November 29, 2005

Rebutting Odom X

Finally got a link to Gen. Odom's recent column on Iraq. Gen. Odom is a serious man and deserves to have his views addressed seriously. I completely disagree with them.

Here are some of the arguments against pulling out:

9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

9) On not supporting our troops by debating an early pullout. Many US officers in Iraq, especially at company and field grade levels, know that while they are winning every tactical battle, they are losing strategically. And according to the New York Times last week, they are beginning to voice complaints about Americans at home bearing none of the pains of the war. One can only guess about the enlisted ranks, but those on a second tour probably the majority today are probably anxious for an early pullout. It is also noteworthy that US generals in Iraq are not bubbling over with optimistic reports they way they were during the first few years of the war in Vietnam. Their careful statements and caution probably reflect serious doubts that they do not, and should not, express publicly. The more important question is whether or not the repressive and vindictive behavior by the secretary of defense and his deputy against the senior military -- especially the Army leadership, which is the critical component in the war -- has made it impossible for field commanders to make the political leaders see the facts.

Most surprising to me is that no American political leader today has tried to unmask the absurdity of the administration's case that to question the strategic wisdom of the war is unpatriotic and a failure to support our troops. Most officers and probably most troops don't see it that way. They are angry at the deficiencies in materiel support they get from the Department of Defense, and especially about the irresponsibly long deployments they must now endure because Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff have refused to enlarge the ground forces to provide shorter tours. In the meantime, they know that the defense budget shovels money out the door to maritime forces, SDI, etc., while refusing to increase dramatically the size of the Army.

As I wrote several years ago, "the Pentagon's post-Cold War force structure is so maritime heavy and land force weak that it is firmly in charge of the porpoises and whales while leaving the land to tyrants." The Army, some of the Air Force, the National Guard, and the reserves are now the victims of this gross mismatch between military missions and force structure. Neither the Bush nor the Clinton administration has properly "supported the troops." The media could ask the president why he fails to support our troops by not firing his secretary of defense.

It's just not true that one can only guess about the enlisted ranks, or even about the officer corps anymore. The blogging revolution has created a rich cadre of military bloggers of all ranks (though the generals tend to blog on restricted access .mil sites so far). We know what they believe because they write it for us to see and comment on each other's work. It is that work that informs and encourages civilians like me to raise my own voice.

While not every military voice is united in optimism, the vast majority are and you can read them in all their glory on the Internet. But not all milbloggers are currently serving. Some could resign or retire at any time and do a sharp about face the moment that they are no longer covered by the UCMJ. I watch for such about faces because I'm fully aware of the possibility of feeding disinformation through the milblog channel. If we start finding fake or pressured milbloggers it would be right to discredit this source but until then, named military officers who write on the record beat out anonymous claimed officers who won't sign their names to their supposed opinions. These people come to the end of their careers too. Why aren't they writing, speaking out, putting their name to their opinions? The discussion might actually improve public discourse

If Newt Gingrich is right that this is a Long War, a war of multiple generations, then pacing our sacrifice and involvement is key to our ultimate victory. If we're less than 10% into this war, I'm not sure what the appropriate pace of civilian sacrifice is. What I am sure of is that it shouldn't be a huge effort that will leave society burned out long before ultimate victory is in sight. It's a legitimate request to increase societal sacrifice but we've got to make sure that it's on a pacing that is sustainable.

Massive personnel increases combined with rapid pullout of Iraq do seem to be an odd policy combination. Personnel are the most expensive part of fielding an army. If we aren't to stick around to the finish in Iraq, what are all those soldiers supposed to be doing? We're closing down the FRG bases, moving to new basing structures that have far fewer troops at them, and flooding Afghanistan with US troops was never a bright idea because it might give the Afghans the wrong idea that we wanted to actually stay on a permanent basis.

Posted by TMLutas at November 29, 2005 05:18 PM