This post is in response to McCaffrey’s assessments about Iraq which you can read here. Sourced from The Belmont Club: More on Iraq
There’s no way that the problems with bureacracy, even DoD bureacracy, can be changed in the few months that Petraeus has had to work counter-insurgency in Iraq.
McCaffrey is intermixing tactical flexibility and “leadership on the ground changes” with Secretary of Defense macromanagement policies. There is nothing the Secretary of Defense can do, same as Bush, when it comes to matters an entire ocean away, if the military commanders an ocean away don’t want to fix the problems correctly.
This is because neither Bush nor Rumsfeld were going to overrule their military commanders and micromanage. McCaffrey definitely saw problems fixed, but he has no evidence to say it was fixed because of a change in a single man, called Rumsfeld.
Healing the Moral Fissures in the Armed Forces – The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces—that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.
Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma—who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)
It really is a personal axe to grind, due to the fact that McCaffrey knows as well as anyone else that Rumsfeld wanted to resign after Abu Ghraib, and then once again, but the President overruled him. Because Rumsfeld is a patriot, Rumsfeld withdrew his resignation from the President.
McCaffrey is engaging in cognitive dissonance to believe and say that Rumsfeld did not hold himself personally accountable, while recognizing that Rumsfeld left office and thus “things changed”. Yes, things changed, but Admiral Fallon and Petraeus was NOT promoted and assigned under Gates, if you recall.
I suppose if most of the military high command from Vietnam were blaming the problems on Iraq on Rumsfeld, then obviously they were not focusing on solving the problem as Petraeus has shown how to do.
Rumsfeld may indeed have been an impediment, but only due to the blindness of people like McCaffrey. Such things always occur in team dynamics. The team may have made a wrong decision, and a single member may have been “right”, but if that member can’t work with the team, then the team ditches the member. Pure self-survival reflex.
Every war needs a scapegoat for defeats. This has been true even when Athens won a war but their general overstepped his time limit.
It doesn’t mean that this is about a sudden instantaneous transformation just cause Rumsfeld finally resigned, due to the fact that Bush somehow got convinced change was needed due to the electoral defeats in 2006.
Due to the fact that when I tried to recall if in fact Admiral Fallon and Petraeus was assigned their commands under Rumsfeld or Gates, I couldn’t remember the exact date of their being assigned, I went back to check on this information for accuracy.
Even if Gates did, for some reason or the other due to a shift in Presidential strategy, assign new commanders, the question then becomes why. If Abizaid and others had to go, why if Rumsfeld was the problem and when Rumsfeld had to go then Fallon and such folks could then “speak” more openly than they could under Rumsfeld?
There’s more than one ways to look at it.
Rumsfeld and the President may have already decided that if the Republicans lost the election because the American people was no longer convinced by the President’s strategy, the President would accept Rumsfeld’s resignation, get somebody else as head of DoD, and also clean out the army commanders that Rumsfeld had to work with and thus were basing their strategic overview on.
This would make the question of who decided to replace Abizaid and who decided to reassign Admiral Fallon, moot. Since obviously there was a change and people, not just Rumsfeld, had to go. Contrary to McCaffrey’s descriptions that Rumsfeld went and that by itself changed things for the better due to an improvement in leadership.
There were a couple of links I had found on this subject matter.
I looked in the google archives for the dates. The election results came in around November 10. On January 5, Michael T. Klare of thenation claimed that Gates announced the command change for Abizaid.
Part of the explanation for this move, of course, is a desire by the White House to sweep away bitter ground-force commanders like Abizaid and Casey who had opposed an increase in US troops in Iraq and argued for shifting greater responsibility for the fighting to Iraq forces, thereby permitting a gradual American withdrawal. “The Baghdad situation requires more Iraqi troops,” not more Americans, Abizaid said in a recent interview with the New York Times. For this alone, Abizaid had to go.
There was some talk of Abizaid already having a 2 year tour extended. There seemed to be an expectation that he would leave soon after the mid term elections. Casey was due for reassign in summer or spring though, so his was stepped up, which is consistent with the analysis that Bush wanted to clear the deck, starting with the top military and civilian leaders beholden or responsible for the failed strategy in Iraq.
Another argument against McCaffrey’s claim is that Petraeus served as trainer of Iraqis and also helped write and publish the Army’s new COIN manual. He also made it available to everyone.
How could Petraeus have taken such effective action, such as turning the entire Iraqi training scenario around so that it could even be feasible to think that Iraqis could take over for Americans, if Rumsfeld was as McCaffrey described him as?
Other people may have noticed this or not, but Rumsfeld when he answered questions about military investigations in Abu Ghraib and other such incidents always spoke that he would never comment on it because that would be interfering with an internal investigation. This seems to imply that Rumsfeld, like Bush, prefers a hands off style of management and leadership. Let the subordinates pick and choose what to do and then give them what they need to do it.
This, also, as you may have seen, can lead to people accusing Bush of micromanaging and overruling his military commanders. That thing about Schumaker and more troops, and the accussation that Bush fired him cause Bush didn’t want to hear any dissension amongst the ranks.
The New York Times actually had a pretty thorough report for once
I’m not basing my views on such news reports, of course, given that the signs about Bush changing strategy was already there given his speeches between 2006-7.
Bush is very loyal to his people. He wanted Abizaid on because Bush thought Abizaid could get it done. It took a lot of things to occur to convince Bush otherwise.
We could get into lots of problems over who decided what and who decided which person would get command of Iraq and Central, but I don’t think that really matters in light of the limited point McCaffrey was making.
If Rumsfeld helped to decide or recommend Petraeus or Fallon, then that invalidates McCaffrey’s praise of Petraeus and Fallon while slighting Rumsfeld’s abilities. If Rumsfeld had no part whatsoever to do with the President or Gate’s decision to clear the rest of the deck, then McCaffrey’s comments about Petraeus, Fallon, and the changes in Iraq also have no bearing on Rumsfeld’s leadership abilities not bringing success in Iraq. For Casey and Abizaid, the generals Rumsfeld had under him, couldn’t bring success to Iraq either. A leader takes responsibility, yes, which is why Rumsfeld tried to resign and then withdrew his resignation. Twice if inside reports are true.
The only thing we know for sure is that Rumsfeld and Bush did what the military commanders on the ground wanted and publicly spoke about many times. As the Iraqis step up, we will step down. The solution to Iraq is for Iraqis to create security, not us. Petraeus has the same goal, except he said that Iraqis won’t step up unless we step up with them and demonstrate our courage and strength. Such a philosophy allowed Petraeus to improve the training of Iraqis from miserable to moderately successful. Giving him command of all combat forces in Iraq has done a lot more than that. That we know with as much certainty as there can be.