The Corner

Rumsfeld, At the Wire

From the New York Times (noted on Drudge and Mark Levin’s blog): 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 — Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.

“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics. (Text of the Memo)

The memo’s discussion of possible troop reduction options offers a counterpoint to Mr. Rumsfeld’s frequent public suggestions that discussions about force levels are driven by requests from American military commanders. It also puts on the table several ideas for troop redeployments or withdrawals, even as there have been recent pronouncements from American commanders emphasizing the need to maintain troop levels for the time being.

The memorandum sometimes has a finger-wagging tone, as Mr. Rumsfeld says that the Iraqis must “pull up their socks,” and suggests that reconstruction aid should be withheld in violent areas to avoid rewarding “bad behavior.” 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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