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What Does The Rumsfeld Memo Mean?

Captain Ed has some interesting analysis of the recently-leaked Iraq memo from Donald Rumsfeld. Michelle Malkin also has a fascinating roundup of analyses on the subject.

Rumsfeld clearly saw the need for change in the way we were handling Iraq, and his vision of a new strategy is consistent with his desire for a faster and lighter US military. It’s clear that the training of Iraqi troops has had mixed results – Iraqi units were taking over the battle space, but they weren’t doing a good enough job of holding the territory we’d cleared to keep them from once again become hotspots of terrorist activity. The assumption of the past two years is that as Iraqi units stepped up, we could step down. That hasn’t proven nearly as successful as we’d like, which is why the situation really hasn’t gotten better.

The cold reality of the situation is that there just isn’t much the US can do. Security in Iraq must ultimately be the responsibility of the Iraqi people. We can’t stabilize Iraq, the Iraqis must do so at this point. Right now, the sectarian divisions are stronger than the internal cohesion of the Iraqi government, and until that changes, there’s little we can do short of fighting all sides into submission. Unfortunately, in a postmodern war, that is simply not an option.

I think that Rumsfeld is wrong on most of his analysis in the memo. We can’t abrogate our responsibility to secure Baghdad. We need more troops to do that. Nothing can proceed further unless the security situation is stabilized, and the training of Iraqi troops simply takes too long. Our first priority must be in securing Baghdad, and that means dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism from the ground up. We’re fighting this postmodern war on postmodern terms, assuming that if we hit too hard we’ll lose the Iraqi people. The reality of the situation is that we have already lost the Iraqi people because we’re not doing enough to stop the violence which is keeping them in a state of nearly-permanent fear. You don’t win hearts and minds by sitting on our asses while Baghdad falls into anarchy. To hell with playing nice, now is the time to hunt down the murderous bastards that are ripping Baghdad apart and spray their brains all over the pavement.

We’re in the Middle East. Nobody in the Middle East plays nice. Where Rumsfeld is wrong is that he isn’t Machiavellian enough — the Coalition and the Iraqi government need a clear monopoly of violence in Baghdad. That means that if we find a car-bomb factory, we blow it up. We encourage the civilians around the area to turn the bastards in and get the hell out — and for those who turn the terrorists in, they find that the US will be very generous in replacing what they’ve lost. Those who don’t can enjoy their rubble.

We’ve been pussyfooting around in this war for far too long, trying to apply the pusillanimous techniques of winning “hearts and minds” while blood runs in the streets. The reality is, right now we don’t need to be loved, we need to be feared. The idea that being part of al-Qaeda is anything but a one-way trip to a bloody death needs to end right now. That means putting pressure on the Iraqis to reject terrorism.

We don’t need to be unnecessarily brutal, nor should we. However, unless we get Baghdad under control, we can’t win. In order to do that, we need, as Rumsfeld correctly pointed out, to make all the incentives in the world happen for those who reject terrorism, and all the misery in the world fall upon those who embrace it. That is the only way to win.

I think Jules Crittenden’s criticisms are right on the money. We have been far too timid in prosecuting this war, and our successes have come when we have applied a level of force that made it quite clear that we were not going to lose. Everything in war is about momentum, and right now we have none. It’s time to retake the initiative or face a situation that will be far bloodier on us and the Iraqi people than had we done it right.

Rumsfeld was correct that we needed to transition the American military into a military ready for Soviet tanks pouring down the Fulda Gap to one ready to deal with 21st Century threats. But the reality of the situation is that both types of conflict require the use of massive force. Our military is too small to deal with the realities of 21st Century conflict — and we are going to face many more problems in the future if we fail to expand the military to meet the threats we face.

7 responses to “What Does The Rumsfeld Memo Mean?”

  1. Mark says:

    “The reality is, right now we don’t need to be loved, we need to be feared.”

    And the only way we’ll ever inspire “fear” is to threaten to pack up and leave vis a vis a timeline for withdrawal. Our current open-ended occupation ensures a permanent state of chaos and dependency.

  2. Seth says:

    As usual, wrong all over the place.

    First, this thing was done November 6. Rummy was fired November 8. Bush has publicly said he knew Rummy was going to be replaced, so unless you are telling me that Rummy didn’t know he was going to be replaced, this thing is just a whole lot of posturing–either for Rummy (some suspect Rummy’s people leaked it) or by Rummy on behalf of Bush.

    There is a lot to suggest this is nothing other than posturing. So much of the memo sounds like exactly what the Democrats have been calling for. A set of benchmarks for progress, announce no intention to keep a large number of bases there permanently and begin scaling back the number of bases, provide security only for the Iraqis that want us there, start withdrawing troops so the Iraqis know we mean business, even readjust what we need to do in Iraq–all of this is what the Democrats have been calling for over and over.

    This is not what Rummy has been calling for at any point. For Rummy to make an about-face and call for it the day before he knows he is going to get fired does not show he saw the need for change–that would be the case if this memo came out about two years ago. Captian’s Quarters tries to tell us Rummy was kept around even though he hurt Republicans. Thanks, but nice try. An admition from the Adminstration that they were wrong on the war would have been disastrous, which is why Bush kept poor leadership there and put our troops at risk through the election.

    We need to start pulling out. If the violence gets much worse, as you seem to think it will, then the Iraqis will beg us to come back in a few months, and then more troops would be justified.

  3. zzx375 says:

    The absence of the 4 ID moving down from Turkey had a definite impact in the 1st few weeks of conflict, but it is has never been clear to me what plan ‘B’ was to Turkey saying ‘No’.

  4. zzx375 says:

    And Rumsfeld is/was correct in the need to transform the US Armey, built on the need to confront Warsaw Pact armor rolling across Europe. to a force capable of dealing with an enemy like that seen in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

  5. Seth says:

    I think that one got eaten. Basically here’s what I said:

    To think that Rummy didn’t know he was gone on November 8 is preposterous. Nothing in this memo shows he sees the situation has changed, but everything in this memo says he is either saving his butt or Bush’s when Bush has to come around and accept that the Democrats have been right all along. Most of what’s in that memo makes a lot of sense. It’s also what the Democrats have been calling for Rummy to do for quite some time. If Rummy had written this two years ago instead of two days before he knew he was getting canned, that would show he saw the need for change. But thanks to you hacks on the right, Rummy knew he could leak this and save some face.

    Speaking of which, Captain’s Quarters makes a nice try in telling us Bush kept Rummy around at the danger of losing GOP seats. Absolutely ridiculous. Admitting they were wrong after all of the stay the course crap would have meant a 60 seat switch. Bush kept inept leadership in there, placing his party ahead of the men and women on the ground.

    Jay, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a problem in the Middle East that you wouldn’t solve with a few bombs and more troops. If you keep getting the same solution to very different problems, it’s usually time to change your outlook. What we need is to back off for a while, and then if things actually get worse, the Iraqis will beg us to come back. That will be a mandate for more, not less troops. It will also start letting us get out.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    To think that Rummy didn’t know he was gone on November 8 is preposterous. Nothing in this memo shows he sees the situation has changed, but everything in this memo says he is either saving his butt or Bush’s when Bush has to come around and accept that the Democrats have been right all along. Most of what’s in that memo makes a lot of sense. It’s also what the Democrats have been calling for Rummy to do for quite some time. If Rummy had written this two years ago instead of two days before he knew he was getting canned, that would show he saw the need for change. But thanks to you hacks on the right, Rummy knew he could leak this and save some face.

    That’s one theory, which may well be right.

    The difference between this plan and the Democratic plan is that the Democratic consensus is that we should leave now, while Rumsfeld is asking for a more gradual drawdown of troops over time. Neither one is what we need.

    Speaking of which, Captain’s Quarters makes a nice try in telling us Bush kept Rummy around at the danger of losing GOP seats. Absolutely ridiculous. Admitting they were wrong after all of the stay the course crap would have meant a 60 seat switch. Bush kept inept leadership in there, placing his party ahead of the men and women on the ground.

    Except many political pundits believe the opposite. The GOP lost because they lost the independent vote. A change in strategy could have stemmed those losses.

    I won’t defend the way the Rumsfeld firing was handled, I think that if the President wanted him out political considerations shouldn’t have applied, but all the evidence says that Rumsfeld would have been fired no matter what the elections results were. Gates was being courted long before November.

    Jay, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a problem in the Middle East that you wouldn’t solve with a few bombs and more troops. If you keep getting the same solution to very different problems, it’s usually time to change your outlook. What we need is to back off for a while, and then if things actually get worse, the Iraqis will beg us to come back. That will be a mandate for more, not less troops. It will also start letting us get out.

    So instead, we wait until tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead, and then we engage in the messy process of cleaning up the situation? That logic is more than absurd. If we value the future of Iraq, every day we delay in not restoring order simply adds to a death toll that is already unacceptably high. We should have never let things get this bad in the first place, and now saying that we’re going to wait until its worse before we act is more than merely foolish.

  7. Seth says:

    It’s interesting that the guy who has all along been saying the Democrats have no plan for Iraq now says the ‘consensus’ is that we should leave now. Got anything to back that up, or can we all agree you’re full of whatever crap the Weekly Standard pumps into you?

    There is absolutely no reason Bush would have waited to replace Rummy until November 8 unless he thought replacing him before the vote would have cost seats. If Bush thought it would have helped electorally, made sense militarily, and was planning on doing it anyway, then it would have happened before, and not after, the election.

    Iraq will not be won by us killing everyone–that is the trule foolish position. It will be won by people working with us to promote security. People can’t work with us if they think we should be gone. I actually think getting Americans out of some places is the best way to start endind some of the violence. In those areas, we can afford to not have as much of a presence. In other areas, the Iraqis either need to start doing things on their own or let us know they think we should be there.