CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq — Transition teams throughout southern Iraq attended a conference June 12, at Contingency Operating Base Adder.
The conference provided a forum for transition team leaders to establish new relationships, share best practices and receive guidance from the commander of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. The BCT deployed to Iraq last month as the first “Advise and Assist” Brigade to complete specialized Stability Operations training and be given the job of helping train Iraqi Security Forces.
“You all have the hardest jobs,” said Col. Peter A. Newell, commander, 4th BCT, 1st Armored Div. “Our mission success is based on the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces to accomplish their mission. You are the tip of the spear in paving our way to going home.”
A summative work, focus on fall of dollar versus rise of euro,
February 18, 2007
William R. Clark
I was tempted to give this book only four stars, because as some reviewers suggest, it is mostly a summative work, drawing heavily on several books I have already reviewed, as well as a number of studies and article. In the end I decided to go with five stars because this is the only book I have found that really drew my attention to the turning point in US-Iraq relations: not Gulf I, but rather Iraq’s declared intention to break the dollar monopoly and begin trading oil in Euros. Today of course we have Iran, Russia, and Venezuela trading in currencies other than the dollar.
First off, this is one of those rare books where in addition to carefully studying the table of contents, which is superbly devised, almost an executive summary on its own, you should also *first* read the End Notes and also the Afterword by LtCol Karen Kwiatkowski, now retired, who earned lasting recognition for resigning and challenging the lies coming out of the politically-appointed Pentagon officials.
Although this book is labeled by some (who would have us ignore it) as part of the “conspiracy” literature, I find myself reading more and more books in this vein, spanning 9-11, peak oil, corporate personality, and Wall Street-Washington corruption. I have to say, with all humility, if there is one privilege I would claim as the #1 Amazon reviewer of non-fiction, it is the privilege of stating clearly and on the record that this book, and other books in this vein, are NOT conspiracy literature, but rather the survivors, the vanguard that has avoided censorship. This book may not be perfect, it may overstate the case (personally I think Bush is as dim as Feith and did not understand the Euro issue while having a childish mind easily led by Dick Cheney), but it is part of an emerging literature that cannot be denied and must be given full attention.
The book highlights and reminds that we have lost the Republic to four interacting influences: concentrated wealth including perpeptual compounded wealth concealed in corporations improperly given personality rights; a completely corrupt Congress serving corporations rather than the public interest; the end of a free press with five media conglomerates happily practicing perception management on an ignorant and inattentive public; and a Federal Reserve that is not part of the government and not acting in the public interest, but instead creating credit out of thin air, and selling that to the government at a price that is both dear, and unconstitutional.
Having come late to much of this literature, the term “proto-fascism” was new to me, but it fits: Wall Street wealth, plus political corruption, plus a military too eager to follow orders without thinking. I remind all who care to understand a military perspective that General Smedley Butler’s book, “War is a Racket,” recounts his disdain for being a an “enforcer” for corporations.
The author of this book on petrodollar warfare does an excellent job of recounting the history of the dollar, setting the stage for both the end of the gold standard under Nixon, and the manner in which petrodollars from the 1970’s were recycled as loans to the Third World.
There are two really superb charts from other sources in this book, one on page 105 showing “The Lie Factory” led by Dick Cheney and Doug Feith; and another on page 112 showing the claims by Cheney and others about Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), both before (of course they do) and after (none found).
Today an attack on Iran looms. I have done everything I could as an individual citizen, including a protest package to the Senate, press releases, a fax to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a posting at OSS.Net of Howard Bloom’s memorandum on a potential nuclear ambush by Iran, and Webster Tarpley’s powerpoint on the fragile ground supply line from Kuwait to Baghdad. I share his view that the Siege of Baghdad will make the Siege of Stalingrad look like mercy killings. Think Black Hawk Down times a million.
This is a very fine book. It took me a year to notice it, but I will be more attentive now. New Society Publishers is in my view a national treasure. I admire them and will look forward to reading and reviewing many more books that they publish for the right reasons: to inform citizens and improve society.
Ideal Primer for General Public, Satisfying on Key Points,
January 17, 2004
Wesley K. Clark
Much of this book is a blow-by-blow account of the recent US invasion of Iraq, with generally complementary comments about the performance of the US military.National security professionals will have every reason to skim most of the book, but they would be very unwise if they failed to read it. On balance, the author comes out as the only Presidential candidate who actually has deep experience in modern war, in managing very large complex coalition operations, and in handling the nuances (Bush has said he does not do nuances) of complex European relationships such as characterized his tenure as commander-in-chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, during which time NATO dramatically expanded to embrace the Eastern European (Partnership for Peace) nations and the Mediterranean Dialog nations.
A few key points on the author’s perspectives that satisfied me:
1) He understands that reconstruction cannot be successful unless internal security, stability, and legitimacy are established first.
2) He emphasizes the urgency of operating with other nations in strong alliances, not only to be successful in unilateral operations, but in avoiding competing crises elsewhere.
3) He is very critical of the manner in which the Bush Administration represses participatory democratic discussion of the threat and the new strategy. America was “shut out” from both the facts and the discussion in the path to war on Iraq.
4) He is sensitive to the enormous damage that America’s arrogance (as reflected in the actions being done “in our name”) is doing to our interests abroad. He notes, interestingly, that there is a huge difference between the messages carried by the US versus the international media (and implicitly, in our public’s unawareness of that difference).
5) He is accurate and insightful in expressing concern about two simultaneous failures of the Bush Administration: first, failing to prosecute the war on terror instead of the sideshow in Iraq, and second, failing to actually make America any safer here at home.
6) He helps explain how the Bush Administration got off track by reminding us that missile defense, energy, and the Chinese incident with the US naval reconnaissance airplane all consumed the early months of the new Administration.
7) He provides useful perspective on the *considerable* challenges of terrorism that faced Germany (Baader-Meinhof), Italy (Red Brigades), Spain (ETA), England (IRA), Greece (November 17th group), Turkey (PKK), and other nations including Israel. He notes that these were defeated by constructive law enforcement campaigns, not unilateral military invasions. I found this section of the book to be extraordinarily mature, worldly, and sensible.
8) His account of the early planning process for the war against Iraq (never mind the policy process that misled America) slams Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld for being disruptive and unprofessional, resulting in “an irregularly timed patchwork process that interspersed early-deploying units with those needed later, delayed mobilization, hampered training, and slowed overall deployments considerably.” One example: 4th Infantry Division spent 45 days at sea *after* they arrived.
9) He provides incisive commentary on the failure of both Turkey and Saudi Arabia to provide much needed ports and airheads for the war. [Although General Clark refrains from making this point, the best minds at the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute have publicly noted that we won more as a result of Iraqi incompetence than US effectiveness.]
10) There are many small signs throughout the book that General Clark is a strategist. As one who feels that John Boyd is a hero whose work must be honored in our future deliberations, I was glad to see the author emphasize the value of leadership and training over technology.
11) The author corrects existing doctrine and advances the thinking by pointing out that the air supremacists were correct but not in the way they expected. Air versus C4I was not the decisive factor in the Iraq war, but rather air in support of ground forces, something the Air Force hates to do but the Marine Corps has always understood.
12) On page 79 he discusses how a B-1 bomber was dispatched to attack a reported place where Saddam Hussein might be, unleashing two 2,000 lb. bombs. This is so sadly a repeat of the Afghan story, where a B-2 bomber was called in against 18 men in a cave, that we want to highlight it. We have a heavy metal military unsuited for manhunts or gang warfare.
13) If there is one weakness in this book, it is that it glosses over the many information and intelligence deficiencies that characterized the planning process, the operational campaign, and the post-war peace and reconstruction endeavor.
The author does not fail to give the current Administration and its operational arms (including intelligence) credit for successes against terrorism in 2002 (incidents fell by half, key people killed and captured). This is appropriate, and provides a good lead-in to his very detailed critique of how we are failing in the war on terrorism, the second half of his book. This can be generally summed up, in his words, with “We needed new thinking, and we needed to retarget our intelligence and adjust our means…” What I find most fascinating about the second half of the book is that the author is clearly charting a sensible course that is equi-distant from the incompetent neglect of the Clinton Administration, and the lunatic militarism of the Bush Administration. He makes specific reference to the now-public plans of Rumsfeld and his aids to follow up the attack on Iraq with attacks on Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. This is what we have to look forward to if there is a second Bush Administration.
The author provides enough in the way of specifics (buying in, for example, with an explicit reference) to Joe Nye’s views on the importance of using soft power in the context of multinational strategies for peace) to be very reassuring that his national security strategy, once fully developed, would be summed up with one word: balanced.
Most Miss Point: Book Excells At Highlighting Our Weaknesses,
>November 3, 2001
Wesley K. Clark
Every citizen should read this book so they can instruct their elected representatives and vote for military reform. As things now stand, we will lose the war on terrorism over time because of the perennial flaws in our system that this book identifies.Don’t Bother Us Now. The U.S. political system is not structured to pay attention to “early warning”. Kosovo (as well as Croatia and Serbia beforehand and later Macedonia) were well known looming problems, but in the aftermath of the Gulf War, both Congress and the Administration in power at the time said to the U.S. Intelligence Community, essentially: “don’t bother us anymore with this, this is inconvenient warning, we’ll get to it when it explodes.” We allowed over a hundred thousand to be murdered in genocide, because our political system was “tired.””Modern war” is an overwhelming combination of micro-management from across the varied nations belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; a reliance on very high-tech weapons with precision effect that are useless in the absence of precision intelligence (and the lawyers insist the intelligence be near-real-time, a virtual impossibility for years to come); and an obsession with avoiding casualties that hand-cuffs our friendly commanders and gives great encouragement to our enemies.
Services versus Commanders. The military services that under Title 10 are responsible for training, equipping, and organizing the forces–but not for fighting them, something the regional commanders-in-chief must do–have become–and I say this advisedly–the biggest impediment to the successful prosecution of operations. The detailed story of the Army staff resistance to the use of the Apache helicopters is the best case study I have ever seen of how senior staff generals with political access can prevent operational generals with field responsibilities from being fully effective. In combination with the insistence of the services that forces be held back for Korean and Persian Gulf threats that might not be realized, instead of supporting a real war that existed in Europe, simply stated, makes it clear that there is a “seam” between our force-creating generals and our force-fighting generals that has gotten *out of control.* The fog of war is thickest in Washington, and the greatest friction–the obstacles to success in war–are largely of our own making.
Lawyers, Fear, and Micro-Management. Just as we recently witnessed a lawyer overruling the general to avoid killing the commander of the Taliban, General Clark’s war was dominated by lawyers, a fear of casualties, and micro-management, from Washington, of his use of every weapons system normally left to the discretion of the field commander. This has gotten completely out of hand. Within NATO it is compounded by multi-national forces whose commanders can refuse orders inconsistent with their own national view of things, but reading this book, one is left with the clear understanding that General Clark was fighting a three-front war at all times: with the real enemy, with the media, and with Washington–his NATO commanders were the least of his problems.
Technology Loses to Weather and Lacks Intelligence. Throughout the book there are statements that make it clear that the U.S. military is not yet an all-weather military, and has a very long way to go before it ever will be. Aligned with this incapacity is a high-technology culture that suffers from very weak maintenance and an almost complete lack of intelligence at the level of precision and with the timeliness that is needed for our very expensive weapons to be effective. Nothing has changed since MajGen Bob Scales wrote his excellent Firepower in Limited War, pointing out that artillery still cannot be adequately supported by the intelligence capabilities we have now.
Strategic Mobility Shortfalls, Tactical Aviation Constraints. Although General Clark judges the air war to have been a success, and an essential factor in facilitating “coercive diplomacy”, he also communicates two realities about U.S. military aviation: 1) we do not have the strategic aviation lift to get anywhere in less than 90-180 days, and his request for a 75 day mobilization was not possible as a result; and 2) our tactical aviation assets are so specialized, and require so much advance preparation in terms of munitions, route planning, and so on, that they cannot be readily redirected in less than a full day. A full day. This is simply outlandish.
We Don’t Do Mountains. No statement in the book hurt me more than one by an Army general telling General Clark that his plans for the ground campaign could not be supported by the U.S. Army because “we don’t do mountains” This, in combination with the loser’s attitude (no casualties) and the general reluctance of the services to put their high-tech capabilities like the Apache at risk in a real war, sum up the decrepitude of the U.S. military leadership and the Revolution in Military Affairs-Andrew Gordon in Rules of the Game has it exactly right-the post Viet-Nam and post Cold War era has left us with a bunch of high-tech chickens in control of military resources, and we need to find ourselves some rat-catchers able to redirect our military toward a lust for man to man combat in every clime and place-and the low-tech sustainable tools to do the job.
General Clark’s concluding words, on page 459: “In Kosovo my commanders and I found that we lacked the detailed prompt information to campaign effectively against the Serb ground forces. Most of the technologies we had been promoting since the Gulf War were still immature, unable to deal with the vagaries of weather, vegetation, and urban areas, or the limitations of bandwidth and airspace. The discrete service programs didn’t always fit together technically. And (sic) the officers who operated the programs were not qualified to work across service lines and did not understand the full range of national capabilities. I worried about the nature of Joint skills even among senior officers.” Are we ready? No.