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April 19, 2006
RUMSFELD-O-RAMA: Max Boot writes:
As it happens, I agree with their advice. As I first said on this page two years ago, I too think that Rumsfeld should go. But I am nevertheless troubled by the Revolt of the Generals, which calls into question civilian control of the armed forces. In our system, defense secretaries are supposed to fire generals, not vice versa.
The retired generals, who claim to speak for their active-duty brethren, premise their uprising on two complaints. First, many (though not all) say we should not have gone into Iraq in the first place. Former Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold calls it "the unnecessary war," and former Gen. Anthony Zinni claims that "containment worked remarkably well."
That is a highly questionable judgment, and one that is not for generals to make. They are experts in how to wage war, not when to wage it. If we had listened to their advice, we would not have gone into Kuwait or Bosnia or Kosovo.
Read the whole thing, which is not very encouraging for reasons that have little to do with Rumsfeld or the generals. Ralph Peters, on the other hand, is defending the generals: "If serving officers can't criticize public figures, neither should they offer endorsements. Secretary Rumsfeld notoriously cracks down on internal dissent, but he hasn't chided Gen. Pace for his on-camera flattery. If you're looking for the politicization of the officer corps, look no further." There's much more.
Richard Brookhiser, meanwhile, is defending Rumsfeld:
In the soft days before 9/11, Mr. Rumsfeld came to the Pentagon intent on transformation—making the military more high-tech, breaking down the barriers to inter-service cooperation. This is an old fight, for the Pentagon, like any corporation, must evolve to live; if it doesn’t, it becomes General Motors. Tail-kickers like Mr. Rumsfeld naturally acquire enemies, for reasons bad (people don’t like rocking the boat) and good (maybe the boat sails well as it is).
The transformed military toppled the Taliban government in quick time, using Special Forces on horseback and pilotless drones. Point to Mr. Rumsfeld. In Iraq, Baghdad fell in three weeks, but the war against the insurgency has lasted three years. Point to his critics? Mr. Rumsfeld’s great failing, in their eyes, was not sending in enough troops. If we had had more boots on the ground, so the indictment runs, the insurgency either would not have blossomed or could have been crushed. But this too is an issue with two sides. More boots can mean more firepower. But they can also mean more targets. More boots would also have meant a draft, which would mean more neophyte troops.
Our goal was always not to add Iraq to the American Raj, but to turn the country over to a stable, non-monstrous government. This required, first, forming such a government, and second, seeing that it could defend itself.
Read the whole thing here, too.
UPDATE: A reader sends this defense of Rumsfeld:
The only thing that matters to me is that the generals--be they retired or active, Iraq veterans or not--claiming that more troops in Iraq would solve all the problems are dead wrong. Rumsfeld is right. More troops would have inflamed Islamic passions, created a disincentive among the Iraqi Security Forces to improve, cost the U.S. much more money, and--most importantly--cost us many more casualties.
Rumsfeld knew this, and he knew it by studying the last time a great western power fought a protracted Islamic insurgency, which was the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962).
The French had 500,000 troops in Algeria, which at that time had a population of 9 million. If you scale the troop-to-citizen ratio up to match Iraq's population, that would mean we'd need 1.5 million troops in Iraq. We currently have 138,000.
The French lost 18,000 troops killed over an eight-year period, or 2250 a year. Again, if you scale it up to Iraq ratios, it would be 6750 a year. We're losing about 700 a year, and that figure is falling.
Between 350,000 and 1.5 million Algerians were killed. To scale those figures up to Iraq, multiply them by three. So far in Iraq, about 32,000 have died, including terrorists.
The French used a policy of collective punishment in Algeria: If a village harbored insurgents, the village was bombed from the air or hit with artillery strikes. The French also tortured suspects to death, rounded people up by the thousands and shot them without trial, and put about 2 million in concentration camps. And they still lost the war.
With less than 10% of the troops (proportionally) that France had in Algeria, and with a policy not of conquest but of partnership, look what we've accomplished. More importantly, look at the slaughter we've avoided.
Something to thank Rumsfeld--not the generals--for.
I've been skeptical of the "more boots on the ground" argument myself, but I'm a law professor, not a general. Or a Secretary of Defense.