Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2004 / 5 Teves, 5765

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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What Rummy should be answering his critics | Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld doesn't lack for critics. But his critics often lack sound judgment.

Rumsfeld long has been a punching bag for Democrats and journalists, who wish we had not gone to war with Iraq at all. Lately they have been joined by right-wingers who want someone to blame because we haven't won yet. The most recent spate of Rumsfeld bashing was triggered when a reserve soldier asked him why his unit had to scrounge for armor to put on its humvees and trucks.

Rumsfeld was "passing the buck" when he indicated it was the Army's responsibility to put Specialist Thomas Wilson in an armored truck, said the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol in a snarky editorial, and "arrogant" when he told Wilson that "you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the one you'd like to have."

Does Kristol think there are no generals in the Army competent enough to whom to delegate responsibility for putting armor on Army vehicles? Is Rumsfeld derelict because he himself isn't welding rivets at the Hess-O'Gara plant outside Cincinnati?

The real burr under Kristol's saddle is that Rumsfeld and then CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks attacked Iraq with what he thinks were too few troops. This complaint is shared by many who have more military experience than Kristol, which is zero. Sen. John McCain declared he has "no confidence" in Rumsfeld.

But the complaint is mostly bovine excrement. U.S. and British troops swiftly defeated the Iraqi forces, with very few casualties. This would have been true even if some of the Republican Guard formations which mysteriously melted away had stood and fought.

The invasion force would have been larger had Turkey not forbidden the 4th Infantry Division to stage from its territory. Kuwait's ports are not large enough to sustain a (much) larger buildup. Trying to build up a larger force — which was (obviously) not necessary for victory — would have meant postponing the invasion to the fall of 2003. That would not have been a good idea.

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Another frequent complaint — that the U.S. should not have abolished the Iraqi army — is entirely bovine excrement.

To begin with, there was no Iraqi army to keep on hand for peacekeeping. The poorly paid and horribly treated Shia conscripts all had deserted. Loyal Sunnis in the Republican Guard had left to prepare for guerrilla war against the Americans.

We couldn't trust Saddam's officer corps, and if we had tried to turn peacekeeping over to them, we'd have incurred the enmity of the Shia and the Kurds, together 80 percent of Iraq's population. We had no choice but to rebuild the military and police from scratch.

America made a few big and many small mistakes in Iraq, as we have in every war we have ever fought. But the biggest mistakes were intelligence failures, for which the CIA is far more to blame than is the Pentagon.

The CIA gets more grief than it should about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Every other Western intelligence service, and most of Saddam's generals thought Saddam had such weapons, so it is not unreasonable that the CIA would think so, too.

What was really bad was the CIA's inability to detect that Saddam had a plan for protracted guerrilla war. Plans for the occupation would have been much different had this been known.

The third intelligence failure was the CIA's failure to detect, until very late in the game, that Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress was an Iranian agent, leading us down the primrose path.

The failure to detect Saddam's plan for protracted guerrilla war was largely responsible for Rumsfeld's big failure, the failure to have more peacekeeping troops. Former Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki and others had warned that roughly twice as many as we had on hand were required, even if a guerrilla war hadn't been in the offing.

It isn't Rumsfeld's fault that the Army is too small to provide many more troops — we can thank the Clinton administration for that — or that Kuwait's port facilities were inadequate. But we could and should have sent three or four more brigades into the country shortly after Saddam fell.

As retired Army LtCol. Ralph Peters, a Rumsfeld critic, put it: If you don't pay the butcher's bill up front, you pay it, with interest, in the end.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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