Thursday, December 28, 2006

I've put it off long enough........

Commenting on the news that is. I have a lot to say, but at the moment, little desire to say it. Primarily because I question whether it will be read, and more importantly understood.

My experiences surfing and commenting the last few days have left me unfufilled to say the least. Of course one could argue that I am picking the wrong blogs to read, and there might be some merit in that. It could also be that the Wall Street Journal may actually have gotten something right.. So which am I?


The news has been bad this week, particularly with having to note the passing of former President Gerald Ford. I've always been a big fan of his, having placed my first ever, vote, for him (or anyone) in 1976. I am sad he did not win, because I think the military and the nation in general would have been spared a lot of misery. I truly believe I would have been spared a 15.5% mortgage in 1980, that's for sure!

Gerald Ford's most momentous decision was the one to pardon Nixon in 1974. I believed it was the right thing to do then, and I still think so now. The Democrats were not as rabid then as they are now-yet even then they were thirsting for blood. That's not to say the Republicans are any better, they proved that in 1998, but to Ford's credit, he saw what had to be done, did it, and accepted responsibility for it. Plus, Nixon made a better elder statesman than Carter ever did. Add to that the fact that Ford did not "give away the Panama Canal" and I'd say he was a great American. I wonder if a guy like him could be President nowadays. After all he liked many members of the opposition party; he liked reporters; he knew how to have fun and was not embarrassed by his own shortcomings; and he knew how to lead-without hatred. That list bit is something GWB could learn a thing or to about.


And of course, there is the news about troop levels. What has amazed me is that two very different stories have become interlinked into one. Bush's proposals to make the armed services bigger have become intermixed with the efforts of Wolfwitz's clones to get more troops into Iraq. Lets look at these issues separately, shall we?

First, it is about time that President BUsh recognized that the armed forces need to be bigger. Those of you who have visited here regularly (and judging by the attendance figures a lot of you haven't!) know that I have been advocating that since I started this blog. I've been berating Rumsfeld and his minions for not banging on the table demanding that since September 12th. As I noted earlier, it will be the most significant failing that Rumsfeld will be remembered for. He made the same mistake in 1975. Much as I dislike a lot of Kagan's writings, he is right when he says:

If the U.S. Army had begun expanding in 2001, we would have been able to:

* Establish reasonable rotation plans for our soldiers that did not require repeatedly extending tours of duty beyond one year.

* Avoid the need to activate reservists involuntarily.

* Dramatically reduce the frequency with which soldiers return from one year-long tour only to be sent immediately on another.
* Let the troops that would still have been overstrained know that help really was on the way.
Kagan notes that "the U.S. military did not do these things because of Rumsfeld's choices. He chose to protect a military transformation program that is designed to fight wars radically different from the one in which we are engaged.He chose to focus on high-tech weapons technologies that are virtually useless to the troops now in Iraq rather than providing them sooner with the basic requirements of their current mission--including armored Humvees, body armor, and a regular complement of armored vehicles. Even the deployment of Stryker light armored vehicles, which many now tout as a major contribution to the fighting in Iraq, was not Rumsfeld's initiative, but that of General Eric Shinseki. Shinseki was the Army chief of staff whom Rumsfeld drove out of office, partly for correctly predicting that Operation Iraqi Freedom would require more than the handful of units that Rumsfeld and his staff were willing to send."

Bush could have intervened at any time to correct this- the indicators were there, all he had to do was listen to them. However, Bush has never been a strong President for the military-all rhetoric aside. He allowed seriously damaging policies to be set by people he appointed, and never called them to task when they failed.

A larger military is necessary for one main reason, we simply cannot keep riding the pony as we have. The services need to get back to the "2 days home for every day deployed" metric. That kind of thinking is particularly important for a time where an officer will participate as a LTJG, a LCDR and as a CDR in the same conflict. Bush never realized it, since he was led down the primrose path by his Secretary of Defense.

This is not the same however, as the calls to increase US troop presence in Iraq and ignore the advice of the Iraq Study Group. Much as I agree with Kagan about the need to raise end strength, I am dismayed at the influence that he is now projecting on White House opinion on what to do in Iraq. Jeff Huber has it well summed up when points out:

The surge plan has been in the can for a while now, and the plan for selling it to the public has too. By the time Bush goes public with his decision on the "way forward" (the only part of the Iraq Study Group report he'll adopt is its marguee catch phrase), the public will think
that it's inevitable, and that "everybody agrees" a surge is the way to go, because the only choices are to surge or withdraw, and we can't give up on young democracies and all those moms and dads and kids yearning to be free and blah, blah, blah. I could be wrong. I have been once or twice before. But it will take something very big to knock this surge train off its tracks, something a lot bigger than Congress. If anyone from either side of the aisle tries to block a troop surge, you'll see a blizzard of Rovewellian bull feathers start flying.

Then What?

So we send 15-30,000 more troops to clean up Baghdad. What happens then?

It's a mistake to think you can reliably predict how the enemy will react, but in plotting branches and sequels, military planners usually project a spectrum of possibilities. At one extreme of the spectrum, all the disparate militant elements in Iraq plus jihadists from outside the country could descend on Baghdad for the mother of all brouhahas.

That's not likely: from all indications, the bad guys are all smart enough not to risk a decisive defeat, and even if they're dumber than I think they are, they aren't organized enough to coordinate in a formal battle of that magnitude.

At the other extreme, the bad guys could all run away and hide long
enough for us to start putting Baghdad back together and give Iraq's unity government a chance to get its act together. Reality will probably play
out somewhere between the extremes.

I have to give Bush some credit, he has done a hell of a job shooting the messenger, using the Iraq Study Group as a vehicle to distance himself from the failed policies that he approved. In a fashion that Bill Clinton would be proud of, he has been able to transfer blame to underlings that he appointed and directly supervised -while distancing himself from their actions. He has used every media outlet available-including bloggers, to discredit the work of the commission and ridicule their work. James Baker probably saw that coming, but at least his conscience is clear. He can say "I told you so!" -two years hence.

Just as Jerry Ford can say that from heaven today.


Finally, under the category of things I just cannot understand, is the rampant support for the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. This is like cheering your kids for getting into a fist fight and the older one gives the younger one a bloody nose. The younger kid gets a beating sure, but it does not exactly reinforce parental discipline.

Mogadishu may have been ruled by Islamic courts, but it will ruled by no one now. If Ethiopia stays as they surely will, violence in the country will continue. Somalia has not had a government in 15 years. So I am not sure how this is good for the US goal of checking the power of the Islamists, whom American officials have accused of sheltering Al Qaeda terrorists. AL Qaeda thrives in a lawless environment. And the Ethiopian military, albeit American trained, is still a 3rd world military serving a third world nation. They are winning because the Somalis are even worse than they are.

What this tacit American approved invasion, will do is encourage other African nations that it is OK to prey on their neighbors. They will know now that all they have to do is package it as attacking terrorists. The fine points of that distinction will be lost on them I think.

One thing is for sure, Kenya and Djbouti will deal with huge refugee flows. Which cannot be good for anyone.


2007 is going to be an interesting year. About as interesting as having oral surgery.


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