Should Rummy resign redux
I’ve received a fair amount of e-mail traffic politely asking me to reconsider my call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Here’s one snippet: I do think that you… are falling into a kind of academic groupthink that is at least 160 degrees off of reality. As I see it, Rumsfeld has consistently been proven correct ...
I've received a fair amount of e-mail traffic politely asking me to reconsider my call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Here's one snippet:
I’ve received a fair amount of e-mail traffic politely asking me to reconsider my call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Here’s one snippet:
I do think that you… are falling into a kind of academic groupthink that is at least 160 degrees off of reality. As I see it, Rumsfeld has consistently been proven correct about the size of the force and the appropriate methods for achieving our objectives.
I agree that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his warfighting strategies. I am completely unconvinced that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his statebuilding strategies. Others are accusing me of just following the crowd of lily-livered Bush-haters — you know, George Will, David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Tom Friedman, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Max Boot, Peter Beinart, and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, John Warner, and John McCain — now voicing qualms about the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq occupation. So, let me collect the most optimistic news about Iraq that I’ve seen recently and see if I should change my mind:
1) It could be worse. At Tech Central Station, Arnold Kling and Charles Rousseaux list the various important things that haven’t gone wrong in Iraq (Kling link via Milt Rosenberg). Rousseaux in particular reinforces an important about the lack of civil uprising:
One of the most important developments has been the gradual defanging of Muqtada al-Sadar and his Mahdi militia by both Coalition forces and moderate Shi’ites. When the radical cleric rose in revolt, he appeared to have put Coalition forces in an impossible position: If they attacked, they would risk alienating the Iraqi population with casualties and the destruction of holy places; if they failed to attack, they would give him the country. The persistent pressure applied instead appears to be having a pronounced effect. Earlier this week, a joint patrol of U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces entered Fallujah for the first time. While they weren’t met by flowers, they weren’t met by grenades either. In Najaf and Karbala, Coalition forces have cut down many members of the Mahdi militia and captured or destroyed a number of its arms caches. Last weekend, they captured two of Sadr’s top aides. On Monday, Coalition forces blew up one of his two main headquarters in Baghdad. Part of the reason that Coalition forces have acted so aggressively is that they no longer fear a popular revolt. Last week, a large group of influential Shi’ite leaders told Sadr to leave the holy places and the arms he had stored there. On both Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of individuals marched through Najaf calling for Sadr to depart. Even more are expected to turn out to demand Sadr’s expulsion on Friday. They’ve been called into the streets by senior Shi’ite leader Sadruddin Qubanchi, who is allied with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. For good reason, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on Tuesday titled, “Iraq Cleric Faces Showdown with Moderate Shiites.” They want Sadr to go back to where he came from — namely an embryonic state — so that they can get back to the lucrative business of servicing the pilgrims who come to those holy places. It’s something they can’t do while being held hostage in their own cities, and the numbers of devout travelers have dropped to a trickle.
2) Some Iraqis are grateful. Andrew Sullivan links to this amusing Iraqi post. 3) Statebuilding has not completely failed in Iraq. The fact that I found most depressing over the past six weeks was the utter failure of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces to maintain their positions in the face of insurgent attacks, leading to a partial breakdown of order. This signaled the deep problems with the U.S. statebuilding effort. Sullivan also links to this New York Times story suggesting that at least some of this statebuilding effort has not been for naught:
American soldiers were forced to fight insurgents holed up in the Mukhaiyam shrine, a domed building next to a high school and near the Mukhaiyam Mosque. Militiamen had regrouped at the shrine in the middle of the fighting and had begun launching mortars from there at the American-occupied mosque. Special Forces soldiers led teams of Iraqi commandos to the area and drove the insurgents from the shrine during an intense firefight. The two dozen or so Iraqi commandos who helped the Americans in the battle were part of the Iraqi Counter Terrorist Force, trained in Jordan to combat insurgents. They acted under the supervision of Special Forces, who instructed them on clearing munitions from the Mukhaiyam Mosque and shrine and from the high school. Special Forces soldiers guided much of the battle on the ground, storming the mosque and setting up a base there to direct troops. The Special Forces soldiers appeared impressed by the weapons caches found in the area. Those included powerful 155-millimeter artillery shells, Italian land mines and sniper rifles. In all, the munitions were the equivalent of more than 100 roadside bombs, one of the most effective killers of American soldiers in Iraq, a military intelligence analyst said. Sappers wired the caches with plastic explosives and detonated them as most of the American troops left the area.
Rumsfeld himself said in his Senate testimony that 80 to 90 percent of Iraqis are “being governed by local councils,” which is pretty significant.
OK, that’s the best I can do (readers are asked to provide links to even better news). Is that enough for me to change my mind about Rummy? No, it’s not. The above list indicates that the situation in Iraq is not hopeless, which is an unambiguously good thing. What the list doesn’t indicate is what Rumsfeld’s doctrines and decisions have done to improve the situation in Iraq. After a year of Rumsfeld overseeing the handling of Iraq, opinion polls show that a majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to conduct an immediate withdrawal, and 80% of Iraqis don’t have much confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority (both links via Mark Kleiman) [What, you expected this to be easy? Show some backbone!–ed.] No, I didn’t expect it to be easy. However, I did expect Rumsfeld, as a smart individual who wanted to be in charge of Iraqi statebuilding, to recognize some of the resource constraints he faced and take the necessary steps to solve them. Rumsfeld has been given clear and direct warnings on this since last summer, and there’s strong evidence that he’s correctly processed this information. There’s just not much evidence that his solution — train new Iraqi security forces from scratch — has worked. The side effects have been serious. The absence of a proper U.S. constabulary force, combined with a failure to guard Iraq’s borders, have led Iraqis to the opinions they hold now about American troops — and those opinions aren’t good. The failure to provide security, combined with Abu Ghraib, have tarnished perceptions of U.S. power and legitimacy. As much as Rumsfeld may want to deny it, perception and legitimacy are valuable in world politics. They make it much less costly to influence international interactions, by making the exercise of hard power less frequent. Donald Rumsfeld’s management of the Defense I don’t think Iraq is hopeless — but I also don’t think that Rumsfeld has made much of a positive contribution since the end of the “major combat.” It’s precisely because I want to see the U.S. succeed in Iraq that I think it’s worth it to replace Rummy ASAP.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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