January 07, 2005

Rumsfeld Watch: Passing The Buck (Yet Again)

One place the buck doesn't stop in Washington DC? Don Rumsfeld's desk, that's where. Check out this little gem:

"He [Gen. Gary E. Luck] will have a very wide canvas to draw on," said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon spokesman. Mr. Di Rita emphasized that Mr. Rumsfeld was very satisfied with his commanders in Iraq, but wanted to give them all the help they needed in assessing "the very dynamic situation."

Schmitt/Shanker in the NYT.

Heh. I'm happy Rumsfeld is "satisfied" with his commanders. I wonder if they're satisfied with him? Doubtless they appreciate the "very dynamic situation" and "wide canvas" though...cuz stuff happens when troop-lite don't pan out, eh?

Meanwhile, four of Iraq's provinces have been declared not secure for elections by Gen. Metz. Ah, but all is swell in the south and north you say--14 provinces are fine and dandy--so quit your whining. Except that those 4 provinces include the capital city (Baghdad), the third largest city (Mosul), and half of Iraq's population. Look, my gut and head still tell me we have to push this vote through Jan 30--lest the flood gates of Shi'a disgruntlement open up and Sunni insurgents spin a propaganda victory. But, make no mistake, this is a big gamble--and it's a very close call whether or not to go forward with elections as scheduled (a major security melt-down on election day could be a bigger victory for the insurgency than a delay in voting of two to three months).

Bottom line: we have to hang tough--but it's going to be mighty messy. And it's going to stay that way for a good while after the elections. The $64,000 question is whether it will start getting better or will instead get worse after Jan 30th (possible downside scenario: elections that are viewed by too many as illegimate help spur on ramped up sectarian discord). The jury is still out and I guess we all just have to wait and see. I still, yes, remain optimistic things will get better rather than worse after the elections. Regardless, and needless to say, we'll be following all this real closely over here at B.D. through the pre and post-election period.

NB: One reason I remain optimistic. I think that Negroponte and Co. have likely given much thought and done much preliminary footwork with regard to preparing for the Shi'a ascendancy--and we've got a good number of carrots/sticks to bring to bear to stave off so-called crude Shi'a majoritarianism--critical in getting disaffected Sunnis to participate more fully in the post-Saddam politicking arena. And, of course, in staving off the specter of a civil war.

MORE: On Iraqi elections tucked into this must-read John Lewis Gaddis article (of which more later):

Victory, in the end, will go to the side that can rally the "silent majority" of Iraqis who have so far not taken sides. Here an advantage lies with the Americans and their allies, for they can offer elections. The insurgents cannot. Opportunities to vote in equally dangerous circumstances--in El Salvador, Cambodia, and most recently Afghanistan--have punctured the pretensions of terrorists by diminishing the fears on which they depend. There are, to be sure, no guarantees. Elections could produce governments that are weak, incompetent, unrepresentative, brutal, or even fanatically opposed to the occupiers themselves. The risks of holding them, however, are preferable to the alternatives of swamping Iraq with U.S. troops or abandoning it altogether....

...Whether democracy can be "planted" through military occupation in that part of the world is not yet clear, however, and may not be for some time. Three years after the invasion of Afghanistan, that country still is not secure. Taliban and al Qaeda elements remain, economic recovery is spotty, warlords rule, opium cultivation thrives, and Westerners cannot travel safely much beyond Kabul. And yet, on October 9, 2004, millions of Afghans lined up to vote in an election that had no precedent in their nation's long history. Had anyone predicted this three years ago, the response would have been incredulity--if not doubts about sanity.

What this suggests is that forces of disruption and construction coexist in Afghanistan: their shifting balance is beyond precise measurement. If that is true there, then it is all the more so in Iraq, where the contradictions are greater, the stakes are higher, and the standards for making optimistic or pessimistic judgments are even more opaque. The best one can say at the moment, of both countries, is that they defy generalization. That is less than the Bush administration hoped for. It is far more, however, than any previous American administration has achieved in the Middle East. For better or for worse, the status quo exists no longer.

And what of the region's insulation from the wave of democratization that has swept the globe? According to Freedom House statistics, no countries allowed universal suffrage in 1900. By 1950, 22 did, and by 2000, the number had reached 120, a figure that encompassed 62.5 percent of the world's population. Nor, as the examples of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Turkey suggest, is there reason to think that representative government and Islam are incompatible. Democratization has indeed been delayed in the Arab world, as Arabs themselves have begun to acknowledge. To conclude that it can never take hold there, however, is to neglect the direction in which the historical winds have been blowing. And the best grand strategies, like the most efficient navigators, keep the winds behind them.

Posted by Gregory at January 7, 2005 06:06 AM

"Look, my gut and head still tell me we have to push this vote through Jan 30--lest the flood gates of Shi'a disgruntlement open up and Sunni insurgents spin a propaganda victory. But, make no mistake, this is a big gamble"

Trust me, not pushing through with the scheduled election will be disastrous.

Posted by: john marzan at January 7, 2005 11:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If we can establish a reasonably satisfactory consensus on electoral outcomes here with cadavers and imaginary playmates voting en masse in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, etc., I'm not going to worry that Islamofascist gunnies might prevent voting in parts of Iraq. So long as there's a respectable turnout, attempts at violent disruption can only clarify who wants to prevent the Iraqi people from choosing their own future. Meanwhile, perforating as many Saudi, Sudanese, Syrian, and other Islamofascist tourists in Iraq ought to be top priority to reduce the strain of future regime changes elsewhere.

Posted by: Axel Kassel at January 7, 2005 02:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I liked Tom Friedman's piece in the NYT the other day. He says we need the elections so a proper civil war can start. And there will be civil war; arguably, there already is.

Posted by: George at January 7, 2005 04:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cancelation or postponement of the elections = surrender. The message will be that the terrorists won and that the US continues to be a "paper tiger". The jihadist will rightfully be able to boast how they are able to dictate US/Iraqi policy.

If people are disenfranchised, well too bad. They should know who is to blame and help solve the problem. Then maybe next term, they'll actually be able to have a say in who runs their government.

I think it was a mistake for Bush to set a date so far in advance, but once he did, the USA has NO choice.

Posted by: Exile at January 7, 2005 04:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Sistani really determines whether or not there is a postponement. As long as he stays resolute that the 30th is the date, I don't think the administration can risk alienating him and enraging the Shiite's he has so much influence over. At least that would not be an attractive option, and a very big argument in favor of keeping the 30th, although there are other ones as mentioned above..

Stay the course with the elections, but be creative about garnering perceived legitimacy and participation, especially from the Sunni quarters.

I've weighed in with some suggestions on how to accomplish that here if anyone is interested:


Posted by: Eric Martin at January 7, 2005 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I recommend Eric's post.

Posted by: praktike at January 7, 2005 07:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

(a major security melt-down on election day could be a bigger victory for the insurgency than a delay in voting of two to three months)

But, OF COURSE, Greg doesn't say what a "major security melt-down" means. Gives him the opportunity to spin his advice either way after 1/30. Typical political bullsh*t.

Come on, Greg - don't obfuscate! How do we determine what would constitute a "major victory"? 100 Iraqis dead? 1,000? 10,000? No voting at all in Anbar? Or are you just biding your time and seeing which way the wind will blow after 1/30, so you can move the goalposts to your heart's content?


Posted by: Al at January 7, 2005 10:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem with 'silent marorities' in Iraq and elsewhere is that they really don't control the action. A silent majoritny would have voted against the American revolution, Mao Tse Tung and Lenin, to mention a few of the many times where silent majority sentiment failed to carry the day.

Posted by: Dick Mulliken at January 9, 2005 02:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg --

Want to know why the Commanders in the field are happy with Rummy? He didn't remove Sanchez, Fast, and others for Abu Ghraib and other massive failures to impose order and discipline in Iraq.

Mutual CYA.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 9, 2005 03:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Read Frederick Kagan´s article in the Weekly Standard. Tell me the facts are wrong.

Al - You want a number? Why don´t you tell us how many dead Iraqi voters are to be reasonably expected? How about 500 in a day. There, I said it. Do you think it should be more?

Posted by: werner at January 9, 2005 12:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given that Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and over a million neighbors during his long reign of terror, it seems the Iraqis are willing to bleed just a bit more for the sake of a free Iraq.

Sunnis have been bad little muslims for many decades now. There may be a bit of blowback.

Posted by: Conrad at January 10, 2005 08:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Until someone starts hunting down and killing Saddam's old Mukhbarat operatives,there is NO chance of Iraq becoming anything but what it used to be.

They had 35 years setting up shop,their hold is making the SS guys in Germany look like girl scouts. They murder "new" Iraqi leaders daily,how on earth can the good guys win if WE and THEM don't track these thugs down like dogs and shoot them in front of their families? Forget intell,unless and until we find out who they are and start tracking them down,this is a losing proposition.

Posted by: Archimedes at January 10, 2005 11:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Someone is hunting them down. These guys:

"Iraqi Police Service Emergency Response Unit

An elite 270-man team trained to respond to national-level law enforcement emergencies. Team members undergo a robust eight-week specialized training course spawned from the current wave of anti-Iraqi forces actions.

The mission of the emergency response unit is to provide a national, high-end, rapid-response law enforcement tactical unit responsible for high-risk search, arrest, hostage- rescue and crisis response operations.

The $64.5 million effort is part of a larger mission to create a nation-level law enforcement investigative and special operations capability within the Iraqi Ministry of Interior to counter terrorism and large-scale civil disobedience and insurgencies throughout Iraq.

The capability will eventually include a Counterterrorism Investigative Unit and Special Operations Unit. Volunteers for the force must first complete the standard eight-week basic training course or three-week transition integration program course for prior service officers before entering the specialized emergency response unit training modeled after the U.S. State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ training programs.

Of the total force, 235 eligible candidates received rigorous instruction based on the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Crisis Response Team training program while the balance of 35 recruits are part of the Special Operations Explosive Ordinance Team, based on the State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance Explosive Incident Countermeasures training course.

Team members receive instruction on terrorist incidents, kidnappings, hostage negotiations, explosive ordnance, high-risk searches, high-risk assets, weapons of mass destruction, and other national-level law enforcement emergencies.

Officers also have an opportunity to receive supplementary training in hostage negotiation, emergency medical procedures, and counterterrorism task force coordination.

The emergency response unit is the predominant force for national-level incidents calling for a DELTA/SWAT capability and will only be used in extreme situations by local and national authorities."

SOURCE: Coalition Police Assistance Training Team @ http://www.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil/facts_troops.htm

Posted by: Art Wellesley at January 11, 2005 10:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

and these guys...

Special Police Commando Battalions

"The Special Police Commando Battalions represent the Iraqi Ministry of Interior’s strike-force capability.

The commandos – ultimately to be comprised of six full battalions – are highly vetted Iraqi officers and rank-and-file servicemen largely made up of prior service Special Forces professionals and other skilled servicemen with specialty unit experience. All members of the unit are chosen based on loyalty to Iraq and its new democratic model.

The unit focuses primarily on building raid operations, counter-terrorist missions including anti-airplane hijacker, kidnapping and other similar missions.

The force resembles more a paramilitary army-type force complete with heavy weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, mortars, and 9mm Glock pistols.

The commando battalions give the MOI a high-end strike force capability similar to Special Forces units and was quickly stood up to capitalize on previously existing skill sets in Iraq."

Posted by: Art Wellesley at January 11, 2005 10:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We have no good choices in iraq so we have to make the best of the bad choices.

If we postpone the elections it will only be worse when we do them later. Might as well get it over with.

Here's a best-case scenario: The elections happen. Some parties get elected to the assembly. They actually arrange a meeting and tell the US military to leave. They say they'll handle their own security, but please USA or anybody donate weapons and reconstruction aid and such. We pull out rather than arrange a coup. They announce a national reconciliation, amnesty for all actions before the first assembly meeting, a federal government that attempts to leave local problems to local governments and allow local autonomy wherever plausible. No banned parties and no banned politicians; Saddam can run for office supposing he gets acquitted or goes untried. A Ba'ath party can have as much influence as it gets votes. A majority of sunnis agree. Why not, after all, if they get screwed over they can always start blowing things up again later. Lots of iraqis are ready to turn in insurgents to the iraqi government, or alternatively tell them to their faces to quit blowing things up and work on reconstruction. The insurgency lays low waiting for sufficient public resentment they can come out again.

I can imagine it. Alternatively, they tell us to leave, the insurgents kill them. The insurgents declare a new government, but then new insurgents kill *them*. Some kind of mess that eventually dies down in some unpredictable way.

It's a kind of libertarian test case. How do you run a government when a whole lot of people are heavily armed and no government can have a monopoly on violence? The USA could head that way, if we had more guns. Sell lots of cheap RPGs....

How do you run a government when a whole lot of people are heavily armed and some of them are clinically insane? We might be facing that one too one of these days....

Posted by: J Thomas at January 13, 2005 06:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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