by Franz Schurmann
long-rumored factional struggle in the White House over Iraq has now
On Monday, March 31, the Washington Post spilled the beans and, within hours, media throughout the world buzzed with excitement. The Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper, Lianhe Zaobao, on April 1 summed it up: "Rumsfeld finished, Powell moving up."
A China-based paper, the "Henan Daily," was not so sure. It wondered, "Powell and the 'Iron Triangle' (Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) don't get along -- which will Bush pick?" The answer will likely come over the next weeks. The factional struggle is in part over Rumsfeld's tactics to gain victory. Rumsfeld believes that massive airpower can win, while his opponent Powell doesn't think so. The Chinese and Russian media also are skeptical.
The Henan Daily writes the Americans have "too few ground soldiers, their casualty rates are rising, Iraqi soldiers are not deserting and civilians not hailing the GIs." And the Russian daily Pravda writes, "Judging from the evidence, the coalition still doesn't fully control any cities, including small towns like the port Um-Qasr."
If it's true that the coalition has not yet really brought any city or town under its total control, then it's unlikely it can easily take Baghdad, with its 5 million inhabitants. In fact, when American forces started attacking Saddam international airport, Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz was talking to an Italian television team. In the German issue of the London-based Financial Times, Jamie Lowther and Charlie McGrath, like many media people, find something fishy going on in Iraq. They even wonder whether the Iraqis laid out a scenario the British and Americans are following.
The odds are that Rumsfeld might lose, even if Bush proclaims victory. During the last two weeks, Powell was out of sight. But now he reappears prominently, doing what he does best: real coalition-building. His quick visit to Turkey, followed by trips to Serbia and NATO's Brussels headquarters, seem mainly to show the world that once again Powell is up front on Bush's team.
The chief actors in these struggles are the Pentagon visionaries, the State Department internationalists and high-ranking military officers in the Pentagon. In the Bush administration, the visionaries have always preached their grand design not only for Iraq but also for rearranging the entire Middle East. Their opponents were the internationalists, especially Secretary of State Colin Powell. But as wars once again threatened, the American military got more and more concerned about defense and foreign policies.
Traditionally, relations between the military and the diplomats were at best polite. But as the visionaries began to gain significant influence within the Bush White House, the brass felt edged out of Oval Office deliberations. When Rumsfeld began to preach his plans for slimmed-down manpower with increased high-tech weaponry, the brass became increasingly disturbed. Their disturbance boiled over some weeks before the war began, in a public quarrel between Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Shinseki felt that 700,000 ground troops were needed to take Baghdad, while Wolfowitz argued 100,000 were enough. Colin Powell, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Gulf War, had used 500,000 troops to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
The Shinseki-Wolfowitz clash made minor waves. But when, to everybody's surprise, the Iraqi soldiers and civilians, instead of welcoming their liberators, responded to them by guerrilla warfare, the clash between the brass and the intellectuals exploded. The visionaries, led by Donald Rumsfeld, had brought about a hitherto unthinkable alliance between State Department and the Pentagon.
It seems the visionaries would be satisfied if they could verify that Saddam Hussein had been killed in an air raid. The military and the diplomats want the war to end as soon as possible. But President Bush said he wants nothing short of victory, and also that the war could go on for a long time. He is clearly trying to satisfy both wings of the factional struggle.
But the Washington Post article marks a significant tilt away from the Rumsfeld camp. The story did much harm to the Iron Triangle, but little to Bush or Powell. At some point after Bush proclaims "victory," either Rumsfeld or Powell will resign. The following quote suggests it won't be Powell.
At the end of the Post piece, Powell is quoted as telling NPR, "When war comes, (casualties are) the price that has to be paid. And (it's) paid not by intellectuals, but by wonderful young Americans who serve their country and believe in the cause for which they are serving." Powell denied he took a jab at Wolfowitz.
In a popularity poll taken some months ago, Powell came out first, with over 80 percent approval. Next April, the presidential re-election race will already be in full swing. And the Iraq war will be a key issue. Rumsfeld has to pull a decisive victory rabbit out of his hat, and that cannot take the form of a repentant Saddam Hussein. So chances are that a year from now he'll be out of office and forgotten.
April 3, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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