Sunday, April 29, 2007

The band plays on.............

Note to self. A) Build more connection time in when traveling through SFO. 2) Try not be sick as a dog when riding 11 hours in cattle class-with stingy booze service.

Made it back in one piece, but even after 12+ hours of sleep my head still feels like it is at the bottom of the pool. Up early this morining, (I forgot that the sun comes up at 0430 this time of year), when the cat decided that knocking my cell phone off of the dresser and then flinging himself against the closet door, is a good thing to do at 6 am. Said cat was quickly dispatched with a boot down the hall as I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee.

In catching up on my reading, I stumbled upon a great deal of commentary about this article by Lt Col Paul Yingling. Its a pretty solid , "how did we get in this mess?" type of analysis, which takes fault with the uniformed leadership within the Army and their failure to more aggressively protest the micromanagement of the war plan by Rummy's boys in DOD. Its generated a lot of reaction in the milblogging community. The article has been picked up by several news outlets, including the Washington Post. His key thesis can be summed up by this quote:
"After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public," he writes. "For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq."


Commentary from various milblogs can be found here, here, here and here. Some supportive analysis can be found here. Marine Corps Times has a profile of the author.

I did a quick check of other articles that LTCOL Yingling has done. He's been published at least 3 times in various military journals. His writing is pretty consistent in theme, namely that the Army is training for the wrong war again......he stresses the need for counterinsurgency over training for major combat operations-hardly a new idea among many military writers.

Most folks who are critical of the article are keying on two points: 1) That he simply points out the obvious with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and 2) that he is too critical of a entire group of officers who have tried to make the best of the hand they were dealt. There is also considerable criticism of media outlets taking his article and publishing their own excerpts as somehow showing "proof" that the media is out to use military personnel to discredit the administration. The latter contention has some merit, but on the whole its an overwrought reaction IMHO. In any case that's not LTCOL Yingling's fault or responsibility. Its is a consequence of the interconnected world we live in-any author has the right to look for commentary that supports the point he is trying to prove. Including major newspapers.

While many people both for and against have focused on his criticism of the Army's generals-well earned by them-very few paid attention to one of his major points buried within the article. The "money quote" in my opinion is this one:

For more than three years, America's generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America's generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation's deployable land power to a single theater of operations. (Emphasis mine).


Surge or not, I think its pretty clear that barring a major intervention by Congress or a change of heart by the administration, American Forces are going to be in Iraq for many years to come. Its armed forces are not, and have not been, properly resourced for that effort. As I have written before that was the major failing of Rumsfeld's reign at DOD and why there should be a special circle of punishment reserved for him and the rest of his lackeys. "Winning", at least as defined by the war's supporters will come at a cost to the overall position of the US overseas and its armed forces. In particular the US is limited in its ability to exert power in other areas because of the size of its commitment in Iraq. That fact has not been really well portrayed by any of the spokesmen for the conflict. There is no such thing as free lunch. ( Free anything for that matter....). Even with projected increases in Army and Marine Corps end strength, the services will all be short of what they really need. The Navy and Air Force are being held down in order to pay for the war. Its a train wreck in the making, but the senior leadership in both services continue to insistent that all is well. They also continue to offer greater numbers of their personnel to do jobs that are more properly done by the Army.

The military is mortgaging its future to pay for the war today. Other areas that may in fact offer a better payoff in terms of benefit to United States interests, are being sublimated to our commitment to this particular group of Arabs-who cannot seem to get motivated to repay the favor and fix their own house-while not looking at other countries that are more critical to the region and to the global economy.

Yingling is not trying to fix a mess that is already in progress. His purpose is to remind folks of how we got into the mess to begin with-in the hope it is not repeated-and its a good analysis. One has to read the article in its entirety though and the risk of all this "extra" media coverage is that folks will only get the reader's digest version and miss the really important points contained within the article.

Clearly, some of his suggestions regarding mentorship of the senior military's leadership are off the mark-increasing involvement of Congress in the process for example. He's right though, in pointing out the current system is not producing the best possible leadership. And I agree with him that service's emphasis on technical education is ignoring the real need for officers with skill sets in languages and a solid knowledge of the forces at work in the world. He's not the only one to say that though, its an often repeated and ignored idea.

Point is somebody is saying it-and a military publication is printing it. Given the current self serving tripe that passes for reasoned discourse in military publications these days, that alone is progress.

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