A couple interesting links forwarded to me by a co-worker:
The first is a good analysis of the planning leading up to the war, while the second speculates on why Rumsfeld has been so insistent on a policy that stretches US forces so thinly. The reasoning seems plausible enough to me, although I can see other explanations working just as well. But the articles taken together set me to thinking.
A couple weeks ago I’d have looked at the clash between Rumsfeld and the Pentagon and focused primarily on what strikes me as basic corporate CEO-style arrogance on Rummy’s part. Lord knows we’ve seen enough over-blown boardroom jackasses in the last couple years that we aren’t surprised when a man with that kind of background becomes one with his own hype, and the reality is that you don’t become a big time corporate player if you don’t think you have a better idea and the ego to insist on its adoption. But Rumsfeld is, like everybody else on the Bush team except Powell, a chicken-hawk, and while his refusal to listen to people who actually know about war is probably not surprising, it is most definitely distressing. We aren’t playing with stock options and trophy wives here, we’re playing with human lives, the lives of American soldiers and the thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens we’re ostensibly out to liberate. More importantly, we’re playing literally with the geopolitical future of the globe. Thank you very much, but I want the most qualified driver behind the wheel, and I don’t much care about his political affiliation.
So I read this stuff this morning, and then think how many references I have seen since the war started to how thinly stretched our troops are, to insufficient supply lines, and so forth. To units having to advance through areas that we have not been able to adequately secure because we lack the necessary footprint on the ground. And I start wondering how many of the dead and wounded and captured and missing might not be dead and wounded and captured and missing if our damned SecDef were willing to listen to the experts who work for him. I’m always a big fan of innovation, of new ideas, and am not impressed by “this is how we’ve always done it before,” so I am not conferring any sort of ex cathedra status on the “tip-fiddle” (which is explained in the New Yorker article). But I am saying that in this case, Rummy’s attitude-to-substance (A:S) ratio is tipped in the wrong direction, with A > S. (This is one of my little laws for succeeding in the world – attitude is fine, but your level of attitude should never exceed your level of knowledge and substance, so A should always be < or = S; if A > S, decisions are being made not by intelligence, but by ego, which leads us frequently to D – disaster.)
If you’ve been reading the Pit blog regularly, you know that one of my chief worries as this war thing ramped up was the ineptitude of our leadership – mostly Bush, but also his close circle of advisers, of whom only Powell has ever been closer to a real shooting war than, say, the verandah at the Country Club. And while I have been vocally opposed to starting this war, it has also been paramount to me that once we launched we needed to win it as quickly and effectively as possible. That means as few deaths, especially among American forces and the aforementioned liberatees as possible.
I begin to wonder to what degree my fears were realized, even as this morning’s news is plastered with images of victory – American Marines helping Iraqis topple a bronze statue of Saddam, an old man using his shoe to pound a poster featuring the face of Saddam, celebrations in the streets, as the people finally begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, Saddam and his Baath thugs can no longer hurt them…. The war isn’t over, but the outcome is decided, and it doesn’t look at this point as though the worst-case scenarios are coming to pass, thanks in large part I suspect to the sheer irrationality of Hussein’s ego. It could have been worse – a lot worse, and we can all be grateful that the dictator was blinded by his machismo.
Still, despite the apparent good news, how many people now lie dead who’d be alive and more or less well had Bush and his cronies let our highly trained military do its job? And if the speculation in the Slate piece proves accurate, how many more US troops will be sacrificed on the altar of Rumsfeld’s self-importance as the drive to Empire continues?