, not like subhumans to be hunted and killed.

Throwing more troops at a massively mis-executed war of terror against Iraqis isn't going to do nearly as much good as renouncing the US war of terror -- have the US soldiers quit using terror as their primary tactic. Rumsfeld's stupid doctrine of terror (shock & awe) is very stupid for counter-insurgency -- using terror against the general population only inspires resistance, as has been proved over and over, and is being again proven out.

Posted by: hank des moinse at September 28, 2006 02:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eaton early states: "We have failed to understand ... and are responsible for the current state of affairs "
Sorry, no.
the terrorists who do the murders are responsible,

I keep hearing this stupid excuse.

If you're running a restaurant, and the sanitation inspectors come in and find 10,000 cockroaches, tell them "I"m not responsible for that. It's the cockroaches that are responsible."

It's true. If the cockroaches had the common decency not to breed in your kitchen then they wouldn't be a problem. But it's a real stupid excuse.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 28, 2006 09:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Helian,

Thank you for having the guts to write what most folks won't dare utter. However, I very much wonder if our current bureaucratic, all-volunteer style military can ever produce the kinds of true leaders we so clearly need.

Posted by: keatssycamore at September 28, 2006 01:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

6 of 10 Iraqis support attacks on US troops! Are the attacks then conducted by terrorists or freedom fighters? What a mess we have created! This poll puts an end to the "increase troop level" debate.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraqi-Opinion.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Posted by: centrist at September 28, 2006 03:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Helian:

We had the same problem in Vietnam. We were too competent to be defeated militarily, but we lacked the creativity and genius to win. It is a problem that has plagued us for a long time, and one that we have, obviously, not overcome. Wars are not won or lost by Secretaries of Defense, no matter how incompetent. They are won or lost in the field by the leaders responsible for understanding the situation and doing what it takes to win.

Could you elaborate on this point? I regret to say that my first impression is that, in suggesting we "do what it takes to win" against guerrillas/insurgents who have the support of the population in countries that neither attacked or threatened us, you are advocating wholesale slaughter -- and for what gain?

The US had no business being in VietNam and no business going into Iraq. According to recent polls, roughly 3/4 of the country (with the exception of the Kurds) want us to get the hell out, now. We are an unwelcome occupier. What does "winning" mean in this context?

If our leadership had creativity and genius, we wouldn't be in this god-forsaken mess to begin with.

Posted by: farmgirl at September 28, 2006 04:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If our leadership had creativity and genius, we wouldn't be in this god-forsaken mess to begin with."

Agreed.

"Could you elaborate on this point? I regret to say that my first impression is that, in suggesting we "do what it takes to win" against guerrillas/insurgents who have the support of the population in countries that neither attacked or threatened us, you are advocating wholesale slaughter -- and for what gain?"

Which insurgents are you talking about? Do you claim that the Shia insurgents have the support of the Sunni population? Do you claim that the Sunni insurgents have the support of the Shia population? Are the Kurds ready to welcome back the Arabs with open arms? As for advocating wholesale slaughter, that claim would only be supportable if there were no historical record of insurgencies supported by broad sections of the population that had been defeated in ways other than wholesale slaughter. That is certainly not the case, regardless of what period of history one is talking about.

"Winning," in this case, does not mean upholding our national "honor," or suppressing all resistance to the presence of our troops to the point that we can feel justified in perceiving ourselves as "victors." It means leaving Iraq in a sufficiently stable condition that it is not likely to deteriorate into chaos and civil war. Winning in that sense is still an entirely achievable goal. If anyone thinks that "winning" is really something else, I would be interested in hearing them elaborate.

As for the polls you mention, I suspect one should be cautious about accepting the results of any Iraqi polls under current conditions. Even if it is true that a majority wants us out, we cannot allow minorities to be slaughtered after we leave, even if it is in accord with the "popular will."

Posted by: Helian at September 28, 2006 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Helian,
I majority of Iraqis believe the US troops make the violence worse...I take it you disagree with Iraqis?

Posted by: centrist at September 28, 2006 05:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I majority of Iraqis believe the US troops make the violence worse...I take it you disagree with Iraqis?"

At this point I don't think we have any accurate measure of the will of the Iraqi people, nor do I think it's clear that US troops can now only play a negative role. It's certainly not clear to me that increasing the number of troops will help. In essence, I think we need to do our best to clean up the mess we've made. I don't think our leadership is so inept that the situation is hopeless, nor do I think we should be panicked into doing anything drastic because of a poll result. Now is not a good time to be taking "heroic" measures of any sort, whether we're talking withdrawal or major troop increases.

We need to keep an open mind, both about staying if necessary, and leaving, if it becomes clear we can no longer play a positive role. The latter course will not be "made clear" by virtue of much loud ranting by ideologically blinded pacifists, nor will the former be indicated by virtue of more Administration "stay the course" speeches. We certainly cannot afford to leave Iraq in the hands of religious fanatics who would make the country a safe haven for terrorists, regardless of the perceived will of the Iraqi people or anyone else. It is no more reasonable to support the "will of the Iraqi people" to make their country a sanctuary for those who would attack the US, than it would have been to support the "will of the German people" to take over Europe in 1939.

Posted by: Helian at September 28, 2006 06:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"we won't know for 10 years"..."you cant trust polls" The defenders of this enterprise have basically defined defeat or the withdrawal point away.

Nowhere did the poll mention the will of the Iraqi people to harbor "those who would attack the US. If the administration and the Iraqi government wants to ignore the will of the Iraqi people I'm fine with that...but please stop the flowery rhetoric about "freedom agenda" . I have believed since the invatsion Iraq we would have a choice between a democracy or pro-american regieme. Which will it be? The remnant of political support for the enterprise is based upon realistically achieving both!....well and "getting those guys who got us on 911"

Posted by: centrist at September 28, 2006 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please no more nazi/ww2 references.

Posted by: centrist at September 28, 2006 07:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Please no more nazi/ww2 references."

Sorry. How about, "The will of the majority of the Mongol people to wipe out everyone around them and turn Eurasia into a giant pasture for their horses."

Posted by: helian at September 28, 2006 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
Which insurgents are you talking about? Do you claim that the Shia insurgents have the support of the Sunni population? Do you claim that the Sunni insurgents have the support of the Shia population? Are the Kurds ready to welcome back the Arabs with open arms?

The Kurds are something of a special case; their experience has been that the US has protected their interests. To the extent that Sunni and Shia insurgents attack Americans, yes, there does appear to be majority support for that.

The inter-group atrocities committed by Sunni and Shia militias are a separate issue. To my mind, they are an artifact of the chaos Rumsfeld allowed to develop due to initial understaffing, and despite subsequent efforts by the US, they seem to get worse by the month.

As for the polls you mention, I suspect one should be cautious about accepting the results of any Iraqi polls under current conditions.

Agreed. Perhaps they should hold a plebescite? According to a regional breakdown I saw for one of the polls (keeping in mind the need to be cautious), 60%-80% of the population in every region except for the Kurdish north want the US out.

Even if it is true that a majority wants us out, we cannot allow minorities to be slaughtered after we leave, even if it is in accord with the "popular will."

Let's face it, we don't seem to be able to prevent large numbers of people from being slaughtered now. I think it is essential to examine whether our presence is in fact making the situation worse, in which case leaving will be doing the Iraqis a favor.

Winning ... means leaving Iraq in a sufficiently stable condition that it is not likely to deteriorate into chaos and civil war. Winning in that sense is still an entirely achievable goal.

It seems we have already achieved chaos and civil war for most of Iraq's population; what -- realistically -- can be done to reverse that trend? I am not optimistic that winning, as you describe it, is achievable, given real-world constraints. But I would love to be wrong.

And to revisit another point:

Wars are not won or lost by Secretaries of Defense, no matter how incompetent. They are won or lost in the field by the leaders responsible for understanding the situation and doing what it takes to win.

I don't know if this holds -- we seem to have heard of many cases in the news of leaders in the field who did understand the situation and were demonstrating results, only to be disasterously redirected by decisions made in Washington.

Posted by: farmgirl at September 28, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Funny...much better ...:0)

Posted by: centrist at September 28, 2006 07:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So THAT'S what we need. A better chess player! All those senior military folks who now speak out against the errors made are all just "losers" who need a "scapegoat" to hide their own defeats just weren't "ingenious" enough.

I've got to hand it to you, helian: That's a wonderfully self-immunizing way to look at things. If they criticize the incredible mess which the higher-ups in the Pentagon and White House created while they're still in uniform, they're just malcontents unwilling to change. They obviously can't voice disapproval publicly during active duty, and if they happened to do so accidentally, we know what happened to them - they were immediately threatened to be removed. But if they do it AFTER they quit their service, they're "losers", "moonbats", etcetera. The very idea, that their criticism might have some merit after all, seems completely lost on you. How could that be after all? Your way to view things covers all bases nicely.

Instead of dreaming of Hannibal junior the military superhero whose ingenuity will save this fiasco of a military adventure and bemoaning that he isn't to be found, how about spending some serious consideration whether or not the mission is winnable at all? How about beginning to remove those people who have been PROVEN to be incompetent, as a first step to accountability? How about giving some serious thoughts WHY something like the insurgency is happening, and WHY things are going south so quickly, and trying to adjust the policies accordingly?

I don't see you ready for a realistic discussion of that. By decrying the testimony of all these people who have BEEN there (in Iraq) and DONE that as "loud ranting by ideologically blinded pacifists" - which seems a ridiculous way to describe 4-star generals with 31 years of active service to me - your actions are the equivalent of sticking fingers into your ears, closing your eyes and yelling "someone win this thing for me!"

Well, good luck.

Posted by: Mentar at September 28, 2006 10:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Centrist & Farmgirl have it right. Most Iraqis, other then the Kurds want American troops out of Iraq within the next year.
LL: Ousource Iran & Iraq to China & India. You may have been joking about this, but I think this is actually what will happen. China is already the primary customer for Iran's oil and is protecting it from UN sanctions over its nuclear bomb progam. India has been expanding its navy, including its amphibious troop carrying capacity. India already has a million+ in its Army, the world's largest after China. Under the British Empire, it was mostly Indian Troops that enforced the Pax Britannia in the Persian Gulf, Iran & Iraq. Perhaps for a subsiday such as you propose, they would be willing to do it again. After all Indian occupation of the Persian Gulf & Iraq would not be an example of Western Imperialism? (dry comment).

Posted by: David All at September 28, 2006 10:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> The Kurds are something of a special case; their
> experience has been that the US has protected
> their interests.

Only if you have a very short memory. Look at how
Bush Sr betrayed them; they got small scale
genocide attempted against them out of that,
with the US army standing by, watching.

Posted by: al-jubal at September 28, 2006 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I don't see you ready for a realistic discussion of that. By decrying the testimony of all these people who have BEEN there (in Iraq) and DONE that as "loud ranting by ideologically blinded pacifists" - which seems a ridiculous way to describe 4-star generals with 31 years of active service to me - your actions are the equivalent of sticking fingers into your ears, closing your eyes and yelling 'someone win this thing for me!'"

As Nietzsche said, "virtuous indignation is a crutch for the intellectually crippled." You can climb up on your faux moral high ground and rant down your anathemas against your strawman "Helians" as long as you want, but in fact I never described Batiste or anyone else in the military as an "ideologically blinded pacifist." Your claim that I did is a deliberate lie, and is of a piece with the rest of your gross distortions of what I said. In fact, I have BEEN there and DONE that, in Vietnam, but I don't have the outrageous, unmitigated gall to claim that, because someone hasn't BEEN there and DONE that they are therefore disenfranchised and no longer have a right to comment on something that intimately concerns them and their interests.

"I've got to hand it to you, helian: That's a wonderfully self-immunizing way to look at things. If they criticize the incredible mess which the higher-ups in the Pentagon and White House created while they're still in uniform, they're just malcontents unwilling to change. They obviously can't voice disapproval publicly during active duty, and if they happened to do so accidentally, we know what happened to them - they were immediately threatened to be removed. But if they do it AFTER they quit their service, they're "losers", "moonbats", etcetera. The very idea, that their criticism might have some merit after all, seems completely lost on you. How could that be after all? Your way to view things covers all bases nicely."

In no way, shape or form do I have a problem with anyone criticizing their higher ups in the military, whether in uniform or out. My problem with the Batistes of the world isn't that they criticize. My problem is with the content of their criticism. Batiste is a grandstanding paper mache martyr who doesn't have the guts to take responsibility for his own failures. His type isn't uncommon in the military. People who tell yarns about the failures of those on high in a vain attempt to explain why they're no good are a dime a dozen, inside the military and out.

"Instead of dreaming of Hannibal junior the military superhero whose ingenuity will save this fiasco of a military adventure and bemoaning that he isn't to be found, how about spending some serious consideration whether or not the mission is winnable at all?"

Carthage, a city state with less than a million people, produced a Hannibal. In what way am I "dreaming" if I suggest that a way might be found to find a similar leader in a nation of 300 million?

"How about beginning to remove those people who have been PROVEN to be incompetent, as a first step to accountability?"

Absolutely, but tell me, how do you "prove" incompetence. Isn't failure in your assigned mission associated with incompetence? By that standard, a good number of the senior officers who are now shouting that it's all Rumsfeld's fault should be sacked. I would definitely consider that a good first step to turning things around, and would certainly hand Rumsfeld his hat as well.

"How about giving some serious thoughts WHY something like the insurgency is happening, and WHY things are going south so quickly, and trying to adjust the policies accordingly?"

Where, exactly, is it that I have opposed giving serious thoughts to WHY something like the insurgency is happening, and WHY things are going south? That is precisely what we need to do. My conclusion is that we need to remove the people who have presided over this disaster, and continue doing it until we start finding people who seem to have a clue. In past wars we had a much more immediate sense of the threat to our survival as a nation. We were much less reticent to sack failed generals because we were afraid their feelings might be hurt. We must be similarly ruthless we leaders at the highest level in Iraq. They have demonstrably failed, and we cannot tolerate failure.

Beyond that, we need to thoroughly shake up the system of promotion to the highest ranks within our military. We are producing leaders who are highly competent, but lacking in originality and an ability to think outside the box when it's called for. The bureaucracy systematically weeds such people out. The system needs to change. I have no magic bullets to suggest for this problem, but I do know that military genius is not, historically, such an uncommon phenomenon that it must forever remain impossible to identify and cultivate it.

Posted by: Helian at September 29, 2006 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

@farmgirl

"I don't know if this holds -- we seem to have heard of many cases in the news of leaders in the field who did understand the situation and were demonstrating results, only to be disasterously redirected by decisions made in Washington."

See my comment above. In short, I heard these good guy, bad guy stories many times when I was in the military myself, and they usually had more to do with ass covering than any serious failings of those on high. There is only one Rumsfeld, not 10,000 of them, and he can't spend all his time systematically dismantling the brilliant successes of our military leaders in the field. I'm no defender of Rumsfeld, and would very much like to see him go, but at some point these stories get a little thick. In the end, our military commanders on the ground do bear some small responsibility for success or failure.

"It seems we have already achieved chaos and civil war for most of Iraq's population; what -- realistically -- can be done to reverse that trend? I am not optimistic that winning, as you describe it, is achievable, given real-world constraints. But I would love to be wrong."

Your gut feeling is that we need to get out. My gut feeling is that we can still do some good over there if we stay. I'm not going to tell you that I'm infallible, and that I'm certainly right and you're certainly wrong. The situation is too complex for any human being to make such a claim. We all tend to wander off into swamps when we stray outside the realm of repeatable experiments. That doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to act. Based on my own knowledge and experience, and some of the reasons I've cited here, I think it would be wrong to quit now. I understand that rational people can disagree with me.

Posted by: Helian at September 29, 2006 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hell,
I agree there has been a failure of "leadership" from the cic on down. Where are the leaders like Eisenhower who famously wrote 2 letters before dday...one if it was a success congratulating everyone on a job well done and most importantly a second letter in the case of failure HE WOULD HAVE OFFERED HIS RESIGNATION . Or even Churchill as often as he has been invoked recently fell on his sword after the Gallipoli failure!...With a little exposure from a muckraking australian journalist by the name of Murdoch...yes it was Ruperts father. Ironic how fox cheerleads failure in this war..isnt it?

In this war the only people that have been fired or resigned were the people who were correct and honest. The sycophants and idiots are all still there or in other cushy appointments with there "presidential medals of freedom". So maybe some of these generalS are in engaged in a little cyoa, but that is better than taking your "medal of freedom" and cushy appointment or postion in the m.i.c. and pretending that we are making steady progress. The way this admin works I GUARENTEE IT WOULD BE IN THESE GENERALS OWN SELF-INTEREST TO JUST KEEP PRETENDING.... AND TAKE THEIR POSTION WITH HALIBURTON OR SOME OTHER CONTRACTOR with obligitory "heckuva job" pat on the back or hokie medals that have been handed out recently.

Posted by: centrist at September 29, 2006 02:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"So maybe some of these generalS are in engaged in a little cyoa, but that is better than taking your "medal of freedom" and cushy appointment or postion in the m.i.c. and pretending that we are making steady progress."

No objection here, except when it comes to the magnitude of the cyoa.

Posted by: Helian at September 29, 2006 02:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> The Kurds are something of a special case; their
> experience has been that the US has protected
> their interests.

Only if you have a very short memory. Look at how
Bush Sr betrayed them; they got small scale
genocide attempted against them out of that,
with the US army standing by, watching.

al-jubal, you must be thinking of the Marsh Arabs. The Anfal happened during the Iran-Iraq war, before the war for Kuwait.

Seems to me Helian has a good point about incompetent commanders in addition to incompetent defence secretaries. However, I think he misses that Iraq was a logistics failure, not a military failure. It was an attempt at social engineering without the means to carry it out. To view this conflict in military terms is to continue the first mistake of defining counter-terrorism efforts as a war as well. That's the military tunnel vision.

Posted by: Klaus at September 29, 2006 03:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"How about beginning to remove those people who have been PROVEN to be incompetent, as a first step to accountability?"

Absolutely, but tell me, how do you "prove" incompetence. Isn't failure in your assigned mission associated with incompetence? By that standard, a good number of the senior officers who are now shouting that it's all Rumsfeld's fault should be sacked.

Ah, Helian, we know the senior officers aren't incompetent because Rumsfeld says everythings going just fine. If the problem was the officers,Rummy would get rid of them.

A few of the guys who're saying things are going south are indeed officers Rummy got rid of. But most of them aren't.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 29, 2006 09:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

oops.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 29, 2006 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I heard these good guy, bad guy stories many times when I was in the military myself, and they usually had more to do with ass covering than any serious failings of those on high.

That's a good point.

So let's see. Rummy says there's nothing wrong and the troops are doing everything they're supposed to. The officers say things are getting worse and we don't have what it takes to stop it.

I say that for Rummy to maintain that things are fine shows that Rummy is incompetent and needs to go. You say that maybe the officer corps shares in the responsibility for failure.

That does make sense. And that puts it in pretty stark light. If we were to get rid of Rummy and somehow persuade Bush to replace him with somebody competent, I'd like to hope that might let us recover in iraq.

And if that doesn't do it, I'd like to think that getting rid of Bush/Cheney and Rummy would let us get people at the top who'd allow a recovery.

But you point out that maybe the army and marines are also clueless. That's a strong argument for pulling out.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 29, 2006 09:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


> al-jubal, you must be thinking of the Marsh Arabs. The Anfal happened during the Iran-Iraq war, before the war for Kuwait.

Klaus, it sounds as though you may have missed one of the recent genocides of the past century.

You're clearing thinking of the anfal of the late 80s -- maybe you left school before the uprising/Kurdish raperin disaster of the 1991/1992 time period, and didn't learn of it.

In 1992, after settling a peace agreement with the US forces, Saddam turned to the Kurds. They had been naive? stupid? enough to believe the US propaganda encouraging them to fight against Saddam. They launched their raperin believing that George Bush Sr was trustworthy, when he said the US would support them if they launched an uprising. (It has been said that even Barzani -- certainly a schemer -- was somewhat naive, in trusting US promises across his career.)

There was massive flight to Turkey, of many hundreds of thousands (well, most actually claim millions) of Kurds fleeing Saddam's killers.

Some say that because the US and the West ignored this genocide, it provided the opportunity for the PUK and KDP to really solidify their control of the entire Iraqi Kurdish people -- because it proved that they were the only ones willing to help the sick, the women and children, and the starving.

Posted by: al-jubal at September 30, 2006 10:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As a follow-up to my post (where I tried to outline for Klaus the 1991 Kurdish massacres which were apparently unfamiliar to him), let me expand on the note that I made. It might be bitingly pointed out that Barzani's naiveity in trusting the US promises in 1991 (which were not fulfilled and led to this aforementioned massacre while the US army stood and watched) may be seen as somewhat of a character flaw, especially if one considers how he was disappointed by the US sellout in 1961, when the US bartered a deal which, well, more or less helped to solidify the dictatorships in Iraq and Iran, to prevent any democracy in either country. At that time, "our bastards" were running both countries, and the last thing the US wanted was any democratic opposition to Saddam.

As clever and scheming as Barzani may have been in other ways, with regards to trusting the US, he really did not seem to have a grasp of that well-known old truism:

"fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again"

Posted by: al-jubal at September 30, 2006 10:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"But you point out that maybe the army and marines are also clueless. That's a strong argument for pulling out."

By no means did I say that the army and marines are clueless. What I did say is that our military leadership at the top is ineffective. They are not incompetent. There is a big difference. Once I asked an old retired air force general why we trained foreign pilots along with our own at Red Flag (the "Top Gun" school at Nellis AFB). After all, some of them might become our enemies. He replied, in very few words, that the difference between us and them is competence. I asked how we have built competence. He replied, "criticism." It was one of the most profound things in a total of about 10 words I've ever heard. Competence is one of the keys to winning. It is not the only key. To win, to be effective, we must also have a combination of smarts, creativity and originality at the top that you might refer to as "genius." It is not an uncommon commodity in war. We produced a good number of leaders of genius in the civil war on both sides. There are ways to find such leaders. Our present military bureacracy has demonstrated its incapacity to do so from the Vietnam era to the present. Something needs to change in the bureaucracy, and in the way we identify or top leaders and put them in commands where they can do some good.

A lack of effectiveness is not an argument for pulling out, any more than McClellan's ineffectiveness was a reason for surrendering to the slave states in the Civil War. It is an argument for change, for doing what it takes to turn things around. We did that in the Civil War, and we can do it in this conflict. The idea that we can't win in Iraq or Afghanistan militarily is a crock. As history demonstrates, it is always possible to win conflicts militarily, given sufficient national resources and will. We have the former, but I suspect that, as in Vietnam, we lack the latter. Beyond that, there is the question of whether it is worthwhile to win militarily or not. If we do more harm than good to the Iraqi people or bring about a situation in which our own national security is jeopardized in the process of "winning," then it is not worth it. That is the question we are faced with. My personal opinion is that winning, which in my opinion is an Iraqi state that is able to defend itself and that does not threaten the security of the United States, is possible at a cost that we can bear, and is not an unlikely outcome if we persevere.

Posted by: Helian at September 30, 2006 03:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Helian, you are saying that the problem is not just Rumsfeld but the entire top leadership of our ground forces.

So we must replace not just Rummy but most of them.

We need not just an inspired SoD, we need a SoD who knows which top military guys to fire and which rising military guys to promote.

That's a very tall order. The way we know to do that is to reward guys who get victories, at all levels. Put the old Peter Principle to work, promote success until they get to a level where they stop getting successes -- then stop promoting them.

I can see the value in that approach. While it would surely result in years of failure in iraq before we got inspired leadership that could turn the situation around, after that we could use those inspired leaders. Like, after WWII we took our top inspired officers, and we made Eisenhower president and we sent MacArthur to korea to win there.

But it's questionable whether we could get results that way quick enough to afford them. The war is costing us, what? $12 billion a month at this point. Total costs have passed $2 trillion. And iraq will keep on deteriorating while we wait for the inspired leaders to show up. What's the chance we'll get a big dollar devaluation before then? That war is using up a lot of oil, and we're buying a lot of it from kuwait. We can't begin to burn that war on just what we refine ourselves in iraq. After a devaluation everything we buy overseas to support the war effort will be a lot more expensive.

We haven't made much sacrifice for the war yet, we keep putting it on our tab. How much longer can we keep doing that?

If the problem was just Rummy I'd be sort of hopeful. Just persuade Bush to get rid of Rummy and then we can fix the problems. But you point out that it's much much worse than that. We'd better pull out.

Posted by: J Thomas at September 30, 2006 05:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian, an international lawyer and business executive, comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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