George S. Kulas
WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS (AGAIN)
There was an old school of thought among the bureaucratic politicians during much of the Vietnam War. That being we’d win the war once we won the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese populace. Of course that’s well said at a white house dinner while the soldiers in the thick of it, who are not given the means to win, are fighting and dying at the order of those feasting.
Now, over three decades later, we see once again attempts to win hearts and minds by our soldiers as ordered by bureaucratic civilian leaders who have disregarded the opinions and judgments of our professional military leaders. This time it’s the 23 million Iraqi citizens we are trying to convince that we have invaded and destroyed their country for their own good even though our reasoning was based on faulty and/or misleading intelligence.
When much of the world urged us for caution we leaped into a war virtually by ourselves as if to say, “Nobody tells the U.S. what to do or what not to do.” There were other ways we could have ousted Saddam Hussein and neutralized his army other than going to war.
Much of Hussein’s army folded anyway partly because we paid off the commanders to take their troops and go home rather than fight. We could have paid a little more and gotten everyone to go home and at the same time received information on their weapons of mass destruction if any. For $1 billion we could have paid $1 million to 1,000 of their senior military and civilian personnel. Then, if need be, we could have marched virtually unabated to Baghdad and begun security much like we are doing now. Only the people would have their water, their electricity, their food and their shelter; much better to improve on those things than to take them away especially if you are trying to win hearts and minds. That would have been far cheaper than the $79 billion originally allocated and the additional $87 billion President Bush has asked for to keep going through the end of next year.
In any event it is evident there wasn’t a lot of planning on how to deal with the reconstruction effort in Iraq after the war. There were warning signs early on from our military leadership that we would require more for longer than the civilian leadership led us to believe.
The just retired former Chief-of-Staff of the Army, General Eric K. Shinseki dared to give congress his estimate of how many and how long our troops would be required to fight, win and stabilize Iraq during and after the war. He wasn’t a “yes” man and told it the way he saw it. Yet shockingly, the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld rebuffed the General for giving his professional opinion. Rumsfeld insisted that the numbers would be far less in troops required, and their length of stay. Well, Rumsfeld was wrong! So tense is the relationship between the civilian and the military leadership at the Pentagon that General Shinseki retired and Mr. Rumsfeld slapped the face of every General in the Army by passing them over for consideration to be the next Chief-of-Staff and calling back a General who had been retired to replace General Shinseki.
In the mean time our troops are still in Iraq and are continuously coming under attack. We have lost more troops since the war was officially declared over than we lost during the actual war. Now our troops are being placed on 12-month tours in Iraq. We have very, very little room to operate a continuous rotation plan while keeping our other world wide military commitments. Our troops are tired, they fought the good fight, won the war and were promised their road home would lead through Baghdad--not come to a dead end there. They are open targets to the anti-American Iraqis as well as the terrorists who are undoubtedly streaming into the lawless country in droves. Yes, we don’t have to fight them in New York or St. Louis or Chicago etc. because we are easy targets in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the miscalculations and the mismanagement by the civilian leadership within the Pentagon are going to cost big bucks and tragically it will cost more American lives in the process. Is it worth it? Ask the mothers and fathers of those brave service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s their hearts and minds our government has to win back now. Don’t ask our senior powerful civilian politicians and bureaucrats who sent our sons and daughters off to war. Like most before them neither they nor their kids fight in the wars they deem so necessary.
©Copyright September 10, 2003 by George S. Kulas