Jewish World Review April 28, 2003 / 26 Nisan, 5763
Loser generals : They shot (off their mouths) and missed
TACTICAL ASSEMBLY AREA BLOOD, Kuwaiti desert
It wasn't a good war for retired Army generals Wesley Clark and Barry
McCaffrey. They were harshly critical of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
and of the Coalition battle plan, for which they said Rumsfeld was
"The two big losers of the war in the media were Gen. Barry McCaffrey and
Wesley Clark," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry
Sabato. "They were so wrong. They got way out on a limb on criticizing the
Pentagon and the war plan and obviously the success of the operation cut the
Clark, an Arkansas native who was NATO commander during the Kosovo war, has
been testing the waters for a possible run as a Democratic candidate for
president next year. McCaffrey, who was President Clinton's drug czar, also
is thought by some to harbor political ambitions. Both are close to the
current Army chief of Staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, who is expected to seek the
seat of Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, if Inouye chooses not to run for
re-election next year.
But if Clark and McCaffrey could be said to be political generals, the
politics they were playing is more Pentagon politics than partisan politics.
The fighting in Iraq is nearly over. But each year the services battle over
budget share. The Army had a good war in Iraq. But it might not fare so well
in the budget battles to come.
Some in the Army think Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "hates" the Army.
Clark and McCaffrey have been foremost among retired Army general officers
who express this view.
Clark and McCaffrey fear that Rumsfeld may propose major reductions in the
Army's force structure to pay for modernization. One paper circulating in
the Pentagon proposes reducing the Army from its current 10 active divisions
The primary reason for charging that not enough combat units were used for
the Iraq war is to head off such a drastic reduction in force.
I'm among those who think it would be a mistake to reduce the size of the
Army at least while the war on terror is still going on. But I think a case
can be made for reducing the size of the Army in the future.
The Army used only one of its heavy divisions when the fighting was intense
in Iraq. The Third Infantry and the less heavily armored First Marine
Expeditionary Force proved more than a match for the Republican Guard. And
in what future war are we likely to need many more heavy divisions than we
needed to defeat Iraq? Syria would be easier to take, and we would be insane
to fight a land war in China or in Korea.
The Army has responded more slowly than any other service to the changed
geopolitical environment since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Six of the
10 active divisions are "heavy" divisions, designed for meeting the Soviet
hordes on the central German plain. These are all but invincible on a
conventional battlefield, as the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized)
demonstrated in Iraq, but it is expensive and time-consuming to move them
anywhere, and they are not as well suited as lighter forces for chasing
guerrillas through the hills, or for peacekeeping.
Meanwhile, the light divisions - especially the 82nd Airborne Division and
the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) - are overworked. The Army may not
need more troops. But it needs more troops it can use.
The First Cavalry Division - one of the six "heavies" - was the first Air
Assault Division. It should be made so again. This would relieve the strain
on the 82nd and the 101st, and provide a larger base from which to draw
soldiers qualified to serve in the Ranger battalions and in Special Forces.
If the Army's leaders were to show themselves to be more in tune with
current geopolitical needs, Secretary Rumsfeld would be more likely to treat
the Army with greater respect.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly