[Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence, left; Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, right]

The recent resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was so long overdue that it would be perverse to offer thanks to President Bush for accepting the obvious-beyond-belief relief of the event. There is hardly a negative adjective that has not been used to describe Rummy’s tenure at the Pentagon. Simply watching him sneer and jeer his way through a press conference, showing such uncompromising disdain for anyone who did not worship his version of the truth, explains how the Iraq debacle unraveled from the start.

It is tempting to compare Rumsfeld, as a close ally of the President, with Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s irascible and controversial Secretary of War. As a Buchanan (not the modern-day conservative variety) Democrat who at first labeled Lincoln ” the original gorilla,” he later became a close confidante and supporter of President Lincoln, even though he did not always obey his commander-in-chief. The ambiguous relationship between Lincoln and his War Secretary Stanton is illustrated by a Civil War era anecdote from Congressman George W. Julian:

It is related that a committee of Western men, headed by [Congressman Owen] Lovejoy, procured from the President an important order looking to the exchange of Eastern and Western soldiers with a view to more effective work. Repairing to the office of the Secretary, Mr. Lovejoy explained the scheme, as he had done before to the President, but was met by a flat refusal.

‘But we have the President’s order sir,’ said Lovejoy.

‘Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?’ said Stanton.

‘He did, sir.’

‘Then he is a d—d fool,’ said the irate Secretary.

“Do you mean to say the President is a d—d fool?’ asked Lovejoy, in amazement.

‘Yes, sir, if he gave you such an order as that.’

The bewildered Congressman from Illinois betook himself at once to the President, and related the result of his conference.

‘Did Stanton say I was a d–d fool? Asked Lincoln at the close of the recital.

‘He did, sir; and repeated it.’

After a moment’s pause, and looking up, the President said:

‘If Stanton said I was a d–d fool, then I must be one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will step over and see him.’

Certainly Rummy used the d— word prolifically, but whether or not he Bushwhacked his president is for future historians to ponder. Leaked memos certainly will help in this process, as noted in today’s New York Times.

December 3, 2006
Rumsfeld’s Memo of Options for Iraq War

Following is the text of a classified Nov. 6 memorandum that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House suggesting new options in Iraq. The memorandum was sent one day before the midterm Congressional elections and two days before Mr. Rumsfeld resigned.

Nov. 6, 2006

SUBJECT: Iraq — Illustrative New Courses of Action

The situation in Iraq has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Following is a range of options:

ILLUSTRATIVE OPTIONS

Above the Line: (Many of these options could and, in a number of cases, should be done in combination with others)

¶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).

¶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.

¶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.

¶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.)

¶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.

¶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.

¶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.

¶Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.

¶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.

¶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.

¶Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.

¶Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it.

¶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.”

¶Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.

Below the Line (less attractive options):

¶Continue on the current path.

¶Move a large fraction of all U.S. Forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it.

¶Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially.

¶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.

¶Assist in accelerating an aggressive federalism plan, moving towards three separate states — Sunni, Shia, and Kurd.

¶Try a Dayton-like process.

One of the architects of “stay-the-course” is now calling for a “major adjustment.” The idea of “continue on the current path” is relegated to a “less attractive option’ which must certainly be good news for formerly cursed “cut-and-run” Congressman Murtha. The situation appears to be so bad that the outgoing Secretary of Defense is willing to consider a “range of options.”

As in all memos, the terse suggestions beg for some analytical background. Here are a few liner notes that the secretary neglected to point out:

“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).” [In other words cover up our mistakes by saying things people want to hear about a rosy future. We probably should have reassured the voting public that we had made progress before the last election. Oh well, just tell Rush to get the word out that the only thing keeping the coalition forces from total victory is gay marriage.]

“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.” [Well, we could offer green cards to any illegal Mexican immigrants volunteering to serve in Iraq. And then we could build a wall in Iraq to keep them from running back home. I suppose we should be fair with the equipment handout and make sure the Shi’a militia get as many bazookas as the Sunni death squads, I mean militia.]

“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.” [Of course, it would be too expensive to give body armor to the Iraqi recruits, so we may have to assign a dozen or so to each soldier and hope at least one or two survive each day. I think this should greatly help the Iraqis to learn fuckin’ American English.]

“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.)” [Well, at least the Dems can’t accuse Haliburton of pork on this, because we recognize that Moslems prefer beef jerky to pork rinds. I think the former Ba’athis eat ham, so that should be noted. Instead of closing down military bases, we can close down some old soldiers’ homes by recycling Vietname vets over here to Iraq.]

“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.” [We may need to make a safe corridor for Al-Qaeda leaders to cross over the border from Afghanistan (note: have an aide check if Afghanistan borders Iraq). Perhaps CIA could supply them with manuals for building WMDs.]

“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.” [I read somewhere that this worked for the Mongols, and they pacified Baghdad in 1258. Ask Bernard Lewis how exactly they did it without American fire power support.]

“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.” [Tom Delay gave me this idea. Dick Cheney tells me the best place to do our reconstruction is around the oil fields, so that it will be safe enough for a Starbucks and a Burger King to open up there. No French fries, though.]

“Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.” [This always worked. I once took a bagfull of money to Saddam, when he had the sense to attack the Iranians. We could even give them counterfeit greenbacks and blame Ted Kennedy.]

“Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it.” [This country needs basketball. Just look what it did for those black kids in the ghettoes. Once they start drinking gatorade, they’ll be hooked.]

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.” [I think we should be more like the Peace Corps and teach the Iraqis English. Just enough English to get around a Walmart with a minimal list of American products to buy.]

Then there is what is probably the least attractive option for the secretary: “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.” Hey, that worked in Vietnam. Or did it?

Daniel Martin Varisco