Tuesday, April 18

War Is Too Important To Be Left to the Trekkies

Y'know, some days I just pace next to the keyboard and wonder, "What comes after insanity?"

Here's Paul "The Zeppo of Powerline" Mirengoff on "Those Griping Ex-Generals":
Dafydd ab Hugh has an excellent post about the retired generals who have lambasted Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently. Dafydd notes that the generals in question are (1) mostly, in effect, Clinton appointees and (2) "old school" generals who object to Rumsfeld's pet theories of pushing towards smaller units, more unit independence, much greater reliance on Special Forces, and a reorganization of units to be self-sufficient rather than specialized. As to the second point, Dafydd compares the griping generals to "vice presidents at General Motors or IBM who furiously denounce splitting those companies into self-reliant business units instead of the normal corporate divisions they've had for twenty years." He also notes that "the fact that an old general dislikes the new style of warfare is not a refutation of that style. It just [the general] is 'Old School.' But Old School is not necessary the best school." You should definitely read the whole thing.

Noted historian Dafydd ab Hugh, military advisor to the Powerline Boys, whose personal records in that regard are, oh, somewhat lacking? No, I hadn't heard of him either, I'm proud to say. But somebody Wikied him:
Hugh is most noted for writing fiction in media franchise, including several novels for the Star Trek franchise. He also wrote four novels associated with the game Doom . However he also did some short fiction . His most noted story, "The Coon Rolled Down and Ruptured His Larinks, A Squeezed Novel by Mr. Skunk", received Hugo Award and Nebula Award nominations. It concerns sentient animals and inter-species sex.

He and his wife Sachi currently run a right-leaning blog, Big Lizards

What comes after insanity? And why aren't any of these fucks in uniform (other than those spiffy Star Fleet Academy jobs)?

In case you haven't been keeping your own box score, let's begin by running down the Old School Clintonistas these brilliant strategists see fit to slime because they disagreed in public with Donald Rumsfeld:

Marine General Anthony Zinni, former C-in-C of CENTCOM, a man with two masters degrees, and special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2002.

Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Director of Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff 2000-2002.

Marine Lieutenant General Paul Van Ripper, former Director of the Command and Staff College, and the commander of the Iraqi side in the Millenium Challenge wargame. He won. Or he would have if they hadn't called time out.

Maj. General Charles Swannack, former commander of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.

Maj. General John Batiste, former commander of the 1st Infantry in Iraq.

Maj. General John Riggs, former director of the Objective Force Task Force.

Maj. General Paul Eaton, who ran the Iraqi security force training 2003-04.

Got that? The commander of the motherfuckin' 82nd Airborne has been dismissed by some third-chair high school oboist from Red Wing.

Let's start with Powerline. Believe me, if anything, Mirengoff has actually made Lizard boy sound reasonable. 1) Promotions to general officer are approved by the President. They are not "appointees", and while no one--not even those who know something about it--will deny the importance of politics at the highest reaches of command, it's not the simple-minded partisanship these boys can't seem to see beyond. I couldn't find an easy source for biographies of the above, but Zinni made general during the Reagan administration, and Van Ripper before Clinton, so far as I could tell. If these men are "Clintonistas" you'll note from the above that the Bush administration did not exactly shunt them off to desk commands. Mediocrities, and sometimes raving lunatics, may rise through the ranks. Complete idiots remain colonels. 2) Nice ellipsis over the part where Rumsfeld is the appointed political overseer of the DoD, and not the Grand Generalissimo. Let's try to put this in terms a shyster hack could understand. Bringing in an experienced attorney to manage your law firm would be one thing; appointing a paralegal to do so would be another. Rumsfeld may be our longest-serving Secretary of Defense. He is also, without question, our worst. New Ideas are not virtuous by reason of being new, and when they fail it's the people who warned against them who get to do the crowing.

That meme apparently comes from somebody reading somewhere that generals are always prepared to fight the last war, probably in a Nebula-nominated graphic novel. This is carried to the height of interspecies-sexual absurdity over at the suspiciously-named-under-the-circumstances Big Lizards:
All generals have been in the service for decades. For decades, we have refought World War II -- in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia, and Kosovo... by which I mean using more or less the same tactics (mass bombings, invasion by massive, centrally commanded divisions, and so forth). Those at the warfare styles to which these generals were long accustomed.

We've been sucked into some sort of wormhole here--if you'll pardon the use of "suck", "hole", and a potential hermaphroditic interspecies breeding experiment in the same sentence--linking to a region of the universe that is remarkably dull, if not unexpected. We may keep refighting WWII in political terms; that's a problem for politicians. But to say we refought WWII in a military sense is not even true for Korea, which resembled a Napoleonic land war with WWII naval batteries, massive interdiction bombing, and jet fighters. Without question Vietnam was disastrously led at both the strategic and political levels, but that was due the hubris of a major power fighting a ragtag, ill-equipped foe, not to outmoded tactics. It was all high-tech and overkill and a failure to understand the opponent. Find me a guerilla or jungle war in the Second World War that was fought like Vietnam. First, you might want to learn something about the latter. (Interesting, though, that once it becomes politically expedient we're willing to blame the US military, and not Dan Rather, for Vietnam.)

And the crapola about "mass bombings, invasion by massive, centrally commanded divisions" is just a ham-fisted attempt to paint things in monochrome. It's not even true as a generalization about WWII--the word "blitzkrieg" springs immediately to mind, or Merrill's Marauders, the lightning overruns in North Africa, the early German panzer attacks on the Eastern front or the early American landings on Japanese-held islands. Mass force was used against massed force, on the Eastern front, on D-Day. It had to be. And American forces in particular have always been known for the initiative shown by lower-ranking officers, even enlisted men.

This is not to impugn the idea of lightning force in the modern age. It's just to say it is an argument, not an invention, which Rumsfeld made in public, and as we've pointed out many times it just happens to be a convenient MO when one wanted to go to war on a strict timetable and avoid conscription. That it worked against a tenth-rate Iraq army which was already demoralized was no miracle. That it failed to secure the objective after, as could have been predicted by minds half as knowledgeable as those seven above, is indisputable. "I doubt six months," said the Prophet of the New Era.

Is there any history lesson, military or otherwise, more potent than the warning to learn from one's mistakes? The Army, in fact, did precisely that after Vietnam. There was a great deal of soul searching, and no refusal to look at the facts without sentimentality and excuse-mongering as we continue to be treated to from the Right (and from far behind the front lines). But we have an army which does not choose its emperor, and just like Vietnam the failure in Iraq is a failure of leadership. Any idiot can see it. Some idiots choose not to.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how you can get through this tripe without a ton of antacid and ACE inhibitors. What is so immensely frustrating these days and must drive you nuts is the unmitigated level and quantity of mendacity right-wingers spew. Any given Powerline post is so replete with lies, distortions, propaganda and generally insane observations that it's a Sisyphean task to counter it... it's always "my god, where to begin?" It's also why these types get away with so much in broadcast appearances. They rattle off insanities a thru z, and any opposition has barely a chance to engage them on "a" before time's up.

Not to mention how they change their positions 180 degrees depending on the idiocy du jour. For example, in one post our forces are not being ruthless enough in Iraq, and in the next the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force is "old school." So our problem is that our streamlined lightning force just isn't savage enough to control the country.

Meanwhile, the Lizards have been loons for a long time. Your roster of "Clinton appointees" shows a real lefti cabal, eh?

Anonymous said...

I keep the Lizards and other right wing bloggers well below my event horizon. Speaking as a lefty Nam vet, (I never thought I would ever say this) some Generals actually know what they're talking about and, as all military, they don't speak up until retirement. Doghouse, thanks for pulling point and drawing fire.

Anonymous said...

The commander of the motherfuckin' 82nd Airborne has been dismissed by some third-chair high school oboist from Red Wing.

But that third-chair high school oboist took Stalingrad in only 4 turns in the Avalon Hill board game back in 1977.

Is there any history lesson, military or otherwise, more potent than the warning to learn from one's mistakes?

Now that's old school. Thanks again, Mr. Riley. You may not be able to kill zombies like Mirengoff by shooting them in the head repeatedly, but at least it reminds us who they actually are.

Anonymous said...

I actually had heard of him. You weren't missing anything, though the Star Trek stuff was better than the military analysis.

Guys? If my bestest, most favoritest ever president had appointed some of the guys Bush has, I wouldn't be taking pokes, accurate or otherwise, against Clinton.

James Lee Witt. "Heckuva Job" Brownie.

Do us all a favor and shut up until you know something.

punkinsmom said...

Bless your heart for plodding through such tripe in order to bring us such well-written posts with honesty wit and intelligence.

T.H. said...

well, if this cheers you up, consider this:

i doubt rumsfeld and his sycophants have ever read powerline, let alone heard of it.

and if they did, i doubt they'd follow its advice.

handdrummer said...

Best thing David ab Hugh ever wrote was some listserve porn that still rides about the web in various easy to find places.

And don't use him to tar all gamers and SF fans, please. Many of us thought he was an ubertwit even back then.

Anonymous said...

So... the general's criticisms are invalid because they disagree with Mr. Rumsfield's strategy?

That comes awfully close to being a tautology; It's just a few steps from there to, "Criticism is out of bounds because it's too critical".

aimai said...

You are *so* wrong, I well remember the massive centrally organized invasion of Kosovo. Weren't our troops everywhere? (!)

Anonymous said...

In the early 90s, John Akers started to split IBM up into independent business units. Then he decided to spend more time with his family, and then Lou Gerstner put those independent business units back together (aside from a few that had already become independent).

Even this guy's analogies are self-refuting.