Wednesday, March 26, 2003

THE WAR COULD TAKE A WEEK--POSSIBLY EVEN TWO: Joseph Galloway, the Knight-Ridder war correspondent, was on Fresh Air today and I googled up his articles. Here's the one where he makes his points that he made on the radio today:

Five days into the war, warnings are surfacing about a potential mismatch between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's strategy and the force he sent to carry it out.

The optimistic assumptions of the Pentagon's civilian war planners have yet to be realized, and the risks of the campaign are becoming increasingly apparent, say some current and retired military officials.

The outcome of the war isn't in doubt: Iraq's forces are no match for America and its allies.

Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday he did not think the U.S. military had invaded Iraq with too small and too light a force.

But less than a week into the war, resistance is proving to be tougher than expected by some of the architects of the American strategy. As a result, the war could be longer and costlier in American and Iraqi lives.

And if weather, Iraqi resistance, chemical weapons or other factors turn things suddenly and unexpectedly sour, the backup force, the Army's 4th Infantry Division, is still at Fort Hood, Texas, as its equipment sails around the Arabian peninsula.

The 21,000 soldiers could begin arriving in Kuwait almost immediately. But the 35 cargo ships carrying their heavy armor and equipment will not arrive in Kuwait until the first week of April at the earliest.

"In my judgment, there should have been a minimum of two heavy divisions and an armored cavalry regiment on the ground -- that's how our doctrine reads," said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

His comments are part of a heated debate about the "rolling start" plan, in which combat actions began before the arrival of all ready forces, which are being brought forward or held back depending on how the battle proceeds.

Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the war in Iraq, has "incredible flexibility," McChrystal said. The heavy 3rd Infantry Division is pushing rapidly to Baghdad, supported by the 101st Airborne Division, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and a British division.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, now a Pentagon consultant, agreed, saying those units -- all of which have been reinforced with additional troops and equipment -- represent "more combat power on the ground than is generally recognized."

According to some Army officers who were involved in some aspects of the war plan, air power more than makes up for the firepower that would have been provided by more tanks and artillery.

Yet despite the aerial pounding Iraqi forces have taken, it's not clear that they are either shocked or awed.

Instead of capitulating, some regular Iraqi army units are harassing American supply lines. Contrary to American hopes -- and some officials' expectations -- no top commander of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard has capitulated.

Many ordinary Iraqis are greeting advancing American and British forces as invaders, not as liberators. Even in the Shi'ite regions to the south, brutally suppressed by Hussein for decades, there has been stubborn fighting.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a commander during the gulf war, said: "The stability of the liberated areas is clearly at issue.. The postwar transition has to begin immediately in the wake of the attacking forces, and they seem to be short of forces for those important missions at this time."

Knowledgeable defense and administration officials say Rumsfeld and his civilian aides at first wanted to commit no more than 60,000 American troops to the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would capitulate in two days.

The ground war that is occurring was not going to happen in Rumsfeld's plan, a Pentagon official said. Because the Pentagon didn't commit overwhelming force, "now we have three divisions strung out over 300-plus miles and the follow-on division, our reserve, is probably three weeks away from landing," the official said.

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Instead, they relied on reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Hussein once the Americans attacked.

The officials said Rumsfeld also made his disdain for the Army's heavy divisions very clear when he argued about the war plan with Franks.

Franks wanted more forces and more heavily armed forces, one senior administration official said. Rumsfeld pressed for smaller, lighter and more agile units, with much bigger roles for air power and special forces.

"Our force package is very light," said a retired general. "If things don't happen exactly as you assumed, you get into a tangle, a mismatch of your strategy and your force. Things like the pockets (of Iraqi resistance) in Basra, Umm Qasr and Nasiriyah need to be dealt with forcefully, but we don't have the forces to do it."

A retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan said: "The secretary of defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days.

"He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

In addition, said senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, resulting in mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

Rumsfeld has always been the scariest member of the Bush team, his preening assholeness reminding me of no one in popular culture as mush as The Red Skull. Not that him being an asshole means he's going to make bad decisions, but I'd like to believe it counts for something. Did you notice how animated he was when he was talking about how amazing it was that the whole war was being televised? He's a geek, and geeks shouldn't be making war decisions--they all think they're newfangled Alexander the Greats who are unjustly confined by an emasculating modern culture and know deep in their hearts that their balls are bigger than the military types they're suddenly in charge of. In actuality, Alexander the Great would've stolen Don Rumsfeld's girlfriend and left him picking olives in the hardscrabble Greek rocklands. My point being, the waging of this war seems to be being as run as well as the diplomacy that led up to it.

No comments: