An interesting article by Andrew Sullivan is up entitled ‘Blame Rummy for a war plan that went wrong’. Perhaps, if anyone wants an answer to how it is that Bush’s war in Iraq has now created a theofascist, pro-Iranian democracy and gone way over budget to boot, read Sullivan’s article.
Well, we are beginning to get some answers â€” drip by drip, as former officials begin to leak or write memoirs. Two new books help a little. The first, My Year in Iraq, is by Paul Bremer, the former de facto pro-consul in Iraq in the critical early period. The second is a new biography of George W Bush, Rebel-In-Chief by Fred Barnes, published this week. Barnes, a former colleague and friend, has great White House access. If you piece together both books, you get a glimpse into how the most secretive presidency in years operated.
The picture is not pretty. Back in the spring of 2003 it had seemed obvious to most rational observers that we had too few troops to maintain order in Iraq. A mere 170,000 to control a country of 25m in a power vacuum was a joke. Towns and cities could be cleared of insurgents but never retained, because we had too few troops to stay put.
The borders were porous. We didnâ€™t have enough troops to secure the weapons sites that the war had been designed to eradicate. General (Eric K) Shinseki famously argued before the war that we needed 500,000 troops to do the job. He was fired. Many pro-Bush military analysts, besotted with Donald Rumsfeldâ€™s vision of a lean, mean fighting machine, told us we knew nothing about military strategy. They planned on about 40,000 troops remaining a few months after the fall of Saddam.
Well, it turns out that Bushâ€™s right-hand man in Iraq agreed completely with the critics â€” or so he claims now. And Bremer is no Michael Moore. He believed in this war. And reading his book, you are struck by one thing. His appointment was rushed; he had mere days to assemble a team to govern Iraq (he largely had to find his own staff); and yet the administration had had years to prepare for this scenario.
As his plane circled into Iraq for the first time, an aide pointed out pillars of smoke everywhere. â€œIndustrial-strength lootingâ€ was the assessment. Bremer almost immediately came to the obvious conclusion that Shinseki had been right and wanted to triple the force numbers. Triple. That is not a mild policy disagreement. Itâ€™s an indictment of the whole plan.
Bremer sent a top-level analysis by the Rand Corporation advocating far more troops to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld never even bothered to acknowledge it. Later, when Rumsfeld was in Iraq, Bremer tried to make the case again. But Rummy was more interested in reducing troop levels because of domestic political pressure.
Despite repeated attempts to get Rumsfeld to pay attention, Bremer was repeatedly ignored. Bush’s management style is brought into question as well.
Back in Washington, according to Barnesâ€™s pro-Bush book, the president found his weekly teleconferences with the generals irritatingly long. According to Barnes, â€œBush liked crisp sessions without whining or complaints. Once he had to interrupt a discussion of troop rotation to say, â€˜Stop the hand-wringing!â€™ â€ This is not a management style designed to expose problems and solve them. Itâ€™s a style designed to squelch dissent.
These concepts presented by Sullivan are nothing new sadly, just continued affirmation of a disordered and dysfunctional administration.