Rummy's Bright Ideas -- No, Really - Rolling Stone
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Rummy’s Bright Ideas — No, Really

The leaking of Donald Rumsfeld’s “New Courses of Action” memo has the lefty chattering classes abuzz with cries of”Even Rumsfeld Knows We Have to Change the Course.”

It’s indeed comforting that Rumsfeld now lists “continue on the current path” as a “below the line” option.

But getting less serious attention are his “above the line” suggestions — a number of which are worthy of honest debate and a lot more intriguing than anything we’ve yet heard from the Baker Commision.

Initiate a massive program for unemployed youth. It would have to be run by U.S. forces, since no other organization could do it.

Newt Gingrich was on CSPAN the other night suggesting something similar, in Newt’s case a full-on New Deal style, U.S.-funded Works Progress Administration for young disaffected Iraqis.

Despite its proponents, this is a damn good idea. Make the continued American presence synonymous with jobs and oportunities instead of just tanks and checkpoints. We’re already squandering billions in Iraq, why not spend some of it buying good will and giving young Iraqis something worth living for?

Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.

Again, expensive, but anything that helps ward off catastrophic failure will look cheap 20 years from now. I don’t think we can seriously hope to just buy our way out of this disaster, but giving the warring factions a financial stake in pursuing a political solution just might make it more attractive than the nihilism of civil war and ethnic cleansing. Or am I dreaming?

Position substantial U.S. forces near the Iranian and Syrian borders to reduce infiltration and, importantly, reduce Iranian influence on the Iraqi Government.

It’s criminal that this hasn’t been done already. I doubt this will do much to reduce the sway of Demascus and Tehran, but at the very least such a strategy should help keep the chaos of an imploding Iraq cabined inside its national borders.

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.

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.

Signaling a light at the end of the tunnel to Operation Enduring Occupation would play well in Iraq and at home.

Rummy suggests a number of other sound sounding ideas — increasing the number of U.S. embeds with Iraqi Security Forces, and vice versa — as well as some questionable ones — cutting off reconstruction funds to violent provinces. But at least these are honest ideas.

I hate that the national debate about Iraq has been reduced to two simple and terrible solutions:”Stay the course” and”Redeploy, and let Allah sort it out.”

I think Biden’s partition plan deserves serious debate. And I’d like to know why Rummy places both that and “a Dayton-like process” (referring to the accords that helped end the war in the Balkans) as “below-the-line” options.

John McCain is right about one thing: the consequences of a failed state in Iraq would be catastrophic almost beyond imagining, both for U.S. interests and the Iraqis. But Bush’s current plan fits Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Bring on the ideas. We’re in desperate need of a few great ones.

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