April 14, 2004

Army Strategist Criticizes Bush Administration Conduct of Iraq War

Another US soldier has died today in Iraq. At least 89 US soldiers have died in the last two weeks. For what? The incredible shrinking _resident's performance in his prime time press conference last night was very disturbing. Even in that tightly scripted event the disconnect with reality was obvious. And the performance of the "White House press corp"? Oh, please...Three thousand innocent civilians died on 9/11 due in large part to gross incompetence, criminal negligence or worse at the White House. Almost 700 US soldiers have died so far in a foolish military adventure. Afghanistan has been left to sink deeper into anarchy. The US federal coffers have been looted. The EPA has been prostituted. Our role as the leader of a strong and vibrant Western alliance has been forfeited. How different the country might be this one morning if any one of those craven, hand-picked "journalists" had simply departed from the script and asked him a real, substantive and sharp-edged question about 9/11 or Iraq, and the next handpicked "journalist" had also departed from the script and asked a real, substantive and sharp-edged follow-up to the preceeding "journalist"? Too much to expect I guess...Perhaps we also expect too much from the 9/11 Commission. Its mysterious hands-off approach to the testimony of John Ashcroft (R-Misey) was also deeply disturbing. There is however some hope for the 9/11 Commission. They may be holding their fire. They may have escaped a trap yesterday. It is conceivable that they will lower the boom in their final report -- due in July. Indeed, it is inconceivable that they won't. If they don't, their own integrity must be challenged. The US electorate however is not going to kow-tow so easily, the US electorate is not going to be so genteel...There is an Uprising coming at the ballot box...if it is allowed to happen...Meanwhile, here is another name to be scrawled on the John O'Neill Wall of Heroes: Army Lt. Col. Antulio J. Echevarria of the U.S.
Army War College. Will you see him on SeeNotNews tonight? I doubt it. And why? You know the sad answer...It's the Media, Stupid.

David Wood, Newhouse News Service: In a broadside
fired at the conduct of the war in Iraq, a senior Army
strategist has accused the Bush administration of
seeking to win "quickly and on the cheap" while
ignoring the more critical strategic aim of creating a
stable, democratic nation. While the United States
easily won the initial battles that toppled Saddam
Hussein a year ago, the administration "either
misunderstood or, worse, wished away" the difficulties
of transforming that victory into the larger political
goal, Army Lt. Col. Antulio J. Echevarria of the U.S.
Army War College writes in a new paper...Many officers
still are rankled by the treatment of former Army
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who last spring was
sharply criticized in public by Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for suggesting the occupation
would require significantly more troops than the
initial war.

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http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0414-02.htm

Published on Wednesday, April 14, 2004 by the Newhouse
News Service
Army Strategist Criticizes Bush Administration Conduct of Iraq War
by David Wood

WASHINGTON -- In a broadside fired at the conduct of
the war in Iraq, a senior Army strategist has accused
the Bush administration of seeking to win "quickly and
on the cheap" while ignoring the more critical
strategic aim of creating a stable, democratic nation.

While the United States easily won the initial battles
that toppled Saddam Hussein a year ago, the
administration "either misunderstood or, worse, wished
away" the difficulties of transforming that victory
into the larger political goal, Army Lt. Col. Antulio
J. Echevarria of the U.S. Army War College writes in a
new paper.

President Bush and other senior officials have
consistently cited this larger context for intervening
in Iraq: establishing democracy there as a foothold to
transform the Middle East and win the global war on
terrorism.

Many officers still are rankled by the treatment of
former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who
last spring was sharply criticized in public by Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for suggesting the
occupation would require significantly more troops
than the initial war.


Yet the Pentagon's civilian leadership, centered in
the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
focused "on achieving rapid military victories" with a
force "equipped only to win battles, not wars,"
Echevarria, director of national security studies at
the War College's Strategic Studies Institute, writes
in the paper published in March.

The military force that invaded Iraq a year ago
"proved insufficient to provide the stabilization
necessary for political and economic reconstruction to
begin," he writes. As a result, "the successful
accomplishment of the administration's goal of
building a democratic government in Iraq, for example,
is still in question, with an insurgency growing
rapidly."

The White House National Security Council and the
Pentagon declined to comment.

The paper, posted on the Strategic Studies Institute's
Web site, carries the standard warning that the views
are Echevarria's own and "do not necessarily reflect
the official policy or position of the Department of
the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S.
Government."

While the paper specifically criticizes the Bush
administration, Echevarria said in an interview that
he wrote about the administration's approach in a
broader context. "As a historian, I am looking at a
longer trend than just the immediate situation," he
said. Both the problem and potential solutions "go
beyond the Bush administration."

Col. John R. Martin, deputy director of the Strategic
Studies Institute, stressed that the study "covers
multiple administrations." By definition, he added,
strategic analysis focuses on problems -- not on
successes.

But the critique reflects frustration among some
active-duty and retired officers about how Rumsfeld
and his top advisers seized control of planning for
and execution of the invasion and occupation. Indeed,
Echevarria said the reaction to his paper from within
the Army "has been pretty positive."

Many officers still are rankled by the treatment of
former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who
last spring was sharply criticized in public by Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for suggesting the
occupation would require significantly more troops
than the initial war. At Rumsfeld's direction, the
number was whittled back, with Rumsfeld and other
senior officials arguing that "shock and awe" would
collapse any opposition and the Iraqi people, as Vice
President Dick Cheney said in a March 16, 2003
interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," would greet U.S.
troops "as liberators."

Military officers, by tradition and temperament, are
reluctant to criticize the civilian leadership,
especially in wartime.

"I know of the frustration of dealing with the
ideologues in the Pentagon," said retired Army Maj.
Gen. William L. Nash, a West Pointer who commanded an
armored brigade in Desert Storm and led U.S. troops
into Bosnia in 1996. "But these guys are very loyal
and they are not going to grumble."

Nash and others argue that the U.S. campaign in Iraq
has gotten off track by focusing on short-term
military problems.

For example, U.S. Marines won tactical battles in
Fallujah last week, systematically sweeping city
blocks of insurgents. But the battles inevitably cost
civilian lives and, judging by editorials in the Arab
press, eroded American legitimacy. At one point the
Web site of the popular Arab satellite television
station, Al-Jazeera, featured what it said were
photographs of children killed by American weapons.

Gen. John Abizaid, overall U.S. military commander in
the region, seemed to recognize the costs of negative
press when he complained Monday that Arab media were
portraying the Marines' actions "as purposefully
targeting civilians."

"They have not been truthful in their reporting,"
Abizaid said in a press briefing. "American forces are
doing their very best to protect civilians."

Echevarria, a West Point graduate with M.A. and Ph.D.
degrees in history from Princeton University, served
as operations officer of a cavalry squadron, among
other assignments, and has written widely on strategy.

Historically, the American military has tended to "shy
away" from the difficult process of turning military
battlefield triumphs into strategic successes, he
writes in his paper.

His words reflect the work of the late Army combat
officer and strategist Harry Summers Jr., who bitterly
observed to a North Vietnamese officer after the
Vietnam War that "you never defeated us on the
battlefield." That is so, the North Vietnamese
replied, "but it is also irrelevant."

As they struggled to understand the lessons of
Vietnam, Summers and others came to recognize that the
concentration on individual battles neglected the
building and defending of a progressive democratic
government in South Vietnam.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq, Echevarria writes, the
American effort has mistakenly "placed more emphasis
on destroying enemy forces than securing population
centers and critical infrastructure and maintaining
order."

During planning for Iraq, he writes, "senior military
officials argued that, while a small coalition force
moving rapidly and supported by adequate firepower
might well defeat the Iraqi army, a larger force would
still be necessary for the ensuing stability
operations." Yet Rumsfeld and other senior
administration officials "dismissed such arguments as
old-think or perceived them as foot-dragging by a
military perhaps grown too accustomed to resisting
civilian authority."

Fixing this long-term problem, Echevarria suggests,
requires rebalancing the roles of military
professionals and civilians in strategic
decision-making. Moreover, he writes, the United
States must develop a better capacity for
nation-building and stability alongside its
warfighting skills.

Echevarria does not spell out what needs to be done in
Iraq now.

Nash termed that "a hard question," adding, "it's real
easy to sit here in Washington and give counsel."

"But once you understand that the political objectives
are supreme, you understand that you have to broaden
the political coalition internationally, regionally
and locally" to support nation-building in Iraq, he
said.

"That's hard to do, and even harder if you have to
swallow your pride," Nash said.

Copyright 2004 Newhouse News Service

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Posted by richard at April 14, 2004 02:25 PM