Tinsel Wing

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The bubble defends its perimeter

Joe Galloway has spent 20 years as a war correspondent. The strutting, draft dodging popinjays now in charge, finding a chestful of toy soldiers at their disposal, joyfully plopped them into their pet Adventurama in Iraq, oblivious to the fact that those neatly maneuverable poppets were our sons and daughters. Unlike them, Galloway knows the officers, the grunts, and the face of war. He gets an earful, and then he writes what he hears.

Rumsfeld's Pentagon, in the person of Larry Dirita, never gets an earful, because they have made it clear to their underlings in uniform that they want to hear nothing, unless it is their own wise words bounced back to them. Galloway wrote down in an April 26 column what he heard from Lt. General Paul Van Riper about a war game gone bad, and Dirita took umbrage. The
Booman Tribune
records the email traffic that went back and forth between the two. That alarming column is worth a post in its own right, but for now just read the letters, and savor the difference between a patriot who cares about the troops, and a Rumsfeld apparatchik who cares only about his boss's reputation. He typifies the badministration's matchless inability to tune its radio dials to the frequency we call "reality".

General Tommy Franks once famously said of another of Rumsfeld's stable of prize cronies, Douglas Feith, that he was "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth." Feith turned out to be neck deep in passing state secrets to foreign powers. So now he has departed, one step ahead of the shoeshine and two steps away from the county line. As his replacement Dirita may be bucking for the title of FSG in the galactic sector He previously gained brief notoriety, as reported in a no longer web accessible LA Times story from July 18, 2003, at a point when the first flush of fubars was grandly unfolding in Baghdad:
Still, he and other Pentagon officials said, they are studying the lessons of Iraq closely - to ensure that the next U.S. takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.

"We're going to get better over time,' promised Lawrence Di Rita, a special assistant to Rumsfeld. "We've always thought of post-hostilities as a phase' distinct from combat," he said. "The future of war is that these things are going to be much more of a continuum."

"This is the future for the world we're in at the moment," he said. "We'll get better as we do it more often."

Ah, 2003, what sweet and innocent times those were! Back then, Bush's golden horde believed they were going to sweep from little brown nation to little brown nation, from victory to victory, in another fresh bright clean war every year, just one banner waving vote magnet of a bloodfest after another.
How aft has the dulcet vision gang agley. Only now, after three painful years of delay, are they gearing up for their first followup, in Iran. And even that arrives less in the original spirit of triumphal advance than it does in the spirit of Bre'r Rabbit, fired up in rage at how fast his fist has got stuck in the tar, and hauling off to whack that offending lump of foreign matter with his other fist.

That they are strapping on their boots for the followup, that they are determined to stay in their bubble, having learned nothing from four years of mistakes, that they are ignoring the attempted protests of those small green plastic figurines they so enjoy directing, is clear from General Van Riper's account. When his Red team, wargaming Iran, so easily defeated the Blue team invasion, Rumsfeld's unreality bubble swiftly defended its perimeter. The Blue team just took a mulligan:
Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast patrol boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship missiles as well as first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. He packed small boats and small propeller aircraft with explosives for one mass wave of suicide attacks against the Blue fleet. Last, the general shut down all radio traffic and sent commands by motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the code-breakers.

At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into the fleet, and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the Navy ships in a simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy's much-vaunted defenses based on its Aegis cruisers and their radar controlled Gatling guns.

When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces had sunk 16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of Marines and sailors were dead.

The referees stopped the game, which is normal when a victory is won so early. Van Riper assumed that the Blue Force would draw new, better plans and the free play war games would resume.

Instead he learned that the war game was now following a script drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory: He was ordered to turn on all his anti-aircraft radar so it could be destroyed and he was told his forces would not be allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore.

The Pentagon has never explained. It classified Van Riper's 21-page report criticizing the results and conduct of the rest of the exercise, along with the report of another DOD observer.

As a strategic military exercise, this can't be taken seriously. As an exercise in telling Rumsfeld and/or Bush what they want to hear: that Iran will, like Iraq before it, be a slamdunk, a cakewalk, and an all around humdinger - in short, as an exercise in justifying a decision already taken for war - it is as serious as a heart attack.


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