Playing Politics the Army way. Posted by: mcq
on Thursday, October 12, 2006
I've been thinking about this since I heard about it yesterday:
For planning purposes, the Army is gearing up to keep current troop levels in Iraq for another four years, a new indication that conditions there are too unstable to foresee an end to the war.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, cautioned against reading too much into the planning, which is done far in advance to prepare the right mix of combat units for expected deployments. He noted that it is easier to scale back later if conditions allow, than to ramp up if they don't.
"This is not a prediction that things are going poorly or better," Schoomaker told reporters. "It's just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot."
Caution aside, how could you not "read into" this statment?
What was it's purpose? Why "four years" and not "until we see certain conditions met?"
While I understand Gen. Schoomaker's point, I was baffled by his specifics. This level for this many years.
It certainly is a statement about how the Army sees conditions in Iraq. And, if you read it carefully, it may be more than a statement of planning. It may be a warning.
"Get the Iraqis off their butts and governing or we don't see anything changing as far as the size of our deployment or ending it any time soon."
And, of course, 2010 would be 2 years into a new administration, wouldn't it?
The more I thought about it, the more I figured Pete Schoomaker's a pretty wiley old dog.
Oh, and this:
Appearing with Casey, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he and other senior Pentagon officials are still studying how the military might keep up the current pace of Iraq deployments without overtaxing the Army and Marine Corps, which have borne the brunt of the conflict. Rumsfeld said one option is to make more use of the Air Force and Navy for work that normally is done by soldiers and Marines.
Absolutely the silliest thing I've yet heard. Not their job, not what they're trained for and not something they should be trained for.
Anyway, back to the top: I think the military, in the only way they can, is making a statement. And that statement is: "Either wrap it up (stand up the Iraqis and give them full autonomy) or we're going to be there at this level for many years".
15 combat brigades on tours every other year is indeed going to stress the Army and Marines, especially if this goes on to 2010 and beyond. Gen. Schoomaker, in my view, is making a political statement while disguising it as a planning forecast. It is about the only way he has to make such a point. It's something the civilian leadership needs to listen too very carefully.
I don’t know that this is a political statement so much as a statement of spending reality. In the budget estimates for fiscal year 2006 (which ended in a few weeks ago), the Army had planned on a gradual draw down of US forces in Iraq over that fiscal year. It didn’t happen. So the Army was left with a major budget shortfall towards the end of FY06. Congress eventually passed a supplemental spending bill to bail it out. Schoomaker is making sure that doesn’t happen again anytime soon.
Better to plan for too much and not spend it than plan for too little and fall short.
Better to plan for too much and not spend it than plan for too little and fall short.
Oh, no question, but there are much better (and clearer) ways to say that than he did. The Sec of the Army is making the rounds today saying his words were mischaracterized and that he’s only talking about worst case planning.
Uh, yeah, ok, accepted. But why not say that? And don’t you think, having done this a few times, Schoomaker knows how it will be taken?
Especially combined with the recent breathtaking increase in spending requested by the army - wasn’t it $1 trillion all by itself? - I agree with McQ. The army is trying to force the end of the active conflict by pushing the consequences + cost estimates through the roof. With Rumsfeld’s respect in the tank, hanging by a thread - he is no longer able to coerce either fear or inspire loyalty. He has lost control of his building.
Good. The serious problems with this country’s foriegn policy have expanded at the same rate as the DoD. The place needs to be downsized in every concievable way and put back under the control of real soldiers.
Increasingly, though, I don’t know which side is right, and which is wrong.
And I don’t know what to do about that, either.
First of all - I second A.L. Bravo to you, Dale. It not only takes guts, but requires a certain level of virtue to strive for objectivity - to assess the results of events from a consistent frame of reference, and to acknolwedge when reality doesn’t track the real picture. By starting with acknowledging your personal confusion, you build a path to greater clarity.
The larger answer to the question is to look away from Democrats and Republicans, and say to yourself again, "What should a smart US foreign policy look like? What should a smart GWOT strategy look like?" - and then reassess the political choices again as of how they relate to that.
Secondly, for Pete’s sake, don’t rely on the comment boards to answer. For that matter, don’t rely on either the Democratic or Republican parties. Politicians and politically parties sound wrong and stupid in their arguments even when they are basically correct about what to do. Politics is a sausage maker and turns coherency into political hash. Only two things survive - demagogic, simplistic, over-aggressive bull, and vague, wishy-washy, overpassive bull.
Look at the intellectuals on each side, because the intellectuals shape the environment that the politicians take options from. No democratic intellectual is proposing a renouncing of the use of force in international affairs. It’s more like a general liberty-friendly argument that using too many hammers and not enough scalpels is counterproductive to a global nascent Islamic terrorism insurgency. The current obvious example of this is the genuinely pointless hot war on Anbar province we’re still conducting, on inertia and stubbornness alone.
As an aside, it’s true that the WMD was overhyped and that the Department of Lace was right. But, you still have another box to think your way out of - WMD itself is just a convenient deus ex machina to introduce when we’re feeling like we want to kick some a**. Chemical weapons aren’t any more lethal than conventional ones. They’re illegal because they were considered a subjectively nastier way of dying by Europeans in 1920 during a strong pro-international-law era. And the case for that is mediocre as well.
Biological weapons could theoretically be more lethal than conventional ones and cause massive second-order casualties, but most of the conventional BW programs actually in existence, same deal. Local weapon. Not worth invading people.
Nuclear weapons are the only bite in WMD - and even then, it’s clear that we can’t, won’t, or aren’t going to invade every state that wants nuclear weapons to stop them.
A lot of people wanted to get Saddamn for the same reasons as you - we already went to war with him, and he was an a**hole. Fine. So be it. We’re all human, and we all want to punch the a**hole threatening to sue us about something on the street, or maybe even, if we’re violent people, put a cap in the teenage vandals down the street. But that doesn’t mean we won’t pay for it. Well, we’re paying for it. Unfortunately, nations learn even less well than individuals.
Whether they are in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, or whatever country Islamists turn into a hell-hole next, we are going to need troops, and they will be doing much the same thing as they are doing in Iraq, nation building.
USMC PUBLICATION: "Countering Irregular Threats: A Comprehensive Approach," signed by Lt. Gen. J.N. Mattis, Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, 14 June 2006.
Mattis’s little pub is a neat gem that explains the new approach nicely. My favorite quote:
Marines need to learn when to fight with weapons and when to fight with information, humanitarian aid, economic advice, and a boost toward good governance for the local people.
Thus the Maslowian diagram on page 6 (which looks just like the one in my brief that I use to explain the Development-in-a-Box concept that Steve DeAngelis and I work hard to spread the gospel on) that details the "six lines of operation" includes not just info ops and combat ops, but also governance, "train and employ" local forces, essential services and economic development.
The mottoes for each are great:
Governance = "for the people"
Information Operations = "nothing but the truth" (getting out there on that 5GW ledge, methinks)
Combat Operations = "war of the stiletto"
Train and Employ = "breathing room" (echoing Abizaid’s dictum that the military only buys you time)
Essential Services = "stop the bleeding"
Economic Development = "toward a better life" (or perhaps a "future worth creating"!).
Good stuff that speaks to both new opportunities (like the story on spinning records for the Taliban) and new challenges implied.
Mattis’ piece ends with a series of force development implications:
—better collaboration with the rest of the US government
—training Marines to be "both fighters and peace builders"
—train Marines in cultural intell, foreign languages, negotiation and dispute resolution
—long-term planning capacity for COIN
Sounds like Mattis is building the SysAdmin from the inside out, just like I expected (the bucks and bodies are found in DoD—so go figure!)