IMO the removal of LTG Michael T. Flynn and his civilian deputy is one of the shoddier pieces of Washington intrigue that has been seen around town for some time.
The three big agencies of the US IC are; NSA, CIA and DIA in that order of magnitude. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research does fine work but it has no separate collection operations other than State Department embassy reporting and has no substantial separate existence outside the department. The heads of the three big agencies are true "barons" in terms of resources and function.
The reasons given in the press for Flynn's retirement a year before his term was to end are just nonsenses and excuses constructed to cover a power play within the Obama Administration and the IC itself.
Flynn wanted to change the emphasis in DIA's analytic work against third world targets? So what? It his job to set priorities for the work of his agency. When Clapper was director of DIA he brought a USAF tactical intelligence officer's viewpoint to the job and virtually destroyed DIA's highly developed analytic force by ignoring his statutory responsibility to participate in national level strategic analysis in favor of counting airplanes, tanks, anti-aircraft guns and the like. Seasoned, highly skilled analysts left in droves rather than be made into clerks. Clapper survived that disaster. Flynn is said to have wanted to transfer a lot of DIA's "nuts and bolts" "bean counting" to theater level intelligence centers within DoD? Clapper did the same thing as director and survived. Flynn hurt his subordinates feelings? Anyone who knew Clapper as director would find that amusing. Flynn did not "get along" with Michael Vickers, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence? That may be. Flynn is a three star general. He is not a West Pointer and made his rank the hard way, without benefit of the "Hudson High" alumni club. Vickers was a sergeant in US Army Special Forces for 13 years, finally becoming a captain (his terminal Army rank) before he took an assignment at CIA in Special Operations. Yes, there could be some friction there, but Flynn would not be fired over it. Sy Hersh cited DIA sources in his LRB's article on the Syria controversy? Yes, but how would one know if Hersh's attributions are accurate? It is a common practise in investigative reporting to falsely identify sources in order to protect them. IMO, neither Flynn nor Shedd would be fired for that either.
So, what happened?
CIA lost most of its power to rule the IC for its own benefit a decade ago. It has schemed incessantly ever after to regain that power and IMO to punish its rivals. Now, we have John Brennan, a chrony of the president and a lifelong CIA man in the CIA director's chair. He yearns to get rid of Jim Clapper, the present DNI. Clapper is a retired USAF general and Brennan wants to replace him with someone of the CIA, perhaps himself. Why is that? Simple, it is to the office of the DNI that the CIA's lost powers migrated. Such a change would reverse the outcome of the reforms that created the DNI. Clapper, whatever his faults, knows that this prospect looms. He does not want to see this reversal take place.
At the same time, DIA under Flynn has been a mighty irritant to the policy wonks at the WH and in the NSC staff. DIA has fed General Martin Dempsey the analysis and evidence with which Dempsey has argued to the president against rash behavior in the world as he argued against what "Walrus" called "kicking at the door of hell." Much of that argument has been successful, so it should not be a surprise that the interventionists both in the administration and in the lunatic fringe in Congress want Flynn's scalp.
Is it not likely that faced with an issue of survival in office, Clapper threw Flynn "under the bus?" Hagel has proven to be a "weak reed" in office. Wihout his firm support there is no way that Dempsey could have reisted this outcome successfully. Is it likely that Vickers supported Flynn? What a laughable idea!
LTG Mary Legere is discussed as a possible successor. If she is appointed one can be sure that she will not rock the boat. pl
Wait a minute…..
Is describing Hagel as a “weak reed” not complimentary?
If so, what happened?
I recall your strong support of Hagel for SECDEF.
Where does this leave Dempsey?
I was wrong. pl
History repeats: once again an “Army of Northern Virgina” type will have to say a farewell to arms.
Why am I not surprised? Most military men still have the handicap of integrity and honor. And after all,the civilian denizens of the Imperial Capital are not very competent, but they are a thoroughly treacherous lot.
In which case, it is very seriously bad news.
Sounds like the R2P crowd is about to create the intel to support their “new reality.” If you don’t like the analysis, get a new analyst. It worked for Cheney & crew and got us into Iraq/Afgan. Hang on to you swivel chair seats. I fear that we’re in for a hell of a ride. Dempsey is in for a real stress test.
Well know I am really worried. Hopefully, General Dempsey can beat back the buffoons.
Indeed. Not good news.
Not knowing any of these players my comment is tongue in cheek. What surprises me is that Shadd is going also. He being in a SES position says a lot to me as either he was part of a screwup or more likely he backed the changes proposed by Flynn and is falling on his sword. Flynn had too high a profile and was attempting to move mud thus the bureaucrats won. LTG Legere has a reputation as a hard driver, straight shooter and a knack for intelligence. But then the mud has beaten many a person.
So far as I can see, this has nothing to do with the difficulty involved in “moving mud.” What mud? What little I know of DIA at present indicates to me that they have been doing their job at a high level of efficiency. Indeed, they “called” the bullshit emitting from the WH over Syria, Iran and the Ukraine. For you to imply that Flynn was fired because he failed makes me suspicious of your motives. What I know of Legere makes her sound to me to be a beneficiary of affirmative action and a professional horse holder for senior officers. What has she ever done that was actual intelligence work other than be J-2 in Korea in a static situation, be military assistant to various generals and the housekeeping commander of the 501st MI brigade? I would like to be proven wrong about that. pl
Mud, the type of inertia in how Washington works. LTG Flynn was attempting major changes and came up against strong internal/external resistance to change. Of course Change is for good in any organization. I look to the internal IC power play as dovetailing with above. Flynn’s only failure was not to play the game of Mud.
As to Legere my knowledge only comes from comments made by those who served under her a positive implication that time will tell.
I always look to your sources as much better than mine which are limited at best. Will appreciate your thoughts on Shadd.
So, in your version the WH and the Obama Administration were not involved and are blameless for the removal of a major obstacle to their door kicking at the gate of hell? pl
Shedd went to DIA from CIA, so not sure why the others wanted him gone, too.
if you move from one of these agencies to another and find you like it there you are thought of as a “traitor” by the group you have left behind. as an example, when I ran defense HUMINT I sought the assignment of a number of experienced CIA case officers to work in the various parts of my staff. Their experience was useful and their advocacy helped obtain DCI “coordination” on operational plans. A number of them adapted so well to DIA that they wanted to transfer permanently. That pretty much killed any career they might later have if they returned to CIA. pl
I think you were more misled than wrong, but I admire your statement. “I was wrong” is a statement too seldom made, because it requires character and strength to make it.
Reading about this reminds me of the bureaucratic fighting that took place between the GRU and the KGB. This isn’t good and as noted about isn’t helpful to Dempsey.
In nearly all countries there are two foreign intelligence services, one civilian and the other military and pretty much without exception they are enemies. pl
True enough, sir. While competition can be good it can be get to the point of being destructive. The feuds between the GRU and the KGB sometimes ended bloodily, usually with the GRU being the losing side. Fortunately, the US hasn’t reached that point, but where we are at can bring about the same result intelligence wise.
This brings up a question I have for you. During the late 70s and 1980s there was a “team B” I understand that put out an alternative view of the military capabilities of the Soviet Union. From my understanding this was a case of “hawks” verses “doves”. There are people today who claim that the neocons dominated “team B” and grossly exaggerated the USSR. What I’m curious about were the claims about Soviet combat strength and capabilities overstated? My reason for asking this is years ago there was a congressman I knew as an acquaintance named Larry McDonald. [Had he not been killed I suspect he wouldn’t have much use for the neocons.] I asked him whether is was true and he replied this was the case. Do you have any thoughts about this?
I was not a USSR guy and the controversy over the Soviet Estimate occurred while was I in the field squatting on stony hillsides with men with rusty rifles. Nevertheless, by the time I joined DIA headquarters as DIO for the ME/South Asia the controversy was still much alive. The Soviet Estimate was so important because it was needed by the armed forces to justify appropriations to congress. Because of that the armed forces themselves had a vested interest in a national Soviet estimate that indicated a robust Soviet capability. At the same time, the neocon interest was present even then throughout the government including in the IC. The claim was made by the neocon faction in government and out that the official NIE on the Soviet Union did not credit the Soviets with as much military strength as they possessed. To test that idea an external/internal analytic team was formed that was known informally as “Team B.” That team wrote a report that claimed that the Soviets had virtually no economic problems and were so immensely strong that only a massive US build up could balance them. This view mad the virtue of representing both the interests of the armed forces and the neocons and became the basis for a great deal of spending. Did “Team B” falsify data? Probably they did not. They just “cherry picked” the data they wanted to believe and ignored the rest. This is the same method that the neocons used before the Iraq war. pl
Thanks for the reply, colonel.
Over the years I’ve discovered that what I thought I knew wasn’t always the case, aspects of the Cold War being a case in point. In recent years while I got most things correct there are other things I was wrong based on either inaccurate information or outright lies. You allude to the Office of Special Plans concerning the nonsense alleged about Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. I can take you back even further to 1990-91. There was a lot of lie told then as well and I believe the claims (save the one about the baby incubators being stolen, that was recognized as propaganda) I heard from newspapers like the WSJ. This lead me to believe back in August and early September that Saddam was going to push to the oil terminal at Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia. The guard unit I was in at the time was a TLAT (HUMVEE mounted TOWs) battalion. I found myself busy as hell during August taking equipment to a facility here in Atlanta to cleaned in the case of vehicles for shipping overseas, having weapons repaired and picking up supplies. Despite being attached to the 82nd AB and the DC screaming for this unit it wasn’t mobilized. Instead and because I was on a volunteer list I found myself with another unit in the wrong desert.
It all turned out to be one big damn lie. I can readily believe what you wrote back as nothing has changed. All of this is why my two biggest hatreds are reserved for liberal internationalists and neocons.
Anyway, taking all this into account I reserve the right to change my mind about something or someone if my previous view was base on inaccurate information or lies.
Are you the same person? If so, resolve that. It is too confusing to deal with if you are one person with two names here.
“I can take you back even further to 1990-91.” Well, I was then the head ME guy in DIA and struggled to avoid a positive AUMF vote in the senate. I did everything I could to persuade senators that Kuwait’s fight was not our fight. This was on the basis of a lack of any real sort of oil deprivation threat from whomever would end by controlling Kuwait. As well, Kuwait had backed Iraq financially in the Iran-Iraq War They did this not from some sense of altruism or of Arab solidarity (if Iraq really should be seen as an ARAB country) but rather because the Iraqi armed forces stood between Kuwait and what were then severely revolutionary forces in Iran which would have swept away the oligarchic society of Kuwait if Iran had broken through the Iraqis and overrun the place. To fight for a dozen years Iraq needed financial assistance from the Gulf States and they received it from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Saudi Arabia actually heavily funded Iraqi nuclear weapons research as well as conventional arms like all the others. Much of this assistance was provided in the form of loans rather than grants. In the midst of the apocalyptic war with Iran the difference did not seem critical to the Iraqis. When the war ended successfully for Iraq, Kuwait “discovered” that it wanted its money back. The Iraqi reaction was that the debt had been paid in blood. This dispute escalated over time and as such things do, became encrusted with hyperbole to include Iraqi irredentist insistence that in Ottoman times the City of Kuwait had been part of what became Iraq. The Iraqi claim was that it had been nothing more than British imperialism exerted through the Government of India that had created Kuwait as a state under British protection. The whole situation was exacerbated by the fact that Israel at that time regarded Iraq as its principal adversary. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq War Israel had purchased arms for Iran on the international grey market and had been one of the major motivators in the Iran-Contra Affair which had as a goal the provision of TOW, I-HAWK, etc. for Iranian use against Iraq. In this context and after a disastrous mediation effort at Taif in Saudi Arabia, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Kuwait was quickly overrun in a well planned operation that envisioned advance to a series of progressively deeper control phase lines. The first was at the northern border of Kuwait. This one governed the Iraqi assembly for the invasion. The second lay along the southern border of Kuwait but did not allow a crossing of the border into Saudi Arabia. There were further phase lines farther south which include planning for the advance to the Ghawar oil field and the oil ports. The control measures in the plan were a matter of of military planning and not an expression of Iraqi national intent. In the event Saddam decided not to order an advance to phase lines south of Kuwait. With Kuwait firmly in his grasp he settled down to watch and wait. At the same time, Kuwait’s hired hands in Washington swung into action and a virtual army of publicists, lobbyists, press hacks and the like began to beat the drums for US intervention. Thatcher’s display of “manliness” greatly influenced GWH Bush and a meeting at Camp David followed at which the sycophants competed in making warlike commitments that seemed to equate Iraq with Nazi Germany occupying France in 1940. My views on the background of this sub-regional crisis were well known and it was carefully arranged that those views would not be heard at that meeting. In the end Al Gore voted for the AUMF because he knew which way the wind blew and the die was cast. The Iraqi Army/Wehrmacht imaginary force proved easy to defeat and the situation quickly became one in which the US faced the easily predicted (I did) need to decide if it would occupy all of Iraq. Nobody except the neocons wanted to do that and the stage was set for the decade long interregnum betwixt the wars. Enough? pl
Sir, would you or have you ever
considered writing a historical
novel or possibly a series of short
stories about the Gulf War I era?
From what you relate here there are
more than enough characters and real
life intrigue. Liberal use of your
knowledge of Arabic and its many
nuances would be an added bonus to
The problem with ‘Team B’ – which was chaired by the Harvard historian Richard Pipes – was not simply that its report grotesquely overstated Soviet capabilities – it was that its members totally misunderstood the whole history of Soviet military strategy.
Accordingly, they were completely unable to make any sense of the changes in Soviet security policy introduced following Gorbachev’s accession as General Secretary of the CPSU in 1985.
When at the start of 1989 I was producing programmes on the so-called Soviet ‘new thinking’ for BBC Radio, we interviewed General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, who was the military figure most closely associated with it.
More or less the first thing he said to us was that, to understand the ‘new thinking’, it was necessary to go back to the realisation by Soviet strategists in the 1970s that it was not possible to win a nuclear war.
Sixteen years later, the BDM Corporation did a study for the Pentagon, based upon very extensive interviews with top-level figures involved in the making of security policy in the Soviet period. A further fourteen years later, in 2009, it was declassified.
A critical paragraph from the summary of its conclusions on the National Security Archive website confirms what was patently clear to anyone who taken the trouble to talk to Larionov face to face – that he had not been lying:
‘The Soviet military high command “understood the devastating consequences of nuclear war” and believed that nuclear weapons use had to be avoided at “all costs.” In 1968, a Defense Ministry study showed that Moscow could not win a nuclear war, even if it launched a first strike. Although Soviet ideology had insisted that survival was possible, no one in the leadership believed it. In 1981, the General Staff concluded that “nuclear use would be catastrophic.” [I: 23-24, 26; II: 24 (Danilevich), 124 (Mozzhorin)] This does not support arguments made by Richard Pipes in the late 1970s that the Soviets did not believe that a nuclear war would result in “mutual suicide” and that the “country better prepared for it and in possession of a superior strategy could win and emerge a viable society.”’
A consequential error was that the authors of ‘Team B’ failed to grasp that the Soviet conventional build-up on the Central Front in the Seventies, and the naval build-up which followed it, were not intended as a complement to a nuclear war-fighting capability, but a replacement for it.
As a result, they ended up restating a vision of Soviet military strategy as essentially political – designed primarily to provide comprehensive ‘escalation dominance’, under cover of which the Soviets could pursue aggressively their supposed goal of ‘world domination.’
In fact, the distinguishing fact about Soviet military strategy was its obsessive focus on contingency planning to fight a kind of rerun of the Second World War, and the grossly inadequate attention it paid to the political and economic implications of military strategy.
The conventional strategy placed the highest priority on the rapid destruction of NATO forces in Europe. This had to be achieved before NATO threats to implement ‘first-use’ could be implemented, or these forces reinforced (if the massively superior military-industrial potential of the United States could be effectively remobilised and deployed in Eurasia, the Soviets would inevitably in the long run have lost a conventional war.)
While it made sense in narrow military terms, in most other terms this strategy was a disaster. That was a key part of the background to the shift towards a defensive strategy, of which Larionov was a leading proponent.
Two former intelligence analysts turned academics – the American scholar-diplomat Ambassador Raymond Garthoff, and Michael MccGwire, who had earlier been the Royal Navy’s foremost post-war expert on its Soviet counterpart – had identified the shift to the conventional strategy clearly by the early 1980s.
By May 1987 the negotiating positions the Soviets were adopting were clearly incompatible with the maintenance of a capability to eject NATO from Western Europe in the event of war. Accordingly, Garthoff and MccGwire concluded that talk of a shift to a defensive strategy was extremely unlikely simply to be propaganda.
I picked up the story at the end of that year, and spent frustrating months trying unsuccessfully to interest British television current affairs programmes in what looked like perhaps the biggest security policy story of my lifetime.
To my enduring regret, however, I had not at that time come across the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, one of whose analysts was Dr Jacob W. Kipp – he later went on to head the organisation’s successor, successor, the Foreign Military Studies Office. This was a pity, as Dr Kipp could have clarified in a ‘phone call a lot of matters about which, at that time, I was in the dark.
Had I contacted Dr Kipp, I would have learned that the same General-Mayor Larionov who was a leading theorist of the ‘new thinking’ had earlier compiled and co-authored the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of nuclear pre-emption, the original 1962 edition of the study ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshal Sokolovskii.
And as became clear to me later, Kipp, working purely from open sources, and having a mastery of the whole history of Soviet and Russian strategic debates, had a grasp of the background to the shift to the defensive strategy not as I far as I can see possessed by anyone in the CIA or DIA at the time.
(Sometimes it really does help not to be ‘inside the Beltway’, but to be sitting in an office out in Kansas.)
A detailed account of the inability of the U.S. intelligence community to make any sense of the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’, and of the errors made by ‘Team B’ which were partly responsible for this, is given in Garthoff’s contribution to a 2003 symposium entitled ‘Watching the Bear.’
(See https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/watching-the-bear-essays-on-cias-analysis-of-the-soviet-union/article05.html )
All this could be dismissed as water under the bridge, were it not for the fact that members of the clique of figures involved in ‘Team B’ – in particular Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, both disciples of Albert Wohlstetter – while absolutely inept at intelligence, are brilliant at propaganda.
Accordingly, they managed to persuade Americans that changes in the Soviet Union that they themselves totally failed to forsee were simply a mechanical result of the confrontational policies they advocated.
This, to my mind, has had a whole series of pernicious effects. As this comment is already far too long, I can only touch on them. Among them is the fact that the Soviet form of ‘totalitarianism’, ghastly as it was, had dynamics quite different from those of the Nazi form of ‘totalitarianism’ has continued to be obscured.
Crucially, the nihilistic/suicidal element which was central to Hitler was quite patently absent in Soviet leaders – including Stalin.
The distinction is obviously critical when it comes to trying to make sense of the implications of nuclear weapons for the international system. Having failed to grasp the differences between Hitler and Stalin, the likes of Perle and Wolfowitz have gone on to treat one leader after another they dislike as though they were latter-day Hitlers.
Having as a result replaced a defanged Sunni/Iraqi nationalist dictatorship in Iraq with rule by Islamist Shia close to the clerical regime in Tehran, they then cast that regime in the role of the new Hitler.
And Wolfowitz, confronted by a crisis in Ukraine which Western policy has been instrumental in provoking, and which could yet, just conceivably, cause a nuclear war, is still gibbering about Neville Chamberlain.
(See http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/03/putin-isnt-hitler-but-hes-still-dangerous/ )
Apropos of some comments by TTG and others about open source being the greatest part of intelligence collection, I just stumbled on this on a rare peek at WAPO.
Clapper’s gag order could hurt intelligence analysts more than journalists
Thanks. I am particularly proud of that thought. pl
Thank you for this useful information which was of course not publicized to the general public by the mass media.
I asked an acquaintance back when the propaganda was at its peak in 1990 before the war on Iraq started about the Iraqi army, which was being hyped by the U.S. propaganda machine as incredibly powerful and dangerous. His nickname was “Tank”, because he had been a tank commander under Gen. Patton in north Africa, fought in Italy, and volunteered for the Normandy invasion, during which his tank made it to shore, and he shot his way up and survived. He wanted to go with Patton across western Europe but was told he had done enough. Anyway, he scoffed at the Iraqi army, saying that they were obviously out of shape, and just by eyeballing them he could tell that they were not going to be a problem at all.
In light of what Georgie Bush, the younger initiated in 2003, maybe the old man George Bush should have sent the 82nd on a thunder run to Bagdad in 1991. At that point we could have done it without half destroying the country of Iraq. The Iraqi army was surrounded and half decimated back in Kuwait.
It would have been a hell of a lot cheaper, and less destructive than what transpired after 2003.
I spent most of the affair in a very nice villa on lake Como. I appreciate the Iraqis giving me that opportunity.
That’s me on both accounts. I’m using this one from now on. When I have a lengthy response I type it up on note pad as I hate typing in a small window. The software I’ve used in the past allows one to paste into the window and post. This software is different. With it I have to hit the return key in order to make the post box active. Call it operator error. Problem solved.
I appreciate the detailed response you wrote. I consider this to be the gold standard. It confirms my previous research and adds to my information on how this debacle came about.
Too bad that what you were telling TPTB didn’t get out to the general public. So much for a media that presents both sides. The only person who was in position to make the case was Pat Buchanan. I remember listening to him and thinking he was wrong at the time. Since then, I know better and have made amends for this. I’ve raised hell about US foreign intervention starting with Somalia all the way to today. I voted for Pat in all his runs and Ron Paul twice for his presidential bids.
There are two things I resent about this sorry affair. One is being lied to and the other one is people who think so poorly of my life and others like me that they would use us for a rotten cause they try to hide by wrapped it up in red, white and blue. IMO, it takes a minimum of three years to become a professional soldier and is damn expensive if it is the be done right. The internationalists believe this is a job. They couldn’t be more incorrect.
When it comes to military personnel being sent in harm’s way I think I would like to put them in in a fire extinguisher cabinet with a sign posted above and below stating “break glass only in emergency” for those in the civilian leadership. Unfortunately, today only a few have the moral character, good judgement and brains to meet that criteria.
You write “enough”. Just about. One final question, please. For years I’ve seen a story claiming that satellite photos were taken showing that after advancing up to the Saudi border the RG divisions withdrew back to an AA around Basra, leaving behind light border units. This story originated in a newspaper here I think in Florida and was even used in a novel. Whenever I tried find another source it always went back to this newspaper story. Is there any truth to this?
If I don’t have at least two independent sources I won’t use something.
The contemporary equivalent of “The Game of Thrones”.
In a Mesopotamian setting of the ’90s.
YT and Steve G
Perhaps I could have one of Patrick Devereux’s descendants as protagonist in this gaudy tale of tortured daring-do? Basilisk used to write stories that featured a middle aged military gentlemen of Irish descent and vast worldliness who wandered the world on government business tweaking history a bit. How about that fellow as protagonist? pl
You have demonstrated it time and time again here, sir.
“For years I’ve seen a story claiming that satellite photos were taken showing that after advancing up to the Saudi border the RG divisions withdrew back to an AA around Basra, leaving behind light border units. This story originated in a newspaper here I think in Florida and was even used in a novel. Whenever I tried find another source it always went back to this newspaper story. Is there any truth to this?”
Yes. The RG armored corps (three divisions) rolled up to the border in the move to the AA between the border and a line from Basra nearly due west. This seemed to be a political gesture with the intent of learning whether or not Kuwait would adopt a more conciliatory position than the one they took at Taif. The RG armored corps (Madina, Tawakalna and Hammurabi divisions) then withdrew a few miles to a lagered up AA where they prepared for battle. The other four divisions (motorized) of the RG went into AAs nearby as did the rest of the army with second rate units the closest to the border. Most of the artillery in the Iraqi Army came forward into position to support an advance into Kuwait and vast dumps of munitions, rations and fuel were established in the assembly zone. There they all waited a few days for an order to advance according to the General Staff’s plan. Prisoners made this all clear after the fact. While this was going on the GWH Bush Administration believed that it wa all a bluff. This was encouraged by the Arab rulers; King Hussein, Mubarak, the Saudi, etc. I told the director of DIA that my people and I thought it was NOT A BLUFF and that if Kuwait did not back down, Iraq would invade. DIA then brought DoD to the highest state of alert. This was two days before the invasion. pl
I don’t recognize the situation I dealt with in your comment. Your WW2 friend did not know the Iraqi military the way I did. It was then a very large, heavily armed force for a third world country. This was before Saddam started to bleed it dry from distrust and it was essentially the Army that had won the Iran-Iraq War by forcing the Iranians to accept the UN sponsored cease-fire. In the final offensives of that war, especially the “Tawakalna ala Allah” op in which four armored divisions swept through the Iranian Army and Revolutionary Guard. In this operation the Iraqis captured very nearly every piece of significant ground equipment that the Iranians possessed. After the cease-fire it was put on exhibit at Baghdad and I went to look at it. Most impressive it was. Hundreds and hundreds of tanks, APCs, artillery pieces AAA, trucks, etc. Yes, we defeated that same army handily but it was inevitable that we would. What was essentially a WW2 army in a third world environment was going to be defeated by us. There was a great variety in quality in this mass Iraqi army. the RG divisions and many of the divisions of the rest of the army were very effective in context. The 5th Mechanized Division ans 14th Infantry divisions stand out in my memory. The masses of Reservist Divisions positioned along the border were at half strength and composed of old men and boys. Their officers had sent many home on compassionate leave to keep them out of the slaughter they knew was coming. Once “Desert Saber” began, a “kampfgruppe” consisting of the 14th Infantry Division reinforced with a lot of tanks counter-attacked south of the Kuwait airport to see if anything could stop the American juggernaut. The spearhead penetrated to within three hundred yards of 2nd USMC Division CP and was beaten back by a marine reserve artillery battery from Richmond, Virginia using MLRS in the direct fire mode as though this were Antietam or Gettysburg. I had the privilege of visiting these marines with John Warner. They said that if it had not been for A-10 support they were not at all sure they could have stopped the attack. Having learned that nothing could be done, the Iraqi command ordered a general withdrawal from Kuwait with an emphasis on saving staffs and organizational structures. This worked pretty well except for the massacre by air along the border at the fence. The Iraqi Army re-constituted itself with remarkable rapidity. Divisions that left Kuwait with a thousand officers and men were at a strength of several thousand within a couple of weeks as men returned to the colors from leave, flight from Kuwait in the confusion of a rout, hospital, etc. These divisions (mainly made up of Shia soldiers) were in action against Shia insurgents in a very short time. The Iraq Army of that time did not love Saddam but they thought that without him the country would dissolve or be partitioned. They were nationalists and many of the officers quite professional and combat experienced and so they fought for him. IMO opinion coalition occupation of
Iraq at that time would have experienced just as large an insurgent response as did the invasion a decade later. pl
Yes sir, sounds like a plot ready
to be hatched!
I appreciate the detailed response from you as well. I have never heard this aspect about the change in Soviet strategy Larionov and as a result I am enlighten.
As for this comment being too long my reply is that it isn’t the length, but that far too many people in positions of authority won’t take the time to read material like this. The hardest thing for a human being to do is to think intelligently. Sometimes this means having to reassess a previous view when presented with new information or another way of viewing something. For our “leaders” way too many of them are ideological fanatics who would rather undergo a root canal surgery than to think they may be mistaken on an issue.
I started reading your post when I got up and grabbed an old reprint from Commentary Magazine from the bookcase. The title? “Why the Soviet Union Thinks It Could Fight & Win a Nuclear War” dated July, 1977. The author was Richard Pipes. (For you lurkers Richard Pipes was the father of Daniel Pipes) I would bet a dollar to a donut you’ve read this article. Marshal Sokolovskii is quoted in the article.
At the time Pipes’ article came across as believable when I read it in 1980. We had Carter as president and I thought things couldn’t get worse (boy, was I wrong there looking at today). Well, this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. It’s funny, David. Here it was I was concerned about a Soviet first strike and they are concerned about one from the US. The GW link you provided is sobering.
Still, accepting this the US military certainly needed to modernized back in the late 70s. It had to replace its old doctrine with air/land battle and restore discipline. I can speak for the part of the army I was involve with. There were some major problems. This is an aside.
“(Sometimes it really does help not to be ‘inside the Beltway’, but to be sitting in an office out in Kansas.)
“Having failed to grasp the differences between Hitler and Stalin, the likes of Perle and Wolfowitz have gone on to treat one leader after another they dislike as though they were latter-day Hitlers.”
This is propaganda as they know most Americans are ignorant of what happened in the late 1930s. My own view would be considered heretical. In a nutshell I believe what Pat Buchanan wrote in his book “Churchill and Hitler, the unnecessary war”. I believe this period of history is greatly misunderstood and as a consequence the wrong conclusions have been drawn. History isn’t as cut and dried as the court historians try to present it. In actuality it is quite messy in places.
I’m going to add this observation that I think helps understand their mindset. The neocons have their origins in Trotskyism and this relates to their ideological fanaticism. Today, they are still angry with Stalin besting Trotsky and rubbing salt into the wound by having his head cleaved with an ice ax by Mercader.
The Wolfowitz interview is terrible. I don’t consider him to be an ideological fanatic, but a cynic. What I am not sure is how much of what he says he knows to be lies and how much he has convinced himself is true. One thing for sure, he hasn’t learned anything.
“The biggest mistake in Iraq was allowing him to survive the 1991 war.”
Wolfowitz is wrong as usual. The biggest mistake is to continue to listen to these people. You’re right. They are good black propagandists and Washington infighting, but when it comes to assessing a situation absolutely horrible.
To think, David. Here it was I thought I only had to wash the dog today. You have provided a host of material for me to read and ponder. Thank you.
Here you go, colonel. My apologies, I didn’t make myself clear. What I meant was following the August 1990 invasion.
I dug up the story:
“Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in midSeptember that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.
But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border just empty desert.
‘It was a pretty serious fib,’ says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke the story.”
What I’m curious to know did those RG troops pull back following the August, 1990 invasion like this story claims? My belief is that once the US build up commenced with the arrival of the 82nd AB did the Iraqis start to redeploy forces into Kuwait.
I can well understand why you would tell the Bush Sr. administration this wasn’t a bluff. Saddam had good reason to be angry with the Kuwaitis over the loans and the slant drilling into the Rumalia oil field. Between these two factors and what April Glaspie said to Saddam is is tantamount to a done deal.
All this material written by you, David and others will be useful to future historians in exposing the phoney narrative put together by the court historians. This really is “The Secret History” of our times.
I suppose one’s definition of “on the border” would matter. The OSD civilians who were the source of this story would not, in the main, know the difference between a rifle squad and an army corps. The assembly area for the whole Iraqi invasion force measured around fifty miles by one hundred miles. The day before the invasion the assault echelon (essentially the RG Armored corps) moved up to their assault positions near the border with the four RG motorized divisions lined up behind them as a follow on echelon. The RG artillery and all the rest of the artillery moved at the same time to firing positions. I then told the DIA director that IMO invasion was imminent. This was about 12 hours before they crossed the border. Within a week or so of securing Kuwait the RG withdrew into reserve positions north of the border. This made sense. They were the national maneuver reserve. The troops that replaced them on occupation duty were almost as good. The arrival of the 82nd Airborne Division “speed bump” south of the border started a steady flow of Iraqi reinforcements into Kuwait including eventually the RG. pl
Very good, colonel. I understand what you are saying and can put the story into the proper context.
“the story ” Which story? pl
The one that originated from the St. Petersburg Times referenced in the CSM link I posted above.
I don’t know if story about Soviet photos written about and provided to the St. Petersburg Times in the CSM story is true, but it isn’t that important. What is important is this:
“The arrival of the 82nd Airborne Division “speed bump” south of the border started a steady flow of Iraqi reinforcements into Kuwait including eventually the RG.”
My belief prior to reading your posts is that once Kuwait had been secured along its southern border those RG forces were pulled back and only border guard/light recon forces were left along that border prior to the arrival of the 82nd AB. After that occurred the Iraqis started to move forces into Kuwait. This is what I was getting at and I believe my question is answered.
Funny, in 1990 from my position it looked far different as it appeared to be a distinct possibility that Saddam might halt only to consolidate his position in Kuwait and head south. When around a month had passed I decided it was too late.