Friday, March 31, 2006

Condi Admits Incompetence

Well, not as such. In the course of admitting to 'thousands' of unspecified errors in the administration's Iraq War policies, Condi claims that those errors are 'strategic' rather than fundamental. Ivan Eland has 10 more concrete examples she might wish to peruse.



Blogger Management said...

By Gideon Long and Sue PlemingFri Mar 31, 10:03 AM ET

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted on Friday the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein.

Local Muslims and anti-war activists told Rice to "Go Home" when British counterpart Jack Straw earlier led her on a tour of his home town of Blackburn in the industrial northwest, an area which rarely plays host to overseas politicians.

"Yes, I know we have made tactical errors, thousands of them," she said in answer to a question over whether lessons had been learned since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"I believe strongly that it was the right strategic decision, that Saddam had been a threat to the international community long enough," she added.

Earlier, about 250 protesters gathered outside a school which Rice visited, waving placards urging her to go home and shouting as her motorcade arrived.

Many of them were locals from Straw's constituency of Blackburn, a former cotton town with a 20 percent Muslim population. Straw invited Rice to the area after he toured her home state of Alabama last year.

Protesters had already persuaded a mosque in the town to withdraw its invitation to her.

"The Muslim population is very angry. She's not welcome in Blackburn," said Suliman, one of the demonstrators outside Pleckgate school, where Rice met young pupils.

"How many lives per gallon?" asked one of the placards held aloft, in reference to the U.S. invasion of oil-rich Iraq which many Britons opposed.

During a visit to a Student Council meeting at the school, Rice was asked whether she was upset by the demonstrators.

"Oh, it's OK, people have a right to protest and a right to make their views known," Rice told the teenage student.

"Each individual all over the world has the God-given right to express themselves. I'm not just going to visit places where people agree with me. That would be really unfortunate."


Rice delivered her speech alongside Straw in the somewhat incongruous setting of Blackburn Rovers' soccer stadium, where she was given a Number 10 jersey from one of England's teams.

She arrived in Britain late on Thursday from Paris and, before that, Berlin, where she discussed the next steps in dealing with Iran's nuclear program with officials from Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China.

Rice said she supported Straw's view that sanctions should be considered against Iran if it does not comply with calls to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"Iran is going to have to make a choice... accept a way to the development of civil nuclear power... or face deeper isolation," said Rice.

While Rice and Straw both had tough words to say about Iran, they expressed sympathy for the victims of an earthquake which killed at least 66 people in the west of the country.

"(It's) very shocking, with what seems to be a large loss of life," Straw said during a visit to a Britain Aerospace factory where the United States and Britain are involved in a joint project for fighter aircraft.

Rice's trip is expected to be heavy on photo opportunities and light on discussion, as was Straw's trip to the American south in October.

It will give Rice a chance to indulge her passion for The Beatles. She was due later to travel to Liverpool where she will attend a concert and visit a performing arts center founded by former Beatle Paul McCartney.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Top Ten Mistakes the Bush Administration Is Repeating from Vietnam
by Ivan Eland

Because the Bush administration, almost from the start, has eschewed any comparison of Iraq with Vietnam, officials apparently never read the history of the nation’s heretofore worst war and have made the same 10 major mistakes:

1. Underestimating the enemy. As in Vietnam, the superpower’s potent military has been astounded by the tenacity and competence of a nationalist rebellion attempting to throw a foreign occupier from its soil. For example, the U.S. military, a hierarchical organization, views the Sunni insurgency as disorganized and without a central command structure. Yet the insurgents are using this decentralized structure very effectively and are not threatened by any U.S. decapitation strike to severely wound the rebellion by killing its leaders.

2. Deceiving the American public about how badly the war is going. President Bush continues to talk of victory, and his chief military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, argued that the United States was making “very, very good progress” just two days before the more credible U.S. ambassador to Iraq warned that a civil war was possible in Iraq. President Lyndon Johnson painted an excessively rosy picture of U.S. involvement in Vietnam until the massive communist Tet offensive against the south in 1968 created a “credibility gap” in the public mind. The U.S. and South Vietnamese militaries successfully beat back the offensive, but the war was lost politically because the U.S. government lost the confidence of its own citizens. The Bush administration has fallen into the same trap by trying to “spin” away bad news from Iraq. Polls ominously indicate that Bush’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the American public has plummeted more than 20 points since September of 2003 to 40 percent.

3. The Bush administration, like the Johnson and Nixon administrations, blames the media’s negative coverage for plunging popular support of the war. Yet the nature of the press is that it would rather cover extraordinary negative events, such as fires and plane crashes, than more mundane positive developments. Vietnam demonstrated that normal media coverage of mistakes in war could undermine the war effort. The Bush administration should have expected such predictable media coverage.

4. Artificial government statistics cannot be used to measure progress in a counterinsurgency war. In Vietnam, the body counts of North Vietnamese/Viet Cong were always much greater than U.S./South Vietnamese deaths. Lately, the Bush administration has touted that fewer U.S. personnel are dying in Iraq. But U.S. forces have been pulled back from the fight to reduce U.S. casualties and to train Iraqi forces. In guerilla warfare, despite unfavorable statistics, as long as the insurgents keep an army in the field, they can win as the foreign invader tires of the occupation.

5. The initial excessive use of force in counterinsurgency warfare instead of a plan to win hearts and minds. The U.S. military, since the days of U.S. Grant, has used superior firepower to win wars of attrition against its enemies. In Vietnam, the U.S. military used such tactics initially, but later adopted a softer counterinsurgency strategy only after it was too late. The Bush administration initially blasted towns like Falluja into rubble and only now, in an attempt to reduce support for the guerillas among the already angry population, is converting to a strategy aimed at winning Iraqi hearts and minds.

6. Failed “search and destroy” tactics belatedly gave way to the “inkblot” approach of clearing and holding ground. In both Vietnam and Iraq, after search and destroy missions, enemy fighters merely returned to areas when “victorious” U.S. forces left. But not enough U.S. forces are in Iraq to make the “clear and hold” method work.

7. “Iraqization” of the war parallels the unsuccessful “Vietnamization” in the 1970s. The Nixon administration never fully explained how the less capable South Vietnamese military could defeat the insurgency when the powerful U.S. military had failed. The same problem exists in Iraq.

8. As in Vietnam, there has been no “date certain” for withdrawal of U.S. forces. President Bush recently implied that U.S. forces would be in Iraq when the next president takes office. Such an indefinite commitment of U.S. forces convinces more Iraqis that the United States is an occupier that needs to be resisted.

9. Retention of incompetent policymakers. Lyndon Johnson retained Robert McNamara, the inept architect of the Vietnam strategy, as Secretary of Defense until McNamara himself turned against his own war. Bush has kept the bungling Donald Rumsfeld on too long in the same position.

10. Most important of all, starting a war with another country for concocted reasons, which did not hold up under scrutiny. Lyndon Johnson used a questionable alleged attack by Vietnamese patrol boats on a U.S. destroyer to escalate U.S. involvement in a backwater country that was hardly strategic to the United States. Bush exaggerated the dangers from Iraqi weapons programs and implied an invented link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. In a republic, the lack of a compelling rationale for sending men to die in a distant war can be corrosive for the morale of the troops and public support back home.

The Bush administration is now suffering for its shocking failure to learn the lessons of the tragedy of Vietnam.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Oh, but she didn't really mean it!

Rice: Don't take Iraq errors 'literally'
U.S. secretary of state visits England amid anti-war protests

BLACKBURN, England (CNN) -- One day after Condoleezza Rice said the United States made possibly "thousands" of tactical mistakes in the war against Iraq, the secretary of state says she was speaking "figuratively, not literally."

About 300 protesters -- most of them upset about the war in Iraq -- and two dozen supporters greeted Rice outside the town hall in Blackburn, the home of her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The two faced reporters at midday after attending a multi-faith service at Blackburn Cathedral and meeting with the city's Muslim leaders. About 20 percent of Blackburn's population is Muslim.

In a speech Friday at an event organized by the Chatham House think tank, Rice said, "I am quite certain there are going to be dissertations written about the mistakes of the Bush administration."

"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," she said. "But when you look back in history what will be judged on is" whether the "right strategic decision" was made.

On Saturday, a reporter asked Rice to give examples of the mistakes.

"First of all, I meant it figuratively, not literally. Let me be very clear about that. I wasn't sitting around counting," she replied. "The point I was making to the questioner ... is that, of course, if you've ever made decisions, you've undoubtedly made mistakes.

"The important thing is to get the big strategic decisions right, and that I am confident that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for peace and for democracy is the right decision."

"The other point I was making to the questioner is that I'm enough of a historian to know that things that looked brilliant at the moment turn out in historical perspective to be mistakes, and the things that look like mistakes turn out to have been right decisions."

Rice, who has been dogged by protesters over the past two days, denied that they have drowned out her messages, and repeated that the right to protest is fundamental in a democracy.

"Indeed, I've been very warmly welcomed. I've also noticed the people waving along the streets, I've noticed the considerable gathering of people from Blackburn, just on the other side of the demonstrations. I'm hearing their voices equally clearly and equally well," she said.

Straw also downplayed the demonstrations, including one in Liverpool Friday night that drew about 1,500 outside the city's Philharmonic Concert Hall.

A singer at the concert dedicated a song to the demonstrators, sang John Lennon's "Imagine" and gave an impromptu rendition of his "Give Peace A Chance."

"I'm not embarrassed in the least," Straw said of the demonstrations.

He drew laughter from the reporters when he added, "as for the size of the crowds, I've been on plenty of demonstrations in my life -- well maybe a few years ago -- but I've not forgotten what is a big crowd and what is a small crowd -- and that was not a big crowd" in Liverpool.

Rice was expected to return to Liverpool later Saturday.

-- CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

9:25 PM  

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