Tuesday, December 19, 2006

a very substantial revolution in thinking

(updated below)

1968 secretary of defense clark clifford, speaking in the oscar award-winning 1974 documentary "hearts and minds":

in the beginning of 1968 general westmoreland needed 206,000 more troops. we met hour after hour after hour in the pentagon, and i started in and asked the joint chiefs of staff:

how long do you think that we'll still be in the war?

none of them knew.

do you think that the 206,000 men will be enough?

nobody knew.

well, uh, might we have to send more men?

well, possibly.

well, in six months?

we don't know.

a year? eighteen months?

i couldn't get answers to these questions. by the end of that four day interrogation i was getting down by the end of it, into very serious questions. like:

do any of you men, as you look at it objectively, do you find any diminution in the will of the enemy to fight?

well, they said, no, we guess we don't.

are they sending the same number of men down through the ho chi minh trail?

well, yes, and even there might be a little more.

and, how about our bombing? we've placed great reliance on our bombing, is our bombing stopping them?

no.

well, what is the amount of attrition that our bombing has caused?

well, maybe ten to fifteen percent.

i remember asking one question: well, if a north vietnamese field commander in south vietnam needed 1000 men, [ inaudible ], if he asked for say, 1200 men, 1000 would get through?

well, that's right.

well, then he'd have the 1000 he really needed.

well yes, that's so.

well, this type of interrogation — finally, by the end of four or five days, i must say that my thinking had undergone a very substantial revolution.

at that moment in 1968 it was the joint chiefs who were pushing to further escalate the war — today, in a curious historical reversal of roles, it's only the white house and their dwindling enablers who are trying to justify a "surge" in iraq, to the unanimous consternation of the chiefs and a very disapproving public.

if the iraq study group report did nothing to impede the prosecution of the occupation — much less revolutionize the thinking of the president — at the very least it seems to have finally taken any talk of "victory" from his smirking lips.

(hat tip to steve gilliard and in particular to his commenter bohica for the life cover.)

update (12/20/06):

president bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the united states is not winning the war in iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" u.s. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists.

as he searches for a new strategy for iraq, bush has now adopted the formula advanced by his top military adviser to describe the situation. "we're not winning, we're not losing," bush said in an interview with the washington post. the assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the november elections, declared, "absolutely, we're winning."

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