Monday, November 06, 2006

Please stop making this just about Rumsfeld

Hello, Sphere readers. The point of this entry was that it will take a great deal more than a new Secretary of Defense to repair what Bush's failed policy has done to the world. But, there's been an important start this week. I recommend this entry from today: The 18th Brumaire of George W. Bush

Beleaguered Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld continues to receive his public drubbing. He's combative, arrogant, perhaps mean. But, most of all, he is a target of opportunity for hacks, guilty politicians and other amateurs with Internet access.

By now you have probably read that the Army Times argued that Rumsfeld should be replaced as Secretary of Defense (CNN). While I am no fan of Rumsfeld, I do believe it is time we saw more helpful suggestions than just an easy complaint shared by the likes of retired generals, Hillary Clinton, Recovering Neo Cons, and aspiring Republican "mavericks".

The Cunning Realist points out that a 1999 Pentagon war game foresaw a lot of the problems that we now see in Iraq. That war game was apparently ignored, AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A series of secret U.S. war games in 1999 showed that an invasion and post-war administration of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, nearly three times the number there now.

And even then, the games showed, the country still had a chance of dissolving into chaos.

In the simulation, called Desert Crossing, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence participants concluded the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs.

The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University's National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.

"The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops," said Thomas Blanton, the archive's director. "But the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground."
This goes a long way toward explaining Ret. General Anthony Zinni's disdain for Don Rumsfeld, this 60 Minutes interview is one example.

However, we make a great error if we believe that one man will have much of an impact on the present state of affairs. The chorus against Rumsfeld is largely a joke. It's an easy lament for politicians on the left and the right, and those that advocated a war they clearly did not understand. (Examples: Andrew Sullivan, Greg Djerejian)

Rumsfeld should go. But the more important question remains: what do we do now? There is persistent talk of partition in Iraq, the latest in the Financial Times today. Most Iraqis are against such a split, and the idea fails to take into account economic, demographic and socio-cultural problems.

The Army and Marines need more combat power to even attempt to complete their mission in Iraq. Yet, even with a great deal of additional troops -- and the necessary equipment to enable the manpower -- the timeline for anything approaching success in Iraq is decades long. The Iraqis may ask us to leave well before we reach that point.

So, what do we do?

Clearly, firing Don Rumsfeld is the beginning. But, commentators are naive to think that this move alone will make us the darling of the international community. It would be, at best, the minimum that is expected of this administration.

After Rumsfeld, which might not be until 2009, we will need to address the tough situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will also need to address the 1999 war game conducted by Zinni that was ignored by the civilian leadership of Bush's Pentagon -- the report is available on George Washington University's website. Rumsfeld has overseen other dubious decisions in war games. The Guardian reported on a 2002 trial that was scrapped after the United States lost a carrier group. For six years, Rumsfeld has rocked the boat in the Pentagon. He's failed in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps in other ways as well. We should look to overcome these failures with a new secretary and far greater Congressional oversight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, most of all, he is a target of opportunity for hacks, guilty politicians and other amateurs with Internet access.

Agreed, but such is politics. Talking points and sound bytes rule the day. I don't think we can answer "the more important question" - what do we do now? - to the best of our abilities with Rumsfeld still in charge. His tenure has politicized the DoD and his ongoing presence poisons any and all constructive debate. His termination would have an important symbolic effect. It would constitute the administration's first concrete action recognizing the fact that the War is not going well and needs to be reevaluated. Changing Tony Snow's phrasing doesn't do it for me.

On the Army Times thing, this was interesting (from National Review):

The Army Times editorial slamming Rumsfeld is more interesting than meets the eye. This is a private newspaper owned by the same company that owns USA Today. It caters to the military, but has no affiliation of any kind with the military or the Department of Defense. None of the folks on the editorial board are currently military and an editorial assistant at the outfit couldn't think of any editor who ever had been in the military. They have no more visibility into the military than any other newspaper, which is to say not much.

Is this accurate? Doesn't Army Times have retirees on the Ed. Board?

4:25 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I agree he has to go. I honestly cannot stand a lot of the chorus cheering him out. I think a lot of the momentum supporting a review of Iraq policy, which we need, will fizzle once the boogey man SecDef is gone.

The Army Times is published by Gannet. I tried to find their editorial board online, so I could research. But, no such luck at this point.

4:41 PM  

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