Monday, December 13, 2004

The New Republic goes after Rumsfeld

“It took only a few sentences on Wednesday for Donald Rumsfeld to demonstrate why he is both morally and strategically unfit to serve as secretary of defense.”

Or so says Mr. Scoblic. What so outraged him was Rumsfeld’s response to a query from Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard (and reporter Edward Lee Pitts from the Chattanooga Free Press though he is not mentioned in the article) about why some soldier’s had to scavenge scrap armor from dumps to put on their Humvees. Mr. Scoblic thought it was condescending for Rumself to say that even armored vehicles can get blown up but…

“…more astounding was Rumsfeld's contention that ‘[y]ou go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.’ Astounding because, of course, the United States did not go to war with the army it had; it went to war with a mere fraction of the army it had.”

Of course, but how does that relate to Specialist Wilson’s question? Or at least an accurate response to it? Scoblic goes on to criticize the invasion plans and troop levels, but the question was about the number of armored vehicles available for their mission. To this, Scoblic completely dismisses the role of logistics in the problem:

“On Wednesday, Rumsfeld assured the troops he spoke to in Kuwait that everything possible was being done to get them the armor and equipment they need--that only the logistical hurdles of producing and shipping the materiel stand in the way. But it should never have come to this.”

It should never have come to logistical problems? Earth to Scoblic, logistical hurdles are just a fact of life. Actually, the military has come a long way in solving logistics issues, but they still exist. Consider:

During the Spanish-American War there was a logistical nightmare that clogged the railroad lines from the southern most tip of Florida all the way up to Atlanta. Was that immoral and strategically unfit? Was it immoral or strategically unfit of Secretary of War Harry Hines Woodring to send Sherman tanks into Normandy to battle Panther divisions despite learning of the inferiority of the Shermans in Africa?

In his defense, Scoblic tries to pawn off the issue on Rumsfeld’s planning of the war, though much of that is simply a red herring. Take the following excerpt:

“The Washington Post has reported that Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, at the time the commander of Iraq forces, had written the Pentagon in December 2003, after a particularly fierce period of counterinsurgency fighting, to complain that his units were "struggling just to maintain ... relatively low readiness rates" on their M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, anti-mortar radars, and Black Hawk helicopters. He further noted that 36,000 soldiers still needed protective ceramic inserts for their body armor.”

Just because a field general requests something, does not mean that something is readily available. The assumption that Scoblic makes is that this material existed.

I remember an intercourse between Rumsfeld and Sen. Robert Byrd when the Secretary of Defense was before the Armed Services Committee sometime after the invasion and before the $87 billion Appropriations bill. During the intercourse, Byrd griped at Rumsfeld about the new ceramic body armor that many of the troops did not have. A senator has every right to light a fire under the butt of the Secretary of Defense, but there was no mistaking the motivation behind Byrd's comments. Rumsfeld explained to Byrd that the armor in question was recently developed and that the soldiers had an earlier version of armor. He also went on to explain that efforts were being made to get the new armor out to the troops, but cited the same logistical concerns that Scoblic so quickly dismisses. Byrd, like Scoblic, wasn’t concerned about logistical issues, but rather the political damage he could lay on Rumsfeld and the administration.

I wonder how many M-1 tanks, up-armored Humvees and ceramic body armor inserts were available in December 2003. I know that since then, production has exponentially increased on some of that to meet demand, but I doubt Scoblic cares about that. If the production increase for these items does not seem enough to him, then perhaps he’d accept a ration system similar to that of WWII or a series of duties on materials necessary for increased production in order to curb commercial demand ? Of course he wouldn’t. Scoblic would bitch and moan about the toll the war has taken on the homefront. To him, it’s not a question of logistics. He doesn’t think the war was necessary at all:

“…even the administration's most dire predictions of Saddam's capabilities did not demand action in March 2003.”

That’s ridiculous in more ways than I can account for here. I’ve discussed the timetables of the war before (links provided upon request). As hard as it may be for Scoblic to understand, the timing of the war was a major factor.

And then we come to troop strength. First, Scoblic misrepresents the initial war plan:

“So when, in late November 2001, General Tommy Franks, then head of Central Command, first briefed Rumsfeld on the existing war plan for Iraq, which called for the use of 500,000 troops following a seven-month buildup, the defense secretary scoffed and sent Franks back to the drawing board.”

Franks was sent back to the drawing board? It sounds like what Gen. Tommy Franks briefed Rumsfeld on was, for the benefit of Scoblic, a “contingency plan”. These plans, as hinted at by his own statement above, already existed. I doubt Tommy Franks drew up those initially plans afresh. It's more likely that he pulled them from a dusty shelf. Chances are, the plan was written right after the first Gulf War, if it wasn’t the exact plan that Schwarzkopf used. To suggest that Franks was sent back to the drawing board is inaccurate. He was sent to the drawing board. And, through many revisions, he honed the needed troops down to 140K. That’s the way things work. And, as it proved, even without Turkey allowing the 4th Infantry to invade from the Northwest, that was sufficient to topple the Baathists. Mission accomplished. Perhaps some future insurgents escaped because of Turkey, but that wasn’t in the mindset of the military or its detractors. Who knew then about looming insurgency trouble? Again, Scoblic thinks there was know timetable involved dictated that decisive action was required. He’s simply wrong.

So Scoblic probably thinks that 500K troops were needed for the invasion and occupation. Okay, let’s say that is what we used. You think our military is stretched thin now, trying to maintain a 100K + force, imagine if it was five times that. Sun Tzu pays special attention to troop strength and the logistics needed to support it…and for good reason. The U.S. can raise a 500K force, but what about sustaining it for months? That’s no small task, even for the world’s super power. How much greater would the “back draft” be? Especially since 200K are tied up in Europe and Asia? (This will soon change, thanks to Rumsfeld) Our friend, Dude, would have likely been called away from fatherhood to participate in the occupation if we were fielding such an occupation force. Rumsfeld had to be mindful of potential trouble elsewhere in the world, not just Iraq. Critics like to employ the term “war on the cheap”, but I prefer the term “efficient.” That doesn’t negate the problem of mis-estimations, but it is still a responsible, and yes, moral way, to approach the invasion of Iraq.

Does Scoblic think that by reducing the force by 80% (I’m rounding the numbers) we’ve reduced translators by the same amount? It is doubtful. The shortages our forces face are not so easily determined. Nor is the necessity of the mission. But such is the narrowness of Scoblic's perspective.

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