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Friday, January 07, 2005

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Says who?

The New York Times reports today about a review of US military policy in Iraq. Like most "news", it's filled with opinion and innuendo as well as un-named "sources" through whom the writers can say whatever they want.

What I attempt to show here is how I analyze articles before I begin researching an issue.
Rumsfeld Seeks Broad Review of Iraq Policy


WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 - The Pentagon is sending a retired four-star Army general to Iraq next week to conduct an unusual "open-ended" review of the military's entire Iraq policy, including troop levels, training programs for Iraqi security forces and the strategy for fighting the insurgency, senior Defense Department officials said Thursday.
Who says it's "unusual"? What evidence do you have that this type of review has never been done before?

Your headline is misleading. If this is a review of "troop levels, training programs...and strategy", that's a completely different one from a review of Iraq "policy" (which is the purview of the President, not the SecDef.)
The extraordinary leeway given to the highly regarded officer, Gen. Gary E. Luck, a former head of American forces in South Korea and currently a senior adviser to the military's Joint Forces Command, underscores the deep concern by senior Pentagon officials and top American commanders over the direction that the operation in Iraq is taking, and its broad ramifications for the military, said some members of Congress and military analysts.
Again, why is it "extraordinary"? What evidence do you have to back up that opinion?

Where's the evidence that "senior Pentagon officials" are "deep[ly] concern[ed]...over the direction that the operation...is taking"? Who are the un-named "members of Congress and military analysts"? Why should we take your word for this? Why can't you name them? Or at least quote them?
In another sign that the Iraq campaign is forcing reassessments of Pentagon policies, Army officials are now considering whether to request that the temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers approved by Congress be made permanent. One senior Army official said Thursday that the increase is likely to be needed on a permanent basis if the service is to meet its global commitments - despite the additional cost of $3 billion per year.
Who says this reassessment is "forced" by the Iraq campaign? What evidence is there that a reassessment would not normally have been done at this time?

Furthermore, is reassessment a bad thing? Rumsfeld has been criticized by your paper for being stubborn and refusing to seek input. Now that he is apparently doing just what you criticized him for not doing, why is there no acknowledgement of that on your part?
At a meeting Thursday with his top military and civilian aides, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed that General Luck look at all areas of the operation, identify any weaknesses and report back in a few weeks with a confidential assessment, senior defense officials said.

"He will have a very wide canvas to draw on," said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman. Mr. Di Rita emphasized that Mr. Rumsfeld was very satisfied with his commanders in Iraq, but wanted to give them all the help they needed in assessing "the very dynamic situation."

General Luck, who was a senior adviser to Gen. Tommy R. Franks at his war-time headquarters in Qatar during the Iraq campaign in 2003 and knows the operation in Iraq well, will lead a small team of military specialists. A principal focus will be to address one of the biggest problems facing the military in Iraq today: how to train Iraqi soldiers and police officers to replace the American troops now securing the country. Commanders have expressed disappointment in the performance of many of the Iraqi forces.
And these commanders would be? I don't recall Abizaid saying this. Why can't you name these commanders? Do they exist? Or did you create them to put words in their mouths?
The assessment of how rapidly Iraqis can begin shouldering the security burden is driving a separate set of painful, high-level discussions at the Pentagon, where senior officials are calculating how to sustain a large force in Iraq. The number of American military personnel in Iraq rose this month to 150,000, the largest deployment since Baghdad fell.
Why is this "painful"? What evidence do you have that it's painful? Isn't this just your opinion?
In another move that could affect hundreds of thousands of members of the National Guard and Reserve, the senior Army official said the Pentagon leadership was also considering whether to change mobilization policy to allow reservists to be called up for more than 24 months of total active service, which is the current limit.

The policy change under consideration would allow the Army to call up members of the National Guard and Reserve for duty as many times as required, but not for more than two years at a time.

With American commanders in Iraq voicing growing concern over the increasingly sophisticated insurgency and gaps in Iraqi leadership, General Luck's assignment is tacit acknowledgement that the Iraq operation, including the training program, has reached a crossroads.
Again, who are these commanders? Why can't you name these people? I can't seem to find any quotes from these folks - just reports like yours that attribute things to un-named commanders.
"This is evidence that the training is not going well," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who visited Iraq recently and was an officer in the 82nd Airborne Division.
How is Senator Reed's military service relevant? What does quoting him add to the story other than his opinion? Why is his opinion relevant?

And was it not possible to find a Senator you could also quote saying good things about this? Why is a negative opinion more valuable than a positive opinion?
General Luck, who commanded the XVIII Airborne Corps in the Persian Gulf war in 1991, is a revered figure among soldiers and a mentor to their officers, a senior figure who in a disarming, low-key way makes suggestions and recommendations that do not threaten a commander's authority, say Army officers and other people who know him.

For that reason, defense officials say General Luck's review will cast a wide net. "General Luck has an awful lot of stored knowledge about the operation in Iraq," Mr. Di Rita said. "He will certainly have the opportunity to offer his insights on anything he sees."

Mr. Di Rita said General Luck's assignment was welcomed by Gen. John P. Abizaid and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the two top commanders in the region.

General Luck's mission is a more open-ended version of other spot assessments the military has conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the training program in Iraq to the enhancement of intelligence collection.
That's interesting. If this assignment is a "more open-ended version" of other assessments, then why did you call it "unusual" and "extraordinary" rather than a "fuller assessment" or "more complete assessment" or "broader assessment" or "extension of previous assessments"? And why did you claim it was "forced" by the "Iraq campaign" if it's just another, albeit more complete, assessment?
Early last year, Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry recommended that the Pentagon slow down fielding the new Iraqi army to focus on building adequate militia units of what is now the Iraqi National Guard.

Last April, the Pentagon sent then-Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who had just completed his command of the 101st Airborne Division, to help step up the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. Soon after, he was promoted to lieutenant general and put in charge of the training program.

The success of that program is the linchpin to America's exit strategy from Iraq.
This last statement is pure opinion. Can you quote anyone from the administration ever using the phrase "exit strategy"? Anyone saying this program is "the linchpin" to that never-mentioned exit strategy?
The active-duty soldiers and reservists of the Army are the military personnel most under strain by the commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and for homeland security. The service ended 2004 with 499,500 active-component troops supplemented by 160,000 members of the National Guard and Army Reserve on duty.

A temporary, year-long increase of 30,000 soldiers approved by Congress would allow the Army to officially grow to a strength of 512,400 this year.

A senior Army official said the question of a permanent increase in active-duty personnel would be part of the sweeping review of strategy, budgets and weapons now under way and called the Quadrennial Defense Review. It is mandated by Congress and due in December.

"As we have gone through this process, it is apparent to us that we're going to have to address whether we can get back down off the 30,000," the senior Army official said. "I don't think we will be able to." The Army official discussed the service's current thinking on condition of anonymity, because no proposals have been offered.
Anonymous but quoted. Does this mean that your previous un-named sources are not quoted because you put words in their mouths?
The Army is restructuring its combat brigades and its division and corps headquarters during the next few years to increase the number of combat brigades to 43, and perhaps to 48, from the current 33.

As part of that program, the Army is seeking to find efficiencies, is rebalancing missions between the active force and the reserves and has shifted a number of administrative duties to civilians to free up personnel in uniform for jobs in the field.

But in this rebuilding, "the active component formations may have to be more robust," the senior Army official said. "That means we may have to hold on to more end strength."

In the Army, planners have debated many personnel numbers, with one official involved in the review saying that the debate has ranged from 575,000 active-duty personnel to fewer than 500,000. The senior official who spoke Thursday gave no indication of a request larger than 30,000 additional personnel.

The official said that although the current mix of Army forces in Iraq is nearly a 50-50 split between active-duty soldiers and reservists, the active-duty share of the next rotation will grow to 70 percent because the Army is simply running out of reserve units to call up, given the current 24-month limit on active duty.

The Army will decide in weeks whether to ask Mr. Rumsfeld to change Pentagon mobilization policy to expand the limit on how often and how long members of the Army National Guard and Reserve may be called up.

"That's going to be one of the issues we'll have to bring forward," the official said. "We have to plan."
What we have at this point is some idea of what's going on with much of your opinions interjected throughout. It's difficult to know exactly what to think about your "story". Without further research I can't be sure about the accuracy of your article, although the basic facts are obvious.

Unfortunately far too many people will take the entire article as "fact" and assume that, once again, the administration is being forced against its will to do thing that it would never otherwise have done.