The Real Questions Worth Asking To Assess The Army's War Record

The Long March

Gen. Frederick Kroesen commanded a rifle company in World War II, a battalion in Korea, and a brigade and a division in Vietnam. When he talks, I listen.

But I think his column in the May issue of ARMY magazine is seriously off base. He sets out to assess the track record of Army generals in recent years. But then he says that the two criticisms of the Army are that military minds are inflexible and that those same minds always fight the last war.

That puzzled me because while I think the Army has been slow to adjust, I don’t think that is the primary critique. Foremost, I think, is that the Army doesn’t seem to know how to win its recent wars. The Kroesen view is that the civilians are to blame for that. But I wonder if Army leaders really have taken the risks they should have.

Here are my two basic questions for any serious critique of the Army’s performance since 9/11:

Did the Army shirk the mission given it by the Bush Administration in Iraq? I ask this because Paul Bremer led a revolutionary effort to transform Iraq. The Army’s response was to say, Nah, we don’t do revolutions, we do stability. But “stability” was not their assigned mission. Personally, I think the assigned mission was nuts. But the proper military response would have been to address that, instead of simply redefining it into something the generals were comfortable with. They undercut Bremer.

Has the Army candidly and soberly examined its shortcomings in Iraq? For example, how did its actions help create the Iraqi insurgency? Why did it make rookie mistakes like putting all prisoners into giant camps, effectively making them Universities of Jihad? Why did it take so long to become militarily effective in Iraq—I would say that happened in the spring of ’07. That’s almost as long as we fought in World War II.

But you don’t need to listen to me.  You can just turn a few pages of ARMY magazine to p. 19, where retired Lt. Col. Thomas Morgan writes that, “All our military seems to be able to do is ask for more troops and money. That is not the exit strategy we have been looking for. Today, the situation in Afghanistan is generally conceded to be worse than it has ever been.”

U.S. Army/Spc. Dustin D. Biven
(U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Force major drowned in a Caribbean Princess cruise ship pool Friday morning, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said

Stephen Osakue, 37, worked for the Air Force as a research pharmacist, according to a statement by the Medical Examiner's Office on Monday. Osakue was based at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.

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A Marine was killed in a crash near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Saturday afternoon.

Lance Cpl. Derrick Thirkill, 21, of Florence, Alabama, was an active-duty Marine stationed in Beaufort, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.

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An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.

While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.

At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.

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Photo: Lance Cpl. Taylor Cooper

The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.

Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.

"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.

The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.

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Photo: U.S. Army

A soldier was killed, and another injured, after a Humvee roll-over on Friday in Alaska's Yukon Training Area, the Army announced on Monday.

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