Rumsfeld's Design for War Criticized on the Battlefield

Wednesday, 02 April 2003 06:57 by: Anonymous
By Bernard Weinrub with Thom Shanker
New York Times

Tuesday 1 April 2003
 
V CORPS HEADQUARTERS, near the Kuwait-Iraq border, March 31 Long-simmering tensions between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army commanders have erupted in a series of complaints from officers on the Iraqi battlefield that the Pentagon has not sent enough troops to wage the war as they want to fight it.

Here today, raw nerves were obvious as officers compared Mr. Rumsfeld to Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War who failed to grasp the political and military realities of Vietnam.

One colonel, who spoke on the condition that his name be withheld, was among the officers criticizing decisions to limit initial deployments of troops to the region. "He wanted to fight this war on the cheap," the colonel said. "He got what he wanted."

The angry remarks from the battlefield opened with comments made last Thursday and widely publicized Friday by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the V Corps commander, who said the military faced the likelihood of a longer war than many strategists had anticipated.

The comments echo the tension in the bumpy relationship between Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff.

Underlying the strains between Mr. Rumsfeld and the Army, which began at the beginning of Mr. Rumsfeld's tenure, are questions that challenge not only the Rumsfeld design for this war but also his broader approach to transforming the military.

The first is why, in an era when American military dominance comes in both the quality of its technology and of its troops, the defense secretary prefers emphasizing long-range precision weapons to putting boots on the ground.

At present, there are about 100,000 coalition troops inside Iraq, part of more than 300,000 on land, at sea and in the air throughout the region for the war. Just under 100,000 more troops stand ready for possible deployment.

Even after the war, some experts argue that it could take several hundred thousand troops to hold and control a country the size of California, with about 24 million people.

Mr. Rumsfeld has argued that he adopted this approach for flowing forces to the region to prepare for war without upsetting the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts.

The idea was to raise pressure on Iraq until President Bush made a decision on whether or not to go to war, Mr. Rumsfeld has said.

Even some of Mr. Rumsfeld's advisers now acknowledge that they misjudged the scope and intensity of resistance from Iraqi paramilitaries in the south, and forced commanders to divert troops already stretched thin to protect supply convoys and root out Hussein loyalists in Basra, Nasiriya and Najaf. But they also point to the air campaign's successes in the past few days in significantly weakening the Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad. As one senior official said of the process that produced the war plan, as well as the pace and sequencing of troops, "It was a painful process to match the political and military goals."

One Army officer said General Wallace's comments particularly that "the enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against" were not meant to show defiance but merely express a view widely shared among American officers in Iraq, at headquarters units in neighboring Kuwait and back at the Pentagon. Some members of General Wallace's staff have expressed concerns for the professional future of their boss.

Mr. Rumsfeld arrived at the Pentagon vowing to transform the military, and senior aides promised to push aside what they described as hidebound volumes of doctrine in order to create an armed force emphasizing combat by long-range, precision strikes and expanding the most maneuverable military assets, mostly ships, jets, drones, satellites and Special Operations troops.

Many in the Army thought the defense secretary had declared war on them, which struck them as unfair, because the Army had invested as much brainpower as any other service in transforming itself perhaps because it had to, since the Air Force, Navy and Marines were already more nimble.

In certain ways, the dissonance between Mr. Rumsfeld and General Shinseki is surprising, because the general was himself the leading advocate of reforming and modernizing the Army. In October 1999, General Shinseki pledged to reshape the service from waging war by slog and slash, calling for new theory and proposing new weapons to create a land force more agile and precise in bringing lethal force to the battlefield.

"On the substantive issues, Shinseki and Rumsfeld share a large agenda, about making the Army more deployable," said Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Shinseki was one of the first guys out of the block with the concept, and it fit the world view Rumsfeld brought to the Pentagon when he came in later.

"But their chemistry was just not great," Mr. O'Hanlon said.

But after he became defense secretary with the new Bush administration in January 2001, Mr. Rumsfeld made the word transformation his own and his vision of a more flexible and agile military often seemed to come at the expense of General Shinseki's Army.

For example, in an effort to find money for an arsenal of new, high-technology weapons, some of Mr. Rumsfeld's senior advisers proposed cutting 2 of the Army's 10 active divisions; it is still not known how seriously Mr. Rumsfeld considered the case, but the divisions survived.

Today, the war plan for Iraq was viewed by many in the service as diminishing the Army role, because it placed a premium on speed and shock and called for fewer ground forces to be in place when the war began, planning to call in more only in case of battlefield surprises and setbacks. But that takes time.

The Pentagon spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, said today that Mr. Rumsfeld did not craft the war plan for Iraq with any intent to reward or punish an individual armed service, and instead sees "a mix of services and capabilities they offer." The war plan, she said, received "a careful review and approval by all the chiefs."

"As we have made very clear, the secretary does share the vision of a 21st-century Army that faces the unconventional threats of today with new and transforming capabilities," Ms. Clarke said. "The secretary has worked hard with the Army to make those sorts of critical changes as quickly as possible."

But what pushed General Shinseki afoul of the civilian leadership before this war began were his comments on the levels of force that might be needed to stabilize Iraq after the battles were over.

Pressed by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, said several hundred thousand troops could be needed.

"Wildly off the mark," was how Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, dismissed the Army chief's comments. Mr. Rumsfeld was a bit more circumspect in his criticism, saying that the general had a right to his opinion, but that this one would be proven wrong. Their public comments were unusual and were widely interpreted in Washington as a rebuke to General Shinseki, who is scheduled to retire in mid-June.

William L. Nash, a retired Army major general and veteran of the first gulf war and the Bosnia mission, said of General Shinseki, "He is as fine a soldier as I've ever served with, and his key characteristics are loyalty, and professional competence."

General Nash, currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, added, "It is extremely unfortunate that he has not had more influence on the war planning and the allocation of forces."

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