Change of Command?

Keanej Image004 According to all the talk in Washington, the "plan" whipped up by AEI’s Fred Kagan is likely to be mostly implemented by President Bush when he stops stalling about his policy in Iraq.  The "plan" can be found below at "Stalingrad on the Tigris."  The military "cover" for this "plan" was provided by retired Generals Kean and Barno seen on the left. 

In olden times, generals who failed in the field were relieved and replaced with new ones who had the boss’s confidence and who represented a new approach to the vexing problem of the time.  In our time it has become customary for the generals’ clique to writhe and plead that generals are all virtuous and superb people who should never be held responsible for failure.  A more self serving attitude would be hard to imagine.

By any rational calculus, Abizeid and Casey have failed.  If the United States is going to continue to fight in Iraq they should be relieved (fired).  If Bush is going to adopt the Kagan "plan," then the logical thing to do would be to recall Kean and Barno to active duty and give them the vacant jobs so that they can implement their "plan."  pl

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46 Responses to Change of Command?

  1. p.lukasiak says:

    Pat, Kean and Barno may provide the “military legitimacy” for the AEI and anyone who takes it seriously — but the question is how the JCS will react to something akin to this plan.
    All indications are that there will be considerable resistance to the plan from the professional military — so what are the odds of a significant resignation or two if this kind of plan goes forward?

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    1- They DO provide “military legitimacy.” Damn them.
    2- They should be forced to command in the debacle that they are helping to create. Get it now?
    3 – The JCS are ADVISERS. ADVISERS!!!
    4- Resignations over principle? What? You haven’t been paying attention. pl

  3. Ebin says:

    Col. Lang:
    Excellent idea to use the retired recall authority to return Keane and Barno (and how about McCaffery and Downing while we’re at it) to active duty status.
    They could then assume the responsibility for some of their cockamamie ideas about how to proceed in Iraq.

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    McCaffery has his moments but Downing should definitely be returned to active duty for this.
    My slate:
    CINCCENT – Kean
    MNFI – Downing
    Corps Commander – Barno

  5. Maeme says:

    If you could please provide some insight concerning Batiste and his complete turn around in his message? Was he threatened with a loss of his pension? I was really disappointed to hear him speak on MSNBC on Thanksgiving. They must have something on him.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    MG (Ret.)Batiste is a one trick pony. He hated Rumsfeld but other than that…..
    Retired military oersonnel do not receive a pension. They are still in the srevice (like me) but are paid at a reduced rate becasue they are not required to perform any duty.
    Batiste was safe in his retired pay. They could never have done anything to him. pl

  7. Cernig says:

    Can’t we just put them in the lead vehicles instead?
    Regards, Cernig @ Newshog.
    P.S. Col. I’ve just discovered your site. I wish I hadn’t missed such a good blog for so long. I’ll be back frequently.

  8. John says:

    Let me ask you a question. It seems that many people in the military believe the Army’s is over stretched and that this “surge” tactic could break the Army.
    What are the chances that a Reserve or National Guard unit called up to go to Iraq just refuses to go. It would seem that when only 30% of the population now supports the War in Iraq, that many people will start to believe that this is a losing cause and who would want to lose their life to attempt to salvage a loser like GWB’s legacy. Not me. Especially if I had already served a tour.
    If a unit refuses to answer the call wouldn’t that be a first in US history (maybe post War Between the States). Seems like that would be a very severe blow to the US.
    Just a thought.
    It seems like it will be soom a time for Republican House and Senate members to visit the boy prince and tell him the real facts. Get us out of Iraq or you will be impeached. The Republican Party has the most to lose. If the US is still in Iraq in 08 the Republican Party will go from what I now call the Southern Party to a nonexistent party. At least in my humble opinion.

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There are rumors of similar events now. pl

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the answer. In my mind this is a terrible unhinging of the US. When the military can not be relied upon to answer the command of the civilian government it speaks volumes. Scary! In some ways it feels like South America.
    However, it is understandable when the civilian government has lost its mind. Of course that is always what the military thought about civilian government when they took action in the SA.

  11. Adam Stilson says:

    I hate powerpoint. A little while back I had to take a week to fight with it because I had to present my lab’s work to DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Admin) for them to evaluate/decide to continue our grant (I am a physicist). Two things:
    1. They required PowerPoint. No other method was acceptable. When I asked why, they said that they summarize the scientist’s presentations to their supervisors by cut and pasting powerpoint. And, in turn, that the superiors do the same to their superiors. Now it is a given that nothing can capture the sublties of scientific research (or taking over/rebuilding a country) better than Powerpoint’s ‘WordArt’ feature. But what was strange was that they were not interested in seeing the actual papers we published in journals (journal articles always include a good paragraph abstract… it is the most important part). I was told that the folks higher up didn’t bother with that. They wanted powerpoint bulletpoints. What is it? Are they so blind that only 24+ point fonts get though? If it’s written big, it must be important? Are they powerpoint fetishists? Yikes. Whatever the cause, I got the impression that the DOD is a powerpoint shit storm.
    2. I just cannot believe the number of unsupported, unresearched claims on the “choosevictory” presentation. DARPA, at least, is brutal. If you put data without error bars, they toss you out of there and we are all the better for it. The only way crap like this could be made is if there is no adversarial peer review at the top levels.
    Beware powerpoint my son! It is the written form of talking head punditry. It’s the gilded wrapper used to peddle compentence.
    I feel alot better after getting that out. Thanks!

  12. VietnamVet says:

    Attacking the Mahdi Militia or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites are such a cockamamie idea, one hopes that someone is telling George W the facts. The US has lost control of Al Anbar province to the Sunni insurgency. It isn’t exactly the smartest move to attack Shiites; the other half of Islam.

  13. ikonoklast says:

    Regardless of which plan is eventually adopted:
    “The president by definition knows more than any of those people who are serving on these panels.” –Andrew Card
    BY DEFINITION! So those “experts” had better just shut up and learn from their master.
    Since the election Pelosi has been trying to gag any talk of impeachment, but perhaps new events will change that. It would have to be preferable to a mutiny in the armed forces, I think.

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I despise powerpoint. It is a substitute for real thought. I wonder what MacArthur or Marshall would have thought of it? pl

  15. zanzibar says:

    John, I think you are right that if we are still in Iraq in 08 it may not be such a good thing politically for the Republican party. Of course they will try to spin it. IMO, if they try the surge and increase combat forces and then in 08 we are still trying to quell the internecine conflict and attacks on our forces then it would sink the McCain presidential candidacy since he is one of the major advocates for increased troop strength in Iraq.
    I believe as 08 rolls in and we are in either a similar or worse situation in Iraq we’ll get to 80% of the American people against our presence there and the Presidential candidate that campaigns on withdrawal will win. Yes the neo-cons and the McCains and Liebermans will howl about the defeatists and those that would “lose” the Middle East to terrorists but the American people I believe will see through that fog as they did last November. Now several Democratic committee chairs are pledging to investigate war profiteering and the new Senate Intelligence Committee will get the opportunity to complete the report on politicization of intelligence leading up to the invasion that Sen. Roberts stonewalled. This is an interesting political dynamic as the voters spoke clearly in November by repudiating the current Iraq policy and want out with some specific timetable. The Decider is deciding to ignore the election results. Who else will he take down with him as that ship sinks? I am afraid it could be our military and the country as a whole too.

  16. Mark says:

    Col. Lang,
    First time I have been to the site though I’ve seen you often cited for your expertise in many MSM articles.
    Nice blog and nice post.
    Regarding additional troops being sent to al Anbar do you think that Anbar and Baghdad are where most of the violence is coming from? I understand that there is violence in the Shia areas but aren’t they a lesser priority in terms of bringing security to the country and something the Iraqis could/should do themselves?

  17. John says:

    Vietnam Vet:
    It is kind of a Catch 22. If the US used nukes against Iran, it would show the world why they really do need nukes.
    You know what gets me about the nuclear question is how easily some people move into the conversation of using it. Like no big deal. Once you go there where will you stop.
    In my mind once the US uses nuclear weapons it will become the pariah of the world. We will be right up there with Hitler Germany and Tojo’s Japan. The whole world will turn against us. It would be easy for the rest of the world to shut off the oil supply to the US. It is not eash to maintain supply lines.
    Oh yeah, we have the strongest military in the world. I forgot that, but that is really only of any use if you are planning on nuking the whole world. We really have a very small fighting force to take and hold real estate.
    I can not even believe that we allow the term nuclear to come up. Not that I am some pacifist, I just think I have a far better understanding of what the term means than 90% of America.

  18. Matthew says:

    Col: Will we receive confirmation that Abizaid and Casey have failed when they receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
    And has anyone had the decency to talk to General Shinseki?

  19. John Howley says:

    A Neocon brain-teaser:
    “Sixty-one percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces.” (ISG Report, page 35)
    Sending another 20,000 U.S. combat troops to “clear and hold” neighborhoods in Baghdad will cause that percentage to go up or down?
    Hmmm, let’s see now….

  20. J says:

    you mentioned according to rational calculus that both casey and abizeid have failed, and therefore should be relieved of their command (that is if the u.s intends to continue fighting in iraq). that will only happen as a last resort under bush43, as he himself doesn’t want to be held accountable, so therefore he will not hold those accountable under him. and in the meantime, more of our corporals and privates continue to be unwarranted cannon fodder for mr. bush’s juvenile thinking pattern. what a sad time for our nation’s families who are in service to our nation.

  21. FDChief says:

    My questions about this “surge” idea are and have always been:
    1. Where do the troops come from? The current rotation schedule is pretty brutal. Guard/Reserve? Not before early summer – the guys need trainup/mob time. New meat? Don’t make me laugh.
    2. What’s the point? Using a “strategic reserve” makes sense in a conventional stand-up fight. You break the other guy, exploit the breakthrough, smashing victory, game over, thanks for playing. In a counterinsurgency all this does is “flood the zone” with bodies. The dumb G’s wander into the net and get captured or killed. The smart G’s go underground, or go elsewhere until the heat’s off. I suspect that Darwin is pretty savage on the muj – most of the really dumb guys already have their virgins.
    3. Wiping the floor with the Mahdi Army won’t make Sadr go away. Didn’t we learn that when we discovered that Iraq isn’t Iraq because Saddam was Saddam: Saddam was Saddam because Iraq is Iraq. Sadr’s folks rally around him because he represents something important to them. Those beliefs won’t go away if the Mahdi Army gets decimated – they did in 2004 and, look, they’re still here. Same for the Sunni muj. ISTM that these guys are as much effect as cause.
    None of the talking heads that support this plan seems to explain how these extra guys are gonna make the Iraqi factions settle their differences politically rather than with guns. Until I see that happen I’m gonna expect this plan to work about as well as the “let’s raze Fallujah and see what happens” plan that went so well for us back in 2004…

  22. Dick Durata says:

    I’m curious about the appointment of Gen. Odierno as operations head (#2 in the chain of command) in Iraq.
    After he left the 4th Infantry to mixed reviews, he’s been Condi’s military advisor, and now his appointment is right before Gates takes over. I’d appreciate any insight into this.

  23. Chris Bray says:

    “In olden times, generals who failed in the field were relieved and replaced…”
    Right in principle, but keep going. I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that in incident after incident in Iraq, the military brings serious charges against enlisted servicemembers for incidents in which maybe a few officers are reprimanded, and even fewer are charged with anything. The entire officer corps seems to have figured out how to insulate itself from responsiblity for the behavior of their organizations.

  24. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are quite right. Senior officers in this war are nicely insulated from accountability.
    Dick D.
    Odierno took over 3rd Army Corps some time ago and the Corps headquarters has now rotated to Iraq. That is why he is back. pl

  25. jamzo says:

    how about that!
    colin powell is “not persuaded” that increasing the number of us troops in iraq is a good idea
    wapo article on his appearance on cbs this morning
    Powell Says U.S. Losing in Iraq, Calls for Drawdown by Mid-2007
    By Karen DeYoung
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, December 18, 2006; Page A20
    Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a “civil war” in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year
    don’t worry!
    just because general powell
    is not persuaded that increasing the troop level is a bad idea does not mean i am not confident that it is a bad idea

  26. robt willmann says:

    Although I am hampered by not having had military experience, if we speak of generals who have failed in the field, we might ask, “failed at doing what?”
    In our system of civilian control of the military, the soldiers are stuck with what the civilians who make “policy” dictate. This is why the people in and out of the government who promoted this ghastly and foolish war carefully got their flacks (the “neoconservatives”),or themselves, placed at the very few decision making points in the massive federal bureaucracy.
    Invading Iraq and knocking over our former golden boy Saddam Hussein was a clearly defined job for the military. But then what?
    The civilians ordered that the Iraqi Army and the Baath Party, which was the entire governmental apparatus, be basically disbanded. What was the U.S. military to do then? Run the government itself, when almost all the soldiers did not speak the local language? Go around and kill as many Iraqis as are being identified by the CIA as being against the invasion and occupation, a la the Phoenix Program?
    The civilian so-called leadership failed. The entire Iraq adventure failed before it started because the civilian policy was built on deceit to promote an avaricious project.
    I don’t know what the U.S. military could have done in Iraq to “succeed” when, except for an invasion and run to Baghdad, it was ordered to fail.
    And now we have a new version of the vicious conjob. Fred Kagan and Robert Kagan are brothers, I think. Their father is Donald Kagan. Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol are the alleged co-founders of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which has promoted decidedly un-American activities abroad. PNAC’s
    statement of “principles” was signed by such folks as Dick Cheney, Donald Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Elliot Abrams (convicted in the Iran-Contra investigation, before he was pardoned), Zalmay Khalizad, Donald Rumsfeld, and Irving Lewis Libby, currently under indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice.
    Not to belabor the point, but the letter to President Clinton of January 26, 1998, urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power, was signed by a few of the same people, plus names like Robert Zoellick, Richard Perle, John Bolton, and Robert Kagan.
    And now Frederick Kagan hustles this powerpoint presentation about adding troops, and force flow, and such fatuous statements as “clear critical terrain (by Sept.)”. Now what exactly does that mean? Bulldozing terrain or bulldozing people? If it means bulldozing people out of the way, where do they go? To refugee camps?
    A change of command? Well, I do believe that those who promote an aggressive war are to go over there and fight it. Thus, I propose a very limited draft, in which all the neoconservatives, plus the American Enterprise Institute people, and the other familiar names huckstering for this war, will find themselves in the U.S. Army, in a Humvee, “clearing” Baghdad and the Al Anbar Province. And with the Kagans, Kristol,and Zoellick in the lead vehicle working “point” . . . at night.

  27. Nand Jagnath says:

    People tend to forget that outfits like the Mahdi Army, Hezbollah and Hamas are not conventional military units. They thrive as long as they retain the support of the local people. I don’t think it is possible for external armed forces to destroy them militarily. Or else Israel would have pulped Hamas by now and Russia would be in complete control of Chechnya.
    From whatever little I have read, my feeling is that the Mahdi Army represents the poor Shiites. If America unleashes brutal military force to suppress the Mahdi Army, it will create a huge groundswell of anger towards the American forces.
    If the Mahdi Army is such a problem, let the other Shiite militias put them in their place. It would be utterly stupid for the American forces to take on the task.

  28. Antifa says:

    The whole “surge” concept is so patently absurd that I cannot help feeling it is cover for a more serious objective.
    Suppose, for a second, that the original PNAC priorities are still in effect — invade the ME and take out the regional powers unfriendly to the USA, especially Iran. The priority over even Iraq is taking out Iran as a regional power.
    That can only be done with an air campaign, including nukes as needed.
    The first logical thought following that breakthrough in strategic planning is that — hey, fellas — we’d better beef up our Baghdad forces so the Emerald City survives the Iran air campaign. A lot of Shiites will be really upset with us over this one.
    Hence, the patently silly cover story of a “surge” in forces for the impossible goal of disarming Sadr’s militias.
    The “surge” plan is just cover for attacking Iran while holding on to our 14 bases, and our Embassy by the Tigris.
    The “surge” plan is preparation for the Iranian campaign.

  29. Paul says:

    Odierno may be back because he has III Corps, but when he had the 4th ID, his mass detention operations only helped to aggrevate today’s debacle. The 4th ID was well known for detention of innocent Iraqis, and Odierno consistently ignored warnings from MNC-I to cease.

  30. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. He is evidently a real “winner.” Ricks made that pretty clear. pl
    Robt Willman
    Generals are often relieved for things they could not prevent. Sometimes they are executed for things they did not have any control over. The case of the Japanese general Yamashita is exemplary.
    Nevertheless, it is a tradition of the military service world wide that commanders who fail should be relieved. Sometimes they ask to be relieved as Lee did after Gettysburg. Since the soldiers pay such a terrible cost in battle it is thought right that a commander should not “survive” failure. This has to do with justice, not logic.
    In addition, it is better to have a new policy be carried out by those who designed it.
    I enthusiastically endorse your list of civilian “leaders” who should be punished, but they should be p[unished in ways that prevent their return to political life. pl

  31. Mark A Gray says:

    Sorry for the slight aside from the topic at hand. Regarding the (mis)use of powerpoint in the presentation of technical data/ideas. The modern guru of information presentation, Edward Tufte has written of this topic from time to time:
    Short Version: Shuttle Columbia disaster could be due to poor design inherent in PowerPoint.

  32. Mercer VandenBurg says:

    I thought the Kagan report was whimsical fantasy, not to be taken seriously. But now you are saying that Bush is seriously considering this as a legitimate option? Please, send these bozos to lead the charge and arm them with all that NG eqipment that is in mint condition.

  33. Share says:

    I noticed Kagan’s name because of your recent articles. Thank you Col. Lang – noted his name in this MSM piece:
    Some outside experts, notably Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, have suggested expanding the Army by a division, about 20,000 people, a year until it reaches 750,000. Kagan said that from 1979 to 1991, America had an all-volunteer active-duty force of 780,000.
    “The president is going to have to call on the young people of this nation to come out and support this effort,” Kagan said.
    Other experts say that could be done, but building up the Army during an increasingly unpopular war would require large bonuses and pay increases that would eat into the military budget.
    Kagan has proposed building up the Army in part to allow sending additional forces into Iraq.
    In a proposal outlined yesterday, Kagan said that, by speeding up rotations and extending tours, the Army and Marine Corps could add 30,000 combat troops in 2007.,0,5457033.story?coll=bal-iraq-headlines

  34. John says:

    Relieving Generals of Command:
    I am probably not the type of person who would ever make it to Command Officer, but I have been the CFO of a NYSE company (and I have stayed out of jail).
    When presented with an operation I do not agree with and asked to craft a strategy to execute, I would evaluate it and if I truly felt it was an operation which would lead to disaster — I would resign. This is especially true if I was leading men and women into combat and they could lose their lives if the operation failed.
    Let’s look at Meyers. He was quite obviously an ass kisser. I have to think a large number of these other generals are also.
    I agree with you Colonel, they should have been relieved of command. That is what it means to be Commander and Chief. However, the Decider is a boy prince and knows nothing about leading and has only got to where he is because his last name is Bush!
    Very sad.

  35. Nand Jagnath says:

    Juan Cole has drawn attention to this interview with Flynt Leverett, formerly senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council:
    Apparently in 2003, when the Iranians sent a letter to the White House seeking a comprehensive dialogue, according to Leverett”[The letter] was substantively a very promising start; a serious effort to lay out an agenda for resolving our outstanding issues. It addressed our concerns about their WMD program, their support for organizations we consider terrorist, and their attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict. They also wanted re-examination of our attitude to their regime, for ending efforts to change their government and other issues. I think what was so foolish about our response was that we didn’t even try to find out if it was serious.”
    Leverett ends ominously by saying that in a year or so, options in the Security Council would have run out and the U.S. President would face a stark choice of whether or not to bomb Iran.
    And I don’t think it is all difficult to guess which way that loaded dice will roll!

  36. Annie Burns says:

    Because I’m a military-illiterate (a term recently used here and at which I take no offense) I limit my posts to areas whereof I have some knowledge. The following article is a wonderfully scathing critique of PowerPoint:
    Parker, Ian
    Source: New Yorker; 05/28/2001, Vol. 77 Issue 13, p76, 7p, 1 diagram
    Document Type: Article
    Subject Terms: AUDIO-visual materials
    MICROSOFT software
    Geographic Terms: UNITED States
    Abstract: Focuses on the influence of Microsoft PowerPoint in the lives of several persons in United States. General features of PowerPoint; Developments of audio-visual aids for industries; Technical limitations of the product.
    ISSN: 0028-792X
    I’m just an old war horse reference librarian, who was in charge of regional training for a bunch of the younguns until recently…and did I take the heat for refusing to use PPT for my training and demos!
    Still, it’s one thing when it’s a library…another entirely when lives are at stake.
    Thanks for the education, Colonel. Happy Holidays, all!

  37. Happy Jack says:

    If the Mahdi Army is such a problem, let the other Shiite militias put them in their place.
    That very well may be the plan behind our talks with Hakim. But that assumes Hakim has the ability and legitimacy to become the top dog of the Shiites. If the “surge” is aimed at Sadr, that would say something about SCIRI’s ability.
    When Sadr surrounded Sistani in 2003, it was the local tribes who drove him off, not SCIRI. Hakim also has to worry about other players like al-Hassani too. And don’t forget, Sadr’s mentor al-Haeri, is still in Iran, capable of choosing someone else to pick up the scepter.
    Considering our previous attempts to choose “leaders” in Iraq, the outcome in this scenario has success written all over it. 🙂

  38. taters says:

    Thank you Colonel Lang for an excellent thread. And as usual, I appreciate everyone’s comments.
    John re: I am probably not the type of person who would ever make it to Command Officer, but I have been the CFO of a NYSE company (and I have stayed out of jail).
    What do you think of Eliot Spitzer as gov of NY?

  39. I don’t think so that this plan will succeed USA doesn’t have enough fprces, I don’t think so that any country except unfortunatelly Poland where politics will do everything that George W Bush will hug them- will send more forces.

  40. semper fubar says:

    “The president is going to have to call on the young people of this nation to come out and support this effort,” Kagan said.
    These people do not understand the premise of our Constitution and our democracy. If the citizens of this country overwhelmingly do not support a war and do not want to fight a war, then we shouldn’t be fighting it. End of story.
    We The People have absolutely NO obligation to fight a war that by a huge margin we no longer support, just because Bush and his neocon friends lied us into it and now can’t figure out how to “win.”
    Tough sh*t – eat the defeat.
    And let it be yet another hard-won lesson about starting wars based on lies.

  41. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nand Jagnath:
    The 2003 letter was probably a trial balloon to gauge US intentions.

  42. jang says:

    Thank you for understanding, Annie B. “Illiterate” was a poor choice of word, especially when you are helping to bring the gift of reading to so many.

  43. Steve says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a number of months and have enjoyed the insightful comments immensely.
    Nothing to add to what’s already been said.
    Keep up the good work.

  44. Nand Jagnath says:

    Happy Jack:
    The point that I was trying to make is that the solution to the Mahdi Army problem has to be an Iraqi one.
    Babak Makkinejad:
    Yes, the Iranian letter may well have been a trial balloon. But as Leverett himself points out, “I think what was so foolish about our response was that we didn’t even try to find out if it was serious.”

  45. lester says:

    nan jagnith – that’s one of those stories that blows people away when you explain it to them, but doesn’t really catch on in the media. like Bush letting zarqawi get away pre-iraq.

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Nand Jagnath:
    Leverett is wrong: USG did not respond – not out of foolishness – but because she felt, at that time, that she could get all that she wanted from Iran with little or no cost. No need to negogiate anything.

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