“Fiasco,” – A Book Review. W. Patrick Lang

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This review will appear in the next quartely number of "Middle East Policy."  I will post the URL for it when it appears.

Pat Lang

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53 Responses to “Fiasco,” – A Book Review. W. Patrick Lang

  1. Jesus Reyes says:

    The long term war in the ME is Sunni vs. Shia and you have to pick a side. The USG and KSA war is with the salafis, wahabbis, muslim brotherhoods, etc. These are hard core fundamentalists and they are not going to lighten up.
    Khomeini was hard core but Sistani is way lighter and his brand of shia prevailed. The Iranian revolution is spent and Ahmadinehad is an aberration. Persian is the third dominant language on the net. A “secular” shiism is on the way.
    A shia population is sitting on top of all the oil save the eastern “stans”
    Knock off the Khomeini clerics and ally with the Sistani type clerics and go after the salafis. Ditch the KSA and complete the revolution around the gulf.
    Hence the neocon dismissal of the Iraqi sunni military.

  2. DeWitt Grey says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but I thought our force structure and doctrine were based on the premise of having the capability to fight “one and one-half wars”, originally central front in Europe and Korea, but gradually evolving to include the Middle East or other hot spots in Asia as possible alternatives. I can understand why the “heavy division” Army didn’t want to hear about counterinsurgency — they apparently didn’t want to hear about it (much) even in Vietnam, much less afterwards. But the “heavies” are designed to fight the “one” in the “one and a half” wars — I thought all the Army’s talk about developing “light divisions” had the “half war” in mind, including counterinsurgency. How is it possible that Carlisle and Leavenworth weren’t, at the very least, keeping the flame alive, particularly with a small army of officers who learned this stuff the hard way in the field?

  3. taters says:

    Excellent review, Col. I like Mr Ricks’ work very much, I’ve yet to read “Fiasco” – I appreciate Ricks at the WaPo standing up for Zinni when he was being maligned by those that aren’t worthy to carry his boots.

  4. ali says:

    That we went into Iraq without well laid preparations to make use of the Iraqi army is the shocking thing. It was the main secular political grouping that Saddam feared as a source of opposition to his power; you’d have thought we could have bribed a few generals to sign up before hand. Catastrophically arrogant decision to send them home un-defeated to live with the shame of not having fought the invader.
    In truth though once the looting started and Rummie described freedom as being messy the writing was on the wall. This was an administration that proudly claimed they would not do nation building before gaining power and boy have they’ve kept to that promise.
    You are very hard on the US Army in your review. The long sulk after defeat in Vietnam is surely part of the problem. This cold war relic was partly transformed by Rummie into something more light and agile but not remotely fit for likely purpose. It was and remains the wrong kind of army for this job. However the British Army is exactly the right kind of Army to handle Basra and look at the mess we have down there. I don’t think the blame lies with our soldiers.
    It’s the neocon political agenda that sunk the project; this was not a society that could survive being frog marched towards free market capitalism. Maybe if we’d installed a military dictator, built a new secular elite around the old army gradually and fixed the broken ruins of Iraqi society it might have blossomed into something like Turkey after a couple of decades of commitment.
    It will likely end with multiple warlords clashing until a new strongman emerges. I hope he’s more like Kemal Ataturk than Saddam Hussein.

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The one and a half wars were supposed to be fought by all the forces that would not fall into the “Prople’s War” category. I suppose the Ranger Regiment would also probably not be included in that 1 and 1/2 thingy.
    So, before 9/11 the number of Army people available for the mission you are talking about would have numbered less than 30,000.
    Carlisle and Leavenworth were as bloody minded as the rest. pl

  6. julie says:

    It seems that there were various schools of thought. Both Zinni and Sheneski are on record as arguing for a much larger force which could freeze the security until the old army was revamped. And negotiations were uunderway under Garner with officers who represented many units in the old army.
    Frm what I have read many company commanders and others did an excellant job of local work. They didn’t have resources, the CPA gave them 28 million of of 20 billion in Food For Oil money and in many cases after they got the thing started they were called away and insurgents terrorized the police and officials they recruited.
    The military was not designed for these purposes, but I think it had leadership at all levels that could have done a much more credible job if it hadn’t been purged and directed by the civilian half.
    The State Department and other agencies also failed, they should have had “cadre” working with the units which were originally dispersed.
    And certainly we had a vast assortment of civilian, often very experienced, talent that could have been recruited with the resources we spent on pork for US corporations.
    I suspect the upper ranks will pat dearly, evidently younger officers are reading “Dereliction Of Duty.”

  7. John in LA says:

    I don’t understand at all the disconnect between the military institutions and the world around them. Wouldn’t the end of the cold war make clear — isn’t it clear today — that there will never be another war between the United States and a national army? If we can put cruise missiles onto a postage stamp….well, that option’s off the table permanently.
    But we seem powerless to adress the political/social/tribal swamp wars that will surely dominate everything from the Tijuana drug wars to the Middle East.
    If Iraq wasn’t lesson enough, I should think that the IDF in Lebanon should be a total redline underscore.
    I can’t think of anyplace in the world where industrial armies actually dominate insurgent irregulars.

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Why do you expect the Iraq’s army to have been useful in post-invasion Iraq? That army was a largely Shia conscript army used to control Shia and Kurds – why do you expect it to have been able to serve as a national army? Would Najaf or Irbil permitted that (I think not)?

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are mistaken in your characterization of the old Iraqi Army and its history.
    Conscription does not necessarily produce poor armies. Russia, the USA, Germany, and the UK did quite well in WW2with armies that contained a large number of conscripts.
    The Iraqi Army contained large numbers of people from all the major communities in Iraq. There were a lot of Shia enlisted men becaseu there are more of them than anything else in the general population. There were many senior officers who were not Sunni Arabs. There were Kurdish, Shia, Turcoman and Christian generals in the armed forces. The Commanding General of the Republican Guard Armored Corps (the spearhead of the invasion)in the invasion of Kuwait was a Shia Lieutenant General. He now works in the Ministry of Defense.
    During the Iran-Iraq War there were were no significant defections, mutinies or combat refusals of orders in the Iraqi Army including among all the Shia soldiers that you mention.
    The units who put down the Shia revolt in ’92 were mostly manned with Shia soldiers.
    This was a national army. It defeated Iran and no amount of propaganda can change that. pl

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    LA John
    No. It is not clear that the US will never fight another national army. You sound like my mother who, in 1958, told me that I should forget about the Army and go in the Air Force because high tech weapons and “the bomb” meant there would never be significant ground warfare again.
    You may think you can foresee the future but the record of experience in real history indicates that it is impossible to predict with the certainty you apparently feel just exactly what or who the enemy will be ten or twenty years from now. Rumsfeld’s “reforms” are creating a force incapable of fighting any kind of enemy other than the “4th generation” kind. Prudence would insist on a more balanced approach.
    Cruise missiles? Do you know what they cost? Do you know how small the payloadds are” These weapons are suitable only for point targets of high valus, not your “4th generation” guerrillas. How many are you going to use chasing guerillas in Iraq? How many have we used? pl

  11. Grimgrin says:

    I also think it’s unlikely that the U.S. will ever fight an “industrial” army in the immediate future. That is to say an army that looks like a western army with tanks, jets, etc. Two things in particular would have to change before we go back to the era of nationalized industrial warfare.
    1)Globalization. When economies are interdependant you cant fight a war without first rupturing your own countries economy. Not to say it isn’t possible, but it’s alot harder to fight a war if your steel, indusrial chemicals and electronics all come from somewhere else than if you have the domestic industry.
    2.) Nukes. They don’t make ground warfare obsolete obviously, but people seem to think long and hard about fighting a war when a limited or all out nuclear exchange is likely to be involved. And any country that can assemble a large, modern conventional army seems to be able to put together nukes and ballistic missiles. Unless someone comes up with a magic ‘anti’ nuke field, they’re going to be damper on any conflicts between industrial powers.
    Nothing in this analysis says it can’t happen however. Just that the trends make these types of wars less likely. As with anything, the right combination of bad luck and incompetence can make any bad outcome possible.
    I have no argument with your statment about the difficulty of predicting what sort of opponent will be encountered, however I don’t think the current approach the US is taking, which seems to be about building the most advanced weapons systems possible and then looking around for a threat to justify them could be called ‘balanced’.
    As for only being able to fight 4th generation or networked guerrilla or whatever you want to call them enemies, I haven’t seen anything that says the air mobile ‘shock and awe’ military Rumsfeld had in mind would be able to do that. That John Paul Vann line about CI warfare being political and calling for discrimination in killing keeps coming to mind as being essentially correct. I very much doubt you’ll get better results in that arena from the back of a Stryker than you would from the back of an M1A1.

  12. zanzibar says:

    “This was a national army. It defeated Iran and no amount of propaganda can change that.” – PL.
    PL, I am curious about this statement. All I remember from the corporate media reporting was that it was a stalemate. It seems the Wiki on this topic is disputed but it too claims a stalemate.

  13. Yohan says:

    I found Fiasco to be extremely interesting, especially the pre-war sections where I ended up learning quite a bit when I came in thinking I knew it all already. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the Iraq War.
    Ricks falters, however, in his conclusion. The whole moral of the book throughout is that things started off bad and have only gotten worse and worse. Taking that extensively researched and quite sound moral, he concludes with a bizarrely emotional response: things are going from bad to worse but we shouldn’t leave because……..we shouldn’t? The fine attention to detailed sourcing makes for a startling contrast when Ricks starts making wild speculations as to what could happen if we left. He also never squares the troop level paradox: the commanders don’t have enough men to do the job vs. having a heavy military presence causes excess damage and is counter-productive. No one in the military seems to have worked that one out either.

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Probabilities. That is what it comes down to in the end.
    The question asked should be – how much are you willing to bet on what kind of enemy you are going to fight?
    I think your point about the interconnection of economies being a deterrent to war is ill taken. I suppose that you remember that the German H-Hour for Barbarossa had to be held up along the Bug while the Germans waited for Russian freight trains to finish crossing into their territories. pl

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are correct. The Iran-Iraq War was marked by skilful management of the press by the Iranians and the Israelis who, at that time regarded the Iraqis as a greater menace than Iran and who assisted the Iranians in various ways to include the the Iran-Contra Affair, procurment of materiel on the world grey arms market and media “sculpting.”
    The end of the war was nothing like a stalemate. In a series of ground offensives beginning with the offendive that recaptured the Fao Peninsula and which culminated in operation “Tawakalna ala Allah” (In God We Trust)the Iraqi military destroyed the military potential of Iran’s ground forces. In this last op, the Iraqis sent four armored divisions into Iran in a semi-circular sweep about a hundred miles long and twenty miles deep. This was a huge raid. It finished the Iranians. They acepted the UN sponsored cease-fire. at that time the Iraqis were inside Iranian territory everywhere that I can remember.
    After the war, the Iraqis put on a display of captured Iranian equipment at a cantonment south of Baghdad. Lined up for thousands of visitors to see were thousands of pieces of equipment; tanks, artillery, APCs, recon vehicles, trucks, etc. Each pieces was painted in whitewash or some such substance ” This —- is the booty of the —- Division.”
    I briefed this event in various capitals. In one Arab capital, the head of state asked me what the overhead shot of the display represented. I told him that he was looking at the skeleton of a dead army. pl

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    Thank you for reply.
    But if what you say is correct why can’t this Army be re-constituted now?

  17. arbogast says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Part of the current White House plan being bruited in the press is increasing the force in Baghdad by 20,000 troops.
    In addition, we are being treated on a daily basis with reports of sharply increasing casualty rates among our troops. This increase has continued past the election and probably has nothing to do, directly, with the election.
    Are we in military trouble in Iraq? Are we having trouble avoiding a significant military defeat similar to Dien Ben Phu? Do we have the capacity to evacuate large numbers of troops if we get into trouble?

  18. have skunk says:

    Has anyone noticed that Shrub’s “big push” phrase and plan is taken from a line straight out of the movie, “Lawrence of Arabia.” No kidding:

  19. Yohan says:

    Pat, very interesting. But if Iraq was so successful on the battlefield in the end(and with the US increasingly acting directly against the Iranians), why didn’t they push for more favorable settlement terms? One of the big reasons why people regard the war as a stalemate is because both sides ended up in pretty much the same place where they began. Why didn’t the Iraqis at least demand full control of the Shatt-al-Arab?

  20. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “There is a tide in the affairs of men…”
    Too much time has passed and the situation is not what it was in 2003. The US is committed to raising a new army. We are too far down the road both in Iraq and here for that. pl

  21. zanzibar says:

    PL, thanks for setting the record straight. Its hard to discern fact from fiction for the average American like me with all the “sculpting” of corporate media reporting.
    In your estimate what is the current state of the Iranian military?

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    If the democrats accept Bush’s last throw of the dice in the big push, then they will own a piece of his war by 2008. pl

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    1.The US was NOT acting directly against Iran. This is more mythological crap (Murtha reference).
    2. Iraq was exhausted by its long and nightmarish expeience and the thought of driving further into Iran to occupy more territory was the last thing on their minds. They wanted the war to end.
    3. The terms of the UN sponsored cease fire were not negotiated with the parties. It called for a cease-fire in place. That was the deal that the Iraqis were gong to get if they wanted an end. pl

  24. zanzibar says:

    Grimgrin, lazy but quite typical analysis is to project the present into the future. In the financial world we see analysts pretty much always drawing straight line projections. Take for example analyst projections for flash memory manufacturers even with the “present” where flash spot prices are collapsing and WalMart is cutting prices on consumer electronics ahead of the holiday season.
    I guess in the military the line that “general’s fighting the last war” is appropriate.

  25. VietnamVet says:

    The current possibilities in Iraq are either bad or really bad. The disconcerting rhetoric reported by corporate media only mentions: 1) Senator John McCain’s 20,000 troops drop in the bucket, 2) stay the course, or 3) stay the course with troop withdrawals.
    The true alternative is the draft, 500,000 American boys and girls in Iraq, exorbitant taxes on the wealthy, Arab League troops, and a set deadline for last Christian troops to get out of Iraq. If a stable Iraq is in the National Interest of the USA, it requires real sacrifice by all Americans.

  26. zanzibar says:

    “If the democrats accept Bush’s last throw of the dice in the big push, then they will own a piece of his war by 2008.”-PL
    In my view the Democrats are in a no-win situation. If they acquiesce to the Deciders “Big Push” they’ll be directly contradicting the desires of the voters that gave them the majority in Congress last week. If they stick to their guns for “redeployment” they’ll be attacked mercilessly for defeat. In either case they are going to share ownership of the war. In 2008 who will the voters blame more?

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    In regards to the operation “Tawakalna ala Allah”, were chemical weapons used?

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I don’t know about that operation. They might have been. They were used as part of the ammunition load for the artillery in earlier operations like the one that recaptured the Fao Peninsula. During the latter stages of that war the Iraqis had pretty much mastered battlefield use of gas as part of their fire plans. If you are thinking that the use of mustard and sarin was decisive in these battles, you should give up the idea. They were merely useful to the Iraqis as they were to just about all combatants in WW1.
    You are aware I presume of the Iranian Gas weapons program. It was much more primitive and less effective. pl

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I I had heard about the Iranian use of chemical weapons. I had heard that Khomeini fordid further usage of them upon hearing of that.
    I believe that the Iran-Iraq War has been a seminal war for the Middle Ezstern state – just like WWI was for the European states.
    I also believe that the rape of the chemical weapons treaty in that war and endoresed by US, EU, Russia, China, Arab states has been a major contributor to the weakening of NPT all over the world.
    It is like that Persian saying: “The fellow who rapes his own mother heaven only knows what he does to others!”

  30. Wombat says:

    Several events toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War convinced the Iranians that the US was intervening “against” them: The naval confrontations in the Gulf that resulted in the sinking of two Iranian warships, and the downing of the Iranian airliner by the Vincennes.
    Both sides were exhausted by the fighting, and the Iraqis had been suing for peace since the Iranians ejected them from Khuzestan in the second year of the war. Iran could no longer afford to replace its human and material casualties, but as the “wronged” party, could not be perceived as suing for peace.
    In my opinion, Rafsanjani very cleverly transformed the incidents involving the Vincennes and earlier naval clashes into the United States openly entering the war against Iran. By that perception, while Iran could have continued fighting Iraq as long as necessary, it could not fight Iraq and the United States.
    My understanding of Iraq’s final offensives in the war was that they took place after Iran began seeking an end to the fighting, and involved as much fighting as the Italians against the Austro-Hungarians in the Vittorio Veneto campaign of 1918.

  31. Grimgrin says:

    PL: I was thinking more of integration on the order of the post war European Coal and Steel Community. Your conclusion about probabilities is well taken though, even if I’d probably bet differently than you would.

  32. lina says:

    If the democrats accept Bush’s last throw of the dice in the big push, then they will own a piece of his war by 2008. pl
    They’ll own it anyway. We will reach new heights in revisionist history. And the lapdog media will promote the story from start to finish.

  33. ali says:

    This http://mondediplo.com/2003/01/03military prescient article by Faleh A Jabar describes how the 03 Iraq army had changed since 91; socially it was a different beast from the vast WWI style army that fought Iran.
    Jabar was spot on here:
    “The looming war is different from 1991 in political objectives, operational drive and battlefield zones. Politics will play a much larger part in shaping the attitude of the Iraqi military. As the US openly seeks regime change, it will require operations, direct or by proxy, to take the seat of power, Baghdad. If key Iraqi units are not won over or a coup successfully encouraged, the main objective will not be attainable except by full-scale invasion and occupation.

    Whether or not the politics of the coalition campaign will succeed in attracting part of the ruling tribal alliance to their side is open to question. If a military coup fails, the possibilities of scattered, chaotic mutinies and the potential for a civil war will increase. In all cases, civilian loss will be dramatic, the tempo of the war will be slow and the rise of uncontrollable forces will defy our worst imaginings.”
    Also fro LMD this http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/51/045.html by Charles Tripp on how in the 20s the British finessed their way out of a quagmire while retaining the reins of power by exploiting existing Ottoman power structures.
    “The relevance of this to the present situation is not only that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a direct descendant of this pattern of government. It is also that the temptation confronting the US, if and when it tries to organise the future of Iraq, may be similar to that which faced the British government and its officials in 1920. In the aftermath of a military invasion and the likely overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the US will face a choice.
    It can try to bring about a fundamental change in the way Iraq is governed and commit the time and resources necessary to make that happen. Or it can set up an Iraqi administration which will carry out the principal wishes of the US—respect for American strategic interests and maintenance of order—thereby allowing an early withdrawal of US forces. This would mean recognising much of the existing power structure in Iraq, as well as the narrative of Iraqi history that brought the present regime into being. Faced by internal resistance and fearful of risking American lives and resources in a project of state reconstruction increasingly remote from the interests of the American public, it is quite possible that the US administration would opt for disengagement from Iraq’s internal affairs. ”
    Unfortunately after just one year of the neocon mission in Iraq we’d diligently trashed every institution in Iraqi life apart from the Mosque.
    What were our priorities: “As direct occupiers, the US enacted laws that give foreign investors equal rights with Iraqis in the domestic market; permit the full repatriation of profits; institute the flat tax system; abolish tariffs; enforce a strict intellectual property rights regime; sell off a whole-range of state-owned companies; reduce food and fuel subsidies; and privatize all kinds of social services such as health, education and water delivery. ”
    To call this incompetent is a gross understatement.

  34. Fred says:

    Very insightful. Too bad the powers to be in DC did not read “Embracing Defeat” or “Militray Occupation and the Rule of Law”(circa 1942 – 6 months after Pearl Harbor) prior to deciding to invade.

  35. Cloned Poster says:

    Great discussion, read every post with interest.
    If you were CiC what would you do in Iraq?
    PS: Sorry if this post was made before.

  36. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Suing for peace implies defeated and seeking peace as a suppicant. That was not the case. The Iraqi military got stronger and more effective throughout the war. Iranian revisionism may wish to indicate the opposite but that is incorrect. The Iranians became seriously interested in the UN cease fire propsal when they learned that they could no longer win on the battlefield and that Iraqi air had learned how to systematically destroy their military infrasctructure in the area from the river back to the Zagros. The Iranians remained capable of resistance until they were progressively destroyed as a force in successive battles. At the end they were very weak. That is what is supposed to happen. pl

  37. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The US did not “endorse” Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. pl

  38. Wombat says:

    Col. Lang:
    Don’t forget Iraq’s ability to launch precision attacks on the Iranian Kharg tanker shuttle terminal at Sirri Island (near the entrance to the Gulf). When the Iraqis acheived this capability in the last year of the war, Iran’s oil export capacity (the main source of income for Iranian arms purchases) declined precipitously.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    I beg to differ; Iran lodgd a protest to Sec. Council that US-UK managd to squash.
    There is a lot of anger in Iran about all this – just under the surface.

  40. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I am sure they did but that does not mean that the US was guilty as charged.
    We took Iran’s side in the war largely at the urging of the Saudis but that does not mean that we encouraged or even acknowledged Iraq’s battlefield or any other use of chemical weapons. pl

  41. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang:
    You are entitled.

  42. John Howley says:

    Supply lines in southern Iraq attacked by insurgents in Iraqi police uniforms.
    “Daddy, are we home yet?”
    “Not yet, honey, just be patient.”

  43. confusedponderer says:

    in my understanding chemicals weapons (CW) are hyped. They are really nasty stuff, no question. However, their utility is limited. They are most certainly _not_ WMD. That’s an abuse of the term.
    CW IMO are very much analogous to _mines_ in that they alter the geography and make impassable otherwise passable terrain. That’s what CW are there for in the most abstract terms.
    Just as mines can kill, they are rather intended to maim, sap morale, delay and expose to fire (I was taught that a minefield is to be observed and covered by fire).
    So are CW. CW kill especially unprotected enemies – like when the Spanish used CW in North Africa in the Rif War against berber tribes – or against the ill-equipped Iranian human waves in that war. CW enforce protective measures – on _both_ sides, reducing the advantage CW offer.
    That means, CW are most effective when on the defensive so that your own troops are least exposed. There are also offensive or harassment uses. Shelling a depot or supply point with CW stalls resupply. Casualty evacuation and treatment after chemcial weapon use is extremely difficult as contaminated casualties can contaminate others. CW demand very strong discipline from the soldiers who have to operate in the environment. These demands can overwhelm available resources.
    For background, a USMC ‘Lessons learned’ report on the Iraq-Iran war
    In this context especially interesting is Appendix B:
    “Chemical weapons have a low kill ratio. Just as in WWl, during which the ratio of deaths to injured from chemicals was 2-3 percent, that figure appears to be borne out again in this war although reliable data on casualties are very difflcutt to obtain. We deem it remarkable that the death rate should hold at such a low level even with the introduction of neme agents. If those rates are correct, as they well may be, this further reinforces the position that we must not think of chemical weapons as “a poor man’s nuclear weapon.” While such weapons have great psychological potential, they are not killers or destroyers on a scale with nuclear or biological weapons.”

  44. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Not sure what I am “entitled” to, but I think I want it. pl

  45. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. The gas thing was about as lethal as you say and mostly useful for restricting access to areas for short periods, but it also could be used mixed with HE and smoke in artillery prep fires before assaults. this confuses the defenders and demoralizes them. pl

  46. confusedponderer says:

    having to walk around in fog in an overgarment with the NBC detection gear was surreal, like walking on the moon. Add to that the prep fire you described … Jesus, I don’t want to be in the place where that comes down.
    I read about the Russian view that the morale demands of CW detection are so high, that they suggested to let them to an all officer detection squad. Russian army seemed to consider their conscripts not to be up to that.
    PS: Your prep fire reminds me of something I read. Didn’t the US in Vietnam use a mix of irritants and conventional fires during insertions / extractions to keep enemy AAA down?

  47. Will says:

    PL’s analysis is that the disbanding of the Iraki army was stupid and crucial to evolution the present mess. Further, he skewers the argument that the Army had melted away.
    Recently, Cheney, AKA Pumphead, was on This Week with George Steph the Pompous on ABC TV. George led with mistakes had beed made in Irak, like disbanding the Army (which James Baker had recently mentioned). Cheney retorted that the Army had “melted away.” Georgie said “point taken” and moved on.
    The only thing I would add re Irak is that I had read the decision was not Lewis Paul Bremer’s but No. 3 Pentagon civ. NeoKon Douglas Feith’s.
    Regarding Vietnam, being on the DMZ directly at Con Thien and part of the 1st brigade, 5th Mech Div, thankfully, I was part of the Heavy and not part of the Greenie war and did not see the civilian part of the war my fellow vets did. The ambiguities of the fog of war. What I did see was enough. To put these youngster through 1st, second, and third tours for NeoKon objectives is unconscionable.

  48. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to your November 17 comments:
    I do not know the battlefield efficacy of the Iraq’s chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War.
    My impression was that their usage were quite effective in the last months of that war – but I am not an expert and cannot be confident of my opinion here. Be as it may, my point is this:
    The Chemical Weapons Treaty was a binding, international instrument of disarmament that had largely withstood the test of time for 60 years.
    Its violation by Iraq with impunity and the explicit material support of EU for the Iraqi chemical weapons program (Germany in particular) and the diplomatic support of US & UK for Iraq in this regard has been interpreted by the government of Iran (and undoubtedly by other governments) to mean that international instruments of disarmament are worthless.
    If the violations of the Chemical Weapons Treaty is aided, abetted, and/or encouraged by certain well-known states out of expediency, then what else can any state do but to arm herself with the most powerful weapons it can get?
    The people who gave us “Chemical Ali” made the world more unsafe for everyone, including themselves.

  49. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The CW ammunition used in the final campaigns of the war were effective when combined with conventional ammunition in the fire plan for an operation, but it was in no sense decisive in itself. In fact Iraqi trops were afraid of being accidentally gassed when advancing into areas that had been shelled with mixed concentrations of HE and gas an often injected themselves un-necessarily with atropine auto-injectors. This is not good for one’s health. pl

  50. confusedponderer says:

    you make a pertinent point.
    It is beyond sickening that this argument will be made in neo-con circles for attacking Iran and against arms control agreements: We have given a fuck about them, devalued them, sabotaged and undermined them – how can they deter Iran from going nuclear? We demonstrated and made sure they don’t work! And considering that we demonstrated our dishonesty on the Chemical Weapons Treaty, why should the Iranians give any hope on us staying to to the spirit of any arms control agreement we claim to enforce, like the NPT?
    In fact, if they are rational, they HAVE to go nuclear. They have every reason to fear us.
    That’s a lot of mirror imaging. In the essence the neo-cons assume the Iranians are as just sick as they are. But probably that’s a realist view on it: The neo-cons sure will see any act of their own duplicity as true moral clarity.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    This is beyond the specific case of Iran. Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Poland, and others are waiting in the wings.
    I also do not believe that the so-called neo-cons are responsible for this.
    In my opinion those who had most to do with this were US, EU, and GCC leaders of 1980s; Regan, Thatcher, Kohl, Mitterand and assorted Arab leaders.

  52. confusedponderer says:

    you are right. The neo-cons are harvesting the seed the real-politiker have brought out. But that doesn’t mean they’re any better. Where the ‘old school’ realpolitiker clad their contempt for international law in gentle words, the ‘new school’ merely shows their contept openly.
    I was referring to threat perception. They suggest Iran is just as agressive in pursueing their perceived goals as the neocons are (that is: considerably agressive) pursueing their view of US interests (just think of their colour coded revolution games and basing games in russia’s backyard).
    As the saying goes: Even paranoids have real enemies.
    It’s not that the neo-cons are stupid. Far from it. They are at times right about potential risks, yet they have been incapable of converting even these correct assumptions and observation into sustainable policy. When you have seen the light, you don’t need to ask anyone anymore. They expected reality to bend to their will and then there was the inherent extremism in their views, and that applies to traditional ‘peace through strength’ folks and neo-cons alike.
    Let’s face it: The idea of ‘US hegemony’ over the world isn’t and wasn’t a neo-con domain. It was and probably is taken for granted by all US elites. It’s not as if that is a uniquely neo-conservative delusion.
    As for the countries you named: Brazil – possibly, Nigeria, conceivable. South Africa – weak maybe. The rest: Nope.

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with what you have written (by the way I should have included Australia too).
    The idea of US as the world hegemon is a pipe-dream; the geography of the planet prevents any one power to be the hegemon. US, however, is the hegemon of the Western Hemisphere and will be so for the fore-seeable future.
    I also do not think that the current US preponderance is sustainable economically; US is selling her manufacturing and technical jobs abroad to fund her domestic spending and standard of living.

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