BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday the war in Iraq has been mismanaged for years and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be remembered as one of the worst in history.
"We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement _ that's the kindest word I can give you _ of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war," the Arizona senator told an overflow crowd of more than 800 at a retirement community near Hilton Head Island, S.C. "The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously."
McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained that Rumsfeld never put enough troops on the ground to succeed in Iraq.
"I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," McCain said to applause.
What I think about McCain or Rumsfeld is irrelevant at this point. To his credit, he has been harping on Rumsfeld for awhile now and this article from 2004 bears that out. This isn't something new. He said then and he still says it now, there aren't enough troops on the ground to complete the mission. What McCain must not do is stop there.
First, let me say that I have no qualms about why we went to war and I have stated many times why. So, let's not re-focus on that for a minute. Supporting the mission as it was first stated was never the issue, but I didn't have a blog back then, so I cannot point back to it. But, trust me when I tell you that when the decision was made, I felt apprehension for a variety of reasons.
What is at issue here is the way the war has been handled. And before any criticism is dealt out, one must understand that there were some serious miscalculations along the way. Not putting enough boots on the ground is just one.
The first and foremost of the mistakes is, not adequately estimating the resistance. It's tough to do, I know. There are no guarantees that any plan will succeed. But when these people had been oppressed for so long at the hands of a brutal dictator, it would seem that someone with an office, desk, and a pen could've taken this into account a little better. You cannot create a power vacuum, when there has been such a brutal power structure in place for years upon end. You just can't expect an oppressed people to react as we think they should and embrace freedom, the way we do.
The second thing is not in the theoretical realm, but in the practical. Because the powers that be thought it'd be somewhat of a cakewalk, we did not properly equip the troops. We had trouble early on and we are still having trouble now. Read this article from the WaPo (courtesy of Mary Ellen).
Thirdly, the Iraqi Army should have never been disbanded. The upper echelon of officers should have been tried and put in jail if they had ordered or committed atrocities; otherwise, they should have been canned immediately and replaced, by promoting from within the remaining ranks.
Fourthly, we have tried to fight a politically correct war. We cannot win the hearts and minds of anyone, when we do not exhibit more might and be less concerned about propaganda from all camps that do not like what we are doing, or trying to do. The truly helpless people won't feel safe, if we do not take the enemy out and make them feel safe. Case in point, letting al-Sadr leave that mosque he was holed up in and not arresting him or killing him. He only had a few hundred followers then, now it estimated that he has over 20,000. And where is he now? In Iran, safe and sound.
And fifth, there should have been more candor about the situation as it became known, and as long as it didn't affect what was going on at the moment. Everything was fine, wasn't getting the job done. Don't get me wrong here, I know it wasn't and still isn't as bad as the MSM makes it sound each and every night on the evening news, but it wasn't and isn't roses either.
Like I said, this is in no way an indictment on the reasons we went to war, which some in the political process are still arguing over. It doesn't question the need for the war, nor does it question the decision. It does question the planning, execution, and to some degree the timing.
What McCain is trying to do here is start the ball rolling in the GOP ranks he's trying to distance himself from the Bush camp by making Rumsfeld the whipping boy. Because to defend the way this has turned out up to this point in the process, would be a major mistake. In fact, it would be nothing short of political suicide. It's going to be a struggle, no matter how it gets rated. But to run on the laurels of those that haven't been able to get the job done before now, would be foolish at best.
And McCain knows it.
Will it succeed? Will the American electorate get behind John McCain?
Dems will say, no. Those that support McCain will say, yes. Those of us that haven't decided will just wait and see. One thing is for sure, just describing the problems will not get the job done. Harping about whether or not we should have gone to war won't do it, either. Solutions have to be offered and proposals will need to be made, before I make any decision on who I will support. And the way I see it, I have a year to decide.