Sunday, January 07, 2007

General Thoughts and Musings.




Stars have fallen on the blogosphere today; there are several posts concerning General Officers, past and present.
Hugh Hewitt provides some in-depth analysis on the personal history, drive, and character of Lieutenant General David Petraeus, who is slated to be promoted to General Officer (4 Stars) and assume command of forces in Iraq. The starting point for Hugh's thoughts is a decent article in today's Washington Post. The Post covers highlights of Petraeus' military career, his capabilities, and when detailing the steps he will take as he assumes new duties, states:
Upon Senate confirmation and the receipt of his fourth star, making him a full general, [Petraeus] is expected to spend some weeks assessing conditions in Iraq and drafting a strategic plan that goes beyond the current debate over whether to increase U.S. troop levels by up to five brigades, roughly 20,000 troops. That "surge" is consistent with the military's new counterinsurgency manual, much of which Petraeus wrote, which stresses protecting the indigenous population and imposing security as a condition for stability.
Hugh Hewitt examines the article's key points, and provides an insightful conclusion in his post on this monumental changing of the guard in Iraq:
I hope General Petraeus also embraces the idea that part of his theater is the American media's reporting on it, and that he takes the time on an almost daily basis to communicate with the American public about the stakes and the situation in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a post at the Elephant Bar matches an article where General Wesley Clark (USA, Ret) expresses opposition to the tentative plan to surge forces in Iraq against an earlier article that questions his judgement during the Kosovo war, and lets readers jump into the fray. The juxtaposition of the two articles definitely provokes some thoughtful comments. One of them writes in response to the negative portrayal of Clark in the second article:
"The vast majority of us who actually served as part of the Bosnia/Kosovo team know that General Clark was an outstanding commander, both militarily and in his ability to maintain NATO's political support thru the conclusion of the war. That's why so many of us supported Wes Clark for president in '04, and who will be there for him next time should he decide to run."
And another commenter responds:
Gen. Hugh Shelton was asked if he would support retired Gen. Wesley Clark for president, Shelton, said. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf when asked what he thought of Clark. "I think the greatest condemnation against him . . . came from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was a NATO commander. I mean, he was fired as a NATO commander," Schwarzkopf replied, "and when Hugh Shelton said he was fired because of matters of character and integrity, that is a very, very damning statement, which says, `If that's the case, he's not the right man for president,' as far as I'm concerned. . . I would very much appreciate what your personal take on Clark is. What do you see in the man that others have not?"
Meanwhile, Victor David Hanson ponders the skillful (and not so skillful) employment of reinforcements throughout history. He concludes that while additional troops may have enabled tactical success, it was more than sheer numbers in many cases that actually led to victory in war:
In the first dark months of the Korean War, Gen. MacArthur increased U.S. troop strength for the September 1950 Inchon assault. But that dramatic breakthrough and recapture of Seoul came as a result of risky amphibious operations — not just more boots on the ground.

William Tecumseh Sherman’s Army of the West finally reached a level of nearly 100,000 troops in late summer 1864. Yet its success was predicated not on increased numbers per se, but rather on a radical shift in tactics, abandoning reliance on rail support and living off the land. When Sherman left on his March to the Sea, he actually pruned his forces. A good argument could be made that Lee finally cracked, not because Grant’s surges smashed his lines, but due to southern desertion and loss of morale, once it was known that a huge and unpredictable Union army under the unconventional Sherman was approaching the Confederate rear through the Carolinas.
All of these posts are well written and thoughtful, and help frame the problem facing the United States as it awaits word of what comes next in Iraq.

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