Perhaps I was too kind and too hopeful about Rumsfeld. I have read his recently published memo. It does not offer an inkling of understanding the real thing. Yet for some reason I keep thinking Rumsfeld, alone among those lumped together as supporters of the war, and certainly made into a bogey-man for reasons I cannot fathom (surely the main problem is Bush himself; he’s the Captain Queeg on this listing ship, while Rumsfeld was only first or at times second or even, when Rice came along, third mate), really knows what is going on.
Kindness, sweetness, hopefulness — these are my problems. I possess far too much of them for my own good. Clearly. I’ll try not to in the future.
Those who were raised in the Cold War — those who were handed, that is, the pieties and certainties of that war and did not have to learn or think for themselves overmuch — have demonstrated their limits in the present conflict. However well-spoken they may be (and Rumsfeld is well-spoken and far more intelligent than Bush, Rice, or most of the others), they have been raised in an environment where completely independent thought simply is hard to find.
And they are busy, busy, busy. Those reports. Those endless meetings. Those more reports. Those bullet points. What in god’s name did Rumsfeld, the smartest of the lot, understand about Islam and about the idiocy of the phrase “war on terror”? What did Rumsfeld, the smartest of the lot, understand about how the Muslim Arabs (the Kurds are a special case, because they were grateful for past protection, and eager for future support protection that can only come from the United States) were inevitably going to treat their “liberators” after a short while? What did he know about the Sunnis and the Shi’a, and how everything that has happened has happened inevitably and was perfectly predictable (and was, at this website, predicted and predicted and predicted)? What does Rumsfeld know about the notion of Jihad, and of the instruments of Jihad?
Perhaps now that he is out of office or soon will be, Rumsfeld will start to learn. Without having to get up at 4 a.m. to be driven into the Pentagon to work all day without ever taking the time that he long ago should have taken, and so should they all, perhaps he will begin to study quietly, to read quietly, about Islam — starting let’s say with Bat Ye’or’s The Dhimmi and Islam and Dhimmitude. He can read them, he’s the smartest of the lot. He might try also the books intended for a mass audience by Robert Spencer, including Onward Muslim Soldiers, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, and his The Truth About Muhammad. Then he could turn to Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim, and after that to the anthology The Legacy of Jihad. He should keep going, not stopping until finally the scales fall from his eyes, and he sees that the goal should never have been Iraq the Model, Iraq the Light Unto the Muslim Nations, but rather a single and unswerving goal by the Americans and its remaining allies and others that might be allies yet again: to defend ourselves by weakening the Camp of Islam and Jihad, and to do that by dividing and demoralizing that camp, playing upon the pre-existing divisions, the three main ones being sectarian (Sunni and Shi’a), ethnic (Arab and non-Arab) and economic (the Muslims with vast unmerited wealth, and the Muslims who have no oil or gas deposits). Two of these divisions present themselves in Iraq today. The Administration — whose smartest member was Rumsfeld, remember — instead keeps taking as its goal and declaring as its definition of “victory” exactly the wrong thing.
Rumsfeld now has time to learn all that, and to start with a little mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, about this, and then to go around and explain, in the corridors of power, just how wrong he — and all the others — were. He owes the country, after his participation in this Big (and nearly universal, because the assumptions about the nature and severity of the threat were, and remain, also completely misunderstood by the opposition to Bush) Mistake, a Big Correction.
Not merely a “Course Correction.” Something much bigger.