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« Say It Isn't So, Henry! | Main | Page 5, the Post's Sunday Outlook »
3:33AM

Sys Admin Force v. Leviathan

And the real question (more sightings)


With my June Esquire piece being titled, "The Leviathan," I am in danger of becoming known as "that Leviathan guy," when inside the Pentagon and defense community (both here and abroad) I am really becoming known as "that Sys Admin guy." Whatever the name-plate, I find myself constantly running across stories that I think speak to this long emerging bifurcation of the Department of Defense into two separate and distinct forces: one that wages war and one that wages peace. You may call this "magical thinking," as some have, but this is merely an occupational hazard of being a visionaryóyou are always under the delusion that the entire world is falling into place "according to my master plan!"


All pathologies aside, one of the criticisms I run into when I push the Sys Admin (wage the peace force) concept is that its lack of firepower will mean the Leviathan force is constantly being called back onto the sceneólike the SWAT.


Reference: "Some in Military Fear a Return To Iraqi Battles Already Fought," by Thom Shanker, New York Times, 12 April, p. A1.


Basic worry expressed by officers here is that we are refighting battles already in Iraq, in large part because the "political process" did not keep pace with our previously swift military victoryóthus "they" (those "political people") are to blame. Some officers on the ground are going so far as to wonder out loud if they won't be retaking the same territory four months from now.


Does this say that any Sys Admin force will always be calling the Leviathan back in whenever violence breaks out? Yes, it does. But the real question is, "Why is this violence/resistance breaking out in the first place?"


We had a huge (several months worth) window to take advantage of Iraqi patience in getting the peace rolling inside that country, but we did not move fast enough. Here is why: the Pentagon pushed hard to demonstrate that a smaller, highly-mobile force could do Desert Storm II just as well as the far larger force had done Desert Storm I. So far so good. But the bureaucratic push to get that force on the field mistakenly overrode the concerns of those (like Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Shinseki) who worried about the size of the back-half (as I call it) forceóor the force that would occupy the country once the conflict was over.


What the public heard was a fight about the size of the military to "win the war," when in reality the fight was over two different forces: one side (the transformation side) wanted a small take-down force to win the war and the other side (the old guard military mostly) fretted far more over the size of the occupation force to win the peace. Both sides were right: the small transformed force worked brilliantly for the takedown, but that brilliance did not obviate the realities that the occupation force would necessarily confront over the long haul.


And the worst part of this whole screwed-up debate was that the compromise ended up as follows: having the transformed warfighting force on the ground at war's end somehow magically (that word again!) reconstitute itself as the occupation force come 1 May 2003. Today, just as the great rotation of forces is coming to a close, and we've moved in loads of National Guard and Reserves (Sys Admin forces as a rule), we're asking that new force on the ground in Iraq to shift back to Leviathan mode. Yes, they will do this well, as always, but at a real cost to both our side and that of the Iraqi people. Simply put, we keep switching back and forth between Leviathan and Sys Admin functions, using the same troops for each when no troops can possibly be optimized for both duties, and the end result has been significant underperformance since the end of the war.


I don't blame the troops, but the political and uniformed masters in the Pentagonónot just in this administration but in every one going back to Bush I. We have let this military get seriously unbalanced in terms of the market conditions out there, and now we are paying for our inattention to change.


But here's my bottom line: we should have let the Leviathan force go in and do its business in Iraq just like it did, but instead of hoping it all worked out in its aftermath we should have sent inóright behind themóthe mass troops of the Sys Admin force, complete with lots of allied forces, and then we would not be in the mess we are in today. There wouldn't have been the looting. The Iraqi army couldn't have disappeared. The militias could not have formed to the degree that they did. And we'd be far further down the road toward legitimate transfer of authority.


That's the serious answer to the question: Will the Sys Admin force constantly be calling in the Leviathan to save its ass? The answer is NOóif the Sys Admin is allowed to follow the Leviathan right into the battlespace to begin waging peace the moment the Leviathan's boots move on to the next objective, leaving no security vacuums in its wake. We will not see the A-to-Z global rule set on taking down politically-bankrupt leaders until the Pentagon creates the military base upon which this political superstructure can ariseói.e., we need a force to wage war and another to wage peace.

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