Monday, March 21, 2005

Rummy's Noodles

Donald Rumsfeld has a new explanation for the ongoing failure to suppress the insurgency in Iraq, which he shared with Fox News on Sunday morning: It is Turkey's fault. Of course it is. They refused to allow the 4th infantry division to invade Iraq from the north. How dare they deny the US passage rights through their territory? The secretary explains that because US forces were not able to execute an assault from the north, ‘Saddam loyalists’ were able to disperse into hiding and cause the ongoing insurgency.

This sounds as ridiculous as the secretary's past 'wisdom' on body armor and Abu Ghraib. Blaming the insurgency on Turkey's sovereign right not to take part in the US military operation in Iraq is like blaming a missed field goal on Astroturf. It has, indeed, been long since President Truman placed a sign that read ‘the buck stops here’ in the oval office. Today, Secretary Rumsfeld would rather place another sign on his desk that reads: ‘the buck stops anywhere but here’. According to him failure to contain the insurgency is not the result of inadequate troop levels and force protection sent into battle. It is not the result of poor post-invasion planning which failed to secure weapon storage facilities and sensitive sites. It is not the result of the policy to disband the Iraqi army, which created a defacto resistance force. And it is certainly not the result of a failure to quickly restore public services, which fueled Iraqi anger and, hence, increased recruitment for the insurgency. The Secretary says it is all somebody else’s fault.

It is Syria although a large number of foreign fighters who are joining the insurgency are Saudis and Jordanians (two key US allies who also share borders with Iraq). It is Iran although the Mullahs there support the Shia in southern Iraq who themselves are the victims of bloody terrorist attacks by Sunni insurgents. Finally, it is Turkey because they refused the right of passage to the US military although Baatists would have behaved exactly the same way as they have to date. Iraq’s neighbors, indeed, cause complications for the US in Iraq. Syria and Iran are, indeed, subversive actors with regard to US policy in Iraq because they have a direct stake in the outcome of the political process there. The inability of the US to get the 4th infantry division in from the north did complicate the war planning effort. But, you don’t go to a war and think you will waltz into a perfect environment free of any external interference, unexpected setbacks, and operational risk. Contingency planning is certainly not an unfamilar term within the Pentagon.

Regarding this latest claim by the secretary, it is easy to speculate, as he once said, on ‘unknown unknowables’. But, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of whether the 4th infantry division was allowed to come in from the north or not, Baatists would have faded into the landscape and prepared to fight a guerilla war against US forces because that was their plan from the get-go. They knew from their experience only ten years earlier that a conventional war against the most powerful military in the world is out of the question. Therefore, the so-called ‘regime remnants’ who put their strategy into action several days before US troops reached Baghdad, never intended to fight US forces in the open. In addition, let us not forget that the Kurdish militia, the Pesh Merga, and US Special Forces did operate in the north in support of the invading forces from the South and West and that the US had total air supremacy during the entire campaign. It is also important to remember that it took US forces only about a week to enter Baghdad. Would it have mattered if they got there a day or two earlier? Maybe, but that’s highly debatable because the main policy failures that led to the current security situation in Iraq took place days if not months after the ground assault on Baghdad was completed.

Another element to consider very carefully is that the insurgency is not confined to ‘Saddam loyalists’ or ‘regime remnants’. Failure to properly identify the problem is the first sign that real, sustainable solutions are not forthcoming. The idea that all those who belong to the insurgency are trying to bring the Saddam regime back into power is ludicrous. It is a simplistic approach that may play well on US media, but misses the point entirely. Many in this insurgency today are diametrically opposed to the Baatists. They include regular Iraqis whose resentment of the US was fueled by lack of public services and by military offensives into Iraqi cities (i.e., Fallujah); they include Islamists (including foreign fighters) who are seeking to ‘martyr’ themselves; and they also include Iraqi nationalists. Furthermore, the Mahdi army of the Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has given US forces lots of problems in southern Iraq last year. The recent calm there does not mean that this militia is finished. In fact, we may very well see them take up arms again sometime after the new Iraqi government is formed. When that happens again, it would be mighty tough to blame Turkey and I suppose much easier to blame Iran instead, because according to Rumsfeld everything that happens in Iraq is always somebody else's fault.

By the way, Harry Truman has been dead for thiry three years now.


Anonymous Nadir said...

I betcha this dude confuses even him self every time he opens his mouth. At least he didn’t say it was Turkey’s fault few American kids in uniform teased some Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. Or is it the next move? Nothing shocks me any more. ;/

March 22, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

I believe the flattering comments made about how he 'handles the media so well' and how he 'wowes his audiences with his elaborate speech and wit' got to his head. What was at one time amusing is now plainly insulting and annoying.

March 23, 2005


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