Thursday, June 8, 2006

Old Man Bush is still looking out for Little George

And not finding it an easy task, apparently.

Sidney Blumenthal is reporting that George Bush Sr. asked retired general to replace Rumsfeld Salon 06/08/06.  He writes:

Former President George H.W. Bush waged a secret campaign over several months early this year to remove Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The elder Bush went so far as to recruit Rumsfeld's potential replacement, personally asking a retired four-star general if he would accept the position, a reliable source close to the general told me. But the former president's effort failed, apparently rebuffed by the current president. When seven retired generals who had been commanders in Iraq demanded Rumsfeld's resignation in April, the younger Bush leapt to his defense. "I'm the decider and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain," he said. His endorsement of Rumsfeld was a rebuke not only to the generals but also to his father.

But Old Man Bush has his a difficult task taking care of Junior:

The former president, a practitioner of foreign policy realism, was intruding on the president's parallel reality. But the realist was trying to shake the fantasist in vain. "The president believes the talking points he's given and repeats on progress in Iraq," a Bush administration national security official told me. Bush redoubles his efforts, projects his firmness, in the conviction that the critics lack his deeper understanding of Iraq that allows him to see through the fog of war to the Green Zone as a city on a hill.

Just as his father cannot break Bush's enchantment with "victory," so the revelation of the Haditha massacre does not cause him to change his policy. For him, the alleged incident is solely about the individual Marines involved; military justice will deal with them. It's as though the horrific event had nothing to do with the war. Haditha, too, exists in a bubble.

Readers of Old Hickory's Weblog may find something familiar in this following part of Blumenthal's article.  He's talking about the response to the Haditha massacre by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who ordered an immediate investigation when he heard of the "incident":

Chiarelli, as Thomas E. Ricks reported in the Washington Post, "is an unusual  general in today's Army, with none of the 'good old boy' persona seen in many other top commanders.  He had praised an article by a British officer that was sharply critical of U.S. officers in Iraq for using tactics that alienated the population. He wanted U.S. forces to operate differently than they had been doing."

The article that influenced Chiarelli was published in the Army's Military Review, in its November-December 2005 issue, and was written by British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a deputy commander training the Iraqi military.  In it he wrote that U.S. officers showed "cultural insensitivity" that "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and "fueled the insurgency." Aylwin-Foster also argued that the U.S. doctrine of "too kinetic" war fighting was part and parcel of its "cultural insensitivity," accelerating the alienation of Iraqis and stimulating the insurgency.  "In short," he wrote, "the U.S. Army has developed over time a singular focus on conventional warfare, of a particularly swift and violent style, which left it ill-suited to the kind of operation it encountered as soon as conventional warfighting ceased to be the primary focus in OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom)."  He concluded that the prevailing notion of military victory was self-undermining, contributing to failure, and that the United States in Iraq needed to rethink its fundamental doctrine: "The realization that all military activity is subordinate to political intent, and must be attuned accordingly: mere destruction of the enemy is not the answer."

I posted about that Aylwin-Foster article in Iraq War: Fighting a counterinsurgency war as a conventional war 03/18/06.   I also cited it in  Criticizing the military, criticizing Bush 01/12/06.  For Salon readers, it may be new.  But for OHW readers, it's old hat.  :) :)

Blumenthal talks about one way Little George got himself into such a fix:

The Bush way of war has been ahistorical and apolitical, and therefore warped strategically, putting absolute pressure on the military to provide an outcome it cannot provide - "victory." From the start, Bush has placed the military at a disadvantage, and not only because he put the Army in the field in insufficient numbers, setting it upon a task it could not accomplish. U.S. troops are trained for conventional military operations, not counterinsurgency, which requires the utmost restraint in using force. The doctrinal fetish of counterterrorism substitutes for and frustrates counterinsurgency efforts.

Conventional fighting takes two primary forms: chasing and killing foreign fighters as if they constituted the heart of the Sunni insurgency and seeking battles like Fallujah as if any would be decisive. Where battles don't exist, assaults on civilian populations, often provoked by insurgents, are misconceived as battles. While this is not a version of some video game, it is still an illusion.

And he quotes another military analyst and historian often cited here at OHW:

Jeffrey Record, a prominent strategist at a U.S. military war college, told me: "Perhaps worse still, conventional wisdom is dangerously narcissistic. It completely ignores the enemy, assuming that what we do determines success or failure. It assumes that only the United States can defeat the United States, an outlook that set the United States up for failure in Vietnam and for surprise in Iraq."

Jeffrey Record has published books on the Vietnam War (The Wrong War: Why We Lost in Vietnam [1998]), the Gulf War (Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War [1993]) and one already on the Iraq War (Dark Victory: America's Second War Against Iraq [2004]).

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