The Corner

Rumsfeld and the Generals

In his first radio interview since leaving office, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked to with Bill Bennett this morning (full interview here). Among other things, Bennett asked Rumsfeld if he ignored his generals’ advice on troop levels in the liberation of Iraq.

BB: A few years now, this criticism from former allies as well as long term critics….that we went into Iraq with too few troops….let’s deal with that right up front.

DR: You bet, clearly there were an ample number of troops to change the regime and depose Saddam Hussein. It happened very rapidly and the troops did a very fine job…and General Franks and General Abazaid and their team did an excellent job. So the answer as to whether or not they went in with sufficient troops, the answer is most assuredly they did. My position….was the generals would make the decision as to the troop levels they needed and that war is an uncertain thing and that therefore they should have some flexibility as to what might be needed. As a result, a process was put in place so that they could put in the number of troops they wanted or felt appropriate-up to something I believe in the plus or minus 400,000. I think they got up to less than 200,000 and made a decision to not take additional troops in, and it was a decision by General Franks and I agreed with it…..First of all, this question is a matter not of science but of art, and people have to make judgments. And the tension between, on the one hand, having too few and not being able to create a security environment that’s appropriate for the task at hand, or having too many, and creating a situation where you become the occupier and you feed an insurgency and cause more people to give money to the insurgents…..the judgment call that was made was based on the concern that you didn’t want to be too heavy handed in a Middle East country of a different religion…

BB: One of the arguments….is that the generals really did want more troops….but that you kept saying no…

DR: That’s just plain false and furthermore that’s insulting to the generals. Suggesting that they, who’ve got four stars on their shoulders, don’t have the courage to say what they want is a terrible insult to them and utter nonsense.

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