Skip to comments.Teflon Decision-Making from Our Military (Bing West)
Posted on 05/13/2013 1:12:00 PM PDT by neverdem
Sunday was quite a day for Benghazi and the U.S. military. At the platoon level, you are expected to admit errors in firefights in order to correct mistakes and do better the next time. We all make mistakes. But as we saw on yesterdays talk shows, once you reach the top level, whether retired or not, you deny any possibility of error and label any question about military performance idiotic. This is not the behavior of a healthy organization, and if it persists, we are in for a nasty shock in a future crisis or conflict.
On CBS, former secretary of defense Bob Gates launched an impassioned defense of the Obama administration, sneering at critics for holding a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces. He staunchly defended the administrations high-level decision-making surrounding Benghazi, citing four reasons.
First, he said sending fighter jets ignored the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafis arsenals. I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi.
How many aircraft has the U.S. lost in hundreds of thousands of combat flights since 2001? Zero. The former SecDef is so afraid of an unknown risk that he would not send an aircraft capable of destroying a mortar site while Americans died? This is the pinnacle of risk avoidance.
Second, he said, To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, would have been very dangerous.
Lets do a quick review: The CIA did send in seven fighters; four special-forces soldiers in Tripoli were ordered not to pitch in; the Marines on Sigonella wanted to help; and there was nothing more to face than a mob inspired by a video (accoridng to the administration). But for the Pentagon, the risk was just too great.
Message to those who were already fighting on the ground in Benghazi: You are on your own. SecDef believes its very dangerous to go into combat.
Third, Gates argued, We dont have a ready force standing by in the Middle East, and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible. The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harms way, and there just wasnt time to do that.
Message to warfighters: Forget all those who, like Generals Mattis, Patton and Marshall, claim that in combat the ability to improvise is the mark of a true leader. The Pentagon will simply refuse to fight if we have not had the time to plan and prepare as we see fit.
Fourth, Gates explained, my decisions would have been just as theirs were.
Sadly, I believe him.
Meanwhile, over on ABC, George Will and retired general James Cartwright were excusing the military by saying ten hours was not enough time to react. The general said it takes up to a day or two to arm an F-16, file flight plans, arrange for refueling, etc. Therefore the solution is to pre-stage the right kinds of forces, which requires a much larger military and a knowledge beforehand about the location and severity of the threat.
By the reasoning of Will, Cartwright, and Gates, we do not have general-purpose forces; we have special-purpose forces. Do we need more forces staged around the world, or do we just need senior officers who can respond to emergencies outside their normal checklists?
Appearing on CBS and NBC, retired ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, who led a review of Benghazi, said in the process he posed no questions to Secretary Clinton. I dont think there was anything there that we didnt know, he said. I dont see yet any reason why what we did at the Accountability Review Board should be reopened.
It was the review board that asserted the U.S. military could do nothing to help. The review made no mention of evacuating the embassy at Tripoli because of the risk of a terrorist attack, presumably because there wasnt anything there that we didnt know.
In fact, the congressional testimony by Mr. Hicks did include at least three new revelations.
First, very senior State Department officials reprimanded Hicks for bringing up the idea of a terrorist attack, rather than a mob enraged by a video.
Second, four special-forces soldiers, en route to Benghazi to help our wounded, were ordered by an officer in Stuttgart to stand down. Not only did that suggest unwillingness to take risks for beleaguered comrades, it also raised the question of misplaced authority in the chain of command during battle. What authority permits an officer thousands of miles away to override the commander on the ground?
Third, Mr. Hicks testified that Secretary Clinton approved, at about 8 p.m. Washington time, the evacuation of the embassy in Tripoli due to terrorist threats. That was a dramatic, escalatory decision, and its unknown whether the president or the Secretary of Defense was notified.
In the event, the U.S. military took no new, immediate action, even though the embassy was being evacuated, as a result of the chaos at Benghazi. That is big news. The military has justified itself by saying the battle was over by the next morning, but no human being could predict when the battle would end. Had the embassy in Tripoli been overrun, the military would not have rationalized its non-actions by saying, well, the battle was over.
The lack of military action reflects a failure to improvise, a basic test of leadership in battle.
One question illustrates the inertia of our top generals and staffs: Had it been President Obama who was missing in Benghazi, would the military still have done nothing?
Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine, has written seven books about ground combat.
If a jetliner suddenly stopped communicating with the FAA, then veered off course and headed for NYC and pointed itself at the Empire State Building, how long would it take to scramble an F-16? You think maybe a day or two?
I have a hard time believing that we cannot put ordnance on target at locations around the Med in about one hour’s time.
If this is true, all our generals and admirals should be fired.
That F-16 statement was the biggest BS statement so far. Heads should roll over that alone..
Former F-16 pilot here. With 3 external tanks for extra fuel the F-16 could easily launch from Italy, go to Northern Libya, do what it needed to do and return to Italy with NO tanker needed.
When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.
It is human nature.’
I love the comment about the fighters needing a few days to fly. We used to have combat alert fighters, guess we don't now.
Does that mean that China and Russia get a few days to do what they want till the US responds?
Thank you for your service, and thank you for the information.
Back when pterodactyls ruled the world, we had Pink Lady, a QRCF (Quick Reaction Conventional Force) on alert in Aviano. We could make Benghazi and make a mess there, we would need a tanker to come home, but we had one of those on Alert, too. Perhaps the Day of the Rhino is over, perhaps the Day of the Warrior is done. Certainly, the Day of the Risk Averse Political Four Star Maggot is upon us. We put our noses, complete with guns, wherever we want. Frog ground fire. But, then we weren’t all that smart. F-4D 1973-1977 RAF Bentwaters, then on to other fine mounts.
I’m very disappointed in Cartwright. Usually retired Marine Corps generals are not afraid to speak the truth, as per Gen. Van Riper and Gen. Pace.
I flew the Phantom too. C/D models. My dad flew RF-4’s and F-100’s.
Here is what I think is the scariest qoute of all by a former SOD....
“Second, he said, To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, would have been very dangerous.
Umm, what more could they want? They had phone calls from the attack sight. They had emails in real time. The had a live video feed from a drone. They had full blueprints of all facilities and perfect maps of the entire surrounding area. So, really, what more could you possibly want? Name tags on the bad guys? Gates is not exactly a battlefield commander like Washington or Patton, eh?
So what, exactly, were State’s and the CIA’s contingency plans? Did they just think that you’d set a facility in Indian country and hope for the best? If they had plans (as they are all supposed to) why weren’t they implemented? Criminal incompetence doesn’t come close to what went on here.
Where’s the link?