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The Tragedy of Unlearned Lessons

Rumsfeld: "McNamara II"


Page 2 of 3 - By Dr. Joe P. Dunn

The chief culprit of our present Iraq morass is McNamara II, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose ego knows few bounds. Rumsfeld intended to reshape the U.S. military according to his singular vision; Iraq was his showcase. He imposed a 150,000 person limit on General Tommy Franks' war plan and pared away Franks' earlier "required" manpower needs. Even if the lesser numbers could succeed in the initial invasion, Colon Powell and others knew that three times as many troops were necessary to achieve the peace. JCS, the National Security Council, and RAND Corporation concurred that Rumsfeld's minimal force could not secure the borders, curb the influx of outside terrorists, deal with domestic looting and lawlessness, or quell the sectarian violence that toppling Saddam would unleash.

Those who questioned the manpower limits and strategy were swept aside. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was cashiered, and (in McNamara fashion) the rest of JCS was browbeaten into submission and the State Department ignored. The drive to launch the war prematurely prevented the necessary logistics build up. Americans died unnecessarily after proclamation of victory because the supply chain remained inchoate. General Richardo Sanchez protested that he did not have enough spare parts for tanks, helicopters, Bradleys, transport vehicles, or body armor to accomplish his postwar mission. Cobra II by Michael R. Gordan and Marine Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor provides a meticulous, judicious indictment of pre-war planning. Thomas Ricks' even more damning Fiasco is aptly named.

Earlier Rumsfeld callously quipped, "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might wish to have at a later time." Rumsfeld's policies though were responsible for the inadequacies of the military that he precipitously dispatched to war. Like McNamara, he was addicted to high technology as substitute for "boots on the ground".

But the multitude of errors of the Bush administration go beyond Rumsfeld. The worst were the decisions to dissolve the Iraqi military, purge the Baathists down to the level of school teachers and minor public employees, dismiss the bureaucrats responsible for public services, ignore legitimate Sunni concerns and fears, exclude the United Nations, spurn most of the international community, and downplay the early magnitude of the sectarian insurgency.

Vietnam destroyed Johnson's legacy. McNamara belatedly acknowledged his culpability, "We were wrong, terribly wrong." I do not expect such veracity from Bush or Rumsfeld. After the fall elections, Bush will be a lame duck. Already his party is separating itself from him. He and Rumsfeld have served the military and the nation poorly. History will be a harsh judge.

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