Fiddling With War Plans

The Senate this week took gamesmanship to a new level by playing war games on amendments to the Defense Authorization bill. On Tuesday night, like a bunch of over-boozed college kids, they pulled an all-nighter to try to convince themselves that the Iraq war plan now being implemented by Gen. David Petraeus is just another academic exercise. But war plans — with which I have some familiarity — aren’t things that should be tinkered with lightly.

My familiarity with war plans is by lifelong study and responsibility. In 1991, I was the Director of Operations for US Central Command under Gen. Norm Schwartzkopf and played a daily active role in drafting the war plan by which US and Coalition forces would evict Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invaders from the territory of our ally, Kuwait.

When war plans are made, time is a critical element that has to be considered. Time is required to gather, train and move forces into position. Feints, ground, sea and air forces’ timing to do things are all part of the plan. When Gen. Petraeus made his plan, and agreed to report to the Senate in September, time must have played a very important role.

What the Senate Democrats are doing now is nothing short of trying to prevent Petraeus any chance of succeeding. His plan, from what we know publicly, required about three months to get the forces in place for the “surge” to operate against the Iraq insurgency. That buildup wasn’t even completed until the end of May. Now, instead of taking that into account, the Democrats are basically saying “time’s up.” It’s as if FDR told Gen. Eisenhower to invade Europe to evict the Nazis and then said, “Never mind that June date. Get it done in April or you’re fired.”

Fortunately the Bush administration and the head honcho in Iraq, General Petraeus have good ideas. What they ask for is time. A precious commodity that the ‘08 focused Dems can’t afford. Those who support the Global War on Terror and the Iraqi battleground are willing to wait and see although with apprehension that another administration misstep will put the final nail in the surge’s coffin. Those who see Iraq as a failed foreign policy of the Bush administration and Islamic Jihadists as no threat to our national security are looking to give Reid and Pelosi the hammer to drive the nails.

“W” had the right idea in January to try a new approach with a new and very savvy guy in charge. He came up short when he accepted the slow and extended deployment cycle completion date of June 15. The 5 months between the announced planning and getting the last of the 20,000 surge troops on the ground gave his opponents ample to time to continue to find everything wrong and nothing right. It also gave General Petraeus just 3 months to get things back on track after 4 years of missteps, miscalculations and mismanagement of combat operations. This is a tall order in the first place and the early success to date is almost entirely due to a well thought out counter-insurgency plan and to the great dedication and bravery of troops who have to be combat weary. The slow pace of the surge deployment schedule and the limited time to implement surge operations with the additional 20,000 combat troops is inadequate to meet the arbitrary September 15th evaluation date, let alone the constant “This war is lost” surrenderniks. No wonder the surrender focused Dems on Capitol Hill and some weak kneed Republicans are making final arrangements for ‘ol Surge’s autopsy and un-ceremonial burying.

The President may have unknowingly played right into the opposition’s (Democrats not Al Qaida) hands with the time table. It is likely that by whatever operational and political measurements are taken it will be easy for opponents to declare surrender, bring the troops home and begin to plan the spin that will be necessary when Iraq becomes an Al Qaida haven and the terrorists threats to the United States increases. But, of course that is what politicians of all stripes do best…..spin their way out of any earlier decision that make.

So the surge of troops is not really a surge as defined and the surge of operations has not really been fully implemented yet. But the evaluations of so-called failure continue on a daily basis. Yet, it is important that we give this effort a reasonable chance to succeed. Premature evaluations between now and September 15th are not useful except to the peace at any price wimps on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

The political theatre in D.C. by those opposed to the Global War on Terror in general and the battle being waged in Iraq specifically is totally blind to the current facts. Progress, albeit slow is being made on the military front and the inaction within Prime Minister Maliki’s government is not unlike our own Congress. It is not about the changes occurring as a result of this new operation. It is about how to make the Bush presidency fail in order to pave the way for a Democrat sweep in 08.

Just think what would have happened in prior wars if Congress lost their will. During the lead up to D-Day we lost thousands of bombers and crews during bombing raids. Thousands of soldiers were killed during training exercises in the lead up to D-Day. There were plenty of opportunities for the Reid’s, Levin’s and Pelosi’s of that era to call for an early withdrawal. Fortunately clearer heads prevailed back then. Who knows what the world would look like today if it would have happened, but one thing is certain; there would never have been a Normandy invasion and liberation of France and the rest of Western Europe. German would be the language used in the best French restaurants.

We do not know for sure the outcome of the troop increase in Iraq and the counter-insurgency being followed by General Petraeus, but we do know that if we do not give it a reasonable chance to succeed the long term consequences will be very devastating beyond our imagination. God help us all if we do not see this through.

But in the meantime our politicians on Capitol Hill, who do not think long term, will be conducting a daily post mortem focused on November ’08. While those who call for a premature surrender will have the consequences squarely on their shoulders, they act as most politicians do: they will find someone else to blame.