[Marxism] A dimes' worth of difference
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 5 07:51:32 MST 2006
NY Times, December 5, 2006
Blurring Political Lines in the Military Debate
By MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 No military expert was more forthright in opposing the
Iraq war than Anthony C. Zinni.
General Zinni, a retired marine who once served as the top American
military officer in the Middle East, contended that the threat posed by
Saddam Husseins Iraq was vastly overstated and that invading Iraq would be
a burdensome distraction from the struggle against Al Qaeda.
These days General Zinni is delivering another provocative message: that
leaving Iraq quickly would strengthen Iranian influence throughout the
Middle East, create a sanctuary for terrorist groups, encourage even more
sectarian strife in Iraq and risk turmoil in an oil-rich region.
This is not Vietnam or Somalia or those places where you can walk away,
General Zinni said in a recent interview. (He served in both countries.)
If we just pull out, we will find ourselves back in short order.
Instead, he says, the United States should leave open the door for a
temporary increase in American troops, an argument he included in a broader
plan prepared for the World Security Institute, a research organization,
and made public on Monday. It may be necessary to surge them for a short
term, he said.
General Zinni noted that his position was similar to that of Senator John
McCain, Republican of Arizona, a staunch supporter of the decision to
invade. I do believe more troops are required on the ground, the general
said. I believe what Senator McCain says.
The Iraq debate roiling Washington cuts across partisan divides and has led
to some odd bedfellows. For example, the troop reduction and pullback
options suggested by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in a memo written
just before he resigned reflect some convergence between him and Democratic
lawmakers who have criticized the war.
But for all the twists and turns, there is an underlying logic to the
Even before the Iraq war, Mr. Rumsfeld opposed sending large numbers of
troops to Iraq, arguing that a large and lengthy presence would put the
United States in the position of doing things that the Iraqis should be
doing for themselves. He outlined his view shortly before the war in a
speech in New York called Beyond Nation Building, and it was reflected in
his criticism of Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff at the time,
who cautioned that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed in
In offering new options for shrinking the American military footprint in
Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld, in his memo to the White House, was also giving
expression to old policy predilections. His option to begin modest troop
reductions to put pressure on the Iraqi government is very similar to the
amendment sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat and
incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, though with one
notable difference: the secretary has resisted the idea of a firm timeline.
So close is the parallel between some of Mr. Rumsfelds favored options and
the Democratic agenda that Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat
and former presidential candidate, has all but claimed credit for them.
Look, everything in the Rumsfeld memo is a summary of things that I and
others laid out three years ago, Senator Kerry said Sunday on CNN. This
is rather extraordinary.
As for General Zinni, he forcefully opposed the invasion of Iraq, in part
because he thought it would undermine stability in the Middle East and
because he was worried that holding a post-Hussein Iraq together would be a
monumental enterprise. But now that the United States is in Iraq, he
opposes a quick withdrawal for the same reasons.
The barrel-chested officer has a well-earned reputation for blunt talk and
a tortured relationship with the Bush administration after a rocky stint in
which he served as a special envoy to the Middle East. In his new paper on
The Future for Iraq, he argues that there is no easy fix. We have missed
too many opportunities, he writes, and have created too much irreparable
damage via the mistakes that were made, for that to be possible.
Having acknowledged that, he suggests economic, political, security and
administrative steps to try to turn the situation around. His program calls
for a new bipartisan steering group to ensure that American policies toward
Iraq are efficiently carried out, job-creation programs for Iraqis,
integration of Iraqs militias into government-supervised national guard
units and encouragement for the Iraqi Army to promote civil affairs.
On American troop levels, General Zinni wrote that the United States has
had too few forces to carry out effectively what the administration has
called a clear, hold and build strategy, which, he explains, requires
holding and staying in an area long enough for the building process to be
effective. While the American military is stretched thin, he writes, it
could with difficulty, support a short-term increase in force if the
increase would provide the security momentum to jump-start other programs.
As difficult as it is to stabilize Iraq, General Zinni insists that the
alternatives are worse.
Swiftly redeploying forces from Baghdad to safer areas in Iraq or Kuwait,
for example, would leave the United States unable to influence events in
the capital and the volatile heartland, he said.
Extracting American forces altogether, he said, is unrealistic in the short
term. Iraq under the sway of extremists, he asserted, could encourage
instability in the Persian Gulf. The stakes are so high, he said, that if
the fighting in Iraq expands into a major civil war the United States may
need to consider intervening to try to quell the fighting instead of leaving.
We made a mess in the worst possible place we could have made a mess, he
said in the interview. We took an Iran that was contained, and now its
influence is stretched through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and into Palestinian
You cant be in the region for security reasons and not deal with the
biggest security problem that you created in effect. I dont see how you
walk away from this one.
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