Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Rumsfeld Memo

Two days before Donald Rumsfeld was fired resigned was replaced as US Defense Secretary, he wrote a memo to the White House entitled Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action.

The Washington Post has the text of the memo here, and the New York Times offers an analysis.

The first thing that strikes any rational individual is that this memo is so late in coming. The insurgency in Iraq has been raging for months yet, Rumsfeld issues his ideas and observes that things aren't going well, one day before the US mid-term elections.

Further, Rumsfeld issues these ideas and observations without ever shouldering any of the blame, without admitting his policies had anything to do with the current situation in Iraq, and by blaming others for failing to do the things that were needed to do to make Iraq a place he visualized, but for which there was no plan.

He describes his options as "above the line" (prefered options) and "below the line" (less attractive options). The choice is a clear demonstration that Rumsfeld had no plan in place to deal with any form of resistance and that the pursuit of peace-making options, which might well have worked some time ago, were rejected back then and are undesireable (to Rumsfeld) now.

Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made).
What Rumsfeld was referring to here is difficult to pin down. Was he talking about already agreed to benchmarks or new ones. It's a nebulous statement, but it does include one interesting item: Without actually doing anything except make announcements, he wanted to paint a happy face on the conditions in Iraq.

Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF), to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq.
This is a failure on the part of Rumsfeld to see beyond the immediate military question. It is an assumption that all that is needed is increased combat capability of the ISF. Where the US trainers would come from however, is not explained. Without a US troop increase it suggests that trainers would come from already stretched US combat units.

Initiate a reverse embeds program, like the Korean Katusas, by putting one or more Iraqi soldiers with every U.S. and possibly Coalition squad, to improve our units’ language capabilities and cultural awareness and to give the Iraqis experience and training with professional U.S. troops.
What? Now?! Too little too late. This should have happened years ago. Interestingly he refers to a program which is not terribly well liked by the Koreans serving in it.

Aggressively beef up the Iraqi MOD and MOI, and other Iraqi ministries critical to the success of the ISF — the Iraqi Ministries of Finance, Planning, Health, Criminal Justice, Prisons, etc. — by reaching out to U.S. military retirees and Reserve/National Guard volunteers (i.e., give up on trying to get other USG Departments to do it.)
There's more than just a hint of blame being passed out here. Rumsfeld is blaming others for his failings. Further, he's pulling a colonial old-boy attitude. There's no doubt he thought that way all along, but, after totally dismantling the Iraqi military, he purports to inject US personnel into the Iraqi government to "beef them up".

Conduct an accelerated draw-down of U.S. bases. We have already reduced from 110 to 55 bases. Plan to get down to 10 to 15 bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007.
Nothing in that statement is rationalized.

Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other Coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers for the ISF.
Draw down? Where to?

Initiate an approach where U.S. forces provide security only for those provinces or cities that openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate, with the stipulation being that unless they cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave their province.

Stop rewarding bad behavior, as was done in Fallujah when they pushed in reconstruction funds, and start rewarding good behavior. Put our reconstruction efforts in those parts of Iraq that are behaving, and invest and create havens of opportunity to reward them for their good behavior. As the old saying goes, “If you want more of something, reward it; if you want less of something, penalize it.” No more reconstruction assistance in areas where there is violence.
Again, Rumsfeld shifts the blame for his own failures onto others. His belief that Fallujah received reconstruction funds despite the "bad behaviour" fails to acknowledge that US forces totally destroyed that city and a failure to rebuild it would have precipitated an even more violent insurgency. Fallujah is now, after reconstruction, a relatively stable city. Rumsfeld's view is entirely paternalistic and has already proven to be a failed strategy.

Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.
Shifting the blame again. The fact that those borders weren't properly secured in 2003 indicates a severe lack of knowledge of the area. It also perpetuates the myth that the insurgency is coming from outside Iraq.

Withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions — cities, patrolling, etc. — and move U.S. forces to a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) status, operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi security forces need assistance.
This was the Murtha plan which called for an Over The Horizon withdrawl. Bush rejected it.

Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.
Holy. Shit. An absolute denial of the US part in invading, destroying and emasculating Iraq. This isn't just shifting blame; this is denying the facts.

Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.
Uh huh. Strangely, Saddam's methods now seem to be acceptable. It might even work if the insurgency wasn't so mature and the people involved have already recruited great numbers of religious leaders.

Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not “lose.”
In other words, having had no plan, there is still no plan, there would be no plan because, well, plans just get in the way of winning.

Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.
The suggestion here is, again, to put a happy face on a bad situation. This sheds an interesting light on Rumsfeld. It shows he is willing to recommend publicizing the situation and US mission in Iraq in less than truthful terms.

And then there are the "below the line" recommendations: The "less than desireable" recommendations.

Continue on the current path.
Not desireable for obvious reasons.

Move a large fraction of all U.S. Forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it.
Ah, yes, Baghdad! This is an admission that Baghdad is totally out of control and that unless things change, it will remain so. The reason this suggestion is undesireable to Rumsfeld is because Baghdad is already lost.

Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially.
That would involve an admission of personal failing since Rumsfeld was the one that refused to provide a complete occupation force in Iraq.

Set a firm withdrawal date to leave. Declare that with Saddam gone and Iraq a sovereign nation, the Iraqi people can govern themselves. Tell Iran and Syria to stay out.
Something like the solution in Vietnam. Fake peace with honour. Rumsfeld should at this point be well aware that this would lead to all-out civil war and that Syria and Iran would definitely not stay out. It's delusional.

Assist in accelerating an aggressive federalism plan, moving towards three separate states — Sunni, Shia, and Kurd.
Well, there's a shiney new idea. Again, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding in what is fuelling the insurgency. The Kurds might come out of it with some success - for a while, until Turkey goes into a flat spin over the whole idea. Again, Syria and Iran would become players here and Rumsfeld fails to note that.

Try a Dayton-like process.
While it is on the "less desireable options" list, it is less than clear as to how this would work. The situation in Iraq is nothing like the Bosnia-Herzegovina case.

Rumsfeld could have shortened this whole memo down to: I have no idea what to do.

The paternalistic tone, the dodging of responsibility and the blaming of others is pure Rumsfeld. What it also displays however, is the complete lack of empathy Rumsfeld had for the effect of his policies on human beings. In this memo Rumsfeld has reduced the Iraqi population to less than human and fails to acknowledge that the reduced capacity of the Iraqis to look after themselves is a direct result of US action.

Given that the United States is led by a complete idiot it was always a hope that Bush was surrounded by competent advisors. We all hoped for too much.

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