May 09, 2004

"Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

Of course, this WASHPS story is disingenuous on two
vital points: it says "That view is far from
universal, but it is spreading and being voiced
publicly for the first time." That's simply not true.
The sentiment against this foolish military adventure
is widespread and vocal, among officers of all ranks,
and was widespread and vocal prior to the launching of
this foolish military adventure, among officers of all
ranks. The LNS database has many such stories. It is
also common knowledge among those of us with friends
and colleagues in the US military.

The Emperor has no uniform...

Thomas Ricks, Washington Post: Army Maj. Gen. Charles
H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne
Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq,
said he believes that at the tactical level at which
fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning.
But when asked whether he believes the United States
is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."
Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first
director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation
authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view
and noted that a pattern of winning battles while
losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in
Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in
our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an
interview Friday.
"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a
veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating
Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active
duty, that I would do everything in my power to
prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening
again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

Support Our Troops, Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11227-2004May8.html

washingtonpost.com
Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy
U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq But Losing the
War, Some Officers Say

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 9, 2004; Page A01


Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S.
military over the course of the occupation of Iraq,
with some senior officers beginning to say that the
United States faces the prospect of casualties for
years without achieving its goal of establishing a
free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is
prevailing militarily but failing to win the support
of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal,
but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the
first time.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander
of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the
year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the
tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S.
military is still winning. But when asked whether he
believes the United States is losing, he said, "I
think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first
director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation
authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view
and noted that a pattern of winning battles while
losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in
Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in
our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an
interview Friday.

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a
veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating
Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active
duty, that I would do everything in my power to
prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening
again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win
every fight and lose the war, because we don't
understand the war we're in."

The emergence of sharp differences over U.S. strategy
has set off a debate, a year after the United States
ostensibly won a war in Iraq, about how to preserve
that victory. The core question is how to end a
festering insurrection that has stymied some
reconstruction efforts, made many Iraqis feel less
safe and created uncertainty about who actually will
run the country after the scheduled turnover of
sovereignty June 30.

Inside and outside the armed forces, experts generally
argue that the U.S. military should remain there but
should change its approach. Some argue for more
troops, others for less, but they generally agree on
revising the stated U.S. goals to make them less
ambitious. They are worried by evidence that the
United States is losing ground with the Iraqi public.

Some officers say the place to begin restructuring
U.S. policy is by ousting Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld, whom they see as responsible for a series of
strategic and tactical blunders over the past year.
Several of those interviewed said a profound anger is
building within the Army at Rumsfeld and those around
him.

A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the
United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is
doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said.
"The American people may not stand for it -- and they
should not."

Asked who was to blame, this general pointed directly
at Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D.
Wolfowitz. "I do not believe we had a clearly defined
war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we
commenced our invasion," he said. "Had someone like
Colin Powell been the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff], he would not have agreed to send troops
without a clear exit strategy. The current OSD [Office
of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or
adhere to military advice."

Like several other officers interviewed for this
report, this general spoke only on the condition that
his name not be used. One reason for this is that some
of these officers deal frequently with the senior
Pentagon civilian officials they are criticizing, and
some remain dependent on top officials to approve
their current efforts and future promotions. Also,
some say they believe that Rumsfeld and other top
civilians punish public dissent. Senior officers
frequently cite what they believe was the vindictive
treatment of then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K.
Shinseki after he said early in 2003 that the
administration was underestimating the number of U.S.
troops that would be required to occupy postwar Iraq.

Wolfowitz, the Pentagon's No. 2 official, said he does
not think the United States is losing in Iraq, and
said no senior officer has expressed that thought to
him, either. "I am sure that there are some out there"
who think that, he said in an interview yesterday
afternoon.

"There's no question that we're facing some
difficulties," Wolfowitz said. "I don't mean to sound
Pollyannaish -- we all know that we're facing a tough
problem." But, he said, "I think the course we've set
is the right one, which is moving as rapidly as
possible to Iraqi self-government and Iraqi
self-defense."

Wolfowitz, who is widely seen as the intellectual
architect of the Bush administration's desire to
create a free and democratic Iraq that will begin the
transformation of the politics of the Middle East,
also strongly rejected the idea of scaling back on
that aim. "The goal has never been to win the Olympic
high jump in democracy," he said. Moving toward
democratization in Iraq will take time, he said. Yet,
he continued, "I don't think the answer is to find
some old Republican Guard generals and have them
impose yet another dictatorship in an Arab country."

The top U.S. commander in the war also said he
strongly disagrees with the view that the United
States is heading toward defeat in Iraq. "We are not
losing, militarily," Army Gen. John Abizaid said in an
interview Friday. He said that the U.S. military is
winning tactically. But he stopped short of being as
positive about the overall trend. Rather, he said,
"strategically, I think there are opportunities."

The prisoner abuse scandal and the continuing car
bombings and U.S. casualties "create the image of a
military that's not being effective in the
counterinsurgency," he said. But in reality, "the
truth of the matter is . . . there are some good
signals out there."

Abizaid cited the resumption of economic
reconstruction and the political progress made with
Sunni Muslims in resolving the standoff around
Fallujah, and increasing cooperation from Shiite
Muslims in isolating radical Shiite cleric Moqtada
Sadr. "I'm looking at the situation, and I told the
secretary of defense the other day I feel pretty
comfortable with where we are," he said.

Even so, he said, "There's liable to be a lot of
fighting in May and June," as the June 30 date for
turning over sovereignty to an Iraqi government
approaches.

Commanders on the ground in Iraq seconded that
cautiously optimistic view.

"I am sure that the view from Washington is much worse
than it appears on the ground here in Baqubah," said
Army Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of a 1st
Infantry Division brigade based in that city about 40
miles north of Baghdad. "I do not think that we are
losing, but we will lose if we are not careful." He
said he is especially worried about maintaining
political and economic progress in the provinces after
the turnover of power.

Army Lt. Col. John Kem, a battalion commander in
Baghdad, said that the events of the past two months
-- first the eruption of a Shiite insurgency, followed
by the detainee abuse scandal -- "certainly made
things harder," but he said he doubted they would have
much effect on the long-term future of Iraq.

But some say that behind those official positions lies
deep concern.

One Pentagon consultant said that officials with whom
he works on Iraq policy continue to put on a happy
face publicly, but privately are grim about the
situation in Baghdad. When it comes to discussions of
the administration's Iraq policy, he said, "It's 'Dead
Man Walking.' "

The worried generals and colonels are simply beginning
to say what experts outside the military have been
saying for weeks.

In mid-April, even before the prison detainee scandal,
Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia,
wrote in the New York Review of Books that "patience
with foreign occupation is running out, and violent
opposition is spreading. Civil war and the breakup of
Iraq are more likely outcomes than a successful
transition to a pluralistic Western-style democracy."
The New York Review of Books is not widely read in the
U.S. military, but the article, titled "How to Get Out
of Iraq," was carried online and began circulating
among some military intellectuals.

Likewise, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), a former Marine
who is one of most hawkish Democrats in Congress, said
last week: "We cannot prevail in this war as it is
going today," and said that the Bush administration
should either boost its troop numbers or withdraw.

Larry Diamond, who until recently was a senior
political adviser of the U.S. occupation authority in
Iraq, argued that the United States is not losing the
war but is in danger of doing so. "I think that we
have fallen into a period of real political difficulty
where we are no longer clearly winning the peace, and
where the prospect of a successful transition to
democracy is in doubt.

"Basically, it's up in the air now," Diamond
continued. "That's what is at stake. . . . We can't
keep making tactical and strategic mistakes."

He and others are recommending a series of related
revisions to the U.S. approach.

Like many in the Special Forces, defense consultant
Michael Vickers advocates radically trimming the U.S.
presence in Iraq, making it much more like the one in
Afghanistan, where there are 20,000 troops and almost
none in the capital, Kabul. The U.S. military has a
small presence in the daily life of Afghans.
Basically, it ignores them and focuses its attention
on fighting pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts.
Nor has it tried to disarm the militias that control
much of the country.

In addition to trimming the U.S. troop presence, a
young Army general said, the United States also should
curtail its ambitions in Iraq. "That strategic
objective, of a free, democratic, de-Baathified Iraq,
is grandiose and unattainable," he said. "It's just a
matter of time before we revise downward . . . and
abandon these ridiculous objectives."

Instead, he predicted that if the Bush administration
wins reelection, it simply will settle for a stable
Iraq, probably run by former Iraqi generals. This is
more or less, he said, what the Marines Corps did in
Fallujah -- which he described as a glimpse of future
U.S. policy.

Wolfowitz sharply rejected that conclusion about
Fallujah. "Let's be clear, Fallujah has always been an
outlier since the liberation of Baghdad," he said in
the interview. "It's where the trouble began. . . . It
really isn't a model for anything for the rest of the
country."

But a senior military intelligence officer experienced
in Middle Eastern affairs said he thinks the
administration needs to rethink its approach to Iraq
and to the region. "The idea that Iraq can be
miraculously and quickly turned into a shining example
of democracy that will 'transform' the Middle East
requires way too much fairy dust and cultural
arrogance to believe," he said.

Finally, some are calling for the United States to
stop fighting separatist trends among Iraq's three
major groups, the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds,
and instead embrace them. "The best hope for holding
Iraq together -- and thereby avoiding civil war -- is
to let each of its major constituent communities have,
to the extent possible, the system each wants,"
Galbraith wrote last month.

Even if adjustments in troop presence and goals help
the United States prevail, it will not happen soon,
several of those interviewed said. The United States
is likely to be fighting in Iraq for at least another
five years, said an Army officer who served there.
"We'll be taking casualties," he warned, during that
entire time.

A long-term problem for any administration is that it
may be difficult for the American public to tell
whether the United States is winning or losing, and
the prospect of continued casualties may prompt some
to ask of how long the public will tolerate the
fighting.

"Iraq might have been worth doing at some price,"
Vickers said. "But it isn't worth doing at any price.
And the price has gone very high."

The other key factor in the war is Iraqi public
opinion. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that
a majority of Iraqis want the United States to leave
immediately. "In Iraq, we are rapidly losing the
support of the middle, which will enable the
insurgency to persist practically indefinitely until
our national resolve is worn down," the senior U.S.
military intelligence officer said.

Tolerance of the situation in Iraq also appears to be
declining within the U.S. military. Especially among
career Army officers, an extraordinary anger is
building at Rumsfeld and his top advisers.

"Like a lot of senior Army guys, I'm quite angry" with
Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration, the
young general said. He listed two reasons. "One is, I
think they are going to break the Army." But what
really incites him, he said, is, "I don't think they
care."

Jeff Smith, a former general counsel of the CIA who
has close ties to many senior officers, said, "Some of
my friends in the military are exceedingly angry." In
the Army, he said, "It's pretty bitter."

Retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew, a frequent
Pentagon consultant, said, "The people in the military
are mad as hell." He said the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers,
should be fired. A spokesman for Myers declined to
comment.

A Special Forces officer aimed higher, saying that
"Rumsfeld needs to go, as does Wolfowitz."

Asked about such antagonism, Wolfowitz said, "I wish
they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell
me to my face."

He said that by contrast, he had been "struck at how
many fairly senior officers have come to me" to tell
him that he and Rumsfeld have made the right decisions
concerning the Army.

2004 The Washington Post Company


Posted by richard at May 9, 2004 11:10 AM