Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » June 2005 » Failure of The Administration Imagination

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06/29/2005: Failure of The Administration Imagination

Despite our Fearless leader's attempts to rouse "support", this this piece by Stephen J. Hedges (Washington Bureau of Chicago Tribune) about the failed imagination of our leaders and military to “understand this global terrorism and the kind of war this is we are fighting:
Critics: Pentagon in blinders: Long before 9/11, the military was warned about low-tech warfare, but it didn't listen is as pertinent today - whatever Bush tried to "explain" in his speech:

” Nearly 16 years ago, a group of four military officers and a civilian predicted the rise of terrorism and anti-American insurgencies with chilling accuracy.

The group said U.S. military technology was so advanced that foreign forces would be unlikely to challenge it directly, and it forecast that future foes would be non-state insurgents and terrorists whose weapons would be suicide car bombs, not precision-guided weapons.

"Today, the United States is spending $500 million apiece for stealth bombers," the group wrote in a 1989 article that appeared in a professional military journal. "A terrorist stealth bomber is a car with a bomb in the trunk--a car that looks like every other car."

The five men dubbed their theory "Fourth Generation Warfare" and warned that the U.S. military had to adapt. In the years since, the original group of officers, joined by a growing number of officers and scholars within the military, has pressed Pentagon leaders to acknowledge this emerging threat.

But rather than adopting a new strategy, the generals and civilian leaders in the Defense Department have continued to support conventional, high-intensity conflict and the expensive weapons that go with it. That is happening, critics say, despite lethal insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They don't understand this kind of warfare," said Greg Wilcox, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, Vietnam veteran and critic of Pentagon policies. "They want to return to war as they envision it. That's not going to happen.”
Chinese war philosopher "Sun Tzu had it right," said one Army lieutenant colonel who spent a year fighting insurgents in Iraq and who requested anonymity. "If you know your enemy and if you know yourself, you'll never lose. We know about half of what we should about the enemy, and we don't know ourselves. We can't figure out what kind of Army we want to be."
"Mass, of men or fire power, will no longer be an overwhelming factor," they wrote. "In fact, mass may become a disadvantage, as it will be easy to target. Small, highly maneuverable, agile forces will tend to dominate."

The article marked a radical departure from military thinking. Until then, the word "insurgency" had been virtually banned inside the Pentagon.

In his 1986 book, "The Army and Vietnam," military analyst and Army veteran Andrew Krepinevich details just how reviled a fight against insurgents is among U.S. military leaders. Top Army commanders in Washington, Krepinevich found, brushed aside orders from President John Kennedy in the early 1960s to build a counterinsurgent capability in Vietnam.

And after the war, he said, counterinsurgency theory was purged from the Pentagon. Instead, the military returned to preparing for a conventional war with the Soviet Union. ….
The Pentagon, though, continued to equip for battlefield warfare, encouraged by a Congress that was more than willing to back big weapons, ships and aircraft programs and the jobs they create.

"There's no money in counterinsurgency," said Hammes, the Marine colonel, who served in Iraq and whose recent book, "The Sling and the Stone," has stirred more debate within the military. "It's about language skills. It's about people. It's about a lot of soft money moving over to [the Departments of] State, Commerce, Treasury, and there's no F-22 [fighter jet] in this program."

A 9/11 realization

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Schmitt, a former Marine and a co-author of the 1989 article, was at O'Hare International Airport on his way to Pittsburgh. Minutes before boarding his flight, he saw a television report that an airliner had hit New York's World Trade Center. He kept watching as the second plane hit.

"I was thinking, `We're at war here,'" said Schmitt, a military consultant based in Champaign, Ill. "This is the new warfare."

The Sept. 11 attacks, Schmitt and others hoped, would bring change within the Pentagon. Even an Al Qaeda terrorist Web site referred to the 1989 article, noting that "some American military experts predict a fundamental change in the future form of warfare" and that "this new type of war presents significant difficulties for the Western war machine."

But little changed. The U.S. forces that flowed into Afghanistan in late 2001 and into Iraq in March 2003 were largely conventional.

The U.S. military quickly toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. But after those successes, both the Afghan extremists and Hussein's sympathizers transformed into effective insurgencies.

The mavericks contend that the U.S. response has been a string of classic military mistakes, especially in Iraq.

U.S. forces took over Hussein's palaces and military bases, secluding themselves from ordinary Iraqis and cutting off lines of intelligence. Thousands of innocent Iraqis were wrongfully imprisoned in a ham-handed search for insurgents, breeding contempt for the American occupiers.
"Here's an army that went into Iraq in 2003 with exactly the same set of equipment it had in 1991, with very few modifications," said Douglas Macgregor, a tank commander in the first Iraq war who wrote several books about reforming the Army before retiring as a colonel a year ago. "It hasn't produced anything new at all in 20 years."

Still, the mavericks argue that, even today, changes could have an impact on the way soldiers are fighting.

First, the mavericks call for ground forces to reorganize into distinct, small units--not large, lumbering divisions or expeditionary forces--that will live among Iraqis.

"Why are we still riding around in Humvees?" asks Poole, the retired Marine, whose Posterity Press has published books on counterinsurgent tactics. "In a war like this, you've got to get off the vehicle and into the neighborhood."

Second, more needs to be done to give soldiers language and cultural training, they say, something that officers in the Army and Marine Corps say has recently begun.

A third reform would prescribe a more judicious use of powerful weapons, such as tank rounds and 2,000-pound precision aerial bombs, especially in cities. Insurgencies exploit the deaths of civilians, the mavericks argue.

They say that the most important change would be a new command system, one that bases promotions on initiative rather than obedience and encourages taking risks, recognizing that mistakes will happen.
Additional focus has been put on running road checkpoints, detecting roadside explosives and protecting convoys.

But those efforts give new troops just a brief taste of the challenges they will be facing, and they put a heavy emphasis on defensive measures. According to officers who have been involved in counterinsurgent operations, there still is a reluctance among top commanders to acknowledge the nature of the enemy and what skills American soldiers need to fight.

"There's definitely the sensation that the Army's holding its breath," said one officer who recently took command of deploying forces, "that this will all blow over, and they can go back to what they want to do."
Although they differ on the particulars of changing the military, the mavericks agree that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan and Iraq has been a lost opportunity. At best, they say, the outcome of both conflicts is uncertain. Some say they are doomed.

"There's nothing that you can do in Iraq today that will work," said Lind, one of the original Fourth Generation Warfare authors. "That situation is irretrievably lost."

Karen on 06.29.05 @ 02:05 PM CST

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