Weekly Crow Eating
As someone who does his blog for a reason, and who thinks accountability is important, I will not hesitate to hold myself accountable for analyses that turn out later to be wrong or premature. I plan to come clean in these instances where necessary, so this week I start off with my earlier complaints about the “inadequate” war plans that I hung on Donald Rumsfeld last week.
Reading the concerns and complaints splattered throughout the media last week from armchair generals and actual, in-many-cases, retired officers, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon that Rummy had micromanaged the brass, and cooked up a war plan on the cheap. At the time of these assessments, our forces were encountering stiffer than expected resistance in Iraqi cities, and our approach seemed to be based on a desire to use lighter than expected forces and move around these towns in a rush to Baghdad, without much “shock and awe” bombing to soften up forces prior to the insertion of battle forces. Rummy challenged all of this, saying that the plan allowed for flexibility and that it was too early to make such assessments in a war less than two weeks old.
Keep in mind how hard it is for me to say this: Rummy may have been right.
It is entirely plausible that the forces were lighter than desired due to diplomatic failures in not securing Turkish cooperation, and our overstretched commitments elsewhere. It is also plausible that the whole “shock and awe” mantra was nothing more than misinformation to mislead the Iraqis into thinking that we wouldn’t move in until after several weeks of bombing in the countryside. As a result, the rush to Baghdad was quick and laudable, even though it left the forces with overstretched supply lines. But the approach has resulted in relatively few coalition losses, given how many troops are in the theater and the ground they have captured.
However, it remains to be seen if we have truly been able to minimize civilian casualties, especially with reports like this and this. All my kind words for Rumsfeld would be tempered if these reports are validated, although I will not expect our domestic media to cover such negative news in any detail. If these stories are true, then Rumsfeld and the generals are accountable for such losses, as is Bush ultimately.
What waits for us next at Baghdad is anyone’s guess; there are reports that some armored units have already moved into a part of the city in a show of force this morning, just to show that we can. There is still the question of what happened to some of the regular Republican Guard units surrounding Baghdad, and what we will face inside the city when the Special Republican Guard will supposedly fight to the finish. But it is possible that some of these expectations may be wrong too, notwithstanding the boasts and claims from the Iraqis to the contrary.
Bill Keller in the New York Times this morning sums up my feelings on this pretty well. I object to Rummy’s methods and rhetoric when he is trying to bully other countries and ends up undercutting our diplomatic efforts at multilateralism, like he did with Germany, France, Turkey, and almost did with Great Britain. He is used to running over people, like he has his own generals. That makes him ill suited to deal in diplomacy, and some would argue also in dealing with the brass. Yet Bush is accountable for this problem.
But at this point in the ground campaign, it has yet to be demonstrated that from a military point of view his plan was wrong. Perhaps Rummy simply gambled and got lucky that the Iraqis were caught off guard or were the paper tiger that they were twelve years ago. Perhaps Hussein planned to cede the countryside all along and wage an all-out battle in the capitol and sue for international assistance to stop the hostilities. Regardless, the rush to Baghdad was successful in relative military terms, again not taking into account the possibly mounting civilian losses, which are the responsibility of the political leadership in the White House that wanted this war.
Of course, we are still waiting for the discovery of the WMD stockpiles we were told were in Iraq.
What will be seen in the assault upon Baghdad or the occupation may change my assessment, especially since those engagements and commitments are based just as much, if not more so, on political assumptions from the Wolfowitz/Perle/Cheney crowd, as they are on military assumptions from the Pentagon. I don’t like Rummy’s manner and his mouth, but he has carried out the job assigned to the Pentagon so far, and for that and the relatively small loss of soldiers, I’m more than willing to give him a grudging “good job”.
I’ll now eagerly await my thank you note from the Pentagon…along with the hand-inscribed “you ignorant liberal disloyal jackass” added.