Friday, January 07, 2005

 

Retired General Is Going to Iraq for Full Review.

A good thing, I feel.

From Friday's New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 - The Pentagon is sending a highly regarded retired four-star general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual "open-ended" review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday.

The extraordinary leeway given to the officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said members of Congress and military analysts reached for comment.

I love that last bit: "members of Congress and military analysts." Reading through the article, I couldn't find any military analysts quoted, even on background, and the only member of Congress quoted, Jack Reed, is a Rhode Island Democrat fairly vociferous in his criticism of the Rumsfeld Pentagon.

While the article highlights how well respected General Luck is, the cynic in me is wondering whether the Times is puffing him up in advance, hoping that he comes back with bad news they can hang around the Pentagon's neck. Especially after reading this:
At a meeting Thursday with his top military and civilian aides, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed General Luck to look at all areas of the operation, identify any weaknesses and report back in a few weeks with a confidential assessment, senior defense officials said.
Who here wants to take bets that the New York Times will not only get their hands on this confidential assessment, but they already feel entitled to it?

I'm sure the Times has a lot invested in the Pentagon Papers theology, that internal warfighting studies should always be public knowledge because, you know, that Pentagon will always lie to you.

Call me old fashioned, but it is not the job of the Pentagon to keep the American people informed. It is the job of the Pentagon to keep the American people safe. We live in a democracy, so there is obviously a tension between those two goals. And I completely support the questioning of a free press, and I believe the Pentagon should be open about as much as possible.
That said, if by keeping this-- or any other report-- confidential, we can get closer to coming home victorious, I'm willing to stay in the dark. I'll wait a few decades to read the memoirs, or watch the History Channel documentary.

Look, the war in Iraq isn't going anywhere as well as anyone had hoped. Actually, the very fact that we're still in a war in Iraq *at all* is a sign that something went wrong. Call it bad planning, call it the fortunes of war, whatever you call it, that is where we are.

But every time I hear amateur criticism about Pentagon planning for the war, I'm always reminded of the Civil War quote of General George Pickett (yes, *that* George Pickett).

After the Civil War, Pickett was constantly asked at gatherings why he thought the hitherto invincible Army of Northern Virginia had lost at Gettysburg, he replied, "I think the Yankees had something to do with it."

Wars are not fought by one side. They're a dynamic activity. We fight, the enemy learns. The enemy fights, we learn.

This trip is obviously a key component of learning how to win this war. I hope it helps.


Comments:
Interesting. Do you read (and have an opinion on) Friedman's Stratfor briefings? The one that came out yesterday was pretty harsh, and basically claimed that the US was either going to fire a bunch of generals, or do as they suggest with regard to troop placements and fire Rumsfeld.

The action described in the NYT piece, unless I misread it, appears as though it would remove the harsh contrast between the two approaches Friedman claims are possible.

The Stratfor article doesn't appear to be available online, but I've still got the email if you haven't seen it and would care to. I'd be quite interested in your opinion on it.
 
No Patton, I hadn't seen that STRATFOR piece.

Yeah, I'd love to look over a copy if you can email it to me.

Thanks!
 
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