I continue to be amazed how various pundits, politicians, reporters, and other military amateurs continue their relentless criticism of Secretary Rumsfeld and his conduct of the War on Terror. These people are no more qualified to critique the actions of the SecDef than I am and in fact being a student of military history, I might actually be more qualified. The latest attack(s) have been launched by the left through a number of Generals including Wesley Clark and Colin Powell. It is worth noting that both of these Generals are actually Pentagon Generals with little experience in Battle. Frontline Generals in the mode of Field Marshal Rommel and General Patton are hard to find today. In fairness General Powell did support and assist General Schwarzkopf in conducting the Gulf War. However, that was a classic war in the sense it was a war between nation states and conducted in the grand manner. We saw movements of air and sea forces, feints, flanking maneuvers, and everything conducted at the Division and Corps level. It was truly marvelous and perhaps the last war of this type ever to be fought. The War on Terror is much more intimate and the battles – such as they are – tend to be fought at the platoon or company level and sometimes at the Battalion level but for the most part the battles are intimate affairs. The generals who are being paraded about as experts are in reality not experts at all. They might be experts in classic warfare and capable of integrating air and sea with ground forces across a theater but that really isn’t what is going on today. We are being subjected to this avalanche of criticism by a group of arm chair wannabe generals and a gaggle of real generals who want to fight the only war they know how to fight, which unfortunately isn’t the current one. I offer some relevant quotes.
I feel that retired generals should never miss an opportunity to remain silent concerning matters for which they are no longer responsible.
General Norman Schwartzkopf
Dead battles and dead generals are traps for the military mind
If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.
General Ulysses S. Grant
So what we are being subjected to is a gaggle of people who do not have any responsibility for the conduct of or the outcome of, the current conflict. On the one hand we have civilians who choose to view those captured on the battle field, not as prisoners of war but as some sort of oppressed person alleged to have committed a crime. These people are being held illegally and in violation of the American Constitution. How the American Constitution applies to people who are not citizens is unclear to me but apparently not unclear to others. What crime should these people be charged with? What kind of evidence can be supplied? The illogic of this position seems lost because it would virtually guarantee that most if not all of those being held would have to be relesed for lack of evidence. Under this contorted thinking all of the soldiers captured in WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam would have been released and sent back to their units.
But these people were soldiers and under the rules of war they could be held without charges until the end of hostilities, but those people being held by the US today are not soldiers. If they aren’t soldiers what are they? Some describe them as “insurgents”, “militants”, and “freedom fighters”, but these are not soldiers because they don’t wear uniforms. Under the rules of war people engaged in actions against one of the combatants who are captured without a uniform can be treated as spies or saboteurs and summarily executed. So the reality is that the United States is treating these people more humanely than they deserve under the rules of war.
As serious as this problem is and as much as it acts as a distraction to the military, the more serious problem is the constant criticism of how the war is being conducted. The reality is there are actually two wars under way and perhaps more depending on your view point. There is the War of Terror, which is really a misnomer for a general conflict between radical Muslims and the West. This is actually a global conflict being waged by Muslims against Christendom. This war was declared by Osama bin Laden and its objective is world domination by Islam and the installation of Shar’ia Law world wide. This is a war against all infidels and no quarter is asked or given. The result of this policy is attacks of civilians and the torture and murder of any captives. This war is being confused with the Iraqi War and the War in Afghanistan.
These Wars are actually theaters in the War on Terror. There objective is to focus the conflict into a more controllable situation. The War in Afghanistan was intended to deny Islam a permanent base of operations and a training ground for their military who do not wear uniforms and who are trained to use the civilian population as shields. Operations in this theater are continuing with mixed success due to the tribal nature of the natives and the inability of the government to establish control. Unfortunately, the Islamic world is primarily composed of tribes and clans who give only limited notice to any central government. Their primary loyalty is to Islam and this makes establishing any kind of permanent government in Afghanistan problematic. The near term objective appears to be to deny the militant Muslims a base of operations and this appears to be successful, but the fighting goes on. It is worth noting that the Afghans historically fight each other and only band together to fight an outsider.
The reality is that even if Afghanistan was totally pacified and a stable government in place, it is unsuitable militarily as a base of operations for the larger global conflict. Strategically Iraq is much more desirable because it has access to the sea, a large educated population, and most importantly it provides a buffer between Iran and Syria, the primary bases for the radical terrorists. Iraq has historically acted as the very heart of Islam and Baghdad has historically been the capital of the Caliphate. Iraq has a strong military and once this is restored it will keep Iran and Syria off balance, but that brings us to the other war which is being viewed as the Iraqi Civil War.
Whether or not this is truly a civil war is not quite clear, but regardless of what it is it certainly represents a strategic problem if not a failure. Although the Iraqi’s generally are better educated than most of the Islamic World there is still a large population of less educated people, who are under the sway of the various religious leaders. These leaders have their own militias which are bad enough but these leaders are themselves divided into Sunni and Shi’ia. This division has split Islam since the 7th Century and although the Sunni’s represent the minority they have historically dominated the Shi’ia.
Although this fact is well known it appears that the depth of this division was misjudged so with the fall of Hussein, the Sunni’s lost control and the Shi’ia are out for revenge. So the Americans are caught in the middle and the result is a three way battle. The Sunni’s and Shi’ites are merrily killing each other along with any “Crusaders” they find. While the majority of the Iraqi population are not really committed to any of these conflicts they remain in the background for fear of reprisals. The result is what appears to be a Civil War where the Americans are attempting to keep the combatants apart. The result is that there are calls for more troops and criticisms about the conduct of the conflicts. This situation cannot be won with more troops, because the best that could be achieved would be a cessation of the murder and mayhem only until the Americans withdraw which would be the signal for a real civil war that would be won by Iran.
Clearly the strategic objective of a stable and secular Iraq is not beyond our grasp but the success of that strategy rests squarely on our ability to train a RELIABLE army composed of troops loyal to the government and not the Islamic Leaders. This does not require more troops but it does require commitment to see it through.
The time has long past for the West in general and the American public in particular to wake up to the fact that we are engaged in a global conflict, not of our making and not of our choice, but it real and we are involved. We need to step back and view this with a broader view and stop carping about individual issues and second guessing those people trying to fight it.