The truth about how women will be able to join the infantry came out today when the military admitted that they would change the current standards to come up with one that will allow women to be able to pass. This is disturbing news because when you’re in the military you have it drilled in your head that standards are meant to be achieved not changed to accommodate one’s own weakness. If women really belong in the Infantry then why will they not be required to pass the same standard that men have had to pass for years? If the military claims it will not lower standards to accommodate women then why are they changing the standard now that women will be allowed in?
Part III in our series takes a look at some of the major events of the war trying to assess how they look now that some time has passed. Be sure to check back in later this week as we conclude are series on the Iraq War trying to answer the question of was it worth it?
The Rationale For War
This to me is critical because the rest of the long, drawn out war is justified by the original rationale for war. The idea that Saddam was a threat because he had large stock piles of wmd was absurd. To believe that a man who was singularly focused on one thing, the survival of his regime, would endanger that regime by trying obtain wmd was beyond dumb. Couple this with the fact that most people are convinced that the administration lied about the evidence before the war and you have a serious problem. The real tragedy about this was that there were legitimate reasons to get rid of Saddam. Chief among those were that the West felt so insecure about Saddam and the threat of wmd that they killed more in Iraq by sanctions after the first Gulf War than were ever killed in the entire 2nd Gulf War. Read this disturbing quote below from 2003 right before the invasion to get an idea of how bad sanctions made life in Iraq.
“More than 3000 children are dying every week in Iraq as a result of the decade long embargo that was enforced on the country after its invasion of Kuwait, a new report says.
It puts the total increase in the number of children who have died as a result of the embargo at around 1.6 million since 1990, with year on year increases.”
I tried to find an official body count from the sanctions but of course that was pretty hard to do. The numbers I saw ranged from 1-2 million people killed by the sanctions. The number of civilians killed during entire 2nd war in Iraq ranged from a little over 100,000 to up to 600,000 (by far left groups). With this in mind it is clear that the sanctions were far more deadly to Iraqis than the actual war itself (not that it was any less horrific). To me in the final analysis the better rationale for war was to have been based on the idea that the sanctions had to end to save Iraqi lives.
Heralded at the time as one of the great feats of military prowess with a full 10 years to reflect on the event I would imagine most unbiased observers would be less impressed. The pros were that ground units did rapidly advance (supposedly faster and farther than any before) from Kuwait to the capital of Baghdad, but the to be honest most Iraqi army units decided not to fight, although some irregular units chose to engage and there were some intense fights they were almost all small in size. The point is that yes the invasion forces may have advanced at unprecedented speed but it’s not as if they fought massive battles with tens of thousands of soldiers squaring off against each other (having said that I have no doubt that for individual soldiers facing even small unit engagements that the intensity, fear, and yes probably some exhilaration of the fights were extremely real). Cons are fairly numerous. The small size of the invasion force made it difficult to properly secure even areas that had been supposedly liberated. This had the effect of leaving the impression to some Iraqis that they had survived the worst the Americans could throw at them, in other words they had not been defeated and still had plenty of fight left in them. This also had another consequence for the occupation because there were so few troops they could not secure critical infrastructure (most probably remember Iraqis looting government buildings) and also they couldn’t secure the many weapons caches, depots, army bases etc. etc.. All of those mentioned would later go on to help fuel the insurgency. When Gen. Shinseki testified before the invasion to congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq he didn’t just pull the number out of the air. He came up with the number based on the US Army’s extensive peacekeeping operations in the Balkans during the 90’s. Rumsfeld famously lashed out at Shinseki replying that of course it would not take more troops to secure the peace than it did to win the war. This statement by Rumsfeld showed to all his lack of understanding of modern war, unfortunately both Iraq and America paid for his ignorance.
To say the American effort in Iraq was on life support in late 2006 is an understatement. The American people were tired of the war and fed up with the administration’s oft-repeated line that the media only reported the bad things in Iraq (as if they were missing the real story of progress). With democrats sweeping to power in congress things were definitely going to change in Iraq. To most people’s surprise that change was an increase in troops and a change in strategy that called for securing the civilian population instead of remaining on base to avoid casualties. This change in strategy called for new leadership so Gen. Casey was out as Multi-National Forces Commander Iraq to be replaced by Gen. Odierno. Gen. Abizaid was also replaced by Gen. Petraeus as the CentCom Commander. Finally Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates as Sec. Def.. The results were dramatic and a situation that looked hopeless now showed some promise that Iraq might actually have a chance. The US has only been out of Iraq for only a few short years so its hard to say whether the Iraqi government will continue to progress. We do know that violence still occurs regularly in Iraq. In looking at the surge and trying to assess its impact knowing that the final chapter about Iraq still is yet to be written I think its fair to say that the surge did not win the war in Iraq but it did prevent the US from losing it for the time being.
It was my hope to talk about other important events in Iraq like Fallujah, the Mahdi Militia and so on but for the sake of time I limited it to the invasion and the surge. Tune in later this week as I finish the series as the question of whether the war was worth it is explored.
Part II of our series on the Iraq War looks at the generals and their legacies. Will they be remembered as heroes of the nation or will they be synonymous with failure. Also stay tuned for part III when we take a look at the major events in the war like the invasion and the surge and try to answer the question of was it worth it?
No general came out of the war looking better than Petraeus. He started the war during the invasion as a 2 star general commanding the famed 101st Airborne Division. As invasion turned to occupation Petraeus was one of the few generals that understood the US military was facing a legitimate insurgency and he actually had ideas about how to deal with it effectively. His embrace of counter insurgency warfare from the start meant that he would go on to play a key role throughout the long war. After commanding the 101st he was then assigned several tasks including writing the army’s manual for counter insurgency warfare and also leading the effort to train Iraq’s new army. It should be noted that his effort to train the Iraqi military was not a stellar success. Whether it was because Rumsfeld and the pentagon never fully bought into the concept or maybe he just didn’t get the job done, what ever the reason there is that blemish. Of course it was later when Petraeus was appointed by Bush as CentCom Commander that he gained his real fame leading the surge and preventing total humiliation in Iraq for America. History will look back on him as an innovative commander who when offered a significant command when his nation was in dire need he was able to use that position to reverse a disastrous situation.
To me Odierno really represented the US Army as a whole because he was there during the initial invasion (as commander of the 4th Infantry division that was late getting into the fight because the Turks would not allow them access) and frankly probably did some things wrong, overly aggressive around civilians etc. However he was able to transform and help lead the change as the lead general in Iraq during the surge. To me that is no small achievement and I think he deserves great credit. He currently serves as the US Army Chief of Staff where unfortunately he has stained his record by offering no resistance to women in the infantry but that is another matter entirely. Also of note his son served in Iraq as a young officer and was seriously wounded losing an arm. I think it is always a good thing when those who send our sons and daughters into harm’s way also have their own family members sharing the same risks.
Abizaid took command of CentCom in late summer of 2003 when Rumsfeld still refused to acknowledge that there was an insurgency. To his credit at his first news conference he quickly reversed course for Rumsfeld by admitting we were in an insurgent war. Unfortunately Abizaid would be crippled by incompetent commanders in Iraq (remember as CentCom Commander Abizaid would not be the general in Iraq leading the effort on the ground). He had the misfortune of having two duds (courtesy of Rumsfeld) to carry out the war effort in Iraq. He was a big proponent of using fewer troops arguing that the more Americans that were in Iraq the more hostile the populace would become. Unfortunately for him that strategy was ultimately disproved by the surge.
He was one of the two duds I referred to that Abizaid was cursed with to run the war in Iraq. He was quickly appointed as the ground commander in Iraq after the initial invasion while he was still only a 3 star commander. It was said that because his command had only been a 3 star command that he did not have nearly enough support staff to run his new 4 star appointment (I believe this came out of the book Fiasco by Tom Ricks but it has been so long I can’t say for sure) which meant that America’s lead officer on the ground was both inexperienced and under staffed to run a 4 star command. This was not unusual for a Rumsfeld appointment, frankly it appears that Rumsfeld liked people who wouldn’t stand up for themselves against him (Sanchez replaced Gen. Wallace who was a real 4 star because many speculated that he didn’t get along with Rumsfeld). The end result of Sanchez’s tenure was the insurgency picked up steam partly as a result of his aggressive intelligence gathering techniques which relied on picking up suspects and sending them to Abu Ghraib (we all know how that ended up).
The other dud that Abizaid was cursed with to lead the war in Iraq. Another Rumsfeld appointee whose only real qualification was that he wouldn’t tell Rumsfeld no (we are beginning to see a pattern here). His major contribution to the war effort was an idea that to win the war we had to keep casualties down so he ordered troops to stay on base instead of conducting security sweeps. The results were a total disaster for Iraq and America. The insurgents ran wild killing civilians and humiliating America. After his time in Iraq he was rewarded with the Army Chief of Staff position and Sen. McCain famously said that based on his time in Iraq he didn’t deserve to be rewarded with the position.
Much like Colin Powell Tommy Franks to me is another wild card, whether he was hero or villain is quite complex. The case against Franks is that the insurgency took root while he was still in command. In his defense it appears that Franks was told that he did not have to worry about Iraq once Saddam had been toppled. That a whole separate command was to be in charge of post-war Iraq. If this were true (once again I believe this came from Fiasco by Tom Ricks) it would be hard to blame Franks for this. Also supporting Franks case for hero was that he had to fight Rumsfeld tooth and nail for even the bare minimum of forces necessary to win the invasion. This is no small accomplishment and in my opinion Franks probably helped avert a national disaster by insisting on more troops (moron civilians in the pentagon were calling for only 75,000 troops). The fact that Franks was even the commander for the invasion is evidence of Rumsfeld’s tough time getting along with army generals. Franks was due to rotate out of command of CentCom before the invasion. In an article in Time or Newsweek before the invasion it detailed how Rumsfeld couldn’t find anyone he had confidence in to replace Franks so he asked him to stay on for the invasion. This sounds ok at first but the fact that Franks did not want to stay past the invasion(he was tired after having already led the fight in Afghanistan) was the reason Rumsfeld came up with idea of shifting responsibility for post war Iraq to a whole different command. It was that decision that paved the way for the insurgency to take hold because Franks planned his invasion without post war Iraq in mind.
I wanted to briefly mention Shinseki who was army chief of staff at the time of the invasion. Remember it was Shinseki who testified to congress before the war that it would take several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq effectively. He was then savaged in the worst way by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Of course Shinseki was ultimately proved right and to many he has become a hero for standing up to those bullies.
In closing, we have mentioned only the major players in the war. Basically all (except Shinseki) were either CentCom Commander or Mult-National Forces Iraq Commander. There are many others who made significant contributions to the war, but it is these men who held the command positions to influence the war the most. Because of this it is these men that history will hold accountable for the war effort in Iraq.
There has been quite the uproar about the recent decision to open up combat jobs for women including infantry and special operations. We have even debated the subject once already on this site in an earlier post but I thought it might be convenient if I could list some of the bigger reasons why it is a bad idea for women to be allowed into ground combat. First, let me say that I do recognize that women are already in combat and to some degree this new ruling only recognizes this new reality. My real problem with this new ruling is that it will allow women into the infantry where I think their presence and the army’s long track record of accommodating women will combine to compromise America’s military readiness.
First, I don’t care anyway you slice it but women are physically weaker than men, period. No matter how hard some people might try to convince you otherwise the facts are they are weaker.
Second, even though some “miracles of nature” are out there and a very few could probably pass infantry AIT (advanced individual training) this by no means is a guarantee that they will go on to a successful career in the infantry. This is because of the brutal nature of life in the infantry which will go on to wear down people over time. Constant road marching and patrolling beat the body down over time even in a training environment. Throw in combat into the mix and the stress on the body takes a giant leap.
Third, women already suffer from significantly higher injury rates than men. Approximately twice as many women as men get injured now in basic training, but they haven’t even started training to be in the infantry yet. Those numbers come out of the already relaxed basic training environments of Ft. Jackson. Not the home of the Infantry at Ft. Benning. How much worse will the injury rates be once they start training to become infantry?
Fourth, in the first gulf war (I can’t give you statistics on the latest wars since the military conveniently decided to not track them this time around) women in the army were 3x more likely to fail to deploy as men when their units were ordered overseas. Its bad enough when support units go to combat undermanned but should we really penalize infantry units with women who are less likely to answer the bell?
Fifth, the US Army already has an abysmal record of over 30 yrs. of weakening standards so women can pass. For example, women have a different PT standard than men that is significantly lower than what men are required to do. Training is often weakened to accommodate women which compromises male military readiness. An example of this is combatives training. Because women are being trained to literally fight against men they are trained with male sparring partners and are being hurt so often that the army is looking for ways to tone down the training.
Lastly, in an era of shrinking defense budgets when every dollar counts do we really want to pour finite resources into training people for a job that they are just not as well equipped to handle? I think not.
Word came out yesterday that the US Army and Marine Corps would be forced to integrate women into ground combat units like the infantry. Despite all the evidence from numerous tests and experiments the military has done that show women are physically not up to the job senior leaders decided that women deserved the chance. Young men in our infantry units will soon be in increased danger because they will have to serve with inferior soldiers who endanger the lives of the entire units the serve in because they are physically weaker than male soldiers. One defense official was quoted as saying that “The objective was ‘to open up positions to men and women with a gender-neutral standard’ which may require an adjustment – but not a lowering – of physical qualifications, a senior DOD official said”. Notice the official already has admitted that the standards will have to be changed but of course they won’t be lowered. This is an embarrassment, this is the kind of thing that you would find in a European army that focuses on training for the next parade instead of the next war. I feel sorry for those male grunts that will have to be maimed or killed just so some woman can punch her promotion ticket.
I came across this awesome story about a weapon system called the “Meat Chopper”, what a great name. Basically the deal is this weapon was originally designed to shoot down low flying German pilots who liked to strafe allied positions during World War II. To accomplish this it was designed with four M-2 50 caliber machine guns spinning on a battery-powered turret with the gunner sitting behind some armor plating. Supposedly it was pretty effective at handling the Nazi pilots, but it earned real fame and recognition when it was employed as an anti-personnel weapon. Any of you who have ever witnessed what a single 50 cal. machine gun can do to an object like a vehicle, a brick wall, God forbid a human being (a buddy of mine who frequently used the 50 cal. in Iraq described its effect on a man as “tomato sauce”), can only imagine what four of them mounted on a single turret could do to a platoon of Nazi infantry. Spitting out an insane 2200 50 cal. rounds a minute you can quickly picture the annihilation in your mind. Modern “gatling” style multi barrel chain guns can fire more rounds per minute than the “Meat Chopper” but most are only 7.62, which does not carry anything near the punch the 50 cal. does. The only thing that really seems better than this would be the old Phalanx anti-aircraft weapon, which was a gatling type firing 20mm shells. But it was so big it had to be mounted on M-113 so it is not really a fair comparison. Anyways for more info check out the original below at www.Guns.com.
PS. Yes, I do know this really has nothing to do with what this blog is supposed to be about but how can anyone not be interested in learning about a weapon called the “Meat Chopper”.
In what has to be considered one of the biggest pranks in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize the panel in charge of giving out the award decided on the European Union as this years recipient. The rationale is simple I suppose in that one of the reasons the EU was founded was to integrate Europe to lessen the chance for war between member countries. Since its founding no member state has fought another. What those in charge of the award seem to have conveniently forgotten was the role that NATO played in Europe since the end of World War II. Specifically the contributions of the US, UK, and Canada. For it was these 3 members of NATO that do not reside on the continent of Europe but still provided literally hundreds of thousands of soldiers as a part of the NATO frame work to keep the peace on the continent that should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The reason I say this is simple because nothing the EU is credited with having done would have been possible without the soldiers from these countries literally making the possibility of war between member states all but impossible. Frankly the award being given to the EU for what NATO really accomplished is a slap in the face to all those who served in Europe as a part of NATO. The reality of what happened last week was that the EU received an award that NATO should have been given. This happened not because the EU deserved the award but because the EU is falling apart and those in charge wanted to give the organization some positive news for once. This attempt at positive reinforcement failed miserably because any rational thinkers outside of mainland Europe know the EU is undeserving of the award. The end result has thus been to further tarnish a damaged brand that already had looked incredibly incompetent after awarding the prize to President Obama who had done nothing to deserve it. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that the award and the publicity that goes with it just is not what it has been hyped up to be. To be honest it has become a joke.