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Monday, June 02, 2003
...now that the rape jokes are out of the way...
Not too many strokisms in Safire today, but there is something that probably won't catch on. Saying that the biggest intelligence failure in GWII was the overestimation of the strength of the Republican Guard, he writes:
What if our planners had believed Kurdish leaders who predicted that Saddam's super-loyalists would quickly collapse? We would have sent fewer combat troops and more engineers, civilian administrators and military police. But the C.I.A. and the Pentagon had no way of being certain that the information about the Republican Guard's poor morale and weak discipline provided by Kurds and Iraqi opposition leaders was accurate.
With thousands of lives at stake, optimism was not an option. Sensibly, we based our strategy on the greater likelihood of fierce resistance. That decision was as right when made as it was mistaken in retrospect.
Now, I don't think this particular spin is going to catch on, because it's directly contradicted by the pretty persistent idea that we sent way fewer troops to Iraq than we were "supposed" to, in line with Rummy's desire for a lighter, more mobile armed forces, so those are sort of at odds; couple this with the fairly stubborn liberal meme that we sent too few troops to adequately police post-war Iraq, and I think you have a twofer that will make this perspective look like the desperate justification it is. Righties probably either won't talk about the "intelligence failures" even when administration types gloat about them, and some decent-sized graves will be dug. It also misses the point that while assuming Iraqi soldiers were going to fight to the death instead of desert was good for the war effort, it's pretty bad for the peace, since it means all those weapons and trained mercenaries--and, maybe, the missing WMD--are now dispersed through the population instead of captured, which is only going to cause trouble down the line.
Of course, Safire then goes on to try and explain that the various ways in which we were lied to before the war were OK because it meant we ended up getting rid of Saddaam. I won't even try the ends-means argument, since I know that sometimes you do have to lie to people to accomplish a good (viz. FDR with WWII). But c'mon, William. Saying that when our leaders want to do something they should just lie to us to get what they want runs pretty contrary to the precepts of democracy, don't you think? The idea is that we're all informed about what's going on and then we all make decisions together. It's silly to think that our government will never lie to us, but when we catch it lying, it seems really questionable to say, "Well, it was only for the best of purposes!" You can justify a lot of things with the best of intentions.
Oh, and William, there was an intelligence hoax. Let's at least be honest about this.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall talks about the Safire column too.