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1/16/2005

Nation Building as Special Operations

I don't really have a strong feeling one way or the other on whether Civil Affairs troops should be part of the Army's special operations command or its "regular" army - if there was reason to grant Rumsfeld the benefit of the doubt, it could be a viewed as a relatively benign restructuring. The problem, of course, is that there is no reason to grant Rumsfeld such a benefit, and in fact, it would be foolish to do so. Everytime you see a glimmer of attachment to reality from him, it turns out to be a mirage.

Civil affairs offices oppose the change, and now is not the time to be upsetting morale. They are struggling to reconstruct Iraq in the face of a woefully deficient strategy, insufficient troops, and a determined insurgency. Now might not be the best time for a 'huge change' that would do nothing to resolve the short term challenges facing Civil Affairs.

What's really shocking in the Post's report on this issue, though, is Civil Affairs' very thinly veiled hostility and suspicion toward Rumsfeld. It's clear that they don't grant him the benefit of the doubt, and justifiably so.

The proposed reorganization is the latest issue over which the strong-minded defense secretary has tangled with the Army, which is the largest of the services, the one most enmeshed in Iraq, and the one that most consistently feels misunderstood. Over the last two years, the Army saw its chief of staff publicly rebuked by civilian leaders over the number of troops that would be required to occupy Iraq, and then, after the spring 2003 invasion, saw the firing of the Army secretary.
The Post doesn't flesh this out, but it's referring to the General Shinseki, whose troop level assessments were likely far closer to what we actually needed, and General White, who pushed for more development of a post-invasion plan, only to be rebuffed by Rumsfeld. In both cases, Rumsfeld spat on the far more informed estimates of the uniformed military.

The article also makes clear Rumsfeld's continuing inability to recognize that his military transformation strategy is misguided. He wants to emphasize the video-game aspect of war fighting, assassinations and snatches, to the exclusion of the more pedestrian, but more important aspects of war fighting. Just two months ago, Rumsfeld petulantly asked why his ill-conceived diktat wasn't being followed - despite what should have been the lesson learned from Iraq. The military can not make us safer if it's used the way Rumsfeld initially conceived it. We will continute to produce failed states and breeding ground for terrorists, rather than "drying up the swamps," or whatever the current metaphorical justification for our invasion is.

An overview of an indictment of Rumsfeld:

1. Rumsfeld has catastrophically mismanaged the Iraq war effort.

A. Not Enough Troops.

Secretary Rumsfeld "insisted on micromanaging the [Iraq] war’s operational details" from the outset, and insisted that the war would require minimal troop commitments. [The New Yorker, 4/7/03; Bob Novak, 5/1/03] Former U.S. administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer said troop shortages were what allowed the insurgency to get off the ground. [CNN, 10/5/04] Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski recently claimed that three times the current troop levels are required to produce a reasonably stable Iraqi government. [Los Angeles Times, 1/7/05] Senator John McCain "estimated that 80,000 more Army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more Marines would be needed to secure Iraq," and noted that he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld's ability to do the job. [MSNBC 12/15/04]

B. No Post-War Plans.

Rather than plan for the worst and hope for the best, Secretary Rumsfeld "planned for the best and some of the worst has happened - they just don't seem to be capable of learning from that," said Senator Evan Bayh. [Indianapolis Star, 12/17/04] His war plan assumed that "Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country's leader," so there was no need to plan for the post-war period. [Knight Ridder, 7/12/03] The "high-level failure" to produce a postwar plan has undercut the entire US mission in Iraq, according to Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, official Army historian of the Iraq campaign. [Washington Post, 12/25/04]

2. Rumsfeld distorted intelligence in the leadup to war.

The Department of Defense provided unreliable and false intelligence on Iraq's WMD capabilities and connections to terrorism to the White House. The Department of Defense consistently undermined the more sober and accurate analyses of the intelligence community while providing inflammatory arguments to the administration and sympathetic journalists. [Knight Ridder, 10/21/04; Levin Report (PDF)]

3. Rumsfeld tolerates torture.

A. Torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Secretary Rumsfeld explicitly authorized many of the abusive tactics employed at Guantanamo Bay, including stripping prisoners for humiliation and threatening them with dogs. [Washington Post, 6/23/04] New Guantanamo Bay abuse allegations surface regularly. [Washington Post, 12/21/04] Guantanamo Bay tactics migrated to Abu Ghraib, when the Department of Defense sent Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to "Gitmoize" the prison. [Washington Post, 5/10/04; New Yorker, 5/15/04]. Torture allegations have greatly undermined America's international credibility and the global war on terrorism. [The Atlantic, July/August 2004]

B. Ghosting Prisoners.

Secretary Rumsfeld personally authorized at least one case of "ghosting," or hiding a prisoner from authorities and human rights organizations, ordering that a prisoner be held "off the books". [MSNBC, 6/16/04] Ghosting is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. [MSNBC, 6/17/04]. The ghosted detainee did not produce any high value intelligence.

4. Rumsfeld mistreats the troops.

A. Not Enough Armor.

Secretary Rumsfeld was asked by a soldier why his unit didn't have adequate vehicle armor. Rumsfeld responded, "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time." [New York Times, 12/9/04] Years after the decision to invade was made, troops still lacked adequate vehicle and body armor, despite its ready availability to the Pentagon. [Washington Post, 10/18/04; Newsweek, 12/20/04, Newsweek, 5/3/04]. Senator Susan Collins noted that "the Department of Defense still has been unable to ensure that our troops have the equipment they need to perform their mission as safely as possible." [CNN, 12/16/04] Up to 20% of American troop fatalities are attributable to poorly armored vehicles. [Newsweek, 5/3/04]

B. Auto-Pen.

Secretary Rumsfeld didn't bother to personally sign condolence letters sent to the families of dead soldiers, "the least that we could expect out of the secretary of defense," according to Sen. Chuck Hagel. [NY Daily News, 12/20/04].

 

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