Leaking memos has become quite the thing in Washington. The purpose seems to be to show that policymakers are not as out of touch as their public pronouncements paint them. It is a way to admit through various linguistic somersaults that something may not be going quite right in Iraq without giving up on the pipedream of success there. Rumsfeld’s November 6 memo is his second effort writing in this genre. The “long slog” was his first. To be charitable to him, Rumsfeld has an unusual style, so unusual in fact that it needs translation. This is a task I am cheerfully willing to do.
So here is the memo with a few edits and my translations between the brackets [ ].
SUBJECT: Iraq — Illustrative [Shiny] New Courses of Action The situation in Iraq has been [d]evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations [the invasion] to counterterrorism [a few deadenders], to counterinsurgency [the insurgency], to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence [the civil war]. In my view it is time for a major adjustment [new strategy]. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough [or at all]. Following is a range [laundry list, as I believe Stephen Hadley called them] of options [ideas that do not amount to a strategy]:
ILLUSTRATIVE [SHINY] OPTIONS
Above the Line [Glass half full options]: (Many of these options could and, in a number of cases, should be done in combination with others) [Most also look better after one or two drinks. But seriously, some are flatly contradictory like increasing and decreasing troop levels.]
Publicly announce a set of benchmarks [timetables].
Significantly increase U.S. trainers and embeds, and transfer more U.S. equipment to Iraqi Security forces (ISF) [arm the Shia], to further accelerate their capabilities by refocusing the assignment of some significant portion of the U.S. troops currently in Iraq [Redeploy to super bases. See Baker-Hamilton ISG for details].
Initiate a reverse embeds program [use Iraqi translators to help our troops talk to Iraqis: a truly revolutionary concept after 3 1/2 years].
Aggressively beef up the Iraqi MOD[efense] and MOI[nterior] . . . by reaching out to [pleading with] U.S. military retirees and Reserve/National Guard volunteers (i.e., give up on trying to get other USG Departments to do it.) [Yes, but what about Blackwell and KBR? Promise travel to exotic places and business opportunities in a sunny clime.]
Conduct an accelerated draw-down of U.S. bases. We have already reduced from 110 to 55 bases. Plan to get down to 10 to 15 bases by April 2007, and to 5 bases by July 2007. [Redeploy to super bases, see above.]
Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq [Use the Air Force and Special Forces, instead of the Army and the Marines]
Initiate an approach where U.S. forces provide security only for those provinces or cities that openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate, with the stipulation being that unless they cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave their province. [Yes, he actually said this. So to all insurgents and builders of safe havens who wanted us to leave, all you needed to do was ask. Sheesh.]
Stop rewarding bad behavior, as was done in Fallujah [We were too soft there.] . . . As the old saying goes, “If you want more of something, reward it; if you want less of something, penalize it.” No more reconstruction assistance in areas where there is violence. [In other words, no more money for reconstruction, period.]
Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government. [Use millions of non-existent troops to guard a thousand miles of open border]
Withdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions [Leave Iraq. OK, he probably meant more of this redeploy to super bases stuff.]
Begin modest withdrawals of U.S. and Coalition forces (start “taking our hand off the bicycle seat”), so Iraqis know they have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country. [All I could get out of this is that it is apparently important to wear socks while riding a bike. Not sure of the applicability but still good to know.]
Provide money [bribes] to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult [awful] period.
Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it. [This could mean basketball teams or an army. The context is not clear]
Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not “lose.” [This is the standard “sanity clause” if you remember your Marx Brothers movies.]
Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist. [Examples of the minimalist approach: How are things going in Iraq? No comment. Do we have an army in Iraq? No comment. How many Americans died last week? No comment.]
Below the Line (less attractive options)[Glass half empty options]:
Continue on the current path. Descent into darkness]
Move a large fraction of all U.S. Forces into Baghdad to attempt to control it. [Move a lot of our troops into Baghdad, not control it, and lose the country in the process.]
Increase Brigade Combat Teams and U.S. forces in Iraq substantially. [Send in all those troops that don’t exist not just to the borders but throughout the country. Since they don’t exist, we can send in as many as we want where we want, also known as the McCain Plan.]
Set a firm withdrawal date to leave. Declare that with Saddam gone and Iraq a sovereign nation, the Iraqi people can govern themselves. Tell Iran and Syria to stay out. [Note: This option is simply too ridiculous to translate and I will not insult your intelligence by doing so.]
Assist in accelerating an aggressive federalism [partition] plan, moving towards three separate states — Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. [We’ll throw in the regional war for free.]
Try a Dayton-like process. [If this doesn’t work, use the direct Cincinnati method. In rare cases, Cleveland may be needed but should be used with caution.]