Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rumsfeld Is Over the Top on Iraq

On August 29th, Donald Rumsfeld told the VFW convention that many Americans are confused about how the war on terror should be fought, and this confusion is leading to a lack of unity in confronting the terror threat. He compared the current adversaries to Hitler, and indicated that some American's “confusion” and lack of unity has similarities to the pre-WWII appeasement of Hitler. He also claimed that the Iraq war is part of the war on terror. This speech only gives added credibility to those who are asking President Bush to replace Rumsfeld, and it enrages veterans like me who question the appropriateness of the Iraq war and laugh bitterly at the mess that Rumsfeld and his cadre of draft-dodgers have made of it.

The idea that our adversaries in the war on radical Islamic terrorists resemble Hitler’s Germany is patently ridiculous, and Rumsfeld should be in the best possible position to know this. Perhaps the superficial comparison of Hitler’s dream for a world-ruling Thousand Year Reich to the terrorists’ assumed goal of creating a large Islamic-ruled land mass is enough for Rumsfeld, but it is not enough for any thinking person. The comparison fails in respect to the terrorists' war-making capacity, which are puny in comparison to Hitler’s. It also fails in respect to the degree of organization and the unity of purpose held by the compared organizations. Hitler had a well-defined system of command and control and top-down goal setting, while the terrorists have various factions attached to specific leaders and others attached to governments – with no common understanding of an end-point goal. Consequently, the war on these terrorists is going to be much different than the war on Hitler.

We already know that the war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was not a war on terror. Saddam’s only goal was remaining in power, and he knew that becoming directly or even indirectly involved with terrorists was not a good strategy for achieving this goal. Saddam was only a token Muslim and had much to fear from the militant Muslims who are now giving the West so much trouble. By taking him out, Rumsfeld simply created a vacuum where the militants can assemble, recruit, and ally with their fellow Shiites in Iran. Bad judgment! If the Iraq war is, in fact, a part of the war on terror it is because he created and/or facilitated our new adversaries there.

Our continued high-profile presence in Iraq incites Muslims around the world to accept a radical outlook and unacceptably drains our military and financial resources - so much that the terrorists have already won that war to a significant degree. Our secondary goal in Iraq (after the WMD justification failed) was to help establish a democratic government there. Such a government has since been elected, and it’s time to let it go to work. If it fails, as is likely, the Islamic world will see how poorly the Shiite religious majority will actually govern. If it succeeds and does not support terrorism, we will have succeeded. If it succeeds and supports terrorism, we will have a defined adversary rather than a terrorist force inside a phony country. All these scenarios are preferable to our continued high-profile presence there, and we need to phase out in an orderly manner.

Yes, we need to take the threat from radical Islam seriously and combat it vigorously. The fact that radicals like Osama bin Laden hate us, and are a real danger to us, is understood even by Democrats! But this war needs to be as much a war of ideas as a war on the ground, and we need a much more pragmatic group of leaders to fight it. There are strong diplomatic approaches that need to be taken with both Western governments and existing governments in Muslim countries, there are major investments that must be made in intelligence and internal security, and there needs to be a strong worldwide police action against terrorism. Military action does not work against decentralized terrorists, and Rumsfeld again is smoking something other than tobacco if he is silly enough to believe that after his Iraq debacle.

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