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Rummy's 'long, hard slog'

Patrick J Buchanan

October  29  2003

The now-famous Donald Rumsfeld memo was stamped neither "sensitive" nor "secret." Thus there would be no cause to call in the FBI should it leak. It was sent to Rumsfeld deputies Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and Gens. Richard Myers and Peter Pace, who had heard it all before. It was brief enough to be reprinted in any newspaper, and tart and succinct enough to be quoted.

When it fell into the hands of Tom Squitieri, who splashed it on Page 1 of USA Today, Rumsfeld made light of the leak, though his aides had insisted he was "livid." Hence it is not a stretch to conclude that Rumsfeld intended this memo for a wider audience than his four deputies i.e., he wanted it out, and he wanted his views known.

Indeed, the memo seems intended to convey to the nation, Congress and the president the growing apprehension of the leading hawk in the War Cabinet on America's progress in the war on terror.

What does the memo tell us about the mindset of its author?

Secretary Certitude harbors the same anxieties and doubts about the war in Iraq as those who opposed the invasion: "It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog," wrote Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld's memo shreds in tatters the triumphalist banner "Mission Accomplished" that flew from the Lincoln on May 1 when President Bush landed. The boast that "Failure is not an option!" in Iraq and Afghanistan gives way to cold contemplation that failure is possible.

The memo cuts the ground from under White House claims that the situation in Iraq is far better than the media "filter" has portrayed it. And it moves a Pentagon that was behind the curve and losing credibility for foolish predictions and failed planning for postwar Iraq back into line with public perceptions. Yes, it is going to be "a long, hard slog."

Rumsfeld emerges from this brief memo as a tough-minded realist asking hard questions about whether we are winning and what new "bold" measures are needed for victory including reconfiguring the entire U.S. government to fight the war. And there is the suggestion that elements of all departments engaged in prosecuting this war CIA, Justice, Defense should be brought under one roof and one command. And there is little doubt whom Secretary Rumsfeld has in mind as Deputy President for War.

The downside is that the secretary comes off less as a wise statesman than as a frustrated corporate CEO, perplexed as to why company products are not selling as well as his marketeers and advertising team led him to believe. The memo is McNamarian as in Robert S. McNamara, paragon of "The Best and the Brightest," who led us into Vietnam and who took as his signposts of victory body counts of Viet Cong dead that junior officers fresh from battle brought in from the rice paddies.

"Today," writes Rumsfeld, "we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists than ... the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

"Is our current situation such that the 'harder we work, the behinder we get'?"

These questions should have been asked before, not after, Rumsfeld prodded the president to send an army into Mesopotamia.

And the memo lacks reflection, imagination, vision.

Can the secretary not see that it is the U.S. presence itself in Iraq that recruits "terrorists"? Can he not see that it may not be our tactics that are faulty, but our policy? Did he not know that invading an Islamic country could create more Islamic enemies than we kill? Has the Pentagon never studied Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and her subsequent expulsion by the Hezbollah guerrillas who were tots and sub-teens when Sharon's Merkava tanks first came storming in?

Has the secretary not read history? Post-1945, every single Western imperial power has been expelled from the Arab world. Why did we think we could go back, set up an imperial outpost in an ancient Arab capital that was the seat of the caliphate for 500 years, and be welcomed by flower-tossing Baghdadis and Tikritis as liberators?

In 1945, no people were more admired in the Arab world than we Americans. Yet, no Western nation is now more reviled. A question for the secretary: Might it not be that we have behaved in the Middle East so as to be perceived by the Arabs as the British came to be perceived by our founding fathers, as blustering and arrogant imperialists?

Would one be surprised to discover in British archives a memo from Lord North to King George saying, in the vernacular of the time, "Sire, the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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