Myers says media overblew the Shinseki matter

Buried in the NY Times report that focuses on Myers statments saying Shinseki should not have been publicly criticized is the real truth behind the Shinseki myth.


General Myers said today that he believed the news media had overblown coverage of the confrontation, failing to take note that Mr. Shinseki had been "put in a corner" by United States senators during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"General Shinseki was forced to make that comment under pressure, pulled a number out, wasn't wedded to it," General Myers said today. (Emphasis added.)

But, he added, "Now, there were some mistakes made by, I think, some of the senior civilian leadership in taking General Shinseki on about that comment. I think that was wrong, and I've expressed those views, as a matter of fact."

General Myers also rebutted criticism from some retired generals last week that he and other ranking generals had failed to stand up to Mr. Rumsfeld, saying, "We gave him our best military advice and I think — and that's what we're obligated to do. If we don't do that, we should be shot."


I remember watching Shinseki give that answer and it was clear he was not comfortable doing so, not because he was concerned about the reaction from civilians in the Defense Department, but because he was being asked to give it off the cuff without study, and the question was clearly being asked by a senator who did not want to liberate Iraq. And that is how his answer has been used by those looking for an excuse not to depose Saddam. However, some in the military have used the reaction to his off the cuff answer as an excuse to pummel and scapegoat the civilians. What Myers, DeLong and Franks have made clear is that ultimately, it was the military that decided the size of the force.

As I have said before, a case can be made for a larger force post war, when it became clear that an insurgency was underway. Historically, insurgencies are defeated by having a sufficient force to space ratio to control movement and deny access to areas. In Iraq, the military under Gen. Abizaid decided that the best way to attack the insurgents was with better intelligence. Ironically the intelligence did not get substantially better until sufficient Iraqi troops could be brought on line to remedy the force to space problem.

In Vietnam, the Army got on an escalation merry-go-round by focusing on a force to force ratio. Because they were looking at a multiple of the enemy forces, when the communist escalated, the US was putting itself in the position of having to add even more. If the US had gone in with sufficient forces to control the terrain, enemy escalation would have actually made our job easier, becuase it would be harder to hide the communist forces from our superior fire power.

What is missing from the debate over troop levels in Iraq is a specific request for more troops that was denied. The fact is that Gen. Abizaid, who is in charge of troop levels, is a proponent of the small footprint. It should be noted that he is following the same strategy in Afghanistan where a country with comparable population and more difficult terrain has substantially fewer troops than Iraq.

The disgrunteled in the military think that the small foot print strategy is a product of "group think." However, if you read Rifle DeLong's description of working with Secretary Rumsfeld, it is anything but an exercise in group think. It appears more like a socratic approach where people are required to argue and defend their suggestions. If you are smart and have sound ideas, you can thrive in this enviroment. If you do not know how to defend your suggestions you will be very frustrated. It reminds me of a day in law school. I have worked with some tough bosses who used the same method enjoyed the challenge.

Opinion Journal ask, "So when did Generals cease to be responsible for outcomes in war?"


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