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September 25, 2008
Points and PointingBy Greyhawk
Jimbo weighs in on on Mackubin Thomas Owens' Wall Street Journal piece, and takes issue with statements therein. Boil it down to simplest terms, and the central argument becomes (per Jimbo) "whose fault our choice of the wrong strategy to start with was and who to blame for the failure to change it after several years of simply staying the course", with options limited in this discussion to America's military leaders or their civilian leadership. Jimbo's answer: "it was Rumsfeld" counters Owens:
If Mr. Woodward's account is true, it means that not since Gen. McClellan attempted to sabotage Lincoln's war policy in 1862 has the leadership of the U.S. military so blatantly attempted to undermine a president in the pursuit of his constitutional authority. It should be obvious that such active opposition to a president's policy poses a threat to the health of the civil-military balance in a republic.I urge you to read the full links above for background. But recognize that Owens is presenting an opinion piece that's fundamentally a book review - for Bob Woodward's The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. - I book I'd urge you to read, too. I'm half way through it myself (completion delayed by the Milblogs Conference and time well spent with great friends old and new), and can't address whether the specific claims in the excerpt above are Woodward's or Owens' interpretation of Woodward. (I'll know soon - I'm almost there.) Though he makes no direct claims to objectivity, Woodward generally avoids such outright editorializing (or moralizing, if you prefer) in favor of a more subtle approach to swaying the reader.
Case in point, his treatment of Donald Rumsfeld. On page 129 Woodward describes a September 19, 2006 meting between the Secretary of Defense and retired General Jack Keane:
Few had more command experience than Keane. He had led a full corps of 50,000 soldiers. He'd become a Rumsfeld favorite among the generals - no small feat, given the mutual contempt between Rumsfeld and many of his military officers.And so he does - and in fact he provided a fine explanation of what was "wrong" with the strategy then in place, and presented a description of what we should do differently - a change in strategic focus combined with "an escalation of forces to gain security" - an approach that would be adopted the following year and refered to by the shorthand term "the surge".
But from Woodward's description we are left with little doubt that Rumsfeld was not too keen on the idea - and we can anticipate from Woodward's selection of adjectives ("abrasive, mutual contempt, dismissve, distrustful") exactly what sort of reception the Secretary would provide that (now proven correct) advice.
Or we can infer from that same selection that Woodward doesn't think too highly of Donald Rumsfeld. That argument is reinforced later in the book. By November 2006, various groups were completing studies of "the way forward" in (or out of) Iraq. The groups independently compiled a wide variety of options and the anticipated results of executing each. The Pentagon's "Council of Colonels", for example, offerred a range of considerations from "go big/full court press" (perhaps several hundred thousand additional troops) to "swift withdrawal", and Woodward presents those options to the reader without editorial comment. Immediately following that passage, however, he describes a (November 6, 2006) memo sent by Rumsfeld to the White House, listing possible options for Iraq (presumably independent of the Colonels - but Woodward is silent on Rumsfeld's degree of approval, interaction, or even awareness of the group).
"In my view it is time for a major adjustment", he [Rumsfeld] said... He listed some possible options: "an accelerated draw-down"; a withdrawal of U.S. forces from vulnerable positions and patrols; or providing money to key political and religious leaders, as Saddam had done.As were all those groups - from the Pentagon's colonels to the Iraq Study Group and others. But only for Rumsfeld does Woodward break from objective presentation and inject his own critical analysis. Why? I can't pretend to see into the author's mind. But I would argue that the media hated Donald Rumsfeld, to the point where objective reporting on the man was impossible. (One could argue he was a victim of Alinsky's rule #12 - a tactic applied at one time or another with varying degrees of success to every member of the Bush Administration.)
More to follow...
Posted by Greyhawk / September 25, 2008 10:41 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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