08 April 2004

Too Important to Be Left… or Right…

Dr. Rice has definitively demonstrated that she is too ignorant of the military planning process to be appropriate as the National Security Advisor. Her testimony this morning, concerning "pre-9/11 plans", focussed on the purported "lack of context" to military plans that made them inappropriate and required her and her staff to give substantial redirection, especially on "regional context." That statement indicates to me that Dr. Rice has never herself read a regional command's contingency plans, and does not understand how individual plans are put together into a package to create an operations order. Dammit, there is a preamble concerning the assumptions on political context in every plan, and most of the major ones include a full annex concerning the then-present political situation and how changes in it might influence creating an operations order from the plan. The whole point of most military contingency plans, such as the "62" plan that she derided as inadequate, is that they designate resources and logistics for a hypothetical force employment. It's sort of like getting all the glassware and instruments cleaned up and laid out for purifying an organic compound in a solution—it's an absolutely necessary step, but one also needs to alter the setup for particular materials (such as not using a Bunsen burner when one of the reagants is diethyl ether). The plan is a baseline, intended to be adapted to particular circumstances by way of an operations order.

I am flabbergasted at what I heard Dr. Rice say this morning. If that's an example of the kind of work the National Security Advisor is doing—essentially imposing nonmilitary constraints on what is supposed to be a purely military plan that only upon need will later be expanded to an integrated operations order—then our current situation in Iraq becomes a lot easier to understand. Of course, all that Dr. Rice needed to do was walk across the street to the State Department and ask what a military plan really means, and how it becomes an operations order. Not only was Secretary Powell a high-ranking military officer… but he also served as National Security Advisor, and even if Dr. Rice disagreed with his particular advice he could at least help her understand what a "contingency plan" really means. The irony is that current officers who criticized Dr. Rice's statement could come perilously close to violating Article 88; fortunately, I am no longer subject to this provision. Further, any discussions by those with direct knowledge of the actual contents of the plans in question risk revealing classified information and capabilities. I thus expect a roaring silence from the five-sided building… even if I did not also expect Secretary Rumsfeld to summarily execute anyone who steps out of line.

None of this is to say that things were necessarily better or worse under Clinton, or under George II, or prospectively under Kerry. It is only to say that Dr. Rice's testimony—and this is just one example of several in this morning's "testimony"—demonstrates pretty clearly that the funnel that was supposed to bring information from disparate sources into the White House wasn't working properly.