December 3, 2006

The Rumsfield Memo

The day before the election, Donald Rumsfeld sent George W. Bush a memo about our continuing activity in Iraq that said a few remarkable things:

"In my view it is time for a major adjustment ... Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."

"We have already reduced from 110 to 55 bases ... Plan to get down to 10 to 15 bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007."

"Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist."

As reported by the New York Times, Titled “Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action,” the memo reflects mounting concern over a war that, as Mr. Rumsfeld put it, has evolved from “major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence.”

Now, none of this is news to anyone who's been paying the remotest bit of attention. Nor are any of these proposals (or any of the proposals coming out of the Iraq Study Group) new. What is news is the admission from within the administration, particularly from the upper levels of the Pentagon, that our strategies in Iraq are failing to achieve anything resembling an acceptable objective. Just as early as two weeks ago, Tony Snow refused to admit that Iraq had descended into a state of civil war, and the President continues to refuse to admit that we are no longer accomplishing our goals.

Particularly annoying for the rest of us -- who want to see a safe, secure United States and who bought in to the idea of preventing Saddam Hussein from getting WMD's and who were seduced by the vision of a democratic, friendly Iraq -- has been the Administration's refusal to admit that any kind of significant problem exists, especially as reality appears to grow more and more dissonant from the "approved" message from the White House.

Now, it's very ironic that just as former Secretary Rumsfeld seems to have figured it out after four stoneheaded years of insisting that everything is going to work out just fine, he is gone. Hopefully his replacement will not be such a Pangloss about a very difficult situation. We can have victory if we have the will to return our boots to the necks of the Iraqis who have been trying to rip their country to shreds, or we can have defeat if we decide to bail out and cut our losses, but we can't keep on doing what we have been.

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