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Dogpile!

This isn't Donald Rumsfeld's week. Although I've been cutting back on the time I spend following the conflict in Iraq, I had long drives on Wednesday and Friday, and listening to NPR, I could sense the rising temperature of the hot seat he's on. Now, according to the BBC, the New Yorker magazine has just added fresh fuel to the fire:

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forced his military chiefs to accept his idea that a relatively small, lightly armed force should go to war with Iraq, it is being claimed.

The New Yorker magazine quotes unnamed Pentagon sources as saying that Mr Rumsfeld insisted at least six times before the conflict on the proposed number of troops being reduced.

In an article to be published on Monday, the magazine says Mr Rumsfeld overruled advice from the war commander, General Tommy Franks, to delay the invasion of Iraq...

A senior Pentagon planner said Mr Rumsfeld wanted to "do war on the cheap" and thought precision bombing would bring victory.

"He thought he knew better [than military officials]. He was the decision-maker at every turn," the unnamed planner said.

The article says General Franks wanted to delay the invasion until the American troops denied access to Turkey had been brought to Kuwait, but Mr Rumsfeld overruled him.

It says the defence secretary also rejected recommendations to deploy four or more army divisions and to ship hundreds of tanks and other heavy vehicles in advance.

Instead, Mr Rumsfeld preferred to rely on equipment which was already in Kuwait, but was insufficient, the magazine says.

To listen to those on the right here in the US, the fact that some people predicted a quagmire in Afghanistan is proof enough that we don't face a quagmire in Iraq. To say that success in Afghanistan implies success in Iraq would be as much a leap of logic as to say that failure in Mogadishu implies failure in Baghdad -- which is not what I've said in previous posts. What I've said is that it's a worrying possibility.

I have no special insight into the thinking of Donald Rumsfeld, and certainly am not privy to his private discussions. With that said, my hunch is that, prior to the start of military operations, he believed the chances to be good that the government of Iraq would fall quickly -- thanks either to a lucky US strike, to an internal coup by generals looking to secure their post-war positions, or to an overall collapse fueled by scenes of happy Iraqis welcoming their liberators along the paths of invasion. None of these scenarios has happened. My hunch is that Rumsfeld believed the worst-case scenario to be for Saddam Hussein to cling to power long enough to force an urban battle within Baghdad. Barring a non-linear breakthrough, that seems to be exactly what we are facing. And so I am worried that a street-by-street, house-by-house battle for Baghdad might -- might -- carry with it human and political costs that would ultimately render a victory in Iraq a Pyrrhic one.

If my concerns are unfounded, I'll be among the first to congratulate Rumsfeld on his brilliant war plan, and I'll publicly revisit and criticize my own commentary on the subject, including this entry. But if the worst comes to pass, then the neoconservative pundits who instigated the plan and the civilian government officials who architected it will have a heavy price to pay.

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