Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Civ-Mil Continued [updated]

Yesterday, I posted here a comment on put on Tom Ricks's blog about his reports of a North Carolina conference on Civil-Military Relations.  Here is the link to today's post on the same conference, this time about Rummy management.

I posted another comment today because few things piss me off more than letting Rumsfeld and the senior military leadership off of the hook.  Awwww, people were scared of Rumsfeld--they must have been wimps.  Um, give me a break. Rumsfeld created an environment where he would not listen to those with whom he disagreed.  Rummy and his master systematically excluded people from the Occupation who actually knew something about Iraq, post-conflict reconstruction or both.  Why?  Because they would say things that were reality-based--that would disagree with the fantasy that the aftermath of Iraq would be easy and cheap.

We can enumerate the mistakes made by this crew--and many of these implicate not just Rumsfeld but also Myers, Peter Pace (the Vice Chief and then Myers's successor as Chairman), Tommy Franks, and sadly then Franks's successor John Abizaid:
  1. Going into Iraq with not enough guys.  Myers, in Ricks's post, talks about how he was upset that Wolfowitz blasted Gen. Shinseki for telling Congress that more troops would be required.  Actually, the greater sin was not the criticism of Shinseki but NOT LISTENING to the man who had operational experience and, who (surprise, surprise, surprise) turned out to be right.
  2. Disbanding the Iraqi military.  Rummy claims that Bremer made that decision, and Bremer blames Rummy. Where is Myers in all of this?  He should have tried to get the decision reversed as soon as he heard about it.
  3. The reluctance to recognize the reality on the ground--that there was an insurgency, not just some dead-enders.  
Providing the best military advice does not mean mind-melding with the SecDef but telling the President what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. If that creates a crisis in civil-military relations, then so be it.  The crisis is if civilians do not do their jobs and if the military does not do its job.  Without the best information, you are unlikely to make good decisions.  With poor information, bad decisions are still possible, of course.

The funny thing is that this conference has Myers, one of the worst Chairman in recent history, and BG McMaster who wrote a book (his dissertation) on how the Joint Chiefs failed to provide good advice during Vietnam.  I wonder what McMaster was thinking when Myers was talking at this conference.  I can only guess.

Ricks replied in his comment section, asking for more elaboration, so here is what I wrote:
Well, it was a long time ago, so let me see if I can remember.  I was on a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship that put me on the Joint Staff's Directorate of Strategic Planning and Policy on the Bosnia desk (with some dabbling on Kosovo/Serbia/Macedonia, depending on who was on leave or TDY).  So, I was not in OSD, but worked with them constantly. 
So, three stories that come to mind:
1)  Because the OSD folks at the lower level lived in a very fearful environment, during my year, they did not write policy papers.  When the interagency agenda had a paper to be written by DoD, the junior OSD guys would defer to the Joint Staff guys to write the paper.  They would then go to their higher ups with the paper and essentially hold it at arms' length and their superiors would choose to burn the paper with their laser eyes (yes, silly metaphor but you get the idea) or not.  The paper, if intact, would then make its way through the interagency process.  Ironically, this gave the Joint Staff more influence as it would set the agenda for the discussion.  So, I remember in my first couple of months there, a LtColonel essentially wrote the American position on an effort to stop conflict at its earliest stages in Macedonia (Task Force Fox, if I recall correctly). 
After I left, I was told by colleagues that Rummy had put in a change--that papers would be written by OSD.  And the guys at the bottom responded by writing papers that were very unilateral, very right-wing so that they could only be accused of being overly enthusiastic.

2) Because I was the new guy, I got tasked with a snowflake (I think you mention snowflakes in Fiasco) where Rumsfeld was asking how to get all US troops out of every single commitment around the world that he could think of (he missed Iceland but the USAF 2 star above didn't).  I had to coordinate with Joint Staff desk officers covering the rest of the planet and basically argue the handful of guys in East Timor had more bang for the buck than pulling them out and so forth.  I ended up doing the same exercise, responding to the same request three times over the course of 12 months or so because I was/we were (not just my random advice but that of the JS chain)  disagreeing with what he wanted to hear. 

3) In late 2001 (after 9/11), six Algerians were picked up by Bosnian authorities as suspected terrorists.  In January of 2002, they were due to be released due to the limits of Bosnian laws at the time, so the question became what to do about this?  Ultimately, it was decided that US (not NATO) forces should pick these guys up and send them to Gitmo (before Gitmo became known for what it is now known for) as the first guys caught outside of Afghanistan to be sent there.  A guidance cable needed to go out to give the USAEUR (commander of US Army Europe) authority to go ahead.  But as news of this was getting out, people started to gather in Sarajevo.  The longer this took, the more likely it would provoke a crisis.  But the sticking point was Rumsfeld.  We could not get his subordinates to get the issue to Rummy one evening (it was 7 or 8) because they didn't want to disturb him.  But delay might lead to a riot or something like it.  But we had to wait until the next morning when it was ok to bother the SecDef.  This experience again indicated the climate of fear that the folks working under him perceived. 

I hope this gives some idea, if not actual eyewitness accounts of people being "wirebrushed," of the working environment created by Rumsfeld.  I left after my year's fellowship opposed to the on-coming war because I knew OSD would be running the post-war phase and they would screw it up.  Not because the people there were inherently bad (although the top of the dept was, well, Feith) but because a crippling management style where the job was to provide the expected answers would only lead to bad decisions.

No comments: