UPDATED: More on Shinseki

UPDATE: I know you are all focused on the Illinois corruption debacle playing out on the news, but if you’re here, welcome to the counterprogramming. Here are some additional comments from an article posted on CNN by Jamie McIntyre today concerning the Shinskeki mythology:

Shinseki never made any recommendation for more troops for Iraq. In fact, as Army chief of staff, it wasn’t really part of his job to take part in direct war planning. But as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he did owe the president his best military advice. And if he felt strongly enough that the advice was not being taken, he could have resigned. According to senior military officers who were in the pre-war meetings, Shinseki never objected to the war plans, and he didn’t press for any changes. When the joint chiefs were asked point-blank by then-Chairman Gen. Richard Meyers if they had any concerns about the plans before they went to the president, Shinseki kept silent.   .    . the idea that Shinseki was a strong advocate for a bigger force and that no one listened vastly overstates his role.

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This weekend I wrote a post scrutinizing  General(R) Shinseki’s record as the Army’s Chief of Staff. Today, the New York Times editorial page caught up (is it any wonder these guys had to mortgage their building to stay afloat??) and had an interesting op-ed lauding the Shinseki Nomination:

One excellent way to show your concern for wounded veterans is not to make so many of them. Gen. Eric Shinseki knew this when, as the Army chief of staff, he told Congress on the eve of the Iraq invasion that several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed to handle the occupation. We all know the result. The Bush administration went to war on the cheap.     .       . General Shinseki, 66, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, has a solid reputation as someone committed to his troops. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam with two Purple Hearts and seems free of the pomposity and hunger for attention that so many military officers carry with them into retirement. [EMPH Added].

By the standard the Times sets for showing how much Generals care for troops,  Generals Grant, Marshall,  and Patton (and by extension Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln) cared little for wounded troops,  since hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed or wounded on their watch.  That’s not the main point, though, so let’s shift gears to USA Today, which had an article this morning about the military’s failure to field enough armored vehicles prior to the Iraq War:

Military leaders knew the dangers posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war but did little to develop vehicles that were known to better protect forces from what proved to be the conflict’s deadliest weapon, a report by the Pentagon inspector general says.       .       .The Pentagon “was aware of the threat posed by mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) … and of the availability of mine resistant vehicles years before insurgent actions began in Iraq in 2003,” says the 72-page report, which was reviewed by USA TODAY. “The Pentagon was aware of the threat IEDs posed to our troops prior to our intervention in Iraq and still failed to take the steps to acquire the technology needed to reduce the risk,” Bond said after reviewing the report. “Some bureaucrats at the Pentagon have much to explain.”

The report is not out yet, but is another example of the decisionmaking of the Secretaries of Defense and Service Chiefs during the 1990s and up to the Iraq war, when General Shinseki led the Army.  Lack of investment in armored vehicles for stability operations, personal protective gear, and  communications gear plagued the Army during the early years of Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that Army officers received no doctrine or education  whatsoever on counterinsurgency operations exacerbated problems for the Army in both conflicts as well.

These shortfalls in equipment, doctrine, and military education were direct results of decisions made by the Army that General(R) Shinseki led. Many of these decisions required substantial corrections on the part of Shinseki’s successors to ensure Soldiers had the training and resources to operate effectively on the battlefield.

General Shinseki provided excellent military advice when he appeared before the House Armed Services Committee in February 2003. Congress would have been well-served to take his advice into consideration and looked carefully at the Pentagon’s postwar efforts for stability operations before they voted to authorize the war. The testimony that day certainly took some courage, because Shinseki’s advice directly contradicted his superiors’ own judgement. And there is no doubt that the General is a faithful servant of his country; he spent his entire adult life in uniform, and is a wounded combat veteran who loves Soldiers, Veterans, and their families.

But when it came to leading his organization, making decisions, and setting priorities, General Shinseki fell critically short of the mark, and his successors had to initiate many programs to procure equipment, establish training priorities, and get the Army on track to operate effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully,  General(R)  Shinseki fares better when developing and implementing sound programs within the Veteran’s Affairs department than he did as the Army Chief of Staff.

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2 thoughts on “UPDATED: More on Shinseki

  1. I agree with your assessment on Shinseki’s tenure as CSA and the decisions that were not made which later had to be addressed. However, this was not solely his failure or omission. Since 1991 and the end of the Cold War the US military establishment had been playing loose and fast. On one hand troop commitments to low-intensity conflict/operations increased significantly but on the other the services (read: DOD and the US Government) had no incentive to change because DOD, but particularly the Army, actively sought ways to minimize its deployment. My feelings are that the institutional leaders of the Army through the 90’s were guilty of walking of away from the nation because they turned their backs on the future. “Army” did not want to waste its time with messy squalid affairs that involved lots of manpower. This was threatening on many levels – to funding, doctrine, mission creep, etc. The “Army” sees itself as a deterrent force of last resort. Despite the rhetoric we see today nothing much has changed. Outside of Iraq/Afghanistan there is deep reluctance to commit any forces anywhere for any mission. The Army leadership opposed to the “surge,” which by more than luck alone have proven successful. I cringe at the coming post-war period. The Army will atrophy and lose a generation of experience becuase it is not doing those things which are needed to now to institutionalize the many successes of fighting two simultaneous full-blown counter-insurgencies. The sad fact is that when it comes time to fight the next high-intensity conflict not only is there a large chance the army will not be equipped correctly but that it will flat be unprepared.

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