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March 27, 2003

Officer X
Posted by Teresa at 03:30 PM *

Further recommendations for getting good-quality news: 1. Go to The Daily Kos and search on “Officer X”. 2. Read Officer X’s communiques.

The deal: The pseudonymous Kos has a friend named Billmon. I can’t tell whether he has posting privileges on TDK, but he’s clearly a friend of the weblog. In his turn, Billmon is acquainted with Officer X, who made his first appearance in TDK on Tuesday morning with a piece called What the Experts Are Saying. It starts with Billmon’s introduction:
A reporter friend of mine just slipped me something interesting. It’s a background analysis of the situation facing the coalition forces in front of Baghdad, written by a fairly well known military officer and commentator who under the circumstances is going to have to remain unidentified, other than to say that he is fairly well known military officer and commentator. I was told I could post this as long as I carefully scrubbed out all personal references, which I think (hope) I’ve done.

This memo doesn’t spill any secrets, but it is a thoughtful analysis based on Officer X’s conversations with some of his colleagues — all of whom are harshly critical of the war plan and Rumsfeld’s meddling with it. I’ve added descriptions of some of the acronyms, and cleaned up the spelling a bit. Otherwise it is verbatim:

The “Shock and Awe” campaign failed completely. The traditional term of “Mass” has not been used by ground forces. Air power has supplied the mass, while the ground forces have suffered from “economy of force” being redefined. The march of 3rd ID (infantry division), while amazing, has left huge supply lines from Kuwait. These supply lines do not seem to be well guarded. The Apache attack on the Medina division was largely ineffective.

The 4th Generation War has begun with the fragging of the BDE TOC of the 101st by a Muslim soldier, and the use of irregular forces in Umm Qasr, Basra, Nasiriya and Al Najaf. Basra has not been taken yet, nor has Nasiriya.

The lack of ground forces, combined with Turkey’s refusal to allow 4th ID to attack from the North, has allowed Iraqi forces to concentrate their efforts on the Euphrates River and the numerous axes of advance from the South.

If one or two heavy divisions were on the ground, the Iraqi OODA (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) Loop would be lengthened significantly. Instead of the Allied three division elements attacking at once, there would be at least a somewhat equal amount of Divisions on the ground to tackle the 6-8 Republican Guard Divisions in and around Baghdad. …
And so on. Officer X weighed in again today, with more startlingly blunt commentary, in More from Officer X:
…Now look at how the top leadership is changing or modifying their stories, from quick victories to explaining a longer war.

It has now gotten to the point that arrogance and an obession with technology undermines our ability to come up with effective grand strategy and (word missing) strategy, conduct operational art, and focus on the tactical battle as the means to the end to accomplishing those goals.

The CENTCOM plan: My perception

The plan was based on the false assumptions that the Iraqis would not fight, the people would welcome us, and that airpower would dominate and force — through the immature “shock and awe” or “effects based targeting” — the Iraqis to submit. The Army was only there to march and occupy Baghdad as an occupation force.

This explains in part why the force is small to conquer such a country. On the other hand, it is not too small — don’t let the generals say otherwise. They see strength as risk averse. The force was not task organized correctly and maneuver warfare was not applied correctly.

The M1s were too dispersed, particularly among the Marines, in equality. The 3ID (infantry division) took their entire trains instead of organzing into battle groups with resupply by air. The 3 ID battle groups should have taken the same route, but used the Marines to secure the western bank of the Euphrates.

The 101st could be used to secure FARRPS (forward area rearm and refuel points) to keep the forward edge of the 3 ID supplied. Use a mixture of Longbows and A10s constantly overhead of the advancing Armor to blow paths in front of the columns as they move.

The Brit battlegroups should have advanced with the 3rd ID. The Marines would establish a series of Guard and Screening forces west and south of the Euphrates River as the main effort advanced.

Use all air power to associate with the movement of the ground force, either as close air or tactical battlefield integration.

We are now just discovering the fallecy of our planning. The troops are working and fighting hard — I am really proud of them — but we have not even began to fight the Republican Guard. It also seems the Iraqis studied the Kosovo War and the Serbians. But even 3-7 (Cavalry Squadron), after days of light contact, lost 2-3 tanks and a Bradley because they drove into an ambush. Only the incredible fire power of the U.S. and the mobility of the M1A1 (defined as the ability to maneuver under fire) saved 3-7 CAV.
Do I believe in Officer X? Maybe I do. Maybe it doesn’t matter. His writing may not fingerprint as clearly as Salam Pax’s, but it has a coherent intelligence and a sense of context. More to the point, it’s very illuminating.
Comments on Officer X:
#1 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2003, 06:25 PM:

I guess we will not be sure until afterwards, but I agree, this sounds right, and somebody in the chain between the putative Officer X and Kos knows the current military strategy buzzwords.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2003, 06:34 PM:

Well, it sounds like the Administration might have gotten a bit fed up with the armchair generals: Richard Perle has apparently resigned his advisory post.

Good riddance.

#3 ::: --k. ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2003, 07:45 PM:

Billmon has had posting privileges in the past; he was one of the guest hosts during Kos's last blogging break.

Perle has resigned as Chair of the Defense Policy Board; apparently, Rumsfeld has said he wants Perle to stay on as a member. And Perle is almost certainly stepping down due to conflict-of-interest firestorms (if not spending more time with his family); no way any neocon is going to admit it's the overall battle plan that has totally haywire. More's the pity, for all of us. The thing to keep in mind on this: Thomas White is still Secretary of the Army.

#4 ::: David Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 02:05 AM:

It's not just a case of buzzwords, it's the jargon. In the past, I've read quite a few bits and pieces that come out of the inside of the US Army, all openly published, and the feel of the writing is right.

I'd class things like "Shock and Awe" as buzzwords. Officer X is using terms such as "grand strategy" in the right sort of context.

I can't judge just how far up the tree he might be, or judge the vague attributions, but the thinking seems to hang together, to this civilian at least. Whether there are details which make some of the criticisms invalid, I just don't know. I don't know enough of the logistics of supporting a larger force from Kuwait, for instance.

#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 05:23 AM:

"It has now gotten to the point that arrogance and an obession with technology undermines our ability to come up with effective grand strategy ..., conduct operational art, and focus on the tactical battle as the means to the end to accomplishing those goals."

The dotcom war.

#6 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:45 AM:

I was in the car with a friend when NPR was giving some of the first news reports about the attacks and ambushes on the American supply lines.

We looked at each other after the report and said, almost simultaneously:

"They traded security for mileage." (They also traded security for headlines that could say HALFWAY TO BAGHDAD two days into the war.)

As we went into this war, I had my fingers crossed in the hope that, while we might have fools and poltroons in the White House, at least our generals were smart enough to make decent war plans.

Just goes to show, I guess, that "Stupidity is contagious; smart isn't."

-- Bruce


"-Real- Christians don't practice human sacrifice."

#7 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:56 AM:

Perle only stepped down as chair of the committee. He's still remaining on the committee, though.

#8 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 10:29 AM:

Bruce, the generals are smart enough; the commander-in-chief is another story. And his failure of imagination--his apparent inability to put himself in the shoes of anyone differently socially placed, whether that person be an Iraqi, a welfare mother, or an alleged murderer--may be worse than his other limitations.

David, I agree--this sounds right.

In the broader picture, I believe the strategic mistake here is the classic one of believing one's propaganda about the moral failings of our enemies.

The plan was based on the false assumptions that the Iraqis would not fight, the people would welcome us, and that airpower would dominate and force 97 through the immature 93shock and awe94 or 93effects based targeting94 97 the Iraqis to submit. The Army was only there to march and occupy Baghdad as an occupation force.

The belief that the enemy are cowards who will fold at the first show of force has, over the years, tempted many political leaders into foolish wars. But it's all nonsense--wars aren't won by symbolic gestures; one or the other side has to be disabled or decide it's not worth it.

I've no doubt the USA can win this war if it so chooses--"Officer X's" proposal being a possible strategy. But at the end there's going to be a hard choice between taking the cities with considerable "Coalition" casualties (10-100 thousand) and taking the cities by cutting off their water supplies, killing many Iraqi civilians. As far as I can tell, that decision--or the alternative choice to withdraw because of an unwillingness to do either or to do something else that I cannot now imagine--will fall to W. Bush. I can only hope that, finally, his imagination will awaken in time for him to choose well.

#9 ::: CN ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 12:02 PM:

"I can only hope that, finally, his imagination will awaken in time for him to choose well"

Why would it do that? He's screwed up everything else he's ever touched, why would he suddenly grow competence now?

#10 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 01:39 PM:

Just a note: Daily Kos is undergoing both server and software upgrades right now, so don't worry if you can't connect. Normally the site is very fast, but he warns that access may be intermittent over the next few days. Me, I plan to check back after the weekend.

#11 ::: Edd ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 03:03 PM:

Are there any mirrors for Kos? Maybe we can take some of the pressure off his site.

#12 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 03:23 PM:

I don't know. I have no connection with DKos, except for reading it assiduously. It's just that I've been having trouble getting through since last night, but when I did manage to connect, the top post contained the above information about upgrades. Since people here might be experiencing failures trying to follow Teresa's links, I thought I'd pass the info along.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 05:10 PM:

Kos is back up, and with the help of reader contributions has upgraded his weblog setup. What took him down was the strain of his comments threads. It's not surprising. I've seen some of his threads hit three-digit message counts within a few hours.

I admire The Daily Kos's discussions. Many of the posts are substantial, very few are uncivil, and there's real rhetorical engagement. I like mine better, of course; but I'm biased.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 10:34 PM:

What's been remarkable is the number and rank of military professionals who have been using non-traditional means to get their messages out to the US public. See for example this bit quoted in Electrolite.

Bruce, above, said: "As we went into this war, I had my fingers crossed in the hope that, while we might have fools and poltroons in the White House, at least our generals were smart enough to make decent war plans.

"Just goes to show, I guess, that 'Stupidity is contagious; smart isn't.'"

It should be obvious by now that the military knew what was coming, but (after arguing Donald "McNamara Jr." Rumsfeld up to 125,000 troops from his proposed 75,000) at the end had nothing to choose between but saying "Yes, sir," or resigning. The US has a long tradition of the military following the orders of the policital/civilian/elected leaders. This is a good thing.

I don't think that you'll find anyone who supports the troops more than me. I'm worried now about my brothers and sisters under arms.

I supported (and still support) the war in Afghanistan -- there was a clear attack, military response was justified, and undertaken. The world agreed and stood by our side, and offered their aid. That war continues, and needs to be prosecuted to the fullest, in accordance with the highest traditions of the USA. To victory, which includes the creation of a peaceful, prosperous, self-governing country.

Now that support has been thrown away in pursuit of ... what?

I am sick at heart. And I'm certain that many of my brothers in arms are equally horrified by the orders that have been given. They will perform them well. We are superbly equipped, brilliantly led, wonderfully trained. The average American grunt would be an elite soldier in any other army in the world.

But what shall we do when God is no longer on our side? See also what is required for a just war to exist.

Alas, alas.

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