Donald Rumsfeld's recently "leaked" memorandum on the war in Iraq cannot be encouraging, no matter how his apologists try to explain it away. In the secret memo, the line that ends with "the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq... but it will be a long, hard slog" has drawn the most attention. Did he mean "slog" as in "to wade through a quagmire" or, as Rumsfeld himself has since explained, now prefers, "to hit hard"? To accept Rummy's own explanation, then, his memo would read: "it will be a long hard hit hard." Huh?
Frankly, we should be more concerned about everything else in the memo, which makes it clear that these folks went into this war in Iraq knowing far less than they let on. Consider the matters and questions that seem to be coming to Rumsfeld's attention only now: Do we need an entirely new organization to deal with this nation-building? Does the CIA need more funding? And the whopper: Is this an example of "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?
These aren't mid-course correction questions; this is basic stuff. And what's so amazing about this revelation is that the Pentagon pays thousands of people to ask just such these questions before, not after, the fact. Rumsfeld's memo lends support to the suspicion that the administration wanted to invade Iraq, and that was that.
But here we are. What now?
One of my very bright young Gonzaga students asked me just this question the other day. "Professor Herold," she said, "if you were asked to give George W. Bush advice, what would it be?"
I blurted out something or other, but the questions stuck with me. I thought about it over the weekend, and then provided her a few somewhat more coherent thoughts. Here they are:
I would begin, as I suggested in a recent article, to advise the President not to run for reelection. He has become his own policy's own worst enemy, as the rest of the world just won't work with him.
Since he would not take that advice, I would stress the importance of dumping Dick Cheney, who has become both dead weight and a lightning rod. Cheney, should he be on the ticket, will draw all the fire over the Joe Wilson affair, the rigging the WMD data, Enron and all the rest.
I would underscore the need to show progress on related fronts: Palestine, North Korea and Iran. Multi-national cooperation in these areas is essential, and progress here would tell the world -- and our nation -- that his policy is on the right track.
I would suggest that he do something to improve the terrible deficit situation -- and here the trail leads back to his tax cuts, that and the festering international trade problems, especially with China.
Then there's Iraq. Overall, he needs to get off the "War on Terrorism" rhetoric and move more toward the notion that all this is about creating long-term stability in the region. But beyond that, there's quite a list:
Troops must be rotated, and provided more useful training.
Intelligence efforts must be improved. Saddam must be found and weapons stashes seized -- all with Iraqis playing an ever-more-central role.
Progress in Iraq (and there is more than we're hearing about) must receive better media coverage.
Public administration in Iraq must be improved (by this I mean we likely need more decentralization).
The United Nations and NATO must be encouraged not merely to give approval but to weigh in with their own ideas. Europe, including Russia, must be given a piece of the redevelopment action. Bush and his party do not want to make this concession because these folks stiffed us in the run-up to war. But it's time to get over all that.
The post-World War II problem needs to be addressed. In 1945, Americans were faced with the dilemma of how to constructively involve former Nazis, many of whom had the skills to solve Germany's massive post-war problems. It's worth mentioning that much of America's rocket development program came to be run by ex-Nazis.
Iraqis must be "encouraged" to express appreciation publicly. Impatient Americans need to be made to feel appreciated if they are to "stay the course."
I'd even advise Bush to begin work (highly secret work) on an exit strategy -- just in case. He must have a way, if necessary, to do what Sen. George Aiken argued we should do in Vietnam -- declare victory and go home.
I would advise him to dump his National Security Council director, Condoleezza Rice. As a strategic thinker she makes Sandy Berger look like Metternich, and that's tough to do.
He should fire George Tenet, who has played the good-soldier routine to his advantage while watching the CIA morale sink to new lows.
Even though the military hates Rumsfeld and Capitol Hill is fed up with him, Rummy should stay. He remains a voice for reform in the Pentagon, where it's badly needed. No one following him would go near that tough issue. Moreover, with Cheney gone, Bush will need another lightning rod, and his Defense Secretary is perfect for the job.
Bush's politicos must work to rein in the Republican hard right (evangelicals especially). Iraq can't be turned into a reverse holy war -- even though by doing so, Bush stands to gain some votes.
He had better work hard to support Tony Blair. Should Blair be dumped, the sucking sound you hear will be Bush's Iraq policy going right down the toilet.
Finally, I'd urge him to find and hang out to dry the leaker of Joe Wilson's wife's identity -- the sooner the better. If Bush is to presume to lead a nation, let alone the larger world, he had better be prepared to rise above petty politics, and stonewalling on this issue is as petty as it gets.