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August 15, 2005


Charles, I wonder if you realize the implications of what you've written. The bolded parts in particular:

The deal is this. After President Bush, the prime architect for troop levels and post-war execution is Donald Rumsfeld. So far, the post-war plan has been conducted too poorly for his continued employment, and now Rumsfeld is making it worse by lowering his standards for success and redefining the "war" into a "struggle". This is unacceptable, all the more so because Bush's and Rumsfeld's agendas are apparently at odds. Rumsfeld doesn't get to set his own agenda and his own measures for success, and Bush shouldn't let him do so.

Bush sets the agenda. Bush signs off on Rumsfeld's plans. Rumsfeld isn't developing and executing these plans in a vacuum, he's serving at the pleasure of the president.

I'm on board with your calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, because I agree with you that the man's incompetent and is one of the chief sources of screwups in this war's planning and execution.

But ultimately, who signs off on Rumsfeld's decisions? Who has the power to call Rumsfeld into his office at any time and tell him that this isn't working? Who has had, for the past three years, the authority to serve a pink slip to someone who presided over Abu Ghraib and every other charlie foxtrot in this war?

Who, when Mr. Rumsfeld creditably offered his own resignation, refused to accept it? Rumsfeld's failings as SecDef were evident back then. Even assuming Bush's loyalty would not allow him to shitcan one of his own, Rumsfeld offered him a perfect way to do it passive-aggressively, with minimal political fallout, and with massive political benefits. Bush passed on the opportunity.

There's only one place all of these bucks stop, Charles. And it's with the man who should have long since done what you're calling for, and did not when the perfect opportunity arose.

When are you going to realize that in this administration, loyalty trumps competence and national security?

yes, Rumsfeld should go; he should've been fired years ago. in fact, he offered to resign multiple times, IIRC; Bush wouldn't accept the resignation.

and, "As a former secretary of defence, I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best secretary
of defence the United States has ever had," proclaimed Dick "I was against occupying Iraq before I was for it" Cheney.

yes, Rumsfeld should go. since such thoughts were equivalent to treason, not too long ago, it's good to see people coming around.

From aforementioned McCaffrey Report:

January thru September 2006 will be the peak period of the insurgency —and the bottom rung of the new Iraq. The positive trend lines following the January 2006 elections (if they continue) will likely permit the withdrawal of substantial US combat forces by late summer of 2006. With 250,000 Iraqi Security Forces successfully operating in support of a government which includes substantial Sunni participation—the energy will start rapidly draining out of the insurgency.

That's a lot of hoops to jump through, especially considering the increasing evidence the Sunnis are being frozen out of the new order, and the constitutional talks as of writing are at an impasse. And 250,000 effective ISF's by '06? Good luck on that too.

But yes, Rumsfeld should be fired. He should have been fired a long time ago. He won't be though. That would be admitting a mistake.

"There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic."

And in what time frame do you propose that this utopia be established? I would submit that your vision will take at best one generation and more likely two or three, if ever. Once you've defeated the Sunnis, are you going to take on the Shia in order to preserve your "non-theocratic representative republic?" And then how long will it take to develop the civil institutions and a democratic ethos so that a free representative republic emerges? And your view is that US troops should remain in Iraq throughout this process? This is the whole problem with the Bush/Kristol/Bird view of the situation. Exit is not possible without being able to declare victory and the measure of success is completely unrealizable in any time frame that is acceptable to anyone. Let's face it--Bush has about two and a half years at most to get it done in Iraq. Once the next presidential cycle starts, Iraq has to be over, because no credible candidate of either party will be able to run on a platform of maintaining any presence in Iraq. High blown rhetoric aside, there is no chance of a a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic in Iraq in that time frame.

The report basically sounds like a whole lot of just-another-corner-to-turn fantasizing, based on just enough informed conjecture to make it sound good.

At this point, I'm basically holding out hope for one of two things: enough backlash against Republican corruption in 2006 that Democrats take control on Congress, or the 2008 election. Even if the Republican nominee wins, there's a chance he won't be a Bush Republican, and will start us down a healthier road nationally. And then, at least, Rumsfeld and co. will be gone.

As it is right now, Bush can't be fired for the poor job of rebuilding Iraq

True. Of course, he could have been fired for the poor job of rebuilding Iraq - and so could Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush administration - on 4th November 2004.

Were you calling for him to be fired back then, Charles? Not that I recall.

You know, I'm really not sure that pulling US troops out is really all that bad for political progress in Iraq. There's no NVA here -- none of the insurgent factions has the wherewithall to seize national power, and if we remove ourselves, it seems more likely than not that various insurgent factions will cease to have shared goals.

It seems to me that the key question to Mr. Kristol, and all other stay-the-coursers, is: how does the outcome in Iraq with US troops differ from the outcome without US troops. Measured from this point further (not March 15, 2003, or July 1, 2004, or whatever).

The interests of the various Iraqi factions are unaffected by our 'temporary' presence, and I wouldn't think Iranian influence will actually increase. It's not as if the non-insurgent factions -- Kurd and Shiite -- are unarmed, and defenseless in the face of the insurgents.

It's bad for us, but only because the superpower is revealed to be a paper tiger -- but that train left the station in late summer 2003.

In defense of Rumsfeld (words it almost hurts my fingers to type) it is more likely than not that he's getting good inside information on the capabilities of the Army. Replacing him with someone who would 'stay the course' without reference to the damage it is doing to our Army would surely be a cure worse than the disease. So, while R should indeed have been fired long ago, I'm afraid that at this point, we will only do worse.

" a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic"

You is dreamin' How bout never. Is never good for you?

"The McCaffrey Report has some harsh criticisms, but it also makes clear that success is achievable"

[McCaffrey Report June, 2005]

a.. This is the darkness before dawn in the efforts to construct a viable Iraqi state. The enterprise was badly launched —but we are now well organized and beginning to develop successful momentum. The future outcomes are largely a function of the degree to which Iraqi men and women will overcome fear and step forward to seize the leadership opportunity to create a new future.

b.. We face some very difficult days in the coming 2-5 years. In my judgment, if we retain the support of the American people —we can achieve our objectives of creating a law-based Iraqi state which will be an influencing example on the entire region.

c.. A successful outcome would potentially usher in a very dramatically changed environment throughout the Middle East and signal in this region the end of an era of incompetent and corrupt government which fosters frustration and violence on the part of much of the population.

McCaffrey Report , August 2005:
"This thing, the wheels are coming off it."

I sure hope he was right in June, and not August.

There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

Luckily for your argument, none of us can see if you can keep a straight face while writing this.

And in what time frame do you propose that this utopia be established?

I'd say about 200 years--give or take a civil war or two.

What happened between June and August to change McCaffrey's mind?

wait. someone changed their mind about something ? better alert the Consistency Police; sounds like we could be talking about someone with a a Credibility Problem™.

I think "beginning to develop successful momentum" is the new "turned the corner."

So, the botched aftermath of the invasion wasn't enough to get Rumsfeld fired. Nor was the torture that happened on his watch. But now that he and the Pentagon are considering the possibility of withdrawing our troops from a situation where their presence could very well be counterproductive - now that's a firing offense.

How silly we've been all these years in thinking that Rumsfeld's errors would get Bush to fire him. It seems so clear now - all we really needed to do was to get Rumsfeld to do one thing right!

Rumsfeld's failure to have message discipline (which is the point Charles seems to be trying to make in the first part of his post) is, I feel, beside the point when it comes to the 'accountability' and 'competence' questions.

Yes, Cabinet Secretaries shouldn't be trying to actively PUBLICALLY undermine the official message of their adminstration (although, historically, this hasn't stopped quite a lot of them; in fact, the DoD/War Department is rather famous for seeing just how far off the reservation they can push, a tradition that goes all the way back to Seward) but the real 'meat' of the issue is, I feel, the second part of Charles' post, that being where accountability lies.

I have a certain degree of respect for Rumsfelds' ideas and strategic doctrine; he had some novel thoughts regarding turning the army into more of a 'pure' fighting force, one designed with the pre-9/11 neoconservative isolationist policies (anyone remembering Bush coming out solidly against nation-building in his first campaign?) in mind. But the man is woefully unsuited for building and maintaining the sort of traditional 'take it and hold' army that we had during WWII and Korea. I think he has tried to be a good soldier (this is me giving him the benefit of the doubt) and do the best job he can to justify the trust and faith both Bush and Cheney have invested in him.

But the fact is that he has proved himself incompetent many times over to manage this war, and despite having many, MANY opportunities to can his ass honorably (he offered to resign over Abu Ghraidb, and traditionally, Presidents can nuke a cabinet secretary at the end of their first term in sort of a no-fault divorce deal) Bush refuses to get rid of him. Loyalty is, indeed, all that matters in this administration. So I feel that Rumsfeld has blame for being incompetent, but that ultimately, the buck stops at the Presidents desk.

And as far as "a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic" goes... Charles, I posit you this.

It would appear to me that the only way to gaurentee what you (and what I think we ALL) want is to admit that it will be an effort of many years, requiring many, many more troops to do police work and training than we currently have (supplemented with a draft if they cannot be found voluntarily) with massive cash infusions (financed by our tax dollars, repealing the Bush tax cuts if neccessary) that go directly into the Iraqi infrastructure (not into Halliburton's coffers) or into Iraqi government institutions vigorously watchdogged (and not into the pockets of corrupt bureacrats who salt it away in Brunei or Switzerland.) This will require a great deal of national sacrifice on our part, both in blood and in treasure. Do you call for this? Because if you do NOT, then what you want in Iraq ain't gonna happen.

Never underestimate the power of warmongering...The Base loves' its wars...Bush can do no sin...and the righteous would like to se evil bleed that much more…The “moderate” right-wingers are the most evil sort of enabler…they see their loved ones doped-out and drunk on war…and they will still blame the neighbors’ for their loved one’s problem.

And never underestimate the power of greed and power.


by The Research Unit for Political Economy
December 2002

The justifications US imperialism is advancing for the impending assault on Iraq are absurd, often contradictory. Unlike in the case of the 1991 Gulf War or the 2001 bombing and invasion of Afghanistan, this time the US lacks even the fig-leaf of an excuse for its aggression. The major American and British media corporations have once again come forward as footsoldiers in the campaign.




CB sez: There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.


Step 1: Invade Iraq.
Step 2: ?
Step 3: Iraq is a free peaceful non-theocratic representative republic (preferably neutral to favorable toward the West).

Would someone please fill in the blank? CB? Sebastian? Von? Slarti? Josh?

(btw, "a miracle happens" is not an acceptable response.)

and if the answer is anything other than "Do exactly what the administration has been doing, and stay the course", would the conservatives please tell me what each of you are doing to Change the Course we're on?

It's very easy for Kristol to sit in his air-conditioned office and yammer on about this "staying the course" until a nice, democratic (but not so democratic it votes in anyone we might disagree with, free-market (but make sure it sells us oil at a good price) government somehow magically emerges like Venus from the sea. There's only one problem with it:

We don't have the capacity. We don't have the equipment, we don't have the manpower, and we don't have the finances.

Picture it. How much has this war cost already? And how much were we told it was going to be in the beginning? And how much more are we going to be able to continue to pour out? You want us to be there five years, ten years, twenty years? Fine, then figure a way how to pay for it aside from dumping it on the credit card so helpfully extended to us by the Chinese. They're not doing it out of the pure goodness of their hearts, y'know.

Manpower. Are we going to simply continue extending soldiers' tours? What about the fact that we're not getting enough volunteers even now? What about after another 1000, 2000 soldiers die, sent off to fight with crappy equipment--oh, do you really think the US is going to go for a draft? You must be kidding.

I think Rummy has finally started listening to the myriads of people under him screaming about how We Just Can't Continue On Like This and is realizing unless we do something soon, he's going to go down in history as the man who broke the US Military.

Once again, Charles shows that the only firing offense in the Bush White House is lese majeste, not incompetence.

a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. Delivery of this entity spells doom for the terrorists and the Sunni/Baathist paramilitary gangs. If Rumsfeld is unwilling to achieve this goal, he should be gone

Ever consider, Charles, that this might be an undeliverable?

Rumsfeld should have been fired long ago for war crimes and ideologically infused incompetence, but you want him fired because he's not a magician.

a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic. Delivery of this entity spells doom for the terrorists and the Sunni/Baathist paramilitary gangs. If Rumsfeld is unwilling to achieve this goal, he should be gone

Ever consider, Charles, that this might be an undeliverable?

Rumsfeld should have been fired long ago for war crimes and ideologically infused incompetence, but you want him fired because he's not a magician.

Apologies for double post. Thunderstorms are disconnecting the dial-up every few minutes. I should go offline for safety -- and to keep from expressing myself even more frankly here.

What a riot. Thanks, Charles!

Yet another echo of Vietnam. It will indeed be fitting if Rumsfeld is fired for telling it like it is, just like Robert McNamara. It's a pity Wolfowitz went to the World Bank, so that Bush can't follow LBJ's example and send Rummy there.

...a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

You don't get it, do you? They voted for theocrats. If they are to be free citizens of a representative republic then they get what they voted for.

tzs- ...sent off to fight with crappy equipment...

So far as I know, the problem is not so much that the equipment it crappy as that the equipment is non-existent and that we are unable to upgrade or replace that equipment on a short enough timetable. We have good equipment, we just cant build it fast enough to get it to the increasing number of troops that need it (see the comments about no rear area and such in the body armor thread below).

I'm constantly reminded of how we defeated the Soviet Union by just making the Cold War too expensive. We are seeing something similar manifest itself in Iraq. All they have to do is provide enough unrest to keep us there and we will eventually be forced to withdraw due to the expense of the endeavor. As it is, per McCaffrey's comments, we cannot afford any other fights. We had best hope that nowhere else (NK, Iran) becomes hot enough to require US troops or we could lose both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"the only firing offense in the Bush White House is lese majeste, not incompetence."

And that's why Kristol is wrong, not right.

Because this story is not about Rumsfeld showing an independent streak, maybe facing reality.

This is another story about the Little Father, he who is without sin and beyond reproach, being wickedly betrayed by his underlings. He's so brave, so forthright, so strong--but wicked soldiers and generals are letting him down, and wicked, wicked SecDefs are becoming so defeatist that, why, it's hard, that's all, it's just hard. No wonder the Little Father needs so much vacation!

This is a story about how the blame is going to get dumped anywhere other than on Bush--he gets to keep pretending to stay the course, while telling Rumsfeld to take the fall. And Rummy is a lifer in the Bush Family--he and Baker are two of the longest-serving consiglieri--so Rumsfeld will probably do what Tenet did, and take the fall.

In Kristol's world, and in the world of some of his admirers, the elephant flies higher than the stars and stripes, but the Bush Family flag flies highest of all. All loyalty to the Dear Leader! No blame for the Dear Leader!

"There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic"

Not to beat a dead horse, but how do you reconcile this desideratum with democracy? What is the basis - which seems hopelessly arrogant to me- that we know what is good for any particular society somewhere else - a society like Iraq, for instance, with hundreds of years of culture, traditions, religious , clan and family ties that have formed a society with a world view about which we, generally speaking, know nothing about? Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems to me this kind of assumption led to the morass we are in now.

Charles: ... a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

Charles, I mean the following question sincerely: how do we know that this is what the people of Iraq want? I mean, it might be what I would want if I were an Iraqi, but I'm not. The January election, hopeful sign though it was, produced results that might indicate otherwise.

The notion of "delivering" this to another country seems rather arrogant to me. It may well be impossible if the intended recipients refuse it.

Tad Brennan: ... the elephant flies higher than the stars and stripes...

Don't stand underneath!

"There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic."

Agreed. My opposition to the invasion from the beginning has been based on the reality that we were never going to achieve this in any reasonable time frame - indeed, we weren't going to speed the process up much from Plan B of waiting for Saddam to die or be killed and for the place to implode - and in the process of trying we were likely to move farther away from this measure of success in the United States.

Whatever the outcome is, the Bushies will either (a) pretend it was their goal all along and we've achieved a famous victory, or (b) blame the liberals.

"measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic."

If that is so, then the military is the absolutely wrong tool for the job.

There is only one real measure for success in Iraq: a free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic.

Well, glad you showed that your silly utopianism is what drives your thinking on this subject. How many more thousands of US soldiers have to die/be maimed before reality thinking replaces fantasy thinking?

From all the evidence to date, the Iraqis with power do not want what you describe as the minimum conditions for victory -- especially the non-theocratic part of your formula.

As for the notion that there is some sort of dichotomy between Rumsfeld and Bush -- that is a fantasy as others above have pointed out. Kristol has it dead wrong for this reason alone. A much more likely scenario is the following: Bush will recite all sorts of nonsensical platitudes for the consumption of his fervent believers (Kristol and apparently Charles). Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have to actually make things work and talk rationally about specifics, so unsurprisingly their rhetoric cannot match the rhetorical nonsense of Bush. Only true Bush believers are fooled into thinking that there is some sort of tension between the two.

Put another way, those of us who examine the Bush record without hero-worship influencing our thinking are very used to him mouthing utter lies about his policies and principals, and his administration doing the opposite (all while pretending that there is no contradiction). Typically, the Kristols of the world are on board with this disconnect from reality, rather than critics.

nous_athanatos :All they have to do is provide enough unrest to keep us there and we will eventually be forced to withdraw due to the expense of the endeavor.

This was the reason I opposed the war from the very beginning. There’s no way we can “win” this conflict unless we maintain a MUCH larger troop presence there indefinitely (read forever). Since we can’t really afford that while providing some measure of national security and services to America, it was doomed from the beginning.

This has become a tried and true method for overcoming occupying armies and it’s proving its effectiveness once more. Basically, the cost of war has reduced 1st world nations to the threat of a big stick. It’s quite a big stick and very impressive in all it’s manly glory, but not very useful for playing whack-a-mole in the middle of the desert.

It was stunning to see otherwise rational people suckered into this neo-con game. Trying to draw an analogy to what was likely to happen here and what happened to, oh, saaay the soviets in Afghanistan just drew a blank stare or comment such as: “I don’t care, I just want Saddam gone.” I won’t even go into the post-invasion parsing by certain right-leaning bloggers explaining why this is like the occupation of Germany or Japan, but is not like Vietnam. Fear-mongering and blind idealism can convince people to do irrational things, I guess. The problem is, everyone now sees that we had little to fear in the first place and the well of idealism has dried up from seeing so many dead and maimed bodies.

Sooo, let the backlash begin (as it already has…does anyone think Cindy Sheehan would have received this much media coverage as recently as a year ago? I don’t). It looks like Rummy’s might be the first head to roll after all. He’s being painted as the poster boy of everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq (with a great deal of justification), but we all know where the real blame lies and firing Rumsfeld isn’t going to help.

It’s now all a matter of when, not if, we pull out the troops. I hope, going forward, everyone remembers there’s no shame in retreating from a no-win situation. The shame was in putting our country in that situation in the first place.

Well, let me make it more explicit. Anyone calling for Rumsfeld's firing ought to name a successor, and give a one sentence summary of the mandate.

Here's the challenge: you have to write in Pres. Bush's voice.

I'm with Charley. Rumsfeld deserves to go, but anyone new will be worse; the new guy will have got the job because he was willing to tell the President that this was winnable.

An aside: I would guess that Kristol has been hearing the same line from his insiders that I have been hearing for six months from mine (much less well placed though they are): Rumsfeld to step down after the quadrennial review is done.

My challenge is not completely idle.

Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have to actually make things work and talk rationally about specifics, so unsurprisingly their rhetoric cannot match the rhetorical nonsense of Bush.

And here is the true split from Bush and Runsfeld. Bush is still free to wander about still chirping about "freedom's on the march" or "we fighting terrorists there so we don't have to do it here" or "last throes" because he is not responsible for actually making it work. Bush is effectively insulated from making his pie in the sky ideas actually work in Iraq. That's for everyone else to deal with.

It's like asking Bush to fire the treasury secretary for the failure Bush's grand plan to turn lead into gold.

Charles, in order to have accountability, first you have to recognize that there's a problem. Do you really think Bush is capable of that?

Replace Cheney with an sane Republican, let that person influence who replaces Rumsfeld, and let Bush stay on vacation in Crawford when he's not performing ceremonial duties.

Just a suggestion. Seems better than letting Bush replace Rumsfeld with someone who'll stay on-message 24/7.

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