When America’s foremost political pundit and spokesman for the powerful Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Tom Friedman, says it’s time to reinstate the draft, we should all pay attention. Friedman’s comments appeared in his June 15 column where he reiterated his past predictions that the war in Iraq was still “winnable” if we “do it right.” What’s needed, Friedman postulates, is to “double the boots on the ground and redouble the diplomatic effort to bring in the Sunnis.”
“Double the boots on the ground”?
Sounds like the draft to me.
Tom is no fool; he realizes he won’t change the minds of Americans who’ve already soured on the war. A recent Gallop poll indicates that a whopping 59% of Americans are already sick of Iraq and want to see the troops withdrawn. Friedman’s missive is directed to the slender 10% minority (according to Gallup) who think that we should increase the number of troops. Presumably, that figure includes a dwindling number of “die-hard” Bush loyalists as well as the .01% of elites who actually run the country behind the mask of democratic government.
Friedman’s remedy is a straightforward call for a draft. He’s well aware that Iraq will not be “pacified” without a massive commitment of American troops. His logic supports the conclusions of General Shinseki who lost his job by telling Congress that America would need “several hundred thousand troops” to secure the country. Friedman’s reasoning is at loggerheads with the recalcitrant Rumsfeld who admits no mistakes and is determined to continue the current policy despite its disastrous results. Embracing the idea of a draft would be an admission of failure, something that Rumsfeld’s fragile vanity could never endure. This means that we should expect to see a steady decline in morale, severe recruitment problems, and the growing signs of an overextended and fractured military.
Friedman blames our current problems in Iraq on everyone even loosely connected to the fiasco. Republicans are to blame because they think their job is just to “applaud whatever the Bush team does.” Democrats are to blame because they “don’t want the Bush team to succeed.” Iraqis are to blame because they “have not risen to the magnitude of the opportunity before (them)” and because they have not produced a strong and independent leader like (I’m not making this up) “Hamid Karzai.” But the man that Friedman blames more than any other is Donald Rumsfeld. As Friedman sees it, the “core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to invade Iraq on the cheap.” In other words, Friedman has no moral objections to the war; he simply disparages the invasion in terms of its effectiveness in achieving the imperial objectives.
The Defense Secretary initiated what Friedman calls the “Rumsfeld Doctrine”, that is, “just enough troops to lose.” There’s no mention of the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who lost their lives in a needless act of aggression, nor the 1,700 servicemen who died to establish a beachhead in the Middle East for the Bush petrolocracy. Friedman’s only concern is whether the boyish aspirations of global elites are carried out with some measure of success.
Friedman’s article points to the cracks and fissures that are now appearing in the citadels of American power. It’s clear that many in the ruling establishment no longer believe that the blundering Bush clan can win in Iraq. Friedman hasn’t given up, though. Instead, he’s offering a last, desperate solution for pulling the entire debacle out of the embers; the draft.
As the conflict continues to strain America’s resources, we should expect to see even more carping from the powerbrokers who normally prefer to operate behind the scenes. The sudden flourish of front page articles disparaging the conduct of the war as well as the many stories about the Downing Street memo suggest that some elites are getting restless with the degree of incompetence at the Defense Dept. and would like to see a change of leadership. Friedman is the spokesman for this burgeoning group of disenchanted bigwigs.
So far, however, the differences between elites are mainly superficial, as they are between Rumsfeld and Friedman. Increasing troop strength is merely a change in strategy and doesn’t challenge the fundamental principle of colonial rule. Despite the growing unease over the botched occupation, the support for establishing a long-term presence in the region is unwavering. The stakes will have to be raised considerably, posing a direct threat to the men at the top of the political pyramid, before we can expect to see a change in policy.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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