“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wesley Clark, now and then. You decide.


Wesley Clark: Bush's 'surge' will backfire

The rise in troop numbers could reduce the urgency for political effort

Published: 07 January 2007 The Independent
The odds are that President George Bush will announce a "surge" of up to 20,000 additional US troops in Iraq. But why? Will this deliver a "win"? The answers: a combination of misunderstanding and desperation; and, probably not.

The recent congressional elections - which turned over control of both houses to the Democrats - were largely a referendum on President Bush, and much of the vote reflected public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. Most Americans see the US effort as failing, and believe that some different course of action must be taken. Most favour withdrawing forces soon, if not immediately. The report of the Iraq Study Group is widely seen as a formal confirmation of US failure in Iraq.

The country's action there has been the very centrepiece of the Bush presidency. With two years left in office, he would, of course, try to salvage the situation. Many Americans remember the 1975 evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon, with desperate, loyal Vietnamese friends clinging to the skids of the American helicopters. No one wants that kind of an ending in Iraq. And our friends and allies in the region are also hoping for the US to pull some kind "rabbit from the hat", even if it seems improbable, for a US failure would have grave consequences in the region. Iran, especially, is the beneficiary of a failure, and al-Qa'ida will also try to claim credit.

From the administration's perspective, a troop surge of modest size is virtually the only remaining action inside Iraq that will be a visible signal of determination. More economic assistance is likely to be touted, but in the absence of a change in the pattern of violence, infrastructure enhancement simply isn't practical. And if the President announces new Iraqi political efforts - well, that's been tried before, and is there any hope that this time will be different?...

...Without such fundamental change in Washington's approach, there is little hope that the troops surge, Iraqi promises and accompanying rhetoric will amount to anything other than "stay the course more". That wastes lives and time, perpetuates the appeal of the terrorists, and simply brings us closer to the showdown with Iran. And that will be a tragedy for not just Iraq but our friends in the region as well.
The whole article


November 12, 1999

Gen. Wesley Clark
Fights On and On
The Free Republic

At the beginning of the Kosovo conflict,CounterPunch delved into the military career of General Wesley Clark and discovered that his meteoric rise through the ranks derived from the successful manipulation of appearances: faking the results of combat exercises, greasing to superiors and other practices common to the general officer corps. We correctly predicted that the unspinnable realities of a real war would cause him to become unhinged. Given that Clark attempted to bomb the CNN bureau in Belgrade and ordered the British General Michael Jackson to engage Russian troops in combat at the end of the war, we feel events amply vindicated our forecast.

With the end of hostilities it has become clear even to Clark that most people, apart from some fanatical members of the war party in the White House and State Department, consider the general, as one Pentagon official puts it, "a horse's ass". Defense Secretary William Cohen is known to loathe him, and has seen to it that the Hammer of the Serbs will be relieved of the Nato command two months early.

Adding to this humiliation have been numerous post-war reports from the ground in Kosovo making it clear that the air campaign supervised by Clark inflicted little damage on the Serb army. Derisive comments from Serb generals on the general ineffectiveness of Nato's tactical air campaign have only rubbed salt in his wounds. Accordingly, on September 16, in a desperate effort to redeem the tarnished record of his military command, Clark summoned the Nato press corps in Brussels to hear his own version of events.

True to form, Clark's presentation opened with a gross distortion of the truth: "From the outset of this campaign, we said we would be attacking on two air lines of operation. There would be a strategic attack line" against Serb air defenses, headquarters, supply lines and a "tactical line of operation against the Serb forces in Kosovo and in southern Serbia".

In fact, neither Clark nor anyone else in the U.S. chain of command imagined that the war would involve more than a brief demonstration of Nato firepower in the forms of attacks on air defense radars, communications centers and other fixed targets, thus providing Milosevic with the excuse the U.S. thought he wanted to throw in his hand.
"The Joint Chiefs went along with [the war] on the strict understanding that it would last a maximum of two days", says one Pentagon official with direct knowledge of these events. "No one really planned for what to do after that."

Clark intended the briefing to provide unassailable confirmation of his wartime claims that Nato pilots had destroyed hundreds of Serb tanks and other heavy weapons. Yet he had a problem, since the teams he dispatched to Kosovo immediately after the war could only find 26 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces destroyed on the ground. Accordingly, Clark tried to dazzle his audience with military managerial techno-speak about the "building block methodology" employed in preparing his assessment, which permitted NATO's supreme commander to add another 67 "successful strikes" to the "catastrophic kills" represented by the 26 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces he had already claimed.

With the sleight of hand of a true briefer, Clark left the impression in the minds of the press corps that in each of these 67 strikes the targets had actually been destroyed. But the "methodology" meant merely that the target was added to the score so long as two or more sources-i.e. the pilot's claim, plus perhaps video footage or a report from someone else in the area-indicated that the weapon had hit the target. With such casuistry, Clark was able to inflate the total figure to 93-not far from the wartime boast of 110 such kills.

Even the paltry claim of 26 destroyed targets in this category should be viewed with skepticism. An alert friend of CounterPunch in the defense community points out that slide # 27 in the briefing features a "tank" destroyed by a U.S. Navy F-14 mission. Actually, slide #27 shows not a tank but a second world war U.S. tank destroyer known as the M-36, famously ineffective even when introduced in 1943, and later donated to Yugoslavia some time in the 1950s. Perhaps, our friend suggests, "The Yugos took one look at what they got, and then put the things in front of the nearest VFW-equivalent meeting halls. Then, along come [the Nato attacks] and the word goes out: 'we need hulks to serve as decoys for the Americans to blow up.' Wes Clark & staff collect the imagery and proudly display their 'kill'".

This same observer notes that the Pentagon is working on what will be a "lying, cheating, thieving" after-action report, basing his description on news that the work is being supervised by deputy defense secretary John Hamre, a noted time-server and catspaw of the uniformed military.

Among the many issues the report is not expected to address is the sudden disappearance, half way through the conflict, of the $2 billion B-2 stealth bomber, described by Clark as one of the "heroes" of the war. Forty-three days into the conflict, the B-2 was reported as having flown "nearly fifty" sorties. When the war ended after 78 days of bombing, an authoritative report stated that the B-2 had flown a total of 49 missions, indicating that it "fell out of the war" half way through. Presumably, the costly behemoths were deteriorating at such a rate that the Air Force decided to relegate the plane to its alternative mission as backdrop for President Clinton's demonstrations of martial resolve on TV.

Another topic on which we may expect Hamre to remain diplomatically silent is the ingenuity with which the Serbs diverted the anti-radar Harm missiles launched in enormous numbers by Nato's planes. Early on, the Serbs discovered that a microwave oven, adjusted to operate with the door open, appears exactly like an air defense radar to the $750,000 missiles - a very cost-effective exchange.

Despite such embarrassments, Clark can take heart from the fact that his influence on warfare already transcends the Balkans. Since Operation Allied Force laid waste to the Serbian civilian infrastructure, the targeting of such infrastructure has become routine and acceptable. The Israelis, who have for years shown relative care in avoiding the Lebanese infrastructure in their raids, were quick to change tactics, citing the Balkan operation as a legitimizing precedent. More recently the gangsters in the Kremlin have used the same justification for their terror-bombing of Chechnya.

Since Clark may be chagrined at his reception in post-war Washington, he should perhaps look to Tel Aviv and Moscow for a more fulsome recognition of his role in history.


  1. Deuce,

    Another correspondent and I have, this morning, lightly touched upon General Clark at Westhawk’s site. Because those closest to him over his career have so little good to say about his character and skill, only CNN could think him a useful “expert”.

    You must give him credit for one attribute; he has an ego as big as the great outdoors.

    We have had some great threads this weekend.

  2. Deuce,

    As evidenced by so many of the current flag staff, General Clark was an ideal officer for the Clinton and Bush administraitons.

  3. Allen, I love trish's "roger that". Forgot about that one.

    But a double "roger that", that including the improvement in the threads and level of dicussion and argument. It is about as good as it gets on the web and still staying real, irreverent and amusing. Damn pleased to be part of it.

  4. Wesley, what kiind of a name is Wesley?

    Weasly Wesley.

    Wesley Weasle?

  5. It seems to me that Iraq comes down to a simple decision. Are we better off with a stable Iraq or not? If a stable Iraq is established, they may find democracy if they are interested in doing so.

    Without stability, no democracy will work anywhere.

    If Iraq stability is unimportant, we can leave.

    If stability dictates that we stay, then we need to take the least objectionable strategy to achieve that goal.

  6. Iraqi stability, Iraq itself is the Federal Government's Army.
    Or is it the Army's Fedral Government?

    The Iraqi Army should be our proxy in Iraq, that it is not ...

    Even so it still is the best available rally point. Whom ever the Iraqi Army backs will, in the end, win.

    Since the Army is Shia/Kurd by as much as 90+%, there is the 80% Solution, back by Mr Cheney, reportedly.

  7. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the incoming House Democratic leader, on Fox made a rather interesting side comment. He said that when he met Bush and mentioned
    "immigration reform", Bush smiled and said he expected better cooperation from this congress than he has received from Republican leadership in the past. (that is a loose, but I believe accurate discription of the response.)

    Again, could someone explain to me what BDS is?

  8. I am always amused when right-wing editorialists, such as the author of your '99 Free Republic article, have to rely on very-far-left sources like Counterpunch for their purported "facts" about Democratic policy or action. As if they (and you) don't know that Counterpunch's owner, Alex Cockburn, is an avowed communist who is as opposed to the Democratic party as the GOP, indeed the entire American political system. If men can be judged by the enemies they make, Wes Clark is well served by those who hate him from both ends of the political spectrum.

    Be that as it may, the facts are that almost nothing in that article is credible, and it's quite obvious the author knows nothing about military operations in Kosovo. By his own admission -- his id on Free Republic -- author CP is an "anti-war Republican." And while I strongly suspect he is really only an anti-started-by-a-Democrat-war Republican, his lack of any military background or experience is likewise obvious.

    The vast majority of us who actually served as part of the Bosnia/Kosovo team know that General Clark was an outstanding commander, both militarily and in his ability to maintain NATO's political support thru the conclusion of the war. That's why so many of us supported Wes Clark for president in '04, and who will be there for him next time should he decide to run.

  9. Gentleman are kindly reminded to turn off their cell phones:

    Saddam aides 'to die this week'


    The Iraqi government has said that the executions of two senior associates of former leader Saddam Hussein, will take place some time during the week.
    This is despite an appeal from the new UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, that they should not go ahead.

    Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the execution orders for Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar had been signed, and there was no way back.

  10. So, there you go, another voice in the woods. Viewing the General from a different perspective, an entirely altered scene.

    Wesley Clark has a different view of te Iraqi scene than does Mr Bush.

    It seems to me, with the return of Gneral P, Mr Maliki's 20,000 man surge of Kurds into Baghdad.

    A modified 80% Solution seems to be the way forward.
    A US "Surge" to draw a line against Ms Pelosi. She will wail to no avail.
    The Iraqi get their desired chance to "take over". Whomever the Iraqi Government is, that the Iraqi Army supports, Mr Maliki and Mr Talibani. Squash the Sunni Insurgents, with Kurd and Shia forces, that'll be the "New Way".

    Let the Iraqi loose

  11. Thank you for your comments colonel. I find the safest way to come to consensus is to sift through dissent.

    Alex Cockburn reminds me of christopher Hitchens in that he manages to irritate the left and the right. That is fine with me.

    Gen. Hugh Shelton was asked if he would support retired Gen. Wesley Clark for president, Shelton, said. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

    Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf when asked what he thought of Clark. "I think the greatest condemnation against him . . . came from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was a NATO commander. I mean, he was fired as a NATO commander," Schwarzkopf replied, "and when Hugh Shelton said he was fired because of matters of character and integrity, that is a very, very damning statement, which says, `If that's the case, he's not the right man for president,' as far as I'm concerned."

    I must be honest and will admit that I was not a big fan of bombing Christians in support of Muslims in Kosovo. I was also fine with hanging Milosevic, but nature beat him to the rope he never would have found in Brussels so all's well that ends well. I would very much appreciate what your personal take on Clark is. What do you see in the man that others have not? There is no sarcasm in that question. I just do not know and would welcome your insight and also welcome you to The Elephant.

  12. Who in Iraq does not knw that, trish?

    Who are you trying to educate?

    Do you think the Shia "man in the street" does not "know" that the Iranians have influence in the SCIRI and Dawa? Or that they "Know" but are in deniel?

  13. I have no idea who that would be.
    Some Iraqi Army Generals, perhap, as if they would not know, even better than US, about Iranian influences in Iraq.

  14. Ok, who has been abusing WC, and why wasn't I invited?!

  15. Events so often conspire to make the blogosphere a negatively focused experience that good news slips by unnoticed. In the spirit of remediation, I offer,
    Infighting spreads to West Bank

  16. Three US Norfolk-based amphibious assault ships set out for Persian Gulf Saturday. They are part of the USS Bataan Strike group carrying 2,000 Marines and equipped to insert forces ashore by helicopter, landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The Baatan is equipped with helicopters and fast hovercraft capable of landing thousands of Marines on beaches and providing the landing with cover. The Shreveport, known as the Super Gator, combines the logistical-intelligence support of a command ship with the assault capabilities of combat loaded marines. It is designed for extended amphibious operations. The USS Oak Hill is designed to assist distressed vessels. Another three warships are due to sail out of Norfolk for the Gulf this week with marine personnel aboard. This will bring to more than 20,000 the complement of sailors, marines and pilots either heading for the Gulf region like the USS John C. Stennis strike group, or already present like the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Boxer.

  17. Bill Ardolino, writing at The Fourth Rail, has up a first rate piece of embed reporting on some Gators. If only senior leadership was up to the standard of these fellows.

    Featured Embed Report: On Patrol with the Gators

  18. Deuce,

    Thanks for the kind words at Westhawk.

  19. While reading the Ardolino report, I linked to a site recommended by him. Although I haven’t yet had the chance to fully reconnoiter, Badgers Forward looks promising, indeed.

    Badgers Forward

  20. rufus,

    Did you get that "Futurist" link I addressed to you on the previous thread? If not, have a look. I think you will enjoy the site immensely.

  21. Fatah and Hamas are locked into low level civil strife. From all appearances, it looks as if Abbas has thrown in his lot with Israel and the Alliance. Consequently, any Allied action against Iran will find the Palestinian Authority to involved in its internal struggle to pose a threat to the Western flank, from that quarter.

    Totten is reporting from Lebanon that Hezbollah, despite its publicity campaign, is not universally loved by the Lebanese. Indeed, Hezbollah may find itself stymied in any upcoming Allied move against Iran.

    With both the PA and Hezbollah fully occupied with maintaining some semblance of stability and threatened by internal opposition, Syria will be isolated in any upcoming strike against its ally Iran, unable to call upon its preoccupied proxies.

    Today’s reports tell of Maliki calling up at least three Kurdish brigades, tasking them with a significant role in the pacification of Baghdad.

    Is something in the works? May we be seeing the auguries of the long awaited move against Iran?

  22. rufus,

    As you have often observed, most of the scientists who ever have lived are working today. And, the Futurist leaves one with a sense of optimism about the progress being made.

  23. "The attacker would quickly regret the action," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said in response to a question on the possibility of Israel's military strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

    According to a report by British newspaper The Sunday Times,

    Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons.

    Attacker would Regret

  24. rufus,

    Some years ago, I found myself debating a kind, well meaning Jewish professor of international studies. His initial position was typical of the time: Africans were starving because a selfish, racist West withheld its ample supplies of foodstuffs. My position held that starvation was driven by distribution rather than supply. Long story short, in the face of incontestable evidence, the gentleman had the intellectual integrity to admit, that at that particular time, the Ethiopian government was using food distribution as a weapon against its adversaries.

    Africa has enormous potential, if the governments there can somehow be convinced or coerced to make systemic, capitalist reforms. Both education and Christianity are having some impact, but as long as Western politicians refuse to press the issue, the battle’s outcome will remain in doubt. Charity is fine, as far as it goes. But charity cannot make a man or a nation self-sufficient.

  25. Lebanon

    On January 3, 2007, the pro-Syrian Lebanese daily Al-Safir reported on a meeting between Nasrallah and the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon. According to the paper, during the meeting, the Egyptian ambassador repeatedly warned that Hizbullah must be alert to the danger of civil war between Sunnis and Shi'ites. "Nasrallah, for his part, emphasized Hizbullah's concern for maintaining Islamic unity, [but] warned that the Americans would foment an atmosphere of civil war on all fronts - a war that, for Hizbullah, is a line that must not be crossed."

    The daily said that the Egyptian ambassador told Nasrallah that he should not expect regional involvement (alluding to Syrian and Iranian involvement), and stressed - echoing the message conveyed by the Saudi king to the Hizbullah delegation - that the solution must be reached through internal dialogue and not by reliance on foreign intervention.

    The paper reported that the ambassador said to Nassrallah: "Honesty compels me to tell you that your image [as a hero of the resistance] has begun to erode in light of the situation in Lebanon, and that there are attempts to tarnish your image as a jihad fighter by [invoking] the details [of what is happening in Lebanon, thus] damaging the image of the resistance..."

    Nasrallah replied: "We [i.e. Hizbullah] have the courage to admit that mistakes were made on all sides, and not just on one side. They [the March 14 Forces] made mistakes, and so did we... We supported all the Arab and Lebanese initiatives [that attempted to resolve the crisis]... it was always others who sabotaged [these attempts]..

  26. A surge of troops "must be substantial and it must be sustained".

    Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told CNN that the administration had recently discussed the proposals in depth with Iraqi officials.

    "And we think that we have the plan ready now. We are more than happy to ask for more troops if the military commanders need it, and if they command that, we will have more troops on the ground,'' he said.

    Troop Increase

  27. I believe the original topic of this thread was about Wesley Clark.

    Wesley = weasle or weasley

    Clark = creap

    Weasly Creap

    I don't know much about him, but simply listening to him and watching him in his campaign left me the impression of a sociopathic liar who will do anything and say anything to get what he wants. He'd be a candidate for the worst POTUS ever, worse even than ole horse face.

  28. Tell it as it is

    Whether lawmakers are prepared to advocate legislative steps to withhold funds from an expanded mission is unclear. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that as a practical matter, there was little that lawmakers could do to prevent Mr. Bush from expanding the American military mission in Iraq.

    “You can’t go in like a Tinkertoy and play around and say you can’t spend the money on this piece and this piece,” Mr. Biden said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “He’ll be able to keep the troops there forever, constitutionally, if he wants to.”

    “As a practical matter,” Mr. Biden added, “there is no way to say, ‘Mr. President, stop.’ ”

    (In a rather resignatory manner, as Biden also remarked to WP that:

    Democrat Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told US television network NBC today that it was too late to surge troops into Iraq.

    "It made sense to surge 60, 70, 100,000 troops before there was a civil war. There is now a civil war,'' he said.

    "Civil war" again - somehow he manages to miss the significance and growing visibility of the creeping influence and hegemonic aspirations of Iran. Is it still a Shiite-Sunni religious war after it has been unveiled that the mullahs have been funding aQ insurgents as well?

    Or an intra-religious war with the Shiites siding with Sunnis against the Persians? Ah, I relish that prospect.

    As a jacksonian helpfully suggests:

    That is why the current context of so many wanting to call Iraq a 'Civil War' and, thus, unwinnable is something that is defeatist in its outlook. By trying to fixate on a term, which implies a coherent opposition with government and control of territory with regular armed forces, those using that term are describing something that does not exist on the ground in the current situation in Iraq. By using the emotional overtones of that language, however, those using it are trying to defeat the United States via that use. What the United States is currently engaged in is an attempt to keep the larger conflict against Transnational Terrorism contained within a geographical area so as to remove broader support for terrorist cells globally and concentrate money, manpower and effort within the Middle East as a whole. As of yet no one in the Political Elite, including the President, has cited this as a major reason for actually staying in the Middle East and Iraq.

    From the NYT article:

    The Americans have not been the only ones underscoring the need for benchmarks. The Maliki government has pressed to gain direct command of Iraq’s 10 army divisions, insisting it should be achieved by June. Some American officials have been concerned that it is overambitious. Nevertheless, an administration official has indicated that it is among the goals.

    With Fallon's appointment confirmed, and the possibility of a sea/air assault on Iran, perhaps Bush will devolve responsibility of ground forces (partially) to the Maliki government. Of course, it is surely sceptical to trust that Maliki would not simply undermine the Iraqi forces by turning them over to al-Sadr - as he has betrayed his penchant for using the Sadrists as political cover - and so this represents a crucial juncture at which Maliki himself can prove that he sides with us rather than allow sectarianism and militias to flourish in Iraq.

    If he spurns this opportunity - and trust me, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised, and neither should anyone - then it's safe to say that Maliki's authority - or whatever's left of it - should be overridden without hesitation or second-guessing.