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Friday, September 05, 2003

Bollettino

Stanley Weintraub wrote an indictment of General Macauthur in the nineties that was approvingly reviewed in the military journal, Parameters. The reviewer, General Harold Nelson, USA Ret., former US Army Chief of Military History, wrote:

"I next felt the need for a book such as this when we taught case studies in senior leadership at the War College in the 1980s. MacArthur's "genius" was predictably discovered by enthusiastic students each year, and the Inchon operation was inevitably--and appropriately--cited as key supporting evidence. Professor Weintraub does a fine job laying out the importance of MacArthur's intractable commitment to that operation as the main reason it was tried. He spares no praise where praise is deserved. But he goes beyond Inchon, questioning MacArthur's insistence on subsequent amphibious operations against the east coast of the Korean peninsula--a decision that removed combat forces from the pursuit following the liberation of Seoul and weakened UN forces available in North Korea when the Chinese intervened. He also reminds us that MacArthur surrounded himself with "yes men," was terribly vain, and pushed the careers of undeserving subordinates--hardly the traits one would seek in an ideal senior leader.

I next needed this book when I was Chief of Military History for an Army Chief of Staff who was pledging "No more Task Force Smiths." I could dig out the necessary facts and figures on the undermanning and lax training of the Occupation Forces in Japan from James Schnabel's Policy and Direction: The First Year. But that official history put most of the blame on Washington--both the politicians and the Pentagon generals. Weintraub reminds us how much MacArthur was to blame, not only with his hands-off approach to day-to-day issues related to readiness, but in the bluff and bluster he put into his briefings when men such as Army Chief of Staff General Joseph Lawton Collins came to visit his command. Schnabel emphasizes the optimistic reports Collins filed when he returned to Washington. Weintraub reminds us that Collins had been a major when MacArthur was Army Chief of Staff, and that General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, ostensibly MacArthur's boss as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been promoted to lieutenant colonel during those years. He also reminds us that MacArthur "never materialized at field exercises, where pampered and poorly trained garrison soldiers could not figure out how to erect tents, break down a rifle, assemble chow wagons, or maintain themselves in any way without indigenous assistance." Thank God the Army wasn't saddled with any superannuated five-star generals unwilling to be team players when we were saying "No more Task Force Smiths."

Well, one wonders what the future historian will say about Donald Rumsfeld. The Macarthur comparison is apt -- the same vanity, the same play to a certain reactionary crowd, the same court behavior. The yes men, now, are the strategists like Wolfowitz and Feith. And the same utter contempt for anyone who contradicts the faith. One of the many disturbing things about the long Democrat somnolence is that there are no cries for Bush to fire Rumsfeld. Surely if ever a man deserved to be fired, it is a man who has taken upon himself to usurp the function of the state department; whose personal pique at our Atlantic allies is now costing us perhaps an extra billion dollars per week, and probably more; whose ingenuity in stirring up the Macarthur strain in our culture has proven wholly pernicious to any sensible discussion of American interest and strategy in Iraq.

Rumsfeld and his minions are uncomfortably caught between their propaganda and reality. The official line is that the occupation is on course. If that official line were right, Rumsfeld's plan -- diminishing the US troop committment ot 30,000 this month -- would have been implemented. But even the most delusional Pentagon player has dropped that item from the agenda. The other reality -- the financial one -- is looming. No doubt Bush's speech will gingerly prepare the ground for the 60 billion dollar request from Congress. Again, if the progress were 'remarkable" -- as Rumsfeld likes to say -- the oil revenues would already be flowing in at the estimate the Pentagon liked to give in the pre-war period. That estimate was widely accepted at the time -- a sign of that the Pentagon's delusions had become the establishment's -- but it is now obvious that they were nearer lies than mistakes.

It is hard to imagine any "progress" in Iraq as long as it is in the hands of Donald Rumsfeld. It isn't that LI expects Bush to replace him with Susan Sontag. But McCain would be nice.

Of course, given Bush's feeling about McCain, Sontag might be more likely.

Unfortunately, the editorialist's well meaning opinion, that we should be sending more troops to Iraq, is like so many editorialist's opinions: a blandness wrapped around a hollowness. What are these troops to do? If there is a real guerilla war happening in Iraq -- and by now, I think it is obvious there is one -- the troops should be smothering the resources that sustain that war. That means sealing the borders, and it means interdicting the network of small internal forces. To do that wouldn't just require a little increase in American forces -- it would probably take at least 300,000 more.

No, Iraq is not going to regain its sovereignty with 400,000 or even 100,000 American troops roaming around in it. Perhaps a multi-national force would have squelched the beginnings of the guerilla war, but it seems to me that that force is going to face the same problem that the American forces face presently.

The only force that can really face the guerillas is an Iraqi force. The number of soldiers needed to deny insurgent groups resources is about equal to the number disbanded at the end of the war by Rumsfeld's deputy, Bremer. Bremer's decision, a compound of ignorance and hubris, is now blowing back on us. The idea that we are going to change the direction of Iraq in D.C., which is still current in both the belligerent and anti-war camps in this country, is simply false.

It hurts to agree with retired military men -- especially when they have names straight out of Doctor Strangelove -- but the WP article on the coming request for 50 to 60 billion dollars (which will undoubtedly mean 70 to 80 billion dollars -- it is how the Bush administration does its money) ended with these two grafs.


"In a sign of growing friction between Bush and the military establishment, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, a Gulf War commander, said in an interview during the meeting in Arlington that he is hearing an unprecedented amount of concern among retired officers over how the Bush administration has handled Iraq.

"Their criticism focused on Rumsfeld, he added."I've never seen so such discontent among the retired community," Van Riper said. Last week, he said, he was at a breakfast with eight retired generals at which one asked about Rumsfeld, "When are they going to get rid of this guy?""

Indeed.

PS -- The Boeing vote has been delayed, per our post on Darleen Druyun. The WP has reported that an alternative lease plan is being considered.

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