December 1st, 2005

Iraq: planning for war and its aftermath (Part I of two)

Dr. Sanity has a fine rant up about how the defense mechanism of denial can serve to keep a person’s belief system intact and help avoid the difficult and threatening task of changing one’s mind in the face of evidence that contradicts that worldview.

Something tangential to her main point happened to catch my eye, and started me thinking about a different issue: how to plan for war.

Dr. Sanity writes about the buildup to the Iraq War:

It is true that the U.S. planners did not anticipate a delayed and fierce resistance from the dead-enders in Iraq. Everyone did expected a humanitarian disaster and refugee problem–which did not materialize as it turns out. But that is one one of the messy things about war –and reality. Things are not perfect. The unexpected happens.

That got me to thinking: just what did military planners expect would happen in the Iraq war? Do we really know, or do we just think we know? How does one plan for a war and its aftermath?

I have no military experience, much less military planning experience. But it’s my understanding that military planners usually try to plan for any and all eventualities in war. Some scenarios are more likely than others, of course, and that’s the tricky part–choosing the most likely.

It is often said, for example, that generals prepare for the previous war, the one already fought, rather than the one facing them. I doubt that’s because generals are so stupid. It’s just so easy for them to seem stupid, because preparing for the war you are about to enter is notoriously difficult, for the very reasons Dr. Sanity cites: the unexpected happens. Always.

But still, military planners can–and must–try to anticipate all realistic possibilities, and to have a plan for how to deal with each one. Then they have to choose which are the most likely of the lot to happen, and get the people and material in place to meet them. The best they can do if (and when) they happen to guess wrong is to try to adjust as soon as humanly possible, and to implement the alternative plans. If something happens that was totally unforeseen and unplanned for (and it will, it will!), then they better be able to scramble and quickly assemble a force that can deal with it.

We who ordinarily plan for nothing more complex than a vacation or a business start-up or a move may find it difficult to believe that war is different. But it is–although planning for those things is difficult enough!

I think this general lack of knowledge about planning for war comes from our general lack of knowledge of history, combined with the happy fact that, with the end of the draft (an end which I support, by the way), it has become the exception rather than the rule for Americans to have served in the military themselves.

Outside of war buffs, I think there’s widespread ignorance about the way wars work, and the difficulties inherent in them. I may be a good example of the typical student in this regard. When I was in school, I wasn’t all that fond of history, especially its military details. My eyes would glaze over when we’d come to the war part. I had some interest in what might cause a war (what I seem to recall they divided into “underlying causes” and “immediate causes”). But the conduct of the war itself was just a blur of dates and campaigns and battlefield names, to be memorized and forgotten, with no understanding on my part of the strategy involved, and no attempt on the part of the teachers to teach it.

One of the things I’ve learned since that time is the old saying that in war, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We civilians, the ones who read the newspapers and try to judge the course of a war, find it frustratingly difficult to listen to those words and to truly understand what they mean.

That famous quote about plans not surviving contact with the enemy is actually part of a longer passage, quoted more extensively here:

It was Helmuth von Moltke, chief of the Prussian general staff during the wars of German unification, who observed that “no plan of operation extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force. Only the layman thinks that he can see in the course of the campaign the consequent execution of the original idea with all the details thought out in advance and adhered to until the very end.”

The commander, wrote Moltke, must keep his objective in mind, “undisturbed by the vicissitudes of events….But the path on which he hopes to reach it can never be firmly established in advance. Throughout the campaign he must make a series of decisions on the basis of situations that cannot be foreseen. The successive acts of war are thus not premeditated designs, but on the contrary are spontaneous acts guided by military measures. Everything depends on penetrating the uncertainty of veiled situations to evaluate the facts, to clarify the unknown, to make decisions rapidly, and then to carry them out with strength and constancy.”

Yes, war is a series of decisions on the basis of situations that cannot be foreseen. And it’s with that understanding that this war–and all wars–needs to be evaluated.

The politicians who feel a war is necessary, and the military they rely on to plan that war, do have a duty to explain the reasons why that war needs to be fought, and what will likely be involved in fighting it (and I think, by the way, that Dr. Sanity’s post makes a good case that the reasons given for fighting the war in Iraq were actually many and varied, although the left may be in denial about that fact). They also have a duty to explain that, nevertheless, the unforeseen and unexpected will happen, and that the course won’t be easy. And yet they have a concommitent duty to show a resolute and stubborn optimism about the endeavor as a whole (Churchill, for example, was the absolute master of that sort of thing). They also have a duty to be basically honest in carrying out all of these prior duties (which, by the way, is what the anger concerning the failure to find WMDs is about on the part of those who truly believe that Bush lied about them–although those people may also be in denial about the fact that most of the world agreed with Bush that Saddam had them).

One of the most common arguments against the administration’s planning and conduct of the war is that it underestimated the resistance that would be put up, saying that it would be a “cakewalk,” and that later events proved them utterly wrong. Is this true? Who made the “cakewalk” prediction? And to what aspect of the war was he actually referring? And why was that resistance or insurgency (or whatever name we give the terrorism and sabotage that has gone on in the aftermath of the war) seemingly worse than anticipated?

(Tune in for Part II, appearing tomorrow….)

44 Responses to “Iraq: planning for war and its aftermath (Part I of two)”

  1. Notta Libb Says:

    Check out a funny site dedicated to the absurdity and satire nature of saying “It’s All George Bush’s Fault!”

    http://www.itsallgeorgebushsfault.com

    Regards,
    Notta Libb

  2. Nicholas Says:

    You are a very smart woman. Bravo!

    You have read and understood that which eludes many.

    Keep it up!

  3. Eric Says:

    Once upon a time, I would have had a snap defensive reaction to John Burgess’ comments. I recently spoke to an OIF I vet, now attending Columbia, whose account dovetails with what John said.

    I would augment, 2nd hand, John’s account in that it shouldn’t be construed as an attack on soldiers. According to my buddy, at fault in the DoD are civilians – mostly academics and career bureaucrats who supplanted State. They came to Iraq with resources, goals and theory, but not with practical ability. My buddy told me that these civilians, Bremer’s crew, would stay in the Green Zone writing good policy and talking to their Iraqi counterparts but their policy effectively stayed in the Green Zone. The DoD civilians refused to physically leave the Green Zone for fear of terrorists, and lacked a practical system to translate policy into ground-level implementation. If my buddy is to be believed, in the beginning when nation-building policy was absent at their level, our uniformed soldiers took it upon themselves to hold together the POLITICAL mission in towns and regions despite a leadership vacuum. LTs and SSGs were literally making decisions with and for mayors, governors and sheikhs with little to no guidance from the Green Zone.

    John has a valid point that the turf battle by DoD (again, civilian administrators) hurt us in the initial window of opportunity because our most experienced nation-builders as of 2003, such as they were, were kept out of the mission. Would State have done better in the post-war? We can’t know for sure but there was an opening window when the Iraqi people welcomed us with a trusting and fully hopeful opportunity to change their lives. We disillusioned many of them due to incompetence at the admin level. John perhaps can verify, but my understanding is that State, via the US ambassador to Iraq, is now in charge.

  4. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I fail to see what the planning could have been had DoD listened to State or anybody else.

    You make a plan, the enemy tries to go around it.

    Is anybody under the impression that the bad guys would have stayed home under some magical plan that had State as a motivator?

    Twice as many troops? Twice as many targets. You can’t sit on all possible terrorist hangouts with three million men. The first vacant, unwatched building becomes terr HQ.

    The enemy has a vote here. Until he’s dead, and, this not being Chicago, that will probably be the end of him.

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Given State’s track record and their sabotage of the President’s policies, I wouldn’t trust State by my side in a God Damn Shooting War either. So I can certainly understand the hostility of the DoD towards outside opinions.

    And while State’s plan might have sounded better, we do know that only the military could have fought the insurgency and that the State Department could not have ended the insurgency regardless of their plans.

    The State Reps probably would have emphasized diplomatic, political, and infrastructure, while the DoD would have said that they had to get security, WMDs, etc first, and the reality came about that reconstruction did not occur in non-stable areas. Which was all areas other than Kurdistan. It seems apparent neither got it right. Which is to be expected, cause even the President missed the boat in the period during and after the Iraq invasion.

    The prime point is of course, State might have had more experience, but the people in charge couldn’t be trusted not to screw things up, and so the military (who are loyal above all else) were tasked to learn. And learn they did.

    State might have started off faster, but they would have been worn down by the violence. The DoD had the temperance, if not the experience, to deal with an insurgency.

    All in all, I cannot put my trust or the fate of American national security into the Department of State’s hands anymore than I could put it into the Democrat’s hands because of their vaunted “vaster” experience with psychological operations and nation building.

    In the end it comes down to character. And State’s character sucked, to be honest. Their reputation is not very good compared to the military or the troops actually doing the fighting.

    If things were different, if the military was losing because of incompetence or inefficiency, then I might certainly have more of a reason to trust in State. But things are noticeably better than that.

  6. John Burgess Says:

    Having been in the US Embassy in Riyadh during the run-up to the war, and into the Fall of 2003, I have a somewhat closer perspective. That I was working for State at the time might color that view, but here it is anyway.

    The DOD would not listen to anyone outside its corridors. State tried to tell DOD that it needed to pay attention to the aftermath before the first trigger was pulled. While a short hot war was a given, State differed from DOD on several points. It predicted a lack of popular reception for the liberators. It predicted a long and bloody insurgency after the government fell. I predicted that getting infrastructure up and running was the most important post-war requirement.

    State was told, not politely, to pound sand.

    I do, very much, blame monomaniacs in the DOD who were convinced that the military could do it all, with ease. They were demonstrably wrong.

    This critique is not an attempt to say that the war was a mistake or that we were misled into it. I don’t believe that for a moment.

    But DOD screwed the pooch in not listening to others–and State was not alone–who counciled caution and better planning for what came after the big guns went silent.

  7. Nicholas Says:

    > And Oh,it wasnt the Iraqis who hijacked the planes on 9/11,or had any connection to terrorists (till we got there) you can check it out on google.

    Yes, Troutsky, and, amazingly enough, only Dhimmicrats like you manage to actually believe anyone on The Right with any actual interest in the matter (like pretty much anyone who bothers with political blogs) ever had any conception otherwise at the start of the war.

    Saddam DID reward the families of the hijackers, however, and he DID claim to have WMDs (making irrelevant the actuality of things) which WAS supported by the evidence on hand (if you actually NEED links to this I’ll happily point you to them) and HAD shown a complete willingness to use them.

    Further, there ARE connections between certain 911-related individuals (links available on request) and Iraq, AND Saddam certainly operated a terrorist training camp with its own airframe specifically for training people in such actions (yes, the terrorists MAY have gotten their training elsewhere, but certainly that airframe makes his camp the Most Likely Place I’ve yet heard of)

    In other words, it’s remarkably easy to annihilate your fishy leftist bloviating.

  8. Nicholas Says:

    > “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    Yep. “A Few Good Men” vilified the Jack Nicholson character, but in most ways He Was Right.

  9. Nicholas Says:

    Recommended:
    tdaxp : Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat

    (hat tip, Kobayashi Maru!)

    Discusses the fact that the job being done in Iraq is not the strong suit of the mainline military, and hence the minor problems it has had are pretty rationally understandable.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Megan’s a good example of the absolute total failure of this administrations’ education, psychological preparation, and morale bolstering efforts in relation to the American people.

    After 4 years, and people still find it demoralizing that the military is “learning on the job”? The people that support the war, even? Does anyone find that suggestive of a successful job by the President in comforting the American people?

    I certainly do not. This is a weakness that our enemies exploit all the time, when they go on tv and exploit America’s ignorance of military realities. And the Democrats as well.

    Which is why it is very important to rely on Military Bloggers to do the job that the President either won’t do or can’t do. Just as it is the job of the blogosphere to provide the news that the MSM either won’t or can’t.

    I don’t blame the American people for not understanding or comprehending military affairs easily or intuitively. Understanding military tactics, strategy, logistics, and psychological warfare takes time and effort and highly specialized personalities (peace through superior firepower personalities).

    But all of that is meaningless without the vehicle to carry it to the American people, and the fact that the President has access to opinions a lot more diverse and qualified than the ones here in the comments section but doesn’t use it, is very disappointing to me. And is probably disappointing to a lot of other people as well.

    About the Vietnam experience, I do not think many people that were in their 20s or teens in Vietnam can change their worldview now. It is problematical you could say. Because personalities and psychologies are as much habit, as experienced based. Meaning, a person may change his beliefs based upon experience, but the longer he holds that belief, the tougher it will be to change it. Therefore making it into a habit, a bad habit.

    And just like habits or addictions, changing it might indeed kill you with withdrawal effects.

    Neo Neo Con mentioned one guy that broke in the Spanish Civil War. Having your world view shattered, if Iraq wins out in the end, is both unpleasant and potentially dangerous. But it would be very healthy if you survive the experience.

    Neo Neo Con is one of the few people with the intellectual honesty and intellectual fortitude/flexibility to be able to change her world view this late in her life. Most of the people I know who have committed this change have done so during their college years or shortly thereafter. It is much easier to change your beliefs when they are fresh in your mind. Let bad beliefs fester for 20 years, and you might come to realize that it has formed part of your self-identity.

    Ronald Reagan might also be characterized as a person who changed his position relative to the world, late in his life. Although the comparison is not exact given he did not change any of his prior beliefs. Then again, he was quite old when he changed parties, so the change wasn’t a strain on his belief system given how slight it was.

    Psychologically then, a mind does not like to change because it is very disorientating and unpleasant. It does not like to confront painful episodes, either in the past or the present or the future. So denial, memory repressions, and such are useful tools to protect the mind… well from the mind.

    But humans are not animals, strictly adhering to a preplanned instinctual pattern of behavior. We control most of our behavior, and we control whether we will belief this or that.

    Therefore the people who cannot change, who will not change their beliefs according to new evidence or situations, are not very useful people to the liberty of millions.

    And I do not believe I would trust them at my back should I need someone I could count on.

  11. Megan Says:

    Wow…the comments here are amazing, troutsky aside.

    Thank you Andrew for that analogy. That actually helped me wrap my mind around it much better. It makes total sense that I learned a LOT more on the job than I ever did from college courses about the actual work to be done…to get the job done.

    So of course it makes sense that one can study war for eternity but without having ever experienced it would not be able to truly appreciate how to fight.

    Thank you!

  12. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Assistant.

    My beef with T is that he doesn’t tell us, as if he would, that he doesn’t believe his stuff but hopes some of us may believe.
    Since he ought to know better by now, it follows that he’s still convinced that if we quit the argument with him, it must mean he won.
    The victory of exhaustion.

  13. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Very high-quality commenting here. I am grateful for the fuller view provided. As information warfare becomes increasingly important, I hope we recruit our best persuaders. The suggestion that we send episodes of South Park and Team America out (underground) might be most effective.

    I stand corrected on the Rumsfeld/really Adelman quote. Thank you.

    My beef with troutsky is that he has been refuted, has not attempted to answer the refutations, but merely repeats from his grab-bag of one dozen talking points.

  14. Richard Aubrey Says:

    As has often been said, the enemy gets a vote.
    Whatever we do/did, there will be something that is more vulnerable than the other things. That will be attacked.
    There will be a method we will have more trouble combating than other methods. That method will be used.
    If, in a different situation, we put expensive explosive sniffers in the hunred busiest airports, the hundred and first becomes a target.

    Unless the terrorists had just quit after the statue fell, we’d have some sort of conflict, and partisans could point to it as a failure.

    Nonsense.

  15. Andrew Scotia Says:

    One last observation; morale builder for today.

    PFC Jessica Nicholson, Awarded the Army Commendation Medal for her quick thinking and action in a potentially dangerous situation. Noticing a grenade in a vehicle at a checkpoint, PFC Nicholson extracted the driver and controlled him until he was cuffed. PFC Nicholson is not a large woman but members of the platoon recall that, “in a flash”, she had the driver out of the vehicle one handed, threw him to the ground and used a control hold on him.

    PFC Nicholson is a trained machine gunner in her Engineer Bat. Her machine gun is named, “Camille”.

  16. Eric Says:

    Don’t mind troutsky. He or she is just reinforcing the pro-Defeat narrative. It’s sad. With our long, illustrious and proud American history, folks like troutsky base their entire concept of the United States on one historical episode, as though Hanoi instead of Philadelphia was the birthplace of our nation. What would happen to troutsky if his dogmatic Vietnam War based worldview was supplanted by American success in Iraq?

    Anyway, yeah, you do go to war with the Army you have, not the one you wish you had. Just ask Task Force Smith survivors from the Korean War, if there are any still around. Our military history is marked a lot more by adaptation rather than preparedness.

    One reason I support the Iraq mission is because I support, and served, in the Korea mission.

    The thing about Korea is that policy-wise, we’re supposedly prepared for the necessity of switching to a war-footing within days and probably sooner. In other words, we epitomized the concept of going to war with what we had. As a soldier, I was privy to the go-to-war plan and post-war plan in a potential Korean conflict. I was also a participant in the training, equipping, etc of our military in Korea. As soldiers, we would often discuss possible shortcomings and pitfalls. Suffice to say, a lot of what we guessed were possible pitfalls for war in Korea has been borne out as reality in Iraq. (For example, no one issued me armor for my body or my HMMWV.) ALL the hard, but necessary, lessons we are learning in Iraq can be applied if we go to war with north Korea … most of all the lessons we’re learning in the post-combat phase.

    It seems like a non-sequiter, but the learning curve we’ve experienced in Iraq makes me more confident about ultimately building the peace should we one day go to war in Korea or anywhere else. You know, the whole world is studying the Iraq mission. It’s up to us and the Iraqis whether we provide the world a model for how to defeat the Americans or a model of how to lose to the Americans. I’d prefer we provide the latter.

  17. Andrew Scotia Says:

    Ymarsakar: Good brief. Concur.

    blert: Good point on troop numbers and counter insurgency. But, classic theory also says, provide as much security as possible for the forces, take the fight to the insurgents and use civil affairs to sop up the insurgents puddles.

    This is what is happening and the Iraqi’s are stepping up to the plate not just in military security but in staffing infrastructure. We’ve always said that it is better to spend a hundred bucks on getting the mess swept up, fixing broken things and getting locals working than it is to spend five hundred on beans and bullets and medevacs.

  18. blert Says:

    The original plan to crush Saddam’s conventional forces was spectacularly effective.

    The absolute crippler for the post war period was the lack of translators. Naturally that produced weak cultural insight.

    Domestic infighting between Powell and Rumsfeld caused Garner to be replaced by Bremer. The entire transition to a new government was put on hold for about a year.

    The old Iraqi Army was infested with enemies, true Baathists. Endless handwringing about its disbandenment is absurd.

    The constant ‘one operational battalion’ meme is a farce. The new Iraqi Army has about 90 active battalions. A new Brigade is being formed with each passing month.

    Purging the ranks of spies and double agents takes time. Many inductees have been purged.

    It is a fantasy that any force other than domestic Iraqis could ever solve the insurgency. We couldn’t possibly ever have enough special operations troops.

    Our big collective error was to assume that we had time to do things right. After all, that is what Bremer was trying to do. He wanted to build up the national infrastructure before throwing it to the politicians.

    An as for their politicians. There were NO obvious national rank politicians when Bremer started. He had to start in mid-stride and just appoint brave souls. So throwing the keys to a new government: who, how?

    We’ve got to stop beating ourselves up over our conduct. By any objective standard America, Britain, and the rest of the coalition have done well.

    The biggest remaining troubles all revolve around Iraqi economics. They ought to be pumping oil like maniacs. They ought to convert flared natural gas to electric power via generator-sets on skids: instant juice.

    Iraq should be pumping oil toe to toe with Saudi Arabia. 1,000 bbl per day per well is the national average! The second largest oil reserves in the world and their production is a joke.

    We have success, but demand perfection. Compared to our prior wars OIF is a total blow out. Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy can only dream….

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    Much of the errors that went on in Iraq, much of the setbacks and heartbearts, were not due to the planning at all. It was due to the military’s lack of experience in full reconstruction, unilateral nation building, and occupation duties.

    The military, when the rioting occured, kept acting like there was some local law enforcement that they were operating under, some kind of UN mandate or rules of engagement that would save them the need to crack down the rule of law during the months where criminals ran rampant.

    This greeness, this lack of experience, cannot be planned ahead of time, it may only be learned through hard won experience. The WWII occupation experiences have long faded from the national consciousness as well as from the current military set of skills. Counter-insurgency was last learned in Vietnam, and we know what the veterans from those wars are doing.

    So in the absence of WWII occupation experience, using the military as a martial law and security tool, as well as the Vietnam example of successful counter-insurgency, the US military had to learn the ropes the hard way.

    Unfortunately for the US military, while they were learning, the enemy were putting their learning in Afghanistan to use, and they took the initiative at first.

    US commanders telling their troops not to fire on rioters and looters that destroyed records of the Baathists, US commanders who expected that the Baathist infrastructure would simply collapse if we took Baghdad.

    The problem wasn’t in the details, the problem was in the entire period in which the war was fought.

    First of all, the military plan was for a quick armored cavalry strike to Baghdad relying upon some kind of “tactical surprise”, but you had the exact opposite political strategy, which was to drag it out as long as possible, giving the enemy as long as possible to bunker down.

    This basically pocked up the strategy, making the strategy non-functional even before they met the enemy.

    If the politicians want to wait, then the politicians shoudl have told the military planners to come up with a damn LONG invasion plan.

    If Bush wanted to take Baghdad as fast as possible, he should have issued an ultimatum in 2002, set for 1 week. And then invaded. Or as soon as the divisions were in place.

    But the whole business with TUrkey, and Bush kissing up to the UN, France, and everyone else on the take from Saddam and ME oil, it was just sickening and inefficient.

    This is why the insurgency hit so hard, they had a year to plan it. This is why it was so hard adapting to the insurgency, because the only city we took was Baghdad, and insurgencies LOVE big cities to operate in. We skipped most of the other cities presumably in favor of speed and surprise, but guess who got surprised in the end when the insurgency erupted? You think the terroists will be surprised after seeing Bush go on and on about WMDs?

    With Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia funding and supporting subversive activities in Iraq, it was bound to mess up people’s neat and tidy plans of a “Quick and Victorious” invasion and occupation.

    And the reason for this choice of realities is simple.

    Bush had an Air FOrce Chief as an advisor, not a Marine, not a Special Forces counter-insurgency guy, and not a former tank commander.

    So obviously someone didn’t tell Bush what the frack was going to happen when the military plan didn’t jibe with the political objectives.

    Second thing, because Iraq was run by the “regular military” which meant that Afghanistan was ran by the “Special FOrces” people, which meant that the SF adapted a lot faster to the war, and that’s one of the reasons why you don’t see what happened in Iraq going on in Afghanistan. And the fact that Afghanistan doesn’t border Syria, and doesn’t have huge cities also helps

    The regular army hadn’t seen a war since the Gulf War, and that was mainly a logistics war, air war, and POW fight.

    Putting a peace time army into a war clean out of the whatever, will obviously produce problems. More so when pitted against irregular forces, because the learning curve is double. They have to learn how to make war, first, and second, they have to learn how to make war the guerrila way.

    Which requires a huge amount of initiative and freedom for the small units in Iraq. That occurs in the Marine Corps, but the Marine Corps isn’t that many.

    So it wasn’t just a planning issue, if you take all the factors and personalities into consideration.

    They got the wrong plan for the wrong war. THey were trying to fight GUlf War II like they fought Gulf War I…. big mistake.

    It is the job of the politicians to make the generals do their bidding, and Bush failed in that. It would have been okay if Bush rushed to war. It would have been okay, if Bush decided on a longer invasion plan. But neither happened.

    And so now you see death and destruction because of it.

    THe good news is of course, our learning curve is now a lot steeper than the terroists and so is the Iraqi’s. This produces bad news for the terroists.

    Troutsky said…

    Let me just say ;300 billion dollars,2100 US casualties, untold Iraqi.So I fully understand why you might be squirming to defend it.I watched McNamara do the same thing (although he was human enough to show a little remorse)I was called traitorous scum for opposing that war too and that “history will show blah blah”.

    All that the Vietnam era generation is good for, in terms of using their past experiences to inform their current military decisions.

    Such is the difference between whinning and

    “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

    Big diff between the old dogs of WWII and the peeps from Vietnam, eh? Vietnam people sound too much like the French after WWI… oh woe is us, woe is our nation, how weakened it has become, no more can we committ our resources to horrible war…

    It’s time they stopped feeling sorry for themselves, and got back into the game with a ante up. Or they can fold. But god, will they ever stop the freaking whine?

  20. Andrew Scotia Says:

    megan: I understand your thinking about training. It might help to think of it this way. Wars are graduate seminars. You train when you are a an undergrad.

    War is the ultimate on the job training. I learned how to manuever troops but it took war to teach me how to lead.

    War is the crucible that produces the metal of the military.

  21. Andrew Scotia Says:

    Troutsky: Pull your head out.

    Pancho: You know, as well as I do that is not a situation that is amenable to nose counting. A guy who can drive a M1 Abrams tank down a narrow street at 30kph, pull into a tiny space about three tank lengths square, brake and pivot on a track cannot get out of the tank and lead an infantry squad in urban warfare. Two different skill sets.

    When the Third Infantry Div. has secured the territory their mission called for they cannot simply morph next Monday into a series of battalions responsible for the security and civil affairs; getting the electricity up, water on and local indigenous governments working; in X number of towns along River Y.

    I’m sure LTG Cody is an excellent DCOS, I seem to remember him as a Ring Knocker from the last time I was in the Puzzle Palace. While I was Regular, I did not go to the Trade School but came in another door and therefore may be biased re: Ring Knockers.

    I’m not on the distro lists anymore and can’t say nay or yeah about Rumsfeld. What I do know is that we are too armor heavy and armored personnel carrier light. I think that the pushing down of critical units into the Guard and Reserve to prevent executive order warfare was a partisan, political mistake. I think we need a lighter, technologicaly advanced, more integrated set of force packages with logistical and air assets. In other words, I support the Lego Military. Assemble the package for the mission, spank its bottom to get it breathing, and say, “Go there. Do this. Write home once in awhile.” I support UAV’s and battlefield robotics. I support anything that increases the productivity of the individual and the unit in completing the mission and I have no compunction about goring oxes or stepping on sensitive toes.

    At the same time I no longer receive evaluations so I can say things out loud. I do, however, write evaluations having built my own little force package in which I am at the top of the chain of command. So my talk is so cheap it’s free.

    A Co. CO once told me when I was a spanking young butter bar, “El Tee, no offense, but the only thing you outrank in my company is the dumpsters. Listen and learn from your Platoon SGT. He and I will give you back your brain when we think you’re ready to use it.”

  22. Darrell Says:

    Neo, the whole argument is difficult from the arm chair. Few people understand the military. I appreciate you addressing it and always value your insight.
    Here is what I do:
    1. Plan and give deep thought to every possible contingency and build them into the plan.
    2. Execute the plan.
    3. Closely montitor and measure the expected results.
    4. Modify plan on the fly to overcome unforseen obstacles.
    Repeat 3 and 4 until you win. I always win.
    The 3 and 4 tends to drive the people under you nuts as you modify the original plan, human nature with change I guess.
    We have dealt with major cultural issues that I am not sure could have been forseen.
    Chrenkoff (sure miss him) has a great post on some of this:
    http://chrenkoff.blogspot.com/2004/09/post-totalitarian-stress-disorder.html
    Besides the traumitized population we are also dealing with a primarily subservient culture.
    This leads to great difficulty in developing NCOs and junior officers who can take charge and lead thier men. They fail to take initiative and lead because of their culture. You just cant compare an American soldier coming out of boot camp into an evironment of functional leaders and an effective chain of command.
    We started from scratch there and it takes a tremendous amount of time to find thos guys with leadership potential and get them into the proper positions.
    Unfortunatley my 3 and 4 above in this situation have taken a long time but I instantly recognize whats happening. The first training of the iraqi army didnt plan for these cultural issues and I dont think its fair to blame the generals. We naturally expect people to be just like us but we are a very unique culture.
    They just arent like us and shouldnt be expected to be. But you see this again and again in the media, just last night Oreilly stated: “We train guys in bootcamp in 10 weeks and they are ready to go, whay does it take the iraqis years?” He displayed his ignorance of the functioning organization our new guys walk into. An organization with hundreds of years of tradition, history and experience. (some good and some bad)
    The whole situation has to be placed in context and it is a context most Americans cannot fathom because they think everyone is just like us. Add not understanding the military culture makes it even worse. You dont pop leaders out of a school, you nurture and develop them and that takes time but it really looks like it is finally taking hold.
    We can take great solace in one thing, since Viet Nam we have placed great emphasis on “lessons learned” We learn from our mistakes and mold them into future training and ops. The bottom line is that we have now and for years to come have the most battle tested and seasoned armed force in the world. Add on a benefit of dealing with a muslim culture. This is a tough undertaking but it is one we will win, if the congress lets us.

  23. troutsky Says:

    Let me just say ;300 billion dollars,2100 US casualties, untold Iraqi.So I fully understand why you might be squirming to defend it.I watched McNamara do the same thing (although he was human enough to show a little remorse)I was called traitorous scum for opposing that war too and that “history will show blah blah”.I was called traitorous scum for pointing out Nixon was a psychotic liar and when I pointed out Reagan was supplying arms to the contras with profits from selling arms to Iran so you kind of get used to it.Well just have to wait to see how the history gets written.The Left lost Viet Nam? certainly one version.One last thing,its heartwarming to see so much concern for the possibility of a humanitarian disaster, although i wonder what we should call the half million children who died during twelve years of sanctions.( the sanctions that destroyed their military making the cakewalk so easy and that destroyed their WMD capability that some of you are still looking for.And Oh,it wasnt the Iraqis who hijacked the planes on 9/11,or had any connection to terrorists (till we got there) you can check it out on google.

  24. SteveR Says:

    The “cakewalk” quote was from Ken Adelman, not strictly a member of the Administration, but a member of the Defense Policy Board, an outside advisory group that advises the Pentagon. He was appointed by Rumsfeld, a longtime friend.

    Here is the quote, from “Cakewalk in Iraq,” Washington Post , February 13, 2002, A27

    “I believe that demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. . This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as ‘coalition partners’ to convince the Washington establishment that we’re right.”

  25. TmjUtah Says:

    Andrew -

    Semper Fi, sir.

    Dave -

    I think a high proportion of those opposing our Iraq policy are people who work in careers in which they are never really responsible for getting anything done.

    I would narrow that. The office holders lining up for defeat look no further than their own local polling data. It’s about getting elected.

    Not about serving. Not about common defense. Not about duty, honor, or country.

    My goodness I’m angry. Been that way for days. I think it’s beginning to show.

  26. Pancho Says:

    One old axiom that we old soldiers use is….”expect the best, but plan for the worst”.

    I have several friends who were in on the planning of this Iraqi war. One, a very good friend from my Lt. days, Gen. Dick Cody, is now Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army. Dick is as good they come and I think would support the plan as laid out using the information available. Another close friend, veteran journalist Joe Galloway has had his problems with some areas of the operation, namely the number of troops on the ground to accomplish the mission after the main force invasion was a success.

    I think that among military people that I know the difference in thinking is whether one is a complete supporter of Rumsfeld or not, since the plan and it’s outcome is entirely upon his shoulders. I think that most civilians see him as a Demi-God personified. I’m not sure that the feeling is shared among the higher ranks of the military. Respect yes….support of his plan?

  27. colagirl Says:

    Great post, neo-neocon, and great responses too, especially Eric and Andrew–thank you both for your clear and logical posts. I personally don’t know that much about the army, so I appreciate explanatory posts like yours; they help to clarify things for me and clear up misconceptions. I’m interested to see part 2 of 2 tomorrow.

  28. Andrew Scotia Says:

    Another law of combat: Remember, your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.

    Eric is perfectly correct. The US military was the perfect tool for
    Combined Arms, maneuver warfare. It was organized, honed and developed to counter and defeat the Soviets coming though the Fulda Gap. This meant that Gulf War I was so much of a one sided set piece slaughter that Gulf War II was fought the same way. In many ways it was the same old “hi diddle, diddle, straight up the middle”, “crap though a goose” walkover against a defense in depth that was robbed of any effective response other than to run, die or engage in irregular warfare, with the initial strikes being made against our long logistical tail.

    That was when my old friends and comrades and I started our email brush fire. That is because all of us were, in some way or another applied specialists in counter insurgent, intelligence, based warfare.

    The first thing we did was count noses. That’s called Order of Battle analysis. And we came up short in three areas. Special Operations, Civil Affairs and for lack of a better word, Light Fighters.

    Special Ops in all services, never numerous, were stretched thin already. Whipping up a batch of Spec Ops guys is a long cycle business in which very few are chosen and those that are take a long time to come up to speed in what is an incredibly complex craft. We’ve never had enough Civil Affairs units and those we had were mostly reserve. It is no mistake that when Special Operations became a Command, civil affairs units came under this umbrella.

    Light fighters, which I’m using as a catch all term here, in insurgent warfare should consist of two elements. Security such as MP units provide a “safer” environment. Our MP’s have stepped up here wondrously. The first Silver Star ever won by a woman in combat was awarded to a MP SGT in a Nation Guard unit who lead her team into near hand to hand combat as a result of responding to an ambush of a convoy. In civilian life she managed a shoe store. I’ve read her citation and first hand accounts. She fought like she trained,led from the front and every member of her team performed.

    We just don’t have many units dedicated to the task of high speed, mobile, battle field security. The second task of insurgent warfare is taking the fight to the enemy and frankly, the Marines are superb in this mission. Their philosophy is Every Marine A Rifleman and they train for The Fight. That is they close and kill the enemy. Again, not enough of them and they like it that way because they are The Few and The Proud. Making a Marine takes the whole tree and there are a lot of shavings and chips left on the ground. Notice, the capitalized words. The Marines explicitly bill themselves as war fighters. The Army’s “Be All That You Can Be” sounds like a self actualization seminar.

    So there we were, in Baghdad. The military in motion is like an aircraft Carrier at full speed. It takes a long time time to turn.

    But, as old Don says, you fight with the military you have not the one you want. Mistakes were made, of course, but in point of fact we did not have a military at that point in time that was organized to follow any post major combat plan or sets of plans that may have lived in some Pentagon binder.

    An example. You are a teacher or administrator in a school district. Suddenly, you get the word that ASAP you have to field a complete core curriculum in local natural science with an emphasis on ecological communities. Even if you have a full plan and curriculum in five feet of binders in the District Office, how long do you suppose it will take to staff and re-organize to even begin to address the mission?

    I’ve been watching the process vicariously and by email and have even been able to add my two cents because today’s military has an explicit doctrine of “Lessons Learned” and if they have to go down to the Old Vets home and talk to the duffers rockin, whittlin’ and spittin’ on the porch, they will do it.

    Right now in Tactical Operations Centers all over the world this is the first war in which a relational database is a warfighting weapon. The US military has a very high ductility factor. That means they can be re-fashioned with out fracturing. In my day they couldn’t do that and they nearly fractured after Vietnam. They are better trained than we were, better led than we were and better educated for their mission than we were. They are the best military the world has ever seen and they are getting better. You may have trouble with that concept but remember Orwell. “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    As I said, tune in tomorrow for a discussion of who said “cakewalk,” and what was meant (hint: it was not Rumsfeld).

  30. David Says:

    Clausewitz said (very loosely quoted): “In war, everything is very simple, but the simplest things are very difficult.”

    I think a high proportion of those opposing our Iraq policy are people who work in careers in which they are never really responsible for getting anything done. They just don’t appreciate the messiness–the unpleasant surprises, the decisions that must be made with incomplete information–that is involved in doing anything real, whether it is launching a new model of car or fighting a war.

  31. Megan Says:

    “Today, Iraq and Afghanistan are the training ground for a new American military that can win the war AND build the peace. The hope is that the military that leaves Iraq is not the same military that entered Iraq in 2003, and we’ll become the owners of a military designed for the 21st century, and not one stuck in the Cold War.”

    That may be very true and if so is very sad. That our military is being “trained” in the middle of a war instead of being prepared ahead of time speaks volumes to the previous administrations mindset. My neighbor is in the Army and has complained that they are STILL behind due to cuts from the Clinton era.

    As a high schooler and college student during Clinton’s administration I had no idea what was actually going on in the world and until Nov 2000 thought things were pretty good here. I learned so little about war and had never truly experienced one as a civilian.

    I think that is a big problem with lefty college students. They only remember Gulf War I when were were in and out…and even that is a distant memory. We are spoiled children from a life of comparative luxury. Thankfully this luxury didn’t squelch the fighting spirit of our troops who serve today.

  32. strcpy Says:

    Another interesting and classic book to read is Sun Tza’s “The Art of War”. It kinda bounces around strategy and tactics, but has been a staple of military thought for many thousands of years.

    People give lots of little quotes from it but I’ve always thought that does it some injustice – the book needs to be taken as a whole. It actually contradicts itself from time to time intentionally (and usually points it out when it does).

    Military strategy and tactics are interesting, there are plenty of books out there on the subject, many not even in the history section. It helps udnerstanding some of what goes on. I’ve found it interesting how much of the ideas also translate over into daily life well, not to mention if you play many war simulation video games :)

  33. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Rumsfeld used the “cakewalk” word. He was referring to the formal warfare, and added the caution that chemical or other WMD would change that picture.

    For the formal warfare, he was right.

    One of the other possible scenarios was immediate civil war, with the Iraqi army, still armed, taking part. To guard against that scenario, they had to be disarmed and dispersed. That a trained military willing to join the liberation would have been a considerable help in squashing terrorist activity seems likely to me. But that could happen only with the risk of keeping them armed. We made the right choice.

    Just before the invasion, we had hoped that we could use Turkish territory for a second invasion force. That might also have made a significant difference. Steven Den Beste has an analysis of the war effort thus far which is critical of this administration’s diplomacy with Turkey, while acknowledging that French interference and perfidy might have made getting Turkey on board impossible in any event. Den Beste also faults the Bush administration at one other major point, but otherwise gives it good grades. Fascinating reading.

    Thank you, eric.

  34. Promethea Says:

    At the beginning of the war (March 2003), the idea of a “cakewalk” wasn’t bandied about. I don’t know who used the word, but I doubt he/she meant it in the same way as the MSM/antiwar people use it. Maybe it was said in some informal context. No matter.

    Bush’s banner “Mission Accomplished” has been distorted by the left ad nauseum–and I DO remember the specific context in which these words were used. They were used to celebrate the victory over Saddam’s army at the end of the initial fighting. Small-minded people took these words to snear at Bush. Well, they’re small-minded. That’s about all one can say about them.

    The initial plans for the war included bringing tons of help to prevent a humanitarian disaster for Iraqi civilians. That gets conveniently forgotten.

    Remember all the lawlessness, car thefts and looting? How could the U.S. military prepare for this kind of thuggery? As I recall, they did what they could to contain it, at the same time as they were trying to prevent oil-pipeline fires and water pipeline contaminations.

    Later, it was revealed that Saddam knew he would be defeated and had planned to begin a Baathist insurgency against the U.S. military and the Iraqis who were trying to establish a new, improved government. Many of these Iraqis have been killed.

    Meanwhile, the Wahhabist funders of the jihadists have done their dirty work. The border between SA and Iraq was quite open. Syria and Iran have also done their part.

    My point? The war was never a “cakewalk” and to characterize the Bush administration’s approach toward it as foolish and naive is simply not true. I remember past events imperfectly, but I know when people are “spinning,” rather than engaging in serious debate.

    This spinning has been the pattern throughout the war, which is why I’ve come to believe that the Democrats in Congress ARE traitors. Yes, they are. They are no different from Copperheads. They have access to the true events, and yet they choose to spin their lies. In the fullness of time, they’ll be viewed as the scum that they are. That includes my personal representatives: Obama, Durbin, and Rep. Emmanuel. History will not be kind to them.

  35. Richard Aubrey Says:

    “War: Ends and Means” by Seabury and Codevilla, being a primer on the subject.

    The forward says it’s written as a primer because their students were so completely ignorant on the subject, except for what they knew that wasn’t so.

    For those with little experience, actual or vicarious, it’s the place to start.
    You need a basic template on which to hang the things you learn later on, to organize them and see the relationships.

    What, exactly, was it that we weren’t prepared for, as opposed to being unable to wish it away overnight?

  36. Bert (skitrks@sbacglobal.net) Says:

    Sh.t happens! That is he matra of the battlefield. The period we are in now is the “make the peace” period.

    Semp[er Fi

  37. TmjUtah Says:

    All you need to know about Leftist military thought is this:

    Conflict = Defeat unless a Democrat is president.

    What is left of the Axis of Evil and Al Qaeda is counting on our domestic political minority to pull off another one for the Ripper.

    A million dead Asians can’t seem to make the cut when Democrats rail on reality or history’s lessons. Funny thing, that.

    Every war we have ever fought has been marked by almost comical unpreparedness to engage the enemy – until 1991. But we fought and won most of those wars just the same. The issue was never how hard the fight was going to be, or anything remotely connected to whether or not we could or could not win. Until Korea we had never even considered fighting a war to a stalemate. The fight was to achieve victory, and that victory was defined on terms decided on by our representative government.

    We crushed Hussein’s invaders in the company of dozens of partner nations. After the brilliant accomplishment of every military objective as defined under the holy U.N. mandate, the Left wrote off the victory because Saddam was left in power.

    But they really wrote it off because we fought and won under a Republican.

    The Left lost Vietnam, and wilfully abrogated our responsibilities – our word – to our South Vietnamese allies. It makes sense in a sad, pitiful way – what’s a bunch of dead Asians got to do with getting elected in Massachussets, anyway? I guess that the writing – off the thousands of Afghanis and Iraqis is simply the price to be paid in order for the Democrats to get any sort of traction. It’s not like the media will ever look further than “It’s Bush’s Fault” in the aftermath. No matter that our aims in this war have always been public and transparent. The threat permeates the entire muslim/arab culture, and we have chosen the Marshall Plan as a solution – without tearing the threat down to bedrock first.

    They call themselves progressives and attempt to wear “liberal” as a badge of honor. This is Thursday – were the upstanding members of the Democratic caucus lied to by McChimpy Bushitler, or were they instead manipulated into warmongering excess by Rovian mindrays? It gets so diffucult to follow their narrative; it changes every news cycle.

    The published time scale to win the ultimate war on terror was defined as “decades”, if I remember correctly. Germany and Japan didn’t have elected governments of their own (and we WROTE the Japanese constitution) for years after the shooting stopped. And that Bosnia thing seems to be going on, still, today, yet we never seem to hear about that, do we?

    The Democrat party is the enemy. They may not be killing our citizens directly, but this war will be won or lost here, and not in some fly ridden sandtrap on the other side of the world.

    Our people are fighting and dying to accomplish a mission we defined three years ago. The threat in the theater of conflict remains but we have made astounding progress just the same; elections, reconstruction, and the swelling numbers of Iraqis stepping up to share the fight. We are being flanked, perhaps fatally, here at home.

    Know the enemy. There is no substitute for victory.

  38. Eric Says:

    From my time in the Army, I’m not in the least surprised about the military’s rough adjustment period in Iraq after the major combat phase ended. The military, while adaptable and well-funded, is not perfectly fungible. For decades, it was deprived of EXACTLY the skill-set needed in post major-combat Iraq. The only way to acquire the skill-set needed in post-major combat Iraq – and future nation-building missions – was to undertake the mission and learn the hard way.

    Recommendation: read Tom Barnett on this issue.

    The military shouldn’t get a free pass, because at issue is a real failure to prepare by the military and US policy-makers. The thing is, it’s not Bush’s fault and it’s not Clinton’s fault, or if it is their fault, they share the blame with a long line of Presidents. If one President must be blamed, try John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson. The military’s decades of near-pathological aversion to adequately plan, budget, prep and train for ‘operations other than war’ traces back to the trauma of the Vietnam War.

    Scarred by Vietnam, many military higher-ups and policy-makers (like REP Murtha) so desired that the military avoid any future Vietnam-like ‘quagmires’ that they choked the capability of the military to conduct non-combat ops. ‘Can’t’ equaled ‘won’t’. Or, more accurately, non-combat ops (like peace-keeping and humanitarian missions) would be conducted ONLY on a ‘as-needed’ basis, and peace-making ops only would piggyback on the war machine. There is evidence that Clinton’s suspect decision making, most notably in Somalia and Rwanda, was largely influenced by a military that obstructed and resisted large-scale deployment in ‘operations other than war’.

    Today, Iraq and Afghanistan are the training ground for a new American military that can win the war AND build the peace. The hope is that the military that leaves Iraq is not the same military that entered Iraq in 2003, and we’ll become the owners of a military designed for the 21st century, and not one stuck in the Cold War.

  39. Anonymous Says:

    Neo,
    Three points: 1. War plans must focus on worst case situations, meaning the less important will not receive the attention we wish for after learning that the oil fields are not ablaze and there are no nuclear explosions, etc.
    2. You would be dumbfounded to know the classified info that we civilians don’t know.
    3. A. The “Valor of Ignorance” by Homer Lea predicted Japan’s attack in 1909. Required reading in Japan’s military academy. Optional for U.S.
    B. The “Pentagon’s New Map” by Thomas P.M. Barnett lays out probable future planning..
    C. “Boyd The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” by Robert Coram provides some good strategic thought processes. If time is a problem, read Boyd’s essay here: http://www.belisarius.com/modern_business_strategy/boyd/destruction/destruction_and_creation.htm
    Mark

  40. troutsky Says:

    The apologists lament for every screw up throughout history: How could we have known? And then start denying :no one ever said we would be greeted as liberators.It is just a myth. We didnt take weapons inspectors who hadn’t found anything out of Iraq in a rush to war. chenry never siad cakewalk .Who could have predicted there would be looting, or that disbanding the Iraqi Army was a bad thing, or leaving weapons stockpiles unsecured was a bad thing? No one could know those those things, right?

  41. Terry A. Hoover Says:

    Well, thank God someone admits they have absolutely no grounding in military affairs and that of itself might taint their judgment regarding war and the military. Now, if only those yelling about leaving NOW would only admit their military and/or war experience is nil and they are basing their entire argument on emotion rather than the horrible logic of killing the enemy and obtaining victory. If you take victory away from a soldier you take his very soul. The next time you need him he’s going to be damn hard to find.

    I’ll grant Mr. Kerry and Mr. Murtha have military experience, but they are politicians at heart and are using poll driven moments to capitalize politically at the expense of the poor folks called upon to engage in the bloody business at hand. Neither are professional military men (Murtha spent most of his time in the peace time National Guard).

    No soldier plans for post hostilities. Their business is hostilities. Diplomats plan for peace. The two have never mixed. As Von Blucher said to a German diplomat after Napoleon was finally beaten “Don’t give away in ink what we paid for in blood”. Sadly, that happens far too often.

    There is only one rule in war – “There is no substitute for victory”, or as an Englishman put it “Moderation in warfare is imbecility”.

  42. Vanderleun Says:

    I believe that, in the leftist lexicon, the cakewalk comment is tagged to Cheney, but I also seem to recall that many say that wasn’t the case.

  43. Solomon2 Says:

    Flypaper: Why is the U.S. in Iraq?

  44. goesh Says:

    US forces were sent in knowing full well that jihadist field commanders would come to Iraq in droves from all over to train, lead and fight. These are the NCOs so to speak that keep any fighting outfit going. They lead by example and engage and are not afraid to die. These guys just don’t crop up out of nowhere. They are trained, experienced veterans that have lived hard lives and known deprivation and have leadership ability. It is called planned or anticipated attrition. Secondly, a US military presence on the ground will be needed in that neighborhood for some time to come. Notice there is no talk at all about reconsituting the Iraqi air force. We have the outlying air bases saddam built that are easy to defend and maintain. All the rest is rhetoric and political posturing.

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