Friday, April 27, 2007

Lt. Col. Yingling's truth to power, appended by moi

Let me copy and paste the credentials for Lt. Col. Paul Yingling direct from the article he authored in the Armed Forces Journal which this post will focus upon:
ARMY LT. COL. PAUL YINGLING is deputy commander, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm.
I think this mans service to his country is laudable, and would challenge anyone who attacked his motivations in expressing himself to give their own credentials for comparison with Lt. Col. Yingling's. By and large those who challenge what this man has to say will be found to have taken advantage of deferments to avoid service in Vietnam, or to be members of the infamous fighting keyboarders, whose sole service to this nation is literally cheerleading the effort in front of web cams.

Having dared the rabid right wing pundiots to challenge the good Lt. Col, let me now admit that I do have one small addition I would have added to his overall message. However I will not pretend to have ultimate knowledge or infallible logic on the issue. I'm certain Yingling would chew me up and spit me out in a one on one debate over any possible differences... but I'd last longer than your average koolaid drinker! In fact it very well may be the case that the issue I will raise with this post can be explained in such a way as to perfectly match Yingling's and my own points of view.

Lt. Col. Yingling writes a scathing review of military leadership regarding the conduct of the Iraq war, and he calls upon Congress to intervene in order to try to correct the problem:
These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.
Here is the addendum I would add to his reasoning: I do concur that the generals have failed, but only because the military goes to war with the leadership they are given, not with the leadership they would like to have. It is the Presidents role to fill those spots with good leaders. It is the President who appointed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the President refused to sack him after the Iraq adventure was proven to be sadly off the tracks.

It was the Rumsfeld doctrine which led to the undermanned occupation of Iraq. Here is Lt. Col. Yingling's take on this:
The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.
Conducting a search of the article serves to prove that "Rumsfeld" does not receive one mention from Lt. Col Yingling. Yet it was Rumsfeld who ignored the established military precepts described so well by Yingling. Those generals who disagreed were sidelined and the generals remaining learned that lesson all too well. You might argue that the generals who were left to carry out administration policy ought to have shown more courage in public, but I believe history shows that they simply would have been replaced by generals willing to play along to get along. This is borne out by Bush's treatment of the top generals in place when he proposed the surge. They (Generals Pace and Abizaid) disagreed with that policy and were replaced by generals who think the surge is a viable way forward.

I think Lt. Col. Yingling recognized this problem, but he holds his fire on this particular aspect because in his current role as a high ranking member of the Army it is not seemly for him to criticize civilian leadership. Indeed, searching the article for "Bush" turns up only one mention of the President, which is included in the above quote. Yet it is a given that the President is the commander in chief and ultimately responsible for the condition of this nations military. President Bush's culpability in this is even greater considering the rubberstamp Congress he dealt with until last years election. If the President is given every cent and approval for every nomination he wants, it rings hollow to only find fault with those whom the President is appointing. At some point a pattern of the President appointing yes men to important posts becomes evident, in every aspect of the administration, not just the military.

The closest Lt. Col. Yingling comes to criticizing civilian leadership is with this quote:
Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America's general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem.
Even if my approach is to place the blame for the ills of today's military leadership at the feet of the President and Secretary of Defense to a much greater extent than Lt. Col. Yingling does, I think his proposal to fix the problem is confirmation of the case I forward. He does not call on the President to take action. He doesn't call upon the Secretary of Defense to step into the breach with a drive for sweeping reform. Yingling calls upon the Congress to take several steps to fix this problem. I think the recommendations by Lt. Col Yingling would bring fire and brimstone from the Bush administration if Congress ever saw fit to take his advice. Can you imagine the heat if Congress rejected a Bush appointee because they did not demonstrate sufficient educational aptitude or the capability to speak a foreign language?! Yingling does not advocate a general should be rejected on such grounds alone, but he is definitely calling for a greater role in Congressional oversight of Presidential appointees with an eye to those types of qualifications. His solution bypasses the civilian chain of command, because that chain of command has failed abysmally.

Let me wrap this up with a huge caveat here. I truly am trying to ascribe a position to him which Lt. Col. Yingling does not come outright and take. I admit it. I think there are reasons he can not say what I am saying here, but then again, it may well be the case that he believes the entire problem with military leadership is systemic to the nature of the military system. He certainly does spend time pointing out those shortcomings. In fact, arguing against my own point of view, Yingling does advocate that officers who did not agree with the course of events in Iraq should have spoken up publicly, in what can only be seen as public opposition to civilian leadership. Maybe in not taking it to civilian leadership himself, Yingling confronts the conundrum posed to the same generals he thinks ought to have raised these issues publicly.

Caveats aside though, I agree with everything he writes... I just have the addendum I have spelled out regarding those who lead the military leaders.

Your trying to place all of the blame on the President and Defense Secretary. You end soundling like most people who refuse to blame the military because its not American or something to that aspect. The President and Defence Sec. should take some of the blame but the military has to take some also for producing leaders who tell the President what he likes to hear and not what he needs to hear.

You also stated in your article that the Lt. Col. doesn't blame the President because of his High Ranking status. Well I don't know why he doesn't talk about the President but I do know that the Lt. Col. has sacraficed his career and will definitely not see a star on his uniform for writing this article.
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