May 1, 2006

Internal Powell Struggle

Hatched by Dafydd

Over the weekend, Colin Powell -- in a thoroughly expected surprise -- joined the revolt of the former generals complaining that we didn't follow the "Powell doctrine" when we invaded Iraq.

The Powell doctrine holds that:

  1. No military action should be undertaken unless the international community -- and especially France and Russia -- applaud it;
  2. And at least twenty Arab nations join it;
  3. And the goal of keeping the coalition intact supercedes all military goals;
  4. And Israel is ordered not to respond even if they're attacked;
  5. And the State Department runs it;
  6. And we first raise an army of "overwhelming force," as determined by Colin Powell, to utterly crush the enemy... until the Europeans get cold feet; at which point we abandon the conflict, declare victory, and head for home.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld failed to listen to Colin Powell; so he retaliated yesterday in an interview on a British television network, ITV, by attacking the execution of the war and calling everyone else's competence into question:

Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic - Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department.

For the Bush administration, it was a rare instance of in-house dissenter going public.

On Rice's mind was the political breakthrough that had brought her and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to Iraq last week and cleared the way for formation of a national unity government.

Yet Powell sideswiped her by revisiting the question of whether the U.S. had a large enough force to oust Saddam Hussein and then secure the peace.

Despite AP's feeble attempt at humor -- "a rare instance" indeed! -- this is a serious, yet all too typical, phenomenon today: the Left has settled upon the tactic of openly trying to wreck the Iraq War in an effort to discredit George W. Bush and the whole idea that countries have national interests that sometimes dictate going to war with other countries that threaten them.

In Colin-land, if we absolutely had to overthrow Saddam... then we should simply have made Iraq a colony, darn it, forever ruled by American colonial governors. Rather than try to build up democracy in the Middle East, we should have -- under the Powell doctrine -- just created an American empire that would control all the oil. (Powell has never been a big fan of democracy, preferring to deal with emirs and presidents-for-life, who can supply "stability" -- entertain him with lavish State functions held in palaces.)

It seems his model is the British Empire of the nineteenth century (or the Russian Empire of the twentieth). Of course, those didn't work out too well in the modern era; but perhaps if we just redouble our efforts, it will all be different this time.

Reuters is somewhat less tendentious about Powell's criticism:

In an interview with a private British television station, Powell said there had been debates about the size of the force and how to deal with the aftermath.

"The aftermath turned out to be much more difficult than anyone had anticipated," said Powell, adding he had favoured a larger military presence to deal with the unforeseen.

Ordinarily, "anyone" would include Powell himself; I'm not sure if he gives himself an exemption, but at least he doesn't overtly claim psychic powers, like some of the other generals. And he makes it plain here that his views were considered... they were just not accepted:

"I made the case to General (Tommy) Franks, to (Defense) Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and to the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," he said.

He argued, however, that his view was not ignored but that those responsible for the troop levels believed they had the appropriate number.

I am most amused by the casual assumption of the antique media that if only we had sent two, three, four times the number of troops, then everything would have been much better. It's more than an assumption; they act as if everyone knows this, everyone accepts this, there are no demurs.

They seem oblivious to the fact that more is not always better in warfare: the Soviets spent a force of 100,000 men in a futile effort to conquer and hold Afghanistan; we successfully ousted the Taliban and created a nascent democracy with less than a twentieth of that by relying upon Northern Alliance forces and our own air power; during Operation Anaconda, the American troop presence rose to no more than 10,000. And at virtually no time since, except for one brief spike in 2003, have we kept more than 12,000-15,000 soldiers in that country.

Oddly, nobody seems to complain that we should have used the Powell doctrine in Afghanistan.

Even so, the media has an idée fixe that if only we had sent 500,000, 750,000, or a million men to Iraq -- instead of a paltry 200,000 -- there never would have been any insurgency. Do they imagine that we would leave such a large force (a very significant portion of our entire armed forces) tied down in one country in the Middle East indefinitely? And if not -- what do they think would happen when 80% of those forces left Iraq?

Yet the decision made by Rumsfeld, with extraordinary consultation with the entire warfighting senior staff under Tommy Franks, is offered as à priori proof of incompetence, as if it were mathematically proven to be wrong and need not even be discussed.

In reality, going to war with the army we had, Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party were ousted from control in three weeks, and "major combat operations" ended after forty days.

Since then, there have been three major elections, each gaining a larger turnout than the last; 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are almost completely peaceful, and only one of the remaining four (Anbar) is actually considered critically violent.

We have built an amazingly professional New Iraqi Army of 200,000 plus, an Iraqi Air Force, and an increasingly honest and effective Iraqi police. Oil is flowing; electricity and water are running better in most parts of the country than they were under Saddam. And the Iraqi economy is already better than it was in the last ten years of Saddam Hussein.

But according to Wesley Clarke, Anthony Zinni, Colin Powell, and a half-dozen other malcontents and whiners, everything would have been much better if only we had listened to them -- and followed the Soviet example.

Why now? Why are all these people coming forward today, rather than last year? That's easy to explain, and AP inadvertently does so:

Rice, Bush's national security adviser during the run-up to the war, neither confirmed nor denied Powell's assertion. But she spent a good part of her appearances on three Sunday talk shows reaching into the past to defend the White House, which is trying to highlight the positive to a public increasingly skeptical in this election year of the president's conduct of the war and concerned about the large U.S. military presence.

Simple as that: the grousing generals are coming forward today because the midterm elections will be held in just six months, and the Democrats and September-10th Republicans see an opening to destroy Bush.

The bipartisan Left has six months to convince Americans that the whole war was a catastrophe; that we accomplished nothing; that we might have had a chance were it not for the "incompetence" of Bush and Rumsfeld (if only they had listened to me!); and that our only option at this point is, as Joe Biden suggests, to partition Iraq into three separate regions -- just like Clinton and Clarke did in the success story of Bosnia! -- then declare victory, cut, and run.

Come on in, Colin; the water's fine.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 3:30 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Jack and Devil Dogs

6 months to go till the midterms. Say I was a militantly-minded insurgent Iraqi gunman, ducking down alleys one step ahead of the best killers on the planet, watching out for choppers and UAVs with eyes that can see through buidlings, buzzing around overhead. I'd be thinking to myself that I gotta keep this up for another six months so the Republicans lose the goddamned midterms.

Po' bastids.

The above hissed in response by: Jack and Devil Dogs [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2006 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: Davod

What was Colin's view on troop strength for Afghanistan. I bet you that he and the generals all suggested much greater numbers. After all, isn't that why we missed Osama?

The above hissed in response by: Davod [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2006 10:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

This whining is nothing more than a small repackaging of the old saw argument that Rumsfeld and his generals didn't have a good plan to "win the peace".

Powell’s motivation might simply have been that he’s trying to grab the high ground for himself in the first writing of the history of the war and entrench his self-imagined “statesmen” image, for all I know, as opposed to being intended as a pointedly Kerry-like criticism of the president and his war strategy. But it can’t have escaped his notice that this assertion has over time has become a Democratic Party talking point (and, oh by the way, it's one that might even some merit as an eventual post-war teaching point in the War College). The part of the Washington crowd who thinks Rummy's buddy Paul Bremer did a good job as Pooh-Bah is pretty small, after all, so this kind of argument easily resonates inside the beltway.

It’s also true also that this argument could easily become a tendentious mid-term mantra this fall, but since it sounds to me like nothing more than politically motivated second-guessing I wonder how it’ll play out here in real-life America. This sort of “what if” Monday morning quarterbacking will hopefully be an election loser if ultimately the voters recognize it as the sniveling it truly is, and if the President can effectively communicate the very positive things happening all over Iraq. It’ll also help if the newly established government can make some unifying moves towards the Sunni’s. Events “on the ground” will eventually determine who is right, sure, but the communication efforts at the White House have to become a lot more effective.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 7:49 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

First they bitch because there are not more soldiers in Iraq, then they bitch because we have not pulled all the soldiers out of Iraq, then they bitch because more soliders are not in Iraq...doing what exactly?

My cousin was in Turkey waiting for orders to go into Iraq but Powell failed to get the Turks to go along with the idea so he and a few thousand other American soldiers had to go all the hell they way back to Kuwait. The question was not how many men there were, but having them where they needed to be and Powell was not so good at that.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 10:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


To be fair about it, I know that Fred Barnes said on Britt Hume that Powell could have gotten Turkey to let the 4ID invade from the North, but I'm not so sure there was anything that could be done about that: there had just been an election in Turkey, and an Islamist Party took over... I suspect they decided they were not going to help an infidel invade a country of the faithful -- even Iraq -- no matter what.

Too, Hussein was keeping a lid on the Kurds, and Turkey and the Kurds simply do not get along. Today, they fear the Turkish Kurds rising up and carrying away a big chunk of Turkey (the oil-rich chunk) to join up with the Iraqi Kurds and the Iranian Kurds to make a new country of "Kurdistan."

I don't think there is anything Powell or anyone else could have done, once the election occurred; Turkey was not going to let us attack Iraq from Turkish territory.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 11:23 AM

The following hissed in response by: rightonq

"I am most amused by the casual assumption of the antique media that if only we had sent two, three, four times the number of troops, then everything would have been much better."

This has been so obvious, it's amusing. I'm no military genious, but I have a prediction. If we went in with twice as many troops, we would still have the same insurgency, but twice as many troops killed. Simple as that.

Just what exactly were we going to do with the extra troops that would have made it better? I have NEVER heard an answer to that.

The above hissed in response by: rightonq [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 6:35 PM

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