FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rumsfeld vs. the Generals

 

Last October, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered the military’s regional commanders to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence and speedier deployment in the event the United States decided to invade Iraq. That plan, which Rumsfeld helped shape, has now failed and has led to deep divisions between military commanders and the defense, according to recent news reports.

Despite Rumsfeld’s recent denials that he did not override requests by military brass to deploy more ground troops in Iraq last year, the cornerstone of his war plan against Iraq was in fact designed to use fewer ground troops, according to a copy of the plan; a move that angered some in the military who said concern for the troops would require overwhelming superiority on the ground to assure victory.

These officers said they view Rumsfeld’s approach as injecting too much risk into war planning and have said it could result in U.S. casualties that might be prevented by amassing larger forces.

But Rumsfeld refused to listen to his military commanders, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post Saturday.

Rumsfeld was quoted in news reports last year as saying that his plan would allow “the military to begin combat operations on less notice and with far fewer troops than thought possible — or thought wise — before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

“Looking at what was overwhelming force a decade or two decades ago, today you can have overwhelming force, conceivably, with lesser numbers because the lethality is equal to or greater than before” Rumsfeld said.

The speedier use of smaller and more agile forces also could provide the president with time to order an offensive against Iraq that could be carried out this winter, the optimal season for combat in the desert, which is exactly what President Bush did.

The new approach for how the U.S. might go to war, Rumsfeld said last year, reflects an assessment of the need after Sept. 11 to refresh war plans continuously and to respond faster to threats from terrorists and nations possessing biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Rumsfeld first laid the groundwork for a U.S. led invasion of Iraq shortly after the Sept. 11. Like his well-known, “Rumsfeld’s rules,”–a collection of wisdom he has compiled over three decades on how to succeed in Washington, Rumsfeld’s checklist used the same methodical approach to determining when U.S. military force should be used in the event of war against Iraq.

Rumsfeld kept the checklist tucked away in his desk drawer at the Pentagon. Since last March, when it became clear that the Bush administration was leaning toward using military force to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime, Rumsfeld added what he said were important elements to the checklist to ensure the U.S. would be prepared for a full-scale war. But Rumsfeld and the Bush administration never lived up to the promises laid out in the checklist when the U.S. military bombed Baghdad. For example:

Casualties. Rumsfeld says the public “should not be allowed to believe an engagement could be executed . . . with few casualties.” Yet the president and Rumsfeld didn’t prepare Americans for major casualties. Bush warned in an Oct. 7 speech in Cincinnati that “military action could be difficult” and that there is no “easy or risk-free course of action.”

* Risks. Rumsfeld warns that the risks of taking action “must be carefully considered” along with the dangers of doing nothing. The administration has repeatedly made the case against inaction — the possibility that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons and strike the U.S. But it has not been equally candid about the dangers of action.

* Honesty. Rumsfeld urges U.S. leadership to be “brutally honest with itself, Congress, the public and coalition partners.” Yet the administration has not produced compelling evidence to support its claims that Saddam is linked to al-Qaeda terrorists, is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons or intends to strike the U.S. To the contrary, the CIA has played down Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda and a possible first strike.

Rumsfeld said too many of the military plans on the shelves of the regional war-fighting commanders contained outdated assumptions and military requirements, which have since changed with the advent of new weapons and doctrines.

It has been a mistake, he said, to measure the quantity of forces required for a mission and “fail to look at lethality, where you end up with precision-guided munitions, which can give you 10 times the lethality that a dumb weapon might, as an example,” Rumsfeld said, according to an Oct 14, 2002 report in the New York Times.

Through a combination of pre-deployments, faster cargo ships and a larger fleet of transport aircraft, the military would be able to deliver “fewer troops but in a faster time that would allow you to have concentrated power that would have the same effect as waiting longer with what a bigger force might have” Rumsfeld said.

Critics in the military said last year there were several reasons to deploy a force of overwhelming numbers before starting any offensive with Iraq. Large numbers illustrate U.S. resolve and can intimidate Iraqi forces into laying down their arms or even turning against Hussein’s government.

Large numbers in the region also would be needed should the initial offensive go poorly.. Also, once victory is near, it might require an even larger force to pacify Iraq and search for weapons of mass destruction than it took to topple Hussein.

According to Defense Department sources, Rumsfeld at first insisted that vast air superiority and a degraded Iraqi military would enable 75,000 U.S. troops to win the war. Gen. Tommy Franks, the theater commander-in-chief, convinced Rumsfeld to send 250,000 (augmented by 45,000 British). However, the Army would have preferred a much deeper force, leading to anxiety inside the Pentagon in the first week of war, conservative columnist Bob Novak reported last week.

While Army officers would have preferred a larger commitment, even what was finally approved for Operation Iraqi Freedom was reduced when the 4th Infantry Division was denied Turkey as a base to invade northern Iraq. The Defense and State departments point fingers. Secretary of State Colin Powell is criticized for not flying to Ankara to convince the Turkish government. The Pentagon is criticized for not immediately dispatching the division via the Red Sea, Novak reported.

To the critics who said last year that Rumsfeld is accepting too much risk in U.S. war planning, Rumsfeld said he had ordered rigorous reviews and was satisfied. “We are prepared for the worst case,” he told the Times.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Today’s Features

William S. Lind
The Pitfalls of War Planning

Jorge Mariscal
Latinos on the Frontlines, Again

Paul de Rooij
Arrogant Propaganda

Jo Wilding
From Baghdad: “I Am His Mother”

Tarif Abboushi
Operation Embedded Folly

Lee Sustar
Labor’s War at Home

Akiva Eldar
Israeli Dreams of Iraqi Oil

Bernard Weiner
The Vietnam Connection

Robert Fisk
The Graveyard at Baghdad’s North Gate

Steve Perry
War Web Log 04/01

Keep CounterPunch Alive:
Make a Tax-Deductible Donation Today Online!

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

JASON LEOPOLD is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield. He can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail