Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rumsfeld Must Go, Cheney Too

Jules Crittendon has a draconian cure for what ails Iraq. What history will record with unforgiving accuracy is that Gen. Shinseki was right when he said to Congress that 350,000 troops would be needed to pacify Iraq. Rumsfeld, and his eminence grise partner, Cheney, were dead wrong, and are still in denial, that they remain dead wrong about the way to get Iraq out of its quagmire.
For the Middle East to retain any semblance of stability, Iraq must survive intact, with a free and democratic government, without the sectarian bloodbath that would make what is happening there now look like a garden party.

For that to happen, the United States must remain committed to Iraq. We must quietly apply pressure on Iraqi leaders to take control of their country, to look beyond personal, partisan, sectarian objectives. We must increase the number of U.S. advisors attached to Iraqi army and police units. We must put enough troops in Iraq to destroy the Shiite militias, and hand bellicose Iran’s proxy forces another defeat, on top of their defeat in Lebanon this year. We must destroy al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency. Ruthlessly.

To accomplish this, President Bush must finally do what he failed to do five years ago: Increase the size of the U.S. military. We needed it then, as these wars were forced on us, and we need it now, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as a credible deterrent to threats from Iran, North Korea and eventually China.

Congress, whether Democratic or Republican, must provide funding to recruit, train and equip a larger army. Technology and special forces, tanks and infantrymen. But just as important, we need the national political will to continue to prosecute this war.

This means Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney must go. They must announce before this election decides which party will control Congress. On Jan. 1, heads high, with their president’s accolades, Cheney and Rumsfeld must walk out the door.

Rumsfeld made the critical error four years ago of thinking he could do Iraq on the cheap. He thought he could fight a multifront war with a downsized, post-Cold War army. He thought he could, overnight, transform a politically and psychologically traumatized, ethnically divided nation.

It is one thing to make mistakes, and another to fail to learn from them. It is time for someone who can make the case for Iraq without becoming the issue himself.

Cheney is about the past. The next two years are about November 2008. With Bush already in lame-duck territory, it is past time to think about legacy, about leaving America in a position to keep fighting when he is gone.

Rumsfeld was American Ambassador-at-Large to the Middle East in 1982-4 and busied himself visiting Saddam during the Iran-Iraq bloodbath, among other duties. The Best Man at my wedding was his State Dept assistant and confided in me that Rumsfeld was a completely political player in the inside-the-Beltway mode. My Best Man Al said that Rumsfeld made no attempt that he was aware of to acquaint himself of the many nuances and variables and cultural quirks of that troubled region while he was Ambassador-at-Large. And Rumsfeld demonstrated his abysmal vast indifference to regional expertise when, according to the book Cobra II, he cashiered Gen. Jay Garner and dozens of US State Dept experts with hundreds of man years of experience with the offhand comment: "We need some fresh thinking." So the serially incompetent Rumsfeld brings in L. Paul Bremer, a politically loyal cupbearer to the egoistic SecDef and former Amb. to the Netherlands, to run the CD in Baghdad. When a dual-chief mode was suggested, with Amb. Khalilzad running in tandem with Bremer, Bremer said no and threatened to quit. Amb. K. was kept out of Bremer's deliberations, which de-Baathified the government and decommissioned the Iraqi Armed Forces---leading to an embittered elite and a vast number of recruits for a potential insurgency that did not take long to develop. For this massive incompetence, Bremer was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

Just as an update, the American government has decided to reconstruct the Iraqi Army and allow Baathists back into government jobs. So Bremer's coup de pouce has been reversed by common sense. Cheney backed Rumsfeld who backed Bremer who provided the seedlings and the fertilizer for the insurgency. And Rumsfeld remains while Colin Powell, a voice of relative sanity, cries out in the wilderness.

Crittendon finishes his article with a surprise recommendation:
It is time for Condoleezza Rice to take on the role of strong vice president.

She may be the one best suited to carry forward Bush’s vision of America in the world. Even if she chooses not to run, she is better suited to fight for that vision over the next two years.

We must prevent Iraq’s slow burn from weakening the resolve of America’s people and politicians, to the extent that they might delude themselves into thinking no plan at all is a viable option.

So that, in two years’ time, Bush’s successor will inherit an America willing to stay in the fight. Politically and militarily, an America that is not stumbling toward April 1975 again.

Much as Cheney deserves the boot, along with Rumsfeld, appointing Rice after her recommendation that Hamas be allowed to participate in the January elections---no one thought Hamas had a chance to win---has proven her dubious judgment. And her go-slow policy with Iran has emboldened Iranian assets like IAEA Chief El-Baradei to openly and overtly lobby for an Iranian nuke to Rice, counting on her to repeat her mistake with Hamas.

But GWB has been proven to be a corporate figure, rather than a leader, although immediately after 9/11 he showed promise of breaking out of his Harvard MBA mindset. Unless he does something original after the election, the last two years may be the lamest for a sitting president in a century.

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