April 10, 2004

Let's Replace Condoleezza Rice with Fareed Zakaria!

Let's replace Condoleezza Rice with Fareed Zakaria. And let's also let Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, and company resign from the U.S. government tomorrow to spend more time with their families.

Last September, Fareed Zakaria wrote:

Still Time to Avoid Failure by Fareed Zakaria: In comparison even with other states in the Mideast, Iraq's modern history has been marked by coups, bloodshed and mayhem By Fareed Zakaria

Last Friday's bomb blast in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, presumably by Baathist terrorists, might mark the beginning of internal violence among various groups in Iraqi society. If so, we may be in for a hellish ride.        

Iraq has one of the most violent histories of any country on the globe. In comparison even with other states in the Middle East, Iraq's modern history has been marked by turmoil, coups, bloodshed and mayhem. Consider the fate of its rulers:

Faisal I: Installed by the British in the wake of a violent revolt, he ruled for 10 years and was one of a handful of Iraqi leaders to die of natural causes, in 1933.

Ghazi I: Faisal's son, he witnessed a coup against his prime minister three years after being installed and then, in 1939, died mysteriously. The official explanation was that he drove his car into a lamppost.

Faisal II: The young king, his regent and almost the entire royal family and entourage were killed in a bloody coup in 1958.

Abdul Karim Qassem: Qassem came to power in the coup of 1958. In 1963 he was killed in a coup himself.

Abdul Salam Arif: Arif came to power in the 1963 coup, which unleashed a wave of massacres across the country. Three years later he died mysteriously in a helicopter accident.

Abdul Rahman Arif: Brother of the above, he lasted about as long. In July 1968 he was ousted in the Baathist coup and exiled to Istanbul.

Ahmed Hasan-al-Bakr: Became president after the 1968 coup and stayed in power until 1979, when he stepped down for reasons of "ill health" in favor of his deputy, Saddam Hussein.      

 And this has been the history of violence among only the Sunni of Iraq, who have always been able to rule over the Shiites, Kurds, Turkomans and others using brutal means. Saddam, who took brutality to an entirely different level, destroyed whole villages of Kurds and Shiites during his reign. The memories of most Iraqis are filled with stories of terror, torture and murder. If score-settling among these groups begins, that would mark a new phase in Iraq's blood-soaked story--potentially one that will prove even more destructive.      

  To make matters worse, Iraqis have proven to be strong nationalists. In every war in which Iraq has participated over the last half century, Iraqis have fought tenaciously--even when they knew they were going to lose. Americans who had fought in Vietnam, and then again in the first gulf war, recalled that their fire fights with Iraqis were more intense than anything they had experienced from the North Vietnamese.        

Keeping peace in a country like this cannot be easy. That is why the Bush administration's attempts to do so unilaterally and on the cheap have been such a disaster. In a remarkable interview last week, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the Central Command, told The New York Times that he needed more troops. This seems to contradict what Donald Rumsfeld said two days earlier, which could be a sign of more internal wrangling, or could mark the beginning of a turnaround. Abizaid attempted to disguise the shift by saying that critics were wrong; he needed no more American troops and instead only wanted foreign forces. But almost no one urging a buildup has been suggesting American troops. For one thing, there are no more American troops available. We would have to move divisions out of Europe or East Asia or mobilize the National Guard. Other than a few neoconservatives, who cannot bear to utter the words "United Nations," everyone understands that more troops can only come in the form of a multinational force under U.N. mandate.        

Abizaid's explanation for why we need foreign forces is even more remarkable. American troops, he explained, were fueling Iraqi nationalism that was morphing into anti-Americanism: "You can't underestimate the public perception, both within Iraq and within the Arab world, about the percentage of forces being so heavily American." But who underestimated this problem of Iraqi nationalism? Certainly not those of us who argued from the day the war ended that the operation should be multinational, with full U.N. authorization. It was the administration itself that argued that American troops were going to be welcomed as liberators; that the postwar period would require few forces; that Iraqis disliked the Europeans and the United Nations, and that America would have absolutely no legitimacy problem.        

Abizaid's interview is a powerful admission that on the two most important postwar issues--the number of forces and the nature of the occupation--the Bush administration got it badly wrong. The only question now is, will the administration finally recognize its errors? It might already be too late to achieve a great success in Iraq. But it is not too late to avoid a humiliating failure.  

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Comments

Agreed, both on Zakaria and on giving the other bunch more time with their families.

Zacharia and Kaplan are two data points for there being intelligent and sensible conservatives out there. How did the Republican Administration develop such strong rejection antibodies for people like them?

Ah, yes, they are oil-and-water to the Trotskyite metabolilsm...

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on April 10, 2004 07:44 AM

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But what was Mr. Zakaria's assessments in the months and days prior to the start of hostilities. Didn't he support the invasion and overthrow of Saddam in numerous TV appearances both on PBS and as an expert commentator for major US TV and radio networks? Did he merely make cautious non-commital remarks? Did he recite history without taking a position.

My recollections are that he has cautiously non-commital. (IMHO) Frankly I'm wavering at the possibility of continuing the occupation of Iraq. But then, I'm comfortable and cowardly.

Posted by: don majors on April 10, 2004 07:51 AM

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Let's not forget letting Colin Powell spend more time with his family, too....

Posted by: howard on April 10, 2004 08:00 AM

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...which only works if Michael Powell can spend more time with his family, too.

Posted by: Chris on April 10, 2004 08:19 AM

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Replacing Dr.Rice with Dr.Zakaria? A reading of Zakaria's published articles in Newsweek and the New Yorker establishes his notions as the roadmap the Republicans are following to establish a Democracy within the Middle East. Our quest is admirable and crucial for our geopolitical reasons. Too bad the opportunistic nations within the UN see it as a way of humiliating the USA for their own economic geopolitical reasons.

Posted by: don majors on April 10, 2004 08:31 AM

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Bah.

1) As if competence, knowledge, and careful analysis had anything to do with the position of GWB's babysitter.

2) Keep everybody on your list, and get rid of the guy at the top. I suggest you look at the respective resumes to see where the problem lies.

Posted by: bob mcmanus on April 10, 2004 08:52 AM

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Zakaria wrote this *last September*. It is no longer true that "it is not too late to avoid a humiliating failure." We've basically lost the war. Why would Zakaria want to come in at this point?

And really, who cares which Bush admin officials stay and which go? The administration is rotten from the top down in any case.

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky on April 10, 2004 08:54 AM

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Rice has not been a world-beater in previous engagements. Powell has in the past had his strengths, though he has the soldier's weakness of being too loyal to a bad leader. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the other ex-Team B apparatchiks should have been laughed out of Washington twenty years ago. Cheney was loony-right in the early '70s, and his mind hasn't been right since his heart trouble started ('pump head' is suggested).

so, what, keep Powell, replace the rest?

Posted by: wcw on April 10, 2004 08:56 AM

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As I said before, there is a principle called command responsibility where the person at the top of an organization resigns when things go disasterously wrong. Here Brad also appears to be leaning towards the strong variation where if the screw up is bad enough the admiral gets hung to encourage the others.

In the last half century this has disappeared in the US to our great detriment. Maybe not completely as the example of Les Aspin shows (OK, he was pushed), and frankly I don't know what happened to the Captain of the Cole.

But more importantly, the behavior of the current crew with respect to 9-11 and the Iraq is just another marker of the lack of responsibility and contempt for others that they show.

It has become a question of ethics

Posted by: Eli Rabett on April 10, 2004 09:35 AM

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Hate to say this, but it is in fact too late to avoid a humiliating failure. It's been too late since the end of last June when it became clear to the Iraqis that the Americans were unable to restore and maintain civil order. We are now in the fallacy Richard Thaler writes about when he analyzes investors who hold stocks that have fallen with the intention of selling when they get back what they paid. We will never get back what we paid.

The situation is far worse than most people imagine. It's not just the Near East. We have squandered our capacity to intervene where it matters and when it matters. Bush and company are ruining the military reserve, just as they have ruined the budget surpluses. No one trusts us, and for good reason. Other natins reasonably fear we might elect another President like Bush for whom signed contracts are not binding.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell on April 10, 2004 10:12 AM

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I have to agree with Knut W. Zakaria gets credit for being somewhat more sophisticated than warmongers Rice and Rumsfeld, but he wants to please everybody. He didn't see that Iraq would replay the Israeli experience in Lebanon, and he didn't see how important Al-Jazeera would prove to be. It is too late. No leader of old Europe would send thousands of soldiers into that cauldron today, that mess that we created. There was a time when we had considerable good will, like April 2003. We didn't have enough troops to provide security for the UN and our own people, let alone for the population whose hearts and minds we needed to win. Spain will not be last of the bought nations to withdraw its troops. Sending in more US troops will pour gasoline onto the fire.
I'd say that Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell will be considered war criminals by the next generation. Americans won't punish them; our Congress cares only about re-election which is why we have the most unfair tax system of any developed country. How are we going to stop these maniacs? Rush Limbo will say that dissenters are losing this war just as dissenters were blamed for losing McNamara's criminal war. It's greed, stupidity and imperial overstretch by those in power.

Posted by: Maracucho on April 10, 2004 10:27 AM

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Let's see, the argument appears to be that Iraq has always been chaotic and violent, thus it's all Bush's fault. But if we turn the whole thing over to the U.N. Kofi Annan will sprinkle pacifism dust over the country and everyone will start getting along. Like in Somalia, 1993.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 10, 2004 10:47 AM

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No, Patrick Sullivan, that's not the argument at all. Iraq is chaotic and violent because of the choices that Bush's administration made. And clearly, the U.N. is not going to take over Iraq at this point.

What is going to happen is that eventually the U.S. will be driven out of Iraq. This could happen early, or it could happen late, but it's going to happen. The U.N. role will be either to recognize the new regime in Iraq -- if the Iraqis have been united by their successful war of national liberation -- or to try to bring in food aid, if the Iraqis end up fragmenting into civil war once they've lost us as a unifying enemy.

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky on April 10, 2004 10:54 AM

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I think we need to do a bit more than replace Condi, Cheney and Wolfie here. The person who really needs to go is the guy who appointed them all and has yet to fire any of them.

So far the only people to actually get fired in this administration have been fired for telling the inconvenient truth. Paul O'Neil was fired for telling the world that the invasion of Iraq was unlikely to cost more than $200 million. As it turned out this was an under-estimate and the war has already cost considerably more - about $250 billion. But O'Neil was fired because at the time the administration was trying to pretend it would cost next to nothing.

Posted by: Phill on April 10, 2004 11:14 AM

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It is too late. The problem is Bush and his cronies. They now have a reputation and a track record neither of which can be undone and both of which have become motivational factors against the US.

Posted by: Dubblblind on April 10, 2004 11:18 AM

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The point shoud be that we should at least try and avoid the mistakes of the past and understand the magnitude of the task at hand.

See the article by T. E. Lawrence at:
www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/history/1920arabia.htm
(Lawrence of Arabia seems to be better at analysis than Wolfowitrz of Arabia)

I found this quote intrigueing:
"They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster. "

The British marched into Baghdad at the end of WWI after losing nearly 1 million men. By comparison they had the electricity, water, and telephone exchange working within two weeks. There problems cvame from assuming that hatred of the Turks meant support for themselves. In the end it was a bloody debacle for the British.

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on April 10, 2004 12:31 PM

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It was Lawrence Lindsay, not Paul O'Neill, who was fired for telling an inconvenient truth about the war costs. But the poster makes an excellent point about where actual responsiblity lies here. Since policy is routinely subordinated to political concerns, you can understand why Bush's lack of curiosity and command of detail loom so large as predicates of the current debacle. A real president (say Clinton) could ask the pertinent questions and demand appropriate solutions. Bush cannot. The idea, since Reagan, that a president merely has to embody American ideals is worse than silly - it's dangerous.

Posted by: Walter Hall on April 10, 2004 02:30 PM

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" No, Patrick Sullivan, that's not the argument at all. Iraq is chaotic and violent because of the choices that Bush's administration made. And clearly, the U.N. is not going to take over Iraq at this point."

Did you read the same article in the Economist the rest of us did?

"Iraq has one of the most violent histories of any country on the globe. In comparison even with other states in the Middle East, Iraq's modern history has been marked by turmoil, coups, bloodshed and mayhem. Consider the fate of its rulers:"

Just how is Bush responsible for the history of Iraq, going back to the 1930s?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 10, 2004 06:25 PM

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"The idea, since Reagan, that a president merely has to embody American ideals is worse than silly - it's dangerous."

wow. this came out at me like a 2 x 4 to the side of my head.

does it follow then that the idea that "a president that seems not to embody American ideals is not worthy" is dangerous? like certain democratic presidential candidates being discounted for being "elite" and not owning ranches.

Posted by: eeh on April 10, 2004 06:47 PM

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"The idea, since Reagan, that a president merely has to embody American ideals is worse than silly - it's dangerous."

wow. this came out at me like a 2 x 4 to the side of my head.

does it follow then that the idea that "a president that seems not to embody American ideals is not worthy" is dangerous? like certain democratic presidential candidates being discounted for being "elite" and not owning ranches.

Posted by: eeh on April 10, 2004 06:47 PM

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sorry.

Posted by: eeh on April 10, 2004 06:49 PM

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Ah, Patrick. The whole point of Zakaria's article is that Iraq was an unholy mess from long before we went in, and that it would take a huge occupying force to keep it peaceful and a huge economic effort to reconstruct it. Neither of which the Bushites were willing (or, apparently are yet willing) to provide, given their obsessive Pollyannaist belief that it could be done cheaply and easily.

Well, to have any hope of retrieving the situation at all, we are now going to have to hugely increase our military and economic presence there -- which means both an immediate revival of the draft (as George Will now says), and massive new increases in federal spending on Iraq, paid for either by cutting other programs or through new taxes on somebody. It would be nice to think the UN will assist us, but they've always been very reluctant to get involved in such things -- and at this point most of the world can be largely forgiven for saying to the Bush Administration regarding Iraq: "You broke it, you buy it."

Which, in turn, raises another question: is spending gigantic amounts of our military and economic strength trying to reconstract Iraq actually the best way to utilize our military strength in the current worldwide struggle? Is it not unwise to say flatly -- as so many people are saying -- that we can never, under any circumstances, pull out of Iraq now?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 02:27 AM

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" The whole point of Zakaria's article is that Iraq was an unholy mess from long before we went in,"

Meaning that Bush isn't at fault for whatever resistance (and it isn't much) we're now seeing.

" and that it would take a huge occupying force to keep it peaceful and a huge economic effort to reconstruct it. "

It is mostly peaceful, and will be more so when we start killing the limited number of insurgents we're seeing in the streets. The key to making Iraq a normal country is to give Iraqis the responsibility for it. Not to act like colonial administrators.

" which means both an immediate revival of the draft"

Ridiculous. We could double the size of our military without a draft.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 11, 2004 11:02 AM

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Walter Hall wrote, "It was Lawrence Lindsay, not Paul O'Neill, who was fired for telling an inconvenient truth about the war costs."

I have a concise, sourced page on the costs of the $ war to-date here:
http://www.truthandpolitics.org/cost-iraq-war.php

Posted by: liberal on April 11, 2004 11:24 AM

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Ah, Patrick. See my notes in the threads above about the feelings of most Sunni Iraqis toward us in that ABC poll, and the quote from Robert Novak (following in the footsteps of Phil Carter, George Will and Fred Shafer) that "nobody knows" where the needed troops will come from short of reviving the draft.

As for "handing over control of Iraq to the Iraqis after we kill that limited number of insurgents" (over 70% of the population of Anbar Province are on their side): are the Iraqis to whom you're talking about "handing over control" the same ones who have -- with absolute consistency -- refused to shoot at their fellow Iraqis during the current conflict, and indeed have frequently joined the rebel side (or sides)? Dream on, Pollyanna. But be aware that fewer and fewer of your fellow conservatives are continuing to dream along with you.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 02:53 PM

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Me: "The whole point of Zakaria's article is that Iraq was an unholy mess from long before we went in..."

Sullivan: "Meaning that Bush isn't at fault for whatever resistance (and it isn't much) we're now seeing."

Even if one ignores your idiocy about there being "not much resistance", you can't possibly be stupid enough to misinterpret (unintentionally) my statement about the nature of Iraq THAT completely Zakaria's point (and mine, and James Fallows') is that the place has always been a powderkeg and that only an absolute iron fist -- of the sort Saddam exercised -- can keep it from exploding. Are we able -- or willing -- to exercise that kind of iron fist? To the extent Bush isn't, of course he IS to blame for the violence we're now seeing.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 02:59 PM

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"'nobody knows' where the needed troops will come from short of reviving the draft."

The same place they came from since 1973 when the draft was ended. We were ready to fight the Soviet Union for 15 years with a volunteer army. We did fight the Persian Gulf war with a volunteer army. We fought this latest one with a volunteer army. Have a clue.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 08:56 AM

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Er, Patrick. America's guiding military philosophy during the Cold War was that we didn't have a snowflake's chance in hell of stopping a Soviet invasion of western Europe with our shrunken conventional army (or that of the Europeans), and that we would therefore have to immediately escalate to attacking the invading Soviet forces with nuclear weapons. That was the purpose of the neutron bomb, among other things.

And the Gulf War, in the opinion of virtually every general, was tremendously easier than invading and occupying Iraq -- which is one reason why Bush Senior drew back from the prospect. After all, it involved chasing only one part of the Iraq army from only one country approximately the size of a postage stamp.

Now, to Mark Kleiman:

"Zakaria and [Robert] Wright both quote what seems like a crucial number, and one I hadn't heard before: based on experience elsewhere, the estimated troop strength required for effective pacification is 20 per 1000 population, which would have indicated an occupying army of about 500,000. (Recall Gen. Shinseki getting publicly dissed by Rummy for saying we would need several hundred thousand?) Instead, we have about 6 soldiers per thousand Iraqis. (And, Zakaria points out, an inadequate number of civilians in the CPA as well.) Note: The Defense Department planned to have drawn down the force to 30,000 by late summer of 2003."

And -- according to Novak, Will and Jack Schafer -- there is no way in hell we can get that many troops without a draft.

Get several clues, Patrick. You continue to bear a strong resemblance to Inspector Clouseau (although I only draw that analogy because there hasn't yet been a series about a comically incompetent defense attorney).

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 12, 2004 01:53 PM

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A bit more elaboration on the nature of the US forces intended to repeal a Soviet invasion of western Europe: they were officially -- and publicly -- referred to as a "tripwire", similar to that created by our troops on the Korean border. The US let it publicly be known that any attack on them by Warsaw Pact forces would be treated by the US as the signal to immediately escalate to the use of tactical nukes against the Warsaw Pact -- and "tactical" nukes, of course, can very easily escalate to bigger ones. The usefulness of tactical nukes in occupying Iraq is, shall we say, somewhat limited.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 12, 2004 02:25 PM

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"And -- according to Novak, Will and Jack Schafer -- there is no way in hell we can get that many troops without a draft."

Do you ever bother to find out what numbers actually are? In 1985, our all volunteer military had 2.2 million members, with about half that many in civilian positions related to military activity. We spent about 7% of GDP to maintain that force level.

By 2002 we were down to 1.4 million in uniform. In a country of 280 million people it is not too difficult to find another 800,000 people to get back to 1985 strength levels. There is absolutely no problem increasing troop strength to what we need short of an all out war of WWII proportions. We just spend the necessary money.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 03:23 PM

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There is also a significant time factor at work, here. It takes about a year to train up an infrantryman to what the US Army currently considers acceptable standards.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on April 12, 2004 04:53 PM

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"There is absolutely no problem increasing troop strength to what we need [using a volunteer army] short of an all-out war of WWII proportions. We just spend the necessary money."

Plus, of course, a sudden and convenient supply of suicidal idiots eager to join the military for pay at a time when they know there's a good chance they will actually get shot at. (That's the trouble with depending on mercenaries.) Also note Rogers' point about necessary training time.

And, in those two connections, let me quote:

(1) Novak ( http://www.suntimes.com/output/novak/cst-edt-novak08.html ): "The problem of where to find these troops is not easily solved. There are simply no large units available and suitable for assignment. The 3rd Infantry Division was sent home early, but is now in the midst of Rumsfeld's 'transformation' (from three brigades to five) and so is not ready to be inserted into combat. National Guard brigades could be activated, but the need for full training before going to war means they cannot help resolve the present crisis."

(2) Will ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56305-2004Apr6.html ): "The transfer is to be to an institutional apparatus that is still unformed. This is approaching at a moment when U.S. forces in Iraq, never adequate for postwar responsibilities, are fewer than they were.

"U.S. forces in Iraq are insufficient for that mission; unless the civil war is quickly contained, no practicable U.S. deployment will suffice. U.S. forces worldwide cannot continue to cope with Iraq as it is, plus their other duties -- peacekeeping, deterrence, training -- without stresses that will manifest themselves in severe retention problems in the reserves and regular forces.

"Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been told that they are at war. They have not been told what sacrifices, material and emotional, they must make to sustain multiple regime changes and nation-building projects. Telling such truths is part of the job description of a war president." (Note, however, that despite all Will's brave language, he can't quite bring himself to say the "D" word.)

(3) Timothy Noah ( http://slate.msn.com/id/2095671 ):

"[Bush] doesn't have the troops. In the March 2004 Atlantic, James Fallows writes that it's only 'a slight exaggeration to say that the entire U.S. military is either in Iraq, returning from Iraq, or getting ready to go.' More than one-third of the Army's active-duty troops are right now stationed in or near Iraq, and nearly half are 'officially in the two lowest readiness categories.' The National Guard and the Reserves are expected to provide close to 40 percent of our troops in Iraq this year. This commitment is more than most guardsmen and reservists bargained for. The Iraq deployment is probably the main reason the Guard and the Reserves are starting to experience some difficulty with recruiting and re-enlisting; if the economy continues to strengthen those trends will likely accelerate. Simply put, the Pentagon doesn't have enough bodies available to fight another major war.

"[And] he doesn't have the money. The Bush White House's own calculations put the deficit at $521 billion by the end of this fiscal year. Some of that, of course, reflects the end of what Republicans like to call the Clinton 'bubble' and what Democrats like to call the Clinton 'boom.' The economy is now making a slow, if somewhat wobbly recovery, and if that continues tax receipts will increase. But they won't increase anywhere near as much as they need to due to the Bush tax cuts. Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor-funded nonprofit whose number-crunching is extremely reliable, estimates that in the current calendar year the combined effect of the Bush tax cuts will cost the treasury $293 billion. This will rise to $348 billion in 2006 if Congress decides to make permanent that portion of the tax cuts that was originally designated to be 'sunsetted,' or ended. It will drop to a still-substantial $227 billion if it does not.

"Although the president's proposed budget for 2005 boasts a 7 percent increase for defense spending and the promise of better pay and training for our soldiers, these efforts appear to be aimed only at keeping current troops happy. There is no discussion of actually increasing the size of the active-duty force, presumably because that would be too expensive."

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 12, 2004 09:19 PM

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"Plus, of course, a sudden and convenient supply of suicidal idiots eager to join the military..."

Very revealing, Bruce. However you characterize such people, the fact is that they have existed in the past, and there is no reason they can't in the future.

" Also note Rogers' point about necessary training time."

Which is a goofy non-sequitur. Training time is the same for draftees and enlistees.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 13, 2004 09:04 AM

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As Novak pointed out, we need those additional troops right now -- and there's no way we can get them in anything like an adequately trained state, thanks to Rumsfeld's idiocy.

And, yes, Virginia, there are indeed a fair number of people out there willing to unselfishly sacrifice their lives for their country. There are just almost never enough of them for large wars, which is why countries have drafts in the first place -- and why your fond belief that we DO have enough pure volunteers for the gigantic task we are now confronted with (and not just in Iraq) requires a fond fantasy that we also have a huge number of suicidal idiots out there. Or, to put it the way James Fallows puts it in that piece that Tim Noah mentioned ( http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2004/03/fallows.htm ):

"In the flush of patriotism after 9/11, those in uniform were asked to make extraordinary sacrifices, and they did. For much of the time since then the Army has imposed 'stop loss' policies, which prevent members of the military from retiring or resigning, and amount to a form of forced labor for those who have already chosen to serve. Members of the Reserves and the National Guard, many of whom signed up with the understanding that they would be 'weekend warriors,' have been mobilized for one-year stints since 9/11. Just before Thanksgiving, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that another 15,000 Reserve and Guard members would be called up this spring for as much as a year's service in Iraq, in addition to some 43,000 already mobilized. This year nearly 40 percent of the U.S. presence in Iraq will be from the Guard and the Reserves. The family and business disruptions caused by these unexpected mobilizations are incalculable.

"Some reservists and active-duty soldiers no doubt thrive on unexpected assignments. But for the military as a whole, the stepped-up 'ops tempo,' or pace of operations, is hard to sustain with a volunteer force. Since the elimination of the draft, in 1973, the military has had to compete with the rest of the U.S. economy for manpower. It has done so in material ways, by increasing pay and benefits, and with its traditional appeal to those seeking challenge, service, and personal growth. But it has also offered volunteers a certain amount of control over their destiny, because they could always resign if they chose. And although recruiters would never put it this way, the enlistees of the 1990s could reasonably assume that the greatest physical danger they would face would come during training exercises, not from roadside bombs in a place like Baghdad or Fallujah. Guard and Reserve members could, within certain limits, assume that their lives would remain normal.

"Last fall, two years into the emergency, numerous indicators suggested that Americans were beginning to vote with their feet. Guard units across the country fell short of their recruiting targets, and the Army Reserves reported a shortfall in re-enlistments. An un-scientific poll of U.S. troops in Iraq conducted by the military newspaper Stars and Stripes in October found that nearly half planned not to re-enlist. 'We are expending the force and doing little to ensure its viability in the years to come, years we have been assured it will take to win the war on terrorism,' retired Army General Frederick Kroesen wrote in a military journal on hearing that reservists would be mobilized for a second year. 'It might be prudent now to ask the managers who decreed the current second-year Reservists' extensions what they plan for the third year.'

"An overworked military can function very well for a while, as ours has -- but not indefinitely if it relies on volunteers."

So tell me, Pat: what does the US military do when it runs out of suckers -- as it's already rapidly doing? (Which, of course, is the point that George Will was also making, even if he didn't quite have the nerve to actually utter the key word.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 14, 2004 12:48 AM

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Again Bruce is attempting to drown the facts in a torrent of irrelevant words. 1985; 2.2 million troops in all services. All volunteers.

At the height of the Vietnam War we only had 3.5 million in uniform. In a country of 280 million, you can easily recruit the required numbers. It's just a question of spending the money. We simply do not need every able-bodied man (and woman in the feminist paradise of the 21st century). And it's hardly "suicidal" serving in the American military (ask the Iraqi's who beat a retreat out of Kuwait).

And, draftees are expensive, because they rarely re-enlist. Which means your fixed costs are spread over very short service periods.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 14, 2004 06:49 AM

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"1985: 2.2 million troops in all services. All volunteers." And none of them getting shot at.

By the way, you may want to take up this argument not only with Novak, Fallows and Tim Noah but with George Will, who now sounds eerily like John Kerry on the subject of Iraq. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6753-2004Apr12.html and http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9759-2004Apr13.html .) And that's conveniently assuming that we don't get involved in any other major military adventures at the same time that we're stuck in Iraq -- which is precisely why I'm most apprehensive about our being stuck in Iraq. Consider the very serious possibility that we'll need to act suddenly in either Iran or North Korea later this year, for starters.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 14, 2004 08:34 PM

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Posted by: Online Casino on June 23, 2004 12:17 AM

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I would like to write to F. Zakaria concerning my take on his book, The Future of Freedom. Can you provide his e-mail address?

Posted by: Bob Meyer on July 2, 2004 09:37 PM

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