Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rumsfeld was incompetent over Iraq, er, we know

There is a bit of a furore over comments in the biography of the former head of the British Army, General Sir Michael Jackson, that the US in general, and Donald Rumsfeld in particular, got it wrong in planning the post-war period in Iraq. It is astonishing that this even constitutes news, much less causes excitement. Everyone knows that the invasion and its aftermath were badly planned at a strategic level and that war-fighting and reconstruction were not joined up at a tactical level. The manifest failures of then Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld have been itemised and dissected, from his obsession with airpower and so-called 'light' ground forces, to his refusal to put more troops on the ground. The complete absence of realistic post-war planning and the creation of a security vacuum by disbanding the Iraqi army and police with anything to replace them are matters of record, not revelation. That anyone thinks General Jackson's views are particularly significant at this point in time is a surprise. It was a screw-up, we know, and while there is always some virtue in historical analysis, this is not adding much to the public body of knowledge on the Iraqi war.

General Jackson's book is being serialised in the Telegraph, and I look forward to reading the bits where he agreed that disbanding infantry battalions while the army was fighting two wars was a good idea or where he allowed the army's transport helicopter support to shrink down to the current derisory level. Maybe he can explain why our troops are still using landrovers that were designed for Northern Ireland in Iraq and Afghanistan when those vehicles offer almost no protection against modern weapons.

Rumsfeld was certainly incompetent, but he wasn't the only one.

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