May 3, 2006

Barry Bends

Hatched by Dafydd

Wretchard has an important, fascinating, but interminable post up about retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- he who commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry during Desert Storm, later became Bill Clinton's Drug Czar (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy), and is currently an adjunct professor at West Point.

The Belmont Club post is essential reading; but it's very long. So as long as this post here is, consider this the CliffsNotes version of the Belmont Club post!

First, it's important to note that Gen. McCaffrey was not an Iraq-War supporter. In fact, he was quite a critic from the very beginning; and he's quite antagonistic towards Donald Rumsfeld.

This is important to note before going in: McCaffrey has developed an increasingly optimistic outlook on the war, a complete turnaround from his opinion in 2003, and especially intriguing in light of a New Republic article, written by Lawrence Kaplan, that makes clear McCaffrey's attitude as recently as 2004 towards Rumsfeld -- especially over his planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(The New Republican article is only available to subscribers from their website; but you can read it at the site of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council here.)

Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, who has become Rumsfeld's most outspoken critic, asked, "Why would you do this operation with inadequate power?" To McCaffrey, the answer is obvious: "Because you have such a strong ideological view, and you're so confident in your views that you disregard the vehement military advice from, particularly, Army generals who you don't think are very bright."

But in spite of this history, when McCaffrey visited Iraq on a fact-finding mission in June of 2005 -- and even more so when he returned in April of this year -- he was extremely optimistic about the war and its successful outcome.

Did the antique media even bother to report this? Isn't it rather more newsworthy when a widely respected and very experienced critic of the war admits that it has gone a lot better than he expected -- even in the "winning the peace" category -- than it is when long-time critics of the war, such as Weasley Clarke or Anthony Zinni, continue to sing the same defeatist ditty, despite never having gone to investigate its progress?

Shouldn't the McCaffrey memo of April, 2006, have been major, headline news? I reckon not: he came to the wrong conclusion.

In particular, McCaffrey found "simply awe-inspiring" the "morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces." He also heavily praised the New Iraqi Army:

The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population.... The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni.... This is simply a brilliant success story. [Emphasis in Belmont Club post.]

McCaffrey noted "marked improvement" in the previously poorly performing Iraqi Security Force (police). First, the bad:

The police are heavily infiltrated by both the AIF [Anti-Iraqi Forces -- the foreign terrorists] and the Shia militia. They are widely distrusted by the Sunni population. They are incapable of confronting local armed groups. They inherited a culture of inaction, passivity, human rights abuses, and deep corruption.

Now the good:

The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable - a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT.

And the future:

This will be a ten year project requiring patience, significant resources, and an international public face.... We absolutely can do this. But this police program is now inadequately resourced.

McCaffrey is, on the whole, very pleased with the job done by his old nemesis from the Gulf War days, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; the general is less sanguine, oddly enough, about the contributions (such as they are) from the State Department:

The U.S. Inter-Agency Support for our strategy in Iraq is grossly inadequate.... U.S. consultants of the IRMO [Iraq Reconstruction Management Office] do not live and work with their Iraqi counterparts, are frequently absent on leave or home consultations, are often in-country for short tours of 90 days to six months, and are frequently gapped with no transfer of institutional knowledge.

McCaffrey seems to believe the problem arose back in 2003, under Secretary of State Colin Powell (or perhaps earlier, in the decades of the State Department's institutional intellectual lethargy). In his 2005 memo, he described the tenure of Paul Bremer as U.S. Administrator of Iraq (head of the Coalition Provisional Authority) thus:

The transitional Bremer-appointed Iraqi government created a weak state of warring factions.

But I think this is overly harsh against Bremer. It's not as if he had anything to work with, after the sudden and complete collapse of the Iraqi-despised Baathist regime, leaving a power vacuum... and the less than stellar performance of the first American "proconsul" of Iraq, retired Gen. Jay Garner. I think that Bremer did the best he could:

  • He formally disbanded Saddam's army, which had fallen apart anyway and was plagued by incompetence, cowardice, and corruption even before the invasion;
  • He ordered full-scale de-Baathification, which was urgently needed if the new government were ever to have credibility with the 80% of the country that was Shiite or Kurdish;
  • And he helped create -- and then handed power to -- the Iraq Interim Governing Council, marking the very first time that majority Shia and Kurds (and women) had a say in their own governing: before the Baathists, Iraq was briefly ruled by a military dictatorship, which had toppled the Sunni Hashemite kingdom, which had taken over from the Ottoman Turks.

(Although Bremer's position was under the Department of Defense, and he reported directly to Rumsfeld, Bremer himself was a career State Department offiical, a protégé of "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger, and was thoroughly imbued with the State ideology of stability über alles.)

McCaffrey makes two profound and inarguable points in his 2006 memo. Here is the first:

The bottom line is that only the CIA and the U.S. Armed Forces are at war.

...Meaning, of course, that the State Department and other departments of the government (Treasury, Energy, et cetera), as well as all of Congress and the Judiciary, still live in a September 10th world. It is critical to internalize this point if you want to understand the war.

McCaffrey worries about the public's taste for the task flagging, if they don't see us as actually "at war." This might cause the funding to run dry; if we do not sustain our own will to fight here, then as the adage goes, it is entirely possible for us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

Iraq cannot sustain the requisite economic recovery without serious U.S. support. The Allies are not going to help. They will not fulfill their pledges. Most of their pledges are loans not grants.

But perhaps even more important is the yawning Grand Canyon of distrust that has separated our own military from the American press... a press which, if it came aboard, could educate the American people (as they did during World War II) and keep their attention riveted on Iraq, where history is being made.

As he notes in the memo from 2005, the difficulties of reporting out of Iraq (coupled with the media's knee-jerk reaction -- unmentioned by McCaffrey -- that the war is illegal, immoral, fattening, and a sign that we live in a Fascist dictatorship) result in the news media sending only "the second team" to Iraq.

The reporters have little to no experience with war, have typically never served in the military, dislike (or even hate) soldiers and military values, report in a facile and tendentious manner, misquote sources, rely upon native sources of unknown provenance (or even known sympathy for the enemy), and in general, hamper, not help, the military effort. It's hardly surprising that, as McCaffrey noted in 2005:

Military leaders on the ground are talking to people they trust instead of talking to all reporters who command the attention of the American people. (We need to educate and support AP, Reuters, Gannet, Hearst, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.)

Nearly a year later, and this aspect of the war has actually deteriorated, leading McCaffrey to note that "there is a rapidly growing animosity in our deployed military forces toward the U.S. media. We need to bridge this gap."

The general then writes his other profound inarguability:

Armies do not fight wars - countries fight wars. We need to continue talking to the American people through the press. They will be objective in reporting facts if we facilitate their information gathering mission.

But he is far more optimistic about the Iraqi political scene:

[I]n my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity. The intelligence picture strongly portrays a population that wants a federal Iraq, wants a national Army, rejects the AIF as a political future for the nation, and is optimistic that their life can be better in the coming years. Unlike the Balkans -- the Iraqis want this to work.

In conclusion, Barry McCaffrey is extremely optimistic -- especially for a guy who was against the war from the git-go:

There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3-5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?

That question at the end of this paragraph is the whole enchilada: to persevere is to prevail; to falter is to fail. It's as simple as that.

(But read the whole thing at the Belmont Club.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2006, at the time of 7:34 PM

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Comments

The following hissed in response by: Bill M

Well no wonder this is not being reported! Barry apparently either didn't get, or didn't read, the talking points from the Dems and the MSM. How could he possibly know what he was supposed to say? The penalty, of course, is to be ignored.

The above hissed in response by: Bill M [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 4, 2006 6:20 PM

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