Army Times Against Rummy

by Venomous Kate

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.

13 Responses to “Army Times Against Rummy”

  1. I absolutely agree. And … having this opinion doesn’t really make you a liberal, but you should still consider looking into it. 😉

  2. If your 3 years of I told you so’s and the Army Times still isn’t enough, there’s the additional photographic proof…Rummy doesn’t know his behind from a hole in the ground:

  3. I have to disagree with you on this one. I think Rumsfeld is one of the best things that could have happened to the DoD after the adults (Republicans) came back.

    I have to agree with what Frank Martin said about this,

    “Anyone who thinks Rumsfeld is doing an awful job doesn’t understand his job or his mission from the President. Rumsfeld [doesn’t] just hold a position in the cabinet, his mission from the President was to literally transform the Military. In terms of organizational culture, there is no culture in the world more institutionally resistant to change than the Military. Add to that, the difficulty of cutting or changing the various lines of revenue to industry that are naturally going to be impacted by that change, and you get a wicked combination of people who are very unhappy at the start that you’ve appeared on the scene.

    Rumsfeld is not a nice guy and he has no ambitions beyond this job. He’s not looking at this job as a way to trade up for Presidency someday. That makes it difficult for anyone to “influence” his decisions, which means they go to “plan B” by attacking him at every turn in an attempt to make his job harder, in hopes that he will ask them to knock it off, and give them some form of favor in return. He of course, doesn’t give a damn, which in their minds is what makes him the ‘most dangerous man’ in Washington.

    The Military needs transformation, everyone agrees on that, not because the people in it are bad, or that the men and women in it are bad, but its an organization built for a job that’s changed tremendously with world events. It hasn’t changed, and it wont, without someone forcing that sort of institutional transformation. Its a hard job and its rarely successful.

    The Military cannot change itself, no organization can do that. Imagine your company or organization suddenly saying that it needs to change to meet business challenges because that’s what the CEO read in a magazine over the weekend. How’s that work? You spend months on “Mission statements” and going on useless employee retreats and in the end, the same lame-o fatass managers run the same asininely redundant departments only with different titles and cost centers. How do you get a company to change? You don’t change because you want to, you change because the competition forces you to change. You get creamed in a quarterly result, or you get merged with the competition. So what happens to us if our Military gets creamed in combat or “Merged”? In that respect, Rumsfelds transformation doest seem so bad now does it?

    The Military cannot change itself. Air Force screams at the Navy, Navy screams at the Army, and everyone screams at the Marines, and the Coast Guard continues to go on unfunded. Congress just sits squirms in its seat every time someone wants to do something simple like close an air force base, Private Industry? Oh sure that will work out fine, no self interest there, right?

    So what do you do? You get a man just exactly like Rumsfeld, who’s been around forever, knows exactly what works and what doesn’t work, knows where all the bodies are buried at every level of the chain of command and you let him loose by putting him at the top.

    Rumsfeld is uniquely and highly qualified to do exactly what he is doing. He is an institutional nightmare to the lifetime bureaucrat. Think of Rumsfeld as one of those CEO’s that gets hired to turn around a company in bankruptcy court, or like Tom Peters without the PR team. This is not to say that the Military is “bankrupt”, but it has lost its way in some places. Do we really need a dozen more Seawolf submarines or should we have 50 more C-17s and C-5s? F-22’s or MV-22’s?, Airborne Laser Missile Defense or another 10 brigades of Marines and Special Forces? I don’t know the answer to those questions, but I know better than to ask Admiral Chuck “Seawolf” Hardmore if we need more Seawolf submarines.

    That’s why we are lucky to have him, and that’s why everyone hates him, because in the end Rumsfeld will be remembered as the greatest change agent of all time.”

  4. Tim, the sentence: his mission from the President was to literally transform the Military is inaccurate. It’s interesting, however, to see that this notion has caught on of late, but it’s still misleading and more than a little revisionist.

    When Bush took office in 2000, his “transformation goals” consisted of pushing for additional base closings, and to bring the military into the “Information Age” through increased computerization and the use of telecommunications. (Because, you know, even the military should have access to The Google and the internets. 😉 )

    In terms of the military transformation which has since become the DoD’s agenda, Rumsfeld is the architect. He made that clear at his confirmation hearing in 2001 before the Senate Armed Services Committee. While it’s arguable that Bush selected Rummy because Rummy possessed this vision, it’s inaccurate to credit the President himself with it, or to paint Rumsfeld as merely some kind of martyr carrying out the directions of his CiC.

    Rumsfeld’s first step in this mission was what he’s called “The Rumsfeld Review.” That review precipitated the current Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) (additional papers on it here and here) which was intended to produce what Ralph Peters has termed ‘virtuous destruction, decisive speed.’ (.pdf file)

    RMA and the vision for transforming the military (or whose vision it is) is a wholly separate discussion from tactical skill and sound judgment in the ground war we’re now fighting. Those are the concerns of the generals mentioned, just as they’re ultimately the concern of the American people.

    We do not sit in front of our televisions listening to news about the war in Iraq and think, “Yes, but we’re becoming a lighter, leaner fighting force.” No, we listen and wonder why the most powerful military fighting force in the world has not yet successfully routed and contained a bunch of ululating insurgents in tattered robes who fight with rifles and improvised explosives so rudimentary a high school child could put one together.

    So while we can discuss Rumsfeld’s RMA all we want, the real question has not yet been answered. Why have we not been able to contain the insurgency? The answer is tactics, and the tactical decisions that have been enacted in the field are those of Donald Rumsfeld. The generals cited in my blog entry make it clear that Rumsfeld’s tactical errors are to blame:

    (That article provides an excellent catalogue of the three truly devastating tactical decisions made by Rumsfeld prior to the start of war and during the “honeymoon phase.” Note, however, that it is not a fast read nor is it one that someone bent on calling Rumsfeld ‘the greatest SecDef ever will most likely be able to finish.)

  5. Ummm, guys, these newspapers aren’t published by the military. They’re owned by USA Today, and from what I can determine, not a single member of their editorial staffs have any military experience whatsoever. If a military vet want to rip on Rummy, fine, we’ll agree to disagree, but but this was a cheap partisan shot by the USA Today group, released one day before the elections. I don’t believe in coincidence here. Their motive isn’t to get rid of Rumsfeld, the real target is the voting public today.

  6. And?

    Regardless of whether Gannett Publications had a partisan motive or not, it doesn’t change the content of the editorial.

    Frankly, if it DOES influence the elections that should be a true wakeup call to the GOP that the Rumsfeld issue has been too long ignored.

  7. There have been many, many editorials in various papers about removing Rumsfeld. It would appear from your post the whole point about the 3 service papers having the same editorial opinions as other liberal papers is this is a bigger deal because they start with the name “Army”, “Navy” and “Airforce”.

    They are not expressing the opinions of most military members, but of their liberal owners. There is no one from the military running these papers. These papers’ positions have become no different than other old liberal media. The only difference is these papers contain some relevent data regarding promotions and information about general military matters. Kind of like the sports section of a paper, but about the military. The rest of it is liberal hippie crapola, which is why I stopped getting the Army Times over 5 years ago.

  8. And just to be very clear, in no way shape or form was I inferring a label, especially “liberal”, on this blog’s hostess in that last post.

  9. You people really don’t click links, do you, or even read beyond the first paragraph or two. Had you done so, you’d have seen there were other articles beyond merely the ones run in Gannett’s publications over the weekend.

    And, frankly, I’m rather certain Shinseki and Schwarzkopf be surprised to find themselves lumped with “liberals.”

  10. Since I’m still on active duty, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a current Secretary of Defense.

    I will however, say that current leadership paradigms have had me accelerate my retirement plans.

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