If we do a pomo deconstruction of the contestants, we're not left with much: generals want force, the civilian Rumfeld liked nuance. (And admittedly, had a love for his own concepts.)
The argument for overwhelming force was/is plain: put the insurgency down down down before it starts.
But since Rumsfeld's more nuanced view makes little headway through the clatter, I can only say that I thought this on my own while it was happening:
---Shooting looters would be a very bad idea.
---Shooting before we knew who was whom was also a bad idea.
---It is not self-evident that maintaining Saddam's Ba'athist military in place would have been a good idea either.
I'll borrow a couple points from Victor Davis Hanson out of laziness (omitting the ones I'm not crazy about):
Whatever one's views about needing more troops in 2003-5, few Democratic senators or pundits are now calling for an infusion of 100,000 more Americans into Iraq. While everyone blames the present policy, no one ever suggests that current positive trends — a growing Iraqi security force and decreasing American deaths in March — might possibly be related to the moderate size of the American garrison forces.
So, for every argument offered by "experts," there was just as available a convincing counter-argument — something usually lost on those eager to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle.
More troops might have brought a larger footprint that made peacekeeping easier — but also raised a provocative Western profile in an Islamic country. More troops may have facilitated Iraqization — or, in the style of Vietnam, created perpetual dependency. More troops might have shortened the war and occupation — or made monthly dollar costs even higher, raised casualties, and ensured that eventual troop draw-downs would be more difficult.
More troops just might have set 'em off even more. The polls in Iraq tend to support this proposition. They hate the "humiliation" of the US/UK troops being needed to straighten out their embarrassingly dysfunctional society; neither do they want them to leave.
My own opinion is that as the iron hand faded away, the incomprehensible fratricide of today (suicide bombers in Iraqi shrines and mosques) would have commenced regardless. It was not an avoidable if, only an inevitable when.
I could be wrong, but I also think that there is no way we can have a political, strategic or moral certainty that a different course would have ended up differently. I do not know whether the iron hand or Rumsfeld's velvet glove was the best way, which is why I don't give the post hoc peanut gallery much credence.
I have no patience for Monday morning QBing. There were varying opinions all through the Chiefs of Staff. Rumsfeld, civilian that he is, had the last word, and that's the way we want it.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur called for more troops against the Chinese intervention and an iron hand in the Korean War. Many think he might have been correct, but all must admit he also might have plunged us into global nuclear war. With generals, what you see is what you get.
After MacArthur shot off his mouth in the press, Harry S Truman, our civilian Commander in Chief, bounced him:
"I fired MacArthur because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was..."
Truman, whose poll numbers sank far below where Dubya's are now, in his civilian wisdom, with his velvet glove, might have saved the world. Much as I respect the generals, I'll take my chances with the civilians, even when they're named Donald Rumsfeld.