Cobra II

I finally finished this book and I feel a little like former General Robert Scales, there is so much I find wrong with it that it might take a whole book to tell it. Victor Davis Hanson has also described some of the inadequacies of the book.

One of the real weaknesses of the book is that it is written like an appelate brief that ignores the adversaries arguments and worse their factual assertions.

One of the themes of the book is that the military was not provided enough troops and that interference from Rumsfeld caused the military to have a flawed plan. If that were the case, it would make sense to explain why every component commander on the Centcom staff confirmed to the President right before the war that they were satisfied with the plan and they had what they needed to win. These confirmations from many of the men were sources for the book. Were they being dishonest with the President or where they attempting to avoid responsibility when they talked to the author? Gordon and Trainer make one casual reference to the video conference but never address the way it refutes a central premise of the book. You can find a transcript of the conference in the Prolog to Tommy Franks' American Soldier. There is a brief excerpt from the transcript in this post.

Another weakness is the argument about the importance of the Fedayeen. Gordon and Washington Post reporter Rick Atkinson wrote a neo quagmirest piece in their respestive papers about a comment made by General Scott Wallace when he said that the threat posed by the fedayeen was "a bit" different from what they had war gamed for. Note Wallace did not say that his troops could not handle them. In fact they were little more than a speed bump on the way to Baghdad as Franks described them.

In fact the Centcom staff and Franks came up with pretty good way of eliminating a large part of the Fedayeen on the way to Baghdad that Trainor and Gordon, again, do not even discuss. The intelligence analyst noticed that the Fedayeen would come back from their attacks and "puddle" around Baath Party headquaters or Iraqi intelligence offices in the towns along the route. Franks told the staff to bomb those buildings when the "puddles" were at their maximum. Reports on these attacks were usually limited to just saying that the building had been destroyed, because we did not want to tip the Fedayeen and let them know why we happened to bomb those building when we did. The authors never discuss this tactic of dealing with the enemy and write as if the Fedayeen survived to start the insurgency

The Fedayeen that did make up the insurgency was actually mostly in Anbar province where Saddam thought an attack from Jordon was imminent. Since they were not on the invasion route they never got the puddling treatment.

Another element of the Fedayeen treatment that the authors do not explore is the fact that they were virtually all foreign terrorist hired and trained by Saddam and his sons. While critics of the war have argued that there were no terrorist in the country before the war, the evidence is clear that Saddam had broungt them in by the thousands to terrorize the Shia in the south as well as his other internal enemies.

The criticisms in the book also contain internal contradictions. At the same time they criticize the Bush administration for a plan to rely on Iraqi police in the post war phase, they also criticize them for not relying on Saddam's army which ran away. They do not really explain why the army that ran away would have been more reliable than the police. The unfortunate fact is that neither was reliable

Another internal contradiction involves the argument for more troops in the post war phase versus not wanting to act like an occupying power. While my own belief is that it is better to be an occupying power than to have to pay for the same real estate more than once, the authors spend way too much time talking about the Bush administrations aversion to nation building in Bosnia and never address the central point on post war troop levels--The Centcom commander got all the troops he requested.

They never really address Gen. Abizaids small foot print philosophy, which he also used in Afghanistan without the same caterwalling. Perhaps Gen. Abizaid would not talk with them for the book, but he gave testimony on several occassions to Congress where he explained it and said in sworn testimony that he did not need additional troops. While he has taken responsibility for troop levels critics like the authors, continue to blame Secretary Rumsfeld. I think Rumsfeld was also a small foot print guy so he was not conflicted by Abizaids troop request, but both Rumsfeld and the President have said that if the commanders wanted more troops they would be sent. The authors provide no evidence to refute those statements.

At one point in the book the authors talk about how intelligece failures caused troops to be surprised on occassion by the appearance of Iraqi forces, but then a few paragraphs later reveal that our troops dispatched the Iraqis with minimal casualties. There is a recurring theme of describing the battles as desperate only to reveal a small number of casualties as the US prevailed. Perhaps that is a metaphor for this book.

These are some examples of problems I find with the book. Perhaps Bob Scales will write a better history of the war. Tommy Franks led our troops to victory in two wars in a very short period of time and his work deserves a better treatment than it gets in this book.


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