Commentary Magazine


Topic: deputy commander

Obama Must Face Iraq’s Truth

Three Iraq-related stories from Sunday are worth noting. According to Reuters

U.S. troop deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month since the 2003 invasion and officials said on Sunday improved security also helped the country boost oil production in May to a post-war high. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraq’s oil minister credited better security for the two milestones, which illustrated a dramatic turnabout in the fortunes of a country on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war just 12 months ago. “We’ve still got a distance to go but I think lower casualty rates are a reflection of some real progress,” Gates told reporters in Singapore. “The key will be to continue to sustain the progress we have seen.”

In the New York Times we read this:

The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities. In this city, never subdued by the increase of American troops in Iraq last year, weekly figures on attacks are down by half since May 10, when the Iraqi military began intensified operations here with the backing of the American military. Iraqi soldiers searching house to house, within American tank cordons, have arrested more than 1,000 people suspected of insurgent activity. The Iraqi soldiers “are heady from the Basra experience,” Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of American forces in Mosul, said in an interview. “They have learned the right lessons.”… American and Iraqi officials have called Mosul the last urban bastion of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni jihadist groups.

And in Washington Post we learned this:

A little over two weeks ago, U.S. troops in Sadr City were on the front lines of fierce, unrelenting urban warfare. But virtually overnight, their main mission has become one of rebuilding portions of the vast, tattered Shiite district and building trust in neighborhoods where many residents despise Americans. Reaching that point took a fragile cease-fire agreement that called for a limited U.S. role in military operations in Sadr City, a stronghold of militias loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; thousands of Iraqi soldiers; and wads of cash. “If we get Sadr City right and create irreversible momentum, there’s no turning back,” Brig. Gen. Mike Milano, deputy commander of U.S. forces responsible for Baghdad, said Saturday during a visit to Sadr City.

Sunday is also the day the Washington Post editorialized that the U.S.-backed government and army in Iraq “may be winning the war,” that Iraq passed a “turning point last fall” (when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence), and that “another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country . . . ”

The Post rightly echoes the caution repeatedly issued by General Petraeus; it is of course too early to celebrate. Among other things, the Post cautions, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army can still regroup and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence. Beyond that, Iraq, while far less violent and less fractured than in the past, is still a broken society in many respects –and rebuilding it will not be an easy or quick undertaking. We are, with the Iraqis, engaged in an enormous, long-term nation-building effort, one that was delayed for far longer than it should have been because we had in place the wrong counter-insurgency strategy.

Still, the Post is quite right to recognize the progress we have seen. And it is right in challenging Senator Obama, whose back-and-forth record on Iraq has culminated in his current support for a near-total withdrawal of U.S. combat troops (it’s worth recalling that in February 2007, in announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama called for withdrawing combat troops by March 2008–and in May 2007, Obama voted against funding for combat operations). In the words of the Post:

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq’s 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

In fact, Senator Obama doesn’t need a plan for success; that is already in place. He merely needs to demonstrate the intellectual honesty and political courage to embrace it and say, publicly, that he will stay with it.

Three Iraq-related stories from Sunday are worth noting. According to Reuters

U.S. troop deaths in Iraq fell to their lowest level last month since the 2003 invasion and officials said on Sunday improved security also helped the country boost oil production in May to a post-war high. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Iraq’s oil minister credited better security for the two milestones, which illustrated a dramatic turnabout in the fortunes of a country on the brink of all-out sectarian civil war just 12 months ago. “We’ve still got a distance to go but I think lower casualty rates are a reflection of some real progress,” Gates told reporters in Singapore. “The key will be to continue to sustain the progress we have seen.”

In the New York Times we read this:

The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities. In this city, never subdued by the increase of American troops in Iraq last year, weekly figures on attacks are down by half since May 10, when the Iraqi military began intensified operations here with the backing of the American military. Iraqi soldiers searching house to house, within American tank cordons, have arrested more than 1,000 people suspected of insurgent activity. The Iraqi soldiers “are heady from the Basra experience,” Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of American forces in Mosul, said in an interview. “They have learned the right lessons.”… American and Iraqi officials have called Mosul the last urban bastion of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other Sunni jihadist groups.

And in Washington Post we learned this:

A little over two weeks ago, U.S. troops in Sadr City were on the front lines of fierce, unrelenting urban warfare. But virtually overnight, their main mission has become one of rebuilding portions of the vast, tattered Shiite district and building trust in neighborhoods where many residents despise Americans. Reaching that point took a fragile cease-fire agreement that called for a limited U.S. role in military operations in Sadr City, a stronghold of militias loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr; thousands of Iraqi soldiers; and wads of cash. “If we get Sadr City right and create irreversible momentum, there’s no turning back,” Brig. Gen. Mike Milano, deputy commander of U.S. forces responsible for Baghdad, said Saturday during a visit to Sadr City.

Sunday is also the day the Washington Post editorialized that the U.S.-backed government and army in Iraq “may be winning the war,” that Iraq passed a “turning point last fall” (when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence), and that “another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country . . . ”

The Post rightly echoes the caution repeatedly issued by General Petraeus; it is of course too early to celebrate. Among other things, the Post cautions, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army can still regroup and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence. Beyond that, Iraq, while far less violent and less fractured than in the past, is still a broken society in many respects –and rebuilding it will not be an easy or quick undertaking. We are, with the Iraqis, engaged in an enormous, long-term nation-building effort, one that was delayed for far longer than it should have been because we had in place the wrong counter-insurgency strategy.

Still, the Post is quite right to recognize the progress we have seen. And it is right in challenging Senator Obama, whose back-and-forth record on Iraq has culminated in his current support for a near-total withdrawal of U.S. combat troops (it’s worth recalling that in February 2007, in announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama called for withdrawing combat troops by March 2008–and in May 2007, Obama voted against funding for combat operations). In the words of the Post:

If the positive trends continue, proponents of withdrawing most U.S. troops, such as Mr. Obama, might be able to responsibly carry out further pullouts next year. Still, the likely Democratic nominee needs a plan for Iraq based on sustaining an improving situation, rather than abandoning a failed enterprise. That will mean tying withdrawals to the evolution of the Iraqi army and government, rather than an arbitrary timetable; Iraq’s 2009 elections will be crucial. It also should mean providing enough troops and air power to continue backing up Iraqi army operations such as those in Basra and Sadr City. When Mr. Obama floated his strategy for Iraq last year, the United States appeared doomed to defeat. Now he needs a plan for success.

In fact, Senator Obama doesn’t need a plan for success; that is already in place. He merely needs to demonstrate the intellectual honesty and political courage to embrace it and say, publicly, that he will stay with it.

Read Less

Scott Wilson’s War

An interesting ombudsman column in Sunday’s Washington Post: Back in December 2007, Scott Wilson, then the Post‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, wrote a piece entitled “For Israel’s Arab Citizens, Isolation and Exclusion.” The story included the following assertion, which is simply and flatly false: “Except for a relatively small Druze population, Arabs are excluded also from military service.”

The Post‘s ombudsman asks: was “excluded” the wrong word to describe the treatment of Israeli Arabs by the IDF? According to the dictionary, “excluded” means “to prevent the entrance of” or to “shut out from consideration.” It would mean, in Scott Wilson’s telling, that save for a few Druze, there are no Israeli Arabs in the Israeli military.

Well, there is in fact no prohibition against or exclusion of Israeli Arabs in the IDF. What does exist is a sensible if regrettable accommodation that has been struck on behalf of the social harmony of everyone involved. For the Israeli Arabs, it derives from a general desire not to serve in the Jewish state’s army; for the IDF, it derives from an entirely legitimate fear of security risks from soldiers whose loyalties are not to the IDF. As is typical, such nuance had no place in Wilson’s story, and the ombudsman says that “The Post‘s Wilson is firm on his word choice.”

But reality has a way of correcting fantasy. Here is a paragraph from today’s Haaretz story about Hamas’s attempt to crash through the Gaza border on Passover eve:

IDF success depends greatly on the quick judgment of the commander in the field. Saturday it was the Bedouin Desert Battalion deputy commander, Major Wahid, who correctly foresaw the impending explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle, and ordered his men into protected vehicles, certainly limiting casualties.

Major Wahid? Oops.

An interesting ombudsman column in Sunday’s Washington Post: Back in December 2007, Scott Wilson, then the Post‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, wrote a piece entitled “For Israel’s Arab Citizens, Isolation and Exclusion.” The story included the following assertion, which is simply and flatly false: “Except for a relatively small Druze population, Arabs are excluded also from military service.”

The Post‘s ombudsman asks: was “excluded” the wrong word to describe the treatment of Israeli Arabs by the IDF? According to the dictionary, “excluded” means “to prevent the entrance of” or to “shut out from consideration.” It would mean, in Scott Wilson’s telling, that save for a few Druze, there are no Israeli Arabs in the Israeli military.

Well, there is in fact no prohibition against or exclusion of Israeli Arabs in the IDF. What does exist is a sensible if regrettable accommodation that has been struck on behalf of the social harmony of everyone involved. For the Israeli Arabs, it derives from a general desire not to serve in the Jewish state’s army; for the IDF, it derives from an entirely legitimate fear of security risks from soldiers whose loyalties are not to the IDF. As is typical, such nuance had no place in Wilson’s story, and the ombudsman says that “The Post‘s Wilson is firm on his word choice.”

But reality has a way of correcting fantasy. Here is a paragraph from today’s Haaretz story about Hamas’s attempt to crash through the Gaza border on Passover eve:

IDF success depends greatly on the quick judgment of the commander in the field. Saturday it was the Bedouin Desert Battalion deputy commander, Major Wahid, who correctly foresaw the impending explosion of a booby-trapped vehicle, and ordered his men into protected vehicles, certainly limiting casualties.

Major Wahid? Oops.

Read Less

Bin Laden’s All-Out War

Osama bin Laden released a message Tuesday, calling on jihadists to attack “the Crusader invaders,” not just in Iraq, but also in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Bin Laden must have a rather expansive understanding of who constitutes “Crusader Invaders.” After all, the only peacekeepers in Darfur right now belong to a 7,000-strong force from African Union member states. Come January, this force will be reconstituted as a 31,000-man United Nations peacekeeping deployment known as the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), authorized by the Security Council in July. It will be headed by a Nigerian commander with a Rwandan Deputy Commander. Yesterday, Rwanda dispatched 800 soldiers to Darfur (with the help of U.S. transport planes; to bin Laden this must make them collaborators with the Great Satan). But there has been no serious proposal to send American troops to Darfur, nor is there likely to be. As it is currently constituted, UNAMID will comprise forces mainly from African countries, with 95 percent of the infantry African. The only Western countries to provide significant levels of support are Norway and Sweden, which have collectively offered 400 military engineers.

So it is not just the American military that bin Laden considers an infidel army that must be fought anywhere and everywhere, but also apparently the rag-tag African soldiers sent on humanitarian peacekeeping missions and the Norwegians and the Swedes. So much for the contention that it is only those countries in Iraq that elicit the jihadist anger.

Islamic militants like bin Laden pride themselves on their contention that Islam is universal, that it ignores racial, ethnic and national differences in its ability to unite all believers under a caliphate, the dar al-Islam (land of Islam). Yet with this latest pronouncement, bin Laden has revealed his Arab supremacist roots: shilling for an Arab Muslim regime killing black Muslims.

Osama bin Laden released a message Tuesday, calling on jihadists to attack “the Crusader invaders,” not just in Iraq, but also in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Bin Laden must have a rather expansive understanding of who constitutes “Crusader Invaders.” After all, the only peacekeepers in Darfur right now belong to a 7,000-strong force from African Union member states. Come January, this force will be reconstituted as a 31,000-man United Nations peacekeeping deployment known as the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), authorized by the Security Council in July. It will be headed by a Nigerian commander with a Rwandan Deputy Commander. Yesterday, Rwanda dispatched 800 soldiers to Darfur (with the help of U.S. transport planes; to bin Laden this must make them collaborators with the Great Satan). But there has been no serious proposal to send American troops to Darfur, nor is there likely to be. As it is currently constituted, UNAMID will comprise forces mainly from African countries, with 95 percent of the infantry African. The only Western countries to provide significant levels of support are Norway and Sweden, which have collectively offered 400 military engineers.

So it is not just the American military that bin Laden considers an infidel army that must be fought anywhere and everywhere, but also apparently the rag-tag African soldiers sent on humanitarian peacekeeping missions and the Norwegians and the Swedes. So much for the contention that it is only those countries in Iraq that elicit the jihadist anger.

Islamic militants like bin Laden pride themselves on their contention that Islam is universal, that it ignores racial, ethnic and national differences in its ability to unite all believers under a caliphate, the dar al-Islam (land of Islam). Yet with this latest pronouncement, bin Laden has revealed his Arab supremacist roots: shilling for an Arab Muslim regime killing black Muslims.

Read Less

Making Iran Pay

An important event, which passed with hardly any media attention, transpired last week. A federal judge ordered that Iran pay $2.6 billion to the family members and survivors of the 1983 Hizballah bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 soldiers. In 2003, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth held Iran “legally responsible” for supporting Hizballah, which carried out the attacks. Last week’s ruling determined the damages. Interestingly, according to the Washington Post, “Iran did not contest the charges.”

Why would Iran refrain from challenging such a serious ruling against it? There are two ostensible reasons. The first is that the Iranian regime considers any United States court illegitimate, and would see engaging in an appeal as an infidel ritual. The second, and more interesting, is that this is a tacit acknowledgment on Iran’s part that it was responsible for this crime (which could be considered an act of war). By not contesting the charge, Iran admits, in a not-very-subtle fashion, that it arms and equips Hizballah.

This was not the first time that Judge Lamberth has found Iran guilty of acts of international terror, specifically terror aimed at killing American servicemen. In 2003, he found Iran guilty of training men who carried out the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 American soldiers.

Read More

An important event, which passed with hardly any media attention, transpired last week. A federal judge ordered that Iran pay $2.6 billion to the family members and survivors of the 1983 Hizballah bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 soldiers. In 2003, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth held Iran “legally responsible” for supporting Hizballah, which carried out the attacks. Last week’s ruling determined the damages. Interestingly, according to the Washington Post, “Iran did not contest the charges.”

Why would Iran refrain from challenging such a serious ruling against it? There are two ostensible reasons. The first is that the Iranian regime considers any United States court illegitimate, and would see engaging in an appeal as an infidel ritual. The second, and more interesting, is that this is a tacit acknowledgment on Iran’s part that it was responsible for this crime (which could be considered an act of war). By not contesting the charge, Iran admits, in a not-very-subtle fashion, that it arms and equips Hizballah.

This was not the first time that Judge Lamberth has found Iran guilty of acts of international terror, specifically terror aimed at killing American servicemen. In 2003, he found Iran guilty of training men who carried out the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 American soldiers.

Of course, there is no way for the 1983 victims of the Marine barracks bombing to collect the money they have been awarded. Iran’s assets in the United States amount to no more than $20 million, almost all of it diplomatic property that the American government cannot touch. So this ruling, and the subsequent judgment, are both symbolic.

Typical of this symbolism was a portion of Judge Lamberth’s written decision, in which he stated that “this extremely sizeable judgment will serve to aid in the healing process and simultaneously sound the alarm to the defendants that their unlawful attacks on our citizens will not be tolerated.” His first contention—that the awarding of many millions of dollars (which they will never see) will “aid in the healing process”—is one that only the victims of this tragedy can judge. The second—that a force-less American court ruling (not the first of its kind) will somehow dissuade Iran from continuing its support for global terror—is even more dubious.

Iran’s involvement in attacks against American soldiers persists, at least according to General David Petraeus. At a news conference Wednesday after his congressional testimony, the General said, “The evidence is very, very clear. We captured it when we captured Qais Khazali, the Lebanese Hizballah deputy commander and others. And it’s in black and white.”

But according to many on the Left, Petraues is somehow a traitor for reporting such evidence. Others who make mere mention of the Iranian proxy war (most prominently, Senator Lieberman) are called “warmongers,” in the words of net-left favorite Matthew Yglesias. Through such effusions, these critics betray a belief that the Islamic Republic will stop killing our soldiers if we just abandon Iraq. But as last week’s court ruling reminds us, Iran has been killing Americans for decades—long before the 2003 invasion. There’s no reason to think the attacks on Americans suddenly will stop, and all kinds of reasons to think they will increase, should we capitulate.

Read Less

A Crisis in Generalship

In the new issue of the Armed Forces Journal, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and a distinguished veteran of two combat tours in Iraq (three, if you count Operation Desert Storm), has written a blistering critique of American generalship. His article is attracting well-justified attention, such as this Washington Post article by Tom Ricks and Gabriel Schoenfeld’s short take on it here.

Yingling’s article flies in the face of attempts by some civilian and military critics to lay the blame for all that has gone wrong in Iraq exclusively at the feet of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders. No doubt Bush and his cabinet are guilty of appalling errors of judgment; ultimately the buck stops in the Oval Office. But, as in the Vietnam war, our senior military leaders deserve their share of blame for trying to fight an insurgency with the tools and tactics of conventional war.

I have been hearing grumbling for a while from the uniformed ranks about the quality of their senior leaders. But until now, few soldiers have had the cojones to speak out publicly. Yingling has broken the code of omertà, at considerable risk to his own career.

Read More

In the new issue of the Armed Forces Journal, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling, deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and a distinguished veteran of two combat tours in Iraq (three, if you count Operation Desert Storm), has written a blistering critique of American generalship. His article is attracting well-justified attention, such as this Washington Post article by Tom Ricks and Gabriel Schoenfeld’s short take on it here.

Yingling’s article flies in the face of attempts by some civilian and military critics to lay the blame for all that has gone wrong in Iraq exclusively at the feet of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other civilian leaders. No doubt Bush and his cabinet are guilty of appalling errors of judgment; ultimately the buck stops in the Oval Office. But, as in the Vietnam war, our senior military leaders deserve their share of blame for trying to fight an insurgency with the tools and tactics of conventional war.

I have been hearing grumbling for a while from the uniformed ranks about the quality of their senior leaders. But until now, few soldiers have had the cojones to speak out publicly. Yingling has broken the code of omertà, at considerable risk to his own career.

Yingling writes:

Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990′s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security-force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990′s followed the cold-war model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America’s generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq’s population. . . . Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. . . . After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America’s generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. . . . After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America’s general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. . . . The intellectual and moral failures common to America’s general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship.

Yingling goes on to suggest that the solution lies in more congressional oversight of the promotion and retention of generals. Senior officers who fail at their assignments could even be retired at a reduced rank.

Whether involving the barons of Capitol Hill more closely will resolve this crisis is, of course, debatable. But there is no disputing Yingling’s cri de coeur: “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

That has to change. And the most effective means of change is not more congressional micromanagement. It is a President who takes his responsibilities as commander-in-chief as seriously as Lincoln or FDR did. Although President Bush reportedly read Eliot Cohen’s book on the subject—Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime—he has not so far been nearly as vigorous as our most successful wartime leaders in holding military leaders accountable for their successes and failures. And, as Yingling notes, we’re paying the price in Iraq for that lack of oversight. Left to their own devices, generals often get it wrong.

Read Less

Hillary’s Time Tunnel

In last night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton continued to insist on her illogical disavowal of her 2002 vote in the Senate in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq: “It was a sincere vote,” she said, “based on the information available to me. And I’ve said many times that if I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.”

But of course Clinton did not know then what she knows now. No one did. Those who voted for or against the war had to base their decision on the information available to them at the time. The TV program, The Time Tunnel, which I used to watch in the 1960’s, was not a reality show, but Clinton and others like her seem to think that if they could only go back in time, bringing their current knowledge with them, they could alter the course of history. Andrew Sullivan plays the same game, only, given his higher IQ and learning, even more dishonestly—see my Tiramisu, Andrew? for his particular recipe.

The decision to go to war can certainly be debated, as can the conduct of the war. If we are to find a good way forward, it is this latter subject that is now more pertinent.

Read More

In last night’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton continued to insist on her illogical disavowal of her 2002 vote in the Senate in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq: “It was a sincere vote,” she said, “based on the information available to me. And I’ve said many times that if I knew then what I now know, I would not have voted that way.”

But of course Clinton did not know then what she knows now. No one did. Those who voted for or against the war had to base their decision on the information available to them at the time. The TV program, The Time Tunnel, which I used to watch in the 1960’s, was not a reality show, but Clinton and others like her seem to think that if they could only go back in time, bringing their current knowledge with them, they could alter the course of history. Andrew Sullivan plays the same game, only, given his higher IQ and learning, even more dishonestly—see my Tiramisu, Andrew? for his particular recipe.

The decision to go to war can certainly be debated, as can the conduct of the war. If we are to find a good way forward, it is this latter subject that is now more pertinent.

Today’s Washington Post, for example, calls attention to an article in Armed Forces Journal by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran who is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. This was the unit that won the battle of Tal Afar in 2006, the success of which, as the Post points out, was cited by President Bush as “the model for the new security plan under way in Baghdad.”

Yingling charges that “America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq.” He then proceeds to elaborate a devastating critique of the American high command, who

spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers.

Whether Yingling is right or wrong about the conduct of the war I do not know. There is also a serious question of whether an officer serving on active duty should be free to eviscerate his superiors in this way. In a better world, it might be preferable if those who want to issue such a challenge should first resign.

But we do not live in a better world, and we do not want to drive mavericks and innovators from military service. In any case, the relevant point here is that Yingling is not seeking a way for the United States to shirk its responsibilities. On the contrary. The “hour is late,” he writes,

but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security.

We also will have time—a year and a half—to select new leaders from among the candidates for President. Let us hope they have the intelligence and the moral courage not to seek clever ways to dodge responsibility for the decisions they made in the past.

Clinton the time-traveler is not such a leader. She wants to have it every which way: she was right back then, she is right now, and she will be right in the future. And it is all probably true: she always will be right. Her position on the war is based upon the Time Tunnel episode “Rendezvous With Yesterday.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.