Rummy's Retired Rescuers

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Earlier today I blogged a Wash Post story about how retired generals were calling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a bum. That generated a spirited thread which included the memorable line by Reason Contributing Editor and Brickbats auteur Charles Oliver, who mused, "Look, you go to war with the secretary of defense you have."

Now some of Rummy's former soldiers are coming to his defense. Here's retired Marine Lt. Gen. Mike DeLong yapping it up on CNN:

"Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," DeLong told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday.

"When you walk into him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

Whole thing here.

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  1. “Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO,” DeLong told CNN’s “American Morning” on Thursday.

    And dealing with a CEO can be like giving birth to a flaming porcupine. So I’ve heard.

  2. Effective?

    Oh yeah, he’s effective alright… effectively incompetent.

    JMJ

  3. “when you walk into him”?

    or
    “when you walk in to [see/talk to] him”?

    Just wondering. That put a mildy amusing picture in my head.

  4. Yeah, I know there are must good ones out there somewhere, but sticking CEO or MBA in front of something (ie, the CEO President) isn’t much of a selling point based on my experience.

    It’s funny how quickly they can line these guys up. Quick, we need some pro-admin generals! Like wasn’t there a Bizarro Anti-Cindy Sheehan running around at the tail end of her 15 minutes? Maybe I imagined that.

  5. Look, what Zinni said is just, like, his OPINION, man. And there’s these other generals too, and they have their opinions. And we don’t have to listen to any of them because we have our opinions too. All these “experts” who are all like “Look at me! I know stuff! I went to Annapolis Army Academy and became a General!” just want to talk shit so they sound good. But it’s all just their opinion, man.

  6. Does anybody care what I think?

  7. Notice, the guy didn’t say anything about the validity of Rumsfeld’s policy. Interestingly, instead of saying well Zini is wrong about this or that and Rumsfeld is right, he said Rumsfeld can be a hard guy to deal with and you better know what you are talking about when you do. I think a lot of the resentment among retired generals towards Rumsfeld is that he actually treats them like subordinates. We had 8 years of Less Aspen and Cohen as SECDEF. They were historically weak SECDEFs. The Pentegon bureaucracy is a nasty and brutish place. Rumsfeld has done a lot of good and bringing long needed transformation to the military and as a result has been completely unafraid to slap a few generals around. That doesn’t mean Rumsfeld has been right about everything, he hasn’t benn, but I think wounded egos have a lot to do with the criticism he gets from retired generals.

  8. I went to Annapolis Army Academy and became a General!”

    I get all my information from Admirals who went to the West Point Naval Academy.

  9. Whatever, man. Stop bothering me with all these “facts.”

  10. “When you walk into him, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, you’re summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s effective.”

    I always heard it went more like this…

    “When you deal with him, you’ve got to have your nose up his ass repeating everything he says. If you don’t, you’re summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s a prick.”

  11. Maybe if CEO Rummy hadn’t guzzled so much of the “We’re so great” CEO Kool Aid that’s been going around since the 1990s, he’d wouldn’t have decided that a large “work force” is passe.

  12. What drug warrior thinks he’s not “effective”?
    What terror warrior thinks he’s not “effective”?

    Your statagery can be 180 degrees off and still be “effective.”

  13. “When you walk into him, you’ve got to be prepared, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, you’re summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s effective.”

    I don’t doubt that he can pull up some bit of minutia and make you feel like a prince who’s unexpectedly reverted to toad form, but that’s far from being ‘effective’. Being effective would have been, say, actually accomplishing the mission, rather than just kicking over some anthills and making banners about it for your aircraft carrier photo ops.

  14. I thought the whole point was that the people who did know what they were talking about (eg Shinseki) were summarily dismissed and ignored.

    There was another Rumsfeld defender I saw quoted on CNN or somewhere. The substance of the defense seemed to be “Don Rumsfeld loves his country and works very, very hard”.

    The problem with defending Rumsfeld is that you would have to point out where his leadership has had some positive results, and that would be tricky.

  15. Fred Kaplan at Slate, hardly pro war, sums up the problem with our retired and inevietably active duty military hashing out policy disputes with the SECDEF in public. He states:

    “MacArthur’s legacy in particular has kept even the boldest generals deeply reluctant to criticize civilian leaders over the decades. Rumsfeld’s arrogance, his “casualness and swagger” as Gen. Newbold put it?which have caused so many strategic blunders, so much death and disaster?have started to tip some officers over the edge. They may prove a good influence in the short run. But if Rumsfeld resists their encroachments and fights back, the whole hierarchy of command could implode as officers feel compelled not merely to stay silent but to choose one side or the other. And if the rebel officers win, they might find they like the taste of bureaucratic victory?and feel less constrained to renew the internecine combat when other, less momentous disputes arise in the future.”

    Sure, throw Rumsfeld to the wolves. And when the next guy comes in and tries to change the culture of the Pentegon and is more to your liking, what happens then? All I can say is that you better hope that the grey beards at the Pentegon and the ones retired from there agree with you.

  16. “Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO,” DeLong told CNN’s “American Morning” on Thursday.

    Few CEO’s would have their resignations rejected by the board of directors–twice. …and if he was the CEO of a traded company, the stock in his company would have dropped like a rock. There’d be takeover bids, shareholder lawsuits, etc., etc. …and people who held stock in his company could sell it anytime they liked–I can’t walk out on America. …it’s my heritage. …it’s my home.

    Yeah, the Pentagon is much less democratic than the leadership of a publicly traded, American corporation. …and when it comes to the military, in spite of tough cases like a Rumsfeld, I suppose that’s a good thing.

  17. Ken,

    It is also a good thing that elected officials not generals and retired generals or the officer corps chooses who runs the Pentagon, despite hard cases like Rumsfeld.

  18. That’s “strategery”, Ruthless, get your malapropisms right.

  19. Well you have to give Rumsfeld credit for one thing: He took an idiotic, doomed-to-failure, counter-productive-over-the-long-term project and guaranteed that a maximum of only 150K troops would be killed, wounded, or otherwise wasting money rather than the military establishment’s desire of having 450K troops do the same. And this has given us the flexibility to keep 300K troops reserved for doing similar projects in Iran and North Korea.

    He limited the Pentagon to stealing only $1 trillion instead of $3 trillion, all while helping to boost the value of American and European oil companies as well as expanding the profits of our Saudi brothers. And this is the thanks he gets? Ungrateful!

  20. I’m not yet sold on the idea that everything would have been hunky dory if only we had four more divisions in theater.

    What Rumsfeld is doing is very difficult and very necessary. Criticizing a small force obsession on his part is perfectly fine, but I think you have to put such criticism in the long view that we would eventually have to go through this, and more isn’t always better in an objective sense.

    My criticisms about the execution of the Iraq invasion are a bit different. I don’t know that de-Baathification was an especially effective way to proceed, for example.

  21. Jason, thank-you for defending Rumsfeld by discussing the task that he attempted and the inherent difficulties. Some people on this forum seem to think that any officer who criticizes Rumsfeld is saying that the US should be more like Turkey.

    You have a valid point: Maybe greater numbers wouldn’t have been necessary if more Iraqi institutions had been left intact to maintain order.

  22. Jason Ligon and thoreau,
    If we had all listened to Shinsecki, we wouldn’t be in the hellava mess we’re in.
    I think I’m right that Eisenhower had the right attitude toward (Lebanon)? Namely that you use OVERWHELMING force.
    “Shock and Awe” was unworthy of Penn and Teller, eh?

    In one way, all this is so complicated. In another, we just need to take stock of what we’re trying to accomplish and why.

    I remind once again that Ruthless would have nuked Baghdad before midnite (Eastern DST) of 911–to send a message. After that, Iraq was just an unfortunate scapegoat.

  23. I’m neither sold, nor selling, the idea that any tactical decision could have made the Iraq situation “hunky-dory,” Jason.

    But it’s pretty much inarguable that a shortage of troops during and immediately after the invasion allowed the initial wave of looting and chaos, as well as the rise of militia groups.

    And it’s pretty much inarguable that this policy was the result of CEO Rumsfeld insisting that the Iraq War would certify the “lighter, faster” ethos he adapted from 1990s management fads.

  24. joe:

    “But it’s pretty much inarguable that a shortage of troops during and immediately after the invasion allowed the initial wave of looting and chaos, as well as the rise of militia groups.

    And it’s pretty much inarguable that this policy was the result of CEO Rumsfeld insisting that the Iraq War would certify the “lighter, faster” ethos he adapted from 1990s management fads.”

    It is not obvious at all that at a strategic level these things are true. I offer the following:

    1) There aren’t enough people in all Western militaries put together to march into Baghdad and have immediate full security. There will be looting no matter how many boots you have on the ground. The creation of an immediate secure zone is a logistical necessity. If you act like your secure zone is the whole of the city, you are delusional. I completely understand the argument that the secure zone was incorrectly established or that it included the wrong areas, but that argument must also be understood in the context that secured zones must be strategically significant BEFORE they can be politically significant – otherwise you get everyone killed and run out of bullets.

    2) Massive presence means massive opportunity for US soldiers to shoot the wrong people.

    3) Massive distributed presence means massive numbers of relatively isolated bomb victims wearing US uniforms.

    4) Finally, I gather that the fans of the many troops feel that security could be attained. Perhaps, but what does that look like on the ground? How many checkpoints execute people trying to run them in broad daylight? So you have a bunch of looters, or a bunch of dislocated Sunnis, or a bunch of agitating Syrians, and they start causing trouble. What exactly are you willing to do to ‘maintain security’, and how does that play out on Al Jazeera?

    I see more troops as a set of tradeoffs, and I’m unconvinced that at the strategic level we’d be any better off at all. I also think you are trivializing the significant tactical value of high firepower, high maneuver small units.

  25. “Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO,” DeLong told CNN’s “American Morning” on Thursday.

    Isn’t that an element of military culture anyway? Rumsfield just emphasizes one part of it more than they’re maybe used to.

    I always heard it went more like this…

    “When you deal with him, you’ve got to have your nose up his ass repeating everything he says. If you don’t, you’re summarily dismissed. But that’s the way it is, and he’s a prick.”

    Yeah, so? Show me a CEO that isn’t like this in person. There aren’t many exceptions in the real world.

    On the personal level, Rumsfield has always reminded me of a terrier. You know, if you bark loud and convincingly enough, it may scare a bunch of people. That, in turn, could make a bunch of other people say “wow, that guy knows how to get things done”.

    But the funny truth is, as you rise higher on the leadership ladder there’s just plain going to be an element of this involved. Rumsfield just puts it in nice, bold relief for us, and we don’t like seeing it.

    Rumsfield did take on the near impossible of trying to transform a behemoth military. You can dislike his brass-assed personality all you want, but no softer assed DEFSEC would have survived 30 seconds in the ring.

    You can disagree with his ideas too, but I always thought his guiding philosophy made some sense. He wants proverbial “bang for the buck”. And what self respecting, capitalist pig libertarian can argue with that?

    OTOH, I have massive heart burn with the idea that we don’t need to maintain the ability to fight “set-piece” wars anymore. This is not a good assumption in a world that changes fast.

  26. Jason,

    “immediate full security” is the wrong way to look at it. We don’t have immediate full security in Massachusetts, either. I’m not suggesting enough troops to make all of Iraq a Green Zone (or, what the Green Zone was supposed to be). I’m suggesting enough troops to maintain a stablizing presence, and avoid a power vacuum.

    Your points 2 and 3 simply assume similar levels of resistance and chaos, with more troops to deal with them. My point was that the levels of both would have been lower if there had been enough troops to squash such developments when they started to occur. (BTW, Rumsfeld gets another demerit for “freedom is messy.”)

    And please remember, my point is that a larger number of troops would have been useful “during and immediately after the invasion.” I agree with your fourth point, and wouldn’t want to see large numbers of troops in place a year or more later. Once again, I’m talking about the initial conditions after the main force war, conditions which establish what comes after.

    I also agree that there are significant benefits to the “faster, lighter” military when it comes to military conflict, as the initial drive to Baghdad demonstrates.

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