For a year, the Democrats have wandered around in the wilderness, falling into the trap of arguing whether troops should be removed (a) immediately, (2) by 2007 or (3) according to some determined, but undisclosed timetable. Of course, this was pointless, as the Democrats had no power to do any of these things, but it did allow the Republicans to come up with the "cut and run" meme.
Finally, the Democrats have settled on a strategy so functional, that even Rahm Emanuel sees its wisdom: call for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired. We cannot get rid of Bush/Cheney right now. Wolfowitz and Feith have left. Chalabi was only an unofficial member of the administration.
That leaves Rumsfeld. It cannot be that Dusty Baker is going to lose his job and Rumsfeld is going to keep his.
And what a great target Rumsfeld is. No only as a surrogate for Cheney, his apparent patron, but for the likudnik policy fools he had around him and, most of all, for the criminally incompetent manner in which the U.S. conducted the war and subsequent occupation.
This is not to mention his accusation that those who could not see the non-existent link between occupying Iraq suffer from "moral and intellectual confusion" and are appeasers. Not to mention it because it is too subtle a debate for the soundbite politics that are pragmatically required.
The mishandling of the war is surely the centerpiece - and is something everyone should be able to understand. Those who were for the occupation should be particularly annoyed by the completely irresponsible manner in Rumsfeld tried fighting the war on the cheap. Those who opposed the war obviously detest Rumsfeld's supreme arrogance. Even Hillary Clinton, who has taken both positions, is on board.
From a reading of Thomas Ricks' Fiasco, here is a top ten list of Rumsfeld's errors, leaving aside the invasion of Iraq in the first place. We know all of these, but it is pretty impressive to see them all in one place.
1. No "Phase IV" plan. Rumsfeld assumed that all would be well, so he did not require that the military think through how they would fight insurgents or deal with the possibility, which had come up in war games, that the Iraqi military would just fade away to fight another day; that first looting and then a full blown insurgency would occur. When the rosy scenario of Iraqi officers and their troops switching sides did not develop, there were no plans to follow.
2. Ignoring the world so we were on our own. In February 2003, Rumsfeld delivered a particularly belligerent speech to a security conference in Munich, telling our putative allies that it was our way or the highway.
3. Too few soldiers to fight. General Zinni, Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), had plans calling for 350,000 troops, but the military had to fight to get over 100,000 from Rumsfeld. The consequence was that commanders had to leave part of their units behind. To draw a sports analogy, it was as if a football team had to leave the defensive backs and the offensive guards behind when they traveled to a game. This meant that although the U.S. forces raced to Baghdad, it was forced to race by areas that were not secured, because there was no one to secure them. With an adequate force, this innovative and ultimately damaging strategy would not have been necessary.
4. Too few soldiers to prevent looting and damage. "Stuff happens,' Rumsfeld said of the looting that eventually led to the present situation. If we were going to occupy the country, we needed to keep the peace.
5. Ignoring the Sunni triangle. One word: Fallujah. No attempt was made to secure this area. Ricks reports that the 40,000 Sunni were expected to give up once Sadaam was deposed. Once Fallujah was recognized as a problem, units were rotated in and out so often that there was no consistency or growth of knowledge.
6. Too few troops to establish rapport. The equivalent of foot patrols never happened, so there was no personal contact with Iraqis except when trouble occurred.
7. Too few soldiers to handle prisoners plus a confused command structure. Result: Abu Gharib.
8. Allowing most of the U.S. senior military leadership to resign in the middle of the battle. Tommy Franks who was in charge of the campaign and General Shinseki, chief of the U.S. Army both left basically at the start of the war. This was after General Zinni was given the bum's rush shortly before the invasion for warning against the folly.
9. Appointing Paul Bremmer to replace General Jay Garner to head the occupation. Ricks is unsure if Bremmer's disastrous actions of disbanding the Iraqi Army and banning many former civil servants from government, leaving hundreds of thousands of disgruntled and unemployed people who could have assisted in stabilizing the country, were specifically approved by Rumsfeld. But, let's blame Rumsfeld anyway. Bremmer's arrogance and unwillingness to listen should have been stopped and, again, there should have been a plan.
10. Promoting General Ricardo Sanchez to command the entire U.S. ground force in Iraq. Not only was Sanchez promoted beyond his competence, but also, in the continuation of a theme, he should have had a staff of 1400 to command 180,000 personnel, but at one point had fewer that 500.
And a bonus: supporting torture of detainees and eliminating any claim the U.S. has to the moral high ground.
How could he have done a worse job? Even the tone deaf Democrats can make this point effectively, and use Rumsfeld as a surrogate for the entire Bush Administration.without denying the need to fight terror. But, just to keep on the safe side, let's not let Joh Kerry speak.