Sunday, March 19, 2006

Three Years On

Well, it's the day after the big anti-war protests; AP claims "tens of thousands" worldwide turned out. Down somewhat from the "millions" of 2003, but it's still the top story.

Our local contingent contributed their hundreds to the total, including enough of my newsroom colleages to make it the top topic of casual conversation. "Did you see so-and-so?" "Where did you join the procession?" "I would have carried a coffin, but I was afraid it would be too heavy."

Meanwhile, here's an interesting interview with Col. Douglas Macgregor (U.S. Army-Ret.)

They brought me in and said: "We're looking at Iraq. The chief of staff of the Army says it will take at least 560,000 troops." Well, of course I burst out laughing immediately, because those are more troops than we have in the active component. Secondly, the Iraqi enemy was always so weak. Why would you want that many forces?

When I burst out laughing, the representative said, "That's interesting, because that was Secretary Rumsfeld's reaction, and the secretary would like to know what you think." Well, I was rather surprised. Why does he want to know what I think? And he said, "He's read your book, Breaking the Phalanx, that you published back in January of '97," in which I have a chapter that talks about intervention in Iraq in response to Iraqi moves and activities, and the whole thing is over in two weeks, and we use fewer than 50,000 troops to do it.

Well, he said, "What do you think?" And I said, "Fifty thousand troops," assuming that we are going to go in from a standing start, or what later was called a cold start, and we can rapidly reinforce as necessary. But I said: "The real emphasis has to be on getting rapidly to Baghdad on a couple of axes and using mobile armored forces for that purpose. And once we get there, we remove the government, but we don't want to fight with the army, because ultimately the Iraqi army's going to have a key role in the postwar environment. They're going to have to maintain security, and there are many Iraqi army generals, based upon my experience, once again, in '91, who would be delighted to cooperate with us and could form some sort of interim government."

I said: "Bottom line is, the secretary's right. The enemy's very weak. This will not take very long," at which point in time I was told: "Well, great! Can you put together a plan?" And I said: "Sure. How soon do you want it?" He said, "Well, could you get it to us in the next two or three weeks?" I said, "Of course," and I went back, and I worked, and I put together a briefing. And that briefing was delivered on New Year's Eve, 2001.

Interesting now mainly for historical perspective, since it's all in the category of "might-have-been." But as Greyhawk point out, "Macgregor's plan would have used even fewer US forces than we actually did, and counted on a functioning Iraqi army securing the nation after the fall of the Hussein government."

Which suggests that the idea that the whole Iraq plan that worked so well as an invasion and so poorly as an occupation was not exactly what Rumsfeld had in mind, either. Neither he, nor Rice, nor Wolfowitz, nor any others among the usual suspects exactly outlined the script of the war. Instead, it seems to have been a frankenstein creation cobbled together from the specific proposals of military men, diplomats, realists, neo-cons. Hardly an ideal way to run a war.