Blogger Michael Totten, a liberal hawk with whom I agree more often than not, is accusing “anti-war doom-mongers” of putting “the most negative spin possible on everything” happening in postwar Iraq.
Michael approvingly quotes Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: “There are so many cartoons where people, press people, are saying, ‘Is it Vietnam yet?’ hoping it is and wondering if it is. And it isn’t. It’s a different time. It’s a different era. It’s a different place.”
Well I wasn’t antiwar, and I don’t think I’m a doom-monger, but I believe there are genuine reasons for concern about the course of events in Iraq during the past three months of occupation. Despite Rumsfeld’s reassurances, I’m not reassured.
For one thing, two former military men who have some experience in these matters challenged Rumsfeld’s assertion head-on:
W. Patrick Lang, former head of Middle Eastern Affairs at the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the situation in Iraq is “exactly” what a guerrilla war looks like in its early stages.
“It’s not unusual for there to be more than one guerrilla group in an insurgency,” Lang said in an interview. “It doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to sufficiently overcome their differences to have an effect against us.”
Twenty-three U.S. troops have been killed since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1. The Iraqi insurgents could ultimately force U.S. troops to stay in heavily guarded bases, surrendering “a lot of ground to effective control of the other side,” Lang said.
Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who commanded the 24th Infantry Division during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, called the Iraqi opposition to U.S. forces “an organizing guerrilla war in which right now we still lack a useful tactical intelligence system. We can’t begin to deal with this problem until we put huge resources into building Iraqi police forces and infantry battalions.”
Another article in today’s Washington Post suggests the forces on the ground in Iraq seem thoroughly unprepared for the job they now face. I’m sure they’re doing the best they can, but the growing frustration and mistrust among both Americans and Iraqis is discouraging.
There may be those who are secretly gloating about all this. I’m not one of them. I hope that a year from now I’ll be able to look back at the situation today and wonder what I was so worried about. My fear is that the Bush administration still hasn’t grasped the enormity of the task it’s taken on, and that things easily could spin out of control.
Update: This is somewhat encouraging. At least Bush seems to acknowledge that Iraqi reconstruction can’t be done on the cheap.