Chris's Rants

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Reading David Brooks today, I was reminded of the Guinness commercial, where one of the owners comes up with the idea to sell their ale in a bottle. "Brilliant!" the other exclaims. Then, the first guy follows that up with his second idea, sell the bottles in a six-pack. "Brilliant!" exclaims the other.

Here's what Brooks has for us in today's column (emphasis mine):
Andrew Krepinevich is a careful, scholarly man. A graduate of West Point and a retired lieutenant colonel, his book, "The Army and Vietnam," is a classic on how to fight counterinsurgency warfare.

Over the past year or so he's been asking his friends and former colleagues in the military a few simple questions: Which of the several known strategies for fighting insurgents are you guys employing in Iraq? What metrics are you using to measure your progress?

The answers have been disturbing. There is no clear strategy. There are no clear metrics.
Well, duh! Thanks, David, for bringing this remarkable news to our attention.
Krepinevich has now published an essay in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "How to Win in Iraq," in which he proposes a strategy.
What's that you say? A strategy? Brilliant!
strat·e·gy n. pl. strat·e·gies
    1. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
    2. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.
  1. A plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal. See Synonyms at plan.
  2. The art or skill of using stratagems in endeavors such as politics and business.
As an aside, I got a chuckle from the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary definition right below the above:
Main Entry: strat·e·gy
Pronunciation: 'strat-&-jE
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural -gies
: an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior, metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success
Here's the adaptation that I came up with for Rumsfeld:

strategy - A plan of action resulting from strategy or intended to accomplish a specific goal, that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving military success

But, I digress... back to Brooks's column (emphasis mine).
The article is already a phenomenon among the people running this war, generating discussion in the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the American Embassy in Baghdad and the office of the vice president.
A phenomenon?

phenomenon - An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel.

Oooh, look! A strategy! I've never seen one of those before. Look how it shines!

Sigh... let's continue our exploration of Brooks's column:
Krepinevich's proposal is hardly new. He's merely describing a classic counterinsurgency strategy, which was used, among other places, in Malaya by the British in the 1950's. The same approach was pushed by Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt in a Washington Post essay back on Oct. 26, 2003; by Kenneth Pollack in Senate testimony this July 18; and by dozens of midlevel Army and Marine Corps officers in Iraq.
Yes, you see... instead of listening to people who have studied the art and history of war all their adult lives (people who just might know a thing or two about the subject) the neocons in Rumsfeld's OSP, and Rumsfled himself thought that they knew better and dismissed the military leadership's (and the State Dept's for that matter) carefully developed plans and recommendations out of hand.

At that point, most of the military leadership went into "yes, sir!" mode and deferred to whatever Rumsfeld and his OSPers said was the plan. Even when it became clear that their on-the-ground commanders needed more troops or more/better equipment (think body armor and heavily armored Hummers), they made sure that those requests never saw Rumsfeld's desk. They didn't want to be the next Shinseki.

Rumsfeld's management style all but ensured that he would not receive any critical thinking from his military leadership.

If Bush wasn't such a coward himself, and if he had even half a brain, he would have fired Rumsfeld when it became clear that his leadership just wasn't getting the job done. But, noooo! He's resolute. He's going to stick by his man through thick or thin.

Let's continue with Brooks. He continues his column with a brief explanation of the Krepinevich proposal. Then he follows that with the following (again, emphasis mine):
If you ask U.S. officials why they haven't adopted this strategy, they say they have. But if that were true the road to the airport in Baghdad wouldn't be a death trap. It would be within the primary oil spot.

The fact is, the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

First, it requires a heavy troop presence, not a light, lean force. Second, it doesn't play to our strengths, which are technological superiority, mobility and firepower. It acknowledges that while we go with our strengths, the insurgents exploit our weakness: the lack of usable intelligence.


If President Bush is going to rebuild support for the war, he's going to have to explain specifically how it can be won, and for that he needs a strategy.

It's not hard to find. It's right there in Andy Krepinevich's essay, and in the annals of history.
Here's why this will never happen, and why we might as well just pack up and bring the troops home -- Bush won't admit that he has made a mistake because that would mean that Daddy was right all along. His massive Oedipus complex is what is preventing us from finding a way of either winning, or at least not losing as badly as is likely to be the case after 3 more years (and more before we finally extracate ourselves from this mess under some adult supervision) of pouring money, that could easily be put to far better use, and lives into this bottomless pit.

Even if this strategy is adopted, it will require something that no politician in Washington is willing to back: a draft. There simply aren't half a million troops to deploy. We're tapped out and America's youth are not signing up in droves -- they have "other priorities".

So, thanks David for the enlightening column... unfortunately, it is completely beside the point. Not only is there a need of a strategy, but there is need of a rationale that will motivate the country to support sending 350,000 more of our children off to their untimely death. Beyond a strategy, the country needs a reason. Why?

As Cindy Sheehan asks: "What noble cause"?

Is it the establishment of an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq? Somehow, I don't think that's going to cut the mustard with the bible-thumpers.

Is it to divest Iraqi women of the rights that they had gained over the past 50 years? For all of Saddam's brutality, Iraq was actually quite progressive in that regard before we invaded. The prospects for Iraqi women look pretty bleak given the direction that the drafting of the Iraqi constitution is headed. That would certainly please some of the misogenists in our own country, but fortunately, they are still in a minority.

Bush will roll out the tried and true "link Iraq to 9/11" again and again, ad nauseum. It's always worked before! Sadly, there are still about 36% of Americans who still believe that fantasy, because they'll believe anything that Dear Leader tells them. Fortunately, with each passing day, there are fewer and fewer of these poor deluded souls. As the cognitive dissonance grows, either their heads explode or they finally come to their senses and realize that maybe, just maybe, they've been lied to all this time.


  • That's half the reason to bug out immediately. The other half is Dream Team theory. In 1992 when the U.S. sent NBA players to the Olympics, the team mopped up against an over-matched world. Only 12 years later, though, the world caught up.

    Strategically-speaking, the longer you stick around, the more time you allow your opponent to bring his game up to your level. And the insurgency enjoys home court advantage ...

    By Anonymous Mike Meehan, at August 29, 2005 3:33 PM  

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