March 22, 2003

Rumsfeld's Hubris The NYT has

Rumsfeld's Hubris

The NYT has a masthead which is mostly a matter of fact recitation of the dramatic events of the past 24 hours. It also contains the following:

"Reporters in Baghdad say that civilian neighborhoods are near some of the targets, so some civilian casualties can be expected. Secretary Rumsfeld, in hubristic remarks that could come back to haunt him, stressed that today's weapons had "a precision no one ever dreamt of" in the past. He said every target was carefully analyzed, the most appropriate weapon selected, and the approach and time of day carefully picked in a humane effort to minimize the loss of civilian lives. There is evidence that the attacks are indeed carefully calibrated. The lights in Baghdad remained on, the water was running and the phones were working, reflecting a determination to avoid damage that would disrupt the lives of the residents. But technical glitches can thwart the best-made plans, and even a few errant bombs or missiles could cause substantial civilian damage....given the administration's insistence that it can pick its targets precisely."

I have to say I agree with some of these sentiments (though Howell, of course, pushes a bit with the "haunt" language). I caught Don Rumsfeld's press conference last night. He appeared overly defensive regarding comparisons between what is underway in Baghdad with Dresden-style fire bombing or the Christmas bombing of Hanoi. We are all aware that there is no valid comparison to be made to these previous bombing campaigns--that the precision weaponry being employed in Iraq is highly sophisticated and commands a great degree of accuracy. And yet, this is not a wholly clinical exercise with guaranteed results. I'm all for hitting with maximum pressure targets of Saddam's regime per "shock and awe." It is important that symbols of his power are dismantled promptly in dramatic fashion to enhance the chances of massive capitulation by large swaths of the Army--especially in the predominately Sunni areas where there is likely to be more resistance.

But there was too much of the Bob McNamara as described in David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" in Rummy last night. In an almost annoyed tone, he described how much care was going into the target selection, even the timing of the bombings--so as to minimize the chances of civilian deaths. All true, doubtless, but let's be a bit more modest about the effect "shock and awe" has on civilians--including the vast majority who will emerge unschathed. Liberation may be sweet and anxiously awaited by the vast majority of the residents of Baghdad--but thousand pound bombs impacting your city is sure to be a terrifying experience. Let's all be sure to remember that during the coming days.

Posted by Gregory at March 22, 2003 02:00 PM
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