There�s no reason to doubt that a majority of the Iraqi people devoutly wish to be rid of Saddam � but as should be clear from the resistance that U.S. and U.K. troops are encountering, Saddam retains significant support. His is, after all, a modern totalitarian state. It requires large numbers of people to prop up the regime, and it rewards them accordingly. Many within the apparat have no reason to think they will fare well after the regime is toppled.
That apparat � the Sunni-based Ba�ath Party � has been largely an occupying power in the Shi�ite south, as it was in the Kurdish north. To the Sunni population that inhabits the center of the country, however, Saddam is, among other things, a nationalist leader. And even the most barbaric of totalitarian nationalists has its supporters, as the Russian nostalgia for Stalin (one of Saddam�s role models) attests to this day.
After one week of war, it�s clear that the Ba�ath Party machine and the security-state thugs who secure it can�t deter the U.S. and U.K. forces in the field, but they can make the capture of cities a bloody mess � as they already have in Basra. Now, the nightmare of house-to-house street fighting seems about to descend on Baghdad. And the mere existence of this grimly predictable battle will give the lie to every rosy scenario that the neocons have insisted will result from this war.
This is a serious matter. On the basis of the rosy scenario that Bush embraced, our military plans have been built. This means that the neocons' sales pitch has endangered the lives of American troops. Via Jim Henley, it is clear that Donald Rumsfeld (one of the architects of the neocon vision along with Richard Perle) has imposed limitations upon our military, to reflect his ideological neocon belief. Jim Henley makes note of how Rumsfeld passes the buck:
Q: Mr. Secretary, as you know, there has been some criticism, some by retired senior officers, some by officers on background in this building, who claim that the war plan that is in effect is flawed and our number of troops on the ground is too light, supply lines are too long and stretched too thin. Would you give us a definitive statement, if you would, to the effect that you agree that the war plan is sound and that this criticism is unfounded, or that there's some substance to it?
Rumsfeld: The war plan is Tom Franks' war plan. It was carefully prepared over many months. It was washed through the tank with the chiefs on at least four or five occasions.
It has been through the combatant commanders. It has been through the National Security Council process. General Myers and General Pace and others, including this individual, have seen it in a variety of different iterations. When asked by the president or by me, the military officers who've reviewed it have all said they thought it was an excellent plan. Indeed, adjectives that go beyond that have been used, quite complimentary.
Jim notes that here, Rumsgfeld has been careful to include everyone any everyone - from Gens. Myers and Franks, the field-level combat officers, practically invoking the entire military hierarchy. The impression is of a carefully vetted plan. But is is well-documented that Rumsfeld's input to the plan was radical and undermined the advice of all those military individuals:
By far the most dramatic and disruptive change to the battle plan, however, was Rumsfeld's decision last November to slash Central Command's request for forces. This single decision essentially cut the size of the anticipated assault force in half in the final stages of planning, and it had a ripple effect on Central Command and Army planning that continues to color operations to this day.
There's a lot more in that article, published in Government Executive Magazine. The opinion that our battle plan was driven by political ideology rather than operational need is not limited to a few dissenters - it is widespread and well-supported. Tacitus, displaying his intellectual independence and rigor, asks similar questions about the size of our deployment in Iraq, noting that the principle of mass is violated and linking to this piece in the WaPo detailing how the expectation of swift victory has directly lengthened the war:
Despite the rapid advance of Army and Marine forces across Iraq over the past week, some senior U.S. military officers are now convinced that the war is likely to last months and will require considerably more combat power than is now on hand there and in Kuwait, senior defense officials said yesterday.
Overhanging all developments in the war this week is the unsettling realization that thousands of Iraqis are willing to fight vigorously. During planning for the invasion, worst-case scenarios sometimes predicated stiff resistance, but "no one took that very seriously," an officer said.
"The whole linchpin of this operation was the reaction of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi ground force," said retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew, a specialist in war planning. "If they don't turn, and so far they haven't, we have a very different strategic problem facing us than when we went in."
Then there is this quote from Lt. Gen William Wallace, comander of the forces in the Persian Gulf: "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against." It's reasonable to ask, why didn't the war game scenarios predict fedayeen, guerilla insurgents, long and vulnerable supply lines? Well, actually they did, but the wargaming was biased from the start to meet expectations of the neocon vision-driven easy win!
Pentagon war games pit "Red Force" (simulating the enemy) against "Blue Force" (the United States). In this war game, as in many war games over the years, Van Riper played the Red Force commander.
For instance�and here is where he displayed prescience�Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to Red troops, thereby eluding Blue's super-sophisticated eavesdropping technology. He maneuvered Red forces constantly. At one point in the game, when Blue's fleet entered the Persian Gulf, he sank some of the ships with suicide-bombers in speed boats. (At that point, the managers stopped the game, "refloated" the Blue fleet, and resumed play.) Robert Oakley, a retired U.S. ambassador who played the Red civilian leader, told the Army Times that Van Riper was "out-thinking" Blue Force from the first day of the exercise.
Yet, Van Riper said in his e-mail, the game's managers remanded some of his moves as improper and simply blocked others from being carried out. According to the Army Times summary, "Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed [Red Force] not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units."
Finally, the paper quoted a retired Army officer who has played in several war games with Van Riper. "What he's done is, he's made himself an expert in playing Red, and he's real obnoxious about it," the officer said. "He will insist on being able to play Red as freely as possible and as imaginatively and creatively, within the bounds of the framework of the game and the technology horizons and all that, as possible. He can be a real pain in the ass, but that's good. � He's a great patriot and he's doing all those things for the right reasons."
Clearly, the Pentagon needs to encourage obnoxious Red commanders, not suppress them. Scripted war-game enemies may roll over, but, as we're seeing, real enemies sometimes think of tricky ways to fight back.
What is emerging is a clear pattern. It starts with the neocons, who articulate a vision that can charitably be called "rose-tinted" (I'll leave the uncharitable adjectives to others). Rumsfeld takes these ideas and imposes them on the Pentagon. Unsurprisingly, war games predict easy Blue wins, further validating the neocon vision. These dishonest results are then the rationale for major changes to the miliitary plans for invading Iraq. Worse, the neocons are so confident that they urge that hostilities begin even before the 4th ID can be routed away from teh Mediterranean and sent to Kuwait to provide backup - so the actual war plan is now being fought with even less military capability than even the original final-Rumsfeld version.
And American soldiers are bearing the burden.