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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Choice We Don't have

Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd both call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Thomas Friedman asks which you would rather have, Iraq II or a Nuclear Iran? His answer is that he would prefer a third choice, diplomacy backed by a credible threat of force, but that option is not available so long as Rumsfeld remains in charge at the Pentagon:

Iraq II or a Nuclear Iran?, by Thomas Friedman, Commentary, NY Times:  If these are our only choices, ... a nuclear-armed Iran or an attack on Iran's nuclear sites that is carried out and sold to the world by the Bush national security team, with Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon's helm ... I'd rather live with a nuclear Iran. ... I have zero confidence in this administration's ability to manage a complex military strike against Iran, let alone the military and diplomatic aftershocks. ...[T]he level of incompetence that the Bush team has displayed in Iraq, and its refusal to acknowledge any mistakes or remove those who made them, make it impossible to support this administration in any offensive military action against Iran. ...

Do I wish there was a third way? Yes. But the only meaningful third way would be ... face-to-face negotiations about all the issues that divide us: Iraq, sanctions, nukes. Such diplomacy, though, would require two things. First, the Bush team would have to make up its mind ... Does it want a change of regime in Iran or a change of behavior? If it will settle only for regime change, then diplomacy has no chance. ... Second, ... the ... only way Iran will strike a grand bargain with the U.S. is if it thinks America has the support at home and abroad for a military option (or really severe sanctions.)

The main reason Mr. Rumsfeld should leave now is because we can't have a credible diplomatic or military option ... when so many people feel ... that in a choice between another Rumsfeld-led confrontation and just letting Iran get nukes and living with it, we should opt for the latter.

It may be that learning to live with a nuclear Iran is the wisest thing under any circumstances. But it would be nice to have ... the option of a diplomatic deal ... but that will come only with a credible threat of force. Yet we will not have the support at home or abroad for that threat as long as Don Rumsfeld leads the Pentagon. No one in their right mind would follow this man into another confrontation — and that is a real strategic liability.

Maureen Dowd makes a different argument for Rumsfeld's resignation and reflects the distrust Friedman wrote about:

The Decider Sticks With the Derider, by Maureen Dowd, Commentary, NY Times: At first Rummy was reluctant to talk about the ... rebellious retired brass complain[ts] that the defense chief was contemptuous of advice from his military officers and sabotaged the Iraq mission with willful misjudgments... But seconds later, he let loose a river of ruminations, a Shakespearean, or maybe Nixonian, soliloquy that showed such a breathtaking lack of comprehension that it was touching, in a perverse way.

He flailed and floundered through anecdotes from his first and second stints at the Pentagon, arguing that he drew criticism because he was a change agent, trying to transform the lumbering military bureaucracy. ... When you yank the military from the 20th-century industrial age to the 21st-century information age, Rummy said, you're bound to cause "a lot of ruffles." ...

The secretary made it sound as if the generals want him to resign because he made reforms. But they really want him to resign because he made gigantic, horrible, arrogant mistakes that will be taught in history classes forever. ...

Just as with Vietnam, when L.B.J. and Robert McNamara were running the war, or later, when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger took over, we now have leaders obsessed with not seeming weak, or losing face. Their egos are feeding their delusions.

Asked by Rush Limbaugh ... about progress in Iraq, Rummy replied, "Well, the progress has been good." He said that if you always listened to critics about war, "we wouldn't have won the Revolutionary War" or World War I or World War II, and America would have been a different country "if it existed at all."

But the conscience-stricken generals are not critics of war. They are critics of having a war run by a 73-year-old who thinks he's a force for modernity when he's really a force for fantasy. It's time to change the change agent.

    Posted by on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 12:03 AM in Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (23)

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