...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

October 30, 2004

Three Days Left And That's All They Got?

Three days left before the election, and i'm tired of all the nonsense. There are three huge stories that i have been too busy to comment on until now. Here's my take on one of them:

Al Ca-ca:

Who knows whether the explosives were there or not? i do know that the mainstream media and Kerry rushed to judgment on this story, when the facts were still hotly disputed. What do you expect? Kerry's losing, and the liberals are desperate for some kind of last minute surprise scandal that will keep them within the "cheater's margin" in a couple of battleground states.

Assuming the truth of the charge - that the explosives were there after our troops arrived and we somehow allowed them to be spirited away under our noses - i don't see that as the huge scandal the left seems to think it is. It's certainly not a reason to reject George Bush this Tuesday.

Mistakes happen in war. Nobody who's not been on the ground during offensive combat - least of all those effete nattering nabobs of negativity, the reporters - can truly understand what is called "the fog of war." Hell, i certainly don't. i only know it exists, and that's only from seven years of studying history and a lifetime of reading books and watching war movies.

In war, especially during fast moving offensive operations, there are no time outs. Not everything that you'd want to get done, actually gets done. Kerry ought to know this, since he's such a big military man. i'm not saying i believe the charges, i actually don't. Today's U.S. armed forces are the most professional in the history of the world. But even if the story were true, Kerry's criticism of George Bush for not sufficiently micromanaging this war makes me worry more about what he'd do at the reins.

Civil war example: Abraham Lincoln's military expertise was negligible when he took office. He was president during our worst war, our biggest crisis, when the actual existence of our country hung in the balance. Lincoln made plenty of mistakes as a wartime commander-in-chief. i can name a dozen off the top of my head. If John Kerry had been around back then, i can imagine the rhetoric:

Lincoln rushed to war without a plan for reconstruction!

He ignored the advice of General McClellan who said we needed more troops!*

He failed to provide the troops with the latest quick firing weapons!

He allowed General Lee to join the secession, and then he let General Lee escape when we had him in our grasp at Malvern Hill!

i could go on, but others have made the Civil War analogy before, so you get the idea.

The bottom line is that Lincoln won the war, and despite all the criticism leveled at him during the war, he's now widely considered our greatest president. And my point is, that like FDR and both George Bushs, Lincoln was a great wartime president because he did not micromanage the war.

By contrast, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was proud of his military background. After graduating from West Point, he served as a lieutenant in the cavalry with a modest record. After a short retirement and marriage,** Davis fought in the Mexican War where he was wounded and returned home as a hero. Later he served in the U.S. Senate*** and as Secretary of War.

Yet despite his military training and expertise, and arguably because of it, Jefferson Davis was a horrible wartime president. His micromanagement of the war cost the Confederacy too many brave and valuable soldiers, ensuring their defeat. Davis often rejected the advice of his generals, believing that his military background made him their equal. And his insistence on offensive Napoleonic tactics at a time when the rifle had made those tactics obsolete, increased casualties and lost the war for the South. Not that that's a bad thing mind you, but it's absolutely true.****

Back to our day. Kerry criticizes our President for not making sure that some bunkers on the tip of the spear were not secured and placed under guard as soon as we got there? Would Kerry have ordered that all offensive operations proceed only after every "i" was dotted and "t" crossed? i remember the ruckus in the media after the so-called "operational pause." You'd think we had lost the war, the way the media carried on about that. How many more "operational pauses" would there have been under a Kerry presidency?

Oh, that's right, none. Because it was the wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. Kerry would rather have left Saddam in control over all his explosives.

* McClellan, the only general i know of who managed to lose consistently when his force outnumbered the enemy's by almost two to one.

** Like Kerry, ambition might have led Jefferson Davis to marry "up." His first wife was the daughter of President Zachary Taylor.

*** Interestingly, Jefferson Davis was a Senator before he became a traitor, while John Kerry did it the other way around.

**** For more on how Davis's micromanagement of the war lost it for the South, i highly recommend this book.

Posted by annika, Oct. 30, 2004 |
Rubric: annikapunditry


Excellent points, Annie. I've been trying to explain this line of argument to a variety people since the story broke, with very limited success. Those who want to see this story as indicative of some broader failure of strategic thinking -- assuming it's true in the first place -- will continue to do so; logic has nothing to do with it. But it's good that you put it out there; with luck, it might persuade some of the very few people whose minds are open on the subject.

Posted by: Matt on Oct. 30, 2004

I suspect that most of the people who attack Bush for "inadequate planning," etc, are people who work in what are essentially "staff positions," in which they analyze, advise, pontificate, etc, but never have final responsibility for making decisions or getting things accomplished. I've got a post on this topic at:


Posted by: David Foster on Oct. 30, 2004

Well, I'm persuaded. 700 k lbs of explosives couldn't matter a wit to the BIG picture. It takes twice that amount to destroy a Humvee I’ve been told. And I'm sure our troops, as Rudy G. said, are to blame, not the president, who shouldn't be micro managing the forces on the ground anyway. George understands that from his extensive reading about the civil war and the failure of Jefferson Davis. But maybe he sought advice from the weapons maven Conidium Rice; she has consistently shown great acumen when analyzing weapons systems, and she told him that these bunkers contained boxes that could only be used to hold pirate booty. She knew this how? Well, when she was writing her dissertation in the Hermitage reading room, she sat on a very similar box with the Cyrillic for Pyrite on the side. I sure would have believed her, she’s so smart!

Out troops had encountered such crack Iraqi troops fighting trench and ditch to protect their country that had the spear veered more than a few feet or paused more than a few minutes, the strategic advantage would have been lost and our troops would have found themselves wading in the Red Sea and the stars and bars would have been flapping in the breeze.

Good thing they secured NOTHING on the way to Bagdad, it could have been a debacle otherwise.

Annika, your comparison of GB to Lincoln and Roosevelt is astonishing in its intellectual dishonesty. Those two men were educated, could read and write, make complete thoughts of longer than one sentence, etc. (well the up side is that no marble will be wasted building the GB library) To say they were great presidents because they won the war(s) by refusing to micro-manage is just simplistic drivel. GB couldn’t micro manage taking a crap. He is dim, distant, disconnected and completely at the mercy of his advisors who DO have an agenda and it stinks. Not to mention that it’s implementation is inept and shoddy and has resulted in the death of over a thousand brave young and not so young Americans who are indeed fighting the wrong war. Other presidents, other generals could have accomplished this occupation without the great loss of life by simply listening to those that did give this administration the proper advice. Fatal arrogance and hubris is the unending sin of these fools.

Whether Saddam is in power or not is irrelevant. DID NOT MATTER. Was a bullshit story that you and so many others have swallowed50 million American have traded their intellect and freedom for a bucket of fear. I would restore Saddam to power in an instant if it would bring back the 1000 Americans who have died.

GB will be defeated and America will be restored. The Middle East will continue to muddle along. Democracy will not, in our lifetimes take hold in the region. They are simply not as interested in Democracy as they are in other ways to run their lives. Religious dogma, corrupt business practices, a basic belief in the inferiority of women, a distain for Americas sexual liberation and a powerful fear it is headed their way. They do hate our freedom, just not the ones GB thinks

Posted by: mike on Oct. 30, 2004

In defense of McClellan, or at least of those who kept telling Lincoln that he was the best general in the North: McClellan was excellent at defense, and at training troops and at pulling a defeated army back together after some belligerent moron had nearkly wrecked it. No one could have done better at turning back Lee's first incursion into the North. He didn't dither while trying to count the enemy, instead he threw out the best defense he could muster, and it was more than good enough.

But many other generals would have pursued Lee's army beyond Antietam. McClellan energetically saw the rebels off, and then turned back into a ditherer as soon as they were gone from Northern territory. He had to collect intelligence reports and plan the campaign in detail - and somehow he always concluded from the intelligence reports that the opposing forces were three times the size they actually were. This is how he managed to be defeated again and again by an army half the size - he thought they were stronger, would advance against them only if directly ordered to, and then would move very cautiously and be well-prepared for a retreat when Lee counterattacked.

McClellan's heart just wasn't in the war. He would have been happy with a stalemate leading to an eventual recognition of Southern independence. On the other side, Lee felt duty-bound to side with his state, although he thought the war was unwinnable (Lee was a good military engineer, so he could do the math), and wasn't proud of killing men to defend slavery. Left up to the two of them, the war would have been a bloodless stalemate.

But finally, Lincoln found two competent generals, Grant and Sherman, who understood that the North would win by a war of attrition, and were committed enough and bloody-minded enough to kill as many men as necessary. They weren't military geniuses or anywhere near the intellectual equals of Lee and McClellan, but they could deploy troops so they wouldn't be driven back by inferior forces, and they understood that trading 30,000 Union troops for 20,000 Confederates was a win for the Union - because their lost men would be replaced, while the Confederates could hardly even replace the shoes that were worn out when their troops marched to battle. They understood that getting outflanked (the Battle of the Wilderness), or even getting cut off from home completely (Sherman's march to the sea) wasn't a disaster if the opposing forces weren't strong enough to take advantage of it. And finally, Grant was very persistent as long as the plan could be made to work(Vicksburg), but when it really went haywire he could change plans instantly (Cold Harbor).

Posted by: markm on Oct. 30, 2004

Great line from Lincoln, to McClellan: "If you're not using the army, I'd like to borrow it for a while."

For whatever reason, though, the man did seem to have the affection of his troops.

Posted by: David Foster on Oct. 30, 2004

Yep, that's all they've got, as our friend mike here has demonstrated. They've tried everything else, and I do mean everything.

Posted by: Pixy Misa on Oct. 30, 2004

"I would restore Saddam to power in an instant if it would bring back the 1000 Americans who have died."

what a fucking idiotic statement.

Posted by: scof on Oct. 31, 2004

Miss Annika,
Davis a traitor? Surely, surely you mis-spoke. Davis had many faults, but disloyalty was not one of them.

To break it down for you: the Confederacy was comprised of states that left the union. Left. Not as in the way California leans politically, but left as in removed themselves. Quit. Gone. Bye-bye. I know of nothing Davis did before secession that would have warranted such a slanderous accusation. After secession he was no longer obligated to allegiance to the union. During the War of Northern Aggression he was not engaging in treason or traitorous activity, he was simply trying to defend his country.

And as for the South losing said war not being a bad thing - I disagree. Because of Lincoln's victory over the South & the Constitution he started the snowball which that other usurping bastard FDR picked up & turned our limited government into one limited only by the ambition of our politicians.

As for McClellan's losing record, methinks you don't give enough credit to Lee. One of his many upstanding qualities was that he was a brilliant military strategust. Not perfect, but better than anyone that imperialist bastard had under him. Think of him as eloquence to Grant & Sherman's barbarity.

But again I must protest the accusation that Davis was a traitor. Pick on Kerry all you wish (or all you have time for - there's a lot to pick on) but I'd ask you reconsider your unkind words about the last group of people to fight for their independence on American soil.


I'm no fan of Bush, but saying that he is inferior to that usurping bastard & his ancestor in spirit (Lincoln & FDR, disrespectively) is not accurate.

Bush merely supports some forms of socilaism. Fdr implemnted them. Bush takes for granted that the states are forever bound to the union, while Lincoln's ambition turned that injustice into reality. As much as I dislike Bush (though I admit I dislike Kerry even more - Bush does some things wrong but he's probably sincere while Kerry does things wrong out of a kind of selfishness) I wouldn't compare him to the bastard who put us all under the federal boot or the bastard who used that boot to rob us of our livelyhoods in the name of charity.

So no, Bush isn't the equal of Lincoln or FDR - he'd have to do much worse for that to happen.

Miss Annika (again),

"Lee Takes Command" by Clifford Dowdey. Judging by the reviews listed for the book you linked I'd encourage you to pick up Dowdey's work. Not an all encompassing piece by any means, but it won't be filled with theories about celtic genetic/cultural causation for the South's military defeat.

Posted by: Publicola on Oct. 31, 2004

I can tell you this, if a weapons Cache were found by US troops it wouldn't be left unguarded. We are required to provide armed security for small numbers of small arms, do you honestly think we'd leave tons of explosives unprotected?

Kerry must think the American people are idiots and our military a joke to even push this rediculous idea.

SlagleRock Out!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Posted by: SlagleRock on Oct. 31, 2004


Very clearly put. I wonder though if you have a clue as to what I meant.

Posted by: mike on Nov. 1, 2004

Annika -
Perhaps some of the Russian Generals from the Winter War against Finland - but probably very few survived the wrath of Stalin.

I take exception to McClellan being a brilliant strategist. A strategist connects ends - ways - means in a coherent manner. I disagree Little Mac would have been happy with a stalemate, but I do think he would have preferred a quick resolution that would have returned much of the landscape to pre-war conditions with perhaps only slight modifications that would have merely postponed conflict (although perhaps not civil war). Thus, McClellan had the end (take Richmond early), ways (attack on two fronts from the North and East), and means (Union Army which he had trained well - his forte was as a force developer, not employer).

He was unlucky Confederate Gen Johnston got wounded early in the campaign (Johnston probably would have retreated to Richmond and dug in after the first failed attack). McClellan, though, showed little understanding of the integrated use of cavalry as reconnaissance, screening, and shaping elements and failed to press the narrow window he had to take Richmond because he lacked the daring to maneuver without his heavy artillery.

And Little Mac actually had Lee's campaign plan for the invasion of MD and still could only manage a draw at Antietam.

In defense though of another fellow West Point alum, Jeff Davis' picture still hangs in the halls of the Pentagon

Posted by: Col Steve on Nov. 1, 2004