Tuesday, March 21, 2006

[politics] "Every war plan looks good on paper..."

"...until you meet the enemy." So saith our President, in his second press conference this year, by way of defending Rumsfeld and his prosecution of the war in Iraq. Well, neither Bush nor Rumsfeld appear to remember what this quote (as originally given) really means: when von Moltke said "No plan survives contact with the enemy", he meant that operational rigidity will be the death of your campaign. You see, von Moltke realized that the very nature of warfare guarantees that you cannot count on things going as planned. There is no "Hoyle's Rules for Warfare" that states how the enemy must respond to your attack. This is not chess with its formalized moves nor is it go, with its stylized strategy. This is infantry warfare, unchanged in its basic principles since the late 19th century: kill the enemy before he kills you. Hold the ground you take. Kill the enemy if he tries to retake your captured territory. In Patton's words, don't die for your country; make some dumb bastard die for his country. The 'quaint' rules of the Geneva Accords were arrived at because of these simple and brutal truths of modern land warfare. Those are the only rules one can expect on the battlefield - everything else must revolve around operational discipline and flexibility. The enemy will not fight according to your plan. He never has; he never will. Yet Rumsfeld has been so enamored of his "Transformation" process that he refused to listen to the advice of his generals in planning the ground war. He has refused to modify his tactics in the face of unexpected enemy tactics. He has refused to modify his plan in the face of evidence that it is not working. He is holding to his plan, even though the enemy isn't behaving the way the plan says they should. Rumsfeld has forgotten or deliberately ignored the truths of von Moltke's words, and our military is paying for it. With their lives. And our country is going to keep paying for it long after Bush and Rumsfeld are out of office. And Iraq is going to pay for it with usury-level compound interest. (Note: Blogger's photo upload chokes on this image, so I've hot-linked to the original site where it was found - the image is from Ft. Stewart, GA, and the April 2003 memorial service that the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) held. I'll edit the photo later and see if changing the size or compression helps.)

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