Friday, April 23, 2004
The Weekly Standard's current editorial calls for sacking Rumsfeld for not committing enough troops to Iraq. This should be a partial response to those who argue that Rummy is the leader of the neo-con faction in the Administration. Would the Weekly Standard call for the sacking of the faction leader? Unlikely. And note that David Frum has called for Cheney to run for President in '08.
Kristol and Kagan make a case, but I don't think their numbers add up. 30,000 troops has the virtue of being an actually doable number. But pre-war, the guys focused on the post-war situation and peacekeeping - like General Shinseki - were calling for 400,000 to 500,000 troops. That's a number that produces Kossovo-like ratios of peacekeepers to locals. 30,000 doesn't get us anywhere close. Whose numbers are more likely to be right?
This matters a lot. The Weekly Standard understanding of the mission of the American military is pretty expansive. We have to be able to occupy countries like Iraq (and, potentially, Syria, or even Iran) and turn them into democracies, which means a long-term occupation, not a few-months endeavor. We also have to be able to respond to humanitarian catastrophes (e.g., Rwanda) and to police our own near-neighborhood (e.g., Haiti, Colombia). We have to be able to fight contingency wars in Taiwan and Korea, to deter a rising China, and to discourage anyone else from getting ideas about becoming a world power, or even a belligerent regional power. If we need hundreds of thousands of troops for occupation duty around the world, then even a Reagan-scale military will not be able to fulfill the mission. And even that scale military looks politically difficult; something much larger is just inconceivable, politically. So these guys have a real incentive to say: just a few more troops would do it. Would they?
Rumsfeld's vision for the U.S. military - fast, deadly, precise, mobile, small-footprint - is one response to the emerging global threats. He's not interested in occupying the world. (This alone should give pause to those who think he's the leading neo-con.) He doesn't believe in nation-building. I'm not convinced he cares much about democratization. But his vision is proving to be a disaster in terms of achieving the political objective of the use of force. Yes, we can take out guys like Saddam faster, with fewer troops and with far fewer casualties on either side than most expected, including those in the uniformed military. That's good to know. But the political objective of the war didn't end with the fall of Tikrit, and Rummy has no ideas about how to achieve our political objectives.
We need new ideas. We can't say that guys like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein or anyone else is able to deter the American military by holding their own people hostage, but that's what it means to say that we cannot take out a guy like Saddam because of fears of the post-war environment in the country. What if Saddam had been implicated in 9-11? What if he was close to obtaining a nuke, as he was in 1981 and 1991? If we took him out, we'd be in the same place we are today: running Iraq and fighting an anti-American insurgency. But under those circumstances, no one seriously would dispute we should have taken him out. So what's the alternative strategy for dealing with these situations to what we did?