Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gabriel Kolko on Rummy

I always feel a bit guilty whenever I link to something at the neo-Confederate Web site LewRockwell.com.  I certainly don't want to promote their group or their ideology.

But they also run some important articles by critics of the Iraq War and of American foreign policy by critics who have something substantial to say and are also not neo-Confederate.

This column by historian Gabriel Kolko counts as one of those Rumsfeld and the American Way of War 12/26/06.  Kolko did some important and widely-recognized work that challenged the dominant Cold War consensus on American foreign policy.

He writes of the current American dilemma in the Iraq War:

Disjunction and irrationality become the norm in these kinds of situations, and responses that seem bizarre are fairly predictable. Rationality often disappears in this process and denial – and delay – becomes the norm. That is happening now in Washington, and probably in London and Canberra as well, because Bush's foreign policy has produced an immense disaster and there is less peace and stability in the world and security at home than anytime since 1945. Donald Rumsfeld's December 15th farewell speech as Defense Secretary should be read in this light, but also as a reflection of the much larger problem of the way American foreign and military policy has been conducted for decades. It is probably the precursor of those we have yet to hear – and will. If his speech were not so important it would simply be pathetic.

He writes that on Rummy's watch as SecDef:

... national defense spending, which had been stable in the 1990s, increased from $294 billion in 2000 to $536 billion in 2006, and as a percentage of the GNP it grew 37 percent from 2000 to 2006. All kinds of weapons, many the futuristic products of junk science concocted by well-placed manufacturers, were funded for eventual production – a dozen years being a short delivery time for many of them.

And the phenomenon Kolko describes is very real:

[Rummy] always premised his ambition, which various defense secretaries had attempted before him and failed, on the notion that the secret of military success was better and more weapons – "more bang forthe buck" as an illustrious predecessor phrased it. More bucks also made the Pentagon requests that much more palatable to a pork-hungry Congress eager to increase spending in their districts.

The following is not original or unique to Gabriel Kolko.  But it's well said and, unfortunately for the US, true:

Rumsfeld and his peers know the American military cannot win the war in Iraq. Just as during the Vietnam war, they have the quixotic hope that a solution for the profound and bloody turmoil that reigns there can be found politically – at first the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds were to have parliamentary elections and then make a political deal. They did not. Then they were to write a constitution, which they eventually managed to do but it changed nothing. Now they are hoping that the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, can miraculously cobble together some kind of consensus that will produce peace, but Bush's closest advisers think it is very likely he will fail. They have no one else to turn to. Politics, like military power, will not prevent the United States from losing control over events in Iraq – thereby losing the war. A "surge" in American troops in Iraq, as even the Joint Chiefs of Staff now argues, is only a recipe for greater disasters. Attacks against U.S. coalition forces, their Iraqi dependents, and civilians have now reached a peak and are over twice that two years ago. The Bush Administration today confronts disaster in Iraq, and probably the worst foreign policy failure in American history. Futility is the hallmark of all its efforts.

Kolko gives particular attention to Rummy's speech of 12/15/06.  And he describes the situation, which is a key military issue that needs to be thoroughly debated in Congress, which is the overwhelming emphasis of the US military on preparing to fight conventional wars:

The fact is that the immense and costly American military today bears no relationship to politics and reality. It accounts for nearly half of the world's military expenditures but it cannot win its two wars against the most primitive enemies, enemies who exist in multiple factions who often fight each other more than Americans and who could not care less what Washington spends on weaponry and manpower. But America's leaders have always assumed convenient enemies who calculate the way the U.S. wants them to. Moreimportant, politics was never complicated; it existed as an afterthought and never interfered with fighting and winning wars the American way. But the Soviet Union and Communism no longer exist, and absolutely nothing has changed in America's behavior and thinking. The Pentagon is superb at spending money but its way of warfare in now in a profound and perhaps terminal crisis. It has lost all its wars against persistent guerillas armed with cheap, light weapons that decentralize and hide.

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