Continuing the disscussion from last night/this morning, Frontline had a very good documentary on Iraq last night called "Endgame," and it adds to the discussion. Because it is so easy to lose the big picture in the rush of day-to-day events, the chronology on the website is invaluable, and well worth a visit.
Based on interviews with a variety of military people, analysts and journalists who have covered the war extensively, it confirms what is evident to a reader of "Fiasco," "Hubris" and the many other books and articles that have come out: Rumsfeld was fundamentally uninterested in what happened after the invasion. He and the military fully expected to be largely out by the end of 2003, and thus had no plan for what to do once Saddam's government fell. (Other than installing Chalabi, which Bush vetoed.) They completely failed to forsee the insurgency, which was largely provoked by the US's attacks on Fallujah in April and November, 2004, or the sectarian violence, which intensified after the February, 2006 bombing of the important Shi'a mosque in Samarra.
Rumsfeld and General Casey, whom he installed as commander once it was apparent the occupation would not be over quickly and General David Sanchez was in over his head, never had a strategy for "winning" the war--what they had was an endgame, which is why Casey kept talking about drawing down troops. He and Rumsfeld believed in the "light footprint." Incredibly, Casey did not begin seriously devising a strategy for Iraq until the Fall of 2004, and that was still an "endgame" strategy.
Meanwhile, Bush, in his dreamworld, egged on by Cheney, kept talking about victory and establishing democracy, never explaining the strategy to achieve those results, since there was none. Moreover, and here I am editorializing, the talk of "victory" made any lesser outcome seem like "surrender", thus fatally complicating the public debate. In 2005, after the success of Colonel McMasters in Tal Afar, Condoleeza Rice and her deputy, Philip Zelikow, tried to develop and push a strategy, the "clear, hold and build" strategy, that appeared to have worked in Tal Afar. The problem was, there were not enough troops to implement it and Rumsfeld and Casey would not countenance sending more troops.
Various factions within the Adminsitration pushed for a strategy review throughout 2006. In what may be the most amazing segment, a group of top people, both cabinet people and experts from within the military, gather at Camp David to brief the President and hold the strategy review, but Bush jets off to Baghdad for a meet and greet with Prime Minister Maliki and a photo op. The strategy review never happens. Instead, Fred Kagan's "surge" plan gains favor. But a surge means more troops, and Rumsfeld opposed this.
Ironically, according to Frontline, the real reason Rumsfeld (and Casey) had to go was to pave the way for escalation. Rumsfeld and Casey, they say, actually wanted to draw troops down. But Bush was seduced by dreams of victory, and so a commitment was made to escalate as the only way to rectify a situation that had clearly been allowed to spiral out of control, just when the Democrats, backed by an increasingly anti-war public, take over Congress.
The program basically confirms my post of yesterday--the disasterous decisions made in 2003, 2004 and 2005 make it impossible to achieve "victory" (over whom?) and restoring order is infinitely more difficult, if not impossible, because of those blunders. (Note: I said yesterday I have always believed that the war was doomed from the outset. However, with a better understanding of the situation, better polcies and better execution, we could have made a graceful exit by the end of 2005. Of course, with a much better understanding of the situation, we would never have gone in in the first place.)
So we are left with no good, or even not-so-bad, way out. We can stay only at a very high price for us and the Iraqis, given how our very presence is a cause of much of the violence--200,000 troops for 5-10 years. Given that, one idea might be to invite the Iraqis to vote on whether we should stay, and then have the international conference and attempt a political solution as we withdraw at their invitation. But as so many colonial wars have shown (can you believe General Petraeus wrote his PhD thesis on the French in Indochina?), democracies can defeat foreign insurgencies only at a price in lives, treasure and betrayal of their principles that is far beyond what the public will ultimately be willing to pay.