Out of Uniform, Out of Touch?

Briefly, while looking for something else, I came across this 22 May 2003 article from the CS Monitor on the Brookings Institution website. It is notable for its premature lambasting of retired military, and other experts, and their predictions on Iraq.

What I find most intriguing is the "armchair generals" knew more than given credit at the time or subsequently.

Much has been written about how wrong the civilian "experts" were in their dismal predictions of how the Iraq war would unfold. But surprisingly little has been made of the fact that virtually all the retired military experts were just as wrong. As ubiquitous as they are, military experts are granted much public trust - but it is worth reviewing just how much they elevate the level of public debate and understanding.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni warned that a rapid push to Baghdad would be a "black hole" for US forces. Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf charged that US war planners didn't appreciate the depths of Iraqi loyalty to Saddam Hussein. And Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey predicted, just hours before the fall of Baghdad, that US casualties would reach 3,000. Other lesser-known retired officers offered similarly errant forecasts.

Sure, some of the predictions were off. Some of the network hired "experts" weren't, but some of the others were more knowledgable and too many bought off on the flowers and "Mission Accomplished".

Consider the case of Gen. Wesley Clark, arguably the most knowledgeable of the retired generals on TV. Earlier this year, he warned that a war with Iraq would distract US attention from war on terrorism. As US forces continued wrapping up Al Qaeda cells worldwide, he complained that the Pentagon had not sent enough ground forces to the Gulf region. When US forces rapidly advanced toward Baghdad, he warned that they couldn't possibly occupy a post-Hussein Iraq. With US forces slowly restoring basic services throughout Iraq, General Clark is now complaining that US forces are dangerously overstretched.

I've met General Clark and he is brilliant. If you would, re-read that last sentance above.