Stay The Plan

WaPo, via Josh Marshall:

[T]he White House is cutting and running from “stay the course.” A phrase meant to connote steely resolve instead has become a symbol for being out of touch and rigid in the face of a war that seems to grow worse by the week, Republican strategists say. Democrats have now turned “stay the course” into an attack line in campaign commercials, and the Bush team is busy explaining that “stay the course” does not actually mean stay the course.

Instead, they have been emphasizing in recent weeks how adaptable the president’s Iraq policy actually is. Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. “What you have is not ‘stay the course’ but in fact a study in constant motion by the administration,” Snow said yesterday.

Political rhetoric, of course, is often in constant motion as well. But with midterm elections two weeks away, the Bush team is searching for a formula to address public opposition to the war, struggling to appear consistent and flexible at the same time. That was underscored by the reaction to a New York Times report that the administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to disarm militias and assume a larger security role. The White House initially called the story “inaccurate.” But then White House counselor Dan Bartlett went on CNN yesterday morning to call it “a little bit overwritten” because in fact it was something the administration had been doing for months.

Josh has worthy things to say at his own site. I would add that constantly changing strategy is what people do when they have no strategy at all. People strategize in order to anticipate what the enemy will do and build plans to account for it. The fact that this administration plainly acknowledges now that they cannot see one step ahead of our adversaries in Iraq should be taken as nothing less than a total failure on the part of our war planners.

Let’s be clear, only an idiot would claim that nobody anticipated the general contours of our current morass. Many did. The problem, and the eternal shame of the knuckle-chewing rabble known as “war hawks” in latter-day America, is the lunchroom egg fight that has somehow taken the place of what we used to call foreign policy debate. For their trouble the people who tried to steer policy in the right direction were shouted down, demonized, painted as appeasers and lovers of Saddam and thoroughly shut out of the planning process by the idiots and magical thinkers at the Pentagon, particularly the OSP, and Cheney’s gang of neoconservative poseurs.

Halfway responsible leaders like Eric Shinseki and, while I resist putting too much stock in his WMD-tarnished star, Colin Powell knew the right thing to do from the start. It stirs up a feeling other than pride to know that we sat Shinseki next to the neocons’ own Modern Major General Paul Wolfowitz and chose to go with the preening Gilbert and Sullivan character. Explaining to future historians how exactly that happened will take some work and more than a little chagrin on our part.

***Update***

Jason Sigger:

Let’s be clear – if all we’re doing is maintaining the same level of forces and trying to play “whack-a-mole” with insurgent attacks in multiple cities, then we are not “adjusting to what the other side is doing.” As Philip Carter notes, if we aren’t pushing forces out into the cities under fire, getting our best troops to act as advisors to the Iraqi units, and seriously address the political and economic issues in Iraq, then we’re not going be successful.

I stand corrected. While the government wants you to think that they have no plan whatsoever, in fact they do have a plan. It is just the same stupid stay-the-course plan that has done us no good for three years running.






32 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    I would only add that constantly changing strategy is what people do when they have no strategy at all. The entire point of strategy is to anticipate what the enemy will do and build your plans to account for it. The fact that this administration plainly acknowledges now that they cannot see one step ahead of our adversaries in Iraqthe Democratic Party should be taken as nothing less than a total failure on the part of our warpropoganda planners.

    Fixed.

  2. 2
    Salty Party Snax says:

    Somehow the David Bowie triumph “Changes” seems very appropriate here.

    I still don’t know what I was waiting for
    And my time was running wild
    A million dead-end streets
    Every time I though I’d got it made
    It seemed the taste was not so sweet
    So I turned myself to face me
    But I’ve never caught a glimpse
    Of how the others must see the faker
    I’m much too fast to take that test

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
    (Turn and face the strain)
    Ch-ch-changes

    Now if George, Rummy and Dick were to enter the White House press room arm in arm, then do some high kicks to this timeless classic, America would embrace and forgive them. Of that I am sure.

  3. 3

    The President doesn’t need a strategy when he has a strategery.

    Although, I’ll be honest. Iraq has not turned out as bad as my worst fears. I realized that it wouldn’t be sweets and flowers, as I think all thinking people did. But my worst fears were much greater violence. That being said, it’s still higher than my best hopes.

    A big factor in all of this is foreign support. The vietcong were supported by the Russian and Chinese governments with planes, tanks and so forth. While insurgents in Iraq do seem to be getting training and maybe some weapons from Iran, it’s nothing heavy but rather just light arms.

    Although, given US advanced armory, I don’t believe that heavy equipment would be a threat… more of a hindrance as it’d just leave them as sitting ducks. So in that sense, these people are a lot smarter than we may give them credit for.

    Ok, back to strategerizing on the strategy.

  4. 4
    Rudi says:

    The love affair with Shinseki ignores the fact that GS started the smaller hi-tech Army before the arrival of Rummy. He also had the Army pissing their pants over berets. In his defence, he also realised that the Army also needs cooks, truck drivers and engineers. Rummy and Wolfie used the man and then discarded him when he didn’t go along with their “noble lie”.

  5. 5
    Tim F. says:

    Although, I’ll be honest. Iraq has not turned out as bad as my worst fears.

    Wait until partition. The real fireworks will wait until the factions each have home territory and their own rival governments.

  6. 6
    Tulkinghorn says:

    Although, I’ll be honest. Iraq has not turned out as bad as my worst fears.

    One more Friedman unit and it will be worse.

    At least once there is a Democratic-controlled House there will be someone for Bush to blame the fiasco on. It won’t make sense, but 40% will gladly blame Pelosi once they get a chance.

  7. 7

    It stirs up a feeling other than pride to know that we sat Shinseki next to the neocons’ own Modern Major General Paul Wolfowitz and chose to go with the preening Gilbert and Sullivan character. Explaining to future historians how exactly that happened will take some work and more than a little chagrin on our part.

    They say history is written by the victors, but really it is written by he who shouts the loudest.

    I think it’s important to recognize the real failure made here was the decision to use force where there was no will to go all out. War is bloody. War is hell. So you go to war only when there is no other choice, and if you go you go balls to the wall all out.

    But while there was political will to hit somebody(as John Cole has admitted, he wanted to lash out), there was not the political will to do so if it was gonna cost a lot. That latter point right there should have been enough to cool saner minds.

    At one time this was called the Powell Doctrine, but I don’t think we can give Powell credit for it any longer since he abandoned it when it was politically expedient to do so. So we’ll call it the Lessons of Vietnam.

    As for this latest… It should be known as The Bush Folly.

  8. 8
    Tulkinghorn says:

    Th point being that once Bush has a domestic enemy of the state to blame the Iraq failure on, he will finally allow the withdrawal of American troops.

  9. 9

    Wait until partition. The real fireworks will wait until the factions each have home territory and their own rival governments.

    I guess I was thinking more in terms of US losses. I don’t think partition would result in that.

    What would result in high US losses is if we were to acknowledge that Iraq is in a civil war, *AND* we pick a side.

  10. 10
    Tim F. says:

    I guess I was thinking more in terms of US losses

    In that case your disconnect has to do with battlefield medicine. Vietnam didn’t have that many fewer casualties, but far more of ours make it to the operating room and out to Landstuhl with life-changing injuries, and fewer go home in a box. If I wasn’t so lazy I would look up the wounded-to-killed ratio to show that we have vastly better life procection than in recent conflicts, at the expense of limbs and permanent brain trauma.

  11. 11

    The love affair with Shinseki ignores the fact that GS started the smaller hi-tech Army before the arrival of Rummy.

    A smaller hi-tech, rapidly mobile, easily deployed force is a fly swatter and/or a first response.

    It’s not an occupation force. So it’s grossly unfair to try to pin the failure on Shinseki, when it was Rumsfeld who failed to use the concept correctly.

    Rumsfeld mistake was thinking that we could eliminate Hussein’s army and be left with a stable Iraq, without a need for anything additional. That’s a useful flyswatter strategy, but where they failed was leaving the soldiers there.

    A flyswatter is something you hang back up after the fly is dead.

    If our goal had been to take out Hussein, and then leave, the small mobile force backed with superior air power was a totally valid and effective weapon.

  12. 12

    In that case your disconnect has to do with battlefield medicine. Vietnam didn’t have that many fewer casualties, but far more of ours make it to the operating room and out to Landstuhl with life-changing injuries, and fewer go home in a box. If I wasn’t so lazy I would look up the wounded-to-killed ratio to show that we have vastly better life procection than in recent conflicts, at the expense of limbs and permanent brain trauma.

    Even more strange…

    Most of those coming back on transport planes are from “disease”?

    http://icasualties.org/oif/

  13. 13

    At least once there is a Democratic-controlled House there will be someone for Bush to blame the fiasco on. It won’t make sense, but 40% will gladly blame Pelosi once they get a chance.

    That’s what is going to happen. We all know it.

  14. 14
    t. jasper parnell says:

    “history is written by the winners” Actually as a historian I can say that, on a social level at least, we are a bunch of nerdy losers.

  15. 15
    Punchy says:

    I’ll be honest. Iraq has not turned out as bad as my worst fears

    Ha ha! TOS made a funny!

  16. 16
    Pb says:

    The problem, and the eternal shame of the knuckle-chewing rabble known as “war hawks” in latter-day America, is the lunchroom egg fight that has somehow taken the place of what we used to call foreign policy debate.

    I’m guessing this started around the time PowerPoint slides somehow took the place of what retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich called “the conventions traditionally governing the preparation and conduct of war”.

  17. 17
    Rudi says:

    To the flyswatter analogy, we hit a bee hive and killed the queen. GS says after the queen is dead a large force of exterminators is needed to clean up the hive. Rummy said kill the queen and to the aftermath – Whatever or Stuff happens. Iraq is now a swarm od bees without a queen.

  18. 18
    Jill says:

    Here is my comment that got eaten:

    How long until Bush and his minions start saying that “Bush never really supported this war”?

  19. 19
    Bender says:

    If I wasn’t so lazy I would look up the wounded-to-killed ratio to show that we have vastly better life procection than in recent conflicts, at the expense of limbs and permanent brain trauma.

    I think you’d only find that you’re spreading a popular myth that’s slowly being disproved by statistics. The military amputation rate (per wounded soldier) has actually dropped by about 30%, from 3.4% in Vietnam to 2.3% in the GWOT, according to the US Army Amputee Patient Care Database — Potter and Scoville’s study at jaaos.com — can’t get the link to the table to work for some reason.

    A more recent number from last month provided by Walter Reed hospital estimated that “upwards of 400” amputations have been done on soldiers from the Iraq theater — that works out to a 2% rate, if we accept the common number that 20K have been wounded in Iraq.

  20. 20
    Zifnab says:

    One more Friedman unit and it will be worse.

    What the hell is a Friedman unit? I can’t even find it on wikipedia.

  21. 21
    cd6 says:

    6 months

    See Atrios

  22. 22
    srv says:

    What the hell is a Friedman unit? I can’t even find it on wikipedia.

    So make a Wiki up. 6 months. Friedman repeatedly uses “in six months” to describe how much better things will be. He started using the phrase in 2002.

    What I want to know, is if none of us have been able to figure out what the last strategy was, how are we going to figure out the new “constant motion” strategy? Next it’ll be Unwavering Wavering, or Stay the Motion… I think they should try Spinnable Victory.

  23. 23
    craigie says:

    Stay the Motion is pretty good, but Whack-a-Mole must be the absolute tippy-top in accurate descriptions of what is going on.

  24. 24

    Planning to Stay With the Shifting Tactics of The Same Course:

    or something like that–a change of wording for the Bush Administration’s short-term and long-term Iraq policies: “Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. …

  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    So make a Wiki up.

    Maybe I will, srv. Maybe… I… will…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedman_Unit

  26. 26
    croatoan says:

    According to a recent Washington Post article, “the ratio of wounded to killed among U.S. forces in Iraq is about 8 to 1, compared with 3 to 1 in Vietnam.”

    In Iraq, fewer killed, more are wounded:

    The fatality rate is markedly less than in previous conflicts. But while all wars are different, the nature of combat in Iraq, plus advances in battlefield medicine, mean that the number of wounded remains relatively high.

    Meanwhile, experts at the University of Pennsylvania have examined Defense Department fatality figures for Iraq and Afghanistan to compare levels of risk between the services now and in earlier wars. What they found, said Professor Samuel Preston, a leading demographer, is that the fatality rate among service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan is “very much lower” than it was in the Vietnam War. But at the same time, Dr. Preston says, the relative number of nonfatal casualties is not much different from what it was in Vietnam.

    “In part, we’re able to keep injured people alive in a better way than we did before,” he said.

    Because of new body armor and advances in military medicine, for example, the ratio of combat-zone deaths to those wounded has dropped from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the numbers of those killed as a percentage of overall casualties is lower. At this writing [August 29, 2006], 2,955 American service men and women have been killed (2,622 in Iraq and 333 in Afghanistan), and 20,174 have been wounded.

  27. 27
    Lee says:

    Excellent, a new Wiki

  28. 28
    Punchy says:

    What the hell is a Friedman unit? I can’t even find it on wikipedia

    If it’s not on Wiki, it simply doesn’t exist.

  29. 29
    Tsulagi says:

    Yeah, the WIA to KIA ratio is much better in Iraq than say Vietnam. Better gear and what they can do in a CSH (Combat Support Hospital) is amazing. They really do have some quality doctors and equipment.

    One Army doctor in the 67th CSH had a really good blog until he was ordered to remove it about two years ago. Hard to understand why as he was pro-Bush and very pro-OIF. Guess he was violating OPSEC by acknowledging some soldiers get wounded.

    That doctor had some really good posts showing what they were capable of doing. Impressive. Also had some somewhat funny ones like why you wouldn’t want to act like a stud firing a 50 cal. during target practice between your legs as did one MP. A round didn’t chamber properly and exploded between his legs. A guy’s worst nightmare. The doc salvaged what was left and evac’d him to Landstuhl for more treatment and reconstruction. Even though he could have gotten a discharge, the MP pushed to come back to rejoin his unit six months later.

    Most of those coming back on transport planes are from “disease”?

    As would be expected, this admin plays with the numbers.

  30. 30
    crack says:

    I don’t think Bush understands the difference between strategies and tactics.

  31. 31
    t. jasper parnell says:

    “So the Romans saw when troubles were coming and always took counter-measures. They never, to avoid a war, allowed them to go unchecked, because they knew that three is no avoiding war; it can only be postsponed to the advantage of others. They made up their minds to wage war with Philip and Antiochus in Greece, in order not to have to do so in Italy” Nicccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Penguin, 2003) trans. George Bull, 12

    See, great minds think alike.

  32. 32

    […] As recently as this summer the GOP thought they still had national defense, that is to say Iraq, in the bag. So much for that. Republicans had “moral values” going for them, as long as by “values” you mean repressing teh gay and prudishly denying the existence of sex, until (Foley, Reynolds, Hastert again) that leg went up in a foul cloud. Maybe somebody out there can hear a Republican talk about “fiscal sanity” without tossing their cookies, I can’t. Most of us realize that if Dems reinstated taxes to the GOP’s precious Paris Hiltons then maybe we can start paying off the national credit card bill. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] As recently as this summer the GOP thought they still had national defense, that is to say Iraq, in the bag. So much for that. Republicans had “moral values” going for them, as long as by “values” you mean repressing teh gay and prudishly denying the existence of sex, until (Foley, Reynolds, Hastert again) that leg went up in a foul cloud. Maybe somebody out there can hear a Republican talk about “fiscal sanity” without tossing their cookies, I can’t. Most of us realize that if Dems reinstated taxes to the GOP’s precious Paris Hiltons then maybe we can start paying off the national credit card bill. […]

  2. Planning to Stay With the Shifting Tactics of The Same Course:

    or something like that–a change of wording for the Bush Administration’s short-term and long-term Iraq policies: “Bush remains steadfast about remaining in Iraq, they say, but constantly shifts tactics and methods in response to an adjusting enemy. …

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