Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tommy Franks and the Keystone Kops

Newsweek magazine is out tomorrow with an interesting piece on how Gen. Tommy Franks and other regular-army stiffs mishandled efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

The article includes this telling passage about the hunt for bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan:

The American effort to chase bin Laden into this forbidding realm was hobbled and clumsy from the start. While the terrain required deep local knowledge and small units, career officers in the U.S. military have long been wary of the Special Operations Forces best suited to the task. In the view of the regular military, such "snake eaters" have tended to be troublesome, resistant to spit-and-polish discipline and rulebooks. Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around mountain caves and mud-walled compounds, the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage, where it could show off its mobility and firepower. To the civilian bosses at the Pentagon and the eager-to-please top brass, Iraq was a much better target. By invading Iraq, the United States would give the Islamists—and the wider world—an unforgettable lesson in American power. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, "There's a feeling we've got to do something that counts—and bombing caves is not something that counts."

When Franks refused to send Army Rangers into the mountains at Tora Bora, he was already in the early stages of planning for the next war. By early 2002, new Predators—aerial drones that might have helped the search for bin Laden—were instead being diverted off the assembly line for possible use in Iraq. The military's most elite commando unit, Delta Force, was transferred from Afghanistan to prep for the invasion of Iraq.


MR. BASEBALL said...

This is a classic example of how the Bush conservatives don't get it. When we went into Afghanistan to attack Al-Qaida and capture Bin Laden, there was almost unanimous approval both here and abroad. Iraq was not only a mistake for being the wrong country to attack, it also took away our troops, focus and resources from where the real enemy was located. Why don't the Bush supporters get that?

The Rascal said...

You're forgetting, Mr. B. The invasion of Iraq was going to be the big shock-and-awe show, the promise of which had sexually aroused all the neo-cons and armchair generals. This was going to scare the shit out of Islamists and terrorists all over the world and deter them from their their evil plans. Well, of course, it didn't work out that way, but the sponsors of this ridiculous strategy have too much of their reputations invested in it to ever admit they were wrong. So, here we are.