Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Crisis at the Pentagon

This can fall under many categories: From, "What are you going to do to me? Give me a haircut and send me to Baghdad?" to something even more poignant, "Go ahead, fire me. You dragged me out of a nice comfortable retirement to do this job."

Six weeks before the US mid-term elections, US Army Chief of Staff, General Peter Shoomaker has put the gun to Donald Rumsfeld's head. (All emphasis mine)

DONALD RUMSFELD, the US Defence Secretary, is facing a new challenge to his authority after the US Army’s Chief of Staff refused to submit a budget plan for 2008 in protest at the demands the Pentagon is placing on America’s overstretched military.


General Schoomaker took the highly unusual step last month of delaying submission of the Army’s budget plan, arguing that the service requires either a much bigger budget than the Administration has proposed or relief from some of its worldwide commitments.


The overstretch is hitting troops serving in Iraq the hardest. The 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, is being extended in Iraq because the unit that is scheduled to replace themthe 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, needs more time to prepare. If it had deployed as scheduled, it would not have had the minimum 12 months at home between combat tours.

The 3rd Infantry has already served two tours in Iraq, including the initial invasion of the country in March 2003.

The Army has an active-duty force of about half a million soldiers. About 400,000 have done at least one tour of combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and more than one third of those have been deployed twice.
The picture is that of an army stretched too thin, an army which cannot recruit enough new members and a Secretary of Defense who, some thirty years after Viet Nam, pulled an almost perfect McNamara.

While Rumsfeld has been roundly criticized by many retired generals, to have the general he personally picked and called out of retirement for the job of Chief of Staff finally turn on him is especially damning.

At this point Rumsfeld may actually be wishing he had Eric Shinseki back in the Army COS chair. Not that Shinseki would be likely to go near the Pentagon with Rumsfeld still in the building.

And the accusations against Rumsfeld continue to build.

Yesterday three retired military generals bluntly accused Mr Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying that US troops were sent to fight without the best equipment, and that critical facts were hidden from the public. “I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the Administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq,” retired Major General John Batiste said.

It is rare for retired military officers to criticise the Pentagon while military operations are under way, particularly at a public event likely to draw widespread media attention.

A second military leader, retired Major General Paul Eaton, assessed Mr Rumsfeld as “incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically”. “Mr Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making,” he said.
And, the generals have the results to hold up their point. Rumsfeld, in defying sound military advice, has always been wrong.

Sorry... no. He was right when he said this:

"There are so many cartoons where people, press people, are saying, 'Is it Vietnam yet?' hoping it is and wondering if it is. And it isn't. It's a different time. It's a different era. It's a different place."
True enough, but as Knute Berger said over three years ago, "Yes, Rummy, it's a wonder the Vietnam question ever comes up."

Iraq is not Viet Nam. It's hotter and drier. And this time the generals, the serving ones, are starting to revolt.

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