[Marxism] A dimes' worth of difference

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 5 07:51:32 MST 2006


NY Times, December 5, 2006
News Analysis
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 Hussein’s 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 
policy alignments.

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 
postwar Iraq.

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. Rumsfeld’s 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 Iraq’s 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 
territories.

“You can’t be in the region for security reasons and not deal with the 
biggest security problem that you created in effect. I don’t see how you 
walk away from this one.”

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