Rumsfeld: More Than Meets the Eye

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Most of the commentary on the departing Donald Rumsfeld has taken on the tone of a touchdown dance. Over at Popular Mechanics, Noah Schachtman actually lays out Rumsfeld's vaunted "transformation" of the armed forces and sees if it amounted to anything.

Perhaps the biggest question facing any new successor in the Pentagon isn't about America's forces, but about our enemies. For years, there have been in the Pentagon. One wants to focus on waging the "Long War" against Islamic extremism—spend more on the The other thinks that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies, even distractions; China is the big threat on the horizon, and America needs new fighter planes and destroyers to counter that threat.

Rumsfeld never really picked between the two factions. He kept up spending for next-gen stealth fighters and got Congress to devote nearly a trillion dollars to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hm. He wasn't extraordinarily good at his job, was he?

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  1. I don’t think the author of that piece really gets it. Transformation was an attempt to reduce the size of the unit of maneuver for infantry and cavalry by increasing the damage per head they can deliver. That means each smaller troop unit would have access to deploy MORE strategic firepower. These aren’t conflicting goals.

  2. There are with this argument First he ignores the Pentagon’s Second does not determine

  3. Also, while I get that you can criticize the F22 project for being excessive, to be fair you should probably note that the JSF project is designed to reduce long run costs by having all units employ the same basic air frame for most roles. Maybe it is a boondoggle because the same airframe can’t serve these roles equally well, but it isn’t really on target to suggest that it is just some shiny thing unrelated to the overall transformation effort.

  4. Yeah, but fighting a war against China would require a military that looked more like a modernized 1980s anti-Warsaw Pact military rather than one that goes to hotspots in C-5s.

    I think Rumsfeld’s catastrophic failure was that he was unwilling to accept that it was impossible to pacify Iraq using a relatively small (and politically acceptable) number of personnel.

  5. Nobody has seriously considered fighting China on the ground. The concept was to have superior naval assets. It is in the ocean and in the air that you counter a bazillion man army. Boats sink one at a time.

  6. Popular Mechanics? Of course, who else has more expertise on military policy.

  7. Jason,

    The F22 and the JSF are two completely different, new airplanes, each with its own mission. F22 is primarily an air superiority jet, and the JSF is an attack jet to do close air support of ground forces.

  8. “I think Rumsfeld’s catastrophic failure was that he was unwilling to accept that it was impossible to pacify Iraq using a relatively small (and politically acceptable) number of personnel.”

    This strikes me as fair. The tension is, to what extent is extended occupation a necessary element of the sorts of fights we expect to be involved in? Small units can break things and topple regimes, but they can’t ‘pacify’ for any substantial period of time.

    Though, again, there is more than one theory in play. Historically, occupations have used massive presence, but historically the insurgents have won. “More troops” doesn’t have a great track record. I actually think less troops could have worked if it weren’t for the humongous mistake of dismantling the whole internal security apparatus on day 1. That was the king of blunders in Iraq IMO.

  9. A. A big navy and air force are part of what I meant by 1980s military. Strategic bombing and aircraft carriers and Aegis cruisers.

    B. I’m pretty sure that the JSF is meant to be a swiss army knife. It’s largely to replace the F-16 as a cheap air superiority fighter, but also ground attack, naval aviation, the Harrier, and as export product. The F-22 is just supposed to be the tip of the spear. Plus it looks much cooler.

  10. Wayne:

    I get what you are saying. I’m saying that the F22 could be viewed as excessive since no one yet has shot down an F15.

    The JSF is not just an attack jet, though. It is to replace naval interception and attack roles of the F14 and F18, it is supposed to be the new F16, the new Harrier, and so on. It is a one platform, many roles concept.

  11. Hey,

    How about this time we just talk it out……..

  12. The problem is that such a transformation is most useful when facing conventional opponents. ‘Transformation’, in a sense, was really something like ‘we’ve got a pause, let’s skip a tech generation’. The conventional trends, as I see it, were always there – substitution of accuracy for throw-weight, use of stand-off weapons, increased ability to reach into enemy territory and concentrate on (hopefully)higher-value targets.

    IMHO, Rumsfield started off by having no clue whatsoever as to why the USA maintains large ground forces. He was acting in the worst traditions of air power fanatics, assuming that the Army and Marines were raiding forces, target-acquisition scouts, or just people coming in to round up the surrendered enemy, and put them into POW camps.

    Rumsfield then compounded his initial mistake with the Iraq war; a very long list of competant people had pointed out, before the war, that the biggest problem would be what happens *after* the fall of Baghdad.

    I’m reminded of WWII, where the US concentrated forces against Germany, and ran the war with Japan as more of an economy-of-forces effort. The key was that the USA used an island-hopping campaign, taking (in general) only necessary islands with painful ground attacks, while leaning heavily on aeronaval efforts to neutralize, isolate and bypass a larger number of islands. The Japanes high command was hoping for a long series of US amphibious assaults against numerous Japanese garrisons, which they hoped would inflict enough casualties on the US that the American people would give up. The US Navy and Army high commands didn’t play the game that the Japanese high command wanted.

    In Iraq, Rumsfield played the game that Al Qaida would have wanted, if only they had allowed themselves to dream of such a gift.

  13. David,

    Your cut-and-paste for the entry left out the words in links, leaving it unintelligible. Are you trying to force us to RTA?

  14. Barry,

    You don’t think there is merit when combatting non conventional forces to having more firepower per unit of maneuver and simultaneously having more unit maneuverability?

    The problem starts, to me, with the logistical footprint of the armor than anchors our conventional ground forces. You just can’t get M1s anywhere very quickly, and once you do, you have to maintain massive supply lines.

  15. IMHO, Rumsfield started off by having no clue whatsoever as to why the USA maintains large ground forces. He was acting in the worst traditions of air power fanatics, assuming that the Army and Marines were raiding forces, target-acquisition scouts, or just people coming in to round up the surrendered enemy, and put them into POW camps.

    Right.

    Then there’s the other problem civilian leadership has never recognized. While a large well-equipped military force is excellent at peace making it is not designed well for peace keeping. That’s one reason we used to prohibit using the military domestically to enforce the law. Soldiers and cops have different jobs, and therefore different equipment, skills, philosophies, and traditions.

    If we need to keep playing the peacekeeper role we need a separate force organized to do that job, so the military can concentrate on its own vital mission.

  16. For years, there have been in the Pentagon. One wants to focus on waging the “Long War” against Islamic extremism-spend more on the The other thinks that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies, even distractions

    What the…did Yoda write this?

  17. ed, for some reason, David’s post did not pick up on the highlighted links in the article at Popular Mechanics. It says, “[f]or years there have been two camps at war in the Pentagon.”

  18. Maybe there is no big threat to US security on the horizon, and the military is being used for mercantlist purposes.

    If China sends its military to the US to foreclose on collateral from unpaid debts, then I would certainly hope that we would let them do their foreclosures peacefully. on the other side of the coin, do you think the Chinese will loan us money to raise an offensive army for attacking China? It sure would be cool of’em if they would.

  19. Sam, it’s awesome how well you understand national debt.

  20. Then there’s the other problem civilian leadership has never recognized. While a large well-equipped military force is excellent at peace making it is not designed well for peace keeping.

    Not without being extraordinarily brutal, that is. Of course, it could be that such brutality is the only type of “peacekeeping” that might work in Iraq. Which ends up being little different that Saddam Hussein’s brand of “peacekeeping.”

  21. jp encapsulates the post nicely.

  22. Rumsfield started off by having no clue whatsoever as to why the USA maintains large ground forces. He was acting in the worst traditions of air power fanatics,…

    Well said but I think Rumsfeld’s problem was more subtle. He came in with this ‘we’re going to transform the military into more nimble, smaller unit-based, technology-reliant force.’

    Heck…I’ve been hearing that since Bush 41 started closing based after the Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Problem in this case is that reasoning was based on dealing with smaller conflicts – which we assumed would be the norm since we didn;t have the big bad U.S.S.R. staring us down anymore.

    Rumsfeld was never able to understand why and when you would need a smaller force. He only understood/beleived that that’s what we needed. As a result (primed with some hubris after Afganistan), in Iraq he scaled a too small force against a too large a conflict.

    And he’s an asshole.

  23. Sorry, that should have been, ‘since Bush 41 started closing bases

  24. So basically, you’re saying Rummy is, like, the guy who turns into the cassette tape, right?

  25. It seems astounding to me, looking back, that there wasn’t a real, old school, get ’em outta high school draft. I don’t know if that was due to Rumsfeld’s belief in a leaner and meaner armed forces or because of his incompetence in not planning for an occupation or for too small of a force.

    I do remember hearing calls for a draft from the left, if only to make sure enough suburban, rich white boys were takin’ their share of the fire. …not that the left was putting up much in the way of opposition to anything the Administration was doing anyway. So, no, I don’t think we didn’t have a draft because Rumsfeld and company were afraid of the political fallout.

    But anyway, looking back thorough this long nightmare, it seems remarkable to me that there wasn’t an old-fashioned draft. …and it may not have been because Rumsfeld and company thought our rights sacrosanct, but, if for nothing else, do we have Rumfeld to thank for that?

  26. I could have sworn the left was sending the message something like “FEAR! Teh Draft!!! is coming!!”

  27. I think the army would have started paying privates 75K a year before calling for a draft. That would have shut down all support for the war.

  28. Well, regardless of the reason for not having a draft, not that that isn’t a compelling discussion, this could possibly set some sort of historical precedent, could it not?

    I can imagine the people of the future saying, “A Draft? Why, we didn’t even have a draft during the War on Terror!”

  29. I think the kind of compelling argument we’ll need for a new draft needs to be Chinese boots in California.

  30. For those who bash Rumsfeld’s methods, I have a question: Do you think that without 20/20 hindsight anyone could have made better decisions? (Ah, the sound of crickets…)

    The decision to nation-build was Bush’s not Rumsfeld’s, so at least point fingers to where the blame actually belongs.

    For those posting about how bad an idea transformation is, yeah, why get behind the best possible answer for re-tooling an outdated military force and force structure? Why make the world’s most powerful military force more capable?

    Could it be because it’s the best strategy to prevent being leapfrogged by other nations. Nah… It can only be because of those juicy gov’t contracts that make people’s military-industrial complex conspiracy indicators ping.

    It’s funny how everyone who has jumped on the military-industrial complex conspiracy bandwagon points to weapons platforms without noticing that the guys advocating a bigger Army are part of the entrenched bureaucracy that makes up the military-industrial complex they’re so freaked out by.

    Sacrificing military readiness via a draft to support a Luddite approach to fighting wars on the ground must FEEL really good, or there wouldn’t be so many people piling onto the idea.

    Face it, global reach via air power (though expensive and high tech-reliant) is the way this country SHOULD fight wars:

    Air power-driven military operations that enable swift ground military operations with a minimum of U.S. casualties and a maximum delivery of the desired effect – such as the successful invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that removed the Taliban and Baathist regimes (Rumsfeld’s transformational approach) – are the best employment of U.S. military power.

    Sticking around to occupy territory at great risk for little-to-no-return that degrades readiness is a concept that has been a bad idea since the Korean War.

    For those who think the F-22 and F-35 are just expensive boondoggles that represent money better spent on training and maintaining infantry and cavalry units, you should sit down and watch the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan.”

    The bloody casualty rate represented in that film is the natural result of a Luddite approach to warfare. All of those dead warriors floating in their own blood and gore on the shores of Normandy are what happens without air supremacy.

    Air supremacy is what enables bombers to clear the way for ground forces. Without air dominance you increase butcher’s bill exponentially as infantry guys filling (“the boots on the ground”) are slaughtered by enemy air forces, artillery, and an enemy that can afford to dig in and slaughter our ground forces.

    On the other hand… Rumsfeld’s ouster could finally make Ken Schultz right about something – at long last. If they also succeed in ousting Condoleeza Rice the level of competent bureaucrats (an oxymoron, I know) in the Cabinet will be almost nil. There’s a reason to cheer, right? Well, not really…

    Of course, if we are looking for someone supremely incompetet, whose judgement is 180-degrees from the right direction, I nominate Ken Schultz. His approach would rapidly turn the most powerful, professional, motivated military force in history into poorly-trained, completely unmotivated draftee cannon fodder dying in droves by year’s end.

    But hey, what do I know? I’m obviously just speaking “in the worst traditions of air power fanatics.”

  31. But is there any reason to suspect that our air supremacy is subject to even the slightest challenge?

    If we built nothing but SuperHornets and Eagles when the old ones ran out, we’d remain the dominant air power for decades.

    The JSF’s mission makes sense – the benefits of the uniform platform. And so what if it isn’t precisely the best platform for every one of its missions – it’s still going to be light years ahead of anything anyone else has. But the Raptor is just a waste.

    BTW, rob, people aren’t calling for boots on the ground so they can fight like Saving Private Ryan. We already have air supremacy – that isn’t what’s been lacking in Afghanist and Iraq. People want more infantry and special forces to fight enemies like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, not enemies like the Waffen SS.

    You go to war with the enemies you’ve got, not the enemies you might want.

  32. For those of you wondering, there’s no draft because soldiers – though underpaid, I think – are insanely expensive. The political excuse is just that, an excuse.

    A rule of thumb is that Army personnel cost about 100,000 dollars each. That doesn’t count what is costs to equip and supply them which is about another 100,000 dollars annually.

    Say you wanted to raise another 10 divisions. You’d have to draft at least 250,000 men (not just the men in the divisions but the men in all the ancillary units as well) costing you about 50 billion dollars.

    An army the size of that we had in VIetnam, ca. 1968 – 1.7 million – would cost about 340 billion. Annually. A World War II size Army is completely out of the question.

    Now you know why the Pentagon always drags its feet on any increase in personnel costs. Hell, I think I’m grossly underpaid but I cost you a hell of a lot!

  33. Yes; Weigel’s attempted riff on The Transformers was indeed a failure of concept, and of execution

  34. rob, I think you have good points about the advantages of some of Rumsfeld’s attempts at modernization.

    But I think his ideas regarding improving military efficiency are wholly separate from the decisions he’s made.

    Do you think that without 20/20 hindsight anyone could have made better decisions?

    I think are plenty of things he did that many folks thought were wrong at the time. There were a lot of generals telling him that he needed more troops to occupy Iraq and they were obviously right when the looting began and have been ever since. So, I don’t think you have to have hindsight to have known that was a mistake (I don’t know if Rumsfeld ever acknowledged it, seeing as how the 3 and a half year old problem hasn’t improved).

    True it was Bush who ordered it and should have been overseeing it and is ultimately responsible, but it was still Rumsfeld’s responsibility to either run it right or tell the President what he needed to run it right. I don’t think that’s a hindsight kind of mistake. It’s the kind of mistake a man makes when he’s thinking more about political strategies than military/occupation strategies.

    Rumsfeld’s earned a public and professional reputation as someone who condescendingly dismisses concerns and makes excuses when presented with facts that suggest problems. Again, not a matter hindsight, I think. Just simple problem of a man who’s not right for the job (most any job, really, but especially not one like that).

  35. “But is there any reason to suspect that our air supremacy is subject to even the slightest challenge?” – joe

    Of course not, joe. That’s just stuff that people from the military-industrial conspiracy make up.

    “If we built nothing but SuperHornets and Eagles when the old ones ran out, we’d remain the dominant air power for decades.” – joe

    Or at least for the next five years. Do some research before you start pulling out that hoary old chestnut about how you long for the days when public schools have a DoD-sized budget and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to pay for its aircraft.

    “The JSF’s mission makes sense – the benefits of the uniform platform. And so what if it isn’t precisely the best platform for every one of its missions – it’s still going to be light years ahead of anything anyone else has. But the Raptor is just a waste.” – joe

    See my previous response. One F-22 can clear the skies better than 7 F-16s.

    “BTW, rob, people aren’t calling for boots on the ground so they can fight like Saving Private Ryan.” – joe

    Boots on the ground without air supremacy looks like Saving Private Ryan, joe. Don’t pretend my example was about something else.

    “We already have air supremacy – that isn’t what’s been lacking in Afghanist and Iraq.” – joe

    So what is lacking joe? More boots on the ground? You’re the guy whose “solution” to Iraq is LESS boots on the ground – “U.S. out of Iraq, into EVERY neighboring Middle Eastern nation.” That means that what the U.S. would be contributing at that point would be… air power. If the Iraqis are lucky enough that a Democratic Congress doesn’t prohibit that support.

    “People want more infantry and special forces to fight enemies like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, not enemies like the Waffen SS.” – joe

    Right. Because those were the guys who overthrew the Taliban and al Qaeda – infantry guys travelling on foot across the mountains like Hannibal without his elephants. It had nothing to do with B-52s pounding Taliban positions in Afghanistan after U.S. fighters established air dominance, or U.S. fighter-bombers wiping out entire Iraqi armored divisions to overthrow the Baathist regime.

    “You go to war with the enemies you’ve got, not the enemies you might want.” – joe

    Right. Which is why being nimble enough to fight in a “transformational” manner is just as important as being able to duke it out with several nation-states at the same time, a more conventional “Cold War” military doctrine. YOu have to be able to do both, and it’s expensive as hell. But you DO fight the enemy you’ve got, not the enemy you might wish for, so you’d better be prepared for the old school enemies that require heavy duty warfighting as well as the 4th Gen.-types who will try to wear down the will of a democratic nation. Even Kennedy believed that democracies were at a disadvantage in this respect.

    “But I think his ideas regarding improving military efficiency are wholly separate from the decisions he’s made.” – Les

    Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.

    “I think are plenty of things he did that many folks thought were wrong at the time.” – Les

    There always are. Some of them are even experts. I guarantee you that plenty of people thought that the D-Day invasion plan was fatally flawed and certain to break the back of the Allied forces.

    “There were a lot of generals telling him that he needed more troops to occupy Iraq and they were obviously right when the looting began and have been ever since.” – Les

    No offense, but I don’t think it’s possible to stop looting in a war zone, no matter how many soldiers are around.

    “So, I don’t think you have to have hindsight to have known that was a mistake (I don’t know if Rumsfeld ever acknowledged it, seeing as how the 3 and a half year old problem hasn’t improved).” – Les

    I don’t think it was a mistake. You talilor your forces around the effects you want to achieve. If you wanted to secure every city block of a nation, you’d have to draft every person living in North America – including Mexico and Canada. That wasn’t the effect we hoped to achieve. We hoped to go in, remove the leadership, and leave the place in the hands of the good guys we planned to support. Problem is that we didn’t realize that completely “de-Baathifying” would mean no one was left in charge but U.S. forces.

    “True it was Bush who ordered it and should have been overseeing it and is ultimately responsible, but it was still Rumsfeld’s responsibility to either run it right or tell the President what he needed to run it right.” – Les

    If your boss gives you an impossible task, and you tell the guy it’s not possible, and he tells you to accomplish it anyway, how do you handle it?

    “I don’t think that’s a hindsight kind of mistake. It’s the kind of mistake a man makes when he’s thinking more about political strategies than military/occupation strategies.” – Les

    If only the two were actually separate. The problem is that political/military/occupation strategies are inseperably linked. It’s like wishing for a Secretary of Defense who can fly artound the Earth so fast that he can reverse the flow of time. The Pol/Mil/Occupation parameters will apply to anyone in the office like the law of gravity effects all of us. You just can’t escape it, even if you own a space shuttle.

    “Rumsfeld’s earned a public and professional reputation as someone who condescendingly dismisses concerns and makes excuses when presented with facts that suggest problems.” – Les

    That’s your perception. I see a guy who makes major decisions based on the best information, advice, and counsel available to him then handles the fallout of his decisions as best he is able. I think the guy does a better job of it than just about anyone else I’ve seen in his position – even the ones I’ve studied in history books.

    “Just simple problem of a man who’s not right for the job (most any job, really, but especially not one like that).” – Les

    Sounds like you just don’t like the guy’s style. But tell me this – how many politically motivated, self-serving, backstabbing questions at a press conference could you take before you started to give the way you get? The fact that Rumsfeld keeps it to putting the screws to reporters who have it coming seems downright admirable to me. (“Golly. Was there a question in there somewhere”? – Freaking priceless, IMO.)

  36. If your boss gives you an impossible task, and you tell the guy it’s not possible, and he tells you to accomplish it anyway, how do you handle it?

    Well, if it’s going to result in unnecessary death for a lot of people, I’d say the only ethical thing to do would be to quit and tell the public that the president is asking for impossible things that will result in unnecessary death.

    And I have to disagree that he made decisions based on “based on the best information, advice, and counsel available to him.”

    It’s well documented that the administration went to war with the information that best justified going to war (while they discarded all the information that weakened the case for war).

    Though the “Golly. Was there a question in there somewhere” answer was a good one, I have to ask, how can a reporter ask a “backstabbing” question? That implies a loyalty that should never exist between the press and the government.

    Anyway, my main point is that the proof is in the results of his work. It’s true I didn’t like his style, but his style wouldn’t have mattered if his results would have been different. Smugness with success is annoying at worst. Smugness with such failure is just pathetic.

  37. Also, rob, though I disagree MIGHTILY! with you on much, I generally learn something in the process, so I’d like to get your impression on this interview with Thomas Ricks, whose book “Fiasco” is waiting for me at the library.

  38. I haven’t read Ricks’ latest, but it seems like he’s got some good info, good sources, and some good analysis. He and Kaplan always have interesting analysis to offer.

    Best passage in the interview you linked to is this:

    “HH: Any doubt in your mind that George W. Bush and his team and the Pentagon career believed there were WMD there when the war began?

    TR: No doubt whatsoever. I think they drank their Kool-Aid, and talked themselves into it, on the basis of no evidence. But yeah, they believed it.”

    It’s a perfect example of how the decision made was based on the prevailing belief of the time that WMD programs were still churning along in Iraq under the Baathist regime…

    Hewitt takes Ricks to task over the Kool-Aid comment pretty well – Ricks’ analysis is always at its best when he doesn’t go into “off the cuff” political snarkiness.

    Essentially Ricks concedes that since “the most effective aspect of the Desert Fox raids, though, which we didn’t recognize at the time, it’s very difficult to pull out, was the psychological effect. The message sent to Iraqi weapons scientists was Uncle Sam is not going to let Saddam Hussein have this stuff.”

    I also think it’s very telling that Ricks has no examples outside of the UN – from either side of the political aisle in the U.S. – to point to as having understood the actual effect of Desert Fox.

    Desert Fox was (and often still is) widely thought of in military and political circles to have been a minor 3-day operation, not the final nail in the coffin of the Iraqi WMD program. The Clinton administration announced it as an op to “degrade” rather than “eliminate” WMD program capabilities.

    That Clinton administration’s intel geniuses thought that the op had successfully degraded it, when it appears now to have been far more successful than anyone believed at actually “eliminating” the WMD programs. A great counter-factual would have been if the U.S. had been better able to determine, back during Clinton’s watch, that Desert Fox had been as successful as it was. We’d probably be arguing a totally different set of questions right now.

    I also think the idea that Saddam’s sons would have taken power after the old man died is a heck of a counter-factual and the current situation is really based on the hope that the U.S. can avoid turning Iraq over to another strongman who wants to become the “second Saladin.”

    As for how to handle the “impossible task” – I think Ricks does a great job of discussing civilian control of the military and the inherent conflicts of leadership:

    “what do you do when your duty to your subordinates you feel is at odds with your duty to your superiors, when you think the interests of your soldiers are not being served by your superiors. Do you take care of your soldiers? Is that your primary duty? Or do you salute smartly and execute your orders? And I’ll tell you, it eats out the guts of a lot of these officers.”

    You say the only thing to do in that situation is to resign. I think it’s tougher to stick it out and continue to make the best of the situation that you can. I think your troops are better off that way, and I think that’s part of why Rumsfeld stayed, as well, though I’m sure there are those who are only willing ot ascribe sinister motives to the guy.

    As a leader, you can’t change certain “givens” but you can still try to work within those parameters to do the best you can for your folks. That’s TRUE leadership.

    “It’s well documented that the administration went to war with the information that best justified going to war (while they discarded all the information that weakened the case for war).

    “I have to ask, how can a reporter ask a ‘backstabbing’ question? That implies a loyalty that should never exist between the press and the government.” – Les

    I didn’t mean to imply that there should be loyalty to the gov’t by reporters. My take on reporters relationship to the gov’t is that it should be an adversarial but honest relationship.

    But plenty of post-WW2 reporters incorporate what they think is best for the country ideologically for what I would term an “honestly adversarial” approach. I think that there shouldn’t be questions that are essentially along the lines of “have you quit beating your wife/feasting on the pain of servicemembers’ widows” variety. A lot of the “questions” asked are of the under-handed, intellectually dishonest prosecution’s attorney style, rather than the honest question about the subject sort.

    Rumsfeld put the screws to those sorts of reporters so well that they actually learned to behave a bit better and to actually perform a bit more like non-partisan 4th Estate types – at least around him.

    “Anyway, my main point is that the proof is in the results of his work.” – Les

    Then I think the guy has a lot to be proud of.

    “Smugness with such failure is just pathetic.” – Les

    I don’t think anyone is being smug about failure – and I don’t think there’s been a lot of failure, frankly. But if your biggest complaint about the guy – your main point – is that you don’t like the guy because he’s “smug” then I think it’s safe to say he did a good job.

  39. That should have read…

    “It’s well documented that the administration went to war with the information that best justified going to war (while they discarded all the information that weakened the case for war).” – Les

    Actually, it’s well-documented that pretty much the entire federal gov’t on both the Dem and Repub sides believed WMD’s were there. Neither side understood the effect of Desert Fox – not even the Democratic administration that carried it out.

    And this sentence “But plenty of post-WW2 reporters incorporate what they think is best for the country ideologically for what I would term an “honestly adversarial” approach.”

    should have read:

    But plenty of post-WW2 reporters incorporate what they think is ideologically best for the country into their reporting rather than what I would term an “honestly adversarial” approach.

    I’ve really got to get better about Previewing…

  40. Actually, it’s well-documented that pretty much the entire federal gov’t on both the Dem and Repub sides believed WMD’s were there. Neither side understood the effect of Desert Fox – not even the Democratic administration that carried it out.

    I would never cut the Democrats slack, but it’s very well documented that the administration received not a small amount of intelligence reports that expressed skepticism regarding the existence of Iraq’s WMD’s and those reports were reflexively discarded. That doesn’t mean the Democrats should have trusted the administration since there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical in the first place. And while I don’t doubt that the administration had, indeed, convinced itself that Iraq had WMD’s, it was still dishonest for Cheney to say there was “no doubt” that Hussein had them, when he was receiving regular reports that were highly doubtful. And it was a downright lie for Rice to say those tubes could “only be used” for nuclear purposes, when every single report from U.S. experts that she’d already received said it was unlikely that they were for nuclear purposes.

    And (at long last!) Rumsfeld’s attitude is definitely not the thing that bothers me most about him. It’s his attitude combined with his job performance. You say he accomplished a lot, but aside from his part in the planning of the invasion, I honestly don’t know what that was. I don’t know of anyone who was against the war who feels like the invasion was poorly executed. And I don’t know anyone who was for the war who thinks the occupation has been competently executed. I know that’s not entirely Rumsfeld’s fault, but his decisions played a part in that incompetence.

    Still, thanks for your insights on the interview. I’m always working to resist reflexive thinking on the matter, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

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