April 27, 2007

Scorched Earth

A Thomas Ricks article at the Washington Post points to an article in the Armed Forces Journal by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling that blasts the failures of the general officer corps (past and present) and politicians in preparing for and fighting the Long War.

It's simply brilliant.

I strongly urge you to read the entire article, and for that matter, bookmark it, so you can return to it later.

There will be many who will read Yingling's article and attempt to spin, twist or varnish it into an attack against particular generals (active duty or retired), specific Presidents, and specific Congresses.

To do so completely misunderstands the article, and the systemic nature of the problem.

What Yingling is attempting to convey, if I understand his article correctly, is that the problems being experienced by our military in Iraq today began a half century ago. The United States was successful in World War Two because of it's ability to fight a large-scale, highly mobile, high-tech war. As a result, the general staff of the time focused on their successes and built a military for the next half century to fight that kind of war. They never learned from French failures or limited successes in Indochina or Algeria, and therefore, repeated the same failures in Vietnam. The moderate successes and lessons that should have been learned as a result of this conflict by the military and the Executive and Legislative branches were quickly discarded.

As a result, we were not on any level prepared to engage in what should have been predictable counterinsurgency operations, and did not have any competent active duty or retired general officers to advise Congress or the Executive Branch.

Yingling is careful not to blame any specific individuals, and it bears repeating that no specific individuals should be blamed. This is an institutional problem crossing several institutions, civilian and military, going back decades.

There are those tempted to use Yingling's article to attack specific individuals (as indeed, WaPo's Ricks has done, as have several bloggers so far). More journalists and bloggers more interested in the sounds of their own voices and pushing their own agendas than actually learning something, will likely continue this trend.

Sadly, it seems, Yingling may be a modern day Cassandra, offering up prophetic advice that other chose to ignore.

But as Yingling concludes, all is not lost:

This article began with Frederick the Great's admonition to his officers to focus their energies on the larger aspects of war. The Prussian monarch's innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia's security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick's successors were checked by France's ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick's prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America's Valmy. America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.

Yingling notes that we can still prepare to win the challenges of the Long War, a war that does not stop at the borders of Iraq or Afghanistan, and will likely and necessarily (and I stress this is my interpretation, not Yingling's) include actions in the Horn of Africa, Syria, Iran, and Pakistan at a minimum.

As Americans, we have the ability and resources to adapt to nearly any contingency. It falls upon us to make sure that our leadership, military and civilian, is constructed in such a way as to be able to properly engage the public in what is undoubtedly Our Children's Children's War, whether we chose to engage in it, or not.

If any bright spot exists in Yingling's blistering article, it is that his call for the kind of general officer corps that we need has at least one present-duty officer that seems to largely (if not completely) meet his proposed standards for creativeness, intelligence, and courageousness, and that general may be at the right place, with the right skills and experience, to yet help guide a successful change in direction.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 27, 2007 09:23 AM

I think this problem can probably describe almost every war that has ever been fought or will be fought. Tactics and weapons are always being updated and failing to evolve will almost always lead to defeat. The French tried to fight WW2 with WW1 tactics and see how well that turned out. Hell, the American Civil War started out with opposing armies lining up, marching to within 50 yards of each other and volley firing at each other until one side backed down. This was unnecessary as the new rifles had much greater accuracy than smoothbore muskets. The best you can hope for is that your enemy will fail to evolve too. The only reason first Gulf War went so well was because Saddam tried to fight on our terms with our tactics.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at April 27, 2007 10:52 AM

LTC Yingling’s article isn’t some Road to Damascus revelation – it’s yet another exercise in 20-20 hindsight about the blindingly obvious in Iraq.

From the get-go Bush, and Rumsfeld too, warned that toppling Saddam Hussein was the easy part. To borrow a Rumsfeld phrase, nation building was a voyage into uncharted waters filled with “unknown unknowns.” You may even recall that candidate Bush was against nation-building before he was for it.

And for good reason. Bush is a businessman, and trial-and-error enterprises are invariably money losers. But the strategic objective (an oil-rich “liberal” democracy in the heart of the caliphate-to-be) was rock solid, and Bush – perhaps naively – believed that the majority of his fellow citizens were equally fed up with the stagnant and unproductive so-called “realist” approach to Mideast geopolitics. So he threw the dice and invaded Iraq.

That said, I’ll ask you a question: Is Iraq like a game of chess, where the gambits are well catalogued and the grand masters weigh the permutations and combinations; or is it more like Survival, where participants adapt to unexpected obstacles or conditions to keep in the hunt?

My guess is the latter. Rumsfeld, Abizaid and Casey are all honorable men who pushed the light footprint approach in Iraq. When that failed, Bush brought in Gates and Petraeus. If Bush was slow to adapt, it took even Lincoln a while to replace McClellan with Grant.

Unfortunately, many Americans seem to have attention spans that can be measured in sound bites, which the Dems and their MSM enablers are very clever at exploiting. But building a liberal democracy in Iraq is still a long voyage among uncharted rocks and shoals, and the folks LTC Yingling appears to be criticizing bravely led the way.

Posted by: David M. Williams at April 27, 2007 11:20 AM

Obviously every war is going to be different and tactics will constantly be changing, however this is a war in which we have suffered fewer casualties in 4+ years as individual battles in our history. Despite all of the hysteria and the weakness of our current culture, the war has been and remains decisively lopsided in our favor. It would be wise to remember that.

Posted by: joe at April 27, 2007 12:02 PM


At the request of management, I have moved here.

I agree with you that the revolving door is a problem. So is high ranking politicians on either side of the aisle using their position to enrich themselves and their friends. But what is the solution? Personally I don't see a way out except for the implementation of strict term limits. That way the people in DC don't have the ability to build their vast power bases. And it is a problem on both sides of the aisle.

I don't have as much problem with ex-military going into the defense business, but there needs to be more control over who can throw business their way. That seems simpler to address than the back room deals done in the political machinery.

Posted by: Specter at April 27, 2007 12:44 PM

Bob requested I put this in the right thread, after showing my idiocy by placing it in the thread above. D'oh.

Bob, this is an excellent post. Thank you. The article is something everyone interested in the prosecution of this war, and Vietnam, should read. I suggest they read Ricks' Fiasco as well.

But I have to disagree with you when you say no specific individuals should be blamed. The list is long, yes, but people must be held accountable for this, what looks to be one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in our history.

(Please pardon the length of this post and any typos. I'm pressed for time but felt the need to respond. The quotes in italics are from the article.)

The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

After 9/11, Bush could have asked the American people, indeed the world, to do almost anything. We were ready make any sacrifice, pay any cost. Even the French Le Monde ran the headline "We are all Americans." He could have put us on a moon launch footing to end our dependence on oil within a decade. He could have called up every able-bodied American young man to serve. He could have called to us to rise to our better natures, to think of what we can do for the country. Instead, he squandered this one chance and told us to live as if nothing was different, although we were now at war. He did not mobilize popular passions. He told us to go shopping.

If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence.

Think of Shinseki. Then think of how Rumsfeld's hubris and Bush's criminal lack of intellectual rigor sent Shinseki packing. Why? Because telling the American people this action required a larger commitment was inconvenient to selling the war. In other words, he didn't think we had the stomach for it. He thinks we're sheep. I can assure you, we are not sheep. You'll have to make your own assessment of your own courage for yourself.

Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms.

Ever heard of the Powell Doctrine? Where was Powell when his voice would have carried real weight? Someone else who squandered what he had earned over a lifetime of honorable service.

Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems.

This blame you can spread around. We need to look at how we procure weapons systems and who profits. We need to stop this revolving door from government to defense industries. Cheney and Halliburton is just the most public example, but it runs deep and is toxic to our system of government.

Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq.

Bush had also surrounded himself with incompetents because he values loyalty above all. He listens to a small circle of advisors so even if officers had spoken up, he wouldn't have heard them. He would have heard instead from Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice that the officer who dared go against policy was a McClellan and was best ignored.

Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population.

This is where the administration's actions were most criminal. Bush and the "Bushies" installed loyalists in the CPA who had no experience in building a nation's infrastructure, financial and physical. What does an applicant's position on abortion have to do with securing a stable economy, yet that was one of the top questions in any interview given any applicant. The stories of incompetence and profiteering are legion.

Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem. The services themselves are equally to blame. The system that produces our generals does little to reward creativity and moral courage.

I have more than a passing familiarity with the Army bureaucracy and I know this is true. Traditional combat arms officers looked with suspicion at those who chose to study counterinsurgency and Special Ops. Until recently, the path to promotion was not through Special Warfare but through armor and infantry.

So, while I agree with the larger view of this article that says our generals were unprepared for this war, I disagree that we shouldn't hold individuals accountable for this disaster.

There were dissenting voices, they were just shut out of the debate.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at April 27, 2007 12:58 PM

If you read "Fiasco" you'll wonder how Bush and his fellow neocons can tie their own shoes.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 01:43 PM

Shinseki's number wasn't an accurate estimate of what it would take to secure Iraq, it was cop out. It was a number so large as to be incapable of sustaining it for any period of time. He might as well said a bazillion soldiers, he didn't want to do it, so Bush found someone who said he could do it.

Or maybe I just hate Shinseki for his, "I'm going to transform the Army by giving them new hats and a motto nobody understands."

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at April 27, 2007 01:45 PM

How do you know "the number wasn't an accurate estimate of what it would take?"

Considering the fact that we didn't follow his advice, your assumption is based on what...what we've seen instead?

Get real...the administration screwed this up from the gitgo.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 01:52 PM

you'll wonder how Bush and his fellow neocons can tie their own shoes.

I watch democrats flop around ineptly and wonder how they even manage to find their shoes in the morning

Posted by: Purple Avenger at April 27, 2007 03:05 PM

The number was bogus because there was no way for us to logistically sustain 300,000 to 400,000 for an Iraqi invasion. It would take every spare Active Duty solder and a huge percentage of the Reserves and National Guard. Then we would place them, where, In Kuwait? Kuwait's not that big of a country. There probably wasn't even enough room in Kuwait to squeeze in an extra Division. Everyone else had to step off into Iraq before the 4th ID could get off loaded from their Turkey diversion.

Even once, the we reach the full surge numbers, we will still be nowhere near what Shinseki was asking for.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at April 27, 2007 03:13 PM

David said: "Ever heard of the Powell Doctrine? " Yes, and it reflects Yingling's message.

I like the analogy of "Survival", but strategic planners also need to play a little chess game. Every step needs to have its future steps worked out with the certain knowledge that the opponent will be acting in regards to "Survival", but like chess our planners is restricted by what's available or planned to be available. Plan for at least as many steps you can see into the future.

One lesson learned is that Bin laden was right. We don't have the will for the long "fight". We will not fight the same way we did in Iraq.

Posted by: CoRev at April 27, 2007 03:27 PM

I'd rather watch anybody "flop around" versus total ineptitude from the very start.

Bush has failed the country on so many counts it's almost impossible to fathom: the Iraqi aftermath, 3,400 dead/24,000 wounded, untold numbers of dead Iraqi civilians, Katrina, Gitmo, torture, wiretapping, U.S. Attorney firings, Gonzales, Rummy, allowing Cheney to be his puppetmaster, Wolfie, and on and on.

List all of Bush's accomplisments...and more of the much used bullshit line that we haven't been attacked on American soil since 9/11...we weren't attacked for almost 8 years BEFORE 9/11.

This is the most inept and corrput administration our nation has ever encountered.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 03:34 PM

The Japanese believed that we did not have the will for a long fight in WWII - it is one of the factors that made them bold enough to attack us at Pearl Harbor.

Posted by: Specter at April 27, 2007 03:36 PM

Let's put it in perspective Geno. From here:

The Clinton Legacy


- The only president ever impeached on grounds of personal malfeasance
- Most number of convictions and guilty pleas by friends and associates*
- Most number of cabinet officials to come under criminal investigation
- Most number of witnesses to flee country or refuse to testify
- Most number of witnesses to die suddenly
- First president sued for sexual harassment.
- First president accused of rape.
- First first lady to come under criminal investigation
- Largest criminal plea agreement in an illegal campaign contribution case
- First president to establish a legal defense fund.
- First president to be held in contempt of court
- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions
- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions from abroad
- First president disbarred from the US Supreme Court and a state court

* According to our best information, 40 government officials were indicted or convicted in the wake of Watergate. A reader computes that there was a total of 31 Reagan era convictions, including 14 because of Iran-Contra and 16 in the Department of Housing & Urban Development scandal. 47 individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine were convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes with 33 of these occurring during the Clinton administration itself. There were in addition 61 indictments or misdemeanor charges. 14 persons were imprisoned. A key difference between the Clinton story and earlier ones was the number of criminals with whom he was associated before entering the White House.

Using a far looser standard that included resignations, David R. Simon and D. Stanley Eitzen in Elite Deviance, say that 138 appointees of the Reagan administration either resigned under an ethical cloud or were criminally indicted. Curiously Haynes Johnson uses the same figure but with a different standard in "Sleep-Walking Through History: America in the Reagan Years: "By the end of his term, 138 administration officials had been convicted, had been indicted, or had been the subject of official investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations. In terms of number of officials involved, the record of his administration was the worst ever."


- Number of Starr-Ray investigation convictions or guilty pleas (including one governor, one associate attorney general and two Clinton business partners): 14
- Number of Clinton Cabinet members who came under criminal investigation: 5
- Number of Reagan cabinet members who came under criminal investigation: 4
- Number of top officials jailed in the Teapot Dome Scandal: 3


- Number of individuals and businesses associated with the Clinton machine who have been convicted of or pleaded guilty to crimes: 47
- Number of these convictions during Clinton's presidency: 33
- Number of indictments/misdemeanor charges: 61
- Number of congressional witnesses who have pleaded the Fifth Amendment, fled the country to avoid testifying, or (in the case of foreign witnesses) refused to be interviewed: 122


- Guilty pleas and convictions obtained by Donald Smaltz in cases involving charges of bribery and fraud against former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and associated individuals and businesses: 15
- Acquitted or overturned cases (including Espy): 6
- Fines and penalties assessed: $11.5 million
- Amount Tyson Food paid in fines and court costs: $6 million


Drug trafficking (3), racketeering, extortion, bribery (4), tax evasion, kickbacks, embezzlement (2), fraud (12), conspiracy (5), fraudulent loans, illegal gifts (1), illegal campaign contributions (5), money laundering (6), perjury, obstruction of justice.


Bank and mail fraud, violations of campaign finance laws, illegal foreign campaign funding, improper exports of sensitive technology, physical violence and threats of violence, solicitation of perjury, intimidation of witnesses, bribery of witnesses, attempted intimidation of prosecutors, perjury before congressional committees, lying in statements to federal investigators and regulatory officials, flight of witnesses, obstruction of justice, bribery of cabinet members, real estate fraud, tax fraud, drug trafficking, failure to investigate drug trafficking, bribery of state officials, use of state police for personal purposes, exchange of promotions or benefits for sexual favors, using state police to provide false court testimony, laundering of drug money through a state agency, false reports by medical examiners and others investigating suspicious deaths, the firing of the RTC and FBI director when these agencies were investigating Clinton and his associates, failure to conduct autopsies in suspicious deaths, providing jobs in return for silence by witnesses, drug abuse, improper acquisition and use of 900 FBI files, improper futures trading, murder, sexual abuse of employees, false testimony before a federal judge, shredding of documents, withholding and concealment of subpoenaed documents, fabricated charges against (and improper firing of) White House employees, inviting drug traffickers, foreign agents and participants in organized crime to the White House.


Number of times that Clinton figures who testified in court or before Congress said that they didn't remember, didn't know, or something similar.

Bill Kennedy 116
Harold Ickes 148
Ricki Seidman 160
Bruce Lindsey 161
Bill Burton 191
Mark Gearan 221
Mack McLarty 233
Neil Egglseston 250
Hillary Clinton 250
John Podesta 264
Jennifer O'Connor 343
Dwight Holton 348
Patsy Thomasson 420
Jeff Eller 697

FROM THE WASHINGTON TIMES: In the portions of President Clinton's Jan. 17 deposition that have been made public in the Paula Jones case, his memory failed him 267 times. This is a list of his answers and how many times he gave each one.

I don't remember - 71
I don't know - 62
I'm not sure - 17
I have no idea - 10
I don't believe so - 9
I don't recall - 8
I don't think so - 8
I don't have any specific recollection - 6
I have no recollection - 4
Not to my knowledge - 4
I just don't remember - 4
I don't believe - 4
I have no specific recollection - 3
I might have - 3
I don't have any recollection of that - 2 I don't have a specific memory - 2
I don't have any memory of that - 2
I just can't say - 2
I have no direct knowledge of that - 2
I don't have any idea - 2
Not that I recall - 2
I don't believe I did - 2
I can't remember - 2
I can't say - 2
I do not remember doing so - 2
Not that I remember - 2
I'm not aware - 1
I honestly don't know - 1
I don't believe that I did - 1
I'm fairly sure - 1
I have no other recollection - 1
I'm not positive - 1
I certainly don't think so - 1
I don't really remember - 1
I would have no way of remembering that - 1
That's what I believe happened - 1
To my knowledge, no - 1
To the best of my knowledge - 1
To the best of my memory - 1
I honestly don't recall - 1
I honestly don't remember - 1
That's all I know - 1
I don't have an independent recollection of that - 1
I don't actually have an independent memory of that - 1
As far as I know - 1
I don't believe I ever did that - 1
That's all I know about that - 1
I'm just not sure - 1
Nothing that I remember - 1
I simply don't know - 1
I would have no idea - 1
I don't know anything about that - 1
I don't have any direct knowledge of that - 1
I just don't know - 1
I really don't know - 1
I can't deny that, I just -- I have no memory of that at all - 1

Get a grip.

Posted by: Specter at April 27, 2007 03:40 PM

Want to see just how out of touch the neocons were?
Let's harken back to Rummy and Wolfie, responding to questions regarding what we would encounter after the "shock and awe" campaign:

"The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark," Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: "I would say that what's been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." He also said that the regional commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, would determine the precise figure.

A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. "He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment," Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo.

AND: Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.

Pompous and dumb...a bad combo for America.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 03:43 PM

I just love using facts with someone like Geno. LOL. It really gets their knickers twisted. No facts to back up their POV, but then I can stuff real facts in front of them. They go bananas. Dimmie Brain Trust at work.

Posted by: Specter at April 27, 2007 03:43 PM

Uh, Clinton's been gone for many years so you can let go now...and by the way, lying about consensual sex or blowjobs doesn't exactly measure up to lying about outing CIA agents or management abilities at the DOJ or firing reputable and highly qualified U.S. Attorneys. (3 of which were rated in the top ten out of 93...explain that.)

*And boy, those Clinton years were really brutal weren't they?

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 03:47 PM

I think by now everybody knows pretty much everything they need to know about Bill...but, damn...YOU do know he's no longer the President...right?

Using Clinton or "facts" as you call them from years past, to defend present day situations is silly and illustrates a lack of substance.

*Oh, and if you absolutely have to use such inane tactics, you might want to consider the testimony of Reagan, Bush Sr., North, etc. during Irangate if you need to harken back.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 03:52 PM

When you say I have no "facts" back up my point of view, are you not familiar with: the Iraqi aftermath, 3,400 dead/24,000 wounded, untold numbers of dead Iraqi civilians, Katrina, Gitmo, torture, wiretapping, U.S. Attorney firings, Gonzales, Rummy, allowing Cheney to be his puppetmaster, Wolfie, and on and on.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 04:03 PM

Buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, buck....

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 04:29 PM

Yingling's money quote: "Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations."

For me, this is the signature failure of the Bush Administration--it did not mobilize the entire state for the fight: "The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war."

I disagree, however, that American military leaders "failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq," or that they "did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq." I think they tried to do this, but the Neocons in the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress refused to listen. Ask General Shinseki.

The failure here is the civilian leadership, and it should be held accountable. The Decider decided, and what you see is what you get.

Specter: do you have links to the claims you make about the Clinton Administration? I believe that Mr. Reagan actually holds at least some of the records you would give Mr. Clinton.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 27, 2007 05:21 PM

R. Stanton Scott,
Spector is nothing more than the standard right wing talking points machine. To still be referring to President Clinton to shore up an argument supporting G.W. is lame at best.

In 2008 they'll ALL be gone...and I do mean ALL.

Posted by: Geno at April 27, 2007 05:58 PM

Gee Geno,

Did I strike a nerve? You are the one who claimed that the Bush Admin is the most corrupt ever. Sorry I had to burst your bubble with facts. So sad you are.....

Posted by: Specter at April 27, 2007 07:10 PM

Hi, my name is Jonney, I am from Zaire.
Just like your resource :).

Posted by: Jonney_bri at April 27, 2007 07:46 PM

the Iraqi aftermath, 3,400 dead/24,000 wounded

Sounds like a bargain to me. What were the Okinawa invasion casualty numbers again? Refresh my memory.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at April 27, 2007 10:23 PM

Confederate Yankee, I'm confused. You heartily endorse the (excellent) Yingling article, which (correctly) lays the U.S. defeat in Vietnam at the feet of our generals. But.... but.... but..... you (and your winger fans here) always claim that we won in Vietnam, only to have that victory snatched away by the likes of Jane Fonda and Walter Cronkite.....

Please explain.

Oh, and Purple Avenger, maybe I'm taking you out context, but I'm shocked to hear any American refer to 3,400 U.S. war dead as "sound[ing] like a bargain to me." Of course, right-wingers also used to denigrate the 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam by casually noting that more died on our highways. Way to support the troops!

Posted by: i'mjustsayin' at April 27, 2007 10:54 PM

Shorter Specter: "Your guy was worse than our guy." This is not the best case that can be made for electing Republicans. I am a Democrat, and even I could do better than that.

At any rate, I still don't see any links to the "facts" stated about the Clinton Administration. You make serious charges--are you counting on the people who read CY to just take your word for it? If this is the best argument you can make, at least back it up.

Just as Democrats should have forced Clinton's resignation in 1998--which I believe could have cinched Gore's election and meant at least 18 years of Democratic Presidents and Republican Congresses (arguably the best combination)--the Republicans should start trying to convince Bush and Cheney to leave. They are only dragging the rest of the GOP down.

And it's too bad that a potentially very interesting discussion about the conduct of the war degenerated so quickly to "Clinton sucks." CY readers collectively have a lot of knowledge of military affairs. Might be nice to hear what they have to say.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 28, 2007 06:42 AM

RSS, Geno, I see Specter has hit a nerve. RSS his link is, was, will be at the start of his comment RSS, Repubs do resign when doing harm Dems don't. Clinton, Jefferson, Reid, Murtha, DiFi, etc..

I do agree that we are off topic.

Posted by: CoRev at April 28, 2007 08:39 AM

You mean like Rummy, Cheney, Gonzales, etc?

Get real.

Posted by: Geno at April 28, 2007 09:03 AM

the Iraqi aftermath, 3,400 dead/24,000 wounded

"Sounds like a bargain to me. What were the Okinawa invasion casualty numbers again? Refresh my memory."
Posted by: Purple Avenger

Be sure to pass this on to the families of the dead and wounded Amercan soldiers. I'm sure they'll get a real kick out if it.

By the way...have YOU served?

Posted by: Geno at April 28, 2007 09:06 AM


The reason the disssion evolves into the standard Clinto hating bullshit is because the right wing has NO real defense of this administration.


Posted by: Geno at April 28, 2007 09:13 AM

CoRev: Anyone can put up a web site called "Progressive Review" with these charges. I asked for a link to the original information. Specter simply copied unsubstantiated charges from someone else. As far as I know, he is the one behind "Progressive Review."

Take a look at this site, for example:

Does it convince you that Reagan was corrupt? Or would you like to see original sources?

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 28, 2007 10:19 AM

RSS, don't know what to say. Asking for a link, then saying that's not good enough doesn't get us anywhere.

Geno, I have. Have you served?

Posted by: CoRev at April 28, 2007 11:58 AM

R. Stanton,

I've got news for you. You may not believe it, but Bush and Cheney aren't running for office again. Just thought you should know. LOL.

Listen, you don't like Bush. So be it. If he and Cheney stepped down now - gaawwwwd...I can't imagine the craziness. Do you really want Pelosi running the country? ROFLMAO. Ludicrous.

As for links to other sites - I am not here to do your research for you. Do your own.

Posted by: Specter at April 28, 2007 12:52 PM

Specter: Is this what Republicans call fairness? You made accusations without supporting them with evidence. If you can't back them up with evidence you should withdraw them. It is not up to others to support accusations you are making.

I challenge you to prove what you said. You know you can't, because what you allege is not true, and proof does not exist. For you this is not troublesome--you dislike these people, so you simply believe anything you are told that supports your opinion. This makes your opinion pretty worthless.

I know Bush and Cheney are not running again. I have forgotten more about politics and what is happening in our government than you will ever know. And yes, I would prefer Nancy Pelosi to Bush as President.

CoRev: I'm not sure it matters whether Geno served. He or she is not the one supporting a war in which he or she is not fighting.

For your own service, thanks.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 28, 2007 01:28 PM

I know it drives the Left crazy but in the Iraq and Afghan wars combined we've lost fewer soldiers than individual battles in our history. It's quite likely the most efficient war ever run. And don't give me this "tell that to the families" crap. You are the ones cheerleading the casualties in the first place so don't pretend you give a crap and don't whine when facts get thrown back in your face.

And as for the Powell Doctrine, the whole "don't ever use military force unless all stars are aligned properly, in other words never" was the basis for the Clintonian ostrich strategy we had during the 90's as al-Qaeda spread around the world unopposed. It's one of the main reasons there's a hole in the ground in NYC right now.

Posted by: joe at April 28, 2007 04:41 PM

And another thing. Is there a greater example of doublethink out there than the Left complaining that Bush didn't ask us to sacrifice anything?

Posted by: joe at April 28, 2007 04:56 PM

According to a recent Pew Research survey, only 17% of Americans want an immediate withdrawal of troops (4/18-22, 2007).

CBS News’ survey findings show only 33% want to remove all troops from Iraq (4/9-12, 2007).

57% of voters support staying in Iraq until the job is finished and “the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people” (Public Opinion Strategies, 2/5-7, 2007).

59% of voters say pulling out of Iraq immediately would do more to harm America’s reputation in the world than staying until order is restored (Public Opinion Strategies, 2/5-7, 2007).

According to a Time magazine poll, only 32% want to withdraw the troops within the next year no matter what happens (3/23-26, 2007).

Americans Believe Immediate Retreat Leads to Bad Consequences

A plurality of adults (45%) say a terrorist attack in the United States is more likely if we withdraw our troops from Iraq while the “country remains unstable” (Pew Research, 4/18-22, 2007).

70% of American voters say, should a date for withdrawal be set, it is likely that “insurgents will increase their attacks in Iraq” starting on that day. This is supported by 85% of Republicans, 71% of Independents and 60% of Democrats (FOX News/Opinion Dynamics, 4/17-18, 2007).

Majority Supports Funding War, Troops

56% of Americans say, if President Bush vetoes the Democrats’ plan for withdrawal, Congress should still “allow funding for the war” even if there is no timetable. Only 36% want to withhold funding. A majority of Republicans (84%) and Independents (52%) want to allow funding, while only 51% of Democrats want to withhold it (CBS News, 4/20-24, 2007).

A mid-March Bloomberg poll revealed 61% of Americans believe withholding funding for the war is a bad idea, while only 28% believe it is a good idea (3/3-11, 2007).

A Public Opinion Strategies poll found that 56% of registered voters favor fully funding the war in Iraq, with more voters strongly favoring funding (40%) than totally opposing it (38%; 3/25-27, 2007).

According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 61% of Americans oppose “denying the funding needed to send any additional U.S. troops to Iraq,” and opposition is up from 58% in February (3/23-25, 2007).

Strong Opposition to Restricting Military Commanders

69% of American voters trust military commanders more than members of Congress (18%) to decide when United States troops should leave Iraq. This includes 52% of Democrats, 69% of Independents and 88% of Republicans (FOX News/Opinion Dynamics, 3/27-28, 2007).

Public Opinion Strategies recently reported a majority of voters (54%) oppose the Democrats imposing a reduction in troops below the level military commanders requested (3/25-27, 2007).

U.S. Troops Could be Hurt

63% say the debate between the President and Congress over the Iraq war is having a negative impact on troop morale, while only 19% say it is not having any impact at all (CBS News, 4/9-12, 2007).

50% of Americans say setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq “hurts” the troops, while only 27% believe it “helps” the troops (LA Times/Bloomberg, 4/5-9, 2007).

Low Marks for Democrats on Iraq

62% of Americans disapprove of the Democrats handling of Iraq, while only 37% approve (ABC News/Washington Post, 4/12-15, 2007).

Nuff said.

Posted by: Justin at April 28, 2007 05:24 PM

Stunning how what is a very appropriate and apropos criticism of the military and their political masters, so quickly becomes a partisan squabble.

Folks, blaming the other side isn't going to fix the problems that Col Yingling lays out... in fact such petulance only exacerbates them.

Posted by: bains at April 28, 2007 11:56 PM

I think polls are pretty useless--and that our leaders should make tough decisions about using military force based on national defense, not public opinion, but anyone who wants to see the state of public opinion on the war can go here:

The Public Opinion Strategies poll is widely recognized as being seriously flawed--mostly because of the way the questions were phrased (this really matters, believe it or not). Either side can produce a poll that says what they want it to say, of course, and this is what makes them relatively useless. I expect that many people who read CY regularly will believe that the left does this but the right does not, and that's OK, I guess, if you don't mind building your views around bad information.

The idea that low casualty rates correlate to efficiency in prosecuting a war is pretty ludicrous in my view. Casualty rates are a very poor way to measure success on the battlefield (as we found out in Viet Nam). Whether we have accomplished our goals is a much better one, and it is difficult even to express just what success in Iraq looks like. "Create a stable democracy," or "Train the Iraqis to stand up on their own" are both so vague as to make accomplishment impossible as long as some level of insurgency exists. Since we cannot, as a practical matter, eliminate every insurgent, it looks like these goals are impossible to meet. I believe that the Bush Administration miscalculated about what would happen after Saddam's fall--and this is no indictment of their competence, I can understand how this could happen to smart people--but now their failure to respond with flexibility and fresh thought sure makes them look incompetent (and no, just sending in more troops does not count as "fresh thought").

The most interesting thing about the funding bill the Democrats just passed is its requirements for minimum rotations to home station and the training that must be accomplished there before redeployment downrange. This should have the beneficial effect of helping keep our troops trained for contingencies other than Iraq (another more conventional conflict, for example), but it is also something of a backdoor way of forcing an increase in the overall size of the force. I believe this is a good idea, but Congress should just come right out and do so--this is the role it really should play in managing the war, I think. The problem with doing this is that there is no good way to recruit more troops. A draft is politically impossible, and enticing more qualified volunteers would cost a great deal of money in higher military pay.

This takes us back to the idea that Bush has not asked Americans to sacrifice. I am curious about just how "complaining that Bush never asked us to sacrifice anything" is an example of "doublethink." I guess if you hate going to the mall, the call to shop could be considered a sacrifice. But with no call for a draft, nor one for higher taxes to pay for all this, it sure looks to me like the troops and their families are the only ones Bush is calling on to bite the bullet here.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 29, 2007 07:38 AM

RSS, how would you change your comment if you know that we are on track to balance the budget in 08?

Posted by: CoRev at April 29, 2007 10:32 AM

Wars require learning as you go.

For example, after the 1940 debacle in France, the US developed the Tank Destroyer Corps, optimized to "Seek, Strike, and Destroy" Nazi armored spearheads. They did exactly that, using halftracks and 75mm guns in North Africa. That stopped Rommel at the Kasserine Pass. He withdrew. The press reported it as a massive defeat. General Fredental was fired.

General Patton took command of the second corps, and taught new tactics that used tanks against enemy weakness, and used tank destroyers behind them, first so the tank destroyers could move forward to strike any german strong points, and second so they would be perfectly positioned to hit any german counterattack. Tank Destroyers worked in pairs, so that a german tank facing one would be exposing its side to another.

In Italy the Tank Destroyers were used as high velocity artillery. On the few occasions that Germans came out, Panthers or Tigers could be stopped by a flank attack, and the limited roads made them less dangerous.

In France in the bocage, the US had to learn how to smash through the hedgerows, and to perfectly coordinate their movement with supporting fire.

Again, when Bradley broke through at St. Low, Patton again used mobility to cut through weaknesses, and then cut off retreating Germans with tank destroyer and infantry screens. He attacked with great success in all directions at once. The only thing that stopped him was the diversion of fuel to Montgomery's 12th Army group, and to move General Lee's communications zone headquarters from its austere site in Normandy to the flesh pots of Paris.

With minimal fuel, Patton switched to deliberate attacks through tough resistance, and gnawed through the Platinate.

Faced with the breakthrough in the Ardennes, Patton got the fuel priority that had been denied him, and bashed his way north, penetrating the German Seventh Army screen, and then hitting the flank of the German 6th Panzer Army.

After crossing the Rhine, Patton was again given supply priority, and turned that into a slashing attack to overrun much of southern Germany. Tank Destroyers were formed into Combat Commands, which included Tanks, Artillery, Tank Destroyers, and Infantry. Counterattacks were shoved aside. Infantry mounted on tanks shot at the sides of the road to keep the panzerfaust gunner's heads down, then threw grenades into their holes with them. So long as the US could keep pushing, the Germans couldn't get set.

End of history lesson. The point is: You have to adjust your tactics to the situation and the enemy. The enemy will adjust his tactics too. There is not a single winning strategy, but rather you have to match today's tactics to today's situation.

The US trounced Saddam's army in Iraq in weeks. We thumped Al Queda and the Ba'athists in a few months. We bash Al Sadr's militia every time we show up, but then they stop fighting, and our soldiers go back to their bases. We have 400,000 Iraqi soldiers as our allies.

So long as we keep fighting we can never lose. Only cowardice can lose this war for us. The cowardice won't come from the soldiers, but rather further back.

Posted by: Don Meaker at April 29, 2007 08:51 PM

Excellent comment Don.

Posted by: CoRev at April 29, 2007 11:00 PM

CoRev: I do not believe that we are not on track to balance the budget in 08, so there is no need to change my comment on that basis. I am, of coures, interested in any evidence you have to support the idea that we are.

And if we are, the Bush Administration still has not called for collective action and sacrifice in the face of war that he and his allies believe is a fight for the very existence of our civilization. It is difficult for me to believe how one could think that our very way of life is at risk, and yet refuse to mobilize the entire society in its defense. I simply cannot understand why our military services have to lower standards to recruit sufficient troops for this fight if so many people believe it is critical to survival.

Don: "So as long as we keep fighting we can never lose." As a soldier, this makes no sense to me whatsoever. "Not losing" is not the same as winning, and merely being in a fight--throwing resources into a war that never ends and results in neither victory nor defeat--does no one any good. If your definition of winning is "we're still fighting," I am glad you are not in charge.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 30, 2007 07:34 AM

RSS, the spam filter will not let me post a link to the article. Try a google on the Skeptical Optimist. He keeps a monthly tally of the trends.

Posted by: CoRev at April 30, 2007 08:24 AM

CoRev: The Skeptical Optimist is a very interesting website. But his argument seems to be about debt load, not balanced budgets. For example, he argues that government should (at least occasionally) borrow money, because "When a prudent measure of borrowing is used to supplement tax receipts, tax rates can be lower than they would have to be to 'balance the budget.' That's a growth-friendly policy."

This allows tax rates to be lower, so that "private sector business-builders have more after-tax resources to fund their ideas for better hot dog stands, day-care centers, plasma televisions, bullet-proof vests, video games, alternative-fuel auto engines, and anti-gravity machines."

So for the SO, fiscal responsibility is "The body of growth-oriented federal laws and policies that sustain the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 60% plus-or-minus 20%." (See http://www.optimist123(dot)com/optimist/2006/05/fiscal_responsi.html)

(Note that I bypassed the spam filter by inserting (dot) in the URLs in place of the "dot." You will have to reconvert them to make them work.)

He does not believe that the budget should always be balanced, and I could not find evidence on his site that suggests we are on the way to doing so (and indeed, the "debt clock" on his site shows the debt rising rapidly, and not slowing down). Presumably, he would argue that if we did balance it, government should begin borrowing again when necessary to promote growth or to bring the debt load back to 60% (his preferred level).

At any rate, I don't really see how arguing that government may soon be able to stop borrowing money justifies ignoring the need to mobilize our society to fight a struggle against a threat to our national and civilizational existence. Nor do I see how saying "we'll give you a pro-growth tax cut to help you fund your new anti-gravity machine and make more profit" constitutes doing so.

Further, I could find no evidence that what you say is true from other sources either. Indeed, even the Washington Times editorial board seems to be skeptical that the US budget may soon be balanced: http://washingtontimes(dot)com/op-ed/20070212-091022-6828r.htm

This article is about debt as well, but you will notice that they reject many of the assumptions required to make the case that the budget will be balanced by 2008 (and therefore begin to pay off national debt). It the WT figures are correct, reducing the national debt by $9 Billion by 2008 (which implies a surplus of more than $9 B--don't forget those pesky interest charges) requires reducing the cost of the war by $21 Billion next year. I don't believe this will happen. Unless it does, the budget will not be balanced--unless taxes are raised to cover the difference.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 30, 2007 10:23 AM

RSS, try this link:

He keeps a running monthly chart if you are interested. His views, as you noted, are interesting.

Posted by: CoRev at April 30, 2007 12:43 PM

CoRev: Thanks. This is a very interesting chart.

Note that he is giving us a trend of outlays vs. reciepts for the most recent 12 months. Another chart on SO from October 2005 shows 15.8% increase in reciepts against an 8.5% increase in outlays (over the most recent 12 months), and this also suggests a balanced budget in August 2008. When I ran the data from October 1980 to August 2006 as a simple monthly comparison (not a rolling 12 months) I got a very similar graph.

All of this makes me a "skeptical optimist" about this data. It does indeed seem to show that the outlays from September 2007 to August 2008 will match reciepts from the same period. But I'm not sure what it says about balancing the budget, and the CBO seems to have another view: http://www.cbo(dot)gov/showdoc.cfm?index=4985&sequence=2

I wonder if this has to do with Social Security and other reciepts that show in the MTS, but have little to do with any realistic chance to balance the budget--or to keep it balanced for very long, at least. I also wonder if the data looks this way because some outlays are not reported on the MTS. I can think of good reasons why some war or intelligence expenditures would not show up in a publicly available data set, since it would make it possible to determine just how much we spend on these things (by taking the total number and subtracting known payments in other areas).

At any rate, I hope you and SO are correct on this, though I don't think it shows that there was no need for Bush to mobilize our society for the struggle for civilization he says we are in, or that he has done so. I would like to see it if only because I think there is a need to create a sense that everyone is contributing. This might limit the partisan bickering over the issue, at least.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 30, 2007 03:09 PM

What do you think would happen if Bush tried to mobilize our country the way it should be? The Dems flipped out over the surge. A complete mobilization like that, they would have a heart attack and run to Canada. I support that idea 100%. Im really starting to think a draft is nescassary. We need to go all out and end this thing.

Only problem is the Dems seem to think war has experation date. War isnt a cup of yogurt.

Posted by: Justin at April 30, 2007 04:40 PM

RSS, I think you are correct. Not a balanced budget but budget surplus. Couldn't you have gotten something newer than Jan 04. That's little long in the tooth.

Actually what is happening is the economy is expanding faster than expenditures. All the wasteful spending doncha know.

If we stay on track 08 is going to be an interesting election year. Makes you wonder about the need for all those taxes being proposed by some candidates.

Posted by: CoRev at April 30, 2007 07:51 PM

I am willing to make a bet that the US federal budget is not balanced--or in surplus--in August 2008. Do what you can afford.

I am also willing to bet that the US economy will not make the election year more interesting in the sense I think you mean--that it will help Republicans. Stock market and productivity growth, and even a balanced budget, will not make working Americans, who find their wages lagging their increasing productivity even as they find out their jobs are more at risk (Circuit City) will not flock to the polls in support of the status quo.

If you are a Democrat, you have to like the prospects for 2008. Put down the Kool-Aid and take a look around. They aren't challenging and winning Republican seats just because they suddenly forgot about gun control.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at April 30, 2007 09:01 PM