Monday, August 27, 2007

The straws of August

With the general acknowledgment that the Surge is working, the anti-war crowd is looking hard for the next line of attack. With the Haditha bloody shirt also going away, you can almost taste the desperation of a group of people that are in dire need to find a defeat and even better to totally discredit the President and Administration they quite literally hate.

Two different straws that have come up this week are curious contrasts. You have Kaplan's rather long Yingling inspired attack on the GOFO gaggle that Bookie has asked folks to weigh in on - and then you have something that seems to come from someone who needs to check his meds.

Via Capt. Ed, we have Hollywierd-addled "British-born, Hollywood-based humorist, commentator, producer and radio host" Martin Lewis at the Huffpo calling for, well, you read it.
General Pace - you have the power to fulfill your responsibility to protect the troops under your command. Indeed you have an obligation to do so.

You can relieve the President of his command.

Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief.

You simply invoke the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.

The United States Code: Title 10, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 47, Subchapter X, Section 934.
you have the legal responsibility - under Article 134 of the Uniform Code Of Military Justice - to protect the troops under your command by relieving the President of his MILITARY command.

If you have reason to believe that the President is responsible for "disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces" and for "conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital" then you have the obligation to act.

In addition to relieving him of his command as Commander-In-Chief, you also have authority to place the President under MILITARY arrest.

...and the madness goes on from there. I posted about it along with Lex over at MilBlogs and I know almost all of you have already read about it - but I wanted to mention it again as it is part of the whole weekend mash.

The only thing worth spending any time on though is Kaplan's article. Though not directly related to Kaplan's bit, Bookie has caught on to something I postulated about earlier in the year; that eventually when the anti-victory group has bled Bush white and/or has run out of other things to do in pursuit of their existential crisis, they will go after the military in full force. Not the pin-pricks we have seen even prior to 911 - but a full court press. Throw in the smear movies lined up to go, other supporting attacks will join up for a ride.

In the whole though, Kaplan's bit is not a smearing hatchet job - though the Left will use it as best it can. Regular readers will know that when it comes to GOFO, I have no problem calling a spade a spade, and I do not hide my disdain for some who have made it to the exalted position where they have warriors assigned to pick up their dry cleaning and mow their yard if needed - so I have some sympathy with Kaplan and Yingling, and in places agree with them.

We have not had the leadership since 911 like General Marshall in WWII who would fire people not ready for prime time - wholesale. We are not promoting all the right warfighters and personalities for this war. That is clear. There are the rare exceptions, but as pointed out in the good for Newsweek article about the hunt for OBL,
(the blame for many of our lost opportunities belongs to).. risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records—no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.” The cautious mind-set changed for a time after 9/11, but quickly settled back in. High-tech communication serves to clog, rather than speed the process. With worldwide satellite communications, high-level commanders back at the base or in Washington can second-guess even minor decisions.
Boy, oh boy. That is spot on. So spot on.

There is also the fear of the selection board. In Kaplan's article, he discusses the fact that the Col. McMaster (I am a fan) of Dereliction of Duty fame has twice been passed over for Brigadier General - twice. Now, I know enough about boards to know you don't know the whole story if you don't know the whole story - but if anyone needs a star it is Col. McMaster. Then again, we know what can happen if you bump the wrong person the wrong way and they show up on your board...

An item that caught my eye as well in Kaplan’s article, and rings very true. It is also related to the reason I blog as CDR Salamander.
McMaster’s nonpromotion has not been widely reported, yet every officer I spoke with knew about it and had pondered its implications. One colonel, who asked not to be identified because he didn’t want to risk his own ambitions, said: “Everyone studies the brigadier-general promotion list like tarot cards; who makes it, who doesn’t. It communicates what qualities are valued and not valued.”

A retired Army two-star general, who requested anonymity because he didn’t want to anger his friends on the promotion boards, agreed. “When you turn down a guy like McMaster,” he told me, “that sends a potent message to everybody down the chain. I don’t know, maybe there were good reasons not to promote him. But the message everybody gets is: “We’re not interested in rewarding people like him. We’re not interested in rewarding agents of change.”

Members of the board, he said, want to promote officers whose careers look like their own. Today’s generals rose through the officer corps of the peacetime Army. Many of them fought in the last years of Vietnam, and some fought in the gulf war. But to the extent they have combat experience, it has been mainly tactical, not strategic. They know how to secure an objective on a battlefield, how to coordinate firepower and maneuver. But they don’t necessarily know how to deal with an enemy that’s flexible, with a scenario that has not been rehearsed.

“Those rewarded are the can-do, go-to people,” the retired two-star general told me. “Their skill is making the trains run on time. So why are we surprised that, when the enemy becomes adaptive, we get caught off guard? If you raise a group of plumbers, you shouldn’t be upset if they can’t do theoretical physics.”
And if I might add, you never promote someone who gets out of step with a senior officer’s pet acquisition program. Never.

The following is also something that is also very true to the Navy. Exceptionally true.
Capt. Kip Kowalski, an infantry officer in the Captains Career Course at Fort Knox, is a proud soldier in the can-do tradition. He is impatient with critiques of superiors; he prefers to stay focused on his job. “But I am worried,” he said, “that generals these days are forced to be narrow.”

Kowalski would like to spend a few years in a different branch of the Army; say, as a foreign area officer, and then come back to combat operations. He says he thinks the switch would broaden his skills, give him new perspectives and make him a better officer. But the rules don’t allow switching back and forth among specialties.

”I have to decide right now whether I want to do ops or something else,” he said. “If I go F. A. O., I can never come back.”

In October 2006, seven months before his essay on the failure of generalship appeared, Yingling and Lt. Col. John Nagl, another innovative officer, wrote an article for Armed Forces Journal called “New Rules for New Enemies,” in which they wrote: “The best way to change the organizational culture of the Army is to change the pathways for professional advancement within the officer corps. The Army will become more adaptive only when being adaptive offers the surest path to promotion.”
Many an officer has taken a set of orders, or turned one down, knowing that this was the end of his career. Without community top-cover at the job he is heading to, or going to a “non-select” job – he was, “sending a message to the board.” Actually, no – the selection board is just closed minded and parochial.

While we are on the subject of close minded and parochial, there are two other items in the news that tie into this on the edges. First let’s talk a bit about Sen. Warner (R-VA).

About a decade too late, Sen. Warner is going to retire. An interesting man in many respects, I had a chance to see the man up close and personal for a period of time in the late ‘90s. A much smaller and frail man in person (make-up and TV can do magic) than you would think (and that was 10 years ago), he is unquestionable “Senatorial” in the way he carries and thinks about himself.

Backing up his public persona you can get from watching and reading him – he has contempt for almost everyone else but himself. He has never been a great supporter of the war, so his efforts to undercut the Gen. Petraeus now as we start to see success - to me iy seems a bit self-serving and daft. At times it is best to step away.

Whatever you think of Bush and his pals and their conduct of the war for the last 4+ years – if at last he has hired the right staff to make it work – why not step away and let the crop grow to harvest?

In January of this year, Warner declared that the Surge would fail. Knowing what I know about Warner’s opinion of his opinions – it would be almost an impossibility for him to declare that anything he once said could be incorrect. Senator Warner, you see, simply does not make mistakes. I just don’t think he can, at this stage of his life, have the mental flexibility to accept that perhaps something he declared dead in the womb might be walking around getting the job done.

Senator Warner is also making the common professional politicians who are used to bullying their way to getting what they want make; that taking away something from a recalcitrant Senate colleague to make him support your pet project next time is like getting what you want in Iraq by taking away 5,000 of ~160,000 troops on the ground.

That is ~3% of the total – but besides the usual effect of 3,000NM screwdrivers – this sends the wrong message to our Iraqi allies who are already worried that we will, like we have in the past, leave our allies high and dry. He thinks it sends a signal, it does - it sends a signal that what OBL says is true, we are a weak horse and a fool for picking our side. Anyway, funny timing by the Senior Senator from VA going after the Iraqi gov'munt.

Speaking of 3,000NM screwdrivers – all sorts of stuff in the news about the Joint Chiefs recommending to the president that the troop levels be lowered in Iraq by big fat numbers next year. Ahem. Are they fighting in Iraq? No. Let a 4-star that has actually proven progress make the recommendations. You just keep the toilet paper and tampons moving east - ok?
According to administration and military officials, the Joint Chiefs believe it is of crucial strategic importance to reduce the size of the U.S. force in Iraq in order to bolster the military's ability to respond to other threats, a view that is shared by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
There is also some ego work going on here,
Pace's recommendations reflect the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who initially expressed private skepticism about the strategy ordered by Bush and directed by Petraeus, before publicly backing it.
Don't ever underestimate the ability for some people not to like something just because it wasn't their idea - or for the press to not get the story right. Either way, an interesting bit floating around.

In the end I would like to ask them (or whoever is making the story up); shouldn't you focus on winning the war you are in now before you start worrying about what you may or may not have to fight in the future? Victory now is the best preparation for victory later.

At last – an end to an exceptionally long post (thanks Bookie for giving life to what is most likely the most long-winded, rambling post I have put out in, well, ever).

OK, not the end. One more rabbit hole to go down. Well, maybe the last one....I want you to ponder a word that I think I will give an example of tomorrow. This is a Salamander word – so give credit where credit is due. Antitransformatinalism.

Antitransformationalism is the solidly held belief that in the end there is really little new under the sun. The loud, proud, smart, and ,on average, very ignorant advocates of “Transformation” are really just mal-educated, intelligent men spouting "weekend-seminar, 2-week Outward Bound MBA-speak camp" Bullsh1t Bingo lingo because they lack the historical perspective to understand the core nature of the socio-military-political environment they are in. To justify their response to the world around them - everything must be Transformational - because they don't know any other word. Windex for all ills - Transformational ideas for the trolls under the bridge and the Minator in the maze.

Note that McMaster and Nagl are both historians.

Case in point. As I was reading Kaplan’s bit a third time and finding myself nodding my head, I was reminded that much of this has been around before. Some of my favorite quotes from Nagl’s “
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam” came to mind.

Well, we have a variation of, “As Iraqi forces stand up in number, we will stand down.”
“…we could not win the war without the help of the population, and of the Chinese population in particular; we would not get the help of the population without at least beginning to win the war.”
- Colonial Secretary Oliver Lyttelton to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery on 23 DEC 51 on Malaya.
You have the “We need a new plan (surge) and the right General to run it.”
Montgomery to Lyttelton:
“Dear Lyttelton,
We must have a plan.
Secondly we must have a man.
When we have a plan and a man, we shall succeed: not otherwise.
Yours Sincerely,
Montgomery (F.M.)
Afterwards he selected General Sir Gerald Templer. Pp.87.

We have an almost verbatim quote you are starting to see from some parts of the MSM and even Democrats in Congress.
31 July 1960. In its Special Edition proclaiming the end of the Emergency, the Straits Times commented, “Perhaps there is no great point in recalling all the tragic and idiotic blunders, all the false optimism, all the unrealism of the first phases of the war, but it is not possible to appreciate fully the heroism of the Security Forces unless the stupidities of some of those in command are remembered.” Pp. 103.
You have the problem of a bunch of great peace time Generals just not ready for war time,
“Twenty years after the debacle at the Kasserine Pass, it was hard to find a General in the U.S. Army who worried that he or his colleagues might squander resources and waste the lives of soldiers. The junior officers of World War II, now the generals of the 1960s, had become so accustomed to winning from the later years of that was that they could no longer imagine they could lose. (The failure in Korea they rationalized away as the fault of a weak civilian leadership which had refused to “turn loose” the full potential of American military power against Chins.) They assumed that they would prevail in Vietnam simply because of who they were.” Pp.133. Neal Sheehan, “A Bright Shining Lie” – pp.287
(BTW, have you notice none of the problem Generals we have had right now have been USMC? Just saying.)

We have the “The first part of the war was not right…”
“I don’t believe the way the Vietnam problem – which is basically not a military problem – was handled in the early days was the right one. I didn’t carry out my tactics in Malaya by raising masses of local troops and putting them all in British uniforms and giving them enormous loads to carry so that they became completely immobile. We did it by equipping them and training them as near as possible to the enemy they had to compete with in a particular terrain. This applied not only to the local forces, but also to all the British units. Their street fighting and jungle techniques were worked out with the very greatest care. I only used bombing in the jungle or mountains in Malaya in order to flush out the Communists.”
- Field Marshal Templer in ’68. Pp204
And this quote kind of stands all on its own.
Rather than squarely face up to the fact that army counterinsurgency doctrine had failed in Vietnam, the army decided that the United States should no longer involve itself in counterinsurgency operations. The “Weinberger doctrine” of 1983 made such involvement less likely by creating a series of tests that in practice precluded American participation in any wars that did not allow full exploitation of American advantages in technology and firepower. The army returned to its organizational roots, creating a force that triumphed in the extremely conventional Gulf War of 1990-91. The day after that victory, President George Bush crowed, “By God, we ‘ve licked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”

In fact, the Gulf war simply confirmed the army’s Jominian concept of fighting purely military battles with high-technology weaponry and overwhelming firepower. By refusing to acknowledge that most wars, unlike the Gulf, are and will be bought on battlefields populated by people who may support one side or than other (or one of many), the army continued to prepare itself to fight wars as it wanted to fight them. Pp.207.
Oh, and to go really far back – we have Proverbs 23:11,
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Man, did that ramble. BTW, if you didn't read all the articles linked above - please don't comment - you probably didn't see the thread that connects all the rambles and rabbit holes. Heck, I barely do. Did this do Bookie? I'm not happy with my post - but for a Monday, it is about all I've got.

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