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'Winning' strategy is a pipe-dream

January 27, 2007|by Jonathan R. Burrs

It's always amazing to me as a military veteran to hear the perspective of politicians and some current and former military officers on matters pertaining to using the armed services in conflicts that will primarily be supported by military personnel they simply do not relate to.

Former House of Representatives candidate Andrew Duck's article, "Why the 'Surge' won't work in Iraq," was no exception! While I agree totally with several points of his strategy, his overall plan is based on flawed logic and an inaccurate assessment of the war, the Iraqi people, and the Middle East in general.

For starters, both Duck and President Bush should abandon attaching words like "winning" and "success" to their plans and strategies in Iraq.

Instead, they must recognize that at this point there are only degrees of losing - and which degree of losing do either of their plans support?

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Counter-insurgency tactics should definitely be a top priority and strategy, however, only simultaneous with troop-redeployment efforts. Additionally, they must recognize that no single plan is unchangeable, especially in the Middle East.

Several contingent strategies should be developed so that when variables on the ground occur (which all of us have seen happen over the past three-plus years) that affect or render the current strategies less effective or completely ineffective, the military can easily transition into one of the contingent plans.

One major oversight in Duck's strategy is the failure to consider current morale amongst the enlisted ranks. Thanks to the Bush administration and various blatant lies it has conveyed to the military, esprit de corps is very low - so low that President Bush has probably lost what little respect the majority of members may have had for him.

Not to say the president can't find people to say nice things to the press that give a distorted view of him and how military members feel about fighting in Iraq. But almost every person I speak to, including veterans, active-duty service members and their families, have no confidence in the president as commander-in-chief and categorically do not want to be in Iraq! Without the ability to command the respect of the military, no strategy will yield even the slightest elements of success.

Another critical flaw in Duck's strategy is lack of consideration for the current state of military recruitment.

Overall military recruiting numbers are down, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and even lower among combat arms military occupation specialties (MOS), with no clear indicator that these trends will change in the near future.

However, the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as groups that support the president, continue to make claims that recruiting goals are being met.

A common practice of the DoD and military recruiting commands is to lower recruiting goals by implementing various programs that help good recruiters to make mission, especially during times of conflict when recruiting drops off drastically.

What this does is provides them with a back door to claim recruiting goals are being met, when in reality the goals have been changed to meet the current market or lack thereof.

Today, in order to maintain some semblance that military levels are good and also in an effort to deceive the American public into believing that military personnel support operations in Iraq, the DoD under Rumsfeld activated the Stop-Loss Program. The Stop-Loss Program forcibly retains military personnel.

Discharged soldiers are fraudulently enticed back into military duty with an Army reserve program called the "Try-One" option, under which the re-upped soldier is only committed for one year before deciding whether to stay or not. At the end of a year, however, the soldier is not allowed to leave the armed forces and many are sent to Iraq.

In short, Duck's strategy will not work any more than President Bush's strategies. After cutting through all the political rhetoric, one can only conclude that Duck is attempting to garner additional support for another bid at the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 by giving voters the false impression that he knows the right direction America should be headed. In reality, he has no more of a clue than does President Bush.

Not to say that all of his ideas are bad, because that would not be true either. But he, as well as policymakers, need to remember to keep the enlisted person in mind before and when developing strategies for the military.

These are the people who will determine success or failure. And from where I sit, these are the people least considered in any of the strategies presented thus far.

Mr. Duck, President Bush and other bureaucrats continue to view the enlisted person as expendable pawns on a chess board whose sole purpose is to blindly follow orders and die for what they try to depict as a noble cause.

While following orders are absolutes for service members, leaders have a duty to make decisions responsibly, particularly before putting military personnel in harm's way. Neither Duck nor President Bush have shown where their plans are responsible!

Jonathan R. Burrs is a resident of Hagerstown.

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