Monday, August 29, 2005

Sympathy for Brooks; Defense of Krepinevich

Yesterday, in an effort to be kind to David Brooks, I referred to his column on "Winning in Iraq" as "a very good column." I liked that his column was based on Andrew Krepinevich's article on "How to Win in Iraq," which I consider an honest effort to develop a strategy that, unlike the current approach, holds some prospect for succeeding.

Two estimable bloggers, Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, disagree. Both focus on Brooks's statement that:
For fear of straining the armed forces, the military brass have conducted this campaign with one eye looking longingly at the exits.

DeLong asserts that:
David Brooks's attempt to shove responsibility from the Bushies to the military is indeed the most idiotic thing I've seen this month.

I don't see it that way. Prior to his statement about the military brass, Brooks sets the context by asserting that:

the U.S. didn't adopt this blindingly obvious strategy because it violates some of the key Rumsfeldian notions about how the U.S. military should operate in the 21st century.

Doesn't sound like giving a pass to the Bushies. I see the fact that our military brass has conducted the campaign with one eye on the exits as being forced by the Bush administration-- by the fact of Rumsfeldian doctrine and deliberate constraints on resources (remember, Rumsfeld spent the years before the Iraq War trying to cut back the Army), and by the Bush administration's assumption that we would just turn over Iraq to Chalabi and get out within months. Brooks could have stated this point more explicitly, but I think it's too much to accuse him of shifting all of the blame to the military.

Yglesias states further that Brooks's column "actually offers the definitive refutation" to Krepinevich.

It's nice to point out that if America's capacities were much larger than they actually are, that if we used those capacities cleverly we could do all kinds of stuff, but what does it really mean at the end of the day? Not much, as far as I can see.

This is unfair. While there are legitimate criticisms to be made of Krepinevich's article, it is not the case that his proposal is based on having larger military capacities. Krepinevich actually argues that his strategy would allow us to get by with a slightly smaller force immediately, and to draw down further over time. Is he right? Citizen Cain doesn't know. But Krepinevich's proposal does not assume larger forces, nor is part of a campaign to shift blame away from the Bush administration.