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November 04, 2006

NOBODY LOVES DONALD: Or at least, there's a sudden wave of anti-Rumsfeld sentiment from people who have been supportive in the past. Jules Crittenden called for Rumsfeld's resignation earlier this week (he also wants Cheney to resign and be replaced by Condi); on Tuesday the four military papers (Army Times, Navy Times, etc.) will call for Rumsfeld to be replaced, and it's hard to avoid a sense that the buzzards are circling. On the other hand, this December Vanity Fair article -- conveniently made available just before the election -- suggests that the issue isn't so much Rumsfeld as President Bush, though the critics, especially Ken Adelman, get in plenty of swipes at Rumsfeld, too.

It's hard to know what to make of this. Rumsfeld's a polarizing figure, and antiwar people have been talking smack about him for so long that legitimate criticism tends to get lost in the fog of politics. But this critique of Rumsfeld's management style from Michael Ledeen is more troubling, because it's specific.

Bush, of course, has said that Rumsfeld isn't going anywhere -- and if he'd wanted to manage a political subject-change before the election, replacing Rumsfeld would have been a way to signal a new direction and perhaps win over some doubters, so how likely is it that he will change his mind afterward? At any rate, who would replace Rumsfeld? Harold Ford, Jr. suggested Sam Nunn, but I don't think that's very likely.

My concerns about losing momentum in the war on terror really go to the top -- if Bush wanted more action, I think Rumsfeld would be delivering it. He certainly has in the past.

UPDATE: Reader Len Smith is unimpressed with the criticisms:

Read the critique on Rummy and felt it was not specific enough for me to judge whether or not he is performing well. It actually sounded like a lot of grousing I hear in corporate break rooms. No direction, Boss is sending me on a wild goose chase again, etc., etc.. Pretty common comments in a dynamic environment. My boss and I once decided not to put any “goals” on my annual review because it was a worthless exercise. In my business, what is important today is old news tomorrow. So I tend to discount these type of complaints.

What I want to know is:

Are the goals of the US military clearly stated to both the administration and the troops?

Are we better today than we were yesterday?

Are the risks, both military and geopolitical, clearly defined and communicated up and down the chain of command?

Can we fight a 3 block war in the Middle East and a conventional war in Korea?

Is our logistics system better than WalMart's?

Are we prepared for today's mission and tomorrow's threat, what about the next decade?

What are our plans to fight the informational war?

These are the kind of things I would like to know before I pass judgment on SecDef's performance. My son is an enlisted grunt with the Marines so I hear every gripe about “management”, and yet he can not wait to deploy to Iraq in a couple of months. I personally prefer to look at retention numbers as a good measurement of performance. When the guys that live in the organization keep coming back for another 4 years, one has to ask “what are we doing right?”

I can not say with any certainty that Rummy is performing well. I do know that I don't want the job. Too many whiners!

Yes, our political system is very efficient at delivering those. And Greyhawk emails:

The "four military papers" aren't military publications - they are the publications of Gannett's Military Times Media group. Gannett is America's largest newspaper publisher in terms of daily circulation. In addition to numerous "local papers" (here's a list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gannett_Company ) they publish USA Today. Army Times is an official Army publication in the same way USA Today is an official USA publication.

"Trade journal" might be an apt description, but circulation of the papers has never been very deep among individual service members. "Office copies" abound.

Yes, I realized that they're not official, but I still thought it somewhat significant. But it's worth mentioning this in case others didn't know.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Ledeen says that Vanity Fair misrepresented him:

Readers of NRO know well how disappointed I have been with our failure to address Iran, which was, and remains, the central issue, and it has been particularly maddening to live through extended periods when our children were in battle zones where Iranian-supported terrorists were using Iranian-made weapons against Americans, Iraqis and Afghans. I have been expressing my discontent for more than three years. So much for a change of heart dictated by developments on the ground.

So it is totally misleading for Vanity Fair to suggest that I have had second thoughts about our Iraq policy. But then one shouldn't be surprised. No one ever bothered to check any of the lies in the first screed, and obviously no fact-checker was involved in the latest "promotion." I actually wrote to David Rose, the author of the article-to-come, a person for whom I have considerable respect. He confirmed that words attributed to me in the promo had been taken out of context.

And reader Frank "Varifrank" Martin emails:

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.

I certainly hope so.

MORE: David Frum also says that Vanity Fair is misrepresenting his position:

My most fundamental views on the war in Iraq remain as they were in 2003: The war was right, victory is essential, and defeat would be calamitous.

And that to my knowledge is the view of everybody quoted in the release and the piece: Adelman, Cohen, Ledeen, Perle, Pletka, Rubin, and all the others.

(Not that it matters, but this fight is very personal for many of those people. Cohen and Ledeen have both had children serve in Iraq, Cohen's in the Tenth Mountain Division, Ledeen's daughter in the civil administration and his elder son in the Marines. As a civilian adviser in Iraq, Rubin displayed impressive personal courage living solo for long periods of time in the Shiite zones of east Baghdad.)

Vanity Fair then set my words in its own context in its press release. They added words outside the quote marks to change the plain meaning of quotations.

Vanity Fair dishonestly shilling for the Democrats just before an election? Who'da thought it?

MORE: And here's more from Michael Rubin, who was also quoted in the piece:

Some people interviewed for the piece are annoyed because they granted interviews on the condition that the article not appear before the election. Vanity Fair is spinning a series of long interviews detailing the introspection and debate that occurs among responsible policymakers every day into a pre-election hit job. Who doesn’t constantly question and reassess? Vanity Fair’s agenda was a pre-election hit job, and I guess some of us quoted are at fault for believing too much in integrity. What the article seeks to do is push square pegs into round holes. Readers will see that the content of the piece does not match the sensational headlines. Were people gathered around the author gripping about Bush? No. Were people identifying faults in the implementation? Yes. Are people sick of the autodafe whereby pundits demand “neocon” confessions to fit their own silly conspiracy theories? Yes. Have those interviewed changed their mind about the war? I have not, no matter how self-serving partisan pundits or lazy journalists want to spin it. I can’t speak for others. . . .

We cannot go around the world betraying our allies—in this case Iraqis who believed in us or allied with us—just because of short-term political expediency. This is not just about Iraq: If we abandon Iraq, we will not only prove correct all of Usama Bin Laden’s rhetoric about the US being a paper tiger, but we will also demonstrate—as James Baker and George H.W. Bush did in 1991—that listening to the White House and alliance with the United States is a fool’s decision. We can expect no allies anywhere, be they in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, if we continue to sacrifice principles to short-term realist calculations. It’s not enough to have an attention span of two years, when the rest of the world thinks in decades if not centuries.

Vanity Fair apparently feels otherwise.

STILL MORE: A reader who prefers anonymity emails:

There is no "loss of momentum" in Iraq.

The deliberate, carefully thought-out mission there is to force the Iraqis to build up a military/security apparatus strong enough to defend the country. If we try to "crush" the insurgency ourselves, the Iraqis will have no incentive to fight. They will sit back and let us battle the unending waves of jihadis, Ba'athists, and Shi'ite militias. We will have to stay there forever while the government enriches itself in the traditional Arab style.

The ball is in the Iraqis' court. We took away the obstacle to their freedom. If they choose to embrace death, corruption, incompetence, lethal religious mania, and stone-age tribalism, then at least we'll finally know the limitations of the people in that part of the world.

The experiment had to be made.

Hmm. Some support for this notion -- and for the idea that attrition is running in the U.S.'s favor -- can be found in this analysis. But for better or worse, the so-called "three year rule" is well-known to U.S. planners -- U.S. voters will support a war for three years, but then get antsy for a conclusion. This attitude may be bad, especially as applied to "messy small wars," but it's a reality. If the Bush Administration embarked on a strategy that was going to bring this into play, it should have worked much harder on the domestic side, and it hasn't done that.

On the other hand, it's also true that if democracy can't work in Iraq, then we should probably adopt a "more rubble, less trouble" approach to other countries in the region that threaten us. If a comparatively wealthy and secular Arab country can't make it as a democratic republic, then what hope is there for places that are less wealthy, or less secular?

MORE STILL: Tom Bevan reprints a letter from a reader:

I just came from three years in the bowels of the Pentagon and the SECDEF is generally though of there as tough but fair. Have mistakes been made? Sure, they always are but the professional military learns from it's mistakes.

Rumsfeld should have probably committed more soldiers to the peacekeeping in Iraq. We didn't need more to win the battle but to pacify the country afterward. Problem is the services are so small after the Clinton years that there just aren't enough forces to go much above 140K on a continuing basis. And no one here wants a draft. It would have been nice to get further international support, but that didn't work out, especially after Madrid. I think everyone in the Pentagon, if not the entire DOD hoped the Iraqis would take more responsibility for themselves and not destroy their country's infrastructure and their countrymen. But unfortunately they are not.

The Army Times op-ed probably won't change a single mind in the services. We're all pretty hard-headed and don't generally take our cues from the press. We wouldn't be in the Service if we did.

Read the whole thing. Also, here's a response from the Pentagon to the Army Times, etc. editorials.

EVEN MORE: Reader Chip Fussell emails:

My son is a USMA educated (ranked 50th in a class of almost 1,000) CPT in Army Special Forces. On January 3, 2005 his team was ambushed in Afghanistan, he was seriously wounded and came as close to dying as I think possible and not die. One of his men, a John Kerry educationally challenged SGT who had a BS in Chemistry and was an NCAA cross country champion was killed, and another of his team members ultimately lost a leg. The IED that initated the ambush did the damage, the team repelled the small arms follow-up with what I imagine was over whelming ferocity. My son recovered in time to return to his team on the Pakistan border and accomplish quite a lot in the war on terror.

Having said that, I voted for President Bush in large part so that Rumsfeld would remain as Sec. of Defense, and I continue to support the President and the Secretary as does my son and almost everyone with whom he has contact in the Army.

For the record, I am a registered Democrat and have always been, although my Dad, retired from the Air Force to Harrison, Tennessee, left to join the Repubs and my son, more influenced by my Dad, is a Republican.

Further thoughts from Elephants in Academia. It seems that some people love Donald after all. Meanwhile, Pierre Legrand thinks Rumsfeld should be asking for more money. "Defense spending in 2006 remained at 3.7% of GDP a level not far from the lowest point of the Clinton years and which we were led to believe by Candidate Bush was too low." And Kurt Hoglund sends this link, and this one.

FINALLY: Various lefty bloggers keep linking to this post for the "more rubble, less trouble" language and misrepresenting that as something I'm advocating. In fact, of course, I'm advocating exactly the opposite as should be clear to anyone who is not deeply dishonest or hopelessly incapable of reading comprehension. The "more rubble, less trouble" phrase refers to what Victor Davis Hanson calls a kind of "punitive isolationism" that I think we'll see if we give up in Iraq -- and that was presaged by the Clinton Administration's cruise-missile-based antiterror policy. It's what I hope to prevent, not what I hope to see, and it's the likely consequence of doing what the lefties want in foreign policy.