Mr. Rumsfeld did not like waste, which caused some grumbling among the military leadership even before 9/11. He knew that many of the operational plans we had on the books dated back to the 1990’s (some even to the late 80’s), and he wanted them updated for an era of a more streamlined, technological force. He asked us all: “Can we do it better, and can we do it with fewer people?”
Sometimes General Franks and I answered yes, other times we answered no. When we said no, there was a discussion; but when we told him what we truly needed, we got it. I never saw him endangering troops by insisting on replacing manpower with technology. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, we always got what we, the commanders, thought we needed.
This is why the much-repeated claims that Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t “give us enough troops” in Iraq ring hollow. First, such criticisms ignore that the agreed-upon plan was for a lightning operation into Baghdad. In addition, logistically it would have been well nigh impossible to bring many more soldiers through the bottleneck in Kuwait. And doing so would have carried its own risk: you cannot sustain a fighting force of 300,000 or 500,000 men for long, and it would have left us with few reserves, putting our troops at risk in other parts of the world. Given our plan, we thought we had the right number of troops to accomplish our mission.
The outcome and ramifications of a war, however, are impossible to predict. Saddam Hussein had twice opened his jails, flooding the streets with criminals. The Iraqi police walked out of their uniforms in the face of the invasion, compounding domestic chaos. We did not expect these developments.
We also — collectively — made some decisions in the wake of the war that could have been better. We banned the entire Baath Party, which ended up slowing reconstruction (we should probably have banned only high-level officials); we dissolved the entire Iraqi Army (we probably should have retained a small cadre help to rebuild it more quickly). We relied too much on the supposed expertise of the Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who assured us that once Saddam Hussein was gone, Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds would unite in harmony.
But that doesn’t mean that a “What’s next?” plan didn’t exist. It did; it was known as Phase IV of the overall operation. General Franks drafted it and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department, the Pentagon, the Treasury Department and all members of the Cabinet had input. It was thoroughly “war-gamed” by the Joint Chiefs.
Thus, for distinguished officers to step forward and, in retrospect, pin blame on one person is wrong. And when they do so in a time of war, the rest of the world watches.
The latest retired general to join the “fire Rummy” chorus is none other than former Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark. I didn’t find Clark remotely credible during his attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president and my opinion on him hasn’t changed. As to the other generals weighing in, I’d heard from retired and current military folks prior to the supposedly uncoordinated wave of callings for Rummy’s resignation that Rummy wasn’t well received amongst some career military brass – mainly in the Army – specifically because of his attempts at streamlining the military. DeLong’s opinion piece backs that up.
Many of you may remember that during the Democratic presidential campaign while the race to win the nomination was hot, there were statements from a few of the candidates that one of the first things they’d do as president would be to fire Attorney General John Ashcroft. Don’t be surprised if, in the coming months, we see stepped up efforts on the part of Democratic incumbents in the House and Senate (or those trying to win seats in one or the other) to push for Rummy’s resignation, with the more than willing aid of the mainstream press, of course. Ashcroft was the evil boogeyman who was (paraphrasing) ‘trying to take away our freedoms’, and now that Ashcroft is gone, a new boogeyman is needed and the calls by the retired generals for Rummy’s firing/resignation I think will be too tempting for hopeful Democrats to ignore. Jumping on the ‘dump Rummy’ bandwagon will make them look like they ‘support’ the military at a time when the public’s perception on Iraq is that it wasn’t a war worth fighting while a few retired military generals blame all of Iraq’s woes on Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld.
There have been a few negative rumblings in the last couple of years about Rummy from some Democrats in the House and Senate. Look for those to become amplified now that they have some high-ranking retired generals essentially saying the same thing they did.
BTW, here are LTG DeLong’s credentials (via the Washington Times): deputy commander of U.S. Central Command during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – briefed Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
Update II: Here’s more, from retired Air Force Gen. and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not intimidate members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during planning of the Iraq war as some retired generals have charged, a former chairman said Sunday.
With Rumsfeld described by his critics as a micromanager who did not listen to military leaders, the Pentagon circulated a one-page memo late last week detailing the defense secretary’s frequent contacts with numerous military and civilian advisers.
Richard B. Myers, the Air Force general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2001 until last fall, dismissed criticism that military leaders failed to stand up to Rumsfeld and President Bush when they disagreed with those civilian officials.
“We gave him our best military advice and I think that’s what we’re obligated to do,” Myers said on “This Week” on ABC. “If we don’t do that, we should be shot.”
A half-dozen retired generals have called for Rumsfeld’s ouster, citing mistakes in the conduct of the war in Iraq. Some have suggested that intimidation by Rumsfeld kept military leaders quiet even when they thought policies were flawed.
“You’d have to believe that everybody in the chain of command is intimidated, and I don’t believe that,” Myers said. He added that Rumsfeld allowed “tremendous access” for presenting arguments.
“In our system, when it’s all said and done … the civilians make the decisions,” he said. “And we live by those decisions.”
The Pentagon memo, which was not dated or signed, put onto paper information that had been provided orally to reporters on Friday. It is not unusual for the Defense Department to distribute such information to analysts, military officials and others who might be reporting or commenting on a Pentagon policy.
Senior military leaders “are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process” in the Defense Department, according to the memo. Rumsfeld, it said, had met 139 times with members of the joint chiefs and 208 times with combat commanders from 2005 to the present.
Update III: ST reader sanity has a great post up that puts the hyping of the six (now actually seven) retired generals who are think Rummy should go in perspective by informing us just how many generals we actually have in the military.
Related Toldjah So post: