June 19, 2005
Time for a Pep Talk: What Bush Should Say on June 28th
Human will, instilled through leadership, is the driving force of all action in war. - Warfighting Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication One
Last week, five members of the US Congress "introduced a resolution calling for the beginning of troop withdrawal from Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006." From the Washington Times:
Democratic Reps. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio and Republican Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Walter B. Jones of North Carolina introduced a resolution yesterday calling for President Bush to announce a withdrawal plan by the end of the year.Time vs Event-based Decisionmaking
The congressmen said, however, that they don't expect to see any action on the resolution, but hope it will start a public conversation resulting in the troops coming home.
"This is a proposal that will be the basis for the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq," Mr. Kucinich said. "This is really about bringing our troops home. It's about saying, 'Come home, you've done your job, come home.'"
Congressman Kucinich's mistake is in attempting to dictate a timetable for what is the most fluid and ever-changing of all human endeavors. Indeed, the very next paragraph of Warfighting quoted above is this:
No degree of technological development or scientific calculation will diminish the human dimension in war. Any doctrine which attempts to reduce warfare to ratios of forces, weapons and equipment neglects the impact of the human will on the conduct of war and is therefore inherently flawed.One might add timetables to this list. Why October 1st, 2006? Why not October 2nd? Or September 1st? Or October 1st, 2005? By what magical timetable, or secret sliderule does Mr. Kucinich calculate the point at which our efforts must be curtailed?
Furthermore, why must those efforts be wed to a date? What is wrong with the already explicit event-based decisionmaking that is in place today? Our leaders have made it abundantly clear that the US drawdown will begin when Iraqi forces are capable of handling their own security in an ever-increasing fashion. Perhaps these few congressmen believe that if we publish a schedule, the enemy will adopt it themselves and retire from the field on cue, as though possessing the same dance card.
Martin Van Creveld had a bit to say about the mechanistic thinking which necessitates timetables in war. He notes the following about the mindsets that prevailed in the German General Staff before World War I:
The scientific spirit of the age, which believed with Lord Kelvin that physics had already reached the limits of its development, also affected command in another way. War itself, long regarded as the province of art, now came to be thought of as a science, and consequently as subject to systematic study and analysis in the same way that physics or chemistry is. Clausewitz's warnings concerning the incalculable moral forces governing war was often overlooked, and his discussion of the correct use of numbers in time and space was regarded as the key to his doctrine.The results of the Germans' thinking are well-known. Their vaunted Schlieffen Plan, which called for 42 days of scripted maneuvering resulting in the destruction of France, led to years of trench warfare instead.
It All Comes Down to This
There are two reasons why such calls are being made on the floor of the House. The first is the nature of Western culture and of Western war. Victor Hanson notes in The Wars of the Ancient Greeks that decisive engagements are one of the eight characteristics unique to Western war-making:
5. CHOICE OF DECISIVE ENGAGEMENT: the preference to meet the enemy head-on, hand-to-hand in shock battle, and to resolve the fighting as quickly and decisively as possible, battle being simly the final military expression of the majority will of the citizenry. The Persians felt a destructive madness had come upon the Greeks at Marathon, and so it had, as they ran head-on into the Persian ranks, a practice frightening to behold for the easterner, as the battles at Plataea, Cunaxa, Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela attest.Hanson believes that this military goal of decisive battle is influenced by the democratic decisionmaking of assemblies, congresses, and the like: an issue voted upon is thereby decided once and for all.
We witness this same preference two and a half millenia later. When our forces can seek decisive engagement, they are at their most destructive and receive the highest levels of support, and when they are involved in lower-intensity wars which seem to drag on, that same support soon falters.
Here is our conundrum: while we are geared culturally, and militarily for decisive battle, our enemies do not give it so willingly. They instead seek to harrass, disperse, and fight against our softer targets, fleeing when we come in large numbers to kill them, returning when we don't find them all and withdraw. This is classic guerrilla thinking and it is being employed with great skill by Al Qaeda in Iraq. Thus it is not our forces which are targeted, and it is not our military which Al Qaeda seeks to defeat, but instead it is our will they seek to rend, and the political victory of our withdrawal is their goal.
Another corollary to this fundamental aspect of Western warmaking is its resulting mobile nature. A mobile force's objectives are more easily observed by those watching at home, via press reports and the like. And the decisive pursuit of the enemy leads to a mobile force.
In another text, The Soul of Battle, Hanson notes that General Patton understood these aspects of US military power implicitly.
Patton realized that it was very American to keep an army constantly on the move, uprooting its headquarters every few days, entering and leaving new landscapes almost simultaneously, always shooting on the run . . .Today we find ourselves involved in a war of relative physical stasis, against an enemy who will not allow himself to become decisively engaged. Such conditions of war are poison to the American populace's will to fight, and that toxicity is beginning to show. In fact, this is the second reason for the Kucinich bill.
More than any other American commander, Patton also understood that the American army fought best when it exploited its inherent mobility as part of a continual allegiance to the indirect approach . . .
. . . Patton proved that the idea of a great democratic march, an ideological trek in which a fiery commander might pour his spirit of vengeance into his citizen soldiers, was not lost, regardless of the sheer magnitude and deadliness of such an undertaking in the murderous new age of mechanized warfare.
A Continuation of Politics by Other Means
Again, why October 1st, 2006? Could it be that such a date is known to be too soon? Nearly every Senator who I've seen on Meet the Press this spring has said we need at least two more years. So October 1st, 2006 is short by some 9 months. If the Democrats were to make October 1st, 2006 their artificial and self-imposed withdrawal date, and were then to propagate this far and wide as a reasonable time for our forces to be home, and were that date to then come and go without such events, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be commercials in the final month of the midterm election asking why Republicans can't get the troops home on time. Make no mistake about the choice of dates in Mr. Kucinich's bill.
The popular will to continue the war is waning. This must not be allowed to continue.
Consider this report by Fox:
The issue of whether to set a deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq is beginning to creep into the early stages of next year's midterm congressional elections.See the video here, and hear Ford make this statement:
Tennessee Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. began running a television ad last week, his first as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006, a race he entered last month. The advertisement asks the question of whether it is time to start bringing troops home and plays off the public's impatience with U.S. involvement in Iraq.
I am Harold Ford Jr. and I approve this message because this Fourth of July I hope all of us will take a moment to remember those brave Americans fighting to make the world freer and America safer. Let's work hard to bring them home soon and with honor, and make them as proud of us as we are of them."Such statements, which link in the same breath the lack of political will of those like Ford with the resolve necessary to fight honorably is off-putting to say the least -- and these same sentiments, no matter how falsely emotive, or incoherent from the standpoint of victory, are likely to be increasingly prominent if the national will is not bolstered and fast.
What must be done
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!President Bush has a major address planned for June 28th, the one year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty back to the Iraqis. What will he say?
He needs to give the pep talk of his life. He needs to tell the American people that there has been great progress in Iraq and needs to lay that out explicitly. He needs to give concrete examples of the progress of Iraqi forces and note as clearly as possible how our own presence there depends upon their progress. He needs to spell out clearly where the path to victory leads, and he needs to be very, very clear about the catastrophic results of a premature withdrawal.
He then needs to ask people for sacrifice, and for two kinds of sacrifice. First, he needs to ask for people to join the military. He needs to ask those who've thought about it for awhile to come off the bench and get in the game. Make it very clear that their country needs them. Don't mention any kind of economic incentives, etc, because while those are nice, they won't give his remarks the right tenor. Instead, call upon people to serve in the same inspiring language that has always marked such calls.
The second sacrifice needs to be from the rest of the population. What it should be I'm not sure, but there needs to be some kind of program that people can participate in, contribute to, and otherwise get a sense of involvement in the war. It needs to not just be such in spirit, but also in effect, such that it won't just give people a feeling of involvement, but it needs to actually help the war effort. It might be adopt-a-soldier, it might be war bonds, it might be a list of charities that help the war effort (like Spirit of America), or it might be something else entirely. There is a great untapped reservoir of popular patriotism and a similar reservoir of desire to be involved and to play a part in victory. The President must tap that vein and find a way for people in general to have a sense of ownership for the conflict in which we are engaged. A country told to shop or travel rather than told to get their heads in the game will be one that loses the war. The President needs to draw upon his own unwavering confidence in the cause and imbue the nation with it.
This is a tall order. Whatever the President says will be relentlessly dissected and sniffed at by the media. This speech needs to be one for the history books. It needs to be the most rousing, inspiring, rhetorically impressive feat of public-speaking he's ever given. For a President who has the fault of not being known for his speech-making skills, this is a very tall order.
That's why he needs to enlist some help. He needs to announce a bipartisan coalition of representatives of the White House who will travel the country for a month drumming up support for the war. My first choice would be Zell Miller, but the rest must be bipartisan and out of the box. Get John McCain in there. Hillary is on the record on TV as supporting the war. Let her have her shot. Get a couple of actors, get some war heroes, get some old cagey veterans of World War II, get a diverse group and make your points with them standing behind you, and then let them loose on the country. This will do much to cut off at the pass partisan sniping and press criticism, and will serve to shift the focus of such criticism from Bush himself, since he seems to drive his opponents absolutely bonkers.
Finally, make sure to get Zell Miller's speechwriter too, but don't blame the Democrats with another barnburner, just use his rhetorical skills to ask for sacrifice. We will give it in spades.
From today's Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: We have considerable commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, deployments. These were the headlines that greeted Americans just last week. "Just over 5,000 new recruits entered Army boot camp in May. ... Early last month, the Army ... lowered its long-stated May goal to 6,700 recruits from 8,050. Compared with the original target, the Army achieved only 62.6 percent of its goal for the month [a shortfall of almost 40 percent]." What will happen if for the next year the recruitment for the volunteer Army falls 40 percent short of the goal?
SEN. McCAIN: We're in trouble. We have to understand that we need to do a couple of things. One of them is to increase the incentives for people to join the military. To some degree, this is a marketplace for a pool of young Americans, men and women. So it's very important we do that. We should consider a shorter term enlistment for some 18 months active duty, 18 months Reserve duty in return for $18,000 in educational benefits. But I think we also have to talk a lot more--a lot more--about patriotism, about national service, about the challenges that America faces throughout the world and maybe try to re-ignite some of the patriotism that America felt after September 11.
Posted by Chester at June 19, 2005 11:04 PM
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