Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 4, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

WISHFUL THINKING....As I was Googling links for the post below, I came across this Eric Schmitt article for the New York Times from last February. In retrospect, it is nothing less than mind boggling, and a salutary reminder of what the administration was really telling us nine months ago. Here are some excerpts:

Mr. Wolfowitz...opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year.

....."The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark," Mr. Rumsfeld said....A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate.

....In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo.

He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

....Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. "I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact," Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high....Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.

100,000 troops should be enough. Occupation costs will be low. Oil exports will amount to $15 billion or more. There's no ethnic strife in Iraq. Iraqis will welcome an American liberation force. Other countries even France! will see the light and help out after the war is over.

Schmitt's entire story is less than a thousand words long. It hardly seems possible to pack so much wishful thinking into such a small space.

And these guys are still in charge.

Kevin Drum 10:21 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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