Second-guessing commanders can be valid or venomous - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Second-guessing commanders can be valid or venomous

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2003 4:49 pm | Updated: 1:52 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Some retired military brass, along with a number of journalists, have rushed to judgment about the progress of the war in Iraq, and while they may have some valid points, it's much too early to say what some are saying with assurance — and it's especially dismaying that some current military officers are taking cheap shots anonymously.

A chief argument is that the attack should have awaited the doubling or tripling of the number of troops on hand before the fighting began, but the fact is that the troops now in Iraq have made extraordinary progress.

The resistance has been tougher than anticipated, a field commander has said, and protecting a long, thin supply line has been difficult. But the military has adjusted superbly. Casualities have been small in number relative to any number of other campaigns, even including the ultimate count of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Should there have been a longer air bombardment before the ground forces began rolling? Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded angrily at a press conference to that and other criticisms, noting what had been achieved by the speedy deployment of ground forces. They preserved oil fields crucial to the Iraqi future and enabled the transport of food and medicine to Iraqi civilians, for instance — hardly minor accomplishments.

Some think the administration spurred the public to expect an easier war than what has so far been encountered. Certainly, the much-advertised "shock and awe" bombing and missile strikes did something less than cause the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. But talk of "shock and awe" may in part have been an effort at psychological warfare, and there are both humane and political reasons for the administration to exercise as much care as has been taken not to kill civilians or damage infrastructure.

Raising questions about planning and decisions is inevitable in a free, democratic society. But while a genuine service is provided by those retired military officers writing opeds and appearing on the TV news shows, what are we to make of those current officers who go unidentified while jabbing at the secretary of defense and others through the press? Theirs is scarcely an exhibition of bravery, and this gnawing from within could be harmful to the American cause while the war is in progress.

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