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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Do You Believe In Magic?

We can find a number of stories that echo the same theme presented in the NY Times on March 3:

The Pentagon ordered about 60,000 more troops to the region, bringing to over 250,000 the number of American forces deployed on land, sea and at airfields within striking distance of Iraq, officials said today. That has long been considered a magic number — the quarter-million troops the military would like in place before any invasion begins.

Check for yourself, but the news services feeling the magic included the BBC, CNN, ABC News, and an NBC affiliate.

Yet today, we have a hand-wringer from Maureen Dowd worrying (among many other things) that we did not send enough troops, and that our supply lines are stretched. Mickey Kaus notes these fears, which seem to have been inspired by Ralph Peters, retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, and, of course, Josh Marshall.

Please. There is an old legislative dictum (Russell Long?) which runs as "never support a bill that passes; never oppose a bill that fails". As in any well-functioning bureaucracy, every Pentagon planner knows the importance of protecting the rear area - the principle is described as "CYA". It was pre-ordained that, as soon as the Iraqi plan was approved, whatever it was, the survival minded types inside the Pentagon were obliged to alert their friends in Congress, the press, and the old-boy network to every conceivable caveat buried in the fine print.

So now, 250,000 is not the magic number. Never was, in fact. What could Rumsfeld have been thinking?

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