Friday, November 10, 2006


Army Unease

Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters links to a piece in the UK Times Online about rank and file Army unease about the elections and the pending replacement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The first few paragraphs of the Times report says it all, and echoes considerable anxiety on my part:

Half of America and the upper echelons of the US military may be cheering Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation from the post of Defence Secretary, but there was no rejoicing yesterday among those most directly affected by his decisions: the frontline soldiers in Iraq.

Troops expressed little pleasure at the departure of the man responsible for their protracted deployment to a hostile country where 2,839 of their comrades have died.

Indeed, some members of the 101st Airborne Division and other troops approached by The Times as they prepared to fly home from Baghdad airport yesterday expressed concern that Robert Gates, Mr Rumsfeld’s successor, and the Democrat-controlled Congress, might seek to wind down their mission before it was finished.

Mr Rumsfeld “made decisions, he stuck with them and he did what he thought was right, whether people agreed with it, liked it, or not”, Staff Sergeant Frank Notaro said. He insisted that Iraq was better off now than before the war.

Staff Sergeant Michael Howard said: “It’s a blow to the military. He was a good Secretary of Defence. He kept us focused. He kept the leaders focused. It’s going to be hard to fill his shoes.”

Quite telling that the Times then quotes an anonymous Army Colonel who sees things differently. Contrast this career officer’s preference for anonymity, versus the openly stated concerns of enlisted soldiers who didn’t mind taking personal responsibility for their opinions:

But one US army colonel, who did not want to be named, said that such positive views were uncommon in the higher ranks of the US military. “We are the ones closer to the problem. We are the ones who have the broader picture,” he said.

The colonel criticised Mr Rumsfeld for sending too few troops to Iraq, and for refusing to listen to the advice of his generals. He noted that General Eric Shinseki, the former US Army Chief of Staff, was dismissed for demanding more troops, while General John Abizaid, the commander of Central Command, was the sole general to have differed publicly with Mr Rumsfeld and survived.

The exalted Powell Doctrine. Only use overwhelming and mass amounts of military force in situations when a competent squad of US Marines would probably have sufficed. Surely the Powell Doctrine is supremely suited to the Democrats, as the logical and inescapable consequence of such a doctrine, is to always make any serious military response prohibitive: if there’s risk, or we can’t be certain of winning, we won’t fight. We’ll negotiate the cost of war avoidance, otherwise known as the terms of surrender.

If we responded to World War Two that way, Japan would have enslaved all of Asia, and Hitler would have completed his Final Solution with years to spare. (We wouldn’t have to worry about whop we sent to the United Nations, however.)

Earlier this week, or maybe last, I wish I could recall who, made the comment that saying that the US needs 500,000 troops on the ground for anything means, since that’s politically impossible except for a homeland invasion, that one never has to contemplate actually pursuing the course of action in question.

That best ensures that Career Officers will be able to advance, achieve lofty leadership positions, and never have to sully their uniforms nor experience the really tough weight of military leadership: the loss of the brave men and women who, throughout our history, we have called upon to sacrifice on our behalf. Do we really want to seriously consider the views of those with the most to gain from a return inaction, and the least to sacrifice when sacrifices are required?

Captain Ed observes a different kind of hypocrisy:

It seems to me that any effort to "support the troops" ought to at least involve their input. If they do not see Iraq as a lost cause, then they are right to wonder why so many Americans back home do. While the military will and should remain under civilian leadership, the fact is that the perspective of the soldiers and Marines on the lines have been woefully underreported in the American media, and it's somewhat embarrassing that we have to turn to a British newspaper to discover this unease at the change in Pentagon leadership.

Captain Ed contrasts the Times in the UK with their US counterpart, the New York Times, “which decided to go the full John Kerry and depict the Marines in Iraq as ignorant and intellectually lazy,” quoting a Marine who professed to not know who Rumsfeld was.

I’m absolutely sure that the Times, like Kerry, meant no such thing, but rather, that it was a poorly executed joke about how disliked Rumsfeld is within our military.

(Via Instapundit)

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