Editor's note: Eilhys England contributed to this column.
Since our commander in chief announced "mission accomplished" on May 1, 2003, the insurgents have seized the initiative in Iraq. And we're also not winning the even-more-consequential worldwide battle against the Islamic jihadists. All because our forces are trying to do too much with too little the wrong way.
Advertisement - story continues below
Lately, I've been shoveling through literally truckloads of reader queries along the lines of "OK, Hack, you spent most of the past two years griping, so what's your solution?" It's a question that needs an answer. So, as a long-term student of insurgent warfare and a soldier who's fought guerrillas in post-World War II Italy, during the Korean War and for more than four years in Vietnam, here's what I would do:
- Immediately fire SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, all of his Pentagon senior civilian assistants and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers.
- Replace Rumsfeld with retired Gen. Anthony Zinni and give this tough, smart, proven leader a free hand to bring in the best people to reshape and streamline our armed forces for the long counterinsurgency fight ahead.
- Fire National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and replace her with retired Gens. Wes Clark or John Sheehan.
- Establish a military objective – an often-neglected Principle of War – that will include: how the U.S. is going to regain the lost initiative (another neglected Principle of War) and how we're going to take and hold the turf seized by insurgents; how we will then win the Iraqi people to our side in the fight against the insurgents; how the nascent Iraqi defense shield will eventually replace our forces; and a detailed, coherent exit plan.
- Force our coalition partners in Iraq to either move out of the safety of their forts and start participating in the campaign or go home. So far, they've added little to the fight except providing an opportunity for politicos to crow about the unity of a coalition in which we're doing almost all the heavy lifting.
- Replace our conventional-thinking generals in Iraq and in other hot spots with leaders – preferably Special Forces – who understand the nature of insurgency, and leave them in place until we execute our exit plan.
- Double and then triple the size of our forces in Afghanistan – or we'll soon be following in the Soviets' loser boot-steps. This is one of the main events in our global fight with insurgents and should receive top priority.
- Establish a comprehensive course on counterinsurgency warfare that every commander from lieutenant to general would be required to pass, culminating in a butt-busting final exam certifying that graduates have qualified for counterinsurgency warfare at their particular level. A fail would mean immediate discharge.
- Toughen boot-camp standards for all soldiers and make them as realistic, demanding and disciplined as those sweated through by past generations. Then maintain this level throughout the regular and Reserve forces.
- Merge the Army National Guard and Reserve forces into one formation modeled after the Marine Corps Reserves, but configured for the post-Cold War fight against international insurgency.
- Provide the states with limited funds to establish a light infantry/military police/state militia force for emergencies such as fires and storms, and for Homeland Defense missions.
- Reorganize the Army from A to Z, starting with doubling the size of Special Ops Forces and maneuver units, gutting the Cold War stuff and adding more civil-affairs, psych-war and military-police units. Deep-six the folks who excel in PowerPoint briefings, but add nothing to the critical missions at hand, beginning with the pernicious, pervasive Pentagon blubber and working down to brigade level.
- Overhaul the Army's antique personnel system, which has fostered the current corrosive corporate general officer system that's made many officers and senior NCOs careerists rather than two-fisted leaders. Use Maj. Donald Vandergriff's book "The Path to Victory" as a primer for this desperately needed reform.
- Reduce or scrap most of the multibillion-dollar porker programs such as Star Wars II, and spike orders for platinum-plated Cold War II ships and aircraft. Then use the funds to arm and equip our warriors appropriately.
- Make every military leader from buck sergeant to four-star memorize Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" and "Imperial Hubris" by "Anonymous."
Advertisement - story continues below
That's, of course, for openers ...