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Sunday | March 30, 2003

Brass turns on Rumsfeld

I think it's worth noting, given the media has finally discovered Rumsfeld's incompetence, how conservative columnist Robert Novak has been all over this story for over a year.

Now branded an unpatriotic conservative by the National Review -- the propaganda arm of the Chickenhawk Brigade -- Novak gave voice to those disgruntled Pentagon officers that are now the talk of the town, having turned on Rumsfeld with a vengeance.

Rumsfeld incompetence is all over the news these days. From the WP:

Current and former U.S. military officers are blaming Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his aides for the inadequate troop strength on the ground in Iraq, saying the civilian leaders "micromanaged" the deployment plan out of mistrust of the generals and an attempt to prove their own theory that a light, maneuverable force could handily defeat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

More than a dozen officers interviewed, including a senior officer in Iraq, said Rumsfeld took significant risks by leaving key units in the United States and Germany at the start of the war. That resulted in an invasion force that is too small, strung out, underprotected, undersupplied and awaiting tens of thousands of reinforcements who will not get there for weeks.

So while Army doctrine calls for extensive use of MLRS rocket artillery, 3 ID has only a fraction of its MLRS assets in Iraq. Rummy didn't think they were necessary. The New Yorker makes this point as well in its upcoming issue:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly rejected advice from Pentagon planners that substantially more troops and armor would be needed to fight a war in Iraq, New Yorker Magazine reported.

In an article for its April 7 edition, which goes on sale on Monday, the weekly said Rumsfeld insisted at least six times in the run-up to the conflict that the proposed number of ground troops be sharply reduced and got his way.

"He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn," the article quoted an unidentified senior Pentagon planner as saying. "This is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn't want a heavy footprint on the ground."

It also said Rumsfeld had overruled advice from war commander Gen. Tommy Franks to delay the invasion until troops denied access through Turkey could be brought in by another route and miscalculated the level of Iraqi resistance.

"They've got no resources. He was so focused on proving his point -- that the Iraqis were going to fall apart," the article, by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, cited an unnamed former high-level intelligence official as saying.

Rumsfeld has denied these charges, but the evidence is overwhelmingly against him. Like I said, Novak has been hammering this point for over a year, ignored by the "mainstream" media too eager to boost circulation and ratings with a good, clean, wholesome war.

For example, Novak notes that the "cakewalk" perception riled many of the Pentagon brass over the past year:

U.S. general officers I have questioned over the last year were angry that anybody--particularly an official adviser--should spread the impression this would not be a real war, with killing and dying. Nevertheless, the cakewalk image took hold among some of the strongest hawks in Congress and in the public mind. That has led to widespread surprise and dismay in beholding what Rumsfeld accurately told Russert: ''A war is a war. It's a brutal thing.''
The above was written on March 27, so one may be forgiven for thinking that "hindsight is 20/20". However, Novak's writings on the issue have been surprisingly consistent, as it's clear his Pernatgon sources were top-notch.

Way back in April 25, 2002, Novak wrote:

One military thinker, considered one of the Pentagon's best brains, put it this way: "The risk of going through with this scares the (expletive) out of me. That's why a lot of us are rooting for Colin Powell to settle this somehow." The secretary of state's preference for negotiated settlements instead of war upsets the Bush administration's hard-liners, but he has a following of Pentagon officials looking for an antidote to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

None of these worried warriors is soft on Saddam. They see a war against Iraq as a very complicated military operation for American forces acting on their own, without benefit of allies.


Advocates of quick action predict early victory with the people of Iraq rising against the tyrant and generating satisfaction elsewhere in the Arab world -- a manifestation of the Kosovo syndrome. Just as the Vietnam syndrome supposed bloody defeat for any U.S. intervention, the Kosovo syndrome assumes continuing bloodless victories. The latter is not the prevailing view at the Pentagon.

And perhaps more prescient than anything else Novak wrote, was this, written in October 14, 2002:
Now that Congress has droned through a week of largely desultory debate to authorize the use of force against Iraq, how will it be exercised? That is properly a military secret, unknown even to members of Congress. More questionable, it is also unknown to senior military officers.

If there is a precise plan for action to remove Saddam Hussein from power, general officers at the Pentagon tell members of Congress that they are in the dark. This may be another example of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld working with a small circle of both official and unofficial advisers, fostering concern among career officers that plans are not being sufficiently reviewed by expert military opinion.

Hawkish civilians, in and out of the government, have been suggesting that Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard will throw up its arms in surrender. No serious person believes that. The question is whether an uprising of the persecuted Shia majority without heavy application of U.S. force. If there is no effective revolt, the generals and their friends on Capitol Hill worry that the unknown plans may not call for sufficient U.S. forces. [emphasis mine]

Even as recently as two weeks ago, Novak wrote about the tension between the Army and the Chickenhawk Brigade.
In his latest policy disagreement with Rumsfeld, [Army Chief of Staff, General] Shinseki on Feb. 25 testified to Congress that ''several hundred thousand soldiers'' might be necessary for postwar occupation of Iraq. White last week did not join the Pentagon's civilian leadership in contradicting Shinseki's estimate but endorsed the general's credentials. Not only did this undermine Rumsfeld's efforts to gain control of the officer corps that he felt ran wild during the Clinton days, but it raised the specter of a long and difficult occupation of Iraq.


His ''several hundred thousand'' answer was so far from the official line that it confirmed Rumsfeld's view of Clintonite generals out of control. While Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz declared Shinseki ''wildly off the mark'' and Rumsfeld also disagreed, the general stuck to his estimate. That left it to the secretary of the Army in testimony before Senate Armed Services last Thursday.

White anticipated the inevitable question and had carefully drafted an equivocal answer: ''Gen. Shinseki has some experience in this, having run the stabilization force in Bosnia, and he's a very experienced officer.'' Pointing out that ''there are others'' who disagree, White concluded: ''You have two views on this right now and expertise in support of each view.''

That surely was no ringing affirmation of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz line at an hour when White's future was shaky.

White and Shinseki were right. Rumsfeld argued that such nicities as heavy artillery and MLRS were unecessary in modern war -- that close air support could handle the task adequately. However, the Air Force has no interest in close air support -- it gets planes shot down and pilots killed. As a result, Army soldiers are doing the dying instead, and in much larger numbers.

But don't blame Novak, even if he is a conservative blowhard. He was on this story from the very beginning. It's unfortunate that the rest of the press corps didn't start paying attention to those "dissenting" generals until now -- when it's all way too late.

Posted March 30, 2003 09:48 AM | Comments (120)


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