Thursday, November 30, 2006

Iraq: More Dubya Talk

Also at Kos.

The "meeting of the mindless" has taken place in Jordan, and young Mister Bush has declared that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is "the right guy for Iraq" and that "We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there."

Guess what. The Iraqi government is going to want us there as long as al-Maliki is the government. That's why he's the "right guy."

Bush and Maliki have agreed to speed up the process of training Iraqi troops, but won't set a timetable for doing that.

Guess what. If there's no timetable for training up Iraqi troops, they won't get trained up.

Mister Bush says the training of Iraqi troops is "evolving from ground zero."

Guess what. Iraqi troop training was at ground zero three years ago. With no timetable for bringing them up to ground one, they'll be at ground zero three years from now.

Guess what else. It doesn't matter how fast Iraqi troops "stand up" because they'll still insist on sitting down on the job. Time and time and time again, Iraq's army has refused to participate in operations because its soldiers don't want to fight other Iraqis, and its police force is more corrupt than Chicago's cops were during the Al Capone era.

When asked by reporters when he expects the transfer of responsibility to Iraqi forces to take place, Bush said, "As soon as possible… I've been asked about timetables ever since we got into this. All the timetables mean is a timetable for withdrawal… All that does is set people up for unrealistic expectations."

"Unrealistic expectations" is the most realistic thing Bush has said in six years. It's unrealistic to expect that Maliki can deliver a political solution in Iraq, and it's unrealistic to think that Bush has any intention of ever pulling troops out of Iraq.

And the sad reality is that the longer Bush and his coterie of yes men are in charge of America, and the longer they're able to molest the Middle East situation, the more impossible it will be to ever extract ourselves from it.

Which means everything's going according to plan, I'd guess.

Guess Again

In case you haven't noticed, the big media have been running the next round of Iran boo noise lately. Everything going wrong in Iraq is Iran's fault. Iran is training and arming the Shiite militias.

It's a funny thing, though. The real problem in Iraq, according to Bush, is al-Qaeda, which is "fomenting" all the sectarian violence, even though the Pentagon says that al-Qaeda only represents a tiny fraction of the "enemy" forces in Iraq.

But here's an even funnier thing. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, who also says al-Qaeda is the main culprit in Iraq, is pulling troops out of the al-Anbar province, al-Qaeda in Iraq's base of operations, and putting them in Baghdad, smack in the middle of the civil war between Shiites and Muslims that both Bush and Pace deny is occurring. A recent Marine Corps intelligence assessment said that the battle for al-Anbar is unwinnable without a major infusion of more troops in the region. You'd think that Pace, a Marine himself, might pay heed to that report, and might suggest that rather than take troops out of Anbar to reinforce Baghdad, we should take troops out of Baghdad to reinforce Anbar.

But no. That makes way too much sense for the Pentagon to suggest it, and our Pumpkin Eater JCS chairman isn't about to recommend something to our Commander in Chief that he doesn't want to hear.

Because, you see, if we were to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, well, then we wouldn't have an excuse to stick around in Iraq to try and put down a civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. At the same time, if we don't make it look like the Shiites are the bad guys, or at least some of them, because then we can't blame Iran for being behind all the sectarian violence. Because the Iranians are Shiites, see, and they're the main instigators in all this.

Yeah, Maliki is a Shiite too, but he's our kind of Shiite, the kind that wants us to stick around in Iraq so those al-Qaeda sympathizing Sunnis don't try to take Iraq over from those Iran sympathizing Shiites, who are those Shiites other than Maliki. Except that Maliki is talking to the Iranians, but that makes no never mind, because the Iranian Shiites are Persians, see, and the Iraqi Shiites are Arabs, and Arabs and Persians don't like each other even if they're both Shiites.

And besides, the Iranians are friends with al-Qaeda even though the Iranians are Persians and Shiites and al-Qaeda is an Arab Sunni outfit.

Does everybody get the picture now?

Anybody's Guess

Alas America. We had so much potential, after the fall of the Soviet Union, to lead the world into an unprecedented age of peace and prosperity, and look what happened. Our political leaders are ideological mouth breathers and our military leaders are moral cowards content to let their troops get chewed up in a senseless war for which there is no military solution.

Don't expect any recommendations of the Baker Commission to make a tinker's dam worth of difference in the Middle East Bush-mania, and if you think the newly elected Democratic Congress will be able to rein Bush in, guess again.

The only way we can turn this pathetic situation around is to impeach both Bush and that Thing/King Pin/Penguin looking bastard Dick Cheney, and ash can every careerist four-star military officer who went bottoms-up for them.

If you think that's going to happen in the next two years, guess again.

Watch for more "official leaks" that encourage us to support spreading the Gulf region lunacy into Iran and Syria. And guess who will be behind them. (Hint: he's already been mentioned in this article, and is an old neocon buddy of Dan Quayle.)

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bush's Iraq: Son of Stay the Course

Also at Kos.

Young Mister Bush has rejected the description of the situation in Iraq as a "civil war." Can you believe it?

In a NATO summit speech in Latvia on Tuesday, he rejected the "pessimistic" assessments of his Middle East policy and vowed not to pull U.S. troops from Iraq until they accomplish the mission there.

How does he plan to accomplish the mission? By golly, he's going to break down and ask for advice from a trusted expert--Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. From the Washington Post:
Previewing the message he will carry with him Wednesday to Amman, Jordan, where he is scheduled to meet Maliki, Bush said he would ask the Iraqi leader, "What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?"

It's no surprise to me that Bush would turn for advice to the one head of state who's a bigger screw up than he is. Maliki's 24 point reconciliation plan, which he introduced back in June, has gone over like a lead zeppelin. Shia cleric and Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr, once Malaki's main political ally, has publicly denounced the government and labeled Iraq's Sunnis as "terrorists." Asking Maliki for sound strategic advice is like trying to get milk from a bullfrog.

The next thing you know, Bush will seek marriage counseling from Pamela Anderson.

Tom Ricks, military correspondent with the Washington Post and author of Fiasco, revealed Tuesday on MSNBC that there's talk in the Pentagon of dropping the support of the reconciliation policy and throwing in with the Shiites. As crazy as that sounds, it makes a lot more sense than what we're doing now. Positioning troops in the middle of a multi-sided civil war and expecting their mere "presence" to accomplish anything defies wisdom learned from millennia of military history.

But which Shias do we side with? Al-Sadr has declared that "I am an enemy of America and America is my enemy until the last day of judgment." That doesn’t sound like the kind of talk old Dead or Alive Dubya is likely to cotton up to.

So if we throw our weight behind Maliki, we'll have to fight al-Sadr's followers as well as the Sunnis. And since Maliki is making coo noise with Iran and Syria, crawling in the sack with him will mean that we're rubbing bellies with the "axis of evil" as well.

Measures of Effectiveness

"Measures of effectiveness" (MOEs) are traditional metrics by which military planners and staffers determine the progress of a war. The best Iraq MOEs the Pentagon can come up with are things like "numbers of schools painted" and "total pieces of candy handed out to Iraqi kids."

Iraq has eclipsed Vietnam as the most incompetently run war in U.S. history. It's not a foreign policy pursuit of America's interests. It's a manhood measuring contest between Bush and the rest of the world, and he refuses to accept that he's coming up short.

Son of Stay the Course

Bush wants to win, but he doesn’t want to win in the Anbar province, which of course, means General Peter Pace (Joint Chiefs chairman), General John Abizaid (head of Central Command) and General George Casey (Iraq theater commander) don't either.

Sunni dominated al-Anbar is the main base of operations for al-Qaeda in Iraq. A recent Marine Corp intelligence assessment concluded that without a massive input of more troops, the situation there is "unwinnable."

Pace wants to move the U.S. troops in Anbar to Baghdad and turn Anbar over to Iraqi troops. Abizaid and Casey don't want to put any more U.S. troops in Iraq.

So in the "central front" of our war on terror, the Pentagon wants to abandon an entire province to the only actual terrorists in the country and place more U.S. troops into the central front of the Iraqi civil war.

The casual observer might think it would make more sense to take the troops in Baghdad out of the middle of the civil war and use them to reinforce the troops in Anbar to fight the terrorists, especially when Mister Bush claims that the violence in Iraq is "fomented in my opinion because of these attacks by al-Qaida causing people to seek reprisal."

We're not fighting them over there so we, uh…er…uhm…

With each passing day, it appears more and more that this war is being run by Porky Pig and the rest of the Loony Tunes.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq: A Civil War by Any Other Name

NBC now says Iraq is in a civil war. I guess that makes it official. But don't think for a second that the poppycock rhetoric regarding Iraq will end any time soon, just because the major news agencies are calling it what it really is. Finally.

Just about any dictionary you pick up defines "civil war" as a war between opposing groups within a country. So unless you deny that what's been going on in Iraq for the past few years is a "war," how can you deny that the war going on in Iraq is a civil war? Young Mister Bush says we're in a war. That's how he justifies treating the Constitution like a sanitary grooming item. And he says Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, so if there's a war in Iraq, it’s a civil war, right?

That's not how the White House sees it, but the White House defines everything by their Brave New World Dictionary, so words mean whatever they want them to mean. The Bush administration takes its rhetorical cues from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which the Black Knight, having had all four limbs hacked off at the trunk in mortal combat, roars, "'Tis but a flesh wound."

All but the most autistic segment of the right wing base know what this semantic lap dance is about. There's general agreement that U.S. troops shouldn't be stuck in the middle of a civil war, and if there's a civil war in Iraq, logic dictates that we should get out troops out of there. So all this Rovewellian jive about what to call the war is a last ditch effort to justify an unjustifiable policy and strategy.

Parsing Wars

Even so called "authorities" who now sign on to the civil war term continue to parse the situation.

Retired Army four-star Wayne Downing, one of MSNBC's military "experts," allowed as how, yes, it's a civil war, even though he's been avoiding use of that term for quite a while because it's so, well, politically charged and such. But when asked if the U.S. should take sides with either the Sunnis or the Shias, he said that no, we don't want to do that.

That was a remarkable piece of dissembling.

Nothing about war is cut and dried, but a pretty good rule of thumb is that when you step into the middle of somebody else's war, you have two basic mission options: peacekeeping and peace enforcement.

In a peacekeeping mission, you're a neutral honest broker. You're simply standing between the belligerents to keep catcalling contests from becoming major conflagrations. Peacekeeping requires a number of things, not the least of which are that the belligerents have to actually want peace and their leadership needs to have control of their forces. It's clear that in Iraq, the belligerents have no interest in achieving a lasting peace any time in the near future and none of the belligerent faction leaders seem to have a tight control of their fighters.

In peace enforcement, you pick a side and fight for it. In many ways, that amounts to acting as a mercenary force for whoever's side you take, which is more or less what we've been doing for Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

This peacekeeping/peace enforcement distinction is not advanced astrophysics. It's war college 101 stuff. The notion that Downing, a retired four-star who once led U.S. Special Operations Command could not know it defies believability.

Bunker Bunk

Here's something I learned during my military career that they didn't teach at the war colleges. When the big brass do or say things that don't make sense, it usually means that 1) they're idiots, 2) they're going off the deep end, 3) they're congenital jerks, 4) they have a hidden agenda or 5) some combination of the other four. If you've never had any military experience, you've probably noticed the same phenomenon in the civilian work force.

I don't care to speculate on where Downing's coming from when he says things like "yeah, it's a civil war but we shouldn't take sides" because it doesn't really matter where he's coming from. What matters is that a "leading authority" like him will go on national television and feed the American public a line of bunker mentality bunk, and that the news network he's feeding it through will pay him to do it.

And there's no need to single out Downing as the main culprit in the bunk blowing wars. 90 percent of the people you see or hear or read in the media want to set off a pack of matches in your shoe. Sometimes their bias is obvious. Just about everybody knows what the likes of Ann Coulter are up to. When the media trot out a pair of left/right, he said/she said pundits to have a political pillow fight, we pretty much know what we're seeing--a freak show put on by highly compensated freaks for the purpose of stealing ratings from the freak shows on the other media outlets.

But other times, the bias is disguised as "critical" analysis from an "honest" broker. Dan Goure is a perfect example of this. MSNBC regularly features him as an expert on everything from the war to the economy to global warming without notifying the audience that Goure is a card carrying neocon who goes on camera with a pocketful of talking points crafted by the right wing think tank network.

Then you have the types you don't know what to make of like retired Army Major General John Batiste. Batiste was one of the 12 angry generals who called for Rumsfeld's resignation, so you want to think he's a "good guy." But his consistent opinion, as expressed in a recent op-ed piece he authored, is that "victory will require sacrifice" and that we should "mobilize the United States" in order to achieve that victory. Like most "Go Big, Go Long, Go Broke" advocates, Batiste fails to define what exactly "victory" might consist of, except to say that it will require "leadership" and that it's "non-negotiable."

I'm willing to accept that Batiste is speaking from the heart and stating what he truly believes, but that makes no never mind. Believing the moon is made of green cheese doesn't make it so, no matter how many glittering emotional generalities you throw into your argument that says it is.

So stand by for more palaver about how we should stick with Stay the Course or whatever Son of Stay the Course turns out to be. But mark my words: if we keep our troops in the middle of whatever synonym for "disaster" you care to describe the situation in Iraq with, they'll either help one side commit genocide on the other or get ground into grit in the middle of it.

Here's something else I learned, long before I joined the military. We were playing volleyball in high school gym class, and two guys got into a fistfight. Being a varsity football player and the biggest kid in the class, I stepped into the middle of it, trying to break it up, and got socked in the face three times. I never threw a punch back at either of the other two guys.

I wound up going to the principal's office. The other two guys didn't.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Iraq: Winners Know When to Quit, Losers Don't

Contrary to what you've probably heard your whole life, winners do quit, and they know when to do it. Losers don't know when to quit digging. The "experts" agree that the only solution to the Iraq situation is a political one, and the prospects for a political solution are vanishing like a blind dowager's silverware.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Shia cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr has pushed the plunger on his threat to abandon support of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms…

…Al-Maliki's administration acknowledged it was powerless to interrupt the pro-Sadr program on the official Iraqiya channel, during which Sadr City residents shouted, "There is no government! There is no state!"

… Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority - or the will - to stop the cycle of bloodshed.

If al-Maliki makes it to Jordan this week for his meeting with young Mister Bush, I'll be surprised if he ever goes back to Iraq.

Go Big, Go Long, Go Forever

The talk on alternative Iraq strategies is turning nuttier than a pecan factory. As the political situation unravels like a cheap acrylic sweater, politicians and pundits continue to discuss the pros and cons of proposed military courses of action.

Some still argue for a reduced troop presence in Iraq, but what could fewer troops accomplish that the number of troops we have there now can't?

Then we have the "Go Bigots," whose ranks have been joined by former Army major general and vocal Rumsfeld critic John Batiste. In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinal op-ed piece, Batiste says, "Iraq is a failed state created by the United States. Our senior leadership did this to Iraq, ourselves and our allies."

But, Batiste maintains…
Failure [in Iraq] would injure the U.S. in ways that we cannot fathom, and, in the end, it would cost far more than it would to save Iraq…

…it is not too late, however. Victory is non-negotiable, and we must finish what we started in Iraq with new leadership and a new strategy. We no longer can fight this war on the cheap.

We're spending $2 billion a week on this war (that our government admits to), and Batiste calls that fighting "on the cheap?" What "new leadership" is Batiste referring to? Al-Sadr? What did we start in Iraq that Batiste thinks we can finish? The answer to that, it seems, is the end of the world as we know it, because the key component of the strategy he proposes is the stuff of a neoconservative masturbatory fantasy.
Put our government on a wartime footing. Consider alternative ways to finance the war with rationing programs and fuel surcharges. Our leaders need to step up and explain the "what, why, how long and what it will cost" to each and every one of us.

Properly resource our great military in force structure and dollars. Our high-performing Army and Marine Corps are far too small for our national strategy. They are at a breaking point, and they no longer are in a position to respond to other worldwide contingencies. Indeed, a draft may be required to win a protracted war on terror.

In other words, Batiste believes that the solution to a problem for which there is no military solution is to mobilize the country to support expanded military action. Batiste is as Mad Hatter crazy as Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and the rest of the neoconservative cabal that got us into this goat rope.

I can't say for certain what Batiste's motivation is for proposing such a "war without end" scheme, but it's interesting to note that he's now president of Klein Steel Service of Rochester, New York, a company that, among other things, does contract work for the Department of Defense.

Go Stupid

On CNN's Sunday political show Late Edition, Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said that sure, America could mobilize and "win" in Iraq, but that "common sense indicates it's not worth it."

Zbig is right; it's not worth it. Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply in contemporary America. It's entirely too possible that the neocon bull feather merchants who want to expand the war will get their way by appealing to the politically autistic segment of the U.S. population's childish sense of virility. They'll exhort the Big Brother Broadcast audience to show the "resolve" to do for the Iraqis what the Iraqis don't have the resolve to do for themselves. Which is, of course, the kind of resolve it takes to stick your private parts into a wood chipper to show your "friends" how tough you are.

The sooner we adopt some variation of Jack Murtha's redeployment to the periphery plan, the better off we'll be.

Getting back to the "winners and losers" theme: winners know how to cut their losses; losers know how to cut off their genitals.

Or as Kenny Rogers put it, "You've got to know when to fold."

Afterbrow

Within an hour of posting this article on Pen and Sword, I got several visits from http://www.kleinsteel.com/exch...-know-when-to-quit-losers.html.

When I tried to backtrack to these links, I ran into a password firewall.

The front page of kleinsteel.com says, "Please bear with us as we transition to our new website. Our Product Database will be available soon."

I can't shake the image of Rowan and Martin's Laugh In comedian Arte Johnson, in his Nazi soldier's uniform, rising up from behind a potted palm, sucking on a cigarette, and saying, "Verrry interesting!"

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Iraq: Worster to Worsterer in Sadr City

Worsterer: from the San Jose Mercury News:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms.

The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.


Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, pundits argued whether or not what's going on in Iraq is a "civil war."

A quagmire by any other name...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Iraq and a Hard Place: Al Sadr Tells Maliki Don't Meet With Bush

It continues to go from worst to worster.

The security situation in Iraq is so bad that young Mister Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had to schedule a meeting in another country to talk about it. Then Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al Sadr warned through an intermediary that if "Mr. Prime Minister does not cancel his meeting with Bush the criminal in Jordan, we will suspend our membership at the Council of Deputies (parliament) and government."

Al Sadr's political bloc blames U.S. troops for the Thursday bombings in Sadr City that killed more than 200. Al Sadr follower Qusai Abdul-Wahab said, "…occupation forces are fully responsible for these acts, and we call for the withdrawal of occupation forces or setting a timetable for their withdrawal."

Al Sadr's bloc in Iraq's parliament is Maliki's main source of political support within the country. Bush is Maliki's main source of political support outside the country. Maliki's between a rock and a hard place--whatever choice he makes his goose is cooked. I say we make the choice for him.

Him or Me

Al Sadr's group blames the U.S. troops for failing to provide security in Sadr City. So they want us to leave? Then let's leave. Much has been made of a Pentagon group's three proposed Iraq options with the jingo jive names of "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home." I think it's time for a fourth option: "Go Fish."

If Maliki can't survive politically without al Sadr's support, and al Sadr wants us to leave, then the best thing we can do for Maliki is to give al Sadr what he wants.

The excuses for staying the course are wearing thin. Iraqi forces won't stand up as long as we're there. Pro war politicians and pundits warn that our departure could trigger full scale civil war that might spread throughout the region, but I have yet to hear a coherent argument that indicates our presence is doing anything to prevent that.

If al Sadr wants to blame our presence for the violence in his country, let's see him try and blame it on our absence.

If we withdraw, "they" won't follow us "here" because they don't have a way to get from "there" to here.

We never really wanted a "free and independent" Iraq. We wanted a submissive client state in which we could establish a permanent military base of operations in the center of the Gulf region to control the flow of Middle East oil. The only justification for staying the course is to take off the mask, openly admit our true war aims (everybody already knows them anyway), and tell the world, "Nope, we're not going anywhere."

That would also involve discarding the pretense of recognizing Iraqi sovereignty. Maliki's government would almost certainly fall, and we'd need to set up some form of praetorian occupation authority that would have to run the country for years--perhaps decades.

And, oh yeah, to build up a military that could support such an occupation authority for that length of time, we'd have to institute a draft.

The time has come for faux Evangelical Christian Bush to have a "come to Jesus" moment. Do you think our 60 year-old president is grown up enough yet to play "truth or consequences?" I doubt it. Sonny never had to pass a test he couldn't cheat on, and he almost certainly believes Karl and Uncle Dick's boys can come up with a way for him to spin out of yet another failure.

Stand by. The worstest is yet to come.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Iraq: Democracy Takes Time Bombs

The tone of our recent elections was ugly, but at least when our politicians attack each other, they do it with nasty ads. Iraq's politicians attack each other with bombs. From Edward Wong of the New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Nov. 21 — A bomb exploded in an armored car among those belonging to the speaker of Parliament, wounding the American security guard who was driving it out of a parking area in the government Green Zone and disrupting a meeting of lawmakers nearby, a parliamentary aide said.

Doesn't that make you glad we liberated all those freedom loving people in Iraq?

The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, wasn't in the vehicle when it exploded. Wong's article doesn't specify whether the wounded American guard was active duty military or a contracted, but that really doesn't matter. The pertinent points are that a) an American was wounded in the course of protecting an Iraqi politician from other Iraqi's and b) Iraqi politicians can't trust other Iraqis to act as their security guards.

And let's not overlook that this was not a roadside ambush. Someone managed to penetrate the Green Zone, get into an armored car, and plant a bomb in it.

A hard-line Sunni Arab nationalist, Mashhadani does not suffer from lack of enemies. Wong tells us that last summer "…senior Shiite and Kurdish leaders, backed by some American officials, called for his ouster because of inflammatory comments he had made about various groups in Iraq and about the American presence."

It sounds like this Mashhadani guy is as popular in Iraq as Donald Rumsfeld is here.

Wong also tells us that young Mister Bush has agreed to meet with also reports that young Mister Bush has agreed to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Jordan next week to "discuss security in Iraq." What a sorry state of affairs. The security situation is so bad in Iraq that Bush and Malaki have to go to another country to talk about it. I can't wait for Bush to come out of the meeting and say he thinks the security in Iraq is "darn good."

Wong also reports that on Tuesday, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and captured a man thought to be the ringleader in the kidnapping of an American soldier last month. The raid sparked a battle that involved fire from an American aircraft. A Shiite official in the district said that five civilians were killed in the raid and 15 others were wounded. (A U.S. military spokesperson said that, "There may have been civilian casualties."

Hoo-boy. I sure hope the U.S. had al-Maliki's permission to conduct that raid. There'll be hell to pay otherwise.

Play the Course

Iran, Syria and Iraq are exploring the possibility of holding a three-way summit on Iraq's security situation. Influential voices in Washington have urged the Bush administration to engage in direct talks with Iran and Syria as well, but as the Baltimore Sun discloses, "many of Bush's advisers oppose that idea." Who do you reckon those "advisers" might be? My guess is they're the same advisers Bush has been listening to all along. You'd think Bush would have learned by now not to listen to them anymore, but heck, learnin's hard work.

Advisers are about to present Bush with "alternative" Iraq strategies that have jingoistic names like "Go Long" and "Surge Option," but that amount to little more than "Son of Stay the Course."

I think it's now safe to say that this is the most embarrassing period in American history. The neoconservatives who wanted to create a Pax Americana have squandered the gains it took our country over a century to accumulate. By overplaying the war card, they've made our military might into a next to useless instrument of national power. Our Bolton-esque diplomacy is so inept that we have to tie a steak around our neck to get our British bulldog to play with us, and our Rovewellian information environment is so corrupt that no one believes a word we say.

Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and the rest of the neocon anvil choir are pushing for a war with Iran. I guess the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan weren't enough for them.

The way things are shaping up, the Bush administration will go down as the regime that inherited the most powerful nation ever to get its heinie thumped in three separate war in the course of eight years.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Iraq: How Long Will We Pray the Course?

The Pentagon is revealing a new wrinkle in its "Go Long" strategy. From David S. Cloud of the New York Times:
The idea, dubbed the “surge option” by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months in the hope of improving security, especially in Baghdad. That would mark a sharp rise over the current baseline of 144,000 troops.

It looks like Pentagon planners are listening to John McCain now. Funny how they'd suggest sending another 20,000 troops to Iraq a month or so after McCain suggested it. Funny too that the Pentagon would leak news of the "surge option" the week after McCain ran a cheese grater across General John Abizaid's five o'clock shadow at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

Whatever is really going on between McCain and the Pentagon, it's high time we quit coming up with snappy sounding names for new strategies that don't look a whole lot different from the ones they replace. Let's pick a title and stick with it.

I recommend "grabbing at straws" (GAS).

Faith Based Strategy

The latest talk of "change" to the Iraq strategy sounds like the same old GAS we've been hearing for three years.

Not everyone is sold on the surge option. Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress last week that the land services were stretched so thin that a troop increase could not be sustained for an appreciable period of time. And no one seems at all confident that a temporary surge in troop strength would do any good.

Everybody seems to agree it’s a good idea to increase the number of U.S. troops specifically assigned to train Iraqi Army, police and border guard units. But, according to Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post, the Iraqi training program has already taken a Humpty Dumpty spill off the wall.
The U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials, according to internal Army documents…

…In dozens of official interviews compiled by the Army for its oral history archives, officers who had been involved in training and advising Iraqis bluntly criticized almost every aspect of the effort.

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-California) prefers a strategy that will redeploy Iraqi units from relatively calm areas of the country to hot spots like Baghdad. That kind of thinking on Hunter's part should make us all grateful that Hunter is losing his job as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). As Tom Ricks and other Pentagon correspondents have been telling us for years, large numbers of Iraqi Army troops have consistently balked at fighting other Iraqis. They refused to fight in Fallujah, they refused to fight in Ramadi, they refused to fight in Baghdad. Nobody wants to make Iraqi soldiers fight if they don't want to because they might desert, and drift into private militias, further compounding the security situation.

And Hunter wants to order more Iraqi troops into areas they've already refused to fight in? Thank God and Greyhound he's gone from the HASC chairmanship.

Help From the Periphery

Iran and Syria have offered to help stabilize the Iraq situation. Cooperation from these two Muslim countries that border Iraq is essential to establishing long term stability in the Gulf region, but enlisting their help will require competent diplomacy, and don't expect any of that from the Bush administration. "Doctor Ditz" Condi Rice, Secretary of State, was never anything more that young Mister Bush's history and geography tutor. And UN Ambassador John Bolton is a Dick Cheney acolyte: a rightwing jerk and a bull feather artist committed to proving the neoconservative agenda's prime directive that "diplomacy doesn't work."

So despite the Democratic victories in the recent congressional elections, expect more of the same old GAS from the neoconservative executive branch: a continued march down the path of never ending war.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Go Long" in Iraq: Same Bull Plop, Different Day

The "best and brightest" of the U.S. military's brain trust never fail to disappoint me.

The Pentagon's review of the Iraq situation is worming its way into the mainstream media. The review proposes three alternative courses of action, described as Go Big, Go Long and Go Home. Here's how noted Pentagon correspondent Thomas E. Ricks describes the options:
"Go Big", the first option, originally contemplated a large increase in US troops in Iraq to try to break the cycle of sectarian and insurgent violence. A classic counter-insurgency campaign, though, would require several hundred thousand additional US and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police. That option has been all but rejected by the study group, said sources who have been informally briefed on the review.

"Go Home", the third option, calls for a swift withdrawal of US troops. It was rejected by the Pentagon group as likely to push Iraq directly into a full-blown and bloody civil war.

The group has devised a hybrid plan that combines part of the first option with the second - "Go Long" - and calls for cutting the US combat presence in favor of a long-term expansion of the training and advisory efforts.

The war college I attended taught that when you propose courses of action, each option should be plausible and feasible. The brainiacs who came up with the "Go" plans must have attended a different war college than I did.

A recommended course of action rejected by the recommenders is neither plausible nor feasible, so the Pentagon "study group" has really only proposed one option, and that option is merely a reaffirmation of what the Pentagon has had in mind all along.

"Go Long," according to Ricks, "…the U.S. presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period." There's no word from Ricks or the Pentagon on how "long" the "short" period might be, but whatever the length of time a troop increase might involve, the overall period of time American troops will be deployed in Iraq can best be defined as "indefinite."

In other words, "Go Long" is "stay the course." Same strategy, different buzz phrase. Same bull manure, different day.

Been There, Done That

Actually the "new" buzz phrase isn't exactly new. The "Long War" phrase was officially sanctioned by General John Abizaid to describe the overall thingie on whatchamacallitism clear back in 2004. Abizaid is in charge of U.S. Central Command, and his area of responsibility encompasses both Iraq and Afghanistan. Abizaid is on the short list to join William Westmoreland and George McClellan in the Worst General Ever Hall of Fame. But with Rumsfeld gone, Abizaid is the biggest gorilla in the Department of Defense zoo right now, and anything the worker bees in the Pentagon tell him will be carefully crafted to sound like something he wanted to hear.

I was in the audience of my war college's auditorium when a four-star officer advised us that the secret to success in a military career was knowing how to size up your boss. "Figure out what the bastard wants and give it to him," the four-star said. That may well have been the very moment I decided that my days in uniform were numbered.

In subsequent years, I came to realize just how prevalent the top-down group-think was in military circles, and how exhortations to practice "original thinking" were really admonitions to think in ways that supported ideas and theories that originally came from on high. Nobody at the top of the chain of command really wants you to "think outside the box" unless the box you're thinking outside of is somebody else's and not theirs.

So go figure why "Go Long" is the Pentagon's Iraq option of choice. It's in keeping with the core value of military careerism: "go along to get along."

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dubya Talk in Vietnam

31 years after the end of the war in Vietnam, young Mister Bush finally decided the country was safe enough to visit in person. From Associated Press:
President Bush, on his first visit to a country where America lost a two-decade-long fight against communism, said Friday the Vietnam War's lesson for today's confounding Iraq conflict is that freedom takes time to trump hatred.

Do you think Bush knows that Vietnam is still a communist country? If he knows, does that mean that communism is now the neoconservative's definition of "freedom" (neo-freedom)?

Mister Bush said that there is much to be learned from the Vietnam War. I'd say it's high time he started learning it. What has Vietnam taught him about Iraq so far? "We'll succeed unless we quit," he said.

If present day Vietnam is Bush's idea of success, the lesson he should be drawing is that the sooner we quit in Iraq, the sooner we'll succeed there. The French and the U.S. spent two decades blowing Vietnam to smithereens in a failed attempt to shore up a corrupt and ineffective government. Three decades after fall of Saigon, Mister Bush declared that, "…today the Vietnamese people are at peace and seeing the benefits of reform."

So fifty years after the first military incursion by the west into Vietnam, the country's economy is growing so fast that the U.S. is all hubba-hubba about becoming its biggest bestest trading buddy: so much so that Mister Bush was willing to sit with Vietnam's political leaders under a large bronze bust of Ho Chi Min.

Imagine. If we'd let Saigon fall fifty years ago, we could have skipped twenty years of blowing Vietnam to smithereens, and Vietnam could have skipped another twenty years of putting the smithereens back together. Shoot, the U.S. President could have been rubbing toes with Vietnam's leaders in the early sixties, and he wouldn't have had to sit under a bust of Ho Chi Min. He could have kissed the guy's living, breathing heinie.

Lessons Unlearned

As much as I hate to do it, I have to cut Mister Bush a little slack. He's a mouth-breathing nincompoop, and a lot of people a lot smarter than he is haven't learned the lessons of Vietnam either.

Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), a distinguished Vietnam War veteran and a prisoner of war in that conflict, says we need to put another 20,000 ground troops into Iraq. That would bring the total U.S. troop strength in that country to roughly 160,000. McCain seems to have forgotten that 500,000troops were deployed to Vietnam at the height of that war. A fat lot of good they did.

Then we have Senator Joe Lieberman (Bipartisan-Connecticut), the left-right chicken winger who spent as much time in combat for his country as Dubya, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney and John Wayne combined. On Meet the Press recently, he expressed concern that "…we can lose the war here at home if we don’t begin to be bipartisan about it and, and regain the confidence and some hope for the American people."

Joe's hearkening back to the war hawks' favorite cry about the Vietnam conflict--that we lost the war on the home front. Balderdash. We lost the Vietnam War in Vietnam, thanks to incompetent politicians and generals who got us into a bad war for bad reasons and conducted it with bad strategies.

We're not losing the "war on terror" at home. We're losing it in Iraq and Afghanistan. A new strategy in those two theaters of operations sure as shooting won't regain my "confidence and hope" because it's "bipartisan," and certainly not if it's decided upon by politicians like Lieberman and McCain--or generals like John Abizaid and George Casey.

Testifying before Congress last week, Abizaid , head of Central Command, insisted on maintaining the "status quo" in Iraq. Drawing down troop strength is a bad idea, he told the Senate, but no more troops are needed either. He also said timetables and "troop caps" are a bad idea. And he cautioned against congress or anyone else criticizing political and uniformed leadership in the war because that might give aid and comfort to "the enemy."

In other words, Abizaid wants to keep doing what he's been doing without interference or criticism, despite the fact that what he's been doing isn't working. That's the exact kind of claptrap LBJ and McNamara and Nixon and Kissinger and General Westmoreland fed Congress and the American people for a decade during the Vietnam experience.

General George Casey, Abizaid's subordinate who commands the Iraq theater of operations, says that "The men and women of the armed forces [in Iraq] have never lost a battle in over three years of war; that is a fact unprecedented in military history." Actually, that "fact" is not "unprecedented" in military history. U.S. forces never lost a major battle in Vietnam. And yet, in Vietnam, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, all that magnificence in battle led to utter strategic defeat.

That Casey, whose father was killed in the Vietnam War, doesn't know that indicates that he's as big an idiot as Abizaid, McCain, Lieberman and Bush are.

The yahooligans who exhorted us to "stay the course" in Vietnam warned that if we didn't, America would be overwhelmed by "global communism." We left Vietnam and communism collapsed.

The yahooligans who exhort us to "stay the course" in Iraq war that if we don't, the world will be overwhelmed by "radical fundamentalism," "Islamo-fascism," or whatever term they're using to describe who the "enemy" is these days.

Funny thing. The communists had the world's largest military arsenal throughout the course of the Cold War, and yet we defeated them even after "cutting and running" from Vietnam.

The Islamo-fascists don't have an army, or a navy, or an air force, and yet the war hawks claim that if we cut and run from Iraq, we'll be doing hand-to-hand combat with them on the streets of American cities.

Tragically, a significant segment of the American public still buys the war hawk version of the consequences of withdrawing from Iraq.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Abizaid: Praying the Course

I tried to watch the entire CSPAN coverage of General John Abizaid's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, but I could only take it in short bursts. What I heard from the head of Central Command live was the same menu of happy horse feathers he's been spreading around the beltway and the airways with a straight face for the last couple of years.

The Iraqi army is performing well. The Iraqi government is confident that things will work out. We should stick by Nuri al Malaki's government until it proves it can't get the job done. Boo talk about how if we don't fight "them" in Iraq and Afghanistan we'll be fighting them here. We have to be patient. After all, it took America over a decade to sort out its own democracy.

A USA Today blurb says Abizaid told the committee that "force caps" or "timetables" imposed on U.S. presence in Iraq will limit the military's "flexibility." Retired General Eric Shinseki was right, Abizaid told the committee, when he said the military would need "several hundred thousand troops" to secure Iraq after the major combat operations phase, but no more troops are needed in Iraq right now. Conversely, any significant reduction in U.S. troop strength over the next six months will lead to increased sectarian violence and weaken the Iraqi government's ability to get the country under control. Overall, Abizaid is optimistic about the way things are going.

What was the point of getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld just to keep his uniformed echo chamberlains like Abizaid around?

The Iraqi army is not performing well. It's individual members don't show up to fight if they don't want to, and nobody wants to force them to fight because then they'd just desert. The Iraqi police are infested with gangsters and militiamen. Iraqi civilians don't trust them and neither do U.S. troops.

How much longer do we need to trust in the Iraqi government's confidence? How much longer do we let Maliki continue to prove that he can't get the job done?

"They" can't get here from there, whether we're there or not. "They" don't have a navy or an air force that can bring them here, and it's too far to swim or jump. You'd think a four-star general like Abizaid would be aware of that.

Eleven years elapsed between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. America was not torn with civil war or sectarian violence or at the mercy of rogue militias during that time, nor did we ask the British to stick around and help us with our internal security until we could get our act together.

If we needed more troops in Iraq before it went to hell in a bucket, and security situation is worse there now than it was then, why is it we don't need more troops now?

In the House

I caught most of Abizaid's testimony to the House in the afternoon. His uniform still looked sharp. No doubt his aids had plenty of spares available for him to change into throughout the course of the congressional hearings. That's the sort of a thing a four-star's aids do, especially when their boss has to talk to Congress all day on national television. But General Abizaid's aids couldn't hand him a fresh laundered face or physique, and over the course of the afternoon House hearings, Abizaid started to sag under the fa├žade of his starched exterior. The bags under his eyes, the droop of the flap under his chin, and even the swell of his fingers reflected the effects of stress on a 50-something career Army officer who dreamed in his West Point days of being another George Patton, not another William Westmoreland.

The questions the House Armed Services Committee threw at him seemed less volatile than those he faced at the Senate hearing. Maybe that was because lower house members consider themselves B list celebrities and figure they don't have the cachet to pitch fastballs at a four star general the way senators do. Maybe the representatives felt sorry for Abizaid because they understood what a drubbing he'd taken all morning from the A list superstars in the upper house. From the sound of things, John McCain took a cheese grater to his face.

I can almost feel sorry for Abizaid too. Now that Rumsfeld is gone, he's become the head whipping boy for everybody in Congress who Rumsfeld torqued off.

But then I consider: this is the four-star general in charge of two failing wars in two failing states, and here he is telling both houses of Congress that things are going well, the troop levels are fine.

Brother. All this sound and fury about changing the course, we'll continue to keep doing what we've been doing and pray for a miracle. We'll have four to six more months of faith based strategy and then take another look at how things are going.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Next "Perle" Harbor: Here They Neo-come Again

Not content with having helped mislead America into its Iraq fiasco, the neoconservative Prince of Darkness Richard Perle has taken a key role in steering the U.S. into yet another counter productive war, this time with Iran.

Laura Rozen of The American Prospect reports:
Unchastened by the catastrophe of the Iraq war or the setback delivered to the White House and Republicans in the midterm elections in part as a result of it, Iran hawks have organized new efforts to promote U.S. support for regime change in Tehran.

Among the latest efforts is the creation earlier this month of the Iran Enterprise Institute, a privately funded nonprofit drawing not just its name but inspiration and moral support from leading figures associated with the American Enterprise Institute. The Iran Enterprise Institute is directed by a newly arrived Iranian dissident whose cause has recently been championed by AEI fellow and former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle.

Land o' Goshen. Global replace "q" with "n" and we've got Perle trying to pull the same shinola with Iran that he pulled with Iraq.

Perle was a staunch supporter of Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the expatriate Iraqi National Congress, a group that Perle and other neocons believed could take control of Iraq once Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Now Perle is backing a newly arrived Iranian dissident named Amir Abbas Fakhravar. Apparently, Perle picked the 31 year-old Fakhravar to be his Iranian paramour because he couldn't find a suitable Farsi-speaking teenager, but what the heck--at Perle's age, when it comes to choosing political bedfellows, the difference between 31 and 13 is negligible.

The Iran Enterprise Institute was formed over the course of a three-day meeting in Washington last month. In attendance, along with Fakhravar, were the son of the deposed Shah of Iran, a prominent Dallas-based Persian rug dealer, and "several other young Iranian oppositionists." Rozen didn't report just how young these other Iranian opportunists were, but it's fairly safe to assume that they're younger than Fakhravar, and spent most of their lives in this country, which means they know less about what's going on in Iran than you could store in a bumblebee's bladder.

But when you consider that the Generation X yahooligans on young Mister Bush's National Security Agency who don't think weapons of mass destruction were a factor in the Cold War and say things like, "Arms control? What's that?" you get an appreciation of how a handful of little Iranian rascals can become a legitimate foreign policy lobbying organization in Washington D.C. in the course of three days. Especially when they have a sugar daddy like Richard Perle.

The Iran Enterprise Institute is looking for office spaces in D.C., and has applied for $3 million in State Department grants to back its expenses. With the backing of Papa Perle, there's a good chance they'll get it. What the heck, these days, $3 million here or there in the federal budget isn't enough to get a sheet of toilet paper wet.

Too bad your local school system doesn't have a Richard Perle to go to bat for it, huh? If we're going to throw $3 million at children, wouldn't you like those children to be your children, and not the late Shah of Iran's children who want their daddy's property holdings back?

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Kristol, Kagan and the "More Troops" Meme

Iconic neocons Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan are at it again. In their latest Weekly Standard opinion piece, they call for young Mister Bush to commit an additional 50,000 troops to Iraq. This has become the standard weekly war cry from Kristol and Kagan, who have been trying to distance themselves from their fellow administration neoconservatives since late in 2004 when it became apparent that their old partner in crime Donald Rumsfeld's Iraq strategy wasn't working.

In their latest article, Kristol and Kagan argue that an additional 50,000 troops will help achieve a "victory" in Iraq, but in truth, more troops won't accomplish much more than provide terrorists and insurgents in that country with more targets. What's more, I suspect that Kristol and Kagan know that.

Neocon Games

Kristol and Kagan, on advice of Kagan's brother Fred, the military historian, assert that an additional 50,000 U.S. troops could bring Baghdad under control, which could lead to an eventual "win" in the Iraq war.

This theory has more than a few critical flaws.

To begin with, an infusion of that size would not produce 50,000 combat soldiers. In standard U.S. Army operations, the tail to tooth ratio is roughly 10 to one. That means every trigger puller deployed requires 10 combat support and combat service support personnel (docs, clerks, truck drivers, cooks, engineers, etc.) to keep him in the trenches. By that equation, 50,000 troops net a total of only 5,000 trigger pullers, and those trigger pullers can't stay in the trenches 24/7/365. They have to be rotated out of the line for rest and relaxation. If we split the trigger pullers into two shifts--which is frankly too draconian to provide much rest and relaxation for any of them--our infusion of 50,000 troops nets a total of 2,500 shooters in service at any given time.

That leaves 47.500 troops in "the rear with the gear," except that in Iraq, and especially in Baghdad, there is no "rear" because there are no front lines. So a major percentage of the shooters active at any given time will be occupied defending their support troops and their fellow shooters who are resting and relaxing.

Can a thousand or so trigger pullers make a difference in Baghdad's security situation? Perhaps so, but what good will that do? The Baghdad insurgents won't play a "fight to the death" game. They'll sneak away from the city and regroup in another part of the country, and what then? If we send those 2,500 trigger pullers after them, they'll just sneak back into Baghdad where they can mop up on the 47,000 support troops who were left behind.

Then what will Kristol and the Kagan brothers recommend? Another 50,000 troops, and another 50,000 troops after that, and another 50,000 troops after that, and another 50,000 troops after that, and another 50,000 troops after that?

Neocon Carne

The meat behind the rhetoric of Kristol, the Kagans and the other neocons in their camp is that they want to blame the failure of their global dominance vision on the incompetence of their former colleagues like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton and Wolfowitz who turned that vision (which they all shared) into failed policies and strategies.

The call for more troops in Iraq is singularly diabolical stratagem. If Son of Bush knuckles under and follows that advice, he'll create the never ending war and the ever-increasing military presence in the Middle East that the PNAC neocons envisioned from the outset. If Sonny ignores that advice and things go even further south in Iraq, Kristol and the Kagans and the rest of them can say, "See, he should have listened to us."

Make no mistake. Kristol and the rest of his loyal neocon base aren't interested in saving Iraq. They're interested in saving the neoconservative movement, and the Big Brother Broadcast media and think tank network that supports it.

The Company They Keep

John McCain agrees with Kristol and Kagan that we need more troops in Iraq. Kristol and Kagan think talking to Iran and Syria is a bad idea. So does MSNBC's Monica Crowley. Kristol and Kagan have encouraged a military strike on Iran. Charles Krauthammer has too. So has Ralph Peters. And Thomas Sowell. And (shudder) Ann Coulter.

The pattern of far right war hawk rhetoric looks like something out of an M.C. Escher painting. At first glance, things might seem logically constructed, but a second look reveals an insanity that defies the basic precepts of reality. The most prominent voices in the chicken wing say we should bomb Syria and Iran rather than talk to them about Iraq. And while most of them bow to the rational voices that say there is no military solution in Iraq, they continue to insist that the path to victory in Iraq is to send more troops there.

Though the noise still pouring out of the Big Brother Broadcast is plainly nuttier than a pistachio ranch, a large segment of America still listens to it and takes it seriously.

God help America.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gates, McCain and Lieberman: Praying the Course in Iraq

For all the talk I've been hearing the past week or so about changing course in Iraq, I've heard nothing that gives me hope anything will actually improve. Switching tactics is all well and good, but without a sound strategy, shifting tactics just changes the direction in which you chase your tail. In the case of Iraq, switching tactics will be like treating a massive internal hemorrhage with a fresh box of band-aids.

Jewels of Denial

According to Jack Dorsey of The Virginian Pilot, the Department of Defense has spent $6 billion on a program to defeat roadside bombs, often referred to as improvised explosive devises (IEDs). That amount equates to the advertised cost of a Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier. You'd think that for the cost of a carrier, they could have come up with one heck of a rootin' tootin' anti-IED system, but no. A recent report by Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan research and analysis group, says that the five-year IED countermeasure effort has proven "only marginally effective."

What's the official response to this allegation? Christine Devries, spokesperson for the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization says, “We would absolutely disagree with the assertion that progress is not being made.”

Folks, this is a perfect microcosmic example of every failure of this war. Five years and $6 billion into a "marginally effective" program to counter a $20 weapon, the Pentagon insists that "progress" is being made. The Pentagon is in total denial about its inability to cope with the most basic of tactical problems, and the administration continues to insist that there's no need to change the overall strategy and policy.

Fresh Eyes, Same Old Guys

The Sunday talk shows were abuzz with yakety-yak about the "fresh eyes" that former CIA Director Bob Gates will bring to the Defense Secretary job. If Gates has a nodding acquaintance with reality, those fresh eyes will turn into bug eyes before he's even sworn in. Iraq is a strategic inferno, and no infusion of Big Daddy Bush firemen like Gates and Jim Baker are likely come up with a way to put it out.

Big Brother Bush (Dubya) doesn't have a clue what to do about Iraq or he would have dropped Donald Rumsfeld through the trap door years ago. Gates may be open to suggestions from his uniformed subordinates, but what good will that do? All of his top generals and admirals got where they are by locking their lips around Rumsfeld's theories and policies, and they wouldn't know a center of gravity from their elbows. And who will step up to replace the generals and admirals? The "Rumsfeld purge" of straight talkers like Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki wiped out at least one generation of enlightened, morally courageous military officers--possibly two or three generations of them.

The same holds true for the scholarly/intellectual military community. Vocal military pundits like Ralph Peters, Mackubin Thomas Owens, Robert Kaplan, Fred and Bob Kagan and others all fell in line with the neoconservative network of think tanks and publications controlled directly or indirectly by Weekly Standard publisher and Project for the New American Century founder Bill Kristol. Many of these policy and strategy "geniuses" have recanted their earlier stances on the Iraq war, but not soon enough to reverse their clear illustrations that they don't have clue loving one what they're talking about, no matter how much money they get paid to talk and write about it.

If Gates really wants to recruit fresh eyes to look at the Iraq problem, he'll have to launch a manhunt to track down folks who left government service in disgust years ago. And those folks, when asked the question "how can we win in Iraq," would most likely still have the integrity to answer, "You can't. Go tell the old man there's no way to scrape sonny's carcass out of the frying pan."

Speaking of Idiots…

If Gates decides to seek counsel from members of Congress, there are two prominent members of that body he should totally ignore, both of whom appeared on Meet the Press last Sunday: John McCain and Joe Lieberman.

Defending his support of the war in Iraq, McCain said, "I believe that a lot of Americans trust my judgment on issues such as this because of the experience and background that I have."

Americans who trust McCain's judgment on issues of war, peace and foreign policy could be convinced that the moon is made of green cheese. I certainly respect and admire McCain's service during the Vietnam war, but the depth and breadth of the "experience and background" he got at conducting wars as a POW isn't substantial enough to blow your nose into.

But McCain is a regular Clausewitz compared to Joe Lieberman. On MTP, Tim Russert asked him, "…can you keep a country at war that doesn’t want to be there?"

Lieberman's reply:
You can’t, and that’s why we need to form a bipartisan consensus for victory in Iraq, for success in Iraq, which is still attainable. And, and this is the, this is the great problem, the terrorists cannot defeat us on the battlefield in Iraq, but we can lose the war here at home if we don’t begin to be bipartisan about it and, and regain the confidence and some hope for the American people. I do think that the president bringing in a new secretary of defense is a significant move which will now reopen the discussion with the American people, with our allies, with the American military, and I, and I hope it will lead to some progress in Iraq.

What Lieberman knows about war you could hide inside of an ant's rear end.

Being "bipartisan" won't "win" the war in Iraq. Being smart might, but not if it's the bipartisan kind of smart that comes from the likes of McCain and Lieberman. We're not losing the war at home, Joe. We're losing it in Iraq, and we're not losing it because of lack of "discussion with the American people." We're losing it because of the arrogant incompetence of the commander in chief, his secretary of defense, their yes men generals, and bent-over-the-table politicians like you and McCain who continue to support the cockamamie waste of American blood and treasure on a failed project foisted on the world by a sinister cabal of neoconservative megalomaniacs.

I expect the next few months of Iraq war fire hose rhetoric to amount the same Polly-cracker poppycock we've listened to for the last three years. We'll be told to celebrate the turning of another "corner," then we'll be exhorted not to get all "Henny Penny sky is falling" about it when we discover that we're staring down another blind alley.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans' Day Vanities: Rummy's Out, Timelines Are In.

Does anybody see a rhyme or reason to what we're doing in Iraq now? As best I can tell, it looks remarkably like a farcical sketch from an old Broadway variety show featuring comedian Leon Errol blowing a martial air on a trumpet as his knees knock together while he tries to march across the stage without falling down.

Before the election, Rumsfeld was going to stay the course as Defense Secretary and the election results wouldn't have much effect on the overall Iraq strategy. Jim Baker and his Iraq Study Group were looking at new strategic options, but the strategy wasn't going to change, just the tactics.

Then the election results came in and Rummy was out. Hours after he announced his resignation, according to the U.K. Times, "American, British and Iraqi officials spoke openly about accelerating the handover process… All sides said that Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure provided an opportunity to set a clearer timetable for withdrawing all foreign forces."

It's too bad there wasn't a clearer timetable for removing Rumsfeld.

A new plan is being drawn up in Baghdad, with the Bush administration's approval, to extend the United Nations mandate for foreign troops in Iraq by one year, but the plan states that responsibility for security in all but the most violent of Iraq's 18 provinces will be turned over to Iraqi forces by December of 2007.

I'm not clear on how that's any different from what we're doing now. And is this December 2007 date a timeline, a deadline, a benchmark of merely a friendly suggestion? If the same provinces U.S. troops are fighting in today are still up for grabs come two Christmases from now, what then?

And who's calling the shots in Iraq? The UN? The White House? Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Malaki? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace? General John Abizaid, head of Central Command? General George Casey, U.S. commander in the Iraq theater of operations? U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad? Iraqi Shia clerics Ali Husaini Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr? The private security forces protecting Halliburton and the other war profiteer contractors in Iraq? Dick Cheney and his CEO pals at Exxon-Mobil and Chevron?

I don't think anybody can give a straight answer to that question.

Tactics, Strategy or Policy?

The U.K. Times reports that British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said that despite the U.S. election results and Rumsfeld's exit through a trap door, it's unlikely there will be a "major upheaval" of U.S. policy in Iraq. Was she actually referring to policy, strategy or tactics?

No two "experts" are likely to agree on the precise meanings of the vocabulary of warfare, but a general understanding exists that armed conflicts are conducted across a spectrum of loosely defined "levels." At the bottom of the spectrum is the tactical level, the level at which combat occurs. At the top of the spectrum is policy, an overarching concept that defines the war aim that can be expressed in terms like "unconditional surrender," "containment," "regime change," and so on. Strategies are broad plans for use of military force to achieve the policy aims, and the operational level of war is where tactical actions are coordinated to achieve the strategic goals.

In a "perfect" war, every tactical engagement or battle leads directly to an operational victory. Every operational victory reaches a decisive point in the overall strategic scheme and marches the war ever closer to the desired political conclusion.

There is, of course, no such thing as a "perfect war." Despite all of the U.S. military's advances in precision and information technology, the Clausewitzean notions of fog and friction still apply. (Simple Simon definitions: "fog" means you can't know everything you need to know. "Friction" means that people, plans and stuff seldom work like they're supposed to.)

Net-eccentric Warfare

Donald Rumsfeld's biggest mistake was his "all in" bet on transformational, futuristic concepts like network-centric warfare, shock and awe, effects based operations and the rest of the malarkey cooked up by his Director of Transformation Arthur Cebrowski, the retired (and now deceased) Navy vice admiral and fighter pilot who toward the end of his active duty career was president of the United States Naval War College.

Cebrowski and his acolytes like John Gartska convinced Rumsfeld and others that a force armed with precision weapons and networked through modern communications and data processing technologies could quickly and decisively win any war America chose to fight. In 2002, Cebrowski had the temerity to describe his network centric doctrine as a "new theory of war," even though, years earlier, he had refused to define what exactly this new theory was. In a 1999 address to the Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, Cebrowski said:
Network-centric warfare is a concept. As a concept, it cannot have a definition, because concepts and definitions are enemies. Concepts are abstract and general, while definitions are concrete and specific. Thus, if a concept can be defined, it is no longer a concept.

Subsequent to that statement, anyone in his right mind might have suspected that Cebrowski's network-centric concept was a bull feather mattress. But Donald Rumsfeld didn't. Nor did Rumsfeld pay a tick of attention to the results of Millennium Challenge 2002, a pre-Iraq invasion war game that proved the fallacies of Cebrowski's indefinable concepts.

Rumsfeld pressed ahead with Cebrowski's ideas in the conduct of the Afghan and Iraq wars. In both cases, network-centric practices failed because they 1) did not, as advertised, eliminate fog and friction from the tactical and operational levels of war and 2) did not translate tactical and operational success into achievement of strategy and policy goals.

The Price of Ignoring Warfare Principles

A key flaw of Cebrowski's network-centric concept was that it implied that modern technology had made previous theories and principles of warfare obsolete. He--and his advocate Donald Rumsfeld--could not have been more wrong.

One of the most important of the principles of warfare is Unity of Command/Unity of Effort. From U.S. Army Field Manual 100-5"
For every objective, seek unity of command and
unity of effort.

At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.

Unity of effort, on the other hand, requires coordination and cooperation among all forces even though they may not necessarily be part of the same command structure toward a commonly recognized objective. Collateral and main force operations might go on simultaneously, united by intent and purpose, if not command. The means to achieve unity of purpose is a nested concept whereby each succeeding echelon’s concept is nested in the other. In combined and inter-agency operations, unity of command may not be possible, but the requirement for unity of effort becomes paramount. Unity of effort coordination through cooperation and common interests is an essential complement to unity of command.

As things stand now in Iraq, we don't have unity of command because we don't know who's in charge. We don't have unity of purpose because we don't have a coherent statement of what the purpose is. Succeeding echelon's concepts aren't nested in each other because there is no overarching concept other than one expressed in "stay the course" style misleading buzz phrases, false aphorisms and glittering generalities. In all, our woebegone wars in the Middle East are little more than what military historian Fred Kagan describes as "organized but senseless violence."

It's a fog and friction fricassee.

I'll regard all "victory plans" for Iraq that have no perceivable connection with tried and true principles of warfare and foreign policy the same way I treat what my dogs leave in the yard every morning.

In the meantime, I'm still endorsing Jack Murtha's proposal to redeploy to the periphery. That's in keeping with one of my own warfare principles:

"If you keep getting your butt whipped in stupid bar fights, either learn to walk away from them or stay away from the bar."

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Rumsfeld Resigns: Another Corner Turned

Donald Rumsfeld had plenty of reasons to resign his post as Defense Secretary. Not the least of them must have been that the specter of facing a bucketful of subpoenas from congressional oversight committees was more than he wanted to expose his beautiful ugliness to. But does Rumsfeld's exit through a trap door signal a new direction in Iraq, or will we merely trade one wicked witch for another?

Robert Gates, a career Central Intelligence Agency officer, has been named to succeed Rummy as wartime second in command of America's armed forces. Gates's sum total of military experience was his two years of service during the Vietnam War in which he gave intelligence briefings to ICBM crews at Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri. Gates was first nominated to become Director of the CIA in 1987 by Ronald Reagan, but that nomination was withdrawn when questions arose over his involvement in the Iran/Contra Affair. The Senate eventually confirmed Gates as CIA Director in 1991 when he was again nominated by fellow Iran/Contra figure George H.W. Bush.

Gates's management style may bring a breath of fresh air to the Pentagon, but frankly, any management style would be welcome after six years of Rumsfeld's. And let's not kid ourselves; no management style, however enlightened, can undo the damage that Rummy has done.


Winners and Losers

Young Mister Bush can make all the happy talk he wants to about "complete victory" in Iraq, but the closest we can come to complete victory in this conflict is to avoid total defeat. In order to craft a strategy that avoids total defeat, we'll need to specifically identify what total defeat would consist of.

For all the boo noise Bush and his echo chamberlains have fed us about why we need to "stay the course," one talking point has emerged that kinda/sorta resonates with a ring of truth. In a September 2005 speech given at Naval Air Station North Island in California, Mister Bush said that if al Qaeda leadership gained control of Iraq, "… they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions."

There's a dollop of bunker mentality bunk in that reasoning. Al Qaeda won't take control of a Shia dominated Iraq, much less the oil fields located in Shia and Kurdish territory. The Shias and Kurds, however, aren't technologically advanced enough to pull their oil out of the ground by themselves, and if the U.S. pulls completely out of the Gulf Region, it will leave an industrial vacuum that Iran's "axis of energy" partners China and Russia will be more than happy to fill. If our old Cold War nemeses shoulder us and our Western European allies out of the Middle East oil game, they will have defeated us without firing a single shot or having made any effort to compete with us in terms of military power.

Donkeys, Elephants, Dragons and Bears

The great 18th century Prussian warfare philosopher Carl von Clausewitz spoke of a "remarkable trinity" of warfare that included the military, the government and the people. For too long, the Bush government has been dishonest with both the military and the people about its true motivations. The paper trail of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century makes it clear that the objective of invading Iraq was to establish a military base of operations in the center of the Middle East from which the U.S. could control the flow the region's oil. It never had much to do with terrorism. The 9/11 attacks were merely the "Perle Harbor" the neocons needed to set their plan in motion. Even Saddam Hussein himself was little more than a convenient excuse to justify the neocons' aim of establishing a larger military footprint in the oil rich Middle East.

The recent election results and Rumsfeld's resignation irrefutably indicate that both the people and the military have had it up to their choke collars with the horse feathers the government has been feeding them about our reasons for being in Iraq. Our national interest in the Middle East is about oil, it always has been about oil, and it always will be about oil.

Admitting that will be a big pill for both the donkeys and the elephants to swallow, but not nearly as big as the lie they've been asking the military and the people to swallow for half a decade.

Confessing to the oil aim will also reveal the biggest failing of the Bush administration. Through its delusional, incompetent attempt to dominate the global energy market through armed force, it has come perilously close to squandering the gains made during 50 years of Cold War.

Abandoning a dead horse like Rumsfeld in mid-stream is a good start in America's comeback as a dominant world power, but it's only a start. The Department of Defense can only do so much to regain the balance of power leverage lost by the neoconservatives' pathetic agenda.

Any change to the Iraq strategy has to include larger "grand strategy" initiatives to woo Iran away from China and Russia, and that won't only involve swallowing a bitter pill or two, it will involve eating a generous serving of crow.

Whether or not the new government will have the humility and candor to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said remains to be seen.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Richard Perle: Neoconservative Prince of Darkness (Part II)

(Part I discussed how preeminent neoconservative Richard Perle has disavowed responsibility for the Iraq fiasco and blames the strategic failure in that war on incompetence in the Bush administration. Part II will explore how both the neoconservatives and the GOP are attempting to salvage their movement and their party.)

Whatever gains the Democrats make in this election, America still needs to pay heed to the neoconservative movement's continued influence on the military industrial complex, the Republican Party, and U.S. foreign policy.

Richard Perle is, in fact, largely responsible for the decision to invade Iraq. His signature not only appears on the 1998 PNAC letters to President Clinton and to then House and Senate Speakers Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott that called for a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he is a signatory to the September 20, 2001 PNAC letter that called on young Mister Bush to invade "…even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack." And at a September 2003 American Enterprise Institute luncheon, he said, "I think we were right to liberate [Iraq], with or without weapons of mass destruction."

But more importantly, Perle also played a key role in how the war was fought. Perle was vocal advocate of Donald Rumsfeld's military transformation initiatives. In October 2003, he described the vision of the future force as one that puts "…an incredible premium on speed, universality, flexibility, and precision in our weapons systems."

This transformational came to life in the form of futuristic concepts like network centric warfare and shock and awe, concepts upon which Donald Rumsfeld based his Iraq strategy.

Our Iraq experience has proven, once again, a basic premise of warfare theory that Perle, Rumsfeld, and the other neocon warhawks never bothered to learn. Net-centricity and shock and awe provide dominance in combat between notionally symmetric forces. But while combat is an inherent part of war, combat success alone does not in itself lead to strategic victory. As the saying goes, "You can win a thousand battles and still lose the war."

Rats, Ships, Neocons and the GOP

In his recent interview with David Rose of Vanity Fair, Perle said of Iraq, "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad."

Who does Perle think he's kidding? Everyone he's blaming for the failures in Iraq was a card carrying PNAC neoconservative and a Perle associate. PNAC luminaries in the Bush administration constitute a veritable wall of shame: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Midge Decter, Vin Weber, John Bolton…

Traditional Republicans (sometimes referred to as "paleocons") are trying to distance themselves from the neocons, but they're doing so in a rather funny way.

In an October 22 interview on CNN's Late Edition, former Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan Alexander "I'm in control" Haig told Wolf Blitzer that the Iraq debacle was the fault of "…the so-called neocons that hijacked my party, the Republican Party, before this administration..."

Wolf Interrupted Haig and asked him to name names. Haig hemmed and hawed. Wolf finally asked, "Was Rumsfeld a neocon?"

"I wouldn't say he was. I wouldn't say..." Haig answered.

Moments later Wolf asked, "Is Cheney a neocon?"

"I think so," Haig said.

If Al Haig really doesn't know that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are PNAC neocons, he's a mouth breathing political moron. More likely he's pulling a neocon-job of his own in an attempt to protect his beloved GOP by trying to distance the party from the neoconservative movement. Whatever the case, it's important for all of us to remember that the neoconservative movement has metastasized to the point where "neoconservative" and "Republican" are synonymous, and the closest thing we're likely to see to a true paleo-conservative in the next decade or so is something we now call a "moderate Democrat."

Like the monsters of summertime horror movie sequels, the neocons will never completely go away. The likes of Perle, Cheney, Bill Kristol, Jeb Bush, Rumsfeld and many, many others have already spawned a next generation of neo-imperialistic ideologues whose names we don't even know yet, and who will lurk underground for years waiting for their chance to come into power again, much as Cheney and Rumsfeld and Perle did.

I'm something of a recovering Republican. I cast my first vote for a Democrat in 2004, shortly after I reached the ripe age of 50. I won't vote for another Republican until I’m convinced that the party has totally purged itself of the neoconservative influence.

Given my age and what I've seen of the neoconservative movement, something tells me I'll never vote for a Republican again.

#

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.