Sunday, January 07, 2007


DD's third installment of a series which started with "What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do" on Friday.

It continues the point that the political military leadership in the Bush administration can be appropriately compared with command style and failure of OKW, the high command of the German army, a staff which acted simply as a rubberstamp for the military directives of the supreme commander, the Fuhrer. Briefly put, what was regarded as the most powerful and tactically accomplished army in the world was directed by the worst military leader in the world. Draw your comparison with respect to the country's present dilemma.

One of the characteristics of OKW in World War II was its bottomless capacity for self-delusion. And it was a special kind of self-delusion in which reality was never brooked, one in which the German generals knew they were marching into disaster after disaster. They -- like our leadership -- chose to pretend that victory was only a few more panzer corps or new plans away.

Today it can be seen in the fountain of irrational huzzahing from the mainstream media on the appoitment of David Petraeus -- and to only a slightly lesser degree, the man known as Fox Fallon, as Bush administration firemen in Iraq.

More samples:

One of the new military chiefs, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, is an Iraq veteran who wrote a Princeton dissertation titled "The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam . . . In a statement, Bush said Fallon had earned a reputation as one of the nation's "foremost military strategists" . . . Of Petraeus, he said, "His service in Iraq has equipped him with expertise in irregular warfare and stability operations and an understanding of the enemy we face" . . . Petraeus . . . is seen as a blend of military veteran and politically savvy intellect . . . He earned a doctoral degree from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs . . . "Dave Petraeus is a terrific leader and well grounded in the challenges in Iraq . . ." -- Associated Press

Bush is said to be replacing almost all the top officials in Iraq. He wants to be sure that his "new way forward" is seen as an actual change and not merely rhetorical maneuvers.

Those of us in the Clarksville-Fort Campbell community know that Petraeus will serve the country well. He's already had two tours of duty in Iraq — in commanding the 101st during the initial deployment in the war and later in training Iraqi security forces. Most recently, he's been at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in charge of the Combined Arms Center training and education on counterinsurgency operations and is an expert in terrorism . . . Clearly, the United States would do well to take advantage of Petraeus' expertise on Iraq. -- not so clearly, from The Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

The son of a Dutch sea captain, Petraeus began his military career at West Point. And he is no ordinary general. He has a Ph.D. in history from Princeton. His thesis topic: The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam. -- NPR

My dad was an accountant for Alcoa Aluminum and I have a Ph.D. in chemistry from Lehigh University.

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, currently commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, is an excellent choice to command U.S. troops in Iraq. The appointment will be his third Iraq assignment. Petraeus served as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which was part of the invasion force that fought its way to Baghdad in 2003 . . . The fall of Saddam Hussein came much more rapidly than many had predicted, but the handling of the post-invasion conflict has gone badly, to put it mildly. Petraeus is a wise selection to command U.S. forces in Iraq. -- The Kansas City Star

A brilliant man and leather tough, too. "Pain don't hurt," said Patrick Swayze, as the bouncer, in the movie "Roadhouse."

David Petraeus holds a Princeton doctorate, is an accomplished runner and has proved himself a fearless combat leader . . . A skilled communicator, he is spoken of as a potential future president. But he will need all his military and intellectual skills as well as physical robustness to make a success of the most challenging appointment of his 35-year career. The consensus among senior officers yesterday was that if anyone could achieve what many regard as the impossible task of staving off military defeat in Iraq then Petraeus is that man . . . A renowned athlete, Petraeus, 54, resumed running just two months after he was shot in the chest in a training accident in 1991. He later broke his pelvis in a parachute landing but soon recuperated to run a 10-mile race in under 64 minutes. -- Washington correspondent of the Telegraph

New commander for Iraq called innovative . . . Shortly after arriving in the islands to head U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm. William Fallon asked a former world surfing champion for lessons on riding the waves . . . "I was awfully impressed that a man that's in his 60s, as I am, would have the wisdom and the youthful spirit to take up surfing," said [a surfer] who also is a state senator . . . The 62-year-old Navy officer's willingness to try new things was one quality Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited Friday in giving Fallon one of the world's toughest jobs: commanding U.S. troops in the Middle East as they battle insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan . . ."Fox Fallon is one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today and his reputation for innovation is without peer . . . " -- Associated Press

Many books on WW II describe various German generals as firemen, sent here and there with a panzer corps to stave off defeat.

Two books that were full of such examples were Paul Carell's Hitler Moves East and Scorched Earth, German accounts of the war in Russia. Carell was a controversial author but his books sold well when published as mass market paperbacks in the Sixites. They were eminently readable accounts of a significant part of WW II, a part Americans are simply not taught about. However, the German generals were always -- and DD means always -- utterly brilliant and tenacious and one learned to take Carell's "history" with grains of salt not necessary with more scholarly books. In others words, the tone and style is exactly the same as today's peppy journalism on fresh faces for Iraq.

In any case, from Hitler Moves East, here is a fairly standard description for a German general, Walther Model, always dispatched when a situation was beyond retrieval.

"His had been a meteoric rise. Three months earlier he had still been commanding a division -- the famous Third Panzer Division . . . This short wiry man from Genthin . . . was well known at the various headquarters . . . [and] he was popular with his troops, writes Carell.

"Everybody knew that where Model was in command the good fortune of war was present: the most daring enterprises came off and the most critical situations were retrieved. Nowhere was a man of his type needed more urgently at that moment than with Ninth Army."

In today's copy of the Los Angeles Times, OKDubya anonymoids began preparing the field for the directives to come later in the week.

"Their summary: Bush believes that the United States still has a chance to stop Iraq from descending into civil war -- and on the other side of the equation, that the consequences of withdrawal would be disastrous," wrote the newspaper.

"' Is this a war, or is it not a war"' one official asked, previewing an argument the president is likely to make. 'If it is, you have to be willing to sacrifice . . .'"

The German generals knew full well the futility of getting the Fuhrer off his military decisions. "Paulus . . . faced the most difficult question of conscience for every soldier: whether to disobey his superior's orders in order to handle the situation as he deems best," writes Beevor in Stalingrad.

While many generals secretly referred to the Fuhrer as GROFAZ, "the greatest commander of all time," there was no new way forward, so to speak.


Anonymous julian Scutts said...

Nomen est omen They say one's name betrays the secrets of one's destiny. Paulus and Petraeus were both generals who were meant to achieve a mission greater than a mere military victory, and their names recall the two leading apostles of early Christianity. In the case of the first-named the mission was not blessed by Providence. The second? Who knows? Being derived from the Greek word meaning 'stone' it also lies at the root of 'petroleum'.

10:16 AM  

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