October 03, 2006

Abizaid: Rumsfeld's Got No Cred....

More Woodward:

Vietnam was also on the minds of some old Army buddies of Gen. Abizaid, the Centcom commander. They were worried that Iraq was slowly turning into Vietnam -- either it would wind down prematurely or become a war that was not winnable.

Some of them, including retired Gen. Wayne A. Downing and James V. Kimsey, a founder of America Online, visited Abizaid in 2005 at his headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and then in Iraq.

Abizaid held to the position that the war was now about the Iraqis. They had to win it now. The U.S. military had done all it could. It was critical, he argued, that they lower the American troop presence. It was still the face of an occupation, with American forces patrolling, kicking down doors and looking at the Iraqi women, which infuriated the Iraqi men.

"We've got to get the [expletive] out," he said.

Abizaid's old friends were worried sick that another Vietnam or anything that looked like Vietnam would be the end of the volunteer army. What's the strategy for winning? they pressed him.

"That's not my job," Abizaid said.

No, it is part of your job, they insisted.

No, Abizaid said. Articulating strategy belonged to others.


"The president and Condi Rice, because Rumsfeld doesn't have any credibility anymore," he said. [emphasis added]


Meantime, George Will appears to believe this anecdote speaks well of Rumsfeld but, sorry to say, it does just the opposite:

On Veterans Day 2005, the president traveled to a Pennsylvania Army depot to deliver a speech announcing the new military policy for Iraq, the policy of "clear, hold and build." Woodward says Rumsfeld, having read the speech, called Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, a half-hour before Bush was to deliver it, and said, "Take that out." Card replied that the three words were the centerpiece of the speech, not to mention the war strategy. Rumsfeld replied, "Clear, we're doing. It's up to the Iraqis to hold. And the State Department's got to work with somebody on the build."

I understand Will's view that the so-called warrior ethos is impacted by having to 'do kindergartens' and such, but Will is missing the main point. A coordinated counter-insurgency effort has to be led by the Americans, and that includes taking the lead on each component of 'clear, hold and build'. First, Rumsfeld's 'just enough troops to lose' doesn't even have us clearing adequately, so he fails dismally on that score regardless, the one he erroneously claims "we're doing". Next, Iraqi Forces aren't yet ready to persuasively "hold", as anyone with a smidgen of situational awareness realizes (this category doesn't include Rumsfeld, of course). Next, infrastructure build-out might include some input from State, but it is breathtakingly obvious that the military would need to play a key role here too, and most likely the lead one, particularly given a lack of international support to lean on for engineering and other assistance (not least given how many allies Rumsfeld alienated like an impestuous buffoon).

In short, you have Abizaid all but begging for strategic leadership at the civilian leadership level, but making it clear as day Rumsfeld hasn't any credibility left, so can't play that role. A prime example of this dearth of persuasive strategic leadership is showcased by Rumsfeld's absurd call to Card thirty minutes before Bush's speech. It's all here: a dysfunctional Administration where a key strategy arrived at woefully belatedly ("clear, hold, build"), and about to be sketched out by the President in a major public address, is poo-pooed by a discredited Secretary of Defense at the 11th hour, so as to transparently attempt to abdicate the lion's share of responsibility for the new strategy he should instead be hell-bent on trying to ensure succeeds.

I'm tired of writing it, and you're likely tired of reading it, but it is simply staggering that Rumsfeld remains at the Pentagon. It's akin to a profound fraud being perpetrated on the American public. And it's a key reason why we need to support Democrats on November 7th, so as to increase the chances of holding such incompetents accountable for their collosal blunders, for their deep arrogance, for their stubborn refusal to admit mistakes, and for their bungling of the war effort.

Posted by Gregory at October 3, 2006 03:59 AM

Bush needs to go. Impeachment is essential -- if only to keep Cheney from launching an even worse Iranian adventure. You know he wants to.

Posted by: sglover at October 3, 2006 05:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read that Will column, too, Gregory, and found his thinking on how anectdote humanized Rummy profoundly back-asswards. Has there ever been a Cabinet official in deeper disgrace and still in his job, going about his daily business as if nothing has happened? Reminds of those last-days-of-WW2 Hitler-in-bunker stories. Downright surreal.

Great stuff always. Thanks! k

Posted by: Ken at October 3, 2006 07:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First, Rumsfeld's 'just enough troops to lose' doesn't even have us clearing adequately, so he fails dismally on that score regardless, the one he erroneously claims "we're doing".

gotta disagree with this statement. We have "cleared" areas with the forces we have -- clearing an area does not mean that we kill all the enemies in an area, merely that they are gone from the area. The tragedy is that we failed to keep the enemy from returning to the "cleared" area.

Next, Iraqi Forces aren't yet ready to persuasively "hold", as anyone with a smidgen of situational awareness realizes (this category doesn't include Rumsfeld, of course).


But while we can blame Rumsfeld all we want, its obvious that those who did have "situational awareness" were trying to get their message across, and the incapacity for "situational awareness" in the Oval Office was the real problem. Rumsfeld's incompetence was manifest years ago -- and when a leader maintains incompetent subordinates, its the leader who is the problem, not the subordinate.

(to add insult to injury, if/when Rumsfeld goes, it will not be because of his demonstrated incompetence, but because he has become too much of a political liability. )

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 3, 2006 11:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Rumsfeld remains at the Pentagon at least in part because it is likely that GWBush has nobody to replace him with. Who in his right mind would want to take the position of SecDef in the last two (or so) years of a lame duck administration to even try to clean up the mess that that very same lame duck administration had caused?

The likely candidates from inside (Wolfowitz et al) are mostly gone. So who would Bush be able to call upon?

Posted by: raj at October 3, 2006 02:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Another factor to consider is that George W. Bush and crew have staked (since about 9/12/01) an inordinant amount of their Administration's prestige (such of it as is left) on the "wartime" meme: and Bush's own overreaching-of-authority as being inherent in his being a "war President" - an act which is getting fairly old by now, and which the public is (at long last) beginning to see through. Firing Rumsfeld at this point would be seen as an admission that the "war" policies which the Bush Administration has staked so much have failed: and that there is likely no acceptable successor who would be able to "successfully" prosecute the Iraqi adventure in time to rescue the GOP's Presidential hopes in 2008 (domestic politics being paramount, of course). Thus: "Secretary Rummy: can't live with him; can't live without him!"

Posted by: Jay C at October 3, 2006 03:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Another point about Rumsfeld's remarks regarding State. Didn't the DOD essentially freeze state out of the post-conflict planning process before the war started. Yet, here we see him throwing it back into State's lap after it has become a situation that only DOD can handle. The only group of AMerican's that have any hope of building any infrastructure or really doing anyhting is DOD, because they have large numbers and can protect themselves to a certain degree when they leave the Green zone. Everyone else, is either defenseless or needs to rely on others for protection.

Posted by: jon at October 3, 2006 04:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jon has it right.

DOD shelved the extensive analysis that the State Department had prepared, prior to the war, on how to rebuild Iraq. The work had been painstakingly done, and it was inexplicably junked.

The second word in "Marshall Plan" isn't surplusage.

I am contained to mention, Gregory, that us Lefties howled about this AT THE TIME and were dismissed as a counterproductive "fifth column" by many war-supporting bloggers.

The Bush Administration shelved the State Department's work in favor of. . . nothing. Or, to be more fair, a two-page, incomprehensible Power Point presentation. Rumsfeld insisted on taking responsibility for reconstruction, did nothing, and registered surprise and irritability when all hell broke loose. This is depicted in detail in the excellent book "Fiasco."

Posted by: Barry at October 3, 2006 11:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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