Bill Kristol thinks that the British Memo stems from a big misdirection play, one that pits the military planners against its civilian leadership, with the rank and file military as cast as the victims of Donald Rumsfeld's treachery. The reason for the plans laid out in the British memo?
Having rejected any idea of significantly expanding the size of American ground forces, the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon is on the verge of breaking the backs of the National Guard and the active duty Army. Moreover, there is no question that the U.S. is ill prepared for another serious crisis that might require the use of American military forces. [SNIP]Were it not for the subject matter, that whole second paragraph would sound like a gossip column. Whether anyone believes it to be true is irrelevant. Is the memo genuine or not? If so are the Kristol-reasons for it actually true or not? If so, to what purpose? Why in the world would Mr. Rumsfled want to undermine the efforts in the Middle East?
Secretary Rumsfeld has time and again said that he defers to his generals in Iraq about the number of troops needed. No one vaguely familiar with how decisions are made in this Pentagon believes that to be the case.
Other than the letter to Congress from former military planners, Mr. Kristol provides no evidence one way or the other for his suppostions in the op-ed piece. What I want to know, however is this: did any of those old soldiers--or the new ones--make any plans to defend against a world-wide blood feud?
In the blood feud, unlike war, you have no interest in bringing your enemy to his knees. You are not looking for your enemy to surrender to you; you are simply interested in killing some of his people in revenge for past injuries, real or imaginary -- nor does it matter in the least whether the people you kill today were the ones guilty of the past injuries that you claim to be avenging. In a blood feud, every member of the enemy tribe is a perfectly valid target for revenge. What is important is that some of their guys must be killed -- not necessarily anyone of any standing in their community. Just kill someone on the other side, and you have done what the logic of the blood feud commands you to do.
In the blood feud there is no concept of decisive victory because there is no desire to end the blood feud. Rather the blood feud functions as a permanent "ethical" institution -- it is the way of life for those who participate in it; it is how they keep score and how they maintain their own rights and privileges. You don't feud to win, you feud to keep your enemy from winning -- and that is why the anthropologist of the Bedouin feud, Emrys Peters, has written the disturbing words: The feud is eternal.
Mr. Kristol continues:
And, indeed, as visiting members of Congress and military reporters have repeatedly reported from Iraq, the military officers there know quite well that more troops are needed, not less.Yes, "all the officers" know this. Gossip column fodder.
The British memo notes that, while Pentagon officials favor "a relatively bold reduction," the battlefield commanders "approach is more cautious." That is one way to put it. Another would be to say that Secretary Rumsfeld is putting the president's strategic vision at risk, while those soldiering in Iraq are trying to save a policy in the face of inadequate resources.That is, assuming the memo is a genuine one.
One of the factors that Mr. Kristol seems to be overlooking is the balancing act that needs to be maintained in Iraq. On one hand, there needs to be enough troops in theater to accomplish the objective(s). On the other hand, too many troops can actually hinder those objectives (one of those being to train enough Iraqis to defend themselves against the likes of Zarqawi, not to mention more formalized enemies).
Too many troops might make the Iraqis believe that we have plans on permanently occupying their country, in spite of what we say. And for those Iraqis that have no problem with this, it might make them believe that we’ll always be there as a buffer between them and the Zarqawis of the world.
Mr. Kristol thinks that this is some Machiavellian, inner-circle struggle between the Bush Administration, the DOD and the troops in the field. Well, I guess that's a lot more exciting than the deduction that war is complex and that every enemy is different. It does, however, make for good
gossip column op-ed material, as does the supposition that the SECDEF is purposely trying to undermine his boss's objectives.
UPDATE: It appears that the memo may be based in truth.
WASHINGTON - Major reductions in U.S. troop levels inAs has always been the nature of military planning, it is dictated by what the enemy does. No intrigue in that. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that, were it not for the leak of that classified memo, this story would not be here.
Iraq next year appear increasingly likely, although
Pentagon officials said Monday it is too early to predict the specific size and timing.
The Pentagon is eager to pull some of its 135,000 troops out of Iraq in 2006, partly because the counterinsurgency is stretching the Army and Marine Corps perilously thin as casualties mount and partly because officials believe the presence of a large U.S. force is generating tacit support for anti-American violence. [SNIP]
Attempts by U.S. officials to predict the course of the insurgency have been off the mark, and officials have been forced more than once to scrap plans to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq.
Do any of these people understand the value of keeping military plans a secret? My answer is 'yes.'