Sunday, March 23, 2008

Response To Iraq's Monday AM Quarterbacks

A good response to Monday morning quarterbacking five years after the liberation of Iraq is presented. It notes the critiques of writer and former Army officer Ralph Peters, whom I respect greatly as one of the best analysts of the Iraq situation. The piece isn't exactly hard on Peters' own Monday morning quartebacking on the fifth anniversary of the war's start, but I felt Peters, in his own take on the anniversary, missed a mark on why the war wasn't wrapped up as quickly as some think it could have been.

Peters took on Donald Rumsfeld and "yes-man" generals, yet seemed to miss the strategy of housing American forces in base camps for a prolonged period before David Petraeus in effect got forces out of base camps and back into the countrysde in 2007. This old base camp strategy was one of the less effctive strategies in the Vietnam war and its reemergence in Iraq seemed to reflect something Rumsfeld and others were fighting - the Army's notorious history of bureaucratic inflexibility.

Likewise Peters seemed to miss an underappreciated lesson of Vietnam - namely that overreliance on overwhelming numbers was a substitute for imaginative thinking on how to win. Creighton Abrams took dwindling American forces and used them far more imaginatively that William Westmoreland, and coupled with redoubled efforts to properly train ARVN, this took advantage of Westy's genuine successes - for his overreliance on numbers and for his surprising neglect of training of ARVN, Westmoreand's approach did succeed in bleeding the enemy enormously - to make South Vietnam almost a nation at peace by 1971.

For awhile this was the same approch being used in Iraq; that it got sidetracked is puzzling, and that it took Petraeus to kick it back into gear sees to reflect more on the bureaucracy of the Army than to weaknesses in Donald Rumsfeld's leadership. Not that Rumsfeld is blameless, just that some greater balance in analysis might have been in order.

There is also the fact of the enormity of the task at hand as well as the enemy. I highly doubt that anyone had any real illusions that terrorists would disappear and cede Iraq to the West. That there were failings, and major ones, that made the conflict more difficlt should not be denied, but it would seem that the determination of the enemy, and the sheer size of the task of transforming Iraq from a launching point for internatinal war into a democracy, were at least as much at fault as anything on our side. Inded, that Iraq has progressed as far as it has toward being a viable democracy indicates the US has been far more successful at the mission than the Monday AM QBs seem to think.

Analyzing the war in Iraq will go on for many, many years, and people like Ralph Peters as well as those ofering diferent legitimate views are important to such analysis.

No comments: