Nov 7, 2006

Ginned Rummy

So much of the punditry has focused on the notion that Rummy went wrong when he tried to wage war on the cheap, that he didn't understand the depth of the insurgency. There is some truth in that, but there's more to it. In fact, the unexpected power of the insurgency was not his fault; it was Bremmer, among others, who made the fatal mistake of being ideological instead of practical. It was Bremmer who advised getting rid of all the Baathists in government, thinking these were deciples not paid acolites. Bureaucrats needed a job. They were no danger so long as they could bring home the bacon.

Rummy's particular mistake was not knowing his foe. Not knowing that what Arab societies crave above all is security, that what they fear above all is chaos. This was the gift and the ability of the Prophet, to bring warring tribes together, to a sense of affinity beyond kin and the spirits in wadis and dunes.

The object in Iraq should have been to install a benevolent dictator, not implant democracy. The mistake in Vietnam was to think that communism was monolithic, that Ho Chi Minh was Mao's puppet. The mistake here was to think that Hussein was anything more than a dictator who could be bought off far more cheaply than the cost to destroy him.

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