Just back from Baghdad and eager to discuss promising developments, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice found herself knocked off message Sunday, forced to defend prewar planning and troop levels against an unlikely critic _ Colin Powell, her predecessor at the State Department.
He said he advised Bush before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 to send more troops to Iraq, but that the administration did not follow his recommendation.
"I made the case to General Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld before the president that I was not sure we had enough troops," Powell said in an interview on Britain's ITV television. "The case was made, it was listened to, it was considered. ... A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate."
Hindsight is always 20/20. Powell has always been cautious - he was in 1991 and he was in 2002. Rumsfeld and General Franks are not what I would consider to be cautious people. Intelligent, yes (though I suspect one or two of my readers would disagree with me on this). But not cautious. Bold would be a better descriptive term.
The responsibilities of the President are not ones I would ever want nor would I wish them on another. The decisions that must be made and the issues that must be faced are overwhelming for me to think about, even as an everyday citizen. I do not envy any person who stands in that position.
That being said, let's look at a few variables. Following the end of the Cold War, our military was drawn down SIGNIFICANTLY. In 2002, we were havily involved in Afghanistan, worried about Kim Jong "mentally" Il in North Korea, and planning to deal with Iraq as well as still recovering from 9/11. To say we were "busy" would be quite an understatement. Would we have been ABLE to send 500,000 troops to Iraq?
I remember reading General Franks' book and the part in which he discussed the debate over how many troops to send and the considerations that led to the decision. Someone correct me if I'm wrong (I've since returned the book to the library and can't verify this) but he talked about the logistical concerns - how would we get our troops INTO Iraq without putting them at risk due to the bottlenecking that would take place (keep in mind, we didn't have the allies set up in the same manner as Dester Storm and therefore didn't have as idea of a staging area). There was a tough decision to be made there - whether to risk our troops during the build up in order to mass an overwhelming amount of force that they were not sure would even be needed. TOUGH CALL.
Remember, thanks to previous administrations (Republican and Democrat alike) our intel had been seriously hampered and we were just beginning to see the consequences of those intel issues. We had little idea as to the nature of the insurgency that we would face. Was this President Bush's failure? Was it Donald Rumsfeld's failure? General Franks'? Or was it something bigger for which no one person can be held responsible?
Monday morning arm chair quarterbacking is an easy sport. Even the least informed and least educated people in this country can do it. And, as in Colin Powell's case, even some of the MOST informed and educated people can too. Everything is a learning opportunity.