An ironic memo from Rumsfeld
Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.This memo is a clue as to why the Joint Chiefs were reviewing options for change in Iraq strategy. To some extent it is a direct challenge to the current strategy of Centcom commander Gen. Abizaid. In other ways the result of the memo is the plan that will accelerate his original plan and add additional Iraqi forces which is consistent with his overall strategy of making the Iraqis responsible for their own security.
“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”
Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.
“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”
“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics. (Text of the Memo)
The memo’s discussion of possible troop reduction options offers a counterpoint to Mr. Rumsfeld’s frequent public suggestions that discussions about force levels are driven by requests from American military commanders. It also puts on the table several ideas for troop redeployments or withdrawals, even as there have been recent pronouncements from American commanders emphasizing the need to maintain troop levels for the time being.
I will not be surprised to see the anti war left come up with some theory that Rumsfeld was fired because he wanted to reduce troops. That would certainly fit their anti Bush paranoia. While the memo will probably enjoy some lively discussion on the Sunday shows it changes little, in much the same way the Iraq Study Group recommendations this week will also change little.
What the critics of the war are missing is that the Sunni insurgency has lost and now is making its situation worse by its continuing attacks on Shia non combatants. The critics see what appears to be chaos as a result of the Sunni attacks and the Shia militia counter attacks. What is missing is that neither group is really attacking the government. One reason is that both are too weak to fight a decisive battle with the government. What they are doing now is trading don't mess with us messages. The Sunnis are doing it out of fear of what is coming. The Shia are doing to be clear to the Sunnis what the consequences of messing with them will be in the new order. This phase of "chaos" may continue for a while, but it is unlikely to change much. It will end when the Sunnis realize how counter productive the attacks are now and what they may mean for them in the future.