Tuesday, April 15, 2003

HATE WAR, LOVE WARRIOR: I love how Ralph Peters can hate on Rumsfeld and praise our soldiers at the same time:

[T]he shock-and-awe air campaign was such a disappointment that Pentagon briefers immediately wrote it out of the war's history, much the way Stalin's Politburo used to erase purged figures from official photographs.

The truth is that the strategic air campaign was worth trying. And we may yet learn of unexpected results from the attempted decapitation strikes. But no air effort could have lived up to the hype civilian "experts" imposed on it.

For shock-and-awe type air campaigns to work, there are three requirements: Surprise, truly overwhelming blows and an enemy leadership that regards surrender as an option. But months of schoolyard threats from Pentagon staffers as to what the air campaign would do to Saddam's regime both ruled out surprise and prepared our enemy psychologically. When they finally came, our airstrikes on Baghdad were colorful, but cautious and slight in effect. And Saddam and his cronies never viewed surrender as an option.

The second, graver error was the ideologically motivated refusal to send more troops to the theater of war prior to hostilities. When commanders in combat complained that they needed more troops, senior leaders silenced them. When retired generals insisted that more troops should have been sent, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) shamelessly branded them as disloyal, portraying war heroes as defeatists and distorting their comments to a degree worthy of the Iraqi information minister.

Wait until the soldiers who fought this war write their memoirs. Then judge.

Certainly, we won a magnificent victory. But our military won it despite OSD's micro-management.

Size matters. More troops would have allowed us to seize Tikrit and close the roads to Syria a week earlier, preventing the flight of key Iraqi officials. We lacked the forces to seize Baghdad and continue the attack simultaneously.

Our inability to guard hospitals and the failure to protect Baghdad's National Museum of Antiquities from looters are undeniable stains on an otherwise unblemished record. We needed more troops on the ground to establish a presence throughout Baghdad and elsewhere. Out of sight, our troops were out of mind.

Despite denials from the secretary of defense that more troops were needed, the 4th Infantry Division had to be rushed to Iraq. Other reinforcements - hastily flown in - included an airborne brigade, an armored cavalry regiment, an additional heavy brigade and another light brigade, with more units slated to follow. Have they been hurried to Iraq because they were unnecessary?

This has been a brilliant campaign. But it was won by soldiers, not by civilian "experts" who regard our troops as nothing more than strategic janitors. The recent suggestions by party hacks who disdained military service to the effect that they and their ideas won the war is conduct unbecoming. Even by Washington's standards.

Hate on Rumsfeld, and not even mention his name. He's got it down to an artform.

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