Friday, August 30, 2013

Objectives and an actual plan: these are good things to have

In the aftermath of the Iraq War, one of the criticisms leveled against the Bush Administration was that there was a plan in place to attack Iraq from day one, even before the events of September 11th, 2001. Supposedly, this plan was a product of the neoconservatives who filled up important roles in the Administration, from Paul Wolfowitz to Richard Perle. And in that regard, 9-11 became nothing more than an excuse to invade Iraq. Indeed, George Tenet's tell-all book--At the Center of the Storm--seemed to make this clear, when it relayed the following:
On the day after 9/11, he [Tenet] adds, he ran into Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative and the head of the Defense Policy Board, coming out of the White House. He says Mr. Perle turned to him and said: "Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility."
It was damning stuff and seemed to confirm the story of the neocon plan. Unfortunately for the wingnut crowd, Tenet's tale was of a fairy sort, a fabrication, since Richard Perle was in France the day after 9-11 and did not return to the United Sates until September 15th. Tenet claimed later that he may have gotten the date wrong (yeah, right), but Perle insists he never said anything like the above, on that day or any other.

Still, the idea of a pre-conceived plan for invasion remained, owing greatly to the neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century and the various white papers it produced, wherein increased U.S. military activity around the world was called for almost as a matter of course. Page six of this particularly critical white paper--released in September of 2000--lays out the primary objectives in this regard:
HOMELAND DEFENSE. America must defend its homeland. During the Cold War, nuclear deterrence was the key element in homeland defense; it remains essential. But the new century has brought with it new challenges. While reconfiguring its nuclear force, the United States also must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter U.S. military action by threatening U.S. allies and the American homeland itself. Of all the new and current missions for U.S. armed forces, this must have priority.

LARGE WARS. Second, the United States must retain sufficient forces able to rapidly deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars and also to be able to respond to unanticipated contingencies in regions where it does not maintain forward-based forces. This resembles the “two-war” standard that has been the basis of U.S. force planning over the past decade. Yet this standard needs to be updated to account for new realities and potential new conflicts.

CONSTABULARY DUTIES. Third, the Pentagon must retain forces to preserve the current peace in ways that fall short of conduction major theater campaigns. A decade’s experience and the policies of two administrations have shown that such forces must be expanded to meet the needs of the new, long-term NATO mission in the Balkans, the continuing no-fly-zone and other missions in Southwest Asia, and other presence missions in vital regions of East Asia. These duties are today’s most frequent missions, requiring forces configured for combat but capable of long-term, independent constabulary operations.

TRANSFORM U.S. ARMED FORCES. Finally, the Pentagon must begin now to exploit the socalled “revolution in military affairs,” sparked by the introduction of advanced technologies into military systems; this must be regarded as a separate and critical mission worthy of a share of force structure and defense budgets.
By the way, the term "neocon" is rarely used correctly and has become something of a simple pejorative. To understand it properly, consider carefully the above objectives and the accompanying analysis in the white paper. Despite the ultimate agreement with some of these ideas--especially the last--people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and even George Bush are not, nor were they ever, actual neocons.

Regardless, it is clear that the neocons who were present in the Bush Administration agreed with these objectives for the U.S. military. And it is also clear that they were in favor of the Iraq War. The idea that this was a planned thing, that it was going to happen no matter what, is pure speculation.

That said, isn't it nice to know what the objectives are, ahead of time, to have an actual plan ready, even if it is of the contingency sort? Because this is true: a plan was created for the invasion, complete with military and non-military objectives. It was based on the above and the the related military doctrine--conceived at the National Defense University--of Shock and Awe. The plan came to be known by the latter term almost exclusively.

Personally, I think the plan was not so well conceived as many in the Administration believed, I think too much emphasis was placed on speed, when more should have been placed on containment and border control. But that's really neither here nor there. The point is, there was an actual plan, generally followed, complete with a series of objectives, generally achieved. The aftermath was another thing, of course.

Likewise, when President Clinton (through NATO) made the decision to enter the Kosovo War in 1999, there was an actual plan. With actual objectives. It was no one-off event (unlike Clinton's various actions against Iraq, detailed previously).

Contrast all of this with what is now before us: a potential punitive airstrike against Syria for the use of chemical weapons, a strike the President has already described as nothing more than a "shot across the bow."

One year ago, the President supposedly made it clear to Assad and Syria that he wouldn't tolerate the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. If Syria was to use them, there would be "enormous consequences," according to the President. And in that regard, when Obama drew his "red line" for Syria, he also said:
What I’m saying is we’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans. We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.
Well okay, then. Chemical weapons have been used, the red line has been crossed, enormous consequences must be coming, based on one of the plans that has supposedly already been put together. This isn't a difficult course to navigate. Yet it would appear that there is no plan; the President is hedging, dithering and dathering as he tries make sense of the real calculus at work here: the political one. Some members of his own party--and some in the opposition--are pushing for immediate action. Others are insisting the U.S. should not involve itself.

And the President has nothing. Instead of decisive action--one way or the other--we're getting oatmeal. Why? Because across the past year, the President and his staff haven't bothered formulating any contingency plans or even reviewing the ones formulated by others. They've been too bust campaigning...

Cheers, all.

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