According to the comments he used yesterday to attack Senator Kerry, President Bush has decided (I hope) that our men and women fighting in the military are, as he said, “plenty smart.” I just wish he would have realized that sooner. I wish he’d felt that way back in February 2003, about three weeks before he ordered our soldiers to invade Iraq.
In a February 28, 2003 article by Eric Schmitt in the New York Times, “Pentagon Contradicts General on Occupation Force’s Size,” the Pentagon’s top two civilian leaders, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz dismissed a military expert and expressed what have turned out to be naïve estimates about going to war in Iraq. According to the article:
Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, “wildly off the mark.” Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.
Rumsfeld apparently didn’t think General Shinseki knew what he was talking about, either:
“The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.
So what exactly did General Shinseki say?
General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: “I would say that what’s been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.”
A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. “He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment,” Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
Bosnia. That was a Clinton operation. Guilt by association? Apparently the Bush team decided to do things differently, ignore the voice of an experienced general, and blindly follow the advice of their own civilian “experts.” Here are some real “gems” reportedly offered by Wolfowitz:
In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo.
Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said.
It’s worth noting, that Paul Wolfowitz now applies his talent and expertise in his new job as President of the World Bank. I hope he’s not responsible for running cost estimates.
So has George Bush really found a new respect for military experience and insight? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. Today, the President announced it was basically stay the course with Rumsfeld and Cheney, that he would keep them on to the end of his administration.
More likely, Bush respects military brains when it suits him. I can’t help but think that President Bush’s attack on Senator Kerry was like another chance to dress up in a flight suit and strut across the deck of the USS Lincoln.
Another chance to bask in the glow of the work and sacrifice of our fighting men and women.
Cross-posted from Sustainable Middle Class