Friday, October 20, 2006

Straight talk on "Strategy" Generates Administration Accountability

"Accountability" is in the air in Washington, at least in prospect.


One way forward is to start insisting in clear thinking. Not just smart-talk about counterterrorism, but also demand that the Administration (especially Scty Rumsfeld and the DoD Press Corps) clearly separate goals from strategy, and that they be fully accountable for the strategy -- for clearly articulating it, responsibly communicating it, and for sharing evaluations of it.

Some tactical choices may prove insufficient to an adopted strategy. This doesn't negate the strategy, per se. However, if there are no or few tactics that can be or have been used to execute the strategy, then the strategy may not be executable or adoptable. Something else is needed.


If the results of a strategy turn out to be insufficiently complete or show themselves too costly (measured in time or treasure or both), and if there are indications that other factors that make the effectiveness of a strategy remote or increasingly remote, then the achiveability of the stated goals starts to come into question.


These are examples of goals (and they can be disputed):

  • Neutralize the insurgency (Woodward quotes Rumsfeld)
  • An Iraq that can defend and sustain itself and be an ally in the "War on terror" (not my phrase). (Bush in Stephanopolous interview)
These are slogans, mostly useless (boo! ug!):
  • Stay the course
  • Cut and Run
  • Until the job is finished
  • Peace with Dignity
  • The Only Exit Strategy is Victory

Here is one counter-insurgency strategy: CLEAR-HOLD-BUILD ( clear /limit each area of those with hostile intent and capability; hold ground against backsliding; and build out political, security, and infrastructure until overall objective is achieved).

Within the strategy there could be various tactics:
  • Perimiter operations, US only troops
  • Police training, Army involvement (US, Iraqi, other national)
  • Psy-ops
  • Political negotiations/bargaining - even payoffs for information and cooperation
  • Support from Scorpion Brigades


Amicus said...

Scty Rumsfeld continued what appears to be a frequent Administration tactic of talking about the goals in Iraq (or “the stakes”), rather than giving an update on the effectiveness of strategies or basically information about progress, advance or retreat.


Today he repeated three goals that the Iraqi Government has (and I take these as objectives, rather than strategy, because they do not describe how certain goals are going to be met):
1) “Government” [governance related issues]
2) Economy
3) Security

He offered an assessment, without any detail information about why he thought it was supported, that for the “most part they have been able to fulfill [these goals].” This opinion/assessment should be rejected in favor of evidence of the same, some more clear-cut metrics, broken down by region (at a minimum)


Scty Rumsfeld indicated that the ambassador (?) and Gen. Casey were working with the Iraqis to develop projections for Iraqi force development/deployment.

This statement looks like a way to deflect accountability, if only because force deployment and development have been in the works for months, if not years. Why projections are “pending” at this late date, seems farcical, without further explanation.


In response to a question about whether the current situation revealed a need to question the strategy of clear-hold-build, Scty Rumsfeld rightly suggested that poor results do not necessarily negate a strategy (although he suggested that the premise of the question was wrong, which probably confused the issue immeasurably). See original post above for more detail on Strategic Assessment.

He insisted that people recognize that there was no smooth path to success.

However, the important follow-up questions didn’t get asked:

Suppose that they are finding that their strategy is only 66% effective (or worse, 20% effective), that is, one out of three results in a "do over".

How does that change their estimate of how long the effort is going to last, how much more money it is going to cost, and what the implications are for troop levels/deployments, etc.


Scty Rumsfeld indicated that “they [enemies] are smart – they have a brain” and that they would seek to ‘take away’ any gain in order to get press-recognition of the same.

He doesn’t seem to have a strategy for dealing with this aspect of the insurgency, except perhaps to imply that it doesn’t do any good to talk about progress points.

Perhaps he and his Brass need to think more in terms of action-reaction-counteraction, even for things like ‘progress points’. I doubt that wishing it away, by not talking about it (or simply lamenting it to the US Press), is a feasible approach!


Scty Rumsfeld refused to answer questions about whether a major strategy review was underway, suggesting obliquely that the violence spikes are associated with Ramadan historically. When pressed, he surprisingly said he would reserve his comments for the President of the United States.

This just seems disingenuous. The Security Council doesn’t re-evaluate strategies wholesale at every point in time.

What's more, if it turns out that the announcement of changes is being held due to GOP ‘electioneering’, then that’s going to be a terrible way to introduce them and ask for the public's support.

What’s more, people are arguably entitled to know how often strategies are changing, because that can be an indication of progress or retreat and of administration effectiveness.

Amicus said...

The transcript is now available. Here is a glimpse of how the Secretary intimidates those around him. Mistakes, admitted, are not available for scrutiny and he walks right back onto the job:

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, this is a question that gets asked every time there's a press conference. You know, give me all your sevens. Tell us what you've done wrong. Why do we have to keep going through this? Of course I bear responsibility; my Lord, I'm secretary of Defense. Write it down, quote it. You can bank it.