"We Will Win Every Fight, and Lose the War"

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So says Col. Paul Hughes, the former U.S. director of strategic planning in Baghdad, in this Washington Post article about military dissatisfaction with Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and the war leadership. Surprisingly sharp criticism, on and off the record. Excerpt:

Some officers say the place to begin restructuring U.S. policy is by ousting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whom they see as responsible for a series of strategic and tactical blunders over the past year. Several of those interviewed said a profound anger is building within the Army at Rumsfeld and those around him.

A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it—and they should not."

Why so anonymous? Here's one explanation:

Also, some say they believe that Rumsfeld and other top civilians punish public dissent. Senior officers frequently cite what they believe was the vindictive treatment of then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki after he said early in 2003 that the administration was underestimating the number of U.S. troops that would be required to occupy postwar Iraq.

And at the end of the story, there's this little exchange:

A Special Forces officer aimed higher, saying that, "Rumsfeld needs to go, as does Wolfowitz."

Asked about such antagonism, Wolfowitz said, "I wish they'd have the—whatever it takes—to come tell me to my face."

NEXT: Double Binds

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  1. Interesting story I just found on Fark.com: apparently Halliburton is cutting off soldiers’ private Internet access for the next 90 days. THAT should help prevent any more embarrassing photos from seeing the light of day!

    http://www.kathryncramer.com/wblog/archives/000549.html

    Putting makeup on a melanoma is SOOOOOO much easier than just removing the cancerous tumor.

  2. Grumbling about the brass is as old as the military itself. The hard part is figuring if they have a point.

  3. It was more interesting that some officers were willing to be named in the article. Speaking as a former Air Force brat, by the time officers are willing to speak out against their civilian superiors the situation is desperate.

    #1 on google for liberal news

  4. “I’m glad that your ilk haven’t had much of a say in US national security. The world you’d create, indirectly, would be horrific.”

    Yeah, it would be so terrible for us without endless enemies and 9/11 ramifications.

  5. Coming into the Bush administration, a lot of DoD people and their supporters thought the Bush administration talk about transforming the military was just code for throwing money at the Pentagon. Rumsfeld then came in and started to change things without adding to the budget too much (Try not to make too many comments about the Bush administration and fiscal discipline). A lot of his effort was directed at the Army and he pissed off a lot of Army officers especially generals. Remember the only major programs canceled are Army programs, a mobile artillery vehicle (Crusader?) and a helicopter. From what I remember most of the people talking were Army, so this “dissent” might be their chance to get back at Rumsfeld.

    They might be right, but to think politics is not played in the Pentagon is to be extremely naive.

  6. A large portion of the Army has a case of the Ass with Rumsfeld. Some justified and some not. This is as much D.C. politics as it is legitimate criticism. The Army dislikes Rumsfeld for several reasons. One, he replaced the Secretary of the Army after the cancellation of Crusader, Rumsfeld felt that Secretary White was lobbying Congress for the retention of Crusader in spite of his decision to kill the program. Replacing White was Ok, but he wanted to replace him with the Secretary of the AIR FORCE!!!! That was a slap in the face to the Army, basically saying, ?You grunts don?t know what you?re doing.? He brought the current Chief of Staff of the Army out of retirement, Schoomaker (sp.?) is a former Special-Ops person, congenial to the ?Light is Right/Transformational Army? Rumsfeld favours. All this suggests that Rumsfeld has little confidence in the Army?s ability or desire to conform to Rumsfeld?s vision of the military. Loyalty up requires loyalty down, and the Army doesn?t feel that Rumsfeld is showing that loyalty.

    Further, almost all the major defense programs cut, Crusader, Comanche, probably the guided artillery shell program, have all been ARMY programs. The Army has lost its ?Next Big Thing? several times to Rumsfeld. The Navy and the Air Force have not seen their prize programs cut. The Army sees this as favoritism. The Army does the dying but the Aviators get the goodies and the cash.

    Further, Rumsfeld has attempted to halt the modernization of the US Army?s Heavy Forces (m1a2, M2 and M-3) and replace them with the Future Combat System (FCS). There is a legitimate concern that the FCS is too complex a system, it represents several ground vehicles and a family of unmanned aerial vehicles, to be brought on line successfully. There is the further fear that the replacement of the heavy forces with the FCS will place the Army in a vulnerable position. The heavy forces come in vehicles that range in weight from 30-70 tons and have the equivalent of 1500 mm Rolled Homogenous Armour on the M-1. The FCS weighs in at 20 tons or less. It is to have advanced composites to provide passive armour and to use ?situational awareness? to compensate for light weight, i.e., seeing the enemy before he sees us and destroying him with precision fires before he can successfully engage US forces. Sounds good in theory, but if it doesn?t work out, there are going to be a LOT of dead crewmen and the Army has some fears about the FCS as a viable program.

    Finally the Army is a guild system. The Army likes the idea of the traditional Combined Arms Team because it has a place for every member of the guild, Armour, Infantry, Artillery, Engineers, Quartermaster, etc. etc. The Transformational Army is going to see some guilds, Armour, and Air Defense lose out. The guilds in question will not like it, but the Army as a whole isn?t too keen on it either, it upsets the guild system. The Army isn?t like the Navy, which has a host of feuding camps-Submarines vs. Aviators vs. Surface Combatants-the guild system allows the Army to coexist within itself without the nasty fights that the Air Force and the Navy have had. In short, Rumsfeld is changing the ?Corporate Culture? of a large organization and the large organization doesn?t like that and is pushing back.

    Prior to 9-11 Rumsfeld was considered a failure and a likely candidate to be removed from office. 9-11 rescued him. He?s a combat/wartime leader, he?s good at it. And being good at it has allowed him the legitimacy to begin to transform the Army. Many in the Army see this episode as a chance to slow up the change or to defeat Rumsfeld. I wouldn?t put too much stock in this sort of thing. As someone said, this goes on all the time.

    Rumsfeld is not my favourite by any stretch of the imagination. I do worry that FCS is going to be another m-4 Sherman, deployable yes, but oh so vulnerable. However, I would ask these anonymous voices exactly what were the strategic and tactical errors made? Operation Iraqi Freedom set new records for the sustained advance of armoured forces. The forces deployed handily defeated the Iraqi armed services.

    Are they saying that Rumsfeld should have foreseen the problems in post-war Iraq? Well, did they? The problem in Iraq is not too few troops. It?s intelligence. IF we can find the insurgent cells we can roll them up, the insurgents stink as combat troops? What would these anonymous officers have done differently?

    Bottom-Line: a lot of this is just carping, using the current ?problems? as an excuse to fight an on-going war that is being waged in DoD.

  7. Joe L.,

    In terms of strategic and tactical errors, you can go all the way back to the conclusion of GWI when we hung the Iraqis out to dry. Our troops stood at the Kuwait border and watched saddam slaughter masses of Iraqis.

    Fast forward to today, it is clear that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz only hear what they want to hear. Even if we disregard the incompetence of the prisoner abuse, you have leadership that appears to be making decisions based on little factual evidence. They thought the insurgency was only going to be about 5000 guys? They can’t be serious. There’s fires popping up all over Iraq now and it’s clear that it’s more than a handful of people. What is even more alarming is our eroding support among the populace. The last poll numbers I saw coming out of Iraq are showing declining support.

    Fullujah was another tactical mistake. It was identified long ago as hotbed of problems. Why did it take so long to address the issue. Sadr is another example of us shuffling our feet.

    The situation is plenty bad but when you toss this prisoner abuse on top of all that, one begins to see the possiblity of a total meltdown. It’s radioactive all right. Now’s all we can do is wait and see how badly our credibility has been ruined amongst the general population there. Without support from the middle in Iraq, we might as well pack it in.

    Somebody give Rumsfeld a violin. He can fiddle while Baghdad burns. His behavior these days is nothing short of bizarre. He doesn’t read reports, he looks at pictures the day before the hearings. He doesn’t seem concerned about the incompetence that transpired, he seems more concerned about info leaks. I don’t doubt digital cameras are going to be banned shortly. I’m not surprised to hear about the internet ban.

    I don’t see how any American can NOT question this man’s leadership right now. We have a bad situation and it seems to be getting worse daily.

  8. Joe L.,

    You’re exactly correct, but not in the way you’d intended. The only thing the military can do is, indeed, “kill people and break things.” That’s their job. The notion that we can use force to remake the world in our image is fanciful, at best. As both history and current events illustrate so vividly, our attempts to act like an empire — even a supposedly benign empire — are delusional failures.

    The fact is that Bush and company have really screwed the pooch on this one and we will all be living with the consequences for generations to come. The world hates us and there are many Americans (myself included) who are profoundly ashamed of what this administration has done. I have no problem at all believing that thinking men and women in the military are having big problems with the quality of civilian leadership they’re getting…particularly when then consider that military service is not something most of them have ever experienced personally. The sooner this bunch is removed from office, the better off we’ll all be.

  9. Oh, you left-leaning self-described “libertarians” need to stop blathering about how the gov’t might mess things up or risk unintended consequences. Our leaders have a vision for the world and the means to implement it.

    Just look at the wondeful social transformations they’ve wrought in America via the New Deal and Great Society. Why, there’s hardly any crime or violence in America anymore. No street gangs, hardly any teen pregnancy, zero illiteracy, and negligible poverty.

    Yep, I’m 100% confidence that my President George Bush will use the full power of the federal government to achieve a miraculous transformation of the world. Just like his predecessors!

    And don’t bother me with any “facts” saying otherwise. Those are just creations of the liberal media!

  10. We here in the federal government appreciate Thoreau’s vote of confidence in our abilities. Rest assured, if I’m allowed to enact my full legislative agenda I’ll be able to eliminate homosexuality from the US.

    Of course, deep down inside I’ll still feel like a pretty ballerina trapped in a man’s body, but I won’t act on those urges. I swear on my honor as a politician that I won’t act on this urges.

  11. I’m not a military officer, but I sure wish I could tell Wolfowitz what I thought of him to his face.

  12. I disagree with Joe L. on a couple of critical points. I agree that the Army doesn’t like top-down reform. No one does. Rumsfeld came in with a Master Plan for what the Army should look like and tried to ram it down their throats. A less imperious SecDef would have sold it to them as their own idea, but Rumsfeld has unmistakeable contempt for every Army officer. This is obviously in contrast to his adoration of the USAF and every one of their pet boondoggles.

    In fact, Rumsfeld is trying to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist. Like all of the RMA advocates, he drools over the possibility of packing more firepower into smaller units, as if the Army is somehow undergunned. In fact, we already have an overwhelming preponderance of firepower in every likely engagement against every likely opponent. But firepower cannot man a checkpoint or hand out candy bars to little kids. As long as the “reformers” persist in thinking of war as a force/object exercise, they are simply on the wrong track. Iraq should be an eye-opener for everyone regarding the limitations of firepower, but if people were willing to open their eyes, then Vietnam would have been all the evidence they needed.

    War remains a human affair; only massacres are essentially industrial. Rumsfeld and his ilk are openly planning future massacres even as the past ones haunt us with unintended consequences. While Rumsfeld programs the future machines of death, the troops in Iraq find themselves poorly trained and organized to deal with civilians, prisoners, reconstruction, and the security missions that make up ninety-nine percent of military activity.

    When they are ready to win wars, they will set aside their models and exciting blueprints and return to the business of raising, training and commanding military units to accomplish the political objectives that make war necessary in the first place.

  13. I disagree with Joe L. on a couple of critical points. I agree that the Army doesn’t like top-down reform. No one does. Rumsfeld came in with a Master Plan for what the Army should look like and tried to ram it down their throats. A less imperious SecDef would have sold it to them as their own idea, but Rumsfeld has unmistakeable contempt for every Army officer. This is obviously in contrast to his adoration of the USAF and every one of their pet boondoggles.

    In fact, Rumsfeld is trying to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist. Like all of the RMA advocates, he drools over the possibility of packing more firepower into smaller units, as if the Army is somehow undergunned. In fact, we already have an overwhelming preponderance of firepower in every likely engagement against every likely opponent. But firepower cannot man a checkpoint or hand out candy bars to little kids. As long as the “reformers” persist in thinking of war as a force/object exercise, they are simply on the wrong track. Iraq should be an eye-opener for everyone regarding the limitations of firepower, but if people were willing to open their eyes, then Vietnam would have been all the evidence they needed.

    War remains a human affair; only massacres are essentially industrial. Rumsfeld and his ilk are openly planning future massacres even as the past ones haunt us with unintended consequences. While Rumsfeld programs the future machines of death, the troops in Iraq find themselves poorly trained and organized to deal with civilians, prisoners, reconstruction, and the security missions that make up ninety-nine percent of military activity.

    When they are ready to win wars, they will set aside their models and exciting blueprints and return to the business of raising, training and commanding military units to accomplish the political objectives that make war necessary in the first place.

  14. I agree with Kevin Carson and Rick Blaine.
    IMHO Rumsfeld is already gone.

  15. http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/28/iraq.poll/

    71% see coalition troops mostly as occupiers, 19% as liberators.

    52% say attacks on U.S. forces can be justified some or all of the time.

    58% say troops have conducted themselves badly.

    67% say troops don’t try to spare ordinary Iraqis in firefights.

    60% say troops sometimes or often disrespect Iraqis during home searches.

    55% have an unfavorable view of President Bush.

    42% have an unfavorable view of Paul Bremer, 31% a favorable one.

    The words “love” and “appreciate” do not appear in the report on this poll.

  16. “Most of the “horrific” events in the world occur as blowback”

    Exactly. The Holocaust…whose fault? The same as today.

  17. I forgot an important one.

    57% want coalition forces to leave immediately or within a few months.

  18. The generals said from the beginning they wanted more troops than Rummy would allow. Enough troops to keep civil order. Enough troops to secure suspected WMD sites as well as oilfields and the oil ministry.

  19. Joe L.

    Very informative, thanks!

  20. “Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt.”

    Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

  21. “We Will Win Every Fight, and Lose the War”
    So says Col. Paul Hughes…
    Not every campaign is Vietnam, Colonel. If we lose here we might as well just disband the Army. We have the finest troops in the world, we have a civil populace that either loves us or appreciates us (that’s the poll numbers I see). If we can’t win here, then we are basically saying we are powerless to effect any positve transformation in the world. All we can do is kill people and break things, via guided munitions. Negative power is not as useful as positive power.

  22. I suspect that if they kept State out of any active war theater, the Army might like it. When you start fixing up a house before the fire is out, there are going to be disputes between the firemen and the carpenters.

  23. “If we can’t win here, then we are basically saying we are powerless to effect any positve transformation in the world. All we can do is kill people and break things, via guided munitions.”

    Hear, hear.

  24. Aaaah, I wondered where you were… And I’m glad that your ilk haven’t had much of a say in US national security. The world you’d create, indirectly, would be horrific.

  25. I don’t know much but what I read on sites like this, but I think there are a few common sense conclusions.

    1. I agree that if we screw this up, the stock of the entire military, not just the Army, will collapse.

    2. Wars depend on public support at home. The press succeeded in ending public support in Vietnam and in creating a negative image of our troops there. The press is a lot more united than the general public given enough time, it can change even the memories of 9/11. My impression is that mainstream media are always opposed to war and, since Watergate, against whoever is in charge in Washington. Kennedy was the last president who had friendly media.

    The major factor used to defeat ourselves seems to be deaths, even when they are amazingly low in historic terms.

    For these reasons, no wars are likely to succeed unless their goals can be achieved before the next election.

    3. We have too many politicians serving in the military, especially in the Pentagon. They make careers out of weapons systems like Crusader and Commanche.

    4. We are too reliant on the National Guard.

    5. We will be fighting guerrilla wars for the foreseeable future, and we shouldn’t replicate the Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan. The more occupying troops, the more casualties and the more fodder for the media to campaign against war.

    6. For these reasons, the Army is in a losing battle. They can win in a couple of weeks, but it takes them 6 months to get everything in place.

    No. 1, above, means that the military had better close ranks and quit trying to play the media because people like me will get pretty disgusted with spending 100 billion to fight a war if we’re only going to withdraw without finishing the job.

    I think that if we ever hope to get at the roots of terrorism, we must succeed in establishing democracy in Iraq. I am not afraid of losing lives, only losing them to no good purpose. If we can’t follow through, we ARE through as a superpower. We might as well quit spending money on the whole enterprise, close all our overseas bases and shut off our borders. I seriously hope that doesn’t happen, but reading comments like those here, doesn’t make me optimistic.

  26. Jason Ligon,

    It should be noted that it was General Shinseki who originally made a large push for light, wheeled vehicles back in the late 1990s. This is due largely to the problems tracked vehicles had in the Balkans. The problem with these lighter vehicles is there greater vulnerability to IEDs, RPGs, etc. And to be blunt, “swiftness” can mitigated in any number of ways by a determined enemy.

    Also, the US has plenty of heavy tracked vehicles in mothballs – much of this equipment sits in Kuwait in fact – to deploy in Iraq. It just chooses not to.

  27. JAG,

    The world does not hate the U.S.; indeed, I find this view to be rather myopic and arrogant, since it is my experience that most people outside the U.S do not sit around pondering the U.S. Only Americans think that this is the case. Now maybe a lot of people world-wide don’t like the Bush administration; but they share the same thoughts as half the US population, so I can’t see how that’s particularly “controversial.”

  28. Come on, J.B. Every other pundit talks about how nekidprisonerpilegate is gonna make the Islamic world hate us. I am with JAG this time even if he is Black Shoe. At least he is OUR Black Shoe.

  29. There is very little wrong with subjecting the prisoners to humiliation. The crime is the unprofessional way the soldiers went about it. Had those prisoners been Commies instead of Arabs, they likely would have taken a couple of lady soldier hostages and really screwed the pooch.
    The first court marshal should have been a field grade officer in direct line of responsibility for oversight, and trials of enlisted men should not be media circuses.
    Interesting that no one mentions that all the miscreants are democrats.

  30. Indepundit SMASH deals with the rumor that Evil Halliburton is cutting off internet access here:

    http://www.lt-smash.us/archives/002870.html#002870

    According to him, it’s more that the contractor’s Wireless LAN is gonna get rid of leechers.

  31. Having noticed that I diverge from the libertarian mean on defence, I pose a question.

    Is there a libertarian preference for either heavy combined arms units spearheaded by Main Battle Tanks or the Rumsfeldian lightly armored but rapidly deployable units?

    Heavy armor would in theory mean that you stay home more, since it takes a huge effort to transport an armored division. Since staying home is the answer to every problem, this should be a plus.

    The lighter units integrate air and artillery support with light infantry units so as to enhance the firepower per man considerably over standard infantry. You can get somewhere faster and do more damage with fewer people, but each man that you send has an increased chance of being killed without 70 tons of armor absorbing bullets for him.

    Was Rumsfeld right or not?

  32. “Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt.”

    Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

    Again with this quote? Hadrian was talking about fighting the Parthians, a serious military adversary, not putting down insurgencies.

  33. Roger, Joe L., etc.,

    It is interesting to note that the internal Pentagon newspaper (“The Bugle” is what I think its called) – which is a compilation of news reports from the media and is supposed to inform time pressed individuals like Rumsfeld about what the press outside the DoD is thinking, reporting, etc. – has stopped reporting negative stories about the military, etc. Talk about an echo chamber.

  34. “The world hates us ”

    I’m just wondering, when did “the world” ever “like” us? When Clinton was upholding sanctions on Iraq? When Clinton bombed Bosnia?

    Who constitutes “the world”?

    As long as we continue to be the sole superpower and have a dynamic economy I suggest much of “the world” will always “hate” us, resent us and envy us. If the “world” is mostly facist muslims, yes, I can understand why they hate us. They hate societies that allow religious freedom and respect for women. They also hate the existence of Israel. I suppose if we give up these silly ideas the “world” would then “love” us.

    If the world is the French, Germans and other Europeans, yeah I suppose they have every right to “hate” us as well. We haven’t done anything “good” for them lately (except run trade deficits in their favor). Africans? Yeah, when Clinton and the UN ignored the genocide in Rwanda did the “world” love us or hate us? Were the Africans too busy to fend off their own murdering dictators or did they blame us for not interfering then as well?

    China, Japan and South Korea must hate us. We only sustain their economy. India must hate us, we are only outsourcing jobs to them that are helping their economy grow. Russia must hate us too because we aren’t solving their muslim problem.

    This “the world hates us” claim is so bogus it is beyond belief.

  35. Jean Bart!

    I would have to disagree with your assessment that the world does not ponder the US. In a seminar last week we quizzed each other on the leader of the countries from which we came. Nobody achieved 50%, and these were European Countries. However, more were aware of US news and policies. All knew “Fox News”, and all feel that this is the predominant opinion representator of American views. There was a largely negative view of Americans in the room, including Americans who constantly apologised for the actions of their country.

    I participated in a Business Student Conference in Copenhagen, and I experienced as well there several other anti American sentiments. The “Danish for beginners” course included a pampflet that even mentioned America. A discussion group also compared a poor American and a poor Dane and presented the entitlements, that each would receive: then the question was posed, “In which Country would you wish to live?”

    And, on the side, the French Delegation strongly attacked the “Americanisation of Europe and of Our Shared Culture and Languages”. But I suppose that is akin to comparing the FPOe with “fascists” 😉

    Regards,
    KK

  36. “This is due largely to the problems tracked vehicles had in the Balkans. The problem with these lighter vehicles is there greater vulnerability to IEDs, RPGs, etc. And to be blunt, “swiftness” can mitigated in any number of ways by a determined enemy.”

    Under fire, armor can be an important part of mobility (or “swiftness”), and for that reason it isn’t clear that faster wheeled vehicles have better battlefield mobility–this was a conclusion of the IDF based upon hard learned experience. Further, wheeled vehicles don’t have superior mobility under extreme conditions. Back in the 40s some Germans in Russia figured that out . . .

    Also in the 30s and 40s, the Brits divided their tanks into slow, heavy “infantry” models and fast, light “cruiser” models. The “infantry” models proved a serious problem to the Germans on several occasions (although the lack of speed would have likely limited their tactical deployment). The “crusier” models proved that speed was no substitute for armor. Maybe technology has made this “lesson” obsolete, maybe not.

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