I’m sure to some my anti-Rumsfeld posts have taken on the tone of “I told you so.” But, let’s face it: I did. For three years. If it seemed premature back in the early days of the war when I began my tirade against Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps it’s because I believe a problem should be acknowledged and dealt with the instant it arises. That’s just one more difference between Donald Rumsfeld and me.
The Army Times has learned their lesson about Rumsfeld, too. In fact, the Air Force Times, the Navy Times, the Marine Corps Times and the Military Times (all owned by the same company) ran the editorial as well.
Although well worth reading in its entirety, the gist is:
For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don’t show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.
Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.
And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.
Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.
This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.
The Defense Department issued a response:
The new ‘chorus of criticism’ noted by the editorials is actually old news and does not include commanders in the field, who remain committed to the mission.
Of course not. For all the U.S. military’s efforts to protect and promote freedom throughout the world, the fact remains that there is no free speech in the military. Nor, I think, would many in the military argue for such a right: those in active duty know that cohesion and unity is essential, that morale suffers when commanders speak out against those who command them, and that the primary mission for active personnel is to get the job done.
The DoD’s response is disingenuous at best, for it neglects to acknowledge the myriad of skilled and knowledgeable leaders who’ve served in Iraq and who have called for Rumsfeld’s replacement. (It also fails to acknowledge that Donald Rumsfeld himself has never served there, either.)
Yes, they are retired now, some because they refused to serve further under Donald Rumsfeld, one because he did not believe the rationale given for the war in Iraq. They no longer must remain silent to protect morale or their own careers.
But they are far from the inexperienced rubes the DoD’s statement makes them out to be:
- Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold… the former operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Major General Charles Swannack, who led the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq
- Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in northern Iraq
- Former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni
- Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who led the program to train Iraq’s military
And let us not forget former Secretary of the Army Thomas White who has gone on record noting that under Rumsfeld the DoD has consistently refused “come to grips” with the scale of committment needed in Iraq. Or Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who has called Rumsfeld arrogantly out of touch with troops serving in Iraq and angrily noted Rumsfeld’s attempts to shift blame for tactical failings from himself to the Army.
Maj. Gen. Eaton’s March 2006 editorial in the New York Times skillfully summarizes the effects of Rumsfeld’s mismanagement and tactical ineptitude in Iraq:
Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his Cold Warrior’s view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the U.S. Army finds itself severely undermanned – cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14.
Only General Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff when President George W. Bush was elected, had the courage to challenge the downsizing plans. So Rumsfeld retaliated by naming Shinseki’s successor more than a year before his scheduled retirement, effectively undercutting his authority. The rest of the senior brass got the message, and nobody has complained since.
Now the Pentagon’s new Quadrennial Defense Review shows that Rumsfeld also fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces. The document, amazingly, does not call for enlarging the army; rather, it increases only Special Operations forces, by a token 15 percent, maybe 1,500 troops.
Rumsfeld has also failed in terms of operations in Iraq. He rejected the so-called Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and sent just enough tech-enhanced troops to complete what we called Phase III of the war – ground combat against the uniformed Iraqis. He ignored competent advisers like General Anthony Zinni and others who predicted that the Iraqi forces might melt away, leading to chaos.
It is all too clear that Shinseki was right: Several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction.
There is, however, some truth in the DoD’s response to these calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation: this is not news. The number of those in the military, in the government, and in the voting populace who have lost faith in Donald Rumsfeld has been growing since the early days of the Iraq war. I have little doubt they will continue to grow.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating that we pull out of Iraq. I, too, believe it would have devastating consequences. But I do believe it’s time to pull out of Rumsfeld’s pocket. I believe it’s time to listen to those who have been in Iraq.
In this country of ours where we pride ourselves on a government responding to the needs and voices of its people, the President’s staunch intractability on the matter of Donald Rumsfeld is both alarming and demoralizing to those expected to support those who fight.
UPDATE: Gee, I guess this makes me a ‘liberal.’ How interesting, though, that all the charts and graphs boil down to “Gee, this war’s produced fewer dead bodies.” Of course, there’s no way to know how even fewer there could have been if, say, Rumsfeld hadn’t hamstrung the ground troops but, instead, recognized the unique demands of fighting in urbanized terrain.