Why Time is not on Bush’s Side

The strategic heart of any military strategy in the conduct of war is the art of placing your adversary under menacing pressure to make a decision, while denying him the time to make sense out of the menacing conditions forcing that decision.  The Baker Commission tried to buy time by throwing a life ring to the Decider-in-Chief, but he refused it and chose instead to squander two months of precious time putting together a complex military strategy  that, in the best of circumstances, would require an extended time horizon to set up grand-strategically and execute militarily.

Mr. Bush, by his own admission, does not face the best of circumstances. The result is a paralyzing stew of contradictions.  Even worse, he is running out of time.

The Decider-in-Chief is in trouble grand-strategically. Public reaction to his escalation speech was tepid, to put it charitably.  He faces a growing revolt among Republicans on Capital Hill, not to mention an alienated Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.  In short, the internal cohesion of the United States is breaking down, which Sun Tzu would have seen as entirely predictable, given the misrepresentations Bush used to justify the Iraq aggression.  To make matters worse, resolve among our most important ally is weakening. Tony Blair has stated repeatedly that Britain will not send more troops to Iraq and will continue with its plans to begin withdrawing troops from the Shiite south.

Bush’s execution strategy is also disconnected from political and military reality in Iraq.  According to a report By John Burns  in the New York Times for January 15, Bush is setting up a cumbersome parallel chain of command involving Iraqis and Americans at each level of decision making.  At best, the increased coordination will slow down operational tempos by stretching out decision cycles.  At worst, by involving more people of dubious loyalty at each level of decision making, Mr. Bush’s chain of command will not only increase the opportunities but make it easier for our adversaries to penetrate and operate inside our tactical and operational decision cycles.

And there is more to this craziness.

Mr. Bush’s command and control system will be fundamentally at odds with the central logic of his “clear and hold” military strategy.  “Clear and hold,” assumes one can expand and coalesce a distribution of small-scale tactical successes into a smaller number of larger-scale of operational successes, eventually culminating in overall strategic success.  But he is putting in place a command and control arrangement that will make it much easier for our adversaries nip this strategy in the bud by disrupting our operations at the lower albeit necessary tactical and operational levels of conflict.

Now there is nothing new about the “Clear and Hold” theory, but Mr. Bush’s application of it is weird, to say the least.  “Clear and Hold” is in fact a primitive repackaging of Marshal Lyautey’s turn of century colonialist tache d’huile  (oil spot) strategy to win the support of separate Arab/Berber tribes in North African by offering them protection and social services in a methodical slow expansion of the area under control.  Like, Lyautey, Mr. Bush would also use fast moving light infantry forces to quickly break of enemy concentrations.  And like Lyautey, Mr. Bush understands that the heart of his strategy is a methodical expansion and coalescence of the pacified areas or “oil spots.” But unlike Lyautey, who fully understood that his strategy would require a great deal of time, Mr. Bush’s attitude, as well as that of his supporters, is “lets give it quick shot” to see if it will produce tangible results in a few months of an urban siege.

A lot of people are going to die in this quick shot, because unfortunately,TIME is on the side of the people trying to kick the US out of Iraq and they know it, even if they can not agree on anything else.

Fighter pilots have a term of art to describe the paralysis of thinking that accompanies the desperate mental state evidenced by Mr. Bush’s confusion:  The man is “out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas.”

Franklin C. Spinney is a former Pentagon analyst, who worked in the DoD for 33 years; in the Pentagon for 28 of those. His first 7 years were as an AF engineering officer and remainder was as a civilian analyst in the Office of the Secratary of Defense. His writing on defense issues can be found on the invaluable Defense in the National Interest website.



Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com