Whoa, talk about reframing a narrative. In a rare op-ed piece for The New York Times, former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld argues that the surge of additional combat brigades into Iraq was not a last-ditch attempt to execute a course correction in a disastrously mishandled war but that, in fact, “by early 2007, several years of struggle had created the new conditions for a tipping point”:
From 2003 through 2006, United States military forces, under the leadership of Gen. John Abizaid and Gen. George Casey, inflicted huge losses on the Baathist and Qaeda leadership. Many thousands of insurgents, including the Qaeda chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, were captured or killed and proved difficult to replace.
According to this version of history, the United States was on a steady trajectory towards victory from the very beginning, and were it not for those quarrelsome Iraqis (remember, “freedom’s untidy”), the desired endstate would’ve been accomplished in no time.
In other words, the first three years of the war, when the Bush administration, Rumsfeld included, refused to even accept there was an insurgency, let alone employ the right strategy to fight it, were not a gigantic screw-up but a period of heroic struggle, somehow necessary for the surge to succeed. And guess who now takes the credit for turning the tide:
Some military leaders raised reasonable questions about the potential effectiveness of a surge, in part because of a correct concern that military power alone could not solve Iraq’s problems. I agreed, and emphasized that a military surge would need to be accompanied by effective diplomatic and economic ‘surges’ from other departments and agencies of the American government, and by considerably greater progress from Iraq’s elected leaders.
During my last weeks in office, I recommended to President Bush that he consider Gen. David Petraeus as commander of coalition forces in Iraq, as General Casey’s tour was coming to an end.
True to form, Rumsfeld — the man whose hubristic obsession of war without infantry resulted in bin Laden slipping away — now expresses doubts about bolstering the American military presence in Afghanistan. The reason?
Left unanswered in the current debate is the critical question of how thousands of additional American troops might actually bring long-term stability to Afghanistan.
This is indeed a question left unanswered — by Bush, Cheney, Franks and Rumsfeld himself in 2002 in their headlong rush from a necessary war to a misadventure of historic proportions.