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April 30, 2007

Iraq: Military Self-Critique

Iraq: Military Self-Critique

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Casey and Petraeus

General Casey handing command of MNF-I to General Petraeus, February 2007 [Department of Defense]

It’s veto week in Washington. After General Petraeus’s recent testimony about the “surge” and after a couple of weeks of awful news about deaths in Iraq, President Bush gets the next move in the political fight over the war spending bill.

We’ve had an ongoing interest in the generals who have fought this war and who are fighting it now. David Petraeus — the current commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq — has impeccable credentials, but no one seems convinced that he’ll succeed, at least not without a much bigger troop escalation than the current “surge.” So now seems like the right time to ask colonels or generals (Iraq veterans and/or recently retired) for an unvarnished critique of the way the war’s been planned and run.

Chris has been jonesing for months to have Col. H. R. McMaster — of Dereliction of Duty fame — on the show. They’ve struck up a friendly intermittent correspondence, but so far McMaster (not too surprisingly, given his current role as part of Gen. Petraeus’s “Baghdad brains trust“) has politely deflected our invitations. He did, however, just refer us to a pointed assessment of US generals in the Armed Forces Journal. It asks how, after all the lessons of Vietnam, the US general officer corps failed to prepare the military for new kinds of war, failed to warn Congress that the Bush administration’s war plan was not feasible, and failed to acknowledge the intensity of the insurgency. We’re following up with the author Lt. Col. Paul Yingling and others.

Who would you want to hear from and what would you want to ask?

Paul Eaton

Major General, U.S. Army (retired)

In charge of building Iraqi army and civil security forces, 2003-2004

Thomas X. Hammes

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

Served in Iraq in 2004 helping to establish bases for the Iraqi army

Author, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century

John Batiste

Major General, U.S. Army (retired)

Commanded 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, deployed 2003

Advised Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, 2001-2002

Extra Credit Reading

Major General Paul D. Eaton’s testimony before the DPC

David Margolick, The Night of the Generals, Vanity Fair, April, 2007: “From the outside, the six insurgent generals looked suspiciously like a cabal, but there was nothing conspiratorial about them. While a few knew one another, their protests were not coordinated; to this day several have never met. For the most part, they were connected only insofar as one of them emboldened the next, and the next, and the next.”

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, A failure in generalship, Armed Forces Journal: “America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America’s generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America’s generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.”

Major General Paul D. Eaton, General Eaton’s Letter to President Bush on Veto, May 1, 2007: “As someone who served this nation for decades, I have the utmost respect for the office you hold. However, as a man of conscience, I could not sit idly by as you told the American people today that your veto was based on the recommendations of military men. Your administration ignored the advice of our military’s finest minds before, and I see no evidence that you are listening to them now.”

Daniel J. Danelo, Officer Risks Career to Blast “Buffoonery” of Generals, US Cavalry ON Point, April 30, 2007: “But in professional military circles, the article—which begins with a quote about officers amusing themselves with “God knows what buffooneries”—could be the equivalent of a suicide bomb. Yingling’s willingness to take his critique public was a bold move that some say could cross the line of insubordination.”

Jai, There are generals who have resigned, of course, Soldiering on for Wesley Clark, March 7, 2007: “It takes a special kind of courage for a senior military officer to take a stand against the policy of his civilian leaders. Not only might he lose his active duty job, but he frequently risks the loss of long-term friendships as well as potential earning opportunities within the defense contracting and consulting community. Too often with the current vindictive administration, he may even find his reputation shredded.”

Bob Krumm, A failure in general, BobKrumm.com, April 30, 2007: “While few were probably aware of our enemy’s changes and our vulnerabilities, the Army’s senior leaders, should have numbered themselves among that few. That, after all, was their job. Instead, as both Yingling and I pointed out, the Army spent the nineties preparing for the eighties.”

Iraq: What Went Wrong – Part II, SwordPenTrumpet.com, May 1, 2007: “As LTC Yingling, Deputy Commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiments (”Brave Rifles”), noted in his article on the buffoonery of America’s current crop of General Officers (GO), the one GO in recent memory that served his country well was General Eric Shinseki. It would be hard to imagine a real Soldier not agreeing with LTC Yingling’s assessment.”

Related Content


  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Do military planners actually believe the US can invade and occupy anyone’s homeland for a sustained period of time if the local population does not welcome foreign intrusion, minor countries such as Panama and Grenada excluded? Is it technically, strategically and physically possible? Is it acceptable, morally, financially and politically to the US public? Does it matter what the international community thinks?

  • Bobo

    ROS did an excellent show on Thucydides in November (http://www.radioopensource.org/thucydides-ur-historian-of-the-ur-war/). It was mentioned on that show that Thucydides was required reading at West Point. One thing that struck me then was: if this is required reading, how did we end up in Iraq. The classic idea that ‘those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it’ seems suddenly irrelevant. Apparently even those who know history are doomed to repeat it.

    Do the generals now see our invasion of Iraq as a mistake from the beginning, or do they think that the idea was right? Where do they place the blame for the current situation?

  • rc21

    sidewalker, I don’t think the US planned on occupying Iraq for an extended time.

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    Ralph Peters would be a good guy for a segment about the military and Iraq.

    Career army (Intelligence) he started off as an enlisted guy. Keen observer, essayist for Parameters (The Army War College quarterly), fiction author .. and he does radio well.

    Constant Conflict

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/97summer/peters.htm

    The Plague of Ideas

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/00winter/peters.htm

    Rolling Back Radical Islam

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/02autumn/peters.htm

    The Culture of Future Conflict

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/95winter/peters.htm

    Our Soldiers, Their Cities

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/96spring/peters.htm

    The Atlantic Century

    http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usawc/parameters/03autumn/peters.htm

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    Bobo

    One thing that struck me then was: if this is required reading, how did we end up in Iraq

    Generals aren’t in charge of picking which war to fight, only how to prosecute the war that they are told to fight.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    You are correct rc21. The plan was to gather flowers and kisses from a stupified population then set up a puppet government that would give US corporations the Iraqi oil. It was only suppose to take a few weeks.

    Weren’t there any military advisors who knew we were heading into a total disaster? Why didn’t they do anything to stop it? Where are those West Pointers who’ve read Thucydides? Is it just “Aye-Aye” and “Yes Sir” in the military even when they know they are leading their troops straight into hell for the selfish delusional reasons of an arrogant and corrupt administration?

  • tbrucia

    Increasingly it’s obvious that motives and motivation are the keys to understanding why things happen: not the ostensible reasons or justifications, but the inner workings of individuals’ minds. Why do people do things? Monetary gain. Respect of their mate. Admiration by peers. Social status and opportunities to increase that status. We could go on…. Military people may tell others that their sole motivations are love of the nation-state and its political hierarchical command structure — but I cannot ‘connect the dots’. People don’t do things out of love of a political command structure and the advantages that accrue to the nation-state that structure runs. People are much more concrete calculators of cost/benefit ratios. The structures in which generals (not to mention colonels, majors, captains, lieutenants, etc) operate is the missing link, since the social structures provide both rewards and penalties for specific behaviors. If the outputs are inappropriate, look to the structures — not the individuals. — This said, wars are intense laboratories in which rapid learning CAN take place (adapt or die), but when the top levels of the command structure (located in Washington, DC) are far from the fight, expect other motivations than ‘success on the ground’ to take over. Anyone who thinks someone like Cheney is interested in victory is mistaken. Whatever his motivations, his lack of combat experience, and intense background in bureaucratic infighting MUST make other motives (relatively) more important. Understand what makes people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush Jr, Rice, etc tick, and you will know something. The question is only partially why ‘after all the lessons of Vietnam, the US general officer corps failed to prepare the military for new kinds of war, failed to warn Congress that the Bush administration’s war plan was not feasible, and failed to acknowledge the intensity of the insurgency,’ though these are interesting. The more critical question: How can the motivations of national leaders be aligned with front-line troops? It would be interesting if all national leaders were required (by amendment?) to have combat experience… (Yes, I know this won’t ever happen.) More practically, a draft ONLY applying to the families of political leaders might provide a gut-level link to the battlefield. If the Bush twins (or the President’s nephew Pierce) were in front-line Iraqi combat, this would provide an interesting ‘feedback loop’ to the political leadership… Or if Cheney’s daughters were military officers in Iraq, this would again do the same thing. The problem isn’t (just) the military officer corps — it is the lack of integrated structure within the war-fighting hierarchy and bad ‘social engineering’ design. It is a systems failure, and systems analysis is what’s missing.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    rc21, that’s what I can’t figure out. Rumsfeld, Cheney and others apparently had selfish and delusional reasons, as peggysue points out, but what about the military brass? How could they have thought it would be such an easy campaign? Did they learn nothing from Vietnam? Did they learn nothing from Britain’s earlier experience in the region? Why were they so eager to please their political masters? Was it as simple as ego or rewards or was it a complete misreading of the situation? Did they fall, like many in the nation, for the post 9/11 rhetoric? Why didn’t they stand up and make the administration stand down?

    Also, when the Iraqi defences melted away and let the US forces easily roll into Baghdad, couldn’t top military officials have predicted that an insurgency was highly likely? Did they really expect all these warriors to suddenly become…what, farmers, patty flippers, Wmart-clerks, beggars?

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    “but no one seems convinced that he’ll succeed”

    When it comes to Iraq what does success mean? Are we still trying to secure the oil for American corporations? Would sucess mean we’ve set up permanent American military bases? Or do we just have to hang in there until the next presidential election so Bush, Cheney et al do not lose face by losing a lost war? How about getting out alive with limbs in tact and a psyche that is not destroyed by killing?

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    How could they have thought it would be such an easy campaign?

    The campaign was not a cinch, exactly, but a masterful demonstration of what American combat arms can do. It is mostly that the Army has not had to worry at about ‘what comes after’ since 1945.

    I’m not sure it’s their fault, exactly. Yes they should have prepared and should have been preparing for it since it became clear that we were going to invade but ..

    How-to’ occupy Germany and Japan was a studied and worked on since the beginning of the Second World War. This occupied thousands of people’s time and attention. Case studies, plans were made, organizations staffed for an Army of Occupation, years before it came into being.

    It takes a lot of time and attention to do that well.

    Go back to 2002. Would it have been politically acceptable to the Loyal Opposition for the Army to devote thousands of man-hours to the topic of ‘how-to’ govern a foreign country?

    I’m not sure it would have been. It implies that ‘making war’ is something we plan on doing on a regular basis, that we intend to occupy foreign countries on a regular basis.

    Yes, in light of what happened we should have done this – but go back five years and ask if you would have accepted a ‘School of Occupation’ from the Bush administration.

  • nikolrb

    I guess the question is, what really is the realistic objective at this point? I don’t sense there is any consensus on this (even within the ranks of those who think being there is important) which really undermines the achievement of any particular goals.

  • RobertPeel

    Where was Colin Powell in this debate?What ever happened to the “Powell Doctrine?” Why did not Colin Powell resign?

    What happened to the disapearing Condi Rice? Henry the K is back! He has been giving advise to W! Does military Victory have to be the solution? Let’s fix our damage. Create a “Marshall Plan” Return the country to its people.

  • RobertPeel

    I recommend Peter Mass’s article “The Counterinsurgent” NY Times January 11,2004 On John Nagle (eating soup with a knife)

    http://www.petermass.com

  • RobertPeel

    i.e http://www.petermaass.com sorry for the mistake.

  • vnivola

    Paul Hughes, a retired army colonel who was part of a transition team after the U.S. invasion, blames the insurgency on blunders made by Bremer and the neocons in the State Department. Hughes was in Iraq at the time of the invasion and vehemently opposed the dissolution of the Iraqi army, but was ignored.He argues that Bremer’s ill-considered decision to dismiss Iraq’s army left 500,000 armed men with no means of supporting themselves and their families, and therein created the Sunni insurgency.

    Charles Ferguson, a former M.I.T scholar, made documentary on the subject of U.S. failures in Iraq called “No End In Sight” in which he interviewed Paul Hughes and others, including an Iraqi “Washington Post” reporter named Omar Fekeiki.

    To learn more about the views of Paul Hughes, Omar Fekeiki, and Charles Ferguson go to David Brancaccio’s NOW at: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/316/index.html.

    vnivola

  • RobertPeel

    I have been reading Cobra II. It has great info on the lead up to war and the mistakes of planning. One of its authors is at the Kennedy School.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Was there anyone in the upper ranks of the military who understood the culture(s) of Iraq and the greater area well enough to advise about what response the different groups within the country were likely to have after the fall of Hussein?

    It seems to me that I heard/read people talking about the deep rifts in the different groups in Iraq and the high possibility of civil war. Was this discussed with the administration?

    Does our governmental system provide a way for the military to say, “no”, when a presidents declares a war – particularly a pre-emptive one – that is not militarily advised?

  • rc21

    Sidewalker,and peggysue,My take on why we went to Iraq is different than yours. I think the Bush admin thought the Iraqi people would see us as liberators,which many did.

    The problem was that there were still enough S.H. supporters and various other rouge elements running free. These groups and others were allowed to gather steam and in the ensuing years have caused more violence than the Bush admin ever dreamt of.

    Maybe the Bush admin fell prey to it’s own PC belief that the Iraqi people would look upon liberation and freedom the way most western cultures do.

    All wars present their own seperate set of problems and circumstances. Trying to compare them has relevance,but I would not draw to many conclusions about Iraq based on past conflicts.

  • rc21

    allison, very good points. We should have looked at worst case scenario,and expected it to be the reality.

    As to your last question, I think it is best that the military does not make the decisions on war. Remember it was Air Force general Curtis LeMay who wanted to bomb Russia and Cuba during the missle crisis. Luckily civillian powers had the final say.

  • enhabit

    what we have here is the world’s dominant military machine..by far..looking for a raison d’etre. when hordes of tanks and nuclear submarines amass over the horizon we are ready..it will take the next superpower quite a while to catch up, if ever. in the mean time large standing armies offer terrible temptation..some cautions from thomas jefferson…

    “It is probable… that not knowing how to use the military as a civil weapon, [the civil authority] will do too much or too little with it.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, 1789.

    “The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to Chandler Price, 1807.

    “There are instruments so dangerous to the rights of the nation and which place them so totally at the mercy of their governors that those governors, whether legislative or executive, should be restrained from keeping such instruments on foot but in well-defined cases. Such an instrument is a standing army.”

    ~Thomas Jefferson to David Humphreys, 1789.

    and a caution on party politics from george washington

    “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

    ~george washington — farewell address

    and some wise guys…

    Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor.

    ~A pirate, from St. Augustine’s “City of God”

    It would be easier to subjugate the entire universe through force than the minds of a single village.

    ~Voltaire

    Our country is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificually induced psychosis of war hysteria and an incessant propaganda of fear.

    ~General Douglas MacArthur

    For what can war, but endless war, still breed?

    ~John Milton

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    allison

    Does our governmental system provide a way for the military to say, “no”, when a presidents declares a war – particularly a pre-emptive one – that is not militarily advised?

    Resign and explain why.

  • enhabit

    we know that we are despised by many in the middle east..certainly enough to offer sustained resistance…and yet we seriously thought that palm fronds would be laid at our feet?

    “The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.”

    ~Marcus Aurelius

  • nother

    Self-Critique of Accountability

    In his book “Fiasco,” Thomal Ricks writes that very few generals have been fired (if any), as opposed to previous wars.

    I think about corporate America and how CEO’s are accountable to the bottom line – they get fired.

    So I would like to hear a self-critique on how evaluations are conducted and documented. Is there any objectivity or is it a case of the good ol boys evaluating themselves. I know it gets political up there at the top, so it might be like asking Democratic senators to evaluate other Democratic senators – of course the results would be accolades all around!

    Even at the bottom (where I resided) the evaluations were all trumped-up.

  • RobertPeel

    Thanks enhabit for mixing Levitas with Gravitas! We need it.

    Let’s face the fact that George Tennt was a politcal hack who served two masters Bill Clinton and then George Bush. He deed not have a deep intelligence background. His recent book incidates that not only that he was unprepared for the work he was doing he,also, was overwelmed.

  • enhabit

    his tone betrays as much

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    I know it gets political up there at the top, so it might be like asking Democratic senators to evaluate other Democratic senators – of course the results would be accolades all around!

    Maybe? A long time ago honestly evaluating performance of units and unit leaders in peace time .. didn’t happen. If you looked good you were promoted and things rolled along until wartime. Then things shook out, leaders were found who were effective wartime leaders, effective habits were learned and things churned forward.

    Think U.S. Grant – a guy washed out of the Army for being a drunk, brought back because he could fight. Or Kasserine Pass.

    In the early 80s it was realized that this was a non-starter – future conflicts would be over before this cycle was completed. The Army and Marines learned to work around this. One of the more effective tools (long winded, but we’re getting there) was honest lessons learned and after action reports from training cycles.

    Called a wash-up, every unit leader participates, everyone critiques and participates. Junior officers learn they can speak up, senior officers learn from the juniors (and visa versa).

    It works because the guys involved are convinced that the process is required, makes a better fighting force. They’ve bought-in.

    Which is a long way around the barn to say that military guys can self- critique, and will be more honest about it than pols.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    rc21, I hear you on not letting military make decision regarding launching a war. I’m just wondering about having a negative control when a war idea looks militarily unwinnable. In other words, they can’t start one, but they could prevent one.

  • http://www.circles-salon.com allison

    Brian Dunbar, I am asking because it seems to me that it would create a check and balance system. We have an administration that is full of people who have never served in the military and it is unclear what their motivations for invading Iraq were. If the administration went to the military and the military gave them info on how bad this would be and couldn’t feel confident in any way to win – however that was defined – does it make sense for the military to be able to stop a war plan from moving forward? After all, they have to execute and their lives are going to be lost.

    I understand this brings up power and control issues that may not make sense in a heirarchically defined world. I ask the question to spark discussion and look at ways that might help prevent a rogue administration from launching a war when the military advisors know that it is ill-advised.

    If the military had some power in the decision-making process, would the dialogue amongst all the parties involved in the decision have been different? Is there anything the military did not report because of power issues? Or did they say all they felt needed to to be known and feel that the decision to invade Iraq was wise?

  • Nick

    Brian Dunbar’s citing (4:33 PM) of the battle of the Kasserine Pass is worth a digression. In its prelude, the American general Lloyd Fredendall gave ample (albeit unwitting) warning of his incompetence by blasting (with dynamite) a headquarters complex into a Tunisian escarpment, when his operational orders were not to dig in but to chase the increasingly undersupplied and under-re-equipped Axis forces out of North Africa. His excuse (apparently) was fear of the Luftwaffe, but that air force’s effective power wasn’t exactly robust or potent there (N. Africa) and by then (early ’43). The German ground forces still had significant advantages (notably in firepower and battlefield organization and doctrine) that made their fewer troops much tougher a force than the numerically larger Allied forces, but Frendendall’s choice to honeycomb the mountains and burrow himself into them was hardly warranted. Especially considering that the poor GI’s he commanded were stuck out in the February rain and mud, spread much too thinly along his front, and exposed to the very threat he was cowering from.

    What’s important is that his officer-colleagues recognized all this – but did little or nothing to have this matter examined—and Frendendall reassigned—until after Rommel exposed Fredendall’s obvious unfitness at Kasserine – at a cost of over 6,000 killed and missing (mostly captured). Exact parallels don’t flow here though, since the opposing forces were ‘symmetrical’ (uniformed armies of warring states) rather than ‘asymmetrical’. But the tendency in military culture to protect higher ranking officers—even incompetent ones, until their evident shortcomings cost lives—sure does ring a bell.

  • Ben

    I hope not to mix things up, but after the fall of Baghdad in 1917 to the British, the British armed forces were still around to put down insurgencies until the late 1940s. Twenty some-odd years of presence. How is now different? How was it supposed to be different in execution?

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    rc21 wrote: I think the Bush admin thought the Iraqi people would see us as liberators,which many did.

    You are right that many did, but weren’t these Shi‘ite Muslims and Kurds who saw they could us the US invasion to finally gain liberation from Sunni domination? I would think most never imagined liberation in a neo-liberal democratic sense and they never envisioned the US setting up permanent military bases and remaining in some form forever.

    enhabit, the MacArthur quote sums up why the US must constantly flex its military might. But after Vietnam, one would have thought any possibility of a messy occupation would have been avoided. Somalia is one example of a quick exit strategy. Maybe everyone was too eager to sip many cups of Texas tea.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Oops unemboldened?

  • rc21

    allison, good questions. I think the answer really comes from the congress. Remember Johnson and Bush both went before congress,and the congress gave a big thumbs up. The same with FDR.

    It is the military/intelligence service that supplied Bush and the congress with all the intell or lack there of.So in truth it is the military that really helps make much of the decision.

    If you give the military to much power I think eventually you raise the possibility of a coup.

  • Potter

    If this war was really THAT important, especially since it was described as such and to be open ended– we should have had a draft for it and rationed gas and sugar ( as Ken Burns reminds us about WW2). That would have been the test about whether the nation would be behind this sacrificing for the long term. This war would not have stood that test.

    In the end, it is the country, if it is a democracy, that must agree or not- sooner or later.

  • enhabit

    there are people in power right now..some in shadowy locations..that are unwilling to give up our overwhelming military superiority…they are pushing for continued developement and spending…not because of some overwhelming military threat, but because they feel that it would be insane to give up such an overwhelming advantage.

    how does this affect others, friend and foe, when they approach us?

    how does this affect our foreign policy?…how about the world?

    how does such capacity tempt us?

    this is a monumental mistake, one that is self-fulfilling because rivalries will soon become enemies.

  • rc21

    sidewalker, good points. I’m sure many people had many different reasons for wanting freedom from S.H. Failing to imagine every result of liberation was probably the biggest mistake made in this war.

    I wonder if the Bush admin or congress envisioned a scenario where Iran and to a lesser extent Syria would become involved with perpetuating the violence?

  • tbrucia

    Some of the issues being discussed here are precisely those covered in John Robb’s book, ‘Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism And The End of Globalization ‘ If the name sounds familiar, check the April 24 ROS: http://www.radioopensource.org/globalizations-double-edged-sword . He describes both how total war can totally destroy an opponent — and why modern nation states do not wage total wars any more. I have been struck by how much fuss is made over the death of 3,600 men over a period of four years, when 66,000 men died in a SINGLE day during the Battle of Borodino (Sept. 7, 1812) and 19,400 British troops died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916). Something has radically changed in warfare! Part of that something is the end of mass mobilization and the contracting out of the project to specialists; society regards war as a ‘sideline’ of government, and something that is not central to their lives. (Remember George Bush’s admonition to the American public to ‘keep shopping’?). We might also keep in mind the subcontracting aspect of war American style, with Blackwater USA just one example of using mercenary auxillaries to provide specific war-making capabilities. (The use of civilian contractors to feed, cloth, and house troops has also changed the teeth-to-tail ratio. The only problem is that the freed troops — in addition to fighting — have to defend their soft underbelly (the unarmed contractors) from attack. I suspect that many Americans think of the war in Iraq not as ‘our war’, but as ‘their war’ (or ‘his war’). The fact that most Americans don’t care much about Iraq or the Iraqis’ fate is critical. War is won in the minds and hearts, and if the American public doesn’t care much about Iraq, then one of two outcomes is inevitable: the elite wages war and simply ignores public opinion (which is shallow and fickle), or the elite panders to the public’s desire for peace and makes sure only ‘easy fights’ are picked. (Unpaid commercial: Read Robb’s book… It’s very, very good!)

  • RobertPeel

    Thanks for the reminder to read Robb’s book. Tbrucia, I agree with your points.

    The difficulty is after 9/11 we all rolled over to Bush. Generals are responsible to civilian command. They can quit or get court-martialed.

    The point abouve-the fall of Baghdad in 1917 is instructive. Where were the Britts when we were going to war. They were the experts.

  • jscientist

    How difficult would it be for congress to investigate and see where the chain of command broke down? Then prosecute those responsible, which undoubtedly means the president and vice president.

  • jscientist

    eisenhower said to monitor the military industrial complex. Has the watch stopped?

  • jscientist

    I wonder if our president knew he was just getting started in iraq when he made the Mission Accomplished speech

  • jscientist

    the bush administration undoubtedly went in thinking oil and chose iraq because it is oil rich and muslim. in the bush book thats killing two birds with one stone

  • http://StudentsForTheEarth.org joneden

    Unlike after the Vietnam war, I think the world is going to expect us to pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq–like how much would it cost to rehabilitate a trashed California. I think that cost plus the money we are now spending in destroying it is going to induce some serious reflection and learning. So far though what we are hearing is a lot of extended whining about why we didn’t execute this unjust war more expertly–we have got some distance to go.

    jon

    Connecting the dots: from human behaviors to ecosystem decline

    http:StudentsForTheEarth.org

  • http://StudentsForTheEarth.org joneden

    The administration’s current goal for this war is real simple, just keep it going so that they can hand it off to the next administration–that way they can avoid responsibility for losing. They have told us to expect as much. This will make the negotiation with congress–which wants to insist on bench marks in order to continue–quite interesting.

  • herbert browne

    After listening tonight I hunted down an old copy of the “I Ching” and re-read the opening paragraphs of the 7th hexagram, “The Army.” From a source thousands of years old, the wisdom remains salient, and meaningful, when applied to events in our time. (I wonder if they study this at the War College?) ^..^

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    RobertPeel said: “after 9/11 we all rolled over to Bush”

    we didn’t all roll over to Bush.

  • David Weinstein

    I admire these military officers bringing the question of accountability about what went wrong in Iraq back to the general officer corps. I also agree with the guest who said that the most fundamental failure was in the lack of oversight by the Congress in the run-up to the war with the press even though the media have no constitutional responsibility taking second place.

    I would like to take it to a deeper level in our democracy: the duty of the citizenry to stay engaged in matters of vital public interest, to educate itself on these matters, and to stand up to their elected representatives when they are either being incompetent or deceptive. Leaving aside if the Bush/Cheney gang ws ever democratically elected (those who follow this issue on ROS know my opinion on the disgrace), the fact that such a shallow, arrogant and strange person as George Bush ever made it to the White Hosue to become the commander and chief of our armed forces, should give one serious pause about the fundamental health of our democracy.

    Yes, as these officers pointed out, the military serves at the behest of our commander and chief with oversight from Congress. Yes, General Shenzeki was made and example of and no other active general turned in his/her stars. But I believe our current military commanders are honorable and no less so if they don’t fall on their swords. It is George W. Bush who should fall on his sword. But I believe he has no honor as he has no ability for self-examination.

    Bush the junior wanted this war for whatever reason, he and his people culled and misused military and CIA intelligence to get us into this disaster. Lyndon Johnson did the honorable thing by not running for re-election after disasterously miscalculating the Vietnam War.

    But in the end it is “We the People,” who bear the responsibility for either putting Bush/Cheney et al in power or not rising up in outrage when he stole two elections. Character is fate, as the Greek philosopher said, and afre our dereleiction of civic duty, we got this terrible and tragic war.

    We, the electorate, who ultimately hold the power, should follow LTC YIngling’s and these guests’ from the military lead and give serious thought and soul-searching as to how our democracy so went wrong as to set the stage for such a disaster. Such an examination, especially if it leads to a healing of our democracy and wise, appropraiate action and remedy is the true answer to the deep questions of tonight’s show.

  • Potter

    Amen David Weinstein.

    GWB, “the decider”, has done so much damage in these last several years. I wonder how we will survive. So much harm has been done. How could he have been elevated to our high office twice?

    Congress’ failures has been mentioned. When we examine let’s also look at the Republican party and it’s desperation to win the executuve branch after 8 years of hating Clinton. They chose him and got behind him full force with the big dollars. I remember the mere mild concern about whether he was up to the job, his failures in business, his non-military service, his incoherence. Remember the debates?

    When we talk about toadies let’s not forget our toadie-in-chief.

    Yes the generals should have left one by one but they would have been replaced by an endless string of toadies only too happy to get a Medal of Freedom for compliance.

    “We the people” have to care more about things like how we elect a president. Who we put in that position makes all the difference. I used to think we could survive a bad president.

    Does anyone think that Al Gore would have us here right now? Does anyone think that Al Gore would not have had us on board a serious program to deal with climate change instead of spending billiions, no trillions on this disaster?

    Let’s examine the money and corporate influence that has kept us here. Let’s examine party-above-all politics that does not stop when in office. Let us examine how we fail as ciitizen when understanding of vital issues comes way too late.

  • Potter

    The results of an interesting poll taken after George Tenet’s 60 Minutes interview: Blame Shifting

    Colin Powell needs to write a tell-all book now.

  • hurley

    Impeachment, mes amis?

  • plnelson

    Impeachment, mes amis?

    Oui!

  • Nick

    Kai neh!

    (That’s Greek for, “And yes!

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Impeachment is not enough for a criminal administration. These are war crimes.

  • Pingback: ON Point Blog : Boston Radio Show Talks With General on Iraq

  • sleepless_in_chicago

    I’m not sure any significant lessons are truly being learned in Iraq, within the officer corps, and administration. Too many egos in the officer corp from what I’ve seen. That, and there’s a thinning pool of talent. A few general officers and the like have proved their worth, and that’s why they go back to help orchestrate this big cluster-f*** going on over there, ie. Petraeus.

    The army at higher levels are too slow to learn… instead you have the lower ranking soldiers, the one’s actually out on patrol risking their lives doing the best they can to stay alive, and to try to accomplish something. That was the case with my unit. There was no real “mission”. Stability operations are not easy, and require cunning leadership at the small group level. It is guerrilla warfare, and the people in that region invented it. Generals trained on WWII major force structure tactics are not equipped to fight a nasty “Street fight”. Flip through “Tactics of the crescent moon” sometime.

    Like I said, there’s a few officers out there reading Sun Tzu, who realize you can’t oust and insurgency without the help of the people. Those are typically the ones who are not trying to protect their ego or are on some sort of personal agenda to come home decorated for feel empowered by their duty position. It’s a shame, the Army that I remember developed leaders who served their soldiers.

    Another point worth mentioning, is the powers that be, tend to miss the situation. Probably one of the most essential factors when mission planning. In the anbar province things are getting better, but it’s not due to the performance of the US Forces there, as much as it is the Sunni’s getting sick of the insurgency and anti-coalition forces causing trouble for them. They’re forming a marriage of convenience with the US military out of survival. They finally realize that not being involved politically, and allowing attacks to occur in their neighborhoods resulted in their city’s being demolished (Fallujah and Ramadi), and their families being targets.

    Everything in Iraq I saw was a mess. We should start looking at ways to correct matters constructively than bicker and try to assign blame. In the meantime a lot of soldiers and Iraqi’s are being killed, injured, kidnapped, tortured in truly violent ways Americans will never see probably or understand.

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    Were I to ask Gen. Batiste a question, I’d ask him this;

    Why, given the problems he saw going forward with the war, did he

    a) Not say anything to the Secretary when he had the chance? Yes, code of conduct, chain of command but … there was a chance to speak up and say something.

    a1) Do you regret NOT saying anything?

    b) Did you go forward with the war and not resign your commission in protest? Was it that you didn’t see the issues until after and THEN chose to resign?

    I don’t ask to be confrontational – I really want to know.

  • Potter

    I just met Eugene Robinson (never read him before):

    Lost in the Fog with Commander Guy

  • fernando761

    I think the Paul Yingling is dead on. But what makes his article so interesting is not necessarily its content–though insightful and accurate, the criticism is not new. Many others have written similar accounts in newspaper articles or books such as “Fiasco” and “Cobra II.” What is so striking about the article is that it was written by a successful active duty officer and then published in a military journal. If Yingling isn’t immediately fired or blacklisted, this will mark a clear change in the MILITARY’S INTERNAL CLIMATE. Public sentiment may be so negative over Iraq that military officers can dare to say “the emperor has no clothes” and still keep their jobs. If this is the case, expect the floodgates to open soon–dozens of similar articles by military officers will follow. The change will be both postive and negative: Positive because the American public will have greater insight into the real dynamics of the war as seen by those fighting it. Negative because the insight will be bleak and feed the frenzied call for immediate withdrawal.

    Regardless of the potential outcomes, we should all be watching the career of Paul Yingling very closely. The stakes are much higher than we can imagine.

    Go to http://www.roguelystated.com for more…

  • AprilProf

    Just now catching up on back shows. The sorry fact is that in this country “self” is the only thing that is important. From generals to the worker on the street all do what the master says, especially if there continued employement depends on that master. The current political climate is and appears will continue to be the boss is always right. Neither the Admistration, Congress, Courts, Military or Joe Public have the will to do what is best for the country

  • http://sail.navas.us John Navas

    Having just belated heard the podcast of this excellent program, I highly compliment both ROS for airing it and the guests on the program for being so open, candid and direct in their remarks. My only complaint is with the basic thesis of the program, which Christopher Lydon doggedly and stubbornly stuck to, that our senior military should or could have somehow spoken up and saved us from the debacle in Iraq. It seems we’ve arrived at the punish-the-innocent phase.*

    The guests rightly pointed out that it was unrealistic to expect that (short of ending a career, which might well have been a meaningless gesture), that the real failures were in the Administration and in Congress, our elected leaders. While our military undoubtedly has much to learn from the Iraq experience, we citizens are the only ones that can learn how to keep this from happening again, by holding our elected leaders accountable for letting the nation down. And to be clear, I’m not just blaming the Administration, or even the Republican Party, because the Democrats in Congress were just as responsible for letting this happen.

    Worse, our elected leaders have just let us down yet again, by rolling over on the war funding bill (not to mention their other campaign promises). It’s time to throw the entire bunch of rascals out and start over with some truly new faces. On that basis alone, Obama will probably get my votes.

    Consider a business analogy. Were the vice presidents of Apple accountable for the decline during the Sculley, Spindler, and Amelio tenures? Should they have been openly grumbling to shareholders and press? Of course not! The failures were entirely the responsibility of the Presidents, Congress (Board of Directors), and citizens (shareholders). What it took to get Apple back on track wasn’t rebellion in the ranks, it was a bit of luck and big changes at the top: a belated wake up by the Board, and a return to the leadership of Steve Jobs. There’s an important lesson there.

    * The Six Phases of Any Project:

    1. Optimism and enthusiasm.

    2. Disillusionment.

    3. Panic.

    4. Search for the guilty.

    5. Punishment of the innocent.

    6. Reward and honor for the undeserving.

  • http://sail.navas.us John Navas

    John Navas Says on May 27th, 2007 at 2:17 am:

    Worse, our elected leaders have just let us down yet again, by rolling over on the war funding bill (not to mention their other campaign promises). It’s time to throw the entire bunch of rascals out and start over with some truly new faces. On that basis alone, Obama will probably get my votes.

    But then again, probably not, because his “new” proposal to control health care costs is just recycling of market intervention (National Health Insurance Exchange to “monitor” insurance companies), funded by the rich, that just doesn’t work. Oh well. [sigh]