Galloway column and Galloway/Di Rita email exchange
After losing war game, Rumsfeld packed up his military and went to war
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - Of those generals who have stepped forward to criticize Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his conduct of the Iraq War, none has pointed
out the mistakes of a man who admits no error with more specificity than
retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper.
Van Riper is widely respected as a military thinker who emerged from combat
in Vietnam determined to help get to the bottom of what went wrong there and
why and how it should be fixed.
Van Riper, who commanded both the Marine War College at Quantico, Va., and
the prestigious National War College in Washington before retiring in 1997, told
an interviewer in October 2004 that the military got the lessons all wrong
after World War II and that mistake resulted in two disasters - Korea and
"My great fear is we're off to something very similar to what happened after
World War II, that is getting it completely wrong again," the general said of
the course in Iraq.
The general made it clear he is no anti-war crusader. "We have to stay," he
said of Iraq this week. "We have to finish it, but let's do it right."
Van Riper told Knight Ridder that in looking at Rumsfeld's leadership he
found three particular areas of inability and incompetence.
First, he said, if any battalion commander under him had created so "poor a
climate of leadership" and the "bullying" that goes on in the Pentagon under
Rumsfeld he would order an investigation and relieve that commander.
"Even more than that I focus on (his) incompetence when it comes to preparing
American military forces for the future," Van Riper said. "His idea of
transformation turns on empty buzz words. There's none of the scholarship and
doctrinal examination that has to go on before you begin changing the force."
Third, he said, under Rumsfeld there's been no oversight of military
"Mr. Rumsfeld has failed 360 degrees in the job. He is incompetent," Van
Riper concluded. "Any military man who made the mistakes he has made, tactically
and strategically, would be relieved on the spot."
One event that shocked Van Riper occurred in 2002 when he was asked, as he
had been before, to play the commander of an enemy Red Force in a huge $250
million three-week war game titled Millennium Challenge 2002. It was widely
advertised as the best kind of such exercises - a free-play unscripted test of some
of the Pentagon's and Rumsfeld's fondest ideas and theories.
Though fictional names were applied, it involved a crisis moving toward war
in the Persian Gulf and in actuality was a barely veiled test of an invasion of
In the computer-controlled game, a flotilla of Navy warships and Marine
amphibious warfare ships steamed into the Persian Gulf for what Van Riper assumed
would be a pre-emptive strike against the country he was defending.
Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast patrol
boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship missiles as well as
first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. He packed small
boats and small propeller aircraft with explosives for one mass wave of suicide
attacks against the Blue fleet. Last, the general shut down all radio traffic
and sent commands by motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the
At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into the fleet,
and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the Navy ships in a
simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy's much-vaunted defenses based
on its Aegis cruisers and their radar controlled Gatling guns.
When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces had sunk
16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of Marines and sailors
The referees stopped the game, which is normal when a victory is won so
early. Van Riper assumed that the Blue Force would draw new, better plans and the
free play war games would resume.
Instead he learned that the war game was now following a script drafted to
ensure a Blue Force victory: He was ordered to turn on all his anti-aircraft
radar so it could be destroyed and he was told his forces would not be allowed to
shoot down any of the aircraft bringing Blue Force troops ashore.
The Pentagon has never explained. It classified Van Riper's 21-page report
criticizing the results and conduct of the rest of the exercise, along with the
report of another DOD observer. Pentagon officials have not released Joint
Forces Command's own report on the exercise.
Van Riper walked out and didn't come back. He was furious that the war game
had turned from an honest, open free play test of America's war-fighting
capabilities into a rigidly controlled and scripted exercise meant to end in an
overwhelming American victory.
Danita No. 1:
From: DiRita, Larry, CIV, OSD [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 6:58 AM
To: Galloway, Joe Subject:
Your column about Gen Van Riper is just silly, Joe. To tag the Secretary of
Defense with being responsible for every sparrow that falls out of every tree
is just ludicrous.
General Kernan, who was commander of the Joint Forces Command when Van
Riper's wargame occurred, had very pointed things to say about Van Riper when Van
Riper made his first notoriety on this whole thing.
To tag Rumsfeld with a wargame when there were about three or four layers of
the chain of command between Rumsfeld and the wargamers just misunderstands
the way the world works.
Let's at least be honest about this: there is a lot of change taking place,
and that change forces people to re-examine the way we have always done things.
That is bumpy, and that can make people anxious.
I don't have any idea what might have happened in Van Riperâ€™s experience with
this wargame, but to blame the secretary of defense for it just sounds crazy.
You talk about "Rumsfeldâ€™s fondest ideas and theories" as if you have the
first clue as to what those are. I have worked with him side-by-side for five
years, and I wouldn't even try to divine what his fondest ideas and theories are.
The debate about defense transformation was going on long before Rumsfeld
showed up at the Pentagon. I'd wager that the war game Van Riper was so offended
by probably began in planning before Rumsfeld showed up.
Van Riper has never even met the secretary to my knowledge. For him to make
such sweeping comments as he did in your piece is just irresponsible.
As a journalist, don't you think you owe it to your readers to challenge when
people say things like that as though they have firsthand knowledge? Also,
you ought to talk with Buck Kernan, who commanded JFCOM at the time.
You're just becoming a johnny-one-note and it's only a couple of steps from
that to curmudgeon!!
From Galloway in response to Da Rita No. 1:
Larry: I am delighted that folks over in OSD continue to read my columns with
great attention. Who knows, it might make a difference one day. Iâ€™ve always
understood that the guy in charge takes the fall for everything that goes wrong
on his watch. This is why the U.S. Navy courts martial the captain of any
ship that is involved in an accident or is sunk for whatever reason. This is why
a President, Harry Truman, always kept a sign on his desk in the oval office
that said simply: The Buck Stops Here. Trouble with this administration is the
buck never stops anywhere, on anybody's desk. "Victory has many fathers;
defeat is an orphan" --Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law in 1945
Last I knew Mr. Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. His is the ultimate
responsibility. And I am damned if I can understand how you could work for the
man for as long as you have without knowing what he likes and doesn't like in
the way of strategy and tactics and fighting wars. In the meantime, I hope you
will take note of the fact that throughout the discussion of this and other
columns with you I have never once implied that you were "silly" or "crazy" or
"ludicrous" or even a "johnny-one-note.â€ I will be leaving this town in three
weeks, Larry, and there's a lot of people and places I will miss. You aren't
exactly at the top of that list... Joe Galloway
Da Rita No. 2:
That's not what you're describing, though, in your Van Riper piece.
I also served long enough to know that officers who hide behind anonymity and
complain to you and other journalists about what they don't like are causing
great harm to the institutions they serve and to the country.
Anyway, I think your columns have been representative of a school of thought
within military circles that I don't believe is particularly widespread.
The army is so much more capable and suitable for the nation's needs that it
was 5 or 10 years ago. To my mind, the voices your columns represent missed
the forest for the trees.
I regret you took offense at our exchanges. Apparently people can tell a
journalist the most damnable things about Rumsfeld or Myers or Franks or the
President and it's okay, but a little feisty email exchange in response you find
Galloway Response to Danita No. 2:
Subj: Re: Date: 5/3/2006 4:56:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Larry: the army you describe as "so much more capable" than it was 5 or 10
years ago is, in fact, very nearly broken. Another three years of the careful
attention of your boss ought to just about finish it off. This is not the word
from your anonymous officers; this is from my own observations in the field in
Iraq and at home on our bases and in the military schools and colleges. You
can sit there all day telling me that pigs can fly, with or without lipstick,
and I am not going to believe it. Seemingly the reverse is also true. One of us
is dead wrong and I have a good hunch that it would be you. You go flying
blind through that forest and you are going to find those trees for sure. Whether
or not Paul Van Riper has ever met Secretary Rumsfeld is not at issue. One
does not have to be a personal acquaintance to find that a public figure's
policies and conduct of his office are wanting. Secretary Rumsfeld spent a good
number of years as the CEO of various large corporations. He knows about being
responsible for the bottom line in that line of work. So too is he responsible in
his current line of work; actually even more so given the stakes involved. So
grasp that concept harder, friend Larry. Urge your boss to step up to the
plate and admit it when he's gotten it wrong at least as quickly as he steps up
to run those famous victory laps with Gen Meyer back in the spring of '03. Best
Danita No. 3:
Subj: Re: Date: 5/3/2006 5:09:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Time will tell. The army is faster, more agile, more deployable, more lethal.
At least that's what Schoomaker thinks. The army of 2000 could not have
sustained rotational deployments indefinitely. Retention is above 100 percent in
units that have frequently deployed. Would all those soldiers be rushing to join
a "broken" army? Do you really believe we were better off with tens of
thousands of soldiers in fixed garrisons, essentially non-deployable, in Germany and
Korea? I appreciate your depth of feeling. What bugs me though is your
implication that Rumsfeld doesn't care about it as much as you do. Also, if Van
Riper et al confined their "analysis" to the issue at hand, your comment would be
valid. Their comments were ad hominid, and that is a neat trick for someone
they never met.
Anyway, time will tell. Best...
Galloway response to Da Rita No. 3:
Larry: [You say] the army of 2000 could not have sustained indefinite
My response: neither can the army of 2003 or the army of 2005 or 2006. It is
grinding up the equipment and the troops inexorably. recruiting can barely, or
hardly, or not, bring in the 80,000 a year needed to maintain a steady state
in the active army enlisted ranks....and that is WITH the high retention rates
in the brigades. And neither figure addresses the hemorrhaging of captains
and majors who are voting with their feet in order to maintain some semblance of
a family life and a future without war in it. And what do we do about a year
when average 93 percent of majors are selected for Lt Col in all MOSs....and
100 plus percent in critical MOSs. The army is scraping the barrel. Then there
is the matter of 14 pc Cat IV recruits admitted in Oct 05 and 19pc in
Nov....against an annual ceiling of 4 percent??? The returning divisions, which leave
all their equipment behind in Iraq, come home and almost immediately lose
2,000 to 3,000 stop-loss personnel. Then TRADOC goes in and cherry picks the best
NCOs for DI and schoolhouse jobs.
Leaving a division with about 65 percent of
authorized strength, no equipment to train on, sitting around for eight or
nine months painting rocks. If they are lucky 90 days before re-deploying the
army begins to refill them with green kids straight out of AIT or advanced armor
training. If they are even luckier they have time to get in a rotation to
JROTC or NTC and get some realistic training for those new arrivals. If not so
lucky they just take them off to combat and let em sink or swim. This is not
healthy. This is not an army on the way up but one on the way to a disaster. We
need more and smarter soldiers. Not more Cat IVs. So far it is the willingness
of these young men and women to serve, and to deploy multiple times, and to
work grueling and dangerous 18 hour days 7 days a week that is the glue holding
things together. All the cheap fixes have been used; all the one-time-only
gains so beloved of legislators trying to balance a budget and get out of town.
The question is what sort of an army are your bosses going to leave behind as
their legacy in 2009? One that is trained, ready and well equipped to fight the
hundred-year war with Islam that seems to have begun with a vengeance on your
watch? or will they leave town and head into a golden retirement as that army
collapses for lack of manpower, lack of money to repair and replace all the
equipment chewed up by Iraq and Afghanistan, lack of money to apply to fixing
those problems because billions were squandered on weapons systems that are a
ridiculous legacy of a Cold War era long gone (viz. the f/22, the osprey, the
navy's gold plated destroyers and aircraft carriers and, yes, nuclear submarines
whose seeming future purpose is to replace rubber zodiac boats as the
favorite landing craft of Spec Ops teams, at a cost of billions) meanwhile the
pentagon, at the direction of your boss, marches rapidly ahead with deployment of an
anti-missile system whose rockets have yet to actually get out of the launch
tubes. At a cost of yet more multiple billions. you say I blame your boss for
things 3 or 4 levels below him that he can't possibly be controlling and quote
accusations from present and former flag officers who he has never eyeballed
Well the above items are things that he directly controls, or
should; things he came into office vowing he was going to fix or change
drastically. And in the latest QDR, his last, he made none of the hard choices about
wasted money on high dollar weapons systems that make no sense in the real world
today. The same QDR quite correctly identifies an urgent need for MORE Psyops
and civil affairs and military police and far more troops who have foreign
language training appropriate to where we fight. And we budget a paltry 191
million, I say MILLION, bucks to do all that. not even the cost of the periscopes
on those oh-so-necessary submarines, or the instruments on one of those F22s.
this is what has my attention; this is what has me in a mood to question over
and over and over, waiting for answers that never come, change that never
comes, course corrections that never come. You wanted some specifics. There are
some specifics. Joe Galloway
PS: those tens of thousands of soldiers in fixed garrisons in Germany who
could not deploy were called VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. They deployed.
They formed the armored spear that penetrated Kuwait and broke the republican
guard. The garrisons were guarded, while they were gone, by the German army and
police. They would have been so guarded in OIF too had we tried a bit of
diplomacy instead of bitch-slapping Old Europe as your boss did at a crucial
moment. Those bases in Germany were paid for by Germany; still are. And they are a
good deal closer to the action at present and in the foreseeable future than
fort riley, Kansas. Now we envision counting on rough and crude forward bases,
occupied only occasionally, in places where we have such good friends and
allies like the fellow who just ordered us to get out because we harrumphed when he
slaughtered a few hundred or thousand peaceful demonstrators against his
theft of yet another democratic election. You say that by doing this we are pos
itioning ourselves better for the wars of the future. But what if, once again, a
curtain of iron descends across Europe and once again the Fulda Gap must be
guarded against the new Red Army of our good friend and ally Putin. Your boss is
fond of saying that this or that thing is "unknowable.â€ The most unknowable
thing of all is who your enemy is going to be next time and where you are going
to need allies and bases from which to attack or defend. pulling out of
Europe and south Korea may be one of the larger mistakes charged off against your
boss five years from now or ten, if we are lucky enough to have a whole decade
to repair some of the damage he has done while congress turned a blind eye,
too busy doing earmarks for flea circus museums in Dubuque and bridges to
nowhere, Alaska, to do the necessary oversight and questioning of cockamamie ideas
with even more dubious estimates of future savings of billions that begin
dropping like a rock before the ink is even dry on the report. All I can say is
what the hell are you doing questioning my columns when you ought to be in there
at the elbow of your boss reading those columns aloud to him every Wednesday
afternoon and urging him to pay attention to them. Best wishes Joe Galloway
Da Rita No. 4:
Thanks for these insights, Joe. None of this is easy. Your perspective seems
pretty fixed but I do appreciate the experience you bring to it.
Again, what bothers me most about your coverage is your implication that the
people involved in all of this are dumb or have ill-intent or are so sure of
what they know that they don't brook discussion. That's the part you're just
way off on, friend.
This is tough stuff, and we're all hard at it, trying to do what's best for
Galloway response to Da Rita No. 4:
I like to think that is what I am doing also, and it is a struggle that grows
out of my obligation to and love for Americaâ€™s warriors going back 41 years
as of last month. There are many things we all could wish had happened. I can
wish that your boss had surrounded himself with close advisers who had, once at
least, held a dying boy in their arms and watched the life run out of his
eyes while they lied to him and told him, over and over, "You are going to be all
right. Hang on! Help is coming. Don't quit now...â€ Such men in place of those
who had never known service or combat or the true cost of war, and who pays
that price, and had never sent their children off to do that hard and unending
duty. I could wish for so much. I could wish that in January of this year I
had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear
apart the wreckage of a Kiowa Warrior shot down just minutes before and tenderly
remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his
fellow pilot. They died flying overhead cover for a little three-vehicle
Stryker patrol with which I was riding at the time. I could wish that Jackson 's
widow Betsy had not found, among the possessions of her late husband, a copy of
my book, carefully earmarked at a chapter titled Brave Aviators, which Kyle
was reading at the time of his death. That she had not enclosed a photo of her
husband, herself and a 3 year old baby girl. those things I received in the
mail yesterday and they brought back the tears that I wept standing there in that
pit, feeling the same shards in my heart that I felt the first time I looked
into the face of a fallen American soldier 41 years ago on a barren hill in
Quang Ngai Province in another time, another war. Someone once asked me if I had
learned anything from going to war so many times. My reply: yes, I learned
how to cry. Jg
Da Rita No. 5:
I appreciate what you are saying but your continued implication that Rumsfeld
does not understand all that is at stake is wrong and offensive.