Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Friction of War

Jerry Pournelle is one of my favorite Science Fiction writers who also is very well informed about both the hard and soft sciences. He recently wrote some interesting posts on his weblog that make sense:

"Actually, what I should have pointed out is that this is not the stuff of presidential debates. Presidents are not division commanders, much less the colonels of security regiments.
As to why we didn't know, it's called friction; see Clausewitz for details.
Will Kerry now personally take charge of military operations? At what level?
It is legitimate to debate whether we ought to be in that war; that is a presidential level decision.
Kerry did so for a while, realized that it was losing him votes every time he talked about it, and is now nit-picking the operational decisions. There's plenty to criticize. Much of the the operational level command in the war was dead wrong: no one expected the civilized people of Iraq to turn into Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and steal the telephone wire and urinals from the offices, and anyone who said that might happen was told he was politically incorrect and sent off to sensitivity training. But Kerry is not making that kind of criticism either; he doesn't dare be politically incorrect.
The ammunition dump issue is the equivalent of Mary Cheney so far as relevance to being President of the United States is concerned: the very fact that it assumes any importance in a presidential debate is pretty telling, but it tells against Kerry, who hasn't revealed his secret plan, nor told us how he will get more allies by trashing the ones we have. And the fact that the ammunition dump now seems to be his best issue tells me about all there is to tell about Kerry.
Had we not invaded, Saddam would have been free to do as he would with those munitions. It may be that there was a military blunder in not securing them (or in not bombing them out of existence to begin with, although that's not so easy with bunkered munitions) but if so, it was a blunder at a level well below the President of the United States. Some colonel may need to have his head handed to him; maybe even a two-star. But when you are planning a war of conquest against a power with a large army, and you are suddenly rolling to Baghdad and everything is collapsing around you, losing track of an ammunition dump is not a major issue.
I have before said that disbanding the Iraqi Army was a stupid mistake; but I have not heard Kerry say that, and that is the level at which he ought to be criticizing the operations of the war; not over an ammunition dump.

I don't like neocons much and Bush listened to them; but Kerry doesn't sound any different from the neocons, and it may be that having got his dose, Bush is cured of Wilsonianism. God knows Kerry isn't."


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