The following revelation comes from an article in the January 22, 2007 Newsweek Issue, titled,
Blame for the Top Brass:
Given all the recriminations over the mess in Iraq, it is remarkable how little criticism has fallen on the U.S. military. Americans want to honor the sacrifice of the troops in the field...But in the public blame game that's erupted on Capitol Hill and on the cable news talk shows, the armed services are largely given a free pass.
Some top soldiers, however, aren't so sure they should be let off the hook. Is there, NEWSWEEK asked retired Gen. William Nash, who commanded U.S. forces in Bosnia in the 1990s and remains plugged in, a sense within the Army of mistakes made in Iraq? "It's pervasive," he answered. Gen. Jack Keane, the Army vice chief of staff at the time of the Iraq invasion in March 2003, told NEWSWEEK: "Everyone recognizes that we made mistakes. The harder part is what to learn from them."
No one understands the Army's march of folly in Iraq better than the commander who has just been chosen to find a better way: Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. For the past 14 months, Petraeus has supervised the writing of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency warfare, FM 3-24. Mistake No. 1, the manual instructs, is to "overemphasize killing and capturing the enemy rather than securing and engaging the populace." That pretty well describes what the Army has done in Iraq since the first improvised explosive devices began detonating.
...Will Petraeus, like so many generals in all wars before him, be honor- and duty-bound by the Army's chief virtue, which is also its main vice: the tendency to smartly salute civilian superiors, no matter how wrongheaded they are?
...Petraeus is starting in a deep hole that was dug not just by the Army's civilian bosses, but by its uniformed leaders. It is worth examining just how flawed the Army's leadership has been in Iraq to understand the pressures on Petraeus and the immense challenge faced by the soldiers and Marines bound for Iraq.
The problems began almost immediately. On the eve of the invasion, Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, predicted that an occupation would require "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers." The proposal was quickly ridiculed as "outlandish" by neoconservative Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. A myth has grown around Shinseki's comments, which were made in response to a senator's question at a hearing. At two meetings of top commanders with the president in the weeks before the war—the real time for truth telling—Shinseki did not raise this concern, say two participants who did not want to be identified discussing presidential meetings. Asked nine months ago by NEWSWEEK if he should have pressed harder with the president, Shinseki answered, "Probably that's fair."
Army Gen. John Abizaid, who ran Central Command from mid-2003 until his recent replacement by Adm. William Fallon, is a particularly poignant case of duty's trumping wisdom. An Arab-American, he was more sensitive than most to the problems of a Western nation's occupying an Islamic one. He warned that the occupiers urgently needed at least 40,000 Iraqi troops to handle security. And yet, with little apparent protest, he signed on to the Bush administration's misguided decision to disband the Iraqi Army after the war. (Abizaid did not respond to a request for comment.)
It seems incredible, in retrospect, that the Army had no strategy for battling insurgents after the invasion. When Petraeus's predecessor, Gen. George Casey, arrived at Baghdad headquarters as the commander of Coalition forces, he asked his staff to set up a meeting with the HQ's counterinsurgency team. "His request was met with silence," reports retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, a gulf-war veteran and author of an admired study of combat organization. (There was no such staff or counterinsurgency plan.)
In his Princeton University Ph.D. thesis on the lessons of the Vietnam War, Petraeus wrote that the Army should prepare for the inevitability of future "low-intensity wars," nonconventional combat that involves civilians and guerrilla fighters. But most generals learned a different lesson from failure in Vietnam. Public revulsion at the war nearly destroyed what the Army cherished most—the support of the citizenry. The solution? Leave guerrilla fighting to a few highly trained Special Forces. The main Army would concentrate on Big Wars, to be fought with speed, mobility and lethal high-tech weaponry.
Army planners were not oblivious to the risks of a long occupation after a successful, lightning invasion. The pre-war chief of Central Command, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, says, "The thing
that kept getting us was: if you go into Iraq you are going to inherit a broken society." But his successor, Gen. Tommy Franks, concentrated almost entirely on the invasion—and essentially ignored postwar planning. Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin, the ranking Republican and Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, asked Franks why. "He said he was told to stay the hell out of it" by his civilian boss, Rumsfeld, Levin recalled. (Franks denies this.)
Gen. Jack Keane, at the time the Army's vice chief of staff, told NEWSWEEK that Franks believed that the postwar planning, known as Phase Four, was the responsibility of a different general, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, head of the tiny, understaffed Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (who in turn was soon replaced by a civilian, Ambassador Paul Bremer). "Franks was dead wrong, and I don't believe he did this thing right, but he literally washed his hands of this Phase Four stuff," says Keane, speaking with unusual bluntness about a fellow officer. (Franks disagrees, pointing out that Garner served under him.)
Keane himself was stepping down just as the insurgency started in late spring 2003. "I went to Iraq in June, looked at it and I knew we were in deep s--t," Keane told NEWSWEEK. "I was going out the door. I felt frustrated. Frustrated with the situation, frustrated with myself and everything else. And somewhat guilty because I knew how ill prepared the Army was to deal with it." But Keane gave no public warnings.
In and around Baghdad, the Army's approach was "kinetic"; it would use firepower and brute force. Untrained in counterinsurgency, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, ordered his men to kick in doors and arrest any man who looked like an insurgent. Overflowing their cells at Abu Ghraib, the prisoners became targets of poorly trained, overwhelmed guards. The consequences to America's image in Iraq—and in the Arab and Muslim worlds—were disastrous. (Odierno, who has recently gone back to Baghdad, where he will be working under Petraeus, insisted in an earlier interview with NEWSWEEK that he had not been heavy-handed.)
...Petraeus was philosophical about Mosul's descent into chaos, which occurred mostly after he left to become head of training for the Iraqi Army in 2004. "Any army of liberation has a certain half-life before it becomes an army of occupation," he told a NEWSWEEK reporter at the time. There's an evolution to the way any army of liberation is seen—and there's nothing that can be done to stop changing perceptions.
Petraeus is a resourceful, imaginative commander who has shown an ability to adapt to rude surprises. It may be that he is confident he can adjust to whatever the Iraq war throws at him—probably, intensified street fighting. But he will need to be creative, and he may need to do what generals do not like to do: tell the president that he's wrong, that Iraq cannot be won by more force, that the time has come to pull back.
Even Petraeus's own strategy may have been overrun by events. "It's ironic," says one of the drafters of Petraeus's new counterinsurgency manual, who declined to be identified because he did not wish to irk his superiors. "We've finished the counterinsurgency manual just as Iraq looks like it's heading for civil war. We don't have a doctrine for that."
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.
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