Out of Uniform, Out of Touch?

Briefly, while looking for something else, I came across this 22 May 2003 article from the CS Monitor on the Brookings Institution website. It is notable for its premature lambasting of retired military, and other experts, and their predictions on Iraq.

What I find most intriguing is the "armchair generals" knew more than given credit at the time or subsequently.

Much has been written about how wrong the civilian "experts" were in their dismal predictions of how the Iraq war would unfold. But surprisingly little has been made of the fact that virtually all the retired military experts were just as wrong. As ubiquitous as they are, military experts are granted much public trust – but it is worth reviewing just how much they elevate the level of public debate and understanding.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni warned that a rapid push to Baghdad would be a "black hole" for US forces. Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf charged that US war planners didn’t appreciate the depths of Iraqi loyalty to Saddam Hussein. And Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey predicted, just hours before the fall of Baghdad, that US casualties would reach 3,000. Other lesser-known retired officers offered similarly errant forecasts.

Sure, some of the predictions were off. Some of the network hired "experts" weren’t, but some of the others were more knowledgable and too many bought off on the flowers and "Mission Accomplished".

Consider the case of Gen. Wesley Clark, arguably the most knowledgeable of the retired generals on TV. Earlier this year, he warned that a war with Iraq would distract US attention from war on terrorism. As US forces continued wrapping up Al Qaeda cells worldwide, he complained that the Pentagon had not sent enough ground forces to the Gulf region. When US forces rapidly advanced toward Baghdad, he warned that they couldn’t possibly occupy a post-Hussein Iraq. With US forces slowly restoring basic services throughout Iraq, General Clark is now complaining that US forces are dangerously overstretched.

I’ve met General Clark and he is brilliant. If you would, re-read that last sentance above.

3 Replies to “Out of Uniform, Out of Touch?”

  1. As Barnett has said, both the critics and their critics are right. The problem is that they define “the war” differently.As Richards wrote, we had too many troops for the invasion of Iraq, and too few for the occupation.

  2. Dan,Well quoted. I’d add something to Richards: too few troops for the occupation, no plan for the rebuilding, and no staff to organically re-shape society.
    Democracy can’t be pumped into the country like oil. Phase IV begins at Phase “0”… but in mid-2003 we still didn’t quite grasp the largess of the failure of military and civil-affairs planning that enabled and fueled the present problems.

  3. I would like to know why all these copnaies think that a non-spec ops troop isn’t good enough to work for them? They served and should be given the op to cash in just like some of those so called spec op troops.I have seen some of the spec op people and were not impressed with them. Gut hanging out,popin buttons off uniforms and stuff like that.A soldier is a soldier no matter what his/her job was.

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