09 November 2006

I'll trade you my Rumsfeld for your Gates--straight up

Yesterday's resignation by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a necessary evil. Mr. Rumsfeld faced the difficult task of reforming a military built to fight set piece battles on the fields of Europe against the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. He was opposed by a military leadership that was resistent to change--a leadership that had just spent 8 years in a standoff with a President who drastically reduced their budgets, drawing down enlistment and forcing base closures. They were trained by this experience to dig in their heels and fight.

Mr. Rumsfeld was a figure powerful enough to take on an establishment that loved big armies and big ships--all things necessary for traditional warfare. He recognized that the military must evolve to combat the new threat of terrorism.

In the course of his six years of service he made a lot of enemies and became the focal point for complaints about the war. We respect President Bush's loyalty to Mr. Rumsfeld, but this was a change that needed to happen. Like President Bush, we think history will vindicate Mr. Rumsfeld.

From the Wall Street Journal's survey (subscription required. This excerpt was, in turn, taken from an excellent interview with PBS)of Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates comes this interesting insight into his view of the military:
One of my experiences over the years, in Washington, as I have watched different Presidents deal with the military and I worked in the White House for four Presidents and attended decision meetings under five, is that contrary to mythology, the biggest doves in Washington wear uniforms. And I think that particularly after Vietnam they are very leery of feather-merchants of civilians, greying notions of using military force to accomplish a range of objectives however sensible or justified they may be. And I think that they try, perhaps even un-consciously, not only to exaggerate the level of forces that will be required to accomplish a specific objective but the casualties as well, in the hope of forcing a sanity check on the politicians or on the civilian experts who have no concept of what it is like to sit there and watch a young soldier bleed and die. And I think that these guys also think that war in the situation room is too clinical. And that we don't have an appreciation for what it is really like, and that they would prefer to avoid the use of military force at all cost.

Some of the biggest debates that I have ever witnessed in the situation room on this problem and on dozens of others was the debate between the Military representatives and the State Department representatives. With the State Department representatives arguing for the use of military force and the military officers arguing for the use of diplomacy. So I think it is a cultural thing and I don't second guess the military on that, I think that their concerns are justified, because I have seen a lot of civilians make a lot of proposals for a lot of silly military actions that eventually did not take place. So I understand their caution.
The CIA and State Department have complained for years about Mr. Rumsfeld overstepping his bounds. In Mr. Gates they should have someone who, if not an ally, at least understands the challenges they face.

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Anonymous said...

To add a little fuel to the fire regarding Rumsfeld, there are members of the Bush cabinet who don't like Rumsfeld and have described him as corrupt and incompetent. That should say something.

Rummie said...

Come on anonymous you can do better than that. If you are going to make statements like that back them up with quotes and references or keep them to yourself.