Our Secret Weapon: The French!


So says deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz in explaining why the Army chief of staff is so wrong about the number of U.S. troops that will be needed to occupy Iraq.

Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress the other day that a couple hundred thousand men would be needed to secure Iraq. Wolfowitz and his boss, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, say that is nuts. No more than 100,000 will do the job.

Wolfowitz asserted that eventually even the French will come around to help rebuild Iraq. He also claimed that unlike the Balkans, there is no evidence that ethnic groups inside Iraq will go after each other as soon as Saddam is gone. Finally, Wolfowitz is quite certain the Iraqi people will embrace a short-term U.S. occupation.

Now even if you think Wolfowitz is some sort of strategic genius, you must admit he is just making stuff up. He has no evidence one way or another on these points and is simply choosing to go with the best possible scenario. Shinseki went with worst-case planning. Here's where things get dangerous.

The last time a cadre of smartest-guy-in-the-room civilians brushed aside uniformed opinion with such obvious disdain Robert McNamara's Detroit whiz kids were certain keeping rice paddies free of punji sticks was just a few slide-rule tics away.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld are so close now—mere weeks—to the prize that they aren't going to let inconvenient facts get in the way. The only open question is which one used to be named Merkwurkdigliebe.