Wednesday, December 8, 2004

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Rumsfeld admits that maybe, just maybe, the RMA isn't all it's cracked up to be

As was much commented before the election, this administration has a thing about admitting error -- any kind of error. No politician ever wants to do this, of course, because it means taking a political hit. Sometimes, however, candor is good politics and can even lead to policy learning -- i.e., if you're willing to admit that your current course of action is wrong, it requires a search for a better policy.

So when President Bush announced that Don Rumsfeld would stay on as Secretary of Defense for the next term, my reaction was not completely dissimilar from Josh Marshall's -- on defense-related matters, we're getting four more years of bungled policy implementation. Rumsfeld's belief that the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) requires a transformation of warfighting strategy and tactics is not completely off-base -- however, Iraq certainly suggests that the notion of the RMA really transforming anything related to post-war occupation activities is bogus.

Today's Wall Street Journal front-pager by Greg Jaffe (that link should be good for non-subscribers as well) suggests, however, that even Rummy and the rest of the civilian leadership is willing to admit that mistakes were made. The highlights:

The Iraq attack was built on the premise that speed and high-tech equipment could radically change the way war was fought. Short, swift attacks against key targets -- such as communications stations and headquarters -- could confuse enemy forces and isolate them from their commanders, according to both Army and Defense Department doctrine. If you chopped off the enemy's head, the theory went, the whole body would die. Getting to the fight faster became the focus of modernization plans for the Army and all other U.S. armed services.

Now, the escalating insurgency in Iraq is showing that lightning assaults can quickly topple a regime -- but also unleash problems for which small, fast, high-tech U.S. forces are ill-equipped.

"We're realizing strategic victory is about a lot more than annihilating the enemy," says one senior defense official in Mr. Rumsfeld's office. Victory also requires winning the support of locals and tracking down insurgents, who can easily elude advanced surveillance technology and precision strikes. In some cases, a slower, more methodical attack, one that allows U.S. troops to stabilize one area and hold it up as an example of what is possible for the rest of the country, could produce better results, according to emerging Army thinking.

Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that the military, which is still organized "to fight big armies, navies and air forces on a conventional basis," must change in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists. "The department simply has to be much more facile and agile," he says in an interview. "We have got to focus more on the post-combat phase."

But he adds that the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the "critical importance of speed and precision as opposed to mass or sheer numbers."

That's not much of a concession by Rumsfeld there, but it does suggest some adaptation.

Read the whole thing -- I particularly liked the observation that, "Commanders in Iraq have found that 70-ton tanks, which literally shake the ground as they move, can help ward off guerrilla attacks simply through intimidation."

And, lest one put all of the blame at Rumsfeld's doorstep, what I found particularly interesting was the motivation behind the Army's partial embrace of the RMA as well:

The notion of swift, high-tech wars was first championed by the Air Force in the early 1990s. After the 1999 Kosovo war, the Army began reluctantly to buy into the idea.

Kosovo had been a huge embarrassment for the Army. Gen. Wesley Clark, who led the operation, asked the Army to send 24 Apache helicopters to the Balkans to conduct strikes against Serb forces. The helicopters, accompanied by tanks and heavy Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived later than many expected. They were never employed. Two helicopters crashed during training exercises, killing two soldiers. The tanks were too heavy to cross key bridges.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's chief of staff at the time, came away from the fiasco believing the Army needed to get faster and lighter. New fighting vehicles would rely on information technology and speed to protect them instead of heavy armor. Army doctrine, written after Kosovo, boasted troops using new equipment would "see first, understand first, and act first" allowing them to kill the adversary without being hit.

Among some senior Army officers, though, there was great discomfort with the notion that the U.S. could ever achieve the kind of quick victories that top Army officials and Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to be promising. Even if high-tech surveillance tools could pinpoint the location of enemy tanks, they couldn't find fighters hiding in buildings. Technology couldn't measure the will of shadowy insurgents or the likelihood the populace would resist.

As for Rumsfeld, he's definitely getting feedback from what James Q. Wilson would call "operators" in the system. Robert Burns has the goods on this for the Associated Press:

Disgruntled U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon chief.

"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops....

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

posted by Dan on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM


> If you chopped off the enemy's head the whole body would die.

I've been wondering if the RMA's relatively quick & clean war is actually counter-productive. Perhaps a hostile populace needs to be severely bludgeoned into submission. Can the stark terror of a brutal war reduce the post-war insurgency? Did the US military's shock & awe campaign really scare anyone?

Of course, if a brutal war campaign is more effective, then that's another good reason to avoid war.

posted by: projectshave on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

It comes down to flexibility - you can have the best and the brightest projecting what "will" happen, and then something else entirely rears its head. If you have the flexibility to adapt and improvise, that's what's important - and it's also what the US armed forces have historically been very good at.

posted by: fingerowner on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Rumsfield doesn't understand anything nor has he adapted. It is clear from the article that Shinseki made the mistake of fighting the last war. And Rumsfield being a bomber pilot made the mistake of thinking that by operating against a BS military force by any standard on the best possible terrain for a heavily armed mobile force and defeating an enemy in a short period of time is the same as having to control a potentially hostile population(and there was every reason to believe that part of it would be), that they will be cowed. Everyone will adapt to the conflict at hand but when you start by dismissing the potential problems(Shinseki's estimation) and promising rosy scenario from the beginng you have no credibility whatsoever.

The only adaption occuring is by the grunts on the ground who have been murdered by the fecklessness of this administration. Why else is a soldier talking about digging through damaged vehicle yards for suitable material for armour plating? This continuing lack of suitable material raises another issue. The military no longer seems to have a quartermaster corp where grunts cajoled, bribed or brought quartermasters for material. A place where captains and majors could read the riot act to in order to fulfill their troops needs. Haliburton is such a meme but one has to wonder what is going on in the supply chain.

posted by: Robert M on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

DD, no mention of Thomas Barnett and "The Pentagon's New Map"?

RMA is about the force structure for winning wars. The setbacks in Iraq are because a force designed to win wars is ill-equipped for winning the peace. But because of the very different requirements, you cannot expect a single force to do both.

So you need two forces. In Barnett's vision, the RMA force that kicks ass in doubletime - the global Leviathan - and a different "Sys-Admin" force for nationbuilding and peace-winning.

Rumsfeld was right about RMA for war-fighting. Its just that he (and the rest of the Pentagon) have ignored nation-building. But the solution is not to reject RMA; the solution is to realize that RMA is only half the answer.

posted by: Silent E on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?"

heh. "Because the President and Congress never actually asked anyone but the soldiers to sacrifice anything for this war." ... but that's not exactly the reply we are going to hear from Pentagon any time soon, is it?

posted by: Con Tendem on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

I wonder how much of the massive Bush tax cuts could have been diverted in order to give these soldiers the armor they need. A sad commentary on our leaders.

posted by: Guy on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

> I've been wondering if the RMA's relatively
> quick & clean war is actually
> counter-productive. Perhaps a hostile
> populace needs to be severely bludgeoned
> into submission

The population of Iraq was not supposed to be our enemy and was not supposed to be hostile. We were supposed to be "liberating" them, and therefore they would not be hostile nor require "bludgeoning". So said Mr. Bush (no combat service), Mr. Cheney (no military or combat service {"better things to do"}), and Mr. Rumsfeld (no combat service).

This kind of statement really makes my blood boil. Rumsfeld failed in everything, literally everything, he did and is doing. But now he is going to get _another_ pass as some sort of far-sighted military genius?

How many of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld's children have volunteered for miliary service in Iraq by the way?


posted by: Cranky Observer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

RE: Silent E's post

I haven't read Barnett's book, and probably won't take the time to, but what I do know of his "vision" leads me to think it's fatally flawed.

Silent, we are neither winning nor losing a peace in Iraq. We are fighting a war, though it may look different that its opening stages. For all that Powerpoint slides make going from Phase 3 operations to Phase 4 look like a smooth transition, conflict is better understood as a spectrum. The Marines talk about the three block war, and the Army both understands it and articulates it better than it did. We may be at a different place on the spectrum than we were in April of last year, but it's still conflict. I'm not going to recite the casualty stats here, but it should be apparent that this isn't the same situation as Bosnia or the Sinai. You don't have to believe me, just look at how hard Gen. Schoomaker, Rumsfeld's handpicked Chief of Staff of the Army, has argued against seperate forces for peacekeeping, on the idea that such troops would have difficulty protecting themselves on the battlefield.

What I do understand of Barnett's theories makes me think they are fundamentally a cop-out. We get to preserve the idea that everything went great in April of last year, don't have to tackle the idea that escaping Iraqi troops contributed to the ongoing conflict, get to preserve the idea that future wars can be won purely with smaller more sophisticated forces, don't have to question the idea that technology redefines conflict, rather than simply acts as a combat multiplier, don't have to question what happens when the enemy adjusts to our smaller, lighter troops and their laser flyswatters and $250 million air superiority fighters, don't have to question the impact of the immense firepower available to small bands of men who don't like us very much, etc. Above all, we don't have to assess the human dimension of warfare. Basically, everything is going great, but we just need to do peacekeeping\SASO a little better. If I'm misunderstanding Barnett, then I apologize, but otherwise, I don't buy it.

posted by: fritz on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

The Revolution in Military Affairs, v. 1.0 was revolutionary about means, not ends.

Traditionally America had fought wars overseas expecting to withdraw its forces once the enemy was destroyed. The Herculean efforts required to muster public support for the the extended deployments in Europe after World War II and the deep skepticism in Congress about peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s both had their roots in this historic attitude. The original RMA was wholly consistent with it as well; it focused on destroying threats to American security as quickly and painlessly as possible, and then withdrawing American forces to their permanent bases. This focus led it to emphasize remote munitions, network-based warfare, more potent air forces and smaller ground forces.

What Iraq has done is changed the mission. Not every component of the RMA has been made obsolete, but the overall posture -- the list of things we are likely to ask the military to do -- has changed dramatically. This means the RMA now is different than the RMA circa 2001; it has to find ways to do things that Rumsfeld not only did not think would have to be done but did not think should be done.

Conceding that point still begs the question: how different? Specifically, should we be planning for a military prepared to do what we are now doing in Iraq, for the long term? How long? In what other countries? And at what cost to the original, and still necessary objective of the RMA, the swift and efficient defeat of threats to America's security? I don't think the Pentagon has made up its collective mind on this; Rumsfeld in particular probably has it in his head that Iraq will be over with in 2-3 years at most, and that after it is over there will never be a similar situation. Much depends on the answers to these questions.

posted by: Zathras on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's chief of staff at the time, came away from the fiasco believing the Army needed to get faster and lighter.

This may sound like the RMA, and if Rumsfeld was making statments like: "Armor? We don't need no stinking armor." at the time the invasion began, he could be forgiven. But we have been at war for over a year now. R. is clearly fighting the last war and has shown an inability to distinguish military needs for a punitive expedition (Kosovo) and a long term occupation force (Iraq).

posted by: Fledermaus on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Doesn't this say it all?:

"Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges that the military, which is still organized "to fight big armies, navies and air forces on a conventional basis," must change in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists."

Excuse me -- I am a 41-year-old (which means, I had older brothers who fought in Vietnam, but, other than sending Christmas boxes, it didn't really impact me) who has generally supported Bush in the War in Iraq, but the fact that Rumsfeld is NOW acknowledging that the military's M.O. must change "in order to deal with guerrilla fighters and terrorists" -- Well, please explain to me how THAT lesson wasn't learned -- and publicly acknowleged -- 20+ years ago.

What a sorry excuse for an excuse.

I'm sorry -- as I said, I've generally been a supporter of why it is necessary to invade Iraq, including considerations past WMD to strategic maneuvers.

But quite frankly, the mismangement (and its stonewalling of this military operation), in my opinion, is indefensible.

Rumsfeld must go. And the fact that he remains only highlights the flaws in Bush's administration.

posted by: cj on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Rumsfeld's reply is just another way of saying that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. The troops who asked the uncomfortable questions were National Guard and Reserve forces who have, frankly, been sucking hind tit when it comes to getting the best gear. This has to stop, but it can't until recent efforts to beef up the production base for things like up-armored Humvees have a chance to repair our shortages. The Bush administration is getting gigged for a lot of supply shortages traceable to the meat-axing the Clinton administration did to the defense contracting base. It's difficult to surge production when the facilities to do so no longer exist and have to be put together from scratch.

One thing the Iraq experience has clearly shown is that Gen. Shinseki was dramatically wrong about "light and fast" being the crux of RMA. We need to be heavy and fast. The intimidation factor of an Abrams tank has a lot more to do with the fact that it's essentially unkillable with anything an "insurgent" is likely to have available than the fact that it doesn't exactly tippy-toe its way around.

The vast majority of onesy-twosy casualties seem to occur among troops doing patrol and/or logistics functions in vehicles too soft for the Iraq threat environment. Not only does the entire U.S. military - N.G. and Reserves included - need to have armored Humvees, but the current inventory of heavy trucks, tankers and transporters needs to be up-armor retrofitted or replaced. Nobody in uniform should be routinely driving a vehicle that can't take heavy machine gun or RPG fire without "brewing up." Unfortunately, we lack a magic wand with which to conjure our way out of our current armor deficit and the butcher's bill is going to keep climbing as a result.

Another area in which RMA can still make major differences is in serious urban combat situations ala Falloujah. While that campaign kept casualties to less than a tenth those suffered by U.S. forces in any past house-to-house fight, there is still room for improvement. This has to mainly come from more pervasive recon/intelligence automation, i.e., small and very small UAV's and ground-crawling robots. This stuff is coming, but needs to be made available as quickly as possible all the way down to the squad level. Once more, production capacity is the main bottleneck.

posted by: Dick Eagleson on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

> The Bush administration is getting gigged
> for a lot of supply shortages traceable to the
> meat-axing the Clinton administration did to the
> defense contracting base.

Implmenting the program laid out by SecDef Cheney, you mean? Funny how the goalposts zip back and forth whenever Republican responsibility for consequences is discussed.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Cranky, it is now 4 years since Clinton--it is time to quit blaming him.

The point is that it is almost 2 years into the war and this admin is still massively screwing up the military .

posted by: spencer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

The European theatre in WW II offered Bush & Rumsfeld 2 different models: France & Germany.

If Iraq were like France, all the U.S. had to do was topple the regime and allow Iraqi society to reconstitute a government. But -- and it's a very big but -- you need a DeGaulle who leads at least a battalion of Free Iraqis into Baghdad. A DeGaulle who was broadcasting regularly into Iraq before the invasion. And U.S. troops would withdraw quickly so the new regime didn't appear to be a puppet.

There was no such figure, although there are some indications that the Pentagon politicos thought Chalabi somehow fit the bill. By now, fundamental management principles demand that anyone who blundered so badly should be relieved.

If Iraq is more like Germany, with a substantial element either beholden to the old regime or without some stake in a successful reconstitutional process, then the U.S. needed to be prepared to impose stern martial law, with overwhelming troop presence. Shinseki wasn't talking about 300,000+ troops to defeat the Iraqi army in set battles. He was thinking ahead to the occupation. And that's what Powell meant when he said: "You break it, you own it."

I'm not a West Point graduate, but it would seem the first principle would be to disarm all Iraqis. Not only wasn't this done, but in the interests of rapid movement toward Iraq, several massive munitions dumps were bypassed and left unguarded. As I recall, destroying the dumps was outsourced to civilians (Halliburton, of course) who were weeks behind the advancing troops.

Seems hard to believe but I read somewhere recently there were no U,S. troop casualties in occupied Germany. None. The Army and the State Dept. had a bookshelf of planning books for an occupation of Iraq. They were left in Washington.

A question: the Pentagon politicos clearly don't have a sense of urgency to provide a sufficient number of armored vehicles. But is there a production bottleneck as well? Is there any reason to believe that what was the arsenal of democracy 60 years ago can now only build less than 1,000 fully armored Humvees per year? I'm looking here for more than Eagleson's vague reference to production capacity. Are we fighting a war or simply augmenting a peacetime procurement process.

Rumsfeld is lucky he wasn't fragged yesterday. (troops were frisked as they entered the building where Rumsfeld answered questions.)

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

> anky, it is now 4 years since Clinton--it
> is time to quit blaming him.

Please re-read my posts - I think that is exactly what I was trying to say. It is the neocons and Repubs who not only introduced the grossly offensive "goalposts" analogy into public discourse (equating mass loss of human life with a football game), but who then proceed to move said goalposts around at the speed of light to excuse all lack of responsibility on the part of the W administration.

I fully agree - Bush W and Rumsfeld have been in command for 4 years now. They are fully responsible for everything that happens in Iraq.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]


Things went VERY well in March and April 2003. It was the failure of the neocons to have a nation-building force and plan ready following the victory that caused things to get out of hand.

Further compounding the problem was a near-universal refusal by the armed forces to prepare and procure for nation-building prior to Iraq. This was bolstered, it should be noted, by a newly-elected C-in-C who announced his opposition to nation-building in his campaign.

Things would be very different today if order had been restored quickly with a massive troop presence, had they not disbanded the Iraqi army and tried such radical de-Baathification, and had they generally not screwed up every major decision as badly as possible.

Simply, whatever forces would be good now for nation-building and counter-insurgency are not forces that could have made the rapid victory of April 2003, and vice versa. Then, we needed speed and overwhelming firepower. Now, those considerations are secondary to flexible, armored, mobile infantry. Tanks may have intimidation value against the insurgency, but they are of limited utility beyond that in today's Iraq. But trying to take Baghdad with hundreds of slower armored humvees and APCs would have been unthinkable.

Barnett's point is that we need to be able to do both tasks: administering an unholy beating to opposing forces in rogue or failed states, and policing and rebuilding those nations afterwards (actually, rolling in right behind them so that the SysAdmins are on the ground as the smoke is clearing). That requires two very different forces.

posted by: Silent E on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Silent E--

Do you think we took Baghdad? Do we have it now? No one can drive to the airport. Insurgents -- a catchall term for armed resistance to occupation by forces from a civilization so foreign its troops can't read street signs -- lob mortar shells into the green zone pretty much whenever they want.

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

> Barnett's point is that we need to be able
> to do both tasks: administering an unholy beating
> to opposing forces in rogue or failed states, and
> policing and rebuilding those nations afterwards
> (actually, rolling in right behind them so that
> the SysAdmins are on the ground as the smoke is
> clearing). That requires two very different forces

Which would require an Army 10 times the size of the one we have now - closer to post-WWII size in fact. Which is fine; when will the Bush Administration propose building such a force and how do they propose to fund it?


posted by: Cranky Observer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Ozoid - we DID have it. And we could have kept it. Things are getting worse in Iraq - and that necessarily means that they were better several months ago and last year. Insurgents were not mortaring the Green Zone 12 months ago.

Cranky - not ten times. Not even twice as large; just different. Shinseki said we'd need 300K to occupy the country. Rumsfeld thought we could win the battlefield with 150K. Both were right - but Rumsfeld failed to realize that it was possible for both to be right. We already have the 150K force necessary for administering the beatings; if we had made another 150K available to assist in the occupation in April and May 2003, things would be much different. Further, any additional forces would be far cheaper to field - we need more boots on the ground, but they don't need $100m tanks and airplanes, just guns, armored humvees, kevlar, and someone with a frickin' clue running the reconstruction.

posted by: Silent E on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Barry--thanks. just what I was looking for. Strange that the Pentagon had no comment, or just further indication this issue hasn't captured anyone's attention there.

Silent E--Widespread civilian looting is not an indicator of a secure, orderly occupation. I don't think anyone ever claimed that Sadr City was under control. That's sort of like excluding the Bronx while claiming control of NYC.

Occupying Baghdad was only the end of the first stage of this war. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, etc. believed the Iraqis would behave in way most conducive to our perspective of their best interests. It's clear they have a different set of calculations. It's hard to find a sign the Pentagon politicos were prepared for even the possibility of a long-term hostile occupation. They seemed to be thinking along the lines of the Falklands or Grenada.

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]


I still think that the bright line you and Barnett are drawing between war and peacekeeping is way, way off. We probably agree on a good bit. That we didn't set the conditions for ongoing success in April of last year, though we might squabble over the details, and that a much larger infusion of troops would have been of enormous benefit (whether it would have been decisive is another issue). Above all, DOD leadership just didn't take the strategic goal (assuming that goal is a decent, functioning Iraq) seriously, pursuing instead a decapitation plan and utterly ignoring Phase 4. But this idea of a two-tiered force just doesn't mesh with what we're seeing now. You keep saying that the two types of forces are totally different. But artillery is still firing missions every day. Armor is still being used a great deal, and not just for intimidation value. Notably, both of the Marine Regimental Combat Team's that retook Fallujah were reinforced with heavy battalions from Army units, and backstopped by an entire heavy brigade. Armor and other heavy units did a great deal of the work in suppressing the Sadr City uprisings. Overall, we've found ourselves significantly under-armored, and have had to fly in additional tanks and Bradleys. If you have access, read the current issue of "Armor" magazine. It's obviously not disinterested, but it does a good job of laying out the kind of fights we face right now.

For what it's worth, we would probably agree on some of the things that are happening right now. Heavy units are being trimmed a little, artillery is getting slashed, particularly in the reserve component. Infantry, MPs, Civil Affairs, PSYOPS, and certain support functions are all growing (though probably not enough). Moreover, while I have reservations with certain aspects of the Army's new Brigade Combat Team\Unit of Action structure, the basic idea of mixing and matching brigades for the mission is a sound one, and would make probably make it easier to swap out some heavy troops with lighter ones to support a shift to lower intensity operations.

Having said all that, I just can't get past the idea that the "Leviathan" and the "Sys-Admins" represent a BS intellectual construct. Normally, that would be no big deal, and would just flag one more theory to be either used selectively or ignored entirely. Barnett struck me as an idiot in the Wall Street Journal (or was it the WashPost?) piece from a few months ago, and I'm probably not going to invest the time at this point to give him a second chance. This theory, though, is potentially dangerous, given the combination of this administration's infatuation with technology based lighter forces, poor performance in putting Iraq back together, history of skepticism of nation-building (or whatever you want to call it), and about twenty other problems that relate almost exclusively to the kind of people running the DOD these days. While I don't think it's likely to work out like this, it's not that much of a stretch to see Rumsfeld and Co using this theory after the QDR to justify sinking enormous resources into a handful of overly expensive weapons and systems programs, while leaving it to a handful of MPs and light infantry to be told to clean up the mess afterwards. That would mean future days could look a lot uglier than they have to, with lightly armored MPs pulling route and area security missions that should be given to armored cavalry, light infantry kicking over hornet's nests that should be handled by mech infantry, troopers hunkered down under fire because no counter battery fires are available, etc. Remember the enormous firepower available to small bands of our enemies in the form of RPGs, AKs, and mortars and consider the possiblity that we still need considerable firepower to deal with them. We're better off with one force, that can protect itself and fight all the time, patrolling from Humvees if need be, or mounting tanks if that's called for. Calling for fire if need be, or shifting to information operations if that's called for. Etc, etc.

posted by: fritz on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Cranky - not ten times. Not even twice as large; just different. Shinseki said we'd need 300K to occupy the country. Rumsfeld thought we could win the battlefield with 150K. Both were right - but Rumsfeld failed to realize that it was possible for both to be right. We already have the 150K force necessary for administering the beatings; if we had made another 150K available to assist in the occupation in April and May 2003, things would be much different.[...]
Yes, IF we had immediately followed up the invasion with a force of 100,000 - 200,000 MPs and policemen from New York, Chicago, London, Cairo, and Jakarta, there might have been a chance for stability. Although I opposed the war, I thought there was a chance.

But (a) we didn't have those extra 100-200k MPs or the allies to provide them (b) we didn't do anything remotely similar.

Now there is zero chance that anything of that nature would work. I doubt that Iraq can be stabilized by the US now, but if it could it would easily take 200,000 troops and every policeman in the US (not that cops would be stupid enough to volunteer). Which we don't have and can't get.

It takes a glassblower 20 minutes to make a complex shape. It takes 5 minutes to pack that shape in protective material. Once broken, it takes hunderds of hours to fix it - and it most likely can't be fixed. That is the situation we are in now.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Ozoid, you're welcome. It's amazing both what Rumsfield could get away with saying, *and* that armored Humvee production wasn't at flat-out max for the past year, at the bare minimum. Consdering that this war was (for planning purposes) a high probability since 9/12/2001, it's even more disgraceful.

There was also a front-page article in USA Today about this, which I haven't read, which at a quick
skim contadicts Rumsfield:

There's also a story there which alleges that the soldier questioning Rumsfield was fed the question about armor, by a reporter:

This will, I predict, become the target of numerous right-wingers, seeking to distract from Rumsfield's incompetance.

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Cranky, it's true that the US didn't have 100K MP's to use.
However, the US did have 100K other troops,
which Bush and Rumsfield deliberately did not use.

The bitter joke is that, if the US *had* conquered Iraq with 300-400K troops,
it still would have been an impressive feat.

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Yes, I'm sure the right-wing blogs will be buzzing about the left-wing media fomenting dissension in the ranks. The problem is that no one is more reality-based than a soldier. They just don't understand how brilliant everyone is at AEI.

Now that someone's reported there are no real armor supply problems it's time for someone with a Rolodex to take a break from rewriting Pentagon press releases and transcribing stenographic records and make some phone calls to find out who in the Pentagon has lost the procurement orders in their inbox.

Until then, fine with me if the ranking Dems in the Armed Services Committee want to issue a daily press release noting that the orders still haven't been cut, like Nightline's opening graphic during the Iran hostage crisis.

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

I've been over on Tacitus - they've already 'gotten over it and moved on' to the reporter Hating America or something like that. Andrew Olmstead's blog hasn't figured out that angle yet; they just think that the factories have been producing flat-out, and that the violence in Iraq is confined to a small area.

I think that we've had a taste of the right's capacity for self-delusion in the past few years, but only a taste. The next four years will amaze and disgust anybody paying attention.

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Ozoid, I believe the stories we've heard don't quite fit the need.

We can make *more armored HumVs*. But we already have a whole lot of unarmored HumVees, and the question is how to armor them.

Most of the time it's better to have unarmored HumVees. Their awful gas mileage (9 mpg for the smaller lighter model, 3 mpg offroad) still isn't nearly as bad as the armored ones. If nobody's going to be shooting at you, it's better not to carry the armor. HumVees in germany or czechoslovakia or the USA etc mostly shouldn't be armored, except for training.

And we originally figured that nobody would be shooting at us in iraq, so most of the HumVees there were unarmored. But HumVees without armor don't belong in iraq at all. We simply don't have enough of them with armor, and 550 a month isn't going to get us enough for quite awhile even apart from the losses.

We need armor to retrofit thousands of unarmored HumVs. Still, the 2005 model is expected to have *better* armor.

posted by: J Thomas on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. The Humvee is built in a variety of configurations and, sure, unarmored will be preferred, unless you're in an environment where you're being shot at with machine guns and RPGs and IEDs are planted in the roads. That's been the case for some time. I don't think anyone with rank enough to choose their vehicle in Iraq is running around in an unarmored Humvee or sedan.

U.S. personnel don't drive to the airport from the green zone.

If there's a reason not to equip the troops with armored transport in Iraq, the administration hasn't offered it. Instead, they've opted for obfuscation.

Judging from the coverage I've seen & read, it isn't working, although I'm sure the right-wing bloggers have been busy convincing themselves that there's nothing wrong. Brooks claimed tonight on Lehrer that production was at capacity and Shields nicely told him he was flat-out wrong.

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Ozoid, I'll try to say it clearer.

What I've heard is that we're making armor for 450 nbew armored HumVees a month, and that could be inceased to 550. But they say they have to coordinate it with the guys who're making new HumVees. So if they get that put together they'll have 550 new armored HumVees a month.

But the reserves who're going to iraq aren't getting the new HumVees. They have old unarmored HumVees and they're trying to improvise armor for them.

Now let's guess how many HumVees are needed, based on inadequate data. The last I heard we were getting attacked about 150 timsw a day. I heard they stopped publishing that statistic and presumably the reason they stopped was that it went up, but I'll take the last figure. Assume that half the attacks are on HumVees. That's a conservative estimate because there are a lot more of them out there than anything else and they're the obvious targets, when we're coming after them with something ferocious they're more likely to run or hide. But it may not be that cosnervative because mortar attacks on our bases are also included in the estimate and there could be lots of those. Now assume that half the attacks fail. I think that's also conservative, HumVee armor isn't that good to start with and lots of them have inferior armor anyway. So we'd be getting around 35 damaged HumVees a day, about a thousand a month. There would be frantic repair efforts, but still 450 new ones a month might not be replacement rate.

Now a quick reality check. A thousand damaged HumVees a month would be how many casualties? Ignoring November when we attacked Fallujah, in october we had about 60 killed and 600 wounded. Assuming about half the casualties are HumVee ones, that would say 2/3 of the time when a HumVee is damaged or destroyed none of the men become official casualties. Is that unrealistic? An MP told me he'd had 4 HumVees shot out from under him and none of his guys got it. Maybe it's OK, or maybe it's 3 times the right amount and we're only losing 300 or so HumVees a month. Or eveb less.

Anyway, the 550 number was for the armor for brand-new NumVees that are designed to be armored, and the Reserves are improvising armor for old unarmored Humvees that weren't designed for it. There might be a temporary market for tretrofit armor, if it could be produced quickly enough and if the army could get through the RFP testing bidding etc procedure quick enough.

posted by: J Thomas on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

"Rumsfeld's reply is just another way of saying that no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. "

The administration's battle plan seemed to be 'take Baghdad, war ends, a miraculously intact Iraqi government takes over, troops down to 30K by September, prepare for Iran/Syria'.

Some people have a problem with this, some don't.

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Barry, let me expand on that:

When "no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy" is used as a defense of Rumsfeld's battle plan, what they're saying is that even if he had a decent plan it still wouldn't have worked. No plan works, no matter how good it is.

So why bother planning?

If we get rid of all the guys who're doign planning we might free up enough guys out of the Pentagon to reduce some of our staffing needs in iraq....

posted by: J Thomas on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Thanks, I think I understand your point and I agree that even ramping up production to current capacity isn't enough.

LAT has a good piece today on the situation on the ground:,1,7853164.story?coll=la-iraq-complete

And still, all we're talking about here is providing soldiers with current technology to give them a decent chance at surviving a routine patrol. Establishing civil society in Iraq is a problem of an entirely different order.

The incompetence layered on top of carelessness is truly breathtaking. Bush ported his managerial skills from the failed oil ventures directly to combat in the world's oil patch, but this time there's no one to bail him out from his blunders. Makes me nostalgic for the simple domestic corruption of the Harding administration.

posted by: Ozoid on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

I see now that when Rumsfeld was talking about "a matter of physics" he wasn't talking about the single company that has the contract to build armor for new HumVees.

He's talking about the 699th Maintenance Shop which apparently sits in kuwait and up-armors vehicles that have inadequate armor. They have added armor to 6000 some vehicles, and they have a maximum rate of about 400 vehicles a month, which by coincidence is about the rate that new HumVees are made in the USA. It isn't physics that we're making so few new HumVees, but it is physics that the 699th can't armor more old ones. They're taking steel, cutting it into shape, and putting it onto vehicles, and they can't do it faster without more men and equipment.

The obvious solution is to expand the 699th, or get them prefab steel, or whatever. It isn't really a problem of physics, it's a problem of engineering and logistics. Two of Rumsfeld's weaknesses.

posted by: J Thomas on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

Actually, the solution would have been to *have expanded* the 699th at least a year ago, when it was clear to all but the wing-nuts that we were engaged in an on-going guerrilla war in Iraq, and couldn't count on it magically going away once we had killed X 'dead-enders', where X was a relatively small number.

Another solution would have been to acquire light armored vehicles from several non-US sources, to supplement HUMVEE's. They could have been issued in unit chunks (i.e., this brigade gets the French XXX, that brigade gets the German YYY, the other brigade gets the British XXX) to simplify logistics. No company would have refused a juicy emergency contract from the US, carrying sweet profits. And even governments which were unwilling to send troops would probably be willing to send equipment - losing that carries low political risk.

It's not logistics and planning which are Rumsfield's weak spots - it's any planning whose core principle is not 'Fuck the Army, we don't need them'.

posted by: Barry on 12.08.04 at 11:52 AM [permalink]

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