Saturday, January 06, 2007

WHAT WILL OKDUBYA DO? (Another in an occasional series)

Continuing yesterday's riff -- What would Oberkommando der Wehrmacht do -- on the pathologies shared by the current civilian military leadership in the war in Iraq and the Wehrmacht's high command in World War II, we get right to a sampling of the hallujahs and huzzahs for David Petraeus.

There's no reason other than say-so from the mainstream media to believe any new commander would make a difference in Iraq. Practically speaking, one can compare the outlook as akin to the making of Paulus a field marshal at Stalingrad, a famous gesture in wishful thinking that hoped an avalanche of disasters beyond any control could be turned around.

Stalingrad was one of many nightmarish graveyards for the Wehrmacht in WWII. In matter of scale it was way beyond the imagination of current dimensions of American military land power. It was easily three times the US deployment in Iraq with over 600,000 German soldiers in the Sixth Army charged with securing the city. And most of them never came home.

However, the OKW response to the Stalingrad disaster, which unfolded slowly, is mirrored in the Bush administration's strategy for Iraq. Dispatch more troops into the cauldron. Not a step back. We'll stay here the longest and nothing can make us give an inch. Time was/is bought with blood.

Germany's OKW and its rubberstamp approval of the Fuhrer's military directives, for the sake of comparison to the current US OKDubya, had firemen generals sent in to retrieve bad situations. Walther Model, Albert Kesselring or Herman Hoth come to mind, military tacticians thought of very highly by their peers and generally regarded as daring and unorthodox commanders by military authors. However, they always lost anyway, delaying only the inevitable by spending lives on the winning of strategically unimportant tactical victories, gaining reps through mere postponement of headlong collapse.

Petraeus has been hailed as the equivalent of a fireman in the past couple days. A few samples of the gushing:

As a supporter of increased forces in Iraq, General Petraeus is expected to back a rapid five-brigade expansion, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has been openly skeptical that additional troops would help stabilize the country . . .

Now, the White House will have an articulate officer to champion and shape that strategy, an important asset for an administration that has decided to buck the tide of public opinion by deepening the American military involvement in Iraq . . .

To many civilians, the military seems monolithic. But in fact, there has been a lively debate behind the scenes about the best way to achieve the United States’ objectives in Iraq . . . -- The New York Times

The naming of Lieutenant General David Petraeus as the top American ground commander in Iraq marks the arrival of one of the Army’s most daring and original thinkers at the top of U.S. decision making on Iraq. Petraeus has been the subject of two very different articles in Esquire in the last year—the first by contributing writer Thomas P.M. Barnett was part of an examination of lessons learned by U.S. military in Iraq, and the second by writer at large Tom Chiarella focused Petraeus’s deeply held views about addressing the crisis in leadership among American boys and young men.

As Barnett wrote in his profile of the general last year, Patreaus is without peer in the U.S. military in his experience and understanding of counterinsurgency and nation building. One of the most successful and respected combat comanders in Iraq, where he served two tours, he is also a scholar of unconventional war and a devoted student of T.E. Lawrence, whose ideas and tactics he teaches to his own commanders. -- Esquire

The expected appointment of Lieutenant General David Petraeus gets a thumbs-up from bloggers, who note his success in northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion.

"Petraeus is among the real experts on counter-insurgency, and did a fine job of making friends and mending fences when he was in charge of Mosul . . . -- a blog at the Guardian

The rain of overwritten praise speaks loudly. It stinks of delusion and one would have to be nuts to believe it.

In terms of the Iraqi army, DD is reliant upon the Los Angeles Times for daily reporting from Iraq. DD has not read of expert training of Iraqi forces or making friends and getting them to stand up for themselves.

DD has read about a fragmented poorly led force that runs away, gets in the way, can't be trusted, is criminal, weird, and dangerous in all the wrong ways -- militarily speaking.

From December, on the chewing of frogs:

The audience knew what to expect when Iraqi commandos took the stage at the stadium here Wednesday with frogs and a rabbit in hand, preparing to celebrate with a bloody flourish the transfer of local authority from U.S. to Iraqi troops.

But the Americans were in for a surprise.

As U.S. commanders and guests watched, the burly commandos in dark green T-shirts began taking bites out of the frogs.

One man knelt, placed the rabbit belly-up on his lap, and cut it open with his military knife. He screamed as he bit the rabbit's heart, then handed the carcass to his companions, who began gnawing away, blood flowing down their cheeks.

"But the Americans were in for a surprise" seems an understatement.

It underscores the inadequacy of flat he said/she said/I saw journalism in describing the event. A military whose men chew frogs and slaughter rabbits may be many things. However, doing whatever it is the US military requires of them is certainly not on the spec sheet.

In the Friday LA Times, " '[American officers] do not trust us, said one Iraqi soldier . . . "

For anyone with common sense, that'd be about right as you can get.

Nevertheless, the Iraqis puppet army is part of the strategy of escalation, like it or not.

"Despite temporary confusion and trust issues, the Iraqi soldiers seemed eager to work with their American partners. Some sang celebratory songs in unison as they grabbed their gear . . . "

Trust issues is a very interesting way of describing a state of affairs in which the proxies in the line next to you phone ahead to the enemy, letting them know of your plans.

In today's Times, the directives of the American OKDubyas were on the front page.

"A strategy advocated by McCain and [retired Army general] Jack Keane, who has advised Bush on Iraq policy calls for about 30,000 additional troops who would remain in Iraq from 18 months to two years."

The sending to the front of another panzer corps.

In Antony Beevor's sweeping WW II account, Stalingrad, the author writes of many German soldiers belief in the order of the day, even when disaster was at their door.

"' Hold on! The Fuhrer will get us out!' had proved very effective . . . "

Others were not so sure.

"We're never going to get out of this one," [said one lieutenant] . . . 'You're a real pessimist, the [another lieutenant] replied. I believe in [the Fuhrer]. What he said he'll do, he'll stick to."

The Fuhrer had promised relief of Stalingrad through a new panzer offensive. It took place but failed almost immediately.


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