Rumsfeld Called for Change in War Plan

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2006

Two days before he resigned from the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House a classified memo recommending "a major adjustment" in Iraq strategy and acknowledging slow progress there.

"Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough," Rumsfeld wrote in the Nov. 6 memo.

Rumsfeld has made similar comments in public about insufficient progress in Iraq, both before and immediately after his resignation on Nov. 8.

But the defense secretary's unusually expansive memo also laid out a series of 21 possible courses of action regarding Iraq strategy, including many that would transform the U.S. occupation.

Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the revelation of the memo would undercut any attempt by President Bush to defend anything resembling a "stay the course" policy in Iraq.

"When you have the outgoing secretary of defense, the main architect of Bush's policy, saying it's failing, that puts a lot more pressure on Bush," he said.

The memo makes clear that Rumsfeld understood acutely the political implications of changing strategy.

"Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis," he wrote in one of the bulleted options. "This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not 'lose.' "

He next advised: "Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) -- go minimalist."

Similarly, Rumsfeld advocated announcing "a set of benchmarks" for the Iraqi government -- "to get them moving," he added parenthetically, as well as to "reassure" the U.S. public that progress can be made.

The existence of the memo was first reported last night by the New York Times, which posted it on its Web site. The Pentagon confirmed the memo's authenticity.

Asked about the memo, White House spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said: "The president has said he's been dissatisfied with the progress in Iraq, so the right thing to do is reevaluate our tactics. There are a number of reviews underway, and the president is open to listening to a wide array of options."

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