WISER IN BATTLE |
I just finished the book Wiser In Battle, by LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez
(USA Ret.) and Donald T. Phillips.
Sanchez commanded coalition forces in
Iraq after the invasion. Phillips has written several books on
leadership from a historical/political perspective.
Though the meat of the book is Sanchez's account of his command in Iraq:
his biography, learning experiences and explanations of Army command
form the context from which he tells the story. It's a helpful
approach. Just what is it that generals do? What do they have to worry
about? What goes on in a headquarters? Where does civilian
authority end and military authority begin?
V Corps assumed total responsibility of all U.S. and coalition ground
operations in Iraq after President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished!"
The fact that a corps (3-star) command assumed this monumental task was
only the first in what was to be a never-ending series of mistakes and
disorganized knee-jerk reactions.
The agenda that took us to war was at
best short-sighted, and at worst handled in a way that put the
President's second term in higher priority than the war, and troops
As commander of V Corps, Sanchez experienced 18 months of
poor (or little) strategic planning that would increasingly put him in a
position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul, create policy where none
existed nor was given when requested, and hold the collective hand of
the State Department. In addition, the Army was trying to appease a
Secretary of Defense who insisted on complete control of the remote,
changed channels on his terms, and kept the volume on mute.
Sanchez outlines his military experience at each command level he
assumed along his career, and the lessons learned. He also shares his
personal life and how it shaped his attitudes and thinking. He then
takes the reader on a journey into 'post-war' Iraq, where the lessons he
learned during his career were at odds with the White House, the Senate,
and media-driven public perceptions.
He covers, in detail, the problems
at Abu Ghraib, the insurgency, when and how al-Qaeda got involved,
Fallujah, and the problems with Muqtada al-Sadr. He describes having to
take equipment from U.S. troops, who were already under-supplied, to
give to the coalition forces.
Recounting the first assault on Fallujah,
he writes how a few days into the operation, the President ordered
forces to 'cut and run' under fire - a decision that fueled the
insurgency and invited al-Qaeda to pour into the country.
of dealings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ambassador Paul
Bremer, who was supposed to be administering Iraq's recovery, leave the
reader with a sense of dismay as to how such people could be selected
for the highest positions in the country.
I think back to the Clinton years, and the years since, and all of the
stories of how the Clintons disrespected the military. Yet, in all of
those years, not one service man or woman, officer or enlisted, ever
stood up and supported that claim.
Gen. Colin Powell resigned his
position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when President Clinton
advocated allowing gays to serve in the military, but he claimed only a
strong difference of policy. Sanchez is not the first military officer
to make these claims about the Bush administration. According to him,
he was urged by many serving officers to write this book because they
can't speak out while in uniform. Sanchez supports a large number of
claims in the military and other government agencies that this
administration has repeatedly demonstrated a 'my way or the highway'
attitude and will squash any dissent.
To be fair, Sanchez was ultimately relieved of his command of V Corps.
He was blamed, at least initially, for the failures in Iraq. It
ultimately cost him a fourth star and nearly cost him his third. He
feels betrayed, set up as a fall-guy, and the victim of blatant lies.
To say that there are some sour grapes in his book is an understatement.
It can be argued that this book represents the ravings of an angry
ex-employee of the government. Yet, his claims are supported and shared
by some investigative committee findings and many fellow officers. He
doesn't attempt to hide his ill will and goes to great length to explain
the reasons for it. He states a good case for the poor treatment of
himself and others, along with the devastating effects being suffered by
our troops. Jerry O