3rd ACR XO blasts leadership

The second-in-command of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment has written a blistering attack on the conduct of the leadership of the Army. His editorial was published today in the Armed Forces Journal.


Yingling is no armchair general or television pundit. He’s served two tours in Iraq, one in Bosnia, and participated in Desert Storm. He and his boss at 3rd ACR, McMaster, are two of the brightest soldiers in the Army. You gotta think that the stuff he’s saying is stuff that he’s talked with McMaster about. Especially when you consider McMaster’s background.

During the first Gulf War, McMaster played a key role in 73 Easting, the major tank battle of the war. In a blinding sandstorm, his unit suddenly stumbled upon entrenched Republican Guard armored forces and destroyed them in what’s considered one of the most perfect tactical engagements in US military history. 73 Easting alone would have guaranteed McMaster a bright future, but he went further by writing an excellent analysis about the failure of the Army’s leaders during Vietnam, particularly their moral failure to speak the truth to the civilian leadership about the state of the war. Hugh Shelton, when he was Clinton’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs, made that book required reading to all of his officers.

And today, the 3rd ACR has had considerable success in its sector of Iraq. So much so that it’s considered the textbook model for the new counterinsurgency doctrine, and McMaster is one of Petreus’ main advisers. So when a guy like Yingling, practically McMaster’s right-hand man, says this stuff publicly and openly like this, it’s a bombshell.

You realize he’s creating a smokescreen for Bush, right?

re: Vietnam

“Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America’s generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency.”

re: Iraq

“America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America’s generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America’s generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.”

This is a shifting of blame, and it’s total nonsense.

The Pentagon had a plan for the invasion of Iraq, one which called for half a million troops not to beat the Iraqi military but to deal with the inevitable issues that arose in trying to defend a country of 24 million people of 3 distinct groups, multiple tribal divisions, a history of repression by one group of the other two, and porous borders.

The White House ignored that plan. General Shinseki, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, went before the Senate explaining requirements similar to that plan and was basically ignored.

I think, rather, that it’s the writing of a man who doesn’t expect elected civilian leaders to have any idea what it takes to win a war, but expects better from the men wearing green. Rumsfeld bears most of the blame for our Iraq strategy, but he couldn’t have done it without Tommy Franks backing him up.

You can’t blame a general for having the characteristics you hired him for.

It’s not the place of military leaders to dictate policy or intervene. The moment that happens you have a serious issue. In the long run it would be a far greater evil if the military establishment refused orders from the civilians.

I’ll give the guy his first point, though. We went into Iraq still with the superpower vs superpower FINAL ROUND mentality. American troops have, in the main, not been trained to handle urban warfare and insurgency type combat the same institutional way they are trained to stand in long lines and shoot muskets at each other.

Agreed, but it wasn’t the military’s decision to invade Iraq. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was on record against the proposed war plan.

As for tactics, the military is only responding to public pressure. The public demands wars where there are no casualties, where the “bad guys” are identified and killed with no risk to Americans - preferably by bombs.

Let’s take the Colonel’s article and look over the suggestions, specifically where he criticizes the forward base strategy employed by Americans. The alternative is to live and work among the people of Iraq, to act more as a police force. Yet this would, even with 500,000 troops, vastly increase the incidence of casualties. Troops would be more exposed. We might have 10,000 dead by now, rather than 3,000. Politically such a war is unsupportable.

Most militaries in fact do respond to public pressure, especially in democratic countries. It’s a problem that historically goes back centuries, if not millennia. Sometimes it’s to the benefit of the military (like the early Romans’ inability to accept defeat despite numerous setbacks in the Samnite, Carthaginian and Macedonian wars), other times not (the Englishman’s insistence that the Navy should pay for itself, in the centuries before and century after Elizabeth I, even though hers was the only one that accomplished this. It was not until the Civil War where Parliament became responsible for the Navy that it learned how expensive one is to maintain.)

The American problem with casualties goes back even to World War II, you can see its seeds there. It only fully manifested itself in Vietnam, however. The way that Gulf War 1 was fought is as much a result of the military responding to public pressure as it was about having weapons, doctrines, and training adapted to fighting the Big War. It helps that Iraq was vulnerable to that kind of assault, relying on a big military as it did then, but that’s not the reason why we attacked the way we attacked.

You can absolutely see the public pressure to minimize casualties, the focus on how few people were lost in Gulf War I. Commentators during the bombing campaign speculated whether or not this might be the first war won by the air, without firing a shot on the ground. Behind that is the thinking that “a ground war means casualties”.

This is the thinking behind the forward base strategy, to minimize the risk to American troops. Ultimately, unless the American public becomes more accepting of casualties, future war becomes less and less feasible. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. Having the big stick and being able to use it is what prevents others from bullying you.