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Vindicating Rumsfeld

Posted by Richard on January 16, 2008

Now that almost everyone admits that the situation in Iraq has greatly improved, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Donald Rumsfeld screwed things up, and that the Petraeus plan and troop surge turned things around. Alec Rawls begs to differ. In an important post from early December (I just recently saw James Rummel's link to it), Rawls argued that Rumsfeld set the stage (wittingly or unwittingly) for the current success:

Why did the Iraqis turn against al Qaeda and Iran? Because al Qaeda and Iran were murdering them en masse. And why were al Qaeda and Iran murdering Iraqis en masse? Because Defense Secretary Rumfeld’s small-footprint force-protection strategy meant that they couldn’t attack American troops without getting immediately annihilated.

In order to get the “continuing violence” that their allies in the Western media could use to create American defeat on the home front, the Saudi and Iranian proxy warriors in Iraq had no choice but to wage war on the Iraqi people.

Rawls further argued that the Rumsfeld strategy not only led to the current military success, but created the conditions from which political success will spring:

When al Qaeda answered his force protection strategy by attacking the Iraqi population, Rumsfeld obviously knew that this would turn the Iraqi people against al Qaeda, turning that population equation drastically in our favor. There was no reason at that point to upset this advantageous applecart by changing strategy. Just let it work, and not just because al Qaeda’s attacks on the Iraqi population promised to win the war on the ground for us. Equally important, it also handed us the one victory that we never could have won by military means alone: the battle to create in Iraq, not just a democracy, but a republic in the American sense (a system of liberty under law).

The great danger going into Iraq was not that we would lose the war, which was never a realistic possibility (so long as the Democrats did not actually succeed in losing the war at home). The real danger was losing the peace: that the Iraqi people, devoid of any post-Saddam identity beyond religion, would elect a Khomeinist government, handing the country democratically to the Islamofascists. …

If the theocrats took democratic control of the government even once, Iraq would be lucky to ever have democratic elections again. Elect people who believe that democracy is an “evil principle,” (Zarqawi’s description) and they are not likely to adhere to it. But Rumsfeld’s force-protection strategy, and al Qaeda’s response to it, matured the Iraqi contempt for theocracy in a short couple of very long years.

The vast majority of Iraqis now hate the religious vision of the Islamofascists. They hate the contempt for democracy and they hate the religious intolerance. Iraqis are rising now as a united people, promising brotherhood with Iraqis of other faiths. Just as Sunnis are standing up to al Qaeda , so too are Shiites standing up to Iran and the Sadr army.

This is a long, thought-provoking, and very important essay for anyone interested in Iraq and its future. I found it quite persuasive, and I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. Be sure to check out the comments, too — there are some good ones. 

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