Saturday, February 17, 2007

Odom's Razor

Asking the experts: Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, second from left, senior fellow at Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University tesitify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on "Iraq: Military Strategy" in Washington D.C.
(AFP/Getty Images)
Jan 18, 2007

It is a curious thing, how any critic of the Bush Administration who happens to carry prior military service is trumped up as an expert voice of reason to listen to, whether it be a Wesley Clark, John Kerry, or Jack Murtha; or when a handful of the 4,700 general officers who are out there enjoying retirement, turn vocal critic.

Last Sunday, 3-star retired general William Odom wrote an influential piece for the Washington Post entitled, of all things, Victory is Not an Option. (Unbelievable!).

This past week (Thursday, to be precise), Hugh Hewitt interviewed retired Lt. General Odom. The retired Army Lt. General is a critic of the troop increase as well as of the Iraq War. Go here for just a sample of the exchange he had with Hugh Hewitt.

From Dean Barnett's analysis of Hewitt's interview:
HH: Are you familiar with Mullah Yazdi?

WO: No.

HH: Or 12th Imam theology?

WO: No, I’m not.
What’s strange about these exchanges is that Odom fancies himself an expert on Iran but knows little (if anything) about the ruling class’ religious beliefs. This is significant; Iran is a theocracy where religious belief is law and dictates policy. And yet Odom seems to think that because he studied Iranian foreign policy for a 16 year window (ending over a decade ago) that his expertise and conclusions shouldn’t even be questioned. This is not just an obtuse conclusion, but a dangerously arrogant one.

Of course Ahmadenijad’s statements don’t alarm Odom. If Odom’s not familiar with the 12th Imam, it’s a safe surmise that he doesn’t know a blessed thing about the religious spirit that animates the Mullahocracy and has animated the Islamic Republic of Iran for the past three decades.

Ahmadenijad brings nothing new to the Iranian leadership in terms of his spiritual beliefs. Perhaps the General stumbled across the figure of Ayaotllah Khomeini while doing his study. If so, he would have discovered that religious insanity isn’t just a rhetorical matter for the Iranian government.

One commenter on Hugh's blogpost, Peter, writes the following in regards to Odom:
He actually thought through failure instead of success and presented that thinking as good military planning. There's an old military test in two questions: "What do you do after you attack?" Answer" "Nothing". Question: "Why nothing?" Answer: "Because I never stop attacking."
I think we should come up with a new maxim, called "Odom's Razor". I have two definitions in mind:
  • 1) "Shave away all essential plans for victory to arrive at the quickest defeat possible"
  • 2) "Never attribute to military experience, what can adequately be explained away to normal stupidity."
The first definition, of course, is a parodying of "Ockham's razor". The second one, is my take on Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

This is due to Odom's puzzling use of the chickenhawk argument, thrown in at such a moment in the conversation, that makes me feel like the retired Lt. General was getting exasperated and uncomfortable with being confronted by the ideas Hewitt was putting forth; and lashed back with the kind of response that is juvenile, and designed to shut down debate.

All I have left to say after listening to the audio of the interview is, I am so glad that this three-star General is retired.

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Blogger airforcewife said...

First and foremost Generals are politicians. They would not be Generals if they weren't. Thus, what any general says, supportive of your positions or not, should be examined through that prism.

Second, generals exist in bubbles quite often, particularly retired generals. No one wants to tell them no, because a no could mean, "No, you tried to mess with my pet program, so you aren't making any more rank EVER." It's quite probably that no one has EVER asked such questions of Gen. Odom. It's also quite possible that Odom feels he should be above questioning.

As to "chickenhawk" being thrown around with wild abandon... Hubby's been called a chickenhawk himself - and he has two deployments in the GWoT and a bronze star.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 9:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I don't have time to visit the links yet, Wordsmith. I just returned from Church long enough to feed the dogs and take a break before returning to a bridal shower. It's a busier than usual Sunday!

I agree with you in being glad that Odom is retired! Still and all, when the press publishes the sort of stuff, especially with a name like "Victory is Not an Option" it may make the press and Odom look incredibly stupid to people like you and me, but the unfortunate fact is it does influence many people towards believing that we don't have a chance, so we may as well pull out and wash our hands of the entire thing... exactly like Vietnam!

I'm afraid it's going to be a repeat, and there's not much we can do about it. It's truly frightening that it may take another catastrophe larger than 9/11 to pull America's head out of the sand.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Old Soldier said...

Odom is a 77 year old "retired" (thankfully) general who feels compelled to bloviate.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Yah, I guess thats the nicest thing we can say about Odom and Wesley Clark is thank God they are retired. Wesley Clark makes me physically ill when I listen to him spouting off.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

That Odom is donwright odious.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

afw, you are one formidable military spouse. Well-spoken, as always.

gayle, I sincerely hope readers click on most of my links. Sometimes they are frivolously thrown in; other times, such as here, they serve the purpose of space and time conservation. Otherwise, my post would be much, much longer.

I was quite shocked by the title of his op-ed, "Victory is Not an Option".

Hewitt's blogpost has some decent comments, along with the occasional moron. Here's one I thought was a good comment by pat in santee:

McClellan in Vietnam
I just wrapped up 25 years as a soldier and know a bit of history, and I can't let LTG(Ret)Odom off the hook.

He sounds like an old soldier who should have just faded away - a man trapped in Vietnam who is trying to realize a similar national humiliation 30 years later. He reminds me of George B. McClellan from our Civil War, who was so obsessed with everything that could go wrong that he could not see or achieve victory.

I noticed he went to the opposition playbook by insulting the allies who fight by our side as being "bought", and calling on us to rally together the "Europeans" (I gather the UK is not part of Europe in this calculation) and the Chinese, among others to do... well... what? Most of Europe is in 1938, and the Chinese have zero interest in making our lives easier.

Concerning the good old days when Saddam the Firm-but-Not-So-Bad ruled: What part of "mass graves" does Odom not get? Of course, given the value his statements place on the lives of Iraqis, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Jews, I guess no charnal pit could be deep enough to concern him. Maybe only a smoking crater filled with the ashes of incinerated Americans would get his attention. Oh, wait... we already had one of those.

As for faulty analogies (to pick one): Stalingrad 1942-43 v. Baghdad today - more men died in a day of heavy combat in Stalingrad than the US has lost in nearly 4 years of war in Iraq.
There is no meaningful comparison between the campaign and battle of Stalingrad and our operations in Iraq. On the other hand, I am grateful that he didn't start ranting about how the war is like mowing his ungrateful neighbor's yard (and how said neighbor and his entire family should die horrible deaths for such ingratitude!)

Sunday, February 18, 2007 5:54:00 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

Old soldier, I love that word "bloviate" I chuckle every time I hear O'Reilly use it. For you that don't know, it means; to use entirely too many words to describe the situation or position, funee stuff :)

I too am glad that this General Ovum is retired. In the Navy Admirals are about the same as Generals except they wear blue instead of green going to their offices at the Pentagon.

There have been many remarkable American Generals such as George Washington, R.E. Lee, U.S. Grant, Blackjack Pershing, Ol' Blood n' Guts Patton but there have been precious few that have distinguished themselves since Vietnam because of just what AirForceWife says, "they are politicians first now".

It will take a General that is a real soldier to pull this out over in Iraq and the politicians have to stay off his back in order to "get it done" over in Iraq. I'm hoping this General Patreaus is just that man like US Grant was for Lincoln. It is sorely needed.

In the spirit of President's day and all this talk of Generals, there has been only one General that has made my top five Presidents list.
#1 George Washington,General US Army
#2 Abraham Lincoln, Captain Ill. Militia
#3 Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel, Army
#4 Franklin Roosevelt, did not serve
#5 Ronald Reagan, Captain, Army

Monday, February 19, 2007 7:33:00 AM  
Blogger J_G said...

Freudian slip alert; General Ovum?

Monday, February 19, 2007 7:37:00 AM  

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