Controversy becoming more public

The story of the Military Brass vs. Rumsfeld and the Neocons has been getting a lot of play lately. In Europe, both the very liberal Guardian and the center-right Financial Times had daily stories alleging that the troops and commanders were unhappy over the limited deployment of ground troops. Today’s New York Times has a story that must really make Rove–not to mention Defense Secretary Rumsfeld–unhappy. Here are some quotations:

  • 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.
  • [there are] questions [from troops in Iraq] that challenge not only the Rumsfeld design for this war but also his broader approach to transforming the military.
  • 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.
  • General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, said several hundred thousand troops could be needed [for the post-war occupation]…”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.
  • General Nash, currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, added, “It is extremely unfortunate that he [Gen. Shinseki] has not had more influence on the war planning and the allocation of forces.”

Of course, Gen. Shinseki is the Army Chief of Staff, and under the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz model of war, the Army will play a less crucial role. So some of this debate may be traditional turf battles. On this subject, it’s worth noting that Rumsfeld spent 35 years in the Navy (4 years active, 31 reserve). Wolfowitz, though he has extensive experience in defense policy, apparently never served in the armed forces.


UPDATE: This today from Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Meyers: “It is not helpful to have those kind of comments [comments that “the plan” is a bad one” come out when we’ve got troops in combat, because, first of all, they’re false, they’re absolutely wrong, they bear no resemblance to the truth, and it’s just harmful to our troops that are out there fighting very bravely, very courageously”. Meyers entered the Air Force in 1965. What I still haven’t seen is a senior Army official defending the plan. (Note: I think it’s still too early to state that the plan is good or bad).