Wednesday, March 26, 2003

SMELLS LIKE A BAY OF PIGS

One senior administration official put it this way: "'Shock and Awe' is Air Force bull---!"

From an clear-eyed Knight Ridder article by Joe Galloway - Rumsfeld's strategy under fire as war risks become increasingly apparent. As in Vietnam (and the Bay of Pigs before that), there are claims that civilian government officials have ignored military advice to push their own vision and interpretation of how an attack would be received in country. The result might well be increased Coalition deaths due to poor planning and bad assumptions. Galloway did an excellent interview about this subject today (3/26) on Fresh Air (check for playback at www.freshair.npr.org). In it, he said the reason military people were talking to him about this subject was that they expected (feared?) Rumsfeld to blame on the military when the reality of Iraq events gets too ugly.

Knowledgeable defense and administration officials say Rumsfeld and his civilian aides at first wanted to commit no more than 60,000 American troops to the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would capitulate in two days.

Intelligence officials say Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon civilians ignored much of the advice of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency in favor of reports from the Iraqi opposition and from Israeli sources that predicted an immediate uprising against Saddam once the Americans attacked.

The officials said Rumsfeld also made his disdain for the Army's heavy divisions very clear when he argued about the war plan with Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander. Franks wanted more and more heavily armed forces, said one senior administration official; Rumsfeld kept pressing for smaller, lighter and more agile ones, with much bigger roles for air power and special forces.

"Our force package is very light," said a retired senior general. "If things don't happen exactly as you assumed, you get into a tangle, a mismatch of your strategy and your force. Things like the pockets (of Iraqi resistance) in Basra, Umm Qasr and Nasariyah need to be dealt with forcefully, but we don't have the forces to do it."

"The Secretary of Defense cut off the flow of Army units, saying this thing would be over in two days," said a retired senior general who has followed the evolution of the war plan. "He shut down movement of the 1st Cavalry Division and the1st Armored Division. Now we don't even have a nominal ground force."

He added ruefully: "As in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, we are using concepts and methods that are entirely unproved. If your strategy and assumptions are flawed, there is nothing in the well to draw from."

In addition, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Rumsfeld and his civilian aides rewrote parts of the military services' plans for shipping U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, which they said resulted in a number of mistakes and delays, and also changed plans for calling up some reserve and National Guard units.

"There was nothing too small for them to meddle with," said one senior official. "It's caused no end of problems, but I think we've managed to overcome them all."

Robin Dorff, the director of national security strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., said three things have gone wrong in the campaign:

_A "mismatch between expectations and reality."

_The threat posed by irregular troops, especially the 60,000 strong Saddam Fedayeen, who are harassing the 300-mile-long supply lines crucial to fueling and resupplying the armor units barreling toward Baghdad.

_The Turks threatening to move more troops into northern Iraq, which could trigger fighting between Turks and Kurds over Iraq's rich northern oilfields.

Dorff and others said that the nightmare scenario is that allied forces might punch through to the Iraqi capital and then get bogged down in house-to-house fighting in a crowded city.

"If these guys fight and fight hard for Baghdad, with embedded Baathists stiffening their resistance at the point of a gun, then we are up the creek," said one retired general.

Dr. John Collins, a retired Army colonel and former chief researcher for the Library of Congress, said the worst scenario would be sending American troops to fight for Baghdad. He said every military commander since Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist, has hated urban warfare.

"Military casualties normally soar on both sides; innocent civilians lose lives and suffer severe privation; reconstruction costs skyrocket," Collins said, adding that fighting for the capital would cancel out the allied advantages in air and armor and reduce it to an Infantry battle house to house, street by street.

(Another retired senior officer) said the Air Force was bombing day and night, but its strikes have so far failed to produce the anticipated capitulation and uprising by the Iraqi people.

One senior administration official put it this way: "'Shock and Awe' is Air Force bull---!"

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