US Military

General Petraeus vs. the US Military

David Petraeus and Paul Bremer, Falluja, 2003

In sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

That extraordinarily contentious start of Fallon's mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus's recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.

The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when the Washington Post reported Sep. 9 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to "bad relations" between them is "the understatement of the century". . . .

The conflict between Fallon and Petraeus over Iraq came to a head in early September. According to the Post story, Fallon expressed views on Iraq that were sharply at odds with those of Petraeus in a three-way conversation with Bush on Iraq the previous weekend. Petraeus argued for keeping as many troops in Iraq for as long as possible to cement any security progress, but Fallon argued that a strategic withdrawal from Iraq was necessary to have sufficient forces to deal with other potential threats in the region.

Fallon's presentation to Bush of the case against Petraeus's recommendation for keeping troop levels in Iraq at the highest possible level just before Petraeus was to go public with his recommendations was another sign that Petraeus's role as chief spokesperson for the surge policy has created a deep rift between him and the nation's highest military leaders. Bush presumably would not have chosen to invite an opponent of the surge policy to make such a presentation without lobbying by the top brass.

Strategy: Win in Iraq with Lightweight Forces

"The Garbo Doctrine" (Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, 3/26/03):

In the months before war a debate raged in the Pentagon between, crudely put, the uniforms and the suits. The soldiers wanted more time, so they could build up to the 250,000 troops that would constitute the "overwhelming force" believed since the first Gulf war to be the best way to deploy US power. They wanted another month. But the Pentagon civilians, led by Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, insisted on going earlier, with many fewer men.

Why would a hawk like Rumsfeld prefer less to more? My Washington source offers an astonishing explanation: "So they can do it again." The logic is simple. Rumsfeld and co know that amassing an army of quarter of a million is a once-a-decade affair: 1991 and 2003. But if they can prove that victory is possible with a lighter, more nimble force, assembled rapidly - then why not repeat the trick? "This is just the beginning," an administration official told the New York Times this week. "I would not rule out the same sequence of events for Iran and North Korea as for Iraq."

Not as Easy as They Thought

Gideon Rose, "The Hawks Were Wrong" (Slate, 3/25/03):

With a few notable exceptions (such as Robert W. Kagan and, more recently, Kenneth Pollack), the Iraq hawks' favored strategy for toppling Saddam involved supporting the Iraqi opposition and, in particular, the Iraqi National Congress. Most of the dirty work of regime change, they argued, would not have to be done by the United States, but rather could and would be done by Iraqis themselves. The only things needed from America were financial and diplomatic support, training and equipment, and air cover. The actual fighting, if there was any, would be contracted out to local forces. . . .

But the war's progress to date is enough to put paid to the idea that Iraq was a paper tiger and that Saddam might have fallen quickly and easily to the less-than-daunting military prowess of the INC.


"The Arrogant Empire" -- Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, 3/24/03:

[T]he United States will spend as much next year on defense as the rest of the world put together (yes, all 191 countries). And it will do so devoting 4 percent of its GDP, a low level by postwar standards.

American dominance is not simply military. The U.S. economy is as large as the next three -- Japan, Germany and Britain -- put together. With 5 percent of the world's population, this one country accounts for 43 percent of the world's economic production, 40 percent of its high-technology production and 50 percent of its research and development. If you look at the indicators of future growth, all are favorable for America. It is more dynamic economically, more youthful demographically and more flexible culturally than any other part of the world. It is conceivable that America's lead, especially over an aging and sclerotic Europe, will actually increase over the next two decades.

Given this situation, perhaps what is most surprising is that the world has not ganged up on America already. Since the beginnings of the state system in the 16th century, international politics has seen one clear pattern -- the formation of balances of power against the strong. Countries with immense military and economic might arouse fear and suspicion, and soon others coalesce against them. It happened to the Hapsburg Empire in the 17th century, France in the late 18th and early 19th century, Germany twice in the early 20th century, and the Soviet Union in the latter half of the 20th century. At this point, most Americans will surely protest: "But we're different!" Americans -- this writer included -- think of themselves as a nation that has never sought to occupy others, and that through the years has been a progressive and liberating force. But historians tell us that all dominant powers thought they were special. Their very success confirmed for them that they were blessed. But as they became ever more powerful, the world saw them differently. The English satirist John Dryden described this phenomenon in a poem set during the Biblical King David's reign. "When the chosen people grew too strong," he wrote, "The rightful cause at length became the wrong."

Weblogging Soldiers

Weblogging US soldiers -- and their surprising freedom (for now) to do so -- as covered by the Wall Street Journal via Yahoo (3/25/03):

It's not hard to run this kind of Web site from the front. The armed services don't have centralized rules governing troops' Internet use, beyond restricting such obvious things as pornography and disclosure of military operational details. Each branch of the military has its own set of general guidelines, but typically delegates decisions about e-mail and Internet access to commanders in the field. There, soldiers can use the military's nonofficial network, the Nonsecure Internet Protocol Network, or Nippernet. Enlisted troops often have access to makeshift Internet cafes in the larger camps.

Maj. C.J. Wallington, team leader for the Army's secure intranet system, Army Knowledge Online, says because of the volume, the Army "can't spend a lot of time" checking soldiers' e-mail. "We put a lot of faith in soldiers to do the right thing," and apply the same discretion to their Internet communications that they'd use in personal conversations, he says.

The Army is considering incorporating blogging into its secure network where troops communicate with each other and their families. If such a system were put into place, the general public would no longer have access to such blogs.

Women in the US Military

New York Times editorial: "The Pinking of the Armed Forces" (3/23/03):

The news that one of the American soldiers taken captive by the Iraqis over the weekend is a woman serves as a reminder of how the American military has evolved, slowly and sometimes reluctantly, into an organization where the dangerous jobs of war are performed by both sexes. While women are still barred from some sorts of duty, the case for equal footing is gaining ground.

Thanks to changes in the law in 1994, women, who make up 15 percent of the military, are eligible for about 90 percent of all service positions. Those gains were a recognition of the performance of the 41,000 women deployed as part of Desert Storm three years earlier. Despite legal limits on combat participation, 13 women died and many more were wounded in that conflict.

But while the law opened the door for women a little wider, glass ceilings have held firm and women have made gains in just a small fraction of the jobs supposedly open to them. Helping to hold them back are the remaining taboos and the misperceptions of physical and mental inadequacies that they perpetuate. . . .

The United States, with the most advanced military in history, is simply a laggard on the topic of women in combat. One million women served in the Soviet Army in World War II, and Israel, Canada and South Africa are among the countries that now give women combat roles. The American policies of excluding women threaten the readiness of the armed forces, particularly when there is no draft.