Skip to comments.Wolfowitz Contradicts Shinseki over Iraqi Occupation
Posted on 02/28/2003 8:29:04 AM PST by Axion
Wolfowitz Contradicts Shinseki over Iraqi Occupation Summary
Feb 28, 2003
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Erik Shinseki said Feb. 25 that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed in Iraq following a war. However, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz contradicted that statement on Feb. 27, saying Shinseki's estimates were "wildly off the mark." When two important figures like this contradict each other, it always has strategic significance.
An interesting fight has broken out over the U.S. Army chief of staff's contention that Iraq would be occupied by hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops following a war. Gen. Erik Shinseki made that statement Feb. 25 at a Congressional hearing, without any immediate contradictions. Then, at hearings on Feb. 27, Democrats began attacking Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on the question of the war's cost -- at which point Wolfowitz broke with Shinseki, saying that his estimate was "wildly off the mark" and that the actual number of occupation forces would be closer to 100,000 troops.
The debate over the cost of the war is not particularly interesting. The Democrats know perfectly well that the cost of the war depends on how long the war lasts, how hard the fighting is and so on. Since no one knows that, a definitive answer is impossible. At the same time, the Bush administration has run the numbers along several contingencies and know more than officials want to tell Congress. Both sides are playing dumber than they are. It is wearying, but not important.
A split within the Defense Department on the scope of the occupation, however, is important. Shinseki is a careful man: He did not become chief of staff of the Army by casually throwing numbers around Congressional hearings, nor was his statement, widely circulated, immediately repudiated by civilian defense officials. From the evidence, it is clear to us that Shinseki was expressing defense policy as he knew it -- and the Army chief of staff, charged with personnel planning, certainly would have to be in the loop on a long-term deployment issue of that magnitude.
That make Wolfowitz's statement hard to fathom. Wolfowitz is also a careful man who knows these things will come back to bite him. Even under pressure from Congressmen looking to score points, Wolfowitz is not one to leave the Army chief of staff looking like a liar or fool, nor is he likely simply to buckle under hard questioning. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the Army plan and the plan of the Office of the Secretary of Defense seem to be off by a couple of hundred thousand troops -- a large part of the U.S. Army.
We suspect that the explanation for this mismatch lies in the definition of the term "occupying forces." Strictly speaking, occupying force are those charged with maintaining order and providing services in an occupied country. Troops in Kuwait, for example, are not occupying forces. They are based in Kuwait, but their mission is outside of the country; so, there can be troops occupying Iraq and troops based in Iraq and the missions are completely different.
If the Stratfor theory on the long-term U.S. strategy in Iraq is correct, U.S. troops will have two roles to play there. There will be an occupation force charged with managing Iraq's internal security and other issues. There also will be other troops based in Iraq -- not reporting to the occupation commander, but reporting to a war-fighting commander whose primary responsibility will be for operations outside of Iraq.
From Shinseki's point of view, looking at the aggregate numbers, the part of the U.S. Army that he will have to carve out of his manpower pool will run to the hundreds of thousands, and they will be eating their meals in Iraq. From a technical point of view, calling them occupying forces is "wildly inaccurate" because only a hundred thousand will be busy occupying the country while the rest will have other missions. From Wolfowitz's point of view as a strategic planner, it is that force that represents the striking power.
None of this is, of course, as innocent as it appears. Wolfowitz -- and President George W. Bush -- simply don't want to lay the long-term cards on the table at this time. They would rather be accused of attacking Iraq without reason than being viewed as being engaged in a long-term, well-thought-out campaign against other countries in the region. They certainly don't want to express the strategy during a cat fight with congressional Democrats.
All of this points at a core problem. The Bush administration's desire to make Iraq appear a stand-alone operation, without any strategic purpose behind getting rid of a very bad man, is highly vulnerable to attack from many directions. It's only virtue is that it keeps the administration from getting involved in complex questions that can complicate the war. It also makes officials look -- at one and the same time -- simplistic, devious and incompetent. When the deputy secretary of defense and the chief of staff of the Army cannot, within 48 hours of each other, provide Congress with consistent information -- and Wolfowitz must cover the strategy by making Shinseki look like he doesn't know what he is doing -- the situation is getting out of hand.
Once the war is concluded, if it is concluded well, these contradictions will be forgotten and the next strategic steps will unfold -- or so the administration's theory goes. That may be correct, and indeed, much of this is simply Washington chatter, of no consequence outside of Washington. Nevertheless, the intense strains of unarticulated strategic plans are showing.
- Gen Shinseki has been a lame duck for just about a year now. His replacement, the serving Vice Chief, was tapped to replace him an unheard of lead time of 14 or 15 months. I believe Shinseki leaves in June or July.
- The descrepancy in numbers for an eventual occupying force begs for Sec Def Rummy and/or Sec Army White to step in and clear things up. If they don't step in, I'd have to say the whole thing is an example of planned confusion or just plain old disinformation.
Hello, Bigg Red
Wolfwitz hid in college instead of going to Vietnam, and he's been a career bureaucrat ever since. Shinseki, on the other hand, graduated from the USMA and performed two combat tours in Vietnam, one as a forward artillery observer.
Wolfowitz's comments to Shinseki should consist of "no sir" and "yes sir"
His is the one who has been feeding bullcrap to Hackworth.
Combat per se insures no one bit of credibility... just experience. We don't know what decisions this guy MADE UNDER COMBAT. Just 'being there' is not enough...
Rumsfeld: He was asked, I believe, in a Senate hearing what the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for occupation of Iraq would be following the war. And he responded something like that; that he said he didn't know. And then they said, well, do you have a range? And so then he said, well, several hundred thousand, roughly what it would take to win the war. Something like that, I think.
The fact of the matter is the answer to the question that was posed to him is not knowable. We have no idea how long the war will last. We don't know to what extent there may or may not be weapons of mass destruction used. We don't know -- have any idea whether or not there would be ethnic strife. We don't know exactly how long it would take to find weapons of mass destruction and destroy them -- those sites. There are so many variables that it is not knowable.
However, I will say this; what is, I think, reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark. The reality is that we already have a number of countries that have offered to participate with their forces in stabilization activities, in the event force has to be used.
Second, it's not logical to me that it would take as many forces to win the war -- following the conflict as it would to win the war.
So I can assure you that there are so many variables that it's not possible to come out with a point answer to the question. You'd have to first say: If you assume this, this or this with respect to the variables, how many other forces are going to be participating besides ours? Until someone decides that there has to be a conflict and that the conflict's over, you're not going to know the answer to that question. So it's simply not knowable.
And I will say that I do think that any idea that it's several hundred thousand over any sustained period is simply not the case.