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Author Topic: A Neoconservative Sounds Off as He Sends His Son to War
David Ricardo
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Neoconservative Eliot Cohen speaks his mind on the mismanagement of the war he so resolutely supported and still supports as he sends his own son to fight in that war:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070802303.html

quote:
But a pundit should not recommend a policy without adequate regard for the ability of those in charge to execute it, and here I stumbled. I could not imagine, for example, that the civilian and military high command would treat "Phase IV" -- the post-combat period that has killed far more Americans than the "real" war -- as of secondary importance to the planning of Gen. Tommy Franks's blitzkrieg. I never dreamed that Ambassador Paul Bremer and Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the two top civilian and military leaders early in the occupation of Iraq -- brave, honorable and committed though they were -- would be so unsuited for their tasks, and that they would serve their full length of duty nonetheless. I did not expect that we would begin the occupation with cockamamie schemes of creating an immobile Iraqi army to defend the country's borders rather than maintain internal order, or that the under-planned, under-prepared and in some respects mis-manned Coalition Provisional Authority would seek to rebuild Iraq with big construction contracts awarded under federal acquisition regulations, rather than with small grants aimed at getting angry, bewildered young Iraqi men off the streets and into jobs.

I did not know, but I might have guessed.

[...]

Question: Your son is an infantry officer, shipping out soon for Iraq. How do you feel about that?

Cohen: Pride, of course -- great pride. And fear. And an occasional burning in the gut, a flare of anger at empty pieties and lame excuses, at flip answers and a lack of urgency, at a failure to hold those at the top to the standards of accountability that the military system rightly imposes on subalterns.

It is a flicker of rage that two years into an insurgency, we still expose our troops in Humvees to the blasts of roadside bombs -- knowing that even the armored version of that humble successor to the Jeep is simply not designed for warfare along guerrilla-infested highways, while, at the same time, knowing that plenty of countries manufacture armored cars that are. It is disbelief at a manpower system that, following its prewar routines, ships soldiers off to war for a year or 15 months, giving them two weeks of leave at the end, when our British comrades, more experienced in these matters and wiser in pacing themselves, ship troops out for half that time, and give them an extra month on top of their regular leave after an operational deployment.

It is the sick feeling that churned inside me at least 18 months ago, when a glib and upbeat Pentagon bureaucrat assured me that the opposition in Iraq consisted of "5,000 bitter-enders and criminals," even after we had killed at least that many. It flames up when hearing about the veteran who in theory has a year between Iraq rotations, but in fact, because he transferred between units after returning from one tour, will go back to Iraq half a year later, and who, because of "stop-loss orders" involuntarily extending active duty tours, will find himself in combat nine months after his enlistment runs out. And all this because after 9/11, when so many Americans asked for nothing but an opportunity to serve, we did not expand our Army and Marine Corps when we could, even though we knew we would need more troops.

A variety of emotions wash over me as I reflect on our Iraq war: Disbelief at the length of time it took to call an insurgency by its name. Alarm at our continuing failure to promote at wartime speed the colonels and generals who have a talent for fighting it, while also failing to sweep aside those who do not. Incredulity at seeing decorations pinned on the chests and promotions on the shoulders of senior leaders -- both civilians and military -- who had the helm when things went badly wrong. Disdain for the general who thinks Job One is simply whacking the bad guys and who, ever conscious of public relations, cannot admit that American soldiers have tortured prisoners or, in panic, killed innocent civilians. Contempt for the ghoulish glee of some who think they were right in opposing the war, and for the blithe disregard of the bungles by some who think they were right in favoring it. A desire -- barely controlled -- to slap the highly educated fool who, having no soldier friends or family, once explained to me that mistakes happen in all wars, and that the casualties are not really all that high and that I really shouldn't get exercised about them.

There is a lot of talk these days about shaky public support for the war. That is not really the issue. Nor should cheerleading, as opposed to truth-telling, be our leaders' chief concern. If we fail in Iraq -- and I don't think we will -- it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed. Rather than fretting about support at home, let them show themselves dedicated to waging and winning a strange kind of war and describing it as it is, candidly and in detail. Then the American people will give them all the support they need. The scholar in me is not surprised when our leaders blunder, although the pundit in me is dismayed when they do. What the father in me expects from our leaders is, simply, the truth -- an end to happy talk and denials of error, and a seriousness equal to that of the men and women our country sends into the fight.



[ July 11, 2005, 01:12 AM: Message edited by: David Ricardo ]

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David Ricardo
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It is all even more interesting to note that Eliot Cohen was a major author of the PNAC (Project for a New American Century) treatises. In fact, he is one of the main intellectual heavyweights who propelled the United States into the invasion of Iraq.
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kelcimer
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Now THAT is good criticism. That is what I would love to hear from the left. Criticism that is not couched in "we shouldn't be there" or "it won't work".

We get so sidetracked with addressing "shouldn't be there" or "it won't work" that the dialogue does not get through to the important points that really need to be addressed.

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WarrsawPact
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/agree

The guy makes sense to me; what else is there to say?

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Paladine
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quote:
I could not imagine, for example, that the civilian and military high command would treat "Phase IV" -- the post-combat period that has killed far more Americans than the "real" war -- as of secondary importance to the planning of Gen. Tommy Franks's blitzkrieg.
Well, frankly speaking, planning for the occupation *should be* secondary, both in chronology and in importance, to the winning of the "actual war" (major combat operations). That isn't to say that it's not critically important to plan for an occupation effort. But logically speaking "How do we take these people out?" has to come before "What do we do with the place after we take them out?".

This is partially because the former is more important (we went in there to take out Saddam and his regime, not to fix the place up); it's also partially because sequentially, B depends upon A. The manner in which we govern the place is very largely determined by the national mood after we take out the regime, which can is difficult to predict before the fact.

Consequently, any planning for the occupation must necessarily contain a great amount of elasticity. Planning was done ahead of time. To say or imply otherwise is foolish and inaccurate.

quote:
I did not expect that we would begin the occupation with cockamamie schemes of creating an immobile Iraqi army to defend the country's borders rather than maintain internal order, or that the under-planned, under-prepared and in some respects mis-manned Coalition Provisional Authority would seek to rebuild Iraq with big construction contracts awarded under federal acquisition regulations, rather than with small grants aimed at getting angry, bewildered young Iraqi men off the streets and into jobs.

First off, maintaining the integrity of the borders is and has been one of the top priorities for the purpose of maintaining internal order. You can't have order in a country into which foreign extremists pour for the expressed purpose of uprooting said order.

The purpose of giving contracts is to actually get things up and working again. It's not to give people jobs when doing so makes it less likely that things will run as smoothly.

quote:
It is a flicker of rage that two years into an insurgency, we still expose our troops in Humvees to the blasts of roadside bombs -- knowing that even the armored version of that humble successor to the Jeep is simply not designed for warfare along guerrilla-infested highways, while, at the same time, knowing that plenty of countries manufacture armored cars that are.
I don't know the particulars on this one, but it sounds like he may have a point here. That said, you begin a war when you need to begin a war. You don't wait for armored cars to assist in making the occupation safer. That's no excuse for not moving in the direction of acquiring better equipment as time progresses, however, and it is my hope that we are doing so.

quote:
It is disbelief at a manpower system that, following its prewar routines, ships soldiers off to war for a year or 15 months, giving them two weeks of leave at the end, when our British comrades, more experienced in these matters and wiser in pacing themselves, ship troops out for half that time, and give them an extra month on top of their regular leave after an operational deployment.
That's easier when you're committing a smaller amount of soldiers to the field, as the British are. There are many in this country who want to see even more troops there than currently are, however. Given this, I don't see us scaling back deployment schedules in the near future.

quote:
It is the sick feeling that churned inside me at least 18 months ago, when a glib and upbeat Pentagon bureaucrat assured me that the opposition in Iraq consisted of "5,000 bitter-enders and criminals," even after we had killed at least that many.
This may have been true 18 months ago; more have been streaming in.

quote:
Disbelief at the length of time it took to call an insurgency by its name.
I really don't see why these terms are so important to everyone. It is what it is; that won't change if we call it an insurgency or a parade. There was a similar battle of semantics when the media was clamoring for Bush to declare "victory" and he instead declared an "end to major combat operations".

The media then tried to spin it in order to make it seem as if he really had declared "victory", which allowed them to count each soldier who had died after said declaration as a detriment against his credibility. These semantics battles are silly; they do nothing but distract us from the real war. There are people there who want to kill our soldiers, and our soldiers are fighting them tooth and nail. Call it whatever you please.

quote:
Alarm at our continuing failure to promote at wartime speed the colonels and generals who have a talent for fighting it, while also failing to sweep aside those who do not.
I'd like to see some evidence for this one. It's possible (and indeed likely) that different skill sets are required to be a successful "major combat operations" commander than are necessary to be a successful reconstructionist. The former skills are probably taught much more extensively to the officer corps. The sort of work many of our officers are currently undertaking aren't the jobs they were trained to do, and this has nothing to do with inability to fight a war.

quote:
Incredulity at seeing decorations pinned on the chests and promotions on the shoulders of senior leaders -- both civilians and military -- who had the helm when things went badly wrong.
Their performance can be good even if the overall result is not (and I very much dispute the latter portion of that statement). I think that many of our senior leaders have performed admirably, and deserve the honors afforded them.

quote:
Disdain for the general who thinks Job One is simply whacking the bad guys and who, ever conscious of public relations, cannot admit that American soldiers have tortured prisoners or, in panic, killed innocent civilians.
Well, that general's right to think that Job One is to whack the bad guys. If you can't do that, none of the rest of what you do very much matters. I also don't get this fixation people have with getting our military to "admit" to things. Yes, innocent civilians are killed in any war. They were killed in this one. That's an extremely unfortunate reality, and not one that it behooves our cause to fixate upon in the face of an opposing force that demonizes us in the public square.

The same is true of these "torture" allegations. I'm sure some people have been tortured. I'd half like for our military to say "If we capture you plotting to kill Americans, we reserve the right to do any number of horrible things that we don't care to enumerate here in order to thwart that mission". We can and should use these tactics. But, if we're not going to come out and positively assert that, then I don't think we should be "admitting" anything.

quote:
Contempt for the ghoulish glee of some who think they were right in opposing the war, and for the blithe disregard of the bungles by some who think they were right in favoring it. A desire -- barely controlled -- to slap the highly educated fool who, having no soldier friends or family, once explained to me that mistakes happen in all wars, and that the casualties are not really all that high and that I really shouldn't get exercised about them.

I agree about the ghoulish glee of many war opponents. I don't think many people are ignorant of mistakes being made. But, like it or not, those educated fools do have a point. Mistakes will be made in any operation so long as it's administered by human beings. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to do better. It does mean that the existence of mistakes shouldn't be brought up as if it discredits the mission entirely.

quote:

There is a lot of talk these days about shaky public support for the war. That is not really the issue. Nor should cheerleading, as opposed to truth-telling, be our leaders' chief concern. If we fail in Iraq -- and I don't think we will -- it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed.

And this is the kind of prescience which only a hardened, self-important pundit could claim. The war effort could fail because of our leaders. It could fail because of a lack of public will. At this point, it's impossible to know whether it will fail. It's also impossible to know why said event will possibly occur.

quote:
Rather than fretting about support at home, let them show themselves dedicated to waging and winning a strange kind of war and describing it as it is, candidly and in detail. Then the American people will give them all the support they need. The scholar in me is not surprised when our leaders blunder, although the pundit in me is dismayed when they do. What the father in me expects from our leaders is, simply, the truth -- an end to happy talk and denials of error, and a seriousness equal to that of the men and women our country sends into the fight.
I'm not seeing the "happy talk" or a "lack of seriousness" here. I constantly hear it referred to, but every speech by a high-ranking administration official (or the POTUS), included prominently in the speech is the fact that our mission over there continues to be hard and costly. They also say that we're making good progress and that it's worth the cost. I believe that we are and it is. That's not "happy talk".
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Loki
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I saw something on TV about Humvees, they interviewed an Iraqi soldier in Desert Storm, he said something to the effect of, 'we destroyed tons of tanks and tons of other vehicles, but I think we only destroyed one or two hummers.'

I thought that was cool, this guy thinks they suck though...

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Kit
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No, he thinks they are inappropriate for the uses they are being put to. That's very different than sucking.
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RickyB
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Kelcimer, there is absolutely nothing in Mr. Cohen's very valid and well put critique that many on the left - from heavyweights all the way down to little ole me - have not been saying for two years now. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

The single, solitary difference is the source. You can't write off Mr. Cohen as a lefty whiner Bush hater, so you are forced to concede that it's good critique. Had you been impressed with the same words from different mouths earlier, perhaps you would have contributed to a public atmosphere that woud have forced some re-evaluation of the problems.

Next time, read the book, don't dismiss it on basis of the publisher.

Paladine - when the actual war is no contest, then no it shouldn't. It's extremely important that you understand this, so that you can understand how badly this war has been managed.

That's like saying you should give more thought to overpowering your 10 year old son who's beating up his younger brother, than to making him refrain from doing it again.

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musket
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quote:
Kelcimer, there is absolutely nothing in Mr. Cohen's very valid and well put critique that many on the left - from heavyweights all the way down to little ole me - have not been saying for two years now. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.
Yep.
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Kit
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There may be nothing in there that wasn't in your, but there are many things in yours that weren't in his.

You are right that we need to look beyond the source and filter good ideas out of whatever pond we find them in. We, as lazy people, tend to seek places where we are confortable and accepted and which don't require us to think, filter, and analyze too much. We also tend to ignore/tune out things that attack what we like repeatedly and which make us work really hard to find common ground. That's why the internet abounds in echo chambers. That's why Ornery is such a rarity.

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Paladine
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quote:
there is absolutely nothing in Mr. Cohen's very valid and well put critique that many on the left - from heavyweights all the way down to little ole me - have not been saying for two years now. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

The single, solitary difference is the source. You can't write off Mr. Cohen as a lefty whiner Bush hater, so you are forced to concede that it's good critique. Had you been impressed with the same words from different mouths earlier, perhaps you would have contributed to a public atmosphere that woud have forced some re-evaluation of the problems.

Well, for my part, I don't write anyone off as a "lefty whiner Bush hater". I address points as best as I'm able, and I wasn't impressed with much Mr. Cohen's critique.

quote:
Paladine - when the actual war is no contest, then no it shouldn't.
A large part of the reason the "actual war" was "no contest" was because of the brilliant planning put into it by our military leaders. I never said that planning for the occupation shouldn't have been a priority. But it is of secondary importance to the main objective. It's important that you understand that before you spout off about how mismanaged the whole thing was.

It's also important that you understand how frankly impossible it is to plan for every contingency that can occur in situations like these. We have a basic plan, which we've had all along: maintain the integrity of the borders, root out hotbeds of insurgent activity, establish a functional Iraqi government, train Iraqi security forces to begin to take the burden of security onto themselves, and gradually pull back as the situation allows.

What else are you looking for them to have "planned" before the invasion, exactly? No one knew exactly what shape events would take by this (from a past perspective) late date, and I don't think they can reasonably be faulted for not seeing every eventuality.

quote:
That's like saying you should give more thought to overpowering your 10 year old son who's beating up his younger brother, than to making him refrain from doing it again.
Wow, that's an awful analogy. It's actually nothing like that at all. [Razz]
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RickyB
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quote:
A large part of the reason the "actual war" was "no contest" was because of the brilliant planning put into it by our military leaders
No, I'm sorry. The pre-conquest was planned very well, but this had absolutely no effect on how much of a contest it was. The Iraqi military was ludicrously outgunned both in quantity and quality, hopelessly undersupplied even with what they did have in principle, and totally demoralized. Vast parts of it simply faded away rather than fight. The brilliant planning sharply reduced casualties and made for a smooth advance to Baghdad, but this was basically the the original 1992 Dream Team against a poor and decimated country's team. The coach only gets so much credit, no matter how high the score and how many highlights the game generates.

quote:
It's also important that you understand how frankly impossible it is to plan for every contingency that can occur in situations like these.
In 1991, when the Shi'ites rose up against Saddam (and were eventually crushed when we failed to support them like we promised), legal authority broke down in several cities. You know what happened? exactly what happened in Baghdad and elsewhere after April 9th, 2003 - looting and anarchy So you cannot play the "every contingency" card. This Should have been expected and planned for. End of story.

quote:
maintain the integrity of the borders
Or blame the Syrians for our failure to do so...


quote:
root out hotbeds of insurgent activity
Or at least make them move from town to town...

quote:
establish a functional Iraqi government
Which in fact has zero control of events outside the Green Zone

quote:
train Iraqi security forces to begin to take the burden of security onto themselves
Or at least hope they make it past the recruiting centers without getting blown up.

quote:
and gradually pull back as the situation allows.
Or when we decide our nose has been bloodied quite enough, thank you.


quote:
Wow, that's an awful analogy. It's actually nothing like that at all.
Sure it is. Once again: The problem never was enforcement. The USA could ALWAYS overpower Saddam. Even at the height of his power, let alone at the nadir of 2003.

The problem was control and behavior modification. Once again: Why did Papa Bush not topple Saddam? Because it was a problem militarily? No. And that was when the gap between the two militaries was A LOT smaller.

For America to paint its demolition of Saddam's army as any sort of contest whatsoever, is very much like Kramer in Seinfeld bragging about how great he's doing in Karate class, only to have it revealed that all his victories are against 12 year olds. The force gap really is that big.

Only guerrila is the great equalizer. But guerrila is not a novel concept, so forgive me if I expect some plans to be made against it in advance.

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kelcimer
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RickyB
quote:
Kelcimer, there is absolutely nothing in Mr. Cohen's very valid and well put critique that many on the left - from heavyweights all the way down to little ole me - have not been saying for two years now. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

The single, solitary difference is the source. You can't write off Mr. Cohen as a lefty whiner Bush hater, so you are forced to concede that it's good critique. Had you been impressed with the same words from different mouths earlier, perhaps you would have contributed to a public atmosphere that woud have forced some re-evaluation of the problems.

Kit got it right.
quote:
We also tend to ignore/tune out things that attack what we like repeatedly and which make us work really hard to find common ground.
Did you read my second part?
quote:
We get so sidetracked with addressing "shouldn't be there" or "it won't work" that the dialogue does not get through to the important points that really need to be addressed.
Had the left not been attacking the very premise and possibility of success they could have contributed to a public atmosphere that would have allowed discussion of mistakes & errors. If all of what they say is said only in support of "shouldn't be there" or "it won't work" then it should come as no surprise that such criticism comes to fall on deaf ears. No matter what happens everything is bad. There is no perspective.

Neither have I said or maintained that everything is peachy. Mistakes and errors have been made and I have readily acknowledged this. It is simply hard to discuss them when there are fundamentals that are being challenged.

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WarrsawPact
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Haha, Ricky thinks we've been "bloodied quite enough, thank you" when the total casualties after two years of fighting approach the number of casualties the US suffered on D-Day.

Whew, 60 years will change you.

[ July 12, 2005, 03:02 AM: Message edited by: WarrsawPact ]

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Whew, 60 years will change you.

Yeah, during WWII, our leaders didn't cheap out on the troop strength.
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Paladine
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quote:
No, I'm sorry. The pre-conquest was planned very well, but this had absolutely no effect on how much of a contest it was.
Say what? The important point is this:

quote:
The brilliant planning sharply reduced casualties and made for a smooth advance to Baghdad
This is the reason why planning for the "actual war" was so important. Things went splendidly, and they could've gone much, much worse.

quote:
The coach only gets so much credit, no matter how high the score and how many highlights the game generates.
My point wasn't to give a lavish amount of credit; it was to show the necessity and benefit of planning major combat operations and asserting the primacy of these over secondary considerations such as post-war planning.

As to most of the rest of your post: no, we haven't been completely successful on every count yet. We have had a great measure of success on most fronts, however. The borders are increasingly secure, much of the country is passified, there is a more or less operational Iraqi government in place, and Iraqi security forces are in the process of being trained.

Has the execution been perfect? Certainly not. But your beef here seems to be that there wasn't a "plan". I hear that same load of malarkie repeated over and over again without a shred of supporting evidence. The way the military has handled this effort is in fact consistent with a good, logical plan. It hasn't been cleanly implemented every step of the way. We underestimated the chaos that would emerge when Saddam emptied his jails of thousands of violent criminals.

You can point to a number of other tactical errors, I'm sure. You can question the reasoning of our plan there, and you may raise valid points (although these have been sorely lacking thusfar). But to imply that we didn't have a plan for the occupation or that we didn't take it seriously is, as I've said before, flat out foolish.

quote:
The problem never was enforcement. The USA could ALWAYS overpower Saddam. Even at the height of his power, let alone at the nadir of 2003.

The problem was control and behavior modification. Once again: Why did Papa Bush not topple Saddam? Because it was a problem militarily? No. And that was when the gap between the two militaries was A LOT smaller.

For America to paint its demolition of Saddam's army as any sort of contest whatsoever, is very much like Kramer in Seinfeld bragging about how great he's doing in Karate class, only to have it revealed that all his victories are against 12 year olds. The force gap really is that big.

There isn't a military in the world that would be an even match for ours. We're the global hegemon for a reason. But then again, North Vietnam was no match for us either, at least not on paper. There was a 12 year old that gave us a swift kick in the balls.

That's a whole new can of worms though, so I'd rather not go into that one (on this thread. A new one maybe?).

quote:
Only guerrila is the great equalizer. But guerrila is not a novel concept, so forgive me if I expect some plans to be made against it in advance.
I've described the plans we had. They seem like good ones to me. What exactly are you looking for? There's no clean, bloodless way to resolve a mess like this. We're doing the best we can. Tactical mistakes were made and will continue to be made. That's the nature of the beast. If you're talking in terms of strategic planning, however, I think we've done a fine job.
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Everard
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"Haha, Ricky thinks we've been "bloodied quite enough, thank you" when the total casualties after two years of fighting approach the number of casualties the US suffered on D-Day."

Comparing the war in Iraq to WWII is so ridiculous as to be intellectually dishonest.

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RickyB
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"There was a 12 year old that gave us a swift kick in the balls."

Like I said, Guerrila is the great equalizer.

What am I looking for? ANY kind of plan to prevent lawlessness following the fall of civil authority. There was none. I was watching CNN on April 10th and this marine was practically crying to the camera that "this is peacekeeping! We weren't trained for this!"

That's what I'm looking for. I won't even go into to stuff like "don't send 400K people home with no jobs but with their rifles". Just the basic "OK, we topple Saddam. THEN WHAT?"

As for the brilliant planning for the war - again. The brilliant planning reduced our casualties by a few hundred at most. In the big picture, This planning basically meant we didn't scrape the paint of the front bumper as we ran down a small dog.

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Funean
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quote:
This planning basically meant we didn't scrape the paint of the front bumper as we ran down a small dog.
I love a good analogy.

No, comparison to WWII is actually offensive. The Marshall Plan, though not without its problems, was a) extant and b) reasonably effective. But mostly a).

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javelin
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So, this is the new meme? There was no plan for securing the peace? They somehow conveniently forgot that the country would still be there after the surrender of the army and taking of the city?

Do you believe there was no plan? Really?

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Funean
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Well, that's certainly overstating it. But I don't think there's a good argument to defend the statement that there was anything like a fleshed out plan that sufficiently took into account things like the effects that an ability to restore basic services was going to have on the morale of the citizenry.
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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by Funean:
Well, that's certainly overstating it. But I don't think there's a good argument to defend the statement that there was anything like a fleshed out plan that sufficiently took into account things like the effects that an ability to restore basic services was going to have on the morale of the citizenry.

I would agree that the plan hasn't been implemented well or properly - I think most are disatisfied with what's happened over there. However, I'd challenge you to think through what you are saying: do you really believe that they hadn't fleshed out a plan for "winning the peace", inadequate though it may be? Do you really believe that an enormous amount of time wasn't spent on thinking this through, regardless of whether the results have turned out the way they planned them or not?
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Funean
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I'm afraid I have my doubts about the amount of thinking that was done at the highest levels, though I'm certain that experienced diplomats and military strategists placed "winning the peace" appropriately high on their lists. Unfortunately, implementation requires a great deal of support and coordination from the top, and I don't see that coming through.

Our strategy appears to be "find and kill or neutralize Every Insurgent" (impossible and unending) rather than "make the insurgents irrelevant, except as a public hazard" (has a hope of becoming a self-sustaining system).

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Do you believe there was no plan? Really?
I think there was no plan B. Plan A was "flowers and kisses". Really.
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Digger
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"Do you believe there was no plan? Really?"

I'm going to take the middle ground: There was definitely a plan, and it was much more than "flowers and kisses', but the level of the isurgency was underestimated while the rate at which the Iraqis would be able to field their own security forces was probably overestimated.

As such, I think the peace is moving more or less as it was expected, albeit at a slower pace than was hoped for. That's the impression I have, anyway.

[ July 12, 2005, 11:11 AM: Message edited by: Digger ]

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
I'm going to take the middle ground: There was definitely a plan, and it was much more than "flowers and kisses', but the level of the isurgency was underestimated while the rate at which the Iraqis would be able to field their own security forces was probably overestimated.

Of course my "flowers and kisses" is hyperbole. However I do think that many of our problems in Iraq stem from insufficient planning and are not simply implementation problems.

I think a lot of it had to do with this administration trying to use Iraq to make political/power points as their first priority -- actually winning long-term was taken for granted, and thus deprioritized.

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kenmeer livermaile
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a) "We get so sidetracked with addressing "shouldn't be there" or "it won't work" that the dialogue does not get through to the important points that really need to be addressed."

b) "there is absolutely nothing in Mr. Cohen's very valid and well put critique that many on the left - from heavyweights all the way down to little ole me - have not been saying for two years now. Nothing. Nada. Zippo."

I'm one of them lefties who fielded both the attitude expressed by b) AND that dismissed by a).

I think we really shouldn't have invaded in the first place AND I think that now that we have, we're sucking awfully at fulfilling any useful lasting mission effect.

c) "What else are you looking for them to have "planned" before the invasion, exactly? No one knew exactly what shape events would take by this (from a past perspective) late date, and I don't think they can reasonably be faulted for not seeing every eventuality."

Oy, I'll say it gain and again and agian. What we were looking for to have "planned" before the invasion, is that which actually was "planned" before the invasion, but then rejected by the Men in Charge, was Two Simple Words:

SUFFICIENT TROOPS.

This mess isn't the result of sufficient planning; it is the result of insufficient willingness to give a good goddam about a) the people of Iraq and b) the men and women of our fighting forces and c) the American people who now must answer to both.

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javelin
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My understanding of the "sufficient troops" meme - the one where the "generals all said they wanted more troops, but Bush's second in command said no" - is that this isn't the case. That the minority of generals felt they needed more troops, and that one of those generals retired shortly after the beginning of the war, because he'd planned to retire before the planning of the war.

Is it true that those in charge said that they needed more troops? Unfortunately, no it isn't. Did they need more troops? In my opinion, yes.

Fact Check

[ July 12, 2005, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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A. Alzabo
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Bertrand Russell has a post up that mirrors many of my opinions on this whole issue.
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A. Alzabo
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quote:
My understanding of the "sufficient troops" meme - the one where the "generals all said they wanted more troops, but Bush's second in command said no" - is that this isn't the case.
This is not an argument I'm making. The planning was troop-short before they were even deployed. Rumsfeld wanted to prove the effectiveness of his lean, mean "transformed" military -- a political/power consideration rather than a purely military one. His philosophy was in stark contrast to the "Powell doctrine" of using overwhelming force once you've committed to battle. Rumsfeld was making a power play to show the military just who was in charge, as well as to prove his pet vision. The "Powell doctrine" is (was?) the most prevelant philosophy of warfare amongst the mostly conservative military planners before Iraq, as it invloves leveraging our greatest strength as a superpower.

quote:
That the minority of generals felt they needed more troops, and that one of those generals retired shortly after the beginning of the war, because he'd planned to retire before the planning of the war.

Again, I don't think it is very accurate to look at how many generals asked for more troops to gauge wether or not they wanted them. Our military will do what the leadership asks without public complaint, even if they are told to storm Iran armed only with spoons.

quote:
Is it true that those in charge said that they needed more troops? Unfortunately, no it isn't. Did they need more troops? In my opinion, yes.

I think this still misses the point that most planning and accepted military wisdom would have required more troops (even dismissing a lot of Cold-War-type "kitchen sink" plans). Rumsfeld and his team had a political interest in "disproving" the more conservative military planners, and placed that priority above winning long-term. That's a large part of why they can't take corrective actions now that make them look "wrong".
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javelin
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Yes, I think the military was attempting to embrace a new organizational philosophy. And I'd suggest that placing that philosophy in Rummie's hands, as if he was the leader of this philosophy, is disengious - it's been pretty much the pet theory of the strategy schools for a decade now, is my understanding.

And hell, it worked for the "invasion", but not for keeping the peace. Again, in my uninformed opinion, we should have, and should still, pour enough troops into the area to secure the borders. And I'd agree that the armed forces' strategic planners probably won't take this action - I honestly think they feel that they are still correct in their philosophy. They've probably put together a pretty huge "lessons learned" list, but I doubt the "more troops" item has made the list.

Edited to Add: shoot, I should have made it clear that I understand that Rummie has been the philosophical movement's most visible cheerleader.

[ July 12, 2005, 12:16 PM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Yes, I think the military was attempting to embrace a new organizational philosophy. And I'd suggest that placing that philosophy in Rummie's hands, as if he was the leader of this philosophy, is disengious - it's been pretty much the pet theory of the strategy schools for a decade now, is my understanding.

Again this is true, but even the "Powell Doctrine" embraces "transformation of forces". I think Rumsfeld's particular approach has been...incomplete...in a way that had a lot to do with establishing himself as the alpha male of the Armed Forces. He was aided and abetted by those in this administration who had a vested political interest in lowballing the impact and cost of the operations in Iraq. They knew they wouldn't get support for their war if they presented a realistic assessment of its costs and scope. So they "underbid" in order to get the camel's nose under the tent -- knowing that once they got us into Iraq, they no longer need worry about keeping up the ruse since there would be no going back.

quote:
And hell, it worked for the "invasion", but not for keeping the peace. Again, in my uninformed opinion, we should have, and should still, pour enough troops into the area to secure the borders.
"Flooding the zone" is a major component of the "Powell Doctrine" of warfare, and does not at all exclude the transformation of our military to a lighter, faster force. That's why it was so frustrating to see more conservative assessments breezily pooh-poohed in the lead-up to this action.

quote:
And hell, it worked for the "invasion", but not for keeping the peace. Again, in my uninformed opinion, we should have, and should still, pour enough troops into the area to secure the borders.
But "keeping the peace" is part of the invasion. The most important part, if our strategy for stabilizing the Middle East and promoting democracy are to be taken at face value (and I think the "flypaper strategy" is silly, unethical, and largely mythical). It is simply unacceptable to fail in this phase in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's also not as if peacekeeping operations are some sort of new phenomenon.

As for the borders, I agree that it is in our interest to secure them somehow. It may not even require more troops if we can get most Iraqi territories to be self-sufficient.

quote:
And I'd agree that the armed forces' strategic planners probably won't take this action - I honestly think they feel that they are still correct in their philosophy. They've probably put together a pretty huge "lessons learned" list, but I doubt the "more troops" item has made the list.


The major problem I have is that a lot of these "lessons learned" were already in the military's notes.

quote:
Edited to Add: shoot, I should have made it clear that I understand that Rummie has been the philosophical movement's most visible cheerleader.
My major problem with Rumsfeld isn't the philosophy of "transformation". Most of the military beleives in some form of it, as do I. What bugs me is that Rumsfeld's brand of it is so bare-bones and half-assed.
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javelin
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I guess my point is that while Rummie's the cheerleader, he didn't invent this "brand", and while he pushed it, my understanding of the situation is that the real push is from those who won Rummie over to the ideas of this strategy. Rummie is a nice boogyman, but I think there is value in understanding that this strategy permiates the military command.
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Everard
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I'm not sure permiates is the correct term. How about "has a strong backing faction?"

There's also value in understanding that supporting this faction is one of the administration's major mistakes in running this war, as the strategy of a bare bones campaign has been proven to be a bad strategy... and saying it was a bad strategy WAS something that was pointed out prior to the actual invasion (which also, incidentally, required more troops for the actual invasion. We didn't have enough troops to secure baghdad when we reached it, and thus, had a lot of looting, etc). Both by military strategists, and people from various parts of the political spectrum outside of the military.

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javelin
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I'd agree with the "strong backing faction" label.
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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Rummie is a nice boogyman, but I think there is value in understanding that this strategy permiates the military command.
I'm not sure that "permeates" is a good term. You are right on in that most military planners and big cheeses embrace "force transformation". Powell certainly did (and even wrote about how to do it). My point is that Rumsfeld's "brand" of it -- and it is largely his -- is confused and muddy. It seems to involve mostly an increase in air power using smart munitions in support of special forces, who are increasingly being used as main forces. There's nothing particularly wrong with that, but it is not enough. Yet it's being treated as "enough".
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javelin
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Why do you think the brand used is primarily "his"?
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A. Alzabo
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quote:
Why do you think the brand used is primarily "his"?
Let's define "brand" first. I think I'm miscommunicating with that word.
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javelin
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Okay, I've been calling it a "philosophy" - and I think we agree that it's a subgenre and/or splinter application of the "force transformation" doctrine. I think we also agree that, whatever we label it, it was the guiding philosophy behind the plan for the Iraq war (and the "securing the peace" part of that plan, too). So, why do you feel that Rummie is the man behind the plan, as opposed to the man who pushed the plan? Or is it somewhere inbetween?
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A. Alzabo
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quote:
So, why do you feel that Rummie is the man behind the plan, as opposed to the man who pushed the plan? Or is it somewhere inbetween?
Somewhere in between. I don't think Rumsfeld is the sole originator of the type of transformation we've seen most clearly in Afghanistan. But I think that it's also incorrect to say that he sort of "hitched his wagon" to an already existent fully-formed philosophy -- I think he's also had a major role in supporting and developing it over his lifetime. I think the heavy emphasis on air power and smart weapons (and the relative poverty of regular ground and naval force changes) is classic Rumsfeld.
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