Rumsfeld's pinata period

Jack Kelly:


Rumsfeld long has been a punching bag for Democrats and journalists, who wish we had not gone to war with Iraq at all. Lately they have been joined by right-wingers who want someone to blame because we haven't won yet.

The most recent spate of Rumsfeld-bashing was triggered when a reserve soldier asked him why his unit had to scrounge for armor to put on its humvees and trucks.

Rumsfeld was "passing the buck" when he indicated it was the Army's responsibility to put Spc. Thomas Wilson in an armored truck, said The Weekly Standard's William Kristol in a snarky Washington Post op-ed, and "arrogant" when he told Wilson that "you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the one you'd like to have."

Does Kristol think there are no generals in the Army competent enough to whom to delegate responsibility for putting armor on Army vehicles? Is Rumsfeld derelict because he himself isn't welding rivets at the Hess-O'Gara plant outside Cincinnati?

The real burr under Kristol's saddle is that Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks attacked Iraq with what he thinks were too few troops. This complaint is shared by many who have more military experience than Kristol, which is zero. Sen. John McCain declared he has "no confidence" in Rumsfeld.

But the complaint is mostly bovine excrement. U.S. and British troops swiftly defeated the Iraqi forces, with very few casualties. This would have been true even if some of the Republican Guard formations which mysteriously melted away had stood and fought.

The invasion force would have been larger had Turkey not forbidden the 4th Infantry Division to stage from its territory. Kuwait's ports are not large enough to sustain a (much) larger buildup. Trying to build up a larger force -- which was (obviously) not necessary for victory -- would have meant postponing the invasion to the fall of 2003. That would not have been a good idea.

Another frequent complaint -- that the United States should not have abolished the Iraqi army -- is entirely nonsense.

To begin with, there was no Iraqi army to keep on hand for peacekeeping. The poorly paid and horribly treated Shia conscripts all had deserted. Loyal Sunnis in the Republican Guard had left to prepare for guerrilla war against the Americans.

We couldn't trust Saddam's officer corps, and if we had tried to turn peacekeeping over to them, we'd have incurred the enmity of the Shiites and the Kurds, together 80 percent of Iraq's population. We had no choice but to rebuild the military and police from scratch.


It isn't Rumsfeld's fault that the Army is too small to provide many more troops -- we can thank the Clinton administration for that -- or that Kuwait's port facilities were inadequate. But we could and should have sent three or four more brigades into the country shortly after Saddam fell.


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