Rumsfeld's Design for War Criticized on the Battlefield
By BERNARD WEINRAUB with THOM SHANKER
New York Times
April 1, 2003
V CORPS HEADQUARTERS, near the Kuwait-Iraq border, March 31 —
Long-simmering tensions between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and
Army commanders have erupted in a series of complaints from officers on
the Iraqi battlefield that the Pentagon has not sent enough troops to
wage the war as they want to fight it.
Here today, raw nerves were obvious as officers compared Mr. Rumsfeld to
Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War who failed to grasp
the political and military realities of Vietnam.
One colonel, who spoke on the condition that his name be withheld, was
among the officers criticizing decisions to limit initial deployments of
troops to the region. "He wanted to fight this war on the cheap," the
colonel said. "He got what he wanted."
The angry remarks from the battlefield opened with comments made last
Thursday — and widely publicized Friday — by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace,
the V Corps commander, who said the military faced the likelihood of a
longer war than many strategists had anticipated.
The comments echo the tension in the bumpy relationship between Mr.
Rumsfeld and Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff.
Underlying the strains between Mr. Rumsfeld and the Army, which began at
the beginning of Mr. Rumsfeld's tenure, are questions that challenge not
only the Rumsfeld design for this war but also his broader approach to
transforming the military.
The first is why, in an era when American military dominance comes in
both the quality of its technology and of its troops, the defense
secretary prefers emphasizing long-range precision weapons to putting
boots on the ground.
At present, there are about 100,000 coalition troops inside Iraq, part of
more than 300,000 on land, at sea and in the air throughout the region
for the war. Just under 100,000 more troops stand ready for possible
Even after the war, some experts argue that it could take several hundred
thousand troops to hold and control a country the size of California,
with about 24 million people.
Mr. Rumsfeld has argued that he adopted this approach for flowing forces
to the region to prepare for war without upsetting the Bush
administration's diplomatic efforts.
The idea was to raise pressure on Iraq until President Bush made a
decision on whether or not to go to war, Mr. Rumsfeld has said.
Even some of Mr. Rumsfeld's advisers now acknowledge that they misjudged
the scope and intensity of resistance from Iraqi paramilitaries in the
south, and forced commanders to divert troops already stretched thin to
protect supply convoys and root out Hussein loyalists in Basra, Nasiriya
and Najaf. But they also point to the air campaign's successes in the
past few days in significantly weakening the Republican Guard divisions
around Baghdad. As one senior official said of the process that produced
the war plan, as well as the pace and sequencing of troops, "It was a
painful process to match the political and military goals."
One Army officer said General Wallace's comments — particularly that "the
enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against" —
were not meant to show defiance but merely express a view widely shared
among American officers in Iraq, at headquarters units in neighboring
Kuwait and back at the Pentagon. Some members of General Wallace's staff
have expressed concerns for the professional future of their boss.
Mr. Rumsfeld arrived at the Pentagon vowing to transform the military,
and senior aides promised to push aside what they described as hidebound
volumes of doctrine in order to create an armed force emphasizing combat
by long-range, precision strikes and expanding the most maneuverable
military assets, mostly ships, jets, drones, satellites and Special
Many in the Army thought the defense secretary had declared war on them,
which struck them as unfair, because the Army had invested as much
brainpower as any other service in transforming itself — perhaps because
it had to, since the Air Force, Navy and Marines were already more
In certain ways, the dissonance between Mr. Rumsfeld and General Shinseki
is surprising, because the general was himself the leading advocate of
reforming and modernizing the Army. In October 1999, General Shinseki
pledged to reshape the service from waging war by slog and slash, calling
for new theory and proposing new weapons to create a land force more
agile and precise in bringing lethal force to the battlefield.
"On the substantive issues, Shinseki and Rumsfeld share a large agenda,
about making the Army more deployable," said Michael O'Hanlon, senior
fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Shinseki was one of the first guys
out of the block with the concept, and it fit the world view Rumsfeld
brought to the Pentagon when he came in later.
"But their chemistry was just not great," Mr. O'Hanlon said.
But after he became defense secretary with the new Bush administration in
January 2001, Mr. Rumsfeld made the word transformation his own and his
vision of a more flexible and agile military often seemed to come at the
expense of General Shinseki's Army.
For example, in an effort to find money for an arsenal of new,
high-technology weapons, some of Mr. Rumsfeld's senior advisers proposed
cutting 2 of the Army's 10 active divisions; it is still not known how
seriously Mr. Rumsfeld considered the case, but the divisions survived.
Today, the war plan for Iraq was viewed by many in the service as
diminishing the Army role, because it placed a premium on speed and shock
and called for fewer ground forces to be in place when the war began,
planning to call in more only in case of battlefield surprises and
setbacks. But that takes time.
The Pentagon spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, said today that Mr. Rumsfeld
did not craft the war plan for Iraq with any intent to reward or punish
an individual armed service, and instead sees "a mix of services and
capabilities they offer." The war plan, she said, received "a careful
review and approval by all the chiefs."
"As we have made very clear, the secretary does share the vision of a
21st-century Army that faces the unconventional threats of today with new
and transforming capabilities," Ms. Clarke said. "The secretary has
worked hard with the Army to make those sorts of critical changes as
quickly as possible."
But what pushed General Shinseki afoul of the civilian leadership before
this war began were his comments on the levels of force that might be
needed to stabilize Iraq after the battles were over.
Pressed by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the ranking
minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Shinseki,
who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, said several hundred
thousand troops could be needed.
"Wildly off the mark," was how Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense
secretary, dismissed the Army chief's comments. Mr. Rumsfeld was a bit
more circumspect in his criticism, saying that the general had a right to
his opinion, but that this one would be proven wrong. Their public
comments were unusual and were widely interpreted in Washington as a
rebuke to General Shinseki, who is scheduled to retire in mid-June.
William L. Nash, a retired Army major general and veteran of the first
gulf war and the Bosnia mission, said of General Shinseki, "He is as fine
a soldier as I've ever served with, and his key characteristics are
loyalty, and professional competence."
General Nash, currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations, added, "It is extremely unfortunate that he has not had more
influence on the war planning and the allocation of forces."