But the Government Told Me War Was Easy!

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Pam Wallman, 60, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said, "I think the American public was duped into believing that our troops could just go in there, clean everything up and come home in 10 days."

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan (wonder what he's thinking about this war?), if the government can take all the credit, it can also take all the blame.

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  1. Well, given what the US taxpayer pays for the US military, and the propaganda the US military spews abouts it superior abilities, its not surprising that the American public has very high expectations.

    Secondly, the fact that the US has pushed very deep into Iraq really doesn’t mean shit. Warfare in a desert is very fluid, as such large advances in the desert can be deceptive (remember how Rommel and his British counterparts – there were so many – traded North Africa back forth between each other?). Furthermore, Franks has been very bold in this campaign, and as such he has supply lines that are stretched over several hundred miles. This can be a recipe for disaster, or at least bring about a temporary and bloody setback (the latter happened to Patton in WWII during his drive into France). If the upcoming seige of Baghdad is broken, at least intermittently, and the Iraqis are able to successfully harrass the allies (I hate the term “coalition,” it makes this sound like a business venture) supply lines, we will be in for some bloody business. Of Franks in the alternative might succeed in his plans of taking out Baghdad. Such are the fortunes of war.

  2. Gary, you are so full of it! You and I and everyone else doesn’t know squat about the operational strategy of Franks or the Administration.

    All we see is what we are fed on CNN. Yes we can still objectively discuss matters of the War, but it is simply stupid to second-guess any operational strategy as we are not privy too it.

    from: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=276780&displayTypeCd=1&sideCd=1&contrassID=2

    >>Shahak (Former Chief of Staff of IDF) says that until now the American’s have managed to conceal their true battle plan. “Do you know what the Americans have planned? I don’t. They also never said (what they were planning to do). How do you topple a regime in 48 hours? In a week? Seventeen days? If we don’t want to make fools of ourselves, we should wait patiently. It would just be arrogant to judge from what we see on TV.”

  3. Hey Eric,

    Excellent link, it is just too bad that some of the best writing on the war in Iraq is coming out of Moscow.

    I have been very disappointed with the coverage so far. The live video feed has been disappointing. The reporters have given very little insight, and some of the comments made by reporters have been down right stupid.

    Regards

    Joe

  4. Laz,

    Polls coming out today would have been taken a few days ago, possibly even before the war started. There is always a “rally around the flag” spike in the opening days of a war.

    Perhaps the faster principle is kicking in, and Vietnam syndrome now takes weeks, not years. I personally was surprised to hear that people, even pro-war people, were starting to complain already. They certainly didn’t start to complain this early in Afghanistan. The last Iraq war took 48 hours of ground fighting, so maybe it’s like the valedictorian getting an A-.

    Baghdad is coming soon. I think the choices are 1) a long siege, 2) Stalingrad, or 3) widespread bombing with high civilian casualties. Am I missing any? I think early surrender and popular revolution need to be put aside are realistic alternatives. Will any of these options increase the public’s support for this war?

  5. joe:
    Well I could care less what the polls say anyway, as most people are dolts driven by greed and fear. I still believe the war is RIGHT. But we do live in mobocracy…

    But anyway, the poll in question (looking for the link) was specifically about the fact that the adminstration is talking about a longer war and peoples acceptance of it. This has to be specific to the last 72 hours, as that is when the media started talking about it.

    As for your operational analysis — I won’t comment since this is a stupid debate. Read my post above. You know nothing and neither do I about how Franks is going to make his play.

  6. Thank goodness our government isn’t driven by greed and fear.

  7. Lazarus Long,

    As a historian I can make well-informed guesses. The fact is that long supply lines have always made trouble for armies making bold marches deep into enemy territory, especially when said armies are not able to “live off the land.” That doesn’t mean that such marches are always unsuccessful, in fact, when they pay off, they tend to bring hostilities to close in quick order. For reference please see Alexander’s campaigns in Asia, the various brilliant Mongol campaigns, the German campaign in the USSR in WWII, etc.

    Franks’ military plan is in fact – from a strategic perspective at least – not all that original. His approach is rather Napoleonic in fact. I don’t watch CNN, BTW.

  8. Laz,

    I agree that the poll numbers don’t have anything to do with the morality of this war. I’m just handicapping a horse race here. My brilliant analysis is, “The longer this war drags on, the more casualties we sustain, and the more civilians get killed, the more opposition will grow.” Bask in my wisdom.

    Anyway, what does “support the war” mean, anyway? I didn’t think this war at this time with this coalition was a good idea, but now that it has started, I don’t want us to lose, or to retreat, but to win quickly. I suspect that many people in my position would say they “support the war,” even if our position hasn’t changed.

  9. Tim Cavanaugh:

    “Ronald Reagan (wonder what he’s thinking about this war?)”

    Don’t be a snarky a-hole, or I’ll cancel my subscription to REASON. If I wanted that brand of look-how-witty-I-am pomo hipster tripe, I’d read Maureen Dowd.

  10. Gary:
    From my analysis of the N. African campaigns, i have concluded (and I’m not alone in this) that Rommel and the Brits traded North Africa back & forth because they repeatedly made the mistake of outrunning their supply lines. The lead elements of these advances were often a couple of tanks, out of ammo, and running on fumes.

    Given that, the Mother of all Sandstorms may prove to be a blessing. It has interfered with supply lines to some extent, but it has allowed the bulk of resupply to reach the 3ID, 101st, and 1st Marines under the cover of sand.

  11. Gary,

    You are not the historian you make yourself out to be. What is that crap about General Patton’s [army’s] bloody setback in France? Are you talking about the Battle of the Bulge? If so, it was General McCauliff’s Airborne division that was trapped (late 1944). General Patton’s army was instrumental in reliving the surrounded Americans at Bastogne.

    Gary, how can you compare this war to the World War II fight in the N. African desert? Just because they were both deserts? Huh ?!? Man, the forces in WWII, Montgomery’s and later Patton’s army’s vs. Rommel’s Africa Corps was not a one-sided deal. We, the Americans have overwhelming superiority, both in manpower (real soldiers, not just official conscripts) and airpower. Come on, I really don’t believe you’re a historian, so quit pretending to be.

  12. Laz: Interesting link. I am not sure of his use of the Cain-Abel thing as a metaphor though.

    Oh, and about supply lines to the forward elements. While resupply from ground is cheaper and more robust, air resupply is also available – and can’t be interdicted by guerilla forces.

  13. >>There is always a “rally around the flag” spike in the opening days of a war.

  14. buzz harsher,

    Gen. Patton’s bold armored advance across France in 1944 fostered the breakout from Normandy and the French hedgerow country in the summer started a race to Paris and points north and east. However, Patton stretched his supply line to near-collapse. The drive eastward began to grind to a halt for lack of supplies, chiefly gasoline. The shortage of fuel led Patton to complain to Eisenhower that, “My soldiers can eat their belts, but my tanks gotta have gas.”

    Sometimes the delays caused by these thin supply allowed the Germans to counterattack, and give Patton’s force a bloody nose. Of course if it hadn’t been for the mostly black drivers of the “Redball Express,” Patton would have been in real trouble.

    Oddly enough Patton recognized that a counter-attack was coming from the Germans in December. As I recall he ordered his staff to draw up likely scenarios for such a counter-attack, and those plans turned out to be in large right on the money.

    As to your comments on comparing this war to the North Africa campaigns, well I can say is that again desert warfare is highly fluid. Thus long advances can be deceptive, especially if you are driving past or through heavy pockets of resistance (which appears to be the case). This is of course analagous to the “island hopping” campaign of the US in WWII.

    I’ve got an MA in history? What have you got?

  15. Jim Antley,

    Gen. Patton’s bold armored advance across France in 1944 fostered the breakout from Normandy and the French hedgerow country in the summer and started a race to Paris (liberated mostly by partisans) and points north and east. However, Patton stretched his supply line to near-collapse. The drive eastward began to grind to a halt for lack of supplies, chiefly gasoline. The shortage of fuel led Patton to complain to Eisenhower that, “My soldiers can eat their belts, but my tanks gotta have gas.”

    Sometimes the delays caused by these thin supply allowed the Germans to counterattack, and to give Patton’s force a bloody nose. In fact, the Germans were able to launch several counter-offensives that Patton narrowly avoided feeling the brunt of. Of course if it hadn’t been for the mostly black drivers of the “Redball Express,” Patton would have been in real trouble.

    RE: Battle of the Bugle – Oddly enough Patton recognized that a counter-attack was coming from the Germans in December. As I recall he ordered his staff to draw up likely scenarios for such a counter-attack, and those plans turned out to be in large right on the money.

    As to your comments on comparing this war to the North Africa campaigns, well I can say is that again desert warfare is highly fluid. Thus long advances can be deceptive, especially if you are driving past or through heavy pockets of resistance (which appears to be the case). As far as your concerns regarding technological supriority are concerned, yes the US, UK, etc. has a large, well-trained, well-armed, etc. force in Iraq, that doesn’t mean they won’t lose.

    I’ve got an MA in history? What have you got?

  16. buzz,

    Actually, the British kept on getting screwed in their advances by Churchill. Everytime they would make a long advance (into Libya in other words), Churchill would pull out 3/4 (the guts of it in other words) of the British army in North Africa and send them somewhere else, namely Greece in the first instance, and as I recall Burma (?) in the second. That didn’t happen (thankfully) with Montgomery’s push against Rommel out of Egypt.

    This demonstrates why Churchill’s meddling always screwed over British military designs. Anyway, if it hadn’t been for the Royal Navy and the RAF, Egypt would have become a Germany colony due to Churchill’s nonsense.

  17. Well Geez, anonymous poster, you can’t really blame Churchill for reassigning troops to endangered places the Brits needed to keep, from a front they didn’t need to capture. If Burma had fallen, it would have been a disaster. If Greece had been held, it would have been a great victory. Allowing the colonial army to go a few more miles before pooping out was just not an important task.

  18. were there also “butterfly ballot” issues in Ft. Lauderdale???

    cheers,
    drf

  19. I dont think the government claimed that it would be easy – the military certainly didnt. The chickenhawk “access pundits” on the other hand … I’m sure the folks at the Weekly Standard are getting their draft-dodger cards renewed double-ASAP !!!

  20. Pam Wallman is a dumbshit. Most everyone knows war means death and hardship. Who cares what a birdbrain like Pam thinks anyway?

  21. Come on, guys. Three weeks ago everybody on this site talked about what a turkey shoot this would be with the only reservations being about what would come after. While the military never said it would be a cakewalk they certainly didn’t discourage that feeling on the part of the public. In fact, they scaled back the troop numbers, convinced that Saddam would fold with the first shot. Rumsfeld ridiculed anybody who suggested that the war would be expensive or long. It would be so miniscule they didn’t even make it a part of the budget.

    They can parse their verbage as much as they want but all the signals during the runup was that this would be easy.

  22. Newsflash:
    To those of you who apparently have no concept of the realities of military operations, this IS easy. The US army is 50 miles outside of Baghdad after 5 days of combat with only a handful of casualties. Remember the 50,000 US KIA in ten years of Vietnam? The millions of casualties in WWII over just the four years the US fought? You can start complaining if we’re still fighting in the fall.

  23. I don’t think anybody say it was going to be over in a week or less. The most optimist I have heard/read was about 2 weeks.

    Even if you were to do a simple math, it took 100 hours in 91 to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. In size Iraq is 25 times larger than Kuwait so, even if the war to go as well as 91, it would take at least 2500 hours, or rougly 100 days to drive “Iraq out of Iraq”.

    I still believe that Saddam will be gone by the end of April, and we will continue to have pocket of resistance as long as we are there just like Afghanistan.

  24. >>To paraphrase Ronald Reagan (wonder what he’s thinking about this war?)>Rumsfeld ridiculed anybody who suggested that the war would be expensive or long.

  25. It has been easy. Our losses are amazingly light for a force this size doing with it is doing, which is rooting out a well-prepared dictator from his hole. Compare vs. the costs of victory in WWII.

    The losses may well increase as the main battle is joined outside Bagdad, and it will take a real amount of time to finish the job (maybe a month or so on the outside), but still this is amazingly fast, and anyone who thinks different knows nothing about the millitary and the history of warfare.

    There was always a hope by some that the Hussien regime would pop like a bubble – but the professional planners (i.e. the guys in uniforms) will have made realistic plans designed to deal with the “friction” of real battle. By millitary officers are trained to be professional pessimists, and I have not detected any bit overoptimism from official government announcements, expecially from CENTCOM briefings.

    Now, the signals from the pro-war pundits in the media is a different story – but that is why they call it “opinion”. You are supposed to take it with a grain of salt.

    It still going to be an easy enough win to scare the stuffing out of other bad actors in the world – and potential rivals: see this.

    The deterrence effect of having a preeminent conventional millitary (including “boots on the ground”)and the demonstrated will to use it (which has been widely doubted lately) will increase our safety all by itself.

  26. A couple of the posters above raise the point that, by military standards, this campaign has been easy. But that just proves the point – the American public wasn’t ready for even the level of losses and frustration being experienced now. In other words, the groundwork the adminstration laid was so optimistic that large swaths of the war-supporting public thought it would be even easier and even faster than it has been. To me, this is pretty good evidence that the Bushies have failed to prepare the country for war, and have been misleading the public about the outcome of their policy in order to drum up greater support.

    Just like the tax cut, which was targeted towards single mom waitresses and wouldn’t cause deficits even in a recession.

  27. joe: The polls are showing increased support of the war and most get the fact that it is going to be a long ordeal. Any cognitive dissonance?in the matter is apparently your own.

    Eric: Here is an interesting blog I just found that mentions your very theory (on potential rivals, deterrence et al):
    http://www.presenceofmind.net/

  28. Joe,

    That was me. There was no hope for Greece, and quite frankly, those troops didn’t help in Burma either. Those troops were re-assigned for political purposes, not because they were going to be effective in any assignment they might be given in Greece or Burma. Quite frankly, if they had not been re-assigned, Rommel would not have had a chance to drive within sixty miles of Cairo, and threaten the Suez Canal, a far more important issue than saving Greece (not possible given the size of the force sent), or defending Burma (which did fall I might add – the Japanese got right up to the Indian border). Why is this? Because they could have pressed their attack all the way to Tunisia, before Rommel set foot in North Africa!

  29. Gary,

    I don’t dispute your analysis, just note that it is made with the benefit of hindsight. Holding a position on the European mainland was certainly worth the attempt. If the Brits had tried to push all the way to Tunis without the supply link through Greece, they would have pooped out just as the Germans kept doing with their crummy supply lines. Mainland Europe and mainland Asia were the heart of the war. Africa was a side show.

  30. joe,

    Well Montgomery, with the help of LeClerc’s Free French force (he marched 1,000 miles across equitorial Africa to meet up with Montogomery in Libya), did exactly just that. He drove Rommel back to Tunisia without a base in Greece to help him. Malta was far more important to the British effort than Crete ever was (given that the British were able to launch the RAF from there and destroy about 2/3rds of the German shipping that went from Italy to Tunisia). Churchill defended Greece for silly romantic reasons, and it cost them a North African victory.

    North Africa was not a sideshow, just as Italy was not a sideshow. It sapped Germany of resources (an important consideration considering how stretched the Germans already were even after the fall of France in 1940), and of course Britain needed desperately to keep the Suez Canal in their hands. The fall of the canal would have been a major blow to the allied war effort.

  31. “This is not a stupid force,” said Anthony H. Cordesman, a former Pentagon official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who is an expert on the Iraqi military. “It’s been studying U.S., Russian, Chinese and Yugoslavian literature on asymmetric warfare for 12 years. The elite units have fought well in the past. And this is not a group of cowards.”

  32. Gary: From what I can tell, your position and mine seem pretty close.

    Outrunning supply lines has been a serious problem since the first exercises of armored combat. Advances must plan to reach a good defensive posture at the end of each “surge.” Otherwise, when the forward units must pause for resupply, they will get whacked by those enemy units that have been falling back on their own supplies during the drive.

    Patton, Monty, and Rommel all failed to properly grasp this saltation dynamic, and imagined armored advances as continuous motion forward.

    In the NA desert, with a narrow front along the ocean, a wide-open flank to the south, and few good defensive positions, the results of this conceptual defect were far more striking than in Europe.

    Only the scarcity of defensive positions is applicable to the geography of Iraq. Fortunately, Karbala is just about one American armored “surge length” from Kuwait. Stopping here for resupply was operationally correct, since the riposting Iraqi forces are forced to come through the Karbala gap, against withering air attacks. The recent attempts at counterattacks out of the Baghdad ring have been pretty much suicidal, which demonstrates the correctness of this maneuver.

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