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Now he tells us: Paul Wolfowitz reconsiders Iraq

06/23/2004

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz tiptoes toward acknowledging that he and his boss Don Rumsfeld are fools:

"If you want to say what might have been underestimated, I think there was probably too great a willingness to believe that once we got the 55 [Iraqi] people on the blacklist, the rest of those killers would stop fighting," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
Might have. Probably.

This cognitive shortcoming was apparent in Rumsfeld's leaked memo of last October, which defined success in Iraq exclusively in terms of "capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis," a point that got little or no attention at the time.

But last January, I got around to blasting it:

...bizarrely enough, the Secretary of Defense has chosen to analyze prospects for victory in Iraq without mentioning either the need to defeat the insurgency or the establishment of a stable, democratic postwar order -- the Administration's stated objective. It is as if he believes that victory consists only of wrapping up a few dozen major figures from the overthrown regime -- Saddam, his sons, and his key advisers and officials. By this standard, the coalition won the Battle of Iraq last month when Saddam emerged from the "spider hole" near Tikrit. And if that's so, why aren't we bringing the troops home already? Clearly, the Rumsfeld memo's conception of the conflict falls far short of political and strategic reality, not to mention military reality.
The delusion that wrapping up Saddam and his top people was sufficient -- that successful regime removal was tantamount to successful regime change -- was undoubtedly necessary to launch the war in the first place, and may well explain why preparations for the postwar situation were so sorely lacking, as James Fallows chronicled earlier this year.

This is presumably why Iraqi insurgents were for a long time persistently described as "dead-enders" and Saddam loyalists -- to avoid any recognition of a problem beyond overthrowing Saddam's regime. At one point, an estimate of their manpower mysteriously cropped up -- 5,000 fighters -- that served the same function, to assure that the problem was well in hand. (There were at the time about 100,000 U.S. troops in the country, and a 20:1 ratio is commonly cited as sufficient to defeat guerilla forces.)

The problem was not well in hand, as we now know, and as was apparent even then. But not to Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz.

Earlier, I've commented on the role of Ahmad Chalabi in fostering this mentality. (See here and here.) Now Wolfowitz, in a real breakthrough, seems to be developing the first hints of doubt about him:

"Nothing in Iraq is black and white. I don't think I know of any figure we're dealing with who hasn't had in one way or another to compromise with the incredibly difficult circumstances of the last 35 years of that country's history,'' Wolfowitz said. "It's not surprising that many of them -- and Chalabi's not the only one -- made contacts with countries like Iran or Syria or others.'' ...

"I am surprised that he seems to be the target, for many years, of particular animus from some parts of this government,'' Wolfowitz said. "But on the other hand, there are aspects of his recent behavior that are puzzling to me.''

Could it be? Could it be that critical thinking is finally creeping in? I wouldn't hold my breath. Rumsfeld is already too old for such a thing, but hey, Wolfowitz might live long enough that someday we'll get a McNamara-like mea culpa out of the guy. For what little it would be worth.

Analyst

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by Analyst @ 10:11 PM CST [Link]

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Replies: 3 comments

Richard Pearl, Paul wolfowitz, Douglas Faith, Abrams (Rice Deputy), Condy Rice (Kissinger Protege), AIPAC have done America great harm for the benefit of Israel.

Posted by Optional @ 06/28/2004 01:29 PM CST

I think they displayed moral arrogance and complacency, chiefly because they view the Middle East through the prism of their own attitudes.
Ideology is a curse in public affairs because it converts politics into a branch of theology. It thinks in black and white instead of gray. It dwells upon certitudes, not probabilities.
Our Founding Fathers possessed a cold, gray realism when it came to foreign affairs. They lucidly understood the role of interest and force in a dangerous world and thought that saving America was enough without trying to save all of humanity as well.

Richard Sale, UPI

Posted by Richard Sale @ 07/05/2004 12:11 AM CST

What the civilians in the Defense Dept. do not understand is that when we were released from the military after Viet Nam we were briefed by experts who told us that if our country was ever invaded, it was our job to go into the interior of our country and fight a gorilla type or terrorist action. We were told that an enemy may control the coast but never our interior because our job was not to allow it.

Now comes Iraq and what did Rumsfield expect? Open arms and be treated like heros? The same thing that is happening to us, the invaders, is what we were taught to do if it ever happened to our country. How could they have not expected this to happen? Was there no forward thinking at all?

Posted by John Canfield @ 07/05/2004 07:48 PM CST


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