Bummy Rummy a Little Too Chummy?


Give Donald Rumsfeld a lot of credit: Most other recent defense secretaries likely would have gotten the heave-ho or resigned after Abu Ghraib. Rummy instead told Congress, "I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn't be effective." And got this shout-out from the president: "You are doing a superb job….Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude."

However, the latest flaps–including the awful press conference in which he dismissed troops' equipment concerns and the autopen scandal–suggest that Rummy may be running out of string. Lest we forget, Rummy may well have been on the way out prior to 9/11 for angering military brass with smart calls for base closings and a new general strategy stressing a lighter and more mobile military–a call largely vindicated by the success of the invasion of Iraq. Having said that, his performance since the declared end to hostilities in Iraq has been notably less than stellar.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

"I have no confidence in Rumsfeld's leadership," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I think those in the Pentagon, specifically the civilian leadership, failed this country in addressing a post-Saddam Iraq." While Senator Hagel stopped short of calling for Rumsfeld to resign, he said he found it "astounding" that no one at the Pentagon has been held accountable for the poor planning.

Whole thing here.

It's almost unthinkable that anything would change before the elections in Iraq in late January, but it's also the case that Rummy is not exactly helping the cause of late.

NEXT: Is Philip K. Dick Writing for The Onion Now?

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  1. I wouldn’t say that Rummy’s strategy of a smaller, more mobile military was vindicated by Iraq. While it is true that the invasion was swift, it is also true that enormous weapons caches were left ungaurded, as was most of the rear area.
    Invasion must be followed by occupation, and in this regard, the smalller force was not successful. They were not successful because they did not have the manpower they needed.
    To be fair, I must point out that more troops would not necessarily have solved the problem. Iraq, like most of the Middle East, is animated by an intractable combination of fundementalist religion and tribalism. Sheer force of arms can never overcome that sort of animus, and large line units will always be vulnerable to guerilla attacks.
    These are, of course, things that should have been thought of before the invasion.

  2. As I wrote here, “There were 53,000 combat deaths in WWI, 292,131 combat deaths in WWII, 33,651 combat deaths in Korea, 47,369 combat deaths in Vietnam, and 148 combat deaths in Iraq I (source: this). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that at least a few of those defense secretaries relied on stamped signatures on condolence letters.”

    Rumsfeld is a convenient punching bag for the left and conservatives who want to play both sides of the Iraq fence.

    Re: the body armor, yes his on-the-spot performance was dismal, but this and this never made headlines quite so big as the originals.

  3. Predictions of Rumsfeld’s departure are wildly off the mark. His job performance can’t be criticized because he was called by God. The Lord Almighty Himself wanted those prisoners tortured, and the occupation follies are just part of his mysterious plan.

    As much as Rummy deserves to fall, and fall hard, my concern is that he’s being set up as the Iraq scapegoat. True, large chunks of fault can rightly be dropped on his shoulders, but he didn’t act alone. I see Rummy being set up to take all the blame for what was an horrendously ill-conceived foreign policy. There’s a lot of people that need the finger pointed at them, from W. in the White House to Kristol at the Weekly Standard. Something tells me the whole lot of em are gonna get away clean.

  4. Adam,

    Your numbers don’t account for the wounded in the war; keep in mind that 9 out of 10 wounded soldiers is now surviving in Iraq, whereas the numbers were like 1 in 4 in Viet Nam and even worse in WWII, Kore and WWI. We have less dead in Iraq because we can patch them up better in this war than in previous wars.

  5. Rumsfeld is also a convenient punching bag for those who are disgusted by the treatment of prisoners at both Guantanamo and Abu Gharib. The Schlesinger Report made that pretty easy, didn’t it?

    I don’t care if Rumsfeld isn’t driven out office because of his incompetent handling of prisoners, I’ll just be happy if he’s driven out of office.

    …They said nice things about McNamara and Tenet when they were fired too.

  6. Warren,

    I agree with your “scapegoat” assessment. George Tenent took the fall for bad intelligence with regard to terrorism and WMDs, now Rummy’s gonna fall on his sword as well. Somehow I can’t bring myself to mourn too much, though. The man’s miscalculations, verbal gaffes and incidents of tonedeafness can only be forgiven for so long.

  7. It’s also in the news that Rummy is in trouble for sending form condolence letters the families of the war dead. Apparently he had an electronic signature on the letters (he’s promising to sign by hand from now on). It’s interesting to note that President Bush, during this time, sent original, hand-signed correspondence.

    It reminds me of a Pink Floyd B-side:

    And old King George
    Sent Mother a note
    When he heard that father was gone.
    It was, I recall,
    In the form of a scroll,
    With gold leaf and all.
    And I found it one day
    In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
    And my eyes still grow damp to remember
    His Majesty signed
    With his own rubber stamp.

  8. smart calls for base closings and a new general strategy stressing a lighter and more mobile military–a call largely vindicated by the success of the invasion of Iraq.

    mr gillespie, i find this bizarre.

    first of all, the initial success of the military in iraq is clearly not a function of rumsfeld’s choices: rummy himself believes he went to war with the army he had, not the one he would have wished.

    but more, stunning success in iraq was also achieved under the old doctrine (powell’s) — so the new doctrine, even to the extent it has been implemented, cannot be said to be responsible for success.

    and yet more, one cannot abstract “invasion” from “occupation” credibly. the two are part and parcel to success in war; in many ways, invasion can be made to seem more successful by its speed if conducted irresponsibly than would otherwise be so.

    and this is what rumsfeld in fact did. he left massive jobs undone in an effort to take one objective (baghdad) with smaller forces than would have been needed to do the job properly. the major consequence of this has been an exceptionally well-supplied insurgency that is effectively defeating us on the ground in iraq — something no rummy-backer wants to admit, but there is it. the insurgency is acting with impunity, even after fallujah, which can ultimately be said to have accomplished little to suppress the insurgency despite the stalingradization of that city.

    we are losing in iraq. that needn’t have been so, i think, and that we are is a consequence of strategic flaws in the implementation of rumsfeld’s ideological notions of what DoD should be.

  9. You know, I read an interesting take on the administration’s continued support of members with spotty records — people are not being kept on despite failures, they’re being kept on because of failures.

    The reasoning was that the worse they’ve done, the more they need the president’s support. The more they need the president’s support, the more loyal and obedient they’ll be. The cleaner their record, the more they’ll be tempted to voice dissent, or distance themselves from administration policy.

    Surely, this reading makes more sense for those people (like Al Gonzales) who would like to continue their careers after this administration. Rummy could probably hang it up and call it a day. But surrounding himself with all these people who owe him their livelihoods does seem to fit Bush’s pop-psych profile.

  10. It is important to remember, when criticizing the size of the Iraq invasion force, that one key assumption was that Saddam had chemical weapons, and assembling a half-million men in Kuwait and Saudi as in 1990 was just asking for a crippling chemical strike on troop concentrations and port and air facilities.

  11. mr bragg, assembling any army or any city is asking for such a strike. war is risky. that doesn’t mean you should stop doing it well out of fear of loss. (and yet, i would submit, that is precisely where we are.)

  12. Number 6 said:
    “Invasion must be followed by occupation,”

    Does it?

    What about invade-withdraw, invade-withdraw… repeat? Then, finally, withdraw.

    It works for sex.

  13. Ruthless:

    Are you suggesting that the army YOU WANT be covered in rubber sheaths?

  14. “To be fair, I must point out that more troops would not necessarily have solved the problem. Iraq, like most of the Middle East, is animated by an intractable combination of fundementalist religion and tribalism.”

    Thank you for shooting straight on this, Number 6. It is not at all clear what the outcome of smaller troop strength is. Even after we are done, it still won’t be clear, because we will be arguing counterfactuals. This universal belief in more troops yields better results is completely unfounded. How much better could anyone reasonably expect this to go?

    On the note that we should have considered this ahead of time, I would be willing to bet that people were thinking about much higher levels of acceptable losses before calling this thing a failure. The choice to go can either be followed by an occupation or the choice to leave and invade again as needed (as suggested by Ruthless). If you achieve some level of stability by way of occupation, you may save yourself considerable mobilization costs. If the occupation drags on forever, you can choose option B at any point.

  15. “Are you suggesting that the army YOU WANT be covered in rubber sheaths?”

    No, Rummy. I’m suggesting that the speed of the short strokes means not having to worry about armoring your “HummVee” with anything.

  16. Ruthless may have stumbled upon something. Invasions need not end in occupation. The punitive expedition was long a tool superpowers used. Some tin-horn regime pissed off the USA, or the British Empire before it, and would find itself facing Marine bayonets. Troops would march in, break or swipe some stuff, help the pasha’s brother overthrow him, and leave. Using your navy to blow hell out of the offending ruler’s fleet, harbors and/or merchant marine was also a non-occupying strategy. Occupation only becomes inevitable when the superpower decides it wants the place for a colony or client state. In current theory, we want to create a stable, democratic regime where such governments have not previously emerged. That’s a much tougher trick than traditional gunboat diplomacy.

    When your model for transformation is Germany after WWII, an indefinite troop committment shouldn’t have been a surprise.


  17. “How much better could anyone reasonably expect this to go?”

    Well, it would be nice if the insurgents didn’t have hundreds of depots full of plastic explosives, rocket grenades, and other weapons to loot at will.

    It would be nice if the borders weren’t unguarded.

    But that would require troops stationed at important locations, and we just don’t have enough.

    “I would be willing to bet that people were thinking about much higher levels of acceptable losses before calling this thing a failure.” The trends are in the wrong direction. There is no reason to believe the number of people killed in 2005 will be lower than in 2004.

  18. Joe’s still bitter they didn’t consult with him during the planning phase. Traffic jams, no planned growth, missing infrastructure…


  19. By the way, the US Military does indeed include troops trained in urban planning. They certainly need GIS experts, people familar with infrastructure planning, etc…

  20. …not to mention, Civil Affairs, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Geographic Analysts.

  21. “How much better could anyone reasonably expect this to go?”

    Wasn’t Iraq supposed to make American inspired democracy look good? So far, it’s just made the mullahs in Iran look good. Reasonably, I would have expected “this”, at the very least, to have gone so well that, almost two years later, no one in Iraq could possibly consider rule by the Iranians to be desirable by comparison.

  22. What about invade-withdraw, invade-withdraw… repeat? Then, finally, withdraw.

    It works for sex.

    Hmmm. I’m hearing this “voice-over” in my head: “Osama bin Laden: The G-Spot of the War on Terror.”

    No, wait. The sex analogies just won’t stop. I just thought of some books that should be written some day:

    In Search of the Big O: The War on Terror and the Hunt for Osama bin Laden

    Screwing in the Sand: American Policy in the Middle East

    OK, I guess the sex analogies do stop. That’s all I can think of.

    PS: For some reason, seeing the word “sex” and the word “analogy” right next to each other disturbs me.

  23. And let’s not forget that the kerfuffle over the lack of armor reflects a couple of things:

    Congressional refusal to fund up-armoring the vehicles (John McCain call your office).

    A complete misunderstanding of the facts on the ground. All but 20 out of over 800 vehicles in the unit where the press conference was held were armored at the time of the press conference, and hte remaining 20 were in line for it. That strikes me as pretty damn good.

  24. “That strikes me as pretty damn good.”

    I don’t know where you got your figures, but, to paraphrase Bush the Elder, if you’re the one that doesn’t have any armor, then the un-armored rate is 100%.

  25. Who came up with the phrase, “up-armoring”?
    It sounds like Barry Bonds’ steroid problem.

    Many folks have told me I favor Rick Flair–if only I could up-pectoral.

    Putting armor on a vehicle not designed to be armored ought to be a glaring sign of piss-poor stratagery. Could we get the designer of Humvees to comment here?

    Repeat after me: invade-withdraw, invade-withdraw…

  26. joe:

    “But that would require troops stationed at important locations, and we just don’t have enough.”

    You couldn’t close the border of Iraq with a million troops. You can’t put soldiers every 5 feet along hundreds of miles of electrical transmission, water lines, gas lines, etc. A soldier on every corner is a target on every corner. A distributed deployment within a city, where soldiers are acting as guards has the following effects: A) Each concentration of soldiers is weaker by definition; B) Incidence of friendly fire can go up because you don’t know where all of your people are in relation to where you are shooting; C) Mortars and artillery are removed from the table as strategic options; D) Soldiers are kids and not seasoned cops, and they will shoot if they feel threatened. That means more Iraqi casualties directly attributable to US actions.

    What you hope to gain by increasing troop levels and presence is to make insurgents unwilling to engage you, and that just seems implausible to me.

    I agree about securing and destroying the munitions, but that has nothing to do with the troop levels of presence mindset. It was botched tactics rather than botched strategy.


    A friend of mine has suggested that the US should go even further with the low presence thing and withdraw to the desert. We would be on call as a SWAT team, but have no presence at all in the city except during those operations. This is a version of the invade/withdraw concept that prevents you from having to pay to deploy across the ocean each time, and may still give you a hope of rebuilding. It is not a bad idea.

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