Time for Rumsfeld & Wolfowitz To Go?

What is the role of the SecDef? For one, to define a vision for the DOD; a roadmap to the future, a strategic plan. In this, Secretary Rumsfeld has provided the vision of ‘transformation’. In short, it’s a plan to make the armed forces lighter, more quickly and easily deployable, and simultaneously, more lethal. Laudable goals. Hence, we have the cancellation of the Crusader, a behemoth of a self propelled howitzer. Too big, too heavy. We also have the promotion of the Stryker armored vehicle. It fits into the network-centric warfare scheme of the future quite nicely. So far, so good.

Finally, on the ‘vision’ thing, we have the light-mobile force concept. Special forces types, acting with forward air controllers, use combined arms techniques to leverage modern telecom capablities and precision weapons synergistically. They’re ‘force multipliers’, as Rummy likes to say. The war in Afghanistan was a demonstration, if you will, of how light forces can bring precision firepower to bear to create battlefield effects formerly reserved for heavy armored divisions. Again, no quibbles.

That brings us to the SecDef’s other primary duty, the strategy and management of warfare. And that brings us to Iraq.

Here’re some views on where we’re headed in Iraq. Not from pundits, from the folks commanding troops there:

Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, “I think strategically, we are.”

From the wholesale dissolution of the Iraqi army, to the complete failure to plan adequately for post-war Iraq, to his apparent unwillingness to adequately address repeated assertions that things were getting out of hand in Iraqi prisons, the arrogant and inflexible Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz team are leading us to a strategic defeat in Iraq.

In addition, take a look at this USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll. By a margin of 46% to 33%, the majority of Iraqis feel the invasion has done more harm than good. What’s most worrying about this poll is that the polling was done before the recent uprisings in Fallujah and Najaf.

Who would I replace him with? Who better than Colin Powell?

Who would I nominate as SecState? In times gone by, when Europe was the center of our stategic calculus, I’d nominate a Russsian & European policy wonk with a diplomatic touch. That was then. These are new days. We need someone who not only understands the M/E and Moslem world, but has an ability to speak and work with them. Someone who understands and supports American policy goals, but knows how to give advice to the President when he needs it, and rally allies when necessary. I’d nominate Fareed Zakaria.

16 thoughts on “Time for Rumsfeld & Wolfowitz To Go?”

  1. Let me just address this politically, without getting to to any substantive merits of keeping or getting rid of these guys. It can never happen before the election. To dump these two guys now would be seized upon as an admission of failure and weakness, by his political foes at home and his more bloody-minded foes abroad. It would be gratuitously creating a political defeat for himself. Bush will never do it. He’d be stupid to do it. After the election, I think he’ll replace both these guys. Rumsfeld can resign with a big pat on the back for his many years of public service, blah blah blah. ; Wolfowitz, whose idea this whole mess was, will leave quietly. Failure is an orphan, and the arch-advocate of a political embarrassment doesn’t even get a handshake, he gets to leave by the kitchen entrance. Powell, by many accounts, wants to get out of this administration. So, there is now way he’d take Sec.D. with less than a year left in this term, since he’ll resign after the election unless something unexpected happens. So, Bush will almost certainly have a very different team in place if he gets reelected. Zakaria is a journalist. There is no way a journalist is going to be Sec. State. It will be interesting to see what role Rice has in a Bush second term.

  2. With all due respect, Lex, to write off Zakaria as a mere journalist, as if he was a journalism major, does him a bit of an injustice, don’t ya think?

    He’s certainly as qualified as many who’ve held the post before. In many ways, more so.

    I take your point on the political perception problem a replacement now would cause, though. Well said.

  3. The Iraq prison scandal is but a blip in the scheme of things. Neither Intrade.com nor the Iowa Electronic Markets shows any significant reduction in Bush’s reelection odds, which is what this controversy is really about.

    I hope Rumsfeld stays. He is a visionary and notably effective among leaders of giant bureaucracies — which is a large part of the reason why he has so many enemies. Who would do a better job?

  4. I like Rumsfeld as well. If anything, his answers to questions at Pentagon briefings are reason enough. To me, he always seemed pragmatic and someone who gets right to the point. It’s not something you find often in Washington.

  5. I’m beginning to wonder if Americans have the fortitude for being the world’s only superpower. Did anybody think that conquering and rebuilding a government from scratch should be over in a year? We haven’t rebuilt a country from scratch in a long,long time. Maybe we are just out of practice.

    Actually I’m still thoroughly amazed that the American people have stood as strong through this ugly process despite the constant efforts of the media and the left to sabotage it at every turn. Maybe I’m not so pesimistic after all. The American people are fine, it’s the people trying to tell them what to think (unsuccessfully I might add) that have the problem.

  6. I like Rumsfeld. He is by far the best speaker among the Bush cabinet, he speaks intelligently and forcefully. He his hated for just those reasons by the left. He is too effective for their taste. Congress of course hates a man who can out think and out talk them on their best day.

    Has Iraq been handled poorly? Sure, some aspects. What war against so many and diverse enemies has gone better? Disbanding the Iraqi military and now calling them back is a masterful stroke. It allowed the US to claim that the Baath are being cleaned out, to the joy of the Shia and others. Calling a few back now undercuts the holdouts and further divides opposition. The Iraqis end up fighting each other more than us.

    They will never love us, but we will be able to pull most of the troops out early rather than late, with enough force in nearby bases to back up whoever does end up in power if we decide they need it. Similar to Japan, in the early years the occupation forces made it clear that certain parties simply would not be allowed to take power.

  7. Rummy is the bomb. Best. Secretary. Ever. (in W’s admin.)

    But more importantly, are you guys going to acquire one of those Strykers for your arsenal?


  8. As I’ve written earlier, I neither like nor dislike D. Rumsfeld. Of course, I would like for senior DoD leadership to be held accountable for incompetence or illegal activity, and for enacting plans and policies that are contrary to the aims of the President (whom he serves). It is unclear to me that the limited torture of Iraqis by Americans was authorized or intentionally ignored by top civilian authorities.

    However, for other–far more important–reasons I am opposed to the removal of D. Rumsfeld through any means other than the upcoming Presidential election.

    I cannot see a temporary SecDef as being anything other than a lame duck; the immediate relative loss of civilian control over the military, the crass power struggle, the shifting military alliances of the top generals (hand-picked by Rumsfeld), and the organizational chaos that a lame duck will create are, to me, far worse consequences than will result by keeping the status quo.

    Given my job as a military analyst, I cannot go into further detail.

  9. Kevin makes some good points.

    The controversy about Abu Ghraib and Rumsfeld shows that a lot of people didn’t have realistic expectations about what we were in for when we invaded Iraq. The main thing was to get rid of Saddam Hussein as both punishment and deterrent. It seemed likely that an occupation would be messy, but almost any outcome seemed (and to me still seems) preferable to allowing Hussein or his allies to remain in power.

    Now we are in the messy part, and it’s easy to forget that most of the alternatives would have been worse. Mistakes are always easy to spot in hindsight. As for the abuse of prisoners, it was wrong and the people who did it should be punished, but it’s not egregious by the standards of other wars. It is against our policy, and now we are going to change our systems to make it less likely to happen again. Out of 100K+ American troops in Iraq it is inevitable that there will be some incompetents and sadists, and that well meaning people will occasionally make mistakes. To expect otherwise is to be unrealistic about human nature or to have an ulterior motive. Firing Rumsfeld would not make such events less likely; perhaps the opposite is true.

    War is hell. Setbacks, instances of bad behavior and outright disasters are to be expected. The fact that they happen is not by itself reason to fire the people on whose watch they occur, particularly if the alternatives are not obviously better.

  10. State’s failure to secure rights for the 4ID to enter Iraq through Turkey continues to have disastrous consequences for the US. Fallujah should have been dealt with during major combat operations, as the phrase goes If Powell leaves State, Rumsfeld should replace him. State has needed a thorough house cleaning and Powell has not done it.

  11. I didn’t say Zakaria is a “mere journalist”. He’s an extraordinary journalist. But that is just the wrong resume to get you appointed and approved as secretary of State. Generally, Sec. State goes to someone with a very long resume in both public service and private business. Zakaria just does not fit the historical mold. Kissinger was an unusual choice, being an academic and relatively young. But even he was very well-connected politically.

  12. Its also worth remebering that Rumsfeld isnt dealing with his own deck – he wanted to go in with a small force and leave the Iraqi’s to rebuild the country for themselves.

    The actual situation we now have is not therefore his first choice – but to date it seems to me that as most of the posters have recognised, he’s dealing with problems as they arise pretty competently.

  13. Rumsfeld sees panoramically. He understands the tragic nature of man. He understands that there are known knowns, unknown knows, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. He seems like a man that has lived a full and engaged life – experience has taught him (as it has anyone who has lived such an engaged life) that answers to the big problems aren’t simple and any life concerned with others isn’t predictable. I haven’t seen all that much of his vaunted stubbornness – just because he doesn’t listen to pundits doesn’t mean he doesn’t look at situations with a fresh eye.

    He knows battles are won by the creative and the flexible. (He either encourages that or is that.) Pundits who criticize him (other than for purely ideological reasons) seem to me narrow-gauge railway men. They don’t understand adaptation. Look at the last few days – flexibility has led to the marines walking around Fallujah. The pundits who complain that there hasn’t been a plan have never had to be responsible – they’ve probably never been administrators, entrepreneurs, sometimes one wonders if they have ever been child raisers.
    They seem to be people to whom Mao’s (and Stalin’s)5-year plan reflected vision and control. Well, they did reflect control – they just didn’t reflect success.

  14. Seems I’m doomed to be the black sheep on this issue. So be it.

    I have to disagree. It seems to me that, if anything, Rumsfeld has shown a lack of flexiblity. His mantra that smaller is always better is a prime example.

    I’ve worked in a number of different size companies. From tiny, entreprenuerial operations to multinational corporations, to research labs. One of the things that I’ve learned is that small companies are more efficient and more likely to embrace new ideas and technologies. One of the important lessons I’ve learned is that many projects are simply to vast to be taken on by a small company. Building a spacecraft, for instance. You have no concept, until you’ve experienced it, how much thought, how much analysis, how much planning, how many different types of expertise, how many different disciplines, and how much hard earned (and highly valued) experience goes into a project like that.

    Iraq is a project like that. It had two major components, the military and the political. Those “narrow gage railway” types you like to mock executed one the most impressive military campaigns in history. These are folks who rebuilt the US military from the ground up after Viet Nam and brought us the miltary we have today. The same folks who ushered in precision smart munitions, standoff weapons, stealth and network warfare. Hardly “narrow gage” thinkers.

    Where this operation has been a major failure is at the strategic level. The military leadership warned repeatedly that occupying Iraq was going to be very manpower intensive. Advice ignored. Rummy knows better. Where many old State hacks warned there was no political roadmap, that we needed a plan – like the war plan! – we got Chalabi and the CPA; Rumsfeld’s picks.

    Why are we a year and half into this and still seem barely closer to holding elections than we were at the end of three months? What local/regional political organizing has been accomplished was done ‘off the cuff’ by people like General Patraeus (narrow gage type). I’m not picking at nits, I’m talking about major planning and policy failures. Many directly attributable to ignoring the advice of people who’ve been through the fire before.

    Rumsfeld doesn’t remind me so much of being a visionary as the pointy haired boss in Dilbert. When you tell him the project is gonna cost $50 million and take two years, he keeps asking for better numbers. I want to cost to be $20 million and take six months. When it ends up costing $60 million and taking three years, he blames everyone but himself. I’ve seen these same types with their stubborn vision that ‘only they’ can see ahead take highly successful companies right down the tubes in a very short time. It’s time for a new CEO at the DoD.

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