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April 22, 2011
Mistakes?... I've made a few.... heh, no, just kidding:
Of course he didn't. Why should he? His biggest mistakes don't even get reported as such. I can offer up several on the national security front, but here are just two mistakes that you've seen hints of lately in the news.
The first actually was made in his earliest days in the White House. (But we're paying the price for it now, and will for years to come.) At around the same time he was taking the oath of office, the soldiers of the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team were completing preparations for their upcoming Iraq tour:
All that was soon tossed out the window for this headline: "Barack Obama diverts 17,000 soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan."
Mr Obama indicated that the units being sent to Afghanistan had been earmarked for Iraq, saying the drawdown of US forces there "allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan".
Which is a great headline for a guy who campaigned on exactly that; at the time it was widely reported and wildly popular. For the 5th SBCT it was a tough break - but also an order you salute smartly and carry on. That would be all well and good, but a few days later came the second part of the deal that didn't get any attention at all.
Gen. Odierno will receive a Stryker Brigade to replace the incoming replacement brigade diverted to Afghanistan just a week ago. That means that he will continue to maintain the current level of two Stryker brigades in Iraq.That would be the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, from the same parent division and the same home base as the 5th.
It's terrible that so many brigades had to deploy, but since they did wouldn't it make more sense to send the 4th to Afghanistan, and the 5th - the one that had trained for Iraq - to Iraq? In fact, wouldn't making that switch be courting disaster? That depends on your goal (and how sure you are of the media's willingness to play along) - if it's to win wars, then yes, it's a mistake to switch them like that. If it's to make Americans think you're drawing down troops in Iraq to send to Afghanistan, then no. And if the media's on your side, you are mistake-proof.
They may not have had enough time to learn the language or prepare properly for Afghanistan, but when confronted with "an absence of good intelligence on what they would be facing in the Arghandab" valley, NCOs in the unit found a way to improvise, adapt and overcome, by "printing out information on the Arghandab region from The Long War Journal, a respected non-Defense Department Web site, and posting it on bulletin boards."
As good as my friend Bill Roggio's site is, I don't think that's its intended purpose. To recap: the 2nd Infantry Division's (2ID) 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (5/2 SBCT), a brigade that had trained and prepared for Iraq, was re-routed to Afghanistan - a widely heralded and highly praised move. But also a fraud perpetrated on the American public, because in an "overlooked" story another 2ID brigade (4/2 SBCT) was sent to Iraq in their place.
Hey, what could possibly go wrong?
Both left for their respective tours at approximately the same time from the same place. Let's move forward to revisit the 4th and 5th SBCT in the middle of those tours - at the end of that calendar year :
How bad was it? Read the whole Army Times report here. (And realize it isn't everything there was to tell.) It's a disaster that ends like this:
But the final blow to the company's morale was still to come: the new RC-South commander British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter chose to pull Charlie Company and the rest of 1-17 out of the Arghandab permanently and replace them with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade.
If you read the story you realize (regardless of why he said he did it) he had no other choice. That's doubly infuriating because 4/82 had originally been sent to Afghanistan as part of President Obama's initial surge specifically for the mission of training Afghan troops - something that would allow the draw down (now scheduled to "begin in July 2011") there, too.
But while the Times story ended, 5/2's Afghan tour didn't. So, did all those early failures contribute to further morale and discipline problems in 5/2, or did they hold their heads up, recover, and soldier on? No doubt most of the brigade's soldiers did the latter to the best of their abilities, but - get ready for another shocker here - by early 2010 other members of the brigade had formed the now-legendary "Kill Team" you my have read about elsewhere recently.
The story is actually a year old...
The military issued a brief statement last week saying a criminal probe was under way into the allegations of killing, illegal drug use, assault and conspiracy. One military official familiar with the details of the case told CNN the matter was brought to the attention of commanders by at least one other soldier. The killings of the three civilians did not take place in one single incident, the official said.
...but it didn't really "catch on" until the actual pictures were obtained this year, by a German news source. (And later in Rolling Stone; speaking of which, another part of the reason that story didn't really "take off" back in June, 2010 was because before the month was over, General McChrystal had resigned after a Rolling Stone magazine article hurt Joe Biden's feewings.) Still, the AP tried to find an angle that would make it a "big" story when first reported back in June:
...but it still drew little attention outside of local (Ft Lewis area ~ Seattle) coverage. That coverage included the official army explanation:
Partial truth, at least. But while colonels can bust privates, and generals can bust colonels, and the AP can assault Sarah Palin (relentlessly), none of them (except news reporters) can bust the Commander in Chief; they're not going to tell you the whole thing started with a quest for a fraudulent headline: Barack Obama diverts 17,000 soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Speaking of which, let's turn back to the 4th SBCT - the unit he sent to Iraq. While those soldiers had to sacrifice time at home in order to deploy ahead of their previous schedule, that hurry-up also meant they couldn't complete the training then given to all Brigade Combat Teams heading for Iraq so that they could be called "Advise and Assist Brigades" - which is what makes "non-combat" brigade combat teams "non-combat." So they deployed as a "combat brigade."
Guess who made lemonade out of that. By the end of the summer of 2010 their combat tour was coming to an end - and what an end it would be:
Well, "change" was a campaign pledge too, wasn't it? In reality, the Iraq drawdown was continuing as scheduled during the Bush administration. But yep - since they didn't get their "advise and assist training" the 4th Strykers got to play the part of "the last COMBAT unit to leave Iraq" on TV. And since NBC got the official "ride-along" even Rachel Maddow made the trip ("I'm totally covered in goose bumps," she declared. "It is an important moment.") to cover the historic moment when Barack Obama once again "made good" on his campaign pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq - using as a prop the unit that, if the original story of Obama drawing down troops in Iraq had been true, would not have been there in the first place.
Fortunately, the brigade completed its combat tour without any combat deaths. Unfortunately, on the very day they had handed over their last combat outpost to the Iraqi army (but less widely reported), Spc. Faith R. Hinkley, also from Ft Lewis but serving in one of the non-combat brigades, was killed in combat elsewhere in Iraq.
So - there you have it. "There are all sorts of day-to-day issues where I say to myself, oh, I didn't say that right, or I didn't explain this clearly enough," Obama said, "or maybe if I had sequenced this plan first as opposed to that one, maybe it would have gotten done quicker." So yeah, lots of little things. As for the big things, well, if you never see 'em on TV, they really aren't "mistakes" at all, are they?
It's been a week since that was sent and I've received no reply.
And I still haven't.
Meanwhile, in more recent news: "Senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been in negotiations about keeping some 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year's end..." but the Iraqis are worried we'll turn their country into another Libya. But maybe Obama will eventually change Bush's withdrawal timeline after all.
But I promised "two mistakes that you've seen hints of lately in the news," and that's just one (even if just one of many ways we've tried to lose that war) - though it's a big one. The second is, too, but it's about a more recent war - and this has gone on long enough, so that little story will have to come a little later. (Assuming the world doesn't blow up before then.)
Until then, here's a question to ponder while you enjoy your universal health care, America: what mistakes have you made lately?
Posted by Greyhawk / April 22, 2011 8:52 AM | Permalink
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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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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