War Plan - Close Enough for Jazz
As of this writing, the media is again waxing exuberant over the military successes in Iraq. The 3rd Division’s capture of Baghdad International Airport and their recent raids into downtown Baghdad seemed to have impressed even the most lefty anti-war news folks. The Brits are in currently in control of downtown Basra.
What a difference a week makes. Last week pessimism reigned. The Washington Post ran an exposé on the divide between Rumsfeld’s Defense Department and the Generals. Out of this came the huge revelation… the Generals wanted more men and material in the theatre before beginning hostilities. Whew… man bites dog… AGAIN!
Okay, this is how the process works, I don’t care if you’re producing a stage play, designing and implementing a computer network infrastructure or invading Iraq. The people charged with actually doing the work will always want more resources. They will in fact claim that they cannot get the job done without them.
It has been beautiful to watch collation success after collation success throw a wet blanket on the Rummy vs. the Generals gossip. The news thread just seemed to fade away, the battlefield reports of each victory making the story more irrelevant... except perhaps to Beltway insider weenies.
The Bush Administration and the Pentagon of course played down the vigor of the debate. The public appearance of relative unanimity had to be preserved. But, there can be little doubt that a frank and healthy discussion took place. It is also quite probable that the process, in particular the risks and concerns that Tommy Franks, his staff and other General officers brought to light, helped craft a better and more flexible framework for the execution of the war. That’s the way the process is supposed to work.
However, once the geopolitical stars were aligned, Rumsfeld, at the behest of the President had to say “GO! These are the resources you’ve got in the theatre. This is the mission. Yeah, it sucks that the Turks are not going to allow us to bring in the 4th Division from the north… but we need to GO NOW!” In they went. And they have kicked serious ass.
Sooner or later, even in the riskiest of endeavors, you need to stop the planning cycle and let it fly. There is no perfect plan and overemphasizing the importance of risk assessment can lead to “analysis paralysis”. The closest any plan can come to perfection is its inclusion of all known probabilities (no matter how unpleasant) and a way to deal with them with the resources at hand.
By this metric, the coalition plan has been breathtakingly close to perfect in its execution. We are inflicting 1,000 KIAs to every one the Iraqis inflict on us. Even by the Iraqi’s Regime’s own dubiously inflated estimates, Iraqi civilian dead are at only around 500. We’ve found WMDs and evidence of Iraqi atrocities. And we’re less than three weeks into this thing.
Computer programs need to be “perfect”. Why? Because computers are dumb as a stick, they only do what you explicitly tell them to. On the other hand, coalition forces have shown the incredible human ability to LEARN WHILE DOING. The British have demonstrated amazing skill, patience, finesse and resourcefulness in their handling of Basra. They did not get the immediate “liberator’s welcome” that they foresaw. The plans apparently did not predict the insinuation of Saddam Fedayeen into the population of the city and the ability this would have to effectively hold the Shiite population hostage. The Brits knew that massive coalition and civilian casualties were unacceptable. So, instead of plunging headlong into urban combat, they reassessed and developed a new way.
The Brits improvised. Intelligence was gathered. Fedayeen HQs and personnel were identified and destroyed. Most importantly, the Shiite population was not antagonized or alienated and was given every indication that the Royal Marines were there to stay only until Saddam was overthrown and they were safe.
Now, thanks to the inventiveness of the British coalition forces, the 3rd Division has a new working-plan for taking Baghdad. Baghdad will no doubt provide its own unique set of challenges and the Americans will have to improvise on the British “Basra Doctrine”. U.S. armed forces, with their emphasis on individual resourcefulness and rejection of automaton-like adherence to doctrinaire and top-down planning are arguably the best military force on the planet to execute almost jazz-like improvisation in a conflict of this kind.
This results-driven, individualist, almost entrepreneurial quality of the U.S. military is part and parcel a reflection of the society that fields it. When the power and flexibility of individual initiative is melded with group discipline and effective training in the crucible of battle, the results, as we have seen, can be truly awesome. It could be that the Army’s recent “An Army of One” recruiting campaign proved prophetic.
The press has seemed to have a hard time catching on to this as success. They seem only to ruminate on divergence from the plan, intelligence failures and the previously mentioned “lack of resources” in the theatre. Not that the press actually even KNEW much about the real plan. They, and by extension, we only know what was released to us. Expectations were somehow set that mass surrender would be the norm in the south and that resistance would be next to nonexistent. Our overwhelming success in quickly changing conditions and shifting assumptions is not seen as a virtue, but as scrambling.
”My God! They’re actually making some of this stuff up as they go!”
This general reaction from the press is really not be all that surprising. In this case, the press represents the liberal worldview in small. It is this improvisational quality in battle, and the successes from its employment by our forces that I sometimes think scares the liberal establishment most. The Lefties love plans and the status quo… that is, now that they ARE the status quo. War always poses a big time threat to stability (for winners as well as losers) and, paraphrasing Eisenhower, the plan goes into the toilet once the shooting starts. Despite their fondness for Ché Guevera tee shirts, the Left really is not a revolutionary crowd they fancy themselves. Revolution is too messy, dynamic and scary.
They are much more comfortable with low-confrontation incrementalism. Even the controlled, low level conflict of capitalism frightens them. War (and I’m not talking about the human cost here, just the potential for rapid, decisive and often unexpected change), must make them break out in hives.
Add to this the inherent bodily risk of armed conflict and you have the makings of a twofer liberal freak out. “Safety first, second and third” is one of the left’s favorite mantras. The precautionary principle
is the left’s favorite tool for stifling innovation and preventing change. Think the liberal desire for “universal insurance for every possible bad thing that can happen to people” here. Christ, in a spasm of political correctness turned to high irony, we’re not even shipping cigarettes to our front line troops. Hey soldier boy, you can take enemy fire, but no smokes… that’s bad for your health, you know. And if you’re under 21, you can’t have a beer back at the base either.
Yep, war is risky. Once the shooting starts, you can make some assumptions about general outcome of the conflict. However, every individual in the battle zone is at risk. This is why the loss of a part of the 507th Maintenance Company and the daring rescue of Jessica Lynch struck such a chord in the media. These people were supply personnel…truck drivers… and they were killed and captured. They just joined the Army to fund their education. How could we let this happen?
Well, they may have been truck drivers, but they were armed truck drivers. Each of them carried a loaded M16. They were volunteer, citizen soldiers. And, if the stories about Jessica and the stand she and her comrades put up are true, they went down fighting.
Our service men and women in Iraq are behaving neither like the helpless victims nor the baby killing, hooch torching goons the liberals had for them in their plan. They are acquitting themselves with bravery and honor. Not only have they been exceeding expectations as warriors, they are by all accounts showing respect for the Iraqi people, behaving as their liberators and guests, not conquerors.
Good Lord, what if the success of individual initiative and flexibility that the U.S. military has shown in Iraq means that we’re not only preeminent at just about everything else (science, business, engineering, commercial art, entertainment, etc.)… but now we rock at this too? Welcome to the Left’s worst nightmare.
The Viet Nam “cautionary lesson” has been a cornerstone of the liberal catechism for almost 30 years. Gulf War I put a sizeable dent in that common wisdom. Gulf War II may lay it to rest. If every war does not threaten to be a potential “quagmire”, then the only things that we’ll have to keep us from engaging in a preemptive war against a two bit dictatorship that enslaves its own people and threatens our security will be our national common sense and conscience.
The liberal elite and their colleagues in the press have precious little confidence in our common sense (we can’t survive without all those programs, and there’s a cabal of evil war profiteering industrialists in real control of the country, blah, blah, blah…). And they are convinced that we Americans are utterly without a national conscience. Except for the Left, of course, who presume to BE our national conscience. Hell, other than them we’re no better than Nazi Germany.
It must be a fitful, scary time for those on the left.
As for me, I’m thinking of the only time that I heard my dad be openly critical of this country. He was speaking of the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution against Soviet occupation and our refusal to lend aid to the freedom fighters. He said: “That was the only time that I’ve been ashamed to be an American.”
God, I’m proud of us right now.