The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats

I won't knock the decision to relieve SECDEF Rumsfeld. And as you know I am not particularly a fan of the administration either. But...

So many people are outwardly hailing the decision, blaming Rumsfeld for countless operational SNAFUs in Iraq. I'm no admirer of his, nor a firm believer in his command abilities. But there often seems to be much confusion about what the SECDEF's job actually is and what the Pentagon actually does. Many are blaming Rumsfeld for problems running the war. But operations in Iraq aren't run by Rumsfeld. They aren't even run by the Pentagon. They are run by CENTCOM in Tampa, FL.

Since the DoD reorganization in the early 1990s, combat operations have run through the Unified Combatand Commands, by a 4 star general or admiral who is ultimately responsible for the combat operations in his or her geographical area and reports directly to the Commander In Chief. The chain of command runs to each of those Generals in each geographical location - The Pacific, Europe, The Middle East, South America, and North America. The SECDEF, then, acts generally as an intermediary or an observing authority on the operational end. Any choices on troops force levels, for example, are determined by the combatant commanders (Generals) on the ground based on what is needed for the mission and what resources and capabilities the Pentagon has to give them. While they are doing this, those in the Pentagon are busy raising the force, training the force, and putting together think-tanks of field grade and flag officers to generate OPLANs for future conflicts. In a nutshell: the Unified Combatant Commands run the wars in the present, the Pentagon raises and equips the military for the future.

While there have been plenty of planning and operational SNAFUs, people often don't realize what SECDEF Rumsfeld has really accomplished in his actual job. He is personally responsible for what has essentially been a revolution in the affairs of the Department of Defense - DoD Transformation - which will allow the US Military to do what it wasn't originally designed to do: respond to terrorism. Important examples of his masterwork include: The reorganization of Army Divisions into highly responsive Brigade Combat Teams, the creation and strengthening of new combatant commands such as Special Operations Command and the up-and-coming Unified Medical Command (which will be crucial for the success of the vastly increased amount of humanitarian and civil-relief missions that the military is now taking part in). Not to mention that he is also wholly responsible for the new Rapid Fielding Initiative, which allows new equipment to be tested quickly, on the ground and in the conflict and gets needed equipment (eg. advanced body armor, stryker vehicles, &c) where it needs to be as soon as it is battle ready. Before him, the military did not have anything close to that capability.
It is because of Rumsfeld that the Armed Forces are positioned to respond to a multitude of asymmetric threats that they did not have the capability to defend against only 6 years ago. Just remember that as you cheer his resignation.

An interesting conversation below:

Exactly how has the military changed to respond to these new challenges? I guess I don't see what you're claiming reflected on the nightly news.

I also seem to recall our clueless president hailing Rumsfeld's decision to send in reduced troop levels, the logic being that with our advanced technologies, less troops could control more territory. Much to the consternation of various generals and military advisers. Ring any bells?

Oh, and one more thing - the under-armoring of troops...seems like a Rumsfeld legacy too.

Yeah, he sure accomplished a lot in 6 years. If by accomplish you mean putting a lot of young men and women's lives at risk with nary a second thought.

First to the under-armoring of troops. The truth of the matter is that any time we enter a conflict, the military that we fight with is the military that built many years before. We try to do our best to predict what kind of conflict we will be fighting in the future. But it does not always work out. We took a military that was designed for force-on-force cold-war-type conflict into an asymmetric conflict. Every unit entering the conflict was equipped with the resources that unit was designed to be equipped with. When they got to the ground they found themselves being tasked by the COMBATANT COMMANDERS (not Rumsfeld, who is an administrator, not a General) to do missions they were not designed to handle. They were working with what they had. Some, for example, did not have the necessary armor on their Humvees. It was because of this fact, the necessity for these units to be able to adapt their resources to new and varied missions, that Rumsfeld created the RAPID FIELDING INITIATIVE. This initiative's purpose was to allow new equipment to be fielded quickly in response to the ever varying needs of the units on the ground. So the under-armoring of troops was a legacy of the Cold War Military that we went into Iraq with, not of Rumsfeld. The Rapid Fielding Initiative, however, is certainly a legacy of his.

Other massive changes that have been made include:
The complete and utter reorganization of the Army from Divisions to highly versatile and responsive Brigade Combat Teams. The full equipping and manning of Special Operations Command and charging them with all assymmetric warfare and counterterrorism planning and analysis. The full implementation of Network Centric Warfare, and the creation of the Global Information Grid - which, for example, give Battalion Commanders on the ground access to intelligence, information, and communications resources that used to be available only at the level of Army Divisions or Corps.

Or what about the creation of the Army's Battle Command Knowledge System, a "lesson's learned" resource which allows the Army to collect, analyze and incorporate the lessons from its operations and training into its doctrine and operating procedures in a matter of HOURS rather than months or years.

Or how about the planned creation of a Unified Medical Command which, as I mentioned, will crucial for the success of the vastly increased number of humanitarian and civil-relief missions that the military now takes part in (eg. Katrina, the Tsunami, Subsaharan Africa, Eastern Europe, &c).

These are just a few examples...

Further on under-armoring of troops
And you might ask, why didn't they just get the armor they needed before they went, or why when they found out that they needed it didn't they get it right away?
The answer to that is that we have a set amount of resources, for a military that was procured many years ago. It is the responsibility of commanders on the ground to use wisely the resources that they are given. That is why we give them officer commissions and pay for their education. To think.
Thankfully many do. And thankfully, many in the Pentagon do to. They realized that there has to be a way to get newly procured equipment to the ground quickly. To learn what critical deficiencies existed in the tables of organization and equipment (the list of what equipment is authorized to each unit), modify the TOE, contact the supply manufacturers, generate new supplies from the factory and ship it directly to those units that are most in need of it in a matter of weeks or months. So they created RFI. Keep in mind that they could not do this before. No military in the history of the world has had that ability. It is quite a logistical feat that they have been able to do this.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

conservatives hang your heads

Tomorrow morning, regardless of if the Democrats sweep the House and the Senate or just one of the two, it will be clear who screwed up: Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. Since the Iraq War began, the Bush administration, and thus the loyal Republican Party, has stood on the shoulders of one issue, fighting terrorism. It is not that the war on terrorism is an unworthy cause to rally around, it was that it was the ONLY cause that they rallied around.

Karl Rove has been credited by many people on all sides of the political aisle for being a genius; a master manipulator and strategist of epic proportions. His strategy was to find in all political races, a weakness that could best be exploited to the American public. To his credit, that strategy worked; it worked for a long time and it got many Republicans into office, but again, a one strategy approach is extremely risky. This midterm election, campaign races were ugly, they were the ugliest and the dirtiest I have seen since I developed a political consciousness. I speculate, given Rove’s history of pulling strings, that a lot of the negative ads were either suggested by or inspired by him. Americans saw that the ads were nasty. Americans saw that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh were cruel. Americans saw that there was one issue that they were called to rally around and to be honest, I think we all were tired of being scared by the specter of terrorism.

The Bush administration has centered on the Iraq War for a long time. We must stay the course. We must spread freedom in the Middle East. We must drum up Democratic inadequacy at protecting the average American. Placing all of their eggs in one basket was successful when things seemed to be going according to plan, but as most of us know, what we expect rarely occurs according to plan. Iraq has been a disaster. Thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives, a two-digit multiple of that number of civilian Iraqis have been killed, and there is no peaceful light at the end of the tunnel. To be honest at this point, the end of the tunnel doesn't even exist yet. Part of this can be blamed on poor planning for post de-Baathification Iraq, part of it on the shoulders of Iraqis not stepping up and taking control of their country and sectarian violence, and a large part of it is a single minded Department of Defense strategy that rejected those individuals and ideas who were best suited for Iraqi reconstruction and planning for war.

Republicans by an enormous majority margin supported the Bush administration in its march into Iraq. There were few voices of dissent and even less of a substantive effort to have the administration embrace accountability for its failures. If you ask the President, Rumsfeld, or Cheney, you will be told that there have been no failures, that we are on the right track, and that they will see their plan through to the end. The American public however views Iraq as a failure. In a Republican controlled House, Senate, and Executive branch of government, Republicans had an opportunity to bring a conservative framework to America, in both legislative and social aspects; a conservative ideology which in my opinion would be more than welcome by the majority of America. The true conservative spirit of America was failed, plain and simple. Government is not smaller, spending is out of control, our borders are not secure, and the focus of government has been on job retention and not serving the public interests. In six years we have not fixed a faulty voting system, we have not addressed illegal immigration, we have outspent every past Presidential administration to date, government has in fact gotten larger, we have not prepared ourselves for the jobs of the 21st century, we have left millions of children behind, and we have sacrificed our moral foundations that for centuries have made us great.

Without any other issues to fall back upon, the Bush administration came up empty. This was an extremely unfortunate outcome for a number of Republicans who have served their states and constituents well, the failures of the Presidency and Republican majority ruined their current career. Tom Keane Jr, Lincoln Chafee, Chris Shays (who right now looks like he might win, we’ll see tomorrow), Anne Northup, etc; people who are in my opinion, good public servants, who are being run out by general mass dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. By stubbornly clinging to a failed policy and focusing so heavily on one issue and one issue alone, Bush and his party have not only angered America but also put Republican legislators’ jobs in jeopardy. The American people have spoken and they are tired of being scared shitless every time the approval rating goes down and the economy is in not doing well. Tomorrow, if we are lucky, the United States gets back on track and checks and balances means something again.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Kerry Made a Mistake

Some troops in Iraq provide commentary on Senator Kerry's recent remarks:
Sen. Kerry made a severe mistake:
“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Kerry claims it was meant to be a joke, and that he botched the joke. I am not sure what he intended the joke to be, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he did not intend to insult the military. That being said, what actually came out of his mouth did insult many. Given the Senator's military background, I would hope that he would take care to correct his mistake, and put some effort into correcting the apparent misconception that members of the military are uneducated.

Some facts:
The U.S. Military is the most educated military in the world. 99.3% of all members of the military are high school graduates, far higher than the national average. Nearly all military officers, 98.7%, have a college degree. 49.2 percent of officers have advanced or professional degrees; 39.4 percent have master's degrees, 8.5 percent have professional degrees and 1.3 percent have doctorate degrees.