Monday, December 18, 2006

How the military commanders get "all they need"

Following up on that long review of Dereliction of Duty, here is what William Arkin had to say on Monday about the decision-making in the Pentagon and how the process works to allow the civilian officials to say they are always "giving the military commanders whatever they say they need".  Arkin writes in What a "Surge" of Forces Really Means in Iraq Washington Post 12/18/06:

Though it is unseemly that Rumsfeld is unable to take any responsibility to the Iraq quagmire, in a way he is right. The uniformed military has always been split with regard to how many soldiers and Marines were needed in Iraq. Early in the war, there is no question that Rumsfeld and his big brains in the office of the Secretary of Defense rejected calls for heavier forces to defeat the Iraqi army and topple Saddam Hussein, but since "mission accomplished" as commanders on the ground - particularly Army commanders - have called for increases and surges, they have mostly been thwarted by their own.

Proposals for increases have been rejected at the Joint Chiefs level. Gen. John Abizaid, the Central Command theater commander or Gen. George Casey, the Iraq commander, have brought forth proposals for more in the "tank," the closed decision changer where Pentagon horse trading is done. ...

Word "comes down" that the political decision-makers aren't going to look favorably on an increase request. The Washington military elite - the Chairman, the Vice, the director of the Joint Staff, the head of plans and policy - lets it be known "offline" that the debate is closed, that "people" at higher levels are getting irritated, that there are bigger fish to fry. Field commanders return with their tails between their legs, they redouble their efforts, they change tack. But this is how the system works: No one actually is ever making a firm request for an increase and no one is taking a stand to say "no." In this way, Rumsfeld can claim that he has never turned down a combatant commander's request for more troops.

I'm sure we'll read in the histories of the Iraq War ten years down the road that there were all sorts of proposals and contingencies and nascent requests, but the record will be miraculously thin on how those requests just never seemed to go anywhere.  (my emphasis)

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