Friday, November 10, 2006

Rummy, you're scummy, but it wasn't ALL your fault

One down, one to go...
I can think of no public figure, OK, there's one, whose comeuppance would be met with greater glee. And yet, as Tony Karon points out, the idea that we got rid of the one problem child is self-serving and just plain wrong.

The news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to be the Bush Administration’s ritual sacrifice on the altar of its electoral rebuke comes as no surprise: It had been obvious for months now the call for Rumsfeld’s head is a kind of consensual fetish among those who supported the Iraq war for not having to deal with their own culpability in the catastrophe it inevitably became. I say “inevitably” because you don’t have to have a working knowledge of Iraqi history to have anticipated how Iraqis would respond to their country being occupied by a foreign army — you simply needed to have watched “Red Dawn” back in the 80s. (A working knowledge of Iraqi history, as many U.S. military types who quietly but firmly opposed the war had, would certainly have helped anticipate some of the specific sectarian and regional consequences, but that’s another matter.)

But instead of admitting and reckoning with the fact that the war they advocated was a catastrophically bad idea, everyone from neocon hacks to flip-flopping Democrats, Bob Woodward (arch channeler of White House sources) and the self-styled “liberal hawks” of the chattering classes, like Peter Beinart and George Packer, have signed on to the notion that it was a good war, the right war, executed badly, because Rumsfeld adhered to some bizarre capital-intensive theory of warfare. In other words, if Rumsfeld had simply sent more troops, the outcome would have been different.

And that narrative, which the White House itself appears to have adopted in the wake of its midterm electoral drubbing, is a self-serving evasion. Indeed, the “blame Rumsfeld for Iraq” chorus reminds me of nothing as much as listening to Trotskyists trying to rescue Bolshevism by blaming its grotesque consequences on Stalin’s “implementation” rather than on its inner logic.

Having more troops in Iraq would have made a tactical differences, and might have altered the story arc and timeline, but I can’t see how it would have produced a fundamentally different outcome. And the idea evades the reality that the troop levels in Iraq were a function of the politics of the war rather than of some whacky CEO cost-cutting obsession. In fact, the chiefs of staff (and Powell, too, initially) were trying to stop the war, or at least slow the train by making the project look prohibitive because of the troop levels required. They believed it needed up to a half million troops, and they probably also knew that presented with a realistic picture of the cost and commitment, that Congress would balk. That was the reason why, for example, Paul Wolfowitz jumped so aggressively down General Shinseki’s throat when he suggested before Congress that the U.S. would need a “few hundred thousand” troops to secure the peace. It wasn’t that Wolfowitz was seized by some Rumsfeldian “New Generation Warfare” theory; it’s that he was on board with a political strategy to make the invasion happen and destroy any obstacle that would prevent it.
Karon should be an everyday read. He's is a great blogger, a humane sophisticated voice. We should be happy that he has a forum at Time. com (God knows there are few mainstream columnists of his caliber).

Other recent Karon posts absolutely slaughter the conventional wisdom on such sacred mainstream sacred cows as the impossibility of compromise with Hamas and the existence of an Iran "crisis." His piece on Beijing's geopolitics is a marvel of reason and concision. And I resisted at first, but came around to his finding Borat more than a little troubling:
So, you wonder what the Kazakh’s must make of being tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth? I’d say that Sascha Baron Cohen is a prat, and a racist prat at that: Essentially, he’s operating his own stereotype, i.e. that Muslims are inherently anti-Semitic....

Let’s just say Baron needs to go back to Oxford and learn a little history — he might learn that over the long haul of Jewish history, we’ve done a lot better under Islamic rule than we’ve fared in the Christian West. Then again, if Sascha Baron Cohen did a skit of some provincial Catholic bishop singing “throw the Jew down the well”, he wouldn’t be opening his movie all over America right now.

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