Jun 28 2008

Only in an open society: the Army shares its self-study

Category: Iraqharmonicminer @ 9:29 pm

In the sort of move that never happens (at least publicly) in the kinds of nations who oppose the USA, the US Army is about to release a comprehensive self-study on problems with the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq.

The Left would have us believe that the Iraq war and the aftermath have been uniquely bad in US history. While it’s true that the military and civilian authorities underestimated the problems, and misjudged their options (see previous post on groupthink), it’s also true that this has happened in pretty much every war that was ever fought. The truism that “generals always prepare to fight the last war” was not invented last year. By definition, wars are almost always fought badly, and end worse, cost more, and are more complicated to get finished with than anyone hopes.

The facts:

1) No war was ever more humanely fought (by US forces), and US forces have enjoyed a world-wide reputation for fighting more humanely than anyone. (To borrow from Dennis Prager: Quick, there’s an army coming over the hill to occupy your town. Whose Army would you like it to be? Everyone knows the US Army is followed by civilian aid, medical care, food, water, etc. Everyone knows the US Army will probably not just bomb your house because some bad guy might be in it. They will risk individual soldiers’ lives to avoid killing civilians whenever possible.)

2) No significant war, certainly nothing of this size, duration and complexity, has ever had such a low casualty count for US forces. In fact, given the difficulties, it is something of a miracle that the casualty count is so low. Remember those Leftist dire predictions of over 5000 dead just in taking Baghdad?

3) The war, notwithstanding premature announcements by Bush on aircraft carriers, is essentially won now. What’s left to do now is essentially the occupation and jump-start for Iraq that could have begun 4 years ago if John McCain’s advice on troop levels had been followed. (You don’t know how much it pains me to say he was right… but he was, and that’s that. Another reason to vote for him, whether you like all his policies or not.)

4) The Left media (read: most of the media) have not stopped trying to sabotage Bush and the war, almost from the beginning. I hope they will pay a price for this. They may be: circulation levels are nose-diving in major print media and viewership is down for network news. I think the single biggest reason is simple lack of trust, followed by technology, not vice versa.

5) The next war will be different. It will require new strategies, tactics, training and logistics. Everyone will know just what should have been done, in hindsight. People will make mistakes. Other people will die for some of those mistakes.

The only guarantee: if we go with the Left’s approach, do almost anything and give almost anything away to avoid war, the next war will be far, far worse, costing more lives, more money, and more of everything else we value.

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The report from the Army, by the Army, seems to be pretty unblinkered (if preliminary reports are true), and is not self-sparing. It is the kind of thing that happens in free, open societies, that doesn’t happen in the kinds of societies that oppose us. According to the NY Times:

In essence, the study is an attempt by the Army to tell the story of one of the most contentious periods in its history to military experts — and to itself.
……………………………

“The Army, as the service primarily responsible for ground operations, should have insisted on better Phase IV planning and preparations through its voice on the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the study noted. “The military means employed were sufficient to destroy the Saddam regime; they were not sufficient to replace it with the type of nation-state the United States wished to see in its place.”

For his part, General Franks said through an aide that he had covered Iraq decisions in his book and had not seen the forthcoming report.

The report focuses on the 18 months after President Bush’s May 2003 announcement that major combat operations in Iraq were over. It was a period when the Army took on unanticipated occupation duties and was forced to develop new intelligence-gathering techniques, armor its Humvees, revise its tactics and, after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, review its detention practices.

A big problem, the study says, was the lack of detailed plans before the war for the postwar phase, a deficiency that reflected the general optimism in the White House and in the Pentagon, led by then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, about Iraq’s future, and an assumption that civilian agencies would assume much of the burden.

There is more at the link. I’m not holding my breath waiting for an editorial from the NYTimes praising the Army for its openness.

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