The Glair - Rumsfeld Aside, Realpolitik
A very good summation by VDH of both political and military affairs.
Rumsfeld, Webb—and Being careful about what you wish for
Vaya Con Dios, Rummy!
Here is the record of Donald Rumsfeld. (1) Tried to take a top-heavy Pentagon and prepare it for the wars of the postmodern world, in which on a minute’s notice thousands of American soldiers, with air and sea support, would have to be sent to some god-awful place to fight some savagery—and then be trashed live on CNN for doing it; (2) less than a month after 9/11 he organized the retaliation against al Qaeda in the heart of primordial Afghanistan that removed the Taliban in 7 weeks, when we were all warned that the U.S., like the British and Russians of old, would fail; (3) oversaw the removal of Saddam in 3 weeks—after the 1991 Gulf War and the 12-years of 350,000 sorties in the no-fly-zones, and various bombing strikes, had failed. (4) Ah, you say, then there is the disastrous 3-year insurgency—too few troops, Iraqi army let go, underestimated “dead-enders” etc.?
But Rumsfeld knew that in a counterinsurgency (cf. Vietnam 1965-71) massive deployments only ensure complacency, breed dependency, and create resentment, and that, in contrast, training indigenous forces, ensuring political autonomy, and providing air and commando support (e.g., Vietnam circa 1972-4) is the only answer—although that is a long process that can work only if political support at home allows the military to finish the job (cf. the turn-of-the-century Philippines, and the British in Malaysia). He was a good man, and we were lucky to have him in our hour of need.
James WebbI received a lot of angry private email objecting to a pre-election syndicated column I wrote for Tribune Media Services, in which I criticized the Allen campaign’s attack on Webb’s shocking passages in some of his novels, along with the lamentable trend to confuse fiction with reality (http://victorhanson.com/articles/hanson110606.html.) I thought the Allen tact was both silly and wrong to equate a novelist with his literary characters, especially in wartime landscapes where realism is essential to a chronicle of battle and its effects on men.
I also wrote that Webb had led an exemplary life, and it might be a good change to have a novelist as a Senator. I know the campaign was cruel on both sides, but it was both an ethical and practical mistake to go after the veteran Webb on his literary characterizations, especially when his record of public service had long ago proved that he was a principled person. If the Democrats are to recapture any stature as a serious party, it will be because of moderates like Webb, whom I have always respected and admired. So no apologies here.
Be careful of what you wish for
Liberals used to deplore realists—a James Baker (“F*** the Jews” or “Jobs, jobs, jobs”), a Brent Scowcroft (letting the Shiites and Kurds get mowed down by helicopter gunships in late February/early March 1991), or George Bush Senior shaking down the Japanese et al. to pay for the first Gulf War and then leaving Saddam in power to “balance” Iran. But now with Baker and Gates sort of back, and apparent greater reliance on the first Bush’s realism, it will be interesting to see what the Democrats in the House will do—especially if there is a realist-Right and anti-war Left convergence that gives up on Iraq and comes home.
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