January 12, 2005
The Salvador Option
Rumsfeld at a Pentagon briefing yesterday (with his Russian counterpart Sergey Ivanov):
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- on the subject of Iraq, I also have been reading and hearing about this so-called Salvatore -- Salvador option, I think it's called. And I looked all through Newsweek, which apparently was the place it supposedly had appeared. I couldn't find it. But everyone's talking about it, and it's nonsense.
When I first read this Newsweek piece, my reaction was much like Glenn's. It's such a transparent effort to put the words "John Negroponte", (evil man!) "death squads", (again!) "Syria," (cross-border incursions!) "Kurdish peshmerga," (brutal paramilitaries not of the people!) and "Salvador Option" (sounds racier than tired Vietnam comps!)in one article. What horrific flashbacks! The war must be lost! (As John Negroponte commented to the journalists who put this quite absurdist piece together--the inclusion of his name was indeed "utterly gratuitous." Or, at least, gratuitous sans utterly.)
But here's what gets me. Read Rumsfeld's jocular musings above again. It's the same breezy, press-baiting, cocksure crapola. He could have shot down the story--decisively--with purpose and gravitas. Instead, in the course of a single minute or so, he manages to do the following: 1) tell the assorted press corps he hasn't even read the Newsweek article (memo to Rummy: some articles just appear in the on-line editions--is his staff too incompetent to print a copy out for him--or can he simply not be bothered to request they do so before he goes before the press gaggles which seem to delight him so?); 2) as he hasn't read the story--his denials are not as firm and authoritative as, say, those that would have been forthcoming from real pros like Frank Carlucci or Cap Weinberger; and 3) by stating that the "Pentagon doesn't do things like are described in the reporting on the story [emphasis added]" he likely keeps the story alive by causing people to wonder if the CIA is spearheading the effort instead (from the Newsweek article: "Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government—the Defense department or CIA—would take responsibility for such an operation.").
Again, even where I agree with Rumsfeld (yes the Newsweek story appears hugely hyperbolic), I feel he does his best to bungle the damage control. I'm underwhelmed. And increasing amounts of Bush supporters (who lent time and money to his campaign) are too. My prediction: Not more than six to nine months post Iraq elections he will, to a fashion, declare his stewardship of the conflict successful and depart (note he hinted that today with this snippet: "I want to add a brief note about the Iraqi elections that are coming up, about three weeks away. On January 30th, the Iraqis will finally have an opportunity to choose their own leadership and to take charge of their own future. This has been the coalition's goal -- an Iraq run by Iraqis and secured by Iraqi security forces.")
He is defining victory down, of course. After all, the coalition's goal has been to forge a democratic, viable unitary Iraq. An "Iraq run by Iraqis...secured by Iraqi security forces" is not necessarily the same thing. Not that Rumsfeld really cares. His management of the war all but proves he doesn't. You are likely tired of hearing me wail on about it; but the laundry list of his insouciance bordering on dereliction of duty in seriously managing this war effort just keeps getting longer and longer, alas. But if his defining victory hastens his exit by providing him the false comfort of having seen a successful mission through--then, by all means, let him define it down to his heart's content. Faster, please--as they say.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Matt Yglesias thinks Rumsfeld pretty definitively shot the story down. I report, you decide.
Posted by Gregory at January 12, 2005 04:31 AM
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