In Defense of Donald Rumsfeld
He knows we're at war and acts accordingly. He's frank, arrogant, bossy, mean. He's not a politician. He was one of the early few who realized we faced a new kind of threat. He championed a transformation of the military out of its Cold War sumo posture into a lighter, faster, smarter force more suited for global anti-terrorist whack-a-mole. Swift takedowns of the Taliban and Saddam followed. And since then the US military has done an outstanding job policing and rebuilding, helping locals who have known nothing but war and oppression for decades.
Of course the fighting and dying continues. Why? There are many reasons but the jihadis and their bigoted totalitarian ideology surely eclipse the other factors. If you're going to blame Rumsfeld and not acknowledge the history of Iraq, the goals or actions of the jihadis, or others who are just as much or more to blame, then you'll get an argument from me.
Rumsfeld asserted strong civilian control over the military, challenging entrenched interests of both the military and the defense industry. It surely made him lots of enemies. In spite of his abrupt departure it's hard to imagine him ever betraying his president or his country like so many others have.
What motivates a man in his twilight years to endure the kind of stress it takes to serve at such a level? Imagine your job 24/7 is to outthink the Islamofacists, the Norks, the Chicoms, and a zillion lesser threats, given crappy intel, constantly hounded by a host of pacifists and backseat quarterbacks who harp on costs then decry shortages, and who think we should listen to retired Generals but not the current leadership. Most of us would be curled in a fetal position sucking our thumb within a week.
So for what is Rummy to blame? Every stupid thing subordinates many levels down and thousands of miles do? The failure of Iraqi politicians to rise above petty rivalries and appreciate the values of liberty and democracy more quickly? Implacable religious zealotry?
If any part of the US government has blown it over the last few decades it's intel. From the failure to forsee the Soviet collapse, to Jamie Gorelick's infamous wall, to George Tenet's WMD "slam dunk", to the habitual leaks aimed at undermining their boss. They're probably doing something right, they just can't tell us about it.
Then there's State. Vietnam taught Powell his Doctrine, the key to which is overwhelming force. This surely was a sore point between him and Rumsfeld, whose preference tends toward light and surgical, but Powell's job was State not Defense. It was Powell's job to convince Turkey to let the 4th Infantry enter Iraq from the north. He blew it. As swift and decisive as the invasion was it could have been swifter and more decisive. It was Powell's job to convince Iran and Syria and the Saudis to police their borders.
Powell's celebrated Pottery Barn wisdom - you break it you buy it - overlooks the fact that Iraq and the most of the Middle East has been broken for a very long time. The US and its allies have sent far too much money there for far too long. Mostly to the wrong people.
If Rumsfeld is accountable for the ongoing insurgency in Iraq then those who continue to hold out the juicy carrot of US
Dynamic as he was Rumsfeld just couldn't transform a well-oiled death-dealing infrastructure-busting machine into a police-training school-building democracy-lifesupport system fast enough. How can any readymix democracy be expected to withstand such an influx of men and money from across the Islamic world intended not to help but to disrupt? Is this Rumsfeld's fault? Please. If George Tenet rates a Medal of Freedom, Rummy rates five.