Cobra II

The war was barely a week old when Gen. Tommy R. Franks threatened to fire the Army’s field commander.
From the first days of the invasion in March 2003, American forces had tangled with fanatical Saddam Fedayeen paramilitary fighters. Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, who was leading the Army’s V Corps toward Baghdad, had told two reporters that his soldiers needed to delay their advance on the Iraqi capital to suppress the Fedayeen threat in the rear.
Soon after, General Franks phoned Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of allied land forces, to warn that he might relieve General Wallace.
The firing was averted after General McKiernan flew to meet General Franks. But the episode revealed the deep disagreements within the United States high command about the Iraqi military threat and what would be required to defeat it.
The dispute, related by military officers in interviews, had lasting consequences. The unexpected tenacity of the Fedayeen in the battles for Nasiriya, Samawa, Najaf and other towns on the road to Baghdad was an early indication that the adversary was not merely Saddam Hussein’s vaunted Republican Guard.
The paramilitary Fedayeen were numerous, well-armed, dispersed throughout the country, and seemingly determined to fight to the death. But while many officers in the field assessed the Fedayeen as a dogged foe, General Franks and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saw them as little more than speed bumps on the way to Baghdad. Three years later, Iraq has yet to be subdued. Many of the issues that have haunted the Bush administration about the war — the failure to foresee a potential insurgency and to send sufficient troops to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein’s government was toppled — were foreshadowed early in the conflict. How some of the crucial decisions were made, the behind-the-scenes debate about them and early cautions about a sustained threat have not been previously known.
A United States Marines intelligence officer warned after the bloody battle at Nasiriya, the first major fight of the war, that the Fedayeen would continue to mount attacks after the fall of Baghdad since many of the enemy fighters were being bypassed in the race to the capital.

A NYT snippet from the new book by Michael Gordon and Lt. Gen Bernard Trainor, USMC(R), which promises to be a barn burner. Major Dad’s copy should be in the mail. It sounds like it’s going to dovetail nicely with “The Assassin’s Gate” he’s reading and thoroughly engrossed in now (about, he says, “a bunch of Phd’s who think they’re smarter than anybody else and who were incapable of digesting any point of view that was remotely different than anything they’d already decided upon” ~ he recommends it highly).

7 Responses to “Cobra II”

  1. John says:

    “a bunch of Phd’s who think they’re smarter than anybody else and who were incapable of digesting any point of view that was remotely different than anything they’d already decided upon
    I thought that was the definition of a non-science Ph.D. (had to throw that “non-science” in there, now didn’t I ;-))

  2. Mr. Bingley says:

    Like all those non-science PhuDs who preach on global warming? Oh wait, those are science PhuDs…
    I think fervent belief in one’s pre-conceived notions pops up in all branches of the Academy (aw hell, in life, too), John.

  3. **I’ve updated a few things in this comment
    As well you should, being a charter member of the “SCIENCE PHD Protection Society”. And it would appear you’re correct. Who stands over, say, your shoulder to argue the science of what you’re doing? If anyone, another SCIENCE PHD probably, correct? Wolfowitz NEO-CON standing over Shinseki SOLDIER’s shoulder: who wins? The neo-con, not the duty expert. (**By virtue of his experience in the Balkans.) Shinseki said “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers”* and the aftermath, while Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld said the good general’s requirements were a tad exaggerated in contrast to the think tankers‘ projections.

    Wolfowitz was far more blunt in testimony Thursday before the House Budget Committee when asked to comment on Shinseki’s estimate. ‘Way off the mark,’ he said.

    So Shinseki gets a year as a lame duck and an office change of command for his gloominess and we get a 3 year old sh*t sandwich, thanks to Wolfowitz’s battlefield/nationbuilding ‘expertise’.
    *Along with other military commanders, General Zinni was saying the same thing:

    I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task. And I think those of us that knew that region, former commanders in chief, I guess we can’t use that term anymore – part of transformation is to change the lexicon – but former combatant commanders of U.S. Central Command, beginning with Gen. Schwarzkopf, have said you don’t understand what you’re getting into. You are not going to go through Edelman’s “cakewalk;” you are not going to go through Chalabi’s dancing in the streets to receive you. You are about to go into a problem that you don’t know the dimensions and the depth of, and are going to cause you a great deal of pain, time, expenditure of resources and casualties down the road.

    I can’t understand why there was an underestimation when you look at a country that has never known democracy, that has been in the condition it’s been in, that has the natural fault lines that it has, and the issues it has. And to look at the task of reconstructing this country, not only reconstructing it, but the idea of creating Jeffersonian democracy almost overnight, is almost ridiculous, in concept, in the kind of time and effort that was given as an estimate as to what it would take.

    **From “The Assassin’s Gate”:
    (After Gen. Shinseki’s testimony, Wolfowitz gets on the phone to the Army Secretary)”…He was agitated that he and the Army didn’t ‘get it’.
    Rumsfeld wanted it lean and mean because “if more troops had to be found and were sent, the direction into which he wanted to takle the 21st century military would be called into serious question.”
    General Meyers and others kept their mouths shut with Gen. Shinseki as proof “the cost of dissent was humiliation and professional suicide.”

  4. John says:

    Well, THS, I’d argue that the “person” standing over my shoulder checking the science is empirical evidence itself: either my predictions turn out to be right, or I have to scrap the theory. Other scientists are there to do the sentencing, but the jury is the evidence itself.
    With global warming the jury is still out, but I’d say that one side has been trying to tamper with it. That’s unscientific. When the time comes that we can test some real hypotheses, we’ll sort the sheep from the goats – the people who insist on sticking to the disproven model will be branded poor scientitsts by the rest of us. That’s why I beat up on Carl Sagan and “Nuclear Winter” every so once in a while on my blog:
    The difference between hard science and the rest of the Academy is that experiments are made to test hypotheses and expose sloppy or incorrect thinking. Which is then hounded to death. I currently work as an applied social scientist, and I’m very familiar weith the problems of framing and conducting experiments on living subjects, especially allgedly sentient ones such as humans, but most social scientists don’t even try to be rigorous.

  5. major dad says:

    Wolfowitz has a degree in math from Cornell and a PhD in political science from Chicago U. He is certainly one of those pinheads who has never left academia or government otherwords never had a real job. Once his mind is set no amount of common sense or facts will sway him. “How could I be wrong”.

  6. John says:

    Major Dad: Logic is a method of arriving at the wrong answer with confidence.
    Or as I.M. Kolthoff used to say: “theory guides, experiment decides”.

  7. PinHeadPhD1 says:

    Here are 4 key assumptions that the administration made–there are more but this note will be long enough as it is.
    1) Iraq had WMD. Strike one. From Cobra II I am uncertain if the administration believed this. One of Rumsfeld’s assumptions was that Iraq would collapse like a house of cards with the first blow. If that were correct, as the book addresses, then there wouldn’t have been adequate forces to secure the WMD’s. If our greatest concern was WMD’s getting into the hands of terrorists, it would seem tremendously risky to have a plan whose primary design was not focused on securing them.
    2) 140,000 troops would do the job. In a sense, this was correct. 140,000 achieved the goal of regime collapse.
    3) Iraq would not require extensive nation building. Strike two.
    4) Nation building would be accomplished by the Iraqi’s and paid for by oil revenue. Strike three.
    I have read enough history to believe that all leaders make grave mistakes that cost their nation blood and treasure. But when one goes to war as a matter of choice rather than as an absolute “last-resort,” then a special, higher obligation to be correct about the “big things” falls on the shoulders of the decision makers. There was no precipitous crisis that drove us to war. It was engineered. The engineers and architects of this war were incorrect about some of the most fundamental aspects of this enterprise.
    If they believed Iraq had WMD and that was one of the critical mistakes they made, then they should merely resign because of incompetence. If they did not actually believe Iraq had WMD and they were using that as a pretext, they should be indicted/impeached.

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