Streetwise Professor

May 23, 2015

Don’t Sh*t the Troops

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 7:31 pm

I have been scathing in my criticism of the administration’s and the Pentagon’s dishonest spin about the ongoing fiasco in Iraq. Just when I think they’ve pegged the BS meter at 10, they crank it to 11, as in this statement by the appalling Chairman of the JCS, Martin Dempsey, who shamelessly covers for Obama  and his failures:

 Iraqi security forces weren’t “driven from” Ramadi, they “drove out of Ramadi,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here Wednesday.

. . . .

“This group of [Iraqi security forces] had been forward-deployed in al Anbar [province] – arguably the most dangerous part of Iraq,” he said. “They believed they were less well-supported. The tribes had begun to come together, but had not … allied themselves with the [security forces].”

The sandstorm precluded U.S. air support against ISIL, and the Iraqi commander on the ground made “what appears to be a unilateral decision to move to what he perceived to be a more defensible position,” the general said.

A more exquisite job of sh*t-house lawyering (or sea lawyering, as they call it in the Navy) would be hard to imagine. Excuse me, General, but they drove out because they were driven out. They drove out because they bugged out. They bugged out because they were outmanned, outgunned, unsupported, and suffering from the typical failures of leadership and morale that beset Iraqi formations. It is impossible to put a favorable gloss on this, but Dempsey did his level best to do so, and in the process brings shame and discredit onto the US and its military.

When he heard a statement that was transparently intended to cover up an unpleasant truth, my dad would say: “Don’t sh*t the troops.” Well, the senior uniformed officer in the US military establishment is shamelessly attempting to sh*t the troops, and the American people.

What’s almost as astounding is that both www.centcom.mil and www.pentagon.gov are leading their anti-ISIS war coverage with Dempsey’s remarks, meaning that the establishment is complicit in sh*tting the troops. This wasn’t a gaffe. It is official writ.

Dempsey is a repeat offender. Not long ago he said Ramadi was not important militarily or symbolically, thereby giving great offense to thousands of soldiers, sailors, and Marines (and their families) who fought and bled for Ramadi, and wrested a hard won victory from the predecessors of ISIS. Dempsey then compounded the offense by giving the typical celebrity non-apology-apology that included an “if” (“if I’ve added to your grief”) and a “but.” Real apologies are unconditional and unqualified. The man cannot leave soon enough.

What would someone telling it straight, and not sh*ting the troops, say? He wouldn’t say what Dempsey said:

“At the start I said three years,” he said. “That still might be the case, we may be able to achieve our objectives in three years. But I said then, and I reiterate now, that there may be tactical exchanges – some of which go the way of Iraqi security forces and others which go the way of ISIL. But the coalition has all the strategic advantages over time.”

He would say the current planned is doomed to failure, and that major changes are needed.

One change being considered is deploying American tactical air controllers/targeters. I wrote posts about this some months ago (like this one), and I definitely agree that this is necessary to make the air campaign more effective.* But in the absence of an even marginally credible ground force in Iraq, even a serious air campaign cannot defeat ISIS. A full-blooded American ground intervention would be required-either that, or turning the place into radioactive glass (which wouldn’t require TACs!). But the cost in lives and treasure is unlikely to be worth the gain. I therefore tend to agree with commenter Chris, and Bob Baer, that Iraq and Syria are doomed to devolve in to bloody statelets run by warlords, divided on sectarian and ethnic lines, and we should learn to live with that. Secure our economic interests, and let the locals party like it’s 699. Focus our attention on China and Russia, both of which have been particularly truculent lately.

In retrospect, it is clear that once Obama pulled out of Iraq in 2011, catastrophe was foreordained. The Iraqi state and military were too dysfunctional to combat effectively a relentless enemy.

Perhaps the situation could have been retrieved, at least partially, if the US had aggressively employed air power when Isis was on its rampage about a year ago, but Obama demurred. That allowed Isis to take Mosul, and expand in Anbar. It is now well-entrenched, and has sufficient human and material resources to withstand whatever the militarily feeble Iraqi and Syrian governments have to throw at it.

It’s about time to admit that. But from Obama through Dempsey to Pentagon press flacks we don’t get such honesty. Instead, we get a constant litany of troop-sh*tting. Enough already. All the spin in the world can’t conceal the obvious.

* I find it interesting that Anthony Cordesman, whom I admire greatly, says that TACs are “critical” because his first analysis of the air campaign mentioned their role only in passing. I wrote him about this, provided several historical references (e.g., some material about Arc Light raids in Vietnam and the role of controllers in aiding the XIX Tactical Air Force in NW Europe in WWII). He said he would put is research assistants to work on the subject, and I guess he has become convinced.

 

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4 Comments »

  1. “they were outmanned, outgunned, unsupported, and suffering from the typical failures of leadership and morale that beset Iraqi formations “: that’s presumably been obvious since Bush the Elder’s war, or even the Gulf War Iraq vs Iran.

    Comment by dearieme — May 24, 2015 @ 7:49 am

  2. “In retrospect, it is clear that once Obama pulled out of Iraq in 2011, catastrophe was foreordained.” Surely in prospect, it was clear that once W invaded Iraq, catastrophe was foreordained.

    Personally I might guess that once the electorate decided to replace Bush the Elder by Slick Willie, bad things were likely to happen. It’s unwise to put adolescents in charge.

    Comment by dearieme — May 24, 2015 @ 7:54 am

  3. @dearieme-W’s invasion (blessed by Hillary and Kerry, but leave that for now) was clearly a necessary condition, but it was not sufficient. Anbar was largely pacified in the aftermath of the Surge, and there was a reasonable prospect for what would pass for stability there. But that was dependent on continued US presence. Once Obama terminated that presence, the current spiral became inevitable.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 24, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

  4. The Bush administration’s lack of understanding of Iraqi and larger regional politics combined with very poor implementation of post-invasion rebuilding played a very big role in today’s “Mess O’Potamia”. While the surge of 2007 provided breathing space to (finally) implement viable non-sectarian policies, that effort was brought to naught by the US supported Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki (whose sectarian and authoritarian tendencies were clear to all in 2006 when he was elected PM) and President Obama’s push to end US presence in Iraq. When it became clear that the US wasn’t going to remain as the main player in Iraq, Maliki set out to root out US influence in Iraq and in the process created the conditions that gave birth to ISIS. In nut shell, both the Bush and Obama administrations are to be equally blamed for the mess in Iraq.

    On another note, why was the invasion of Iraq clearly a necessary condition? By the way, Anbar was never militarily pacified. The fighting stopped because the US promised the Sunni tribes a political resolution of their grievances (vs. the Shia dominated central government) and aid against Al Qaeda if they ended their insurgency.

    Comment by ME Observer — June 18, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

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