Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pentagon Changing Course

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace has put together a crisis team of innovators to brainstorm new strategies for Iraq, according to the New York Times. The members of the team include mavericks like Col. H.R. McMaster, lately of the 3rd Cavalry's great oil-spot pilot scheme at Tal Afar (pity the lessons were left so late that when applied to Baghdad they proved to be too little as well as too late), Col. Peter Mansoor, the director of the United States Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center and Col. Thomas Greenwood, the director of the Marine Command and Staff College who oversaw efforts to train Iraqi security forces in Anbar.

The review begun back in September but was kept hidden so that Bush could, as he says he did over Rumsfeld's departure, keep up appearances of "staying the course" until after the midterms. Had it been admitted by Bush or the Pentagon that "staying the course" was being ditched, as Dems had said it should, as long ago as September, then an even larger Democrat victory in the polls would have been certain.

The goal is to finish the review in December, but some of its interim thinking has been made available to the military chiefs, Pentagon officials said.

Initially, the Pentagon tried to keep the existence of the review secret. But in recent days the Bush administration has advertised its willingness to consider fresh approaches in an effort to counter criticism that it was rigidly adhering to a faltering strategy. General Pace referred to the review in general terms in TV appearances today.

“We have to give ourselves a good honest scrub about what is working and what is not working, what are the impediments to progress and what should we change about the way we are doing it to make sure that we get to the objective that we set for ourselves,” General Pace said in an interview with CBS. “I am looking at it with the Joint Chiefs. We’re making our recommendations. We’re having our dialogue.”
Of course some were calling for exactly this kind of attention and respect for the maverick's views as long ago as last June. In the year and a half since then, Iraq's militias have strengthened and penetrated the security forces to a massive extent, sectarian warfare has reached epidemic proportions, the national unity government has proven itself a weathervane for pressure from various factions and corruption has robbed Iraq of any meaningful reconstruction. The maverick's in the military may well be bright and savvy in the tricks of Fourth Generation warfare but even they are not miracle workers. Bush's delay in changing course may well have sunk their efforts before they even begin.