Sunday, April 16, 2006

The new Rasputin.

"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go".- Oliver Cromwell to the Long parliament.

Yesterday the S.O. had to work. So I stayed home and got some things done as we had to go meet a couple for dinner later on. Watched the news shows. Unfortunately, I get stuck watching FOX news sometimes, due to lack of a better alternative. The subject du jour yesterday was my favorite punching bag, Donald Rumsfeld. On the panel show I was watching, the ever smug and always useless Charles Krauthammer was doing what he does best: reaching the wrong conclusion from the available facts. He (incorrectly) assumed that since 6+ retired generals were opposed to Rummy, that must mean they are opposed to civilian control of the military and therefore need to be squashed most vigorously. Nothing in any of the retired officers statements has said that.

These guys are simply pointing out, what plenty of others have pointed out: that after 3 years, we still are not done with the mess in Iraq. Any conservative estimate shows us being there in large numbers for at least 2 more years. At the same time tensions are racheting up with Iran, there are still military efforts going on in Afghanistan and then there is the little matter of the Chinese horde, biding their time and waiting to take back Taiwan. All the while Rummy has been consistent with his solution to all of this: Do more with less. That is the heart of SECDEF's transformation effort, which as was noted in the book Cobra II has been the main thrust of effort. Phrased in business terms he wants to reduce the infrastructure costs and human resources costs and in the process improve the value of the stock for the shareholders.

Fine. What about winning the war(s)?

I will make this clear. I'm all for improving the ways and means the government buys and executes its military money. And only someone with his head in the sand could argue that there is not a more efficient way to business in terms of production techniques and processes. However in the end it comes down to one thing. Rumsfeld's boss has committed the country to a policy abroad that has it engaged in 4 active conflicts, 2 more deterrent operations and a greater need to have the military defend the homeland than ever before. And if that were not enough, driven by a sense of getting the job done all on his watch (since his successor as President simply cannot be trusted to do God's bidding....), he is teeing up another potential war on the plate. One with an adversary who might actually fight back. And is certifiably nuts.

Against this backdrop lets add two other complications. Many of our supposed allies are not allies at all, but competitors on the world stage, and one of our erstwhile enemies holds large blocks of the public debt, which is helping to pay for the other 4+ wars. Administration response to all of this? Cut force structure, reduce total numbers of platforms (while at the same time gold plating the ones we do buy), and above all reduce those ridiculously expensive people, that we can't be bothered to support where it counts-in the pocket book-as his attack dog David Chu has proved again and again.

The President is not listening to any of it. He issued a statement Friday stating in no uncertain terms that Rummy was his boy:

"Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation," Bush said in a statement.

No surprise there. Maybe it has something to do with those pictures of the President at Tailhook that are buried deep in the vaults at the Pentagon..............

Tim Russert explained it very well when he said that Bush will not choose any other path.

"For the President to fire Rumsfeld would be like firing himself. It would be tantamount to an admission that the war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do and the President does not believe that...." Russert then correctly goes on to point out that this is not over with yet by a long shot. " The President had to issue a statement, because inside the Pentagon folks are lining up, both for and against Rumsfeld, almost like a Civil War within the Pentagon."

That may be hyperbole, but don't kid yourself, Rumsfeld is not as popular with uniformed military people as he is made out to be. In that regard the 6 retired generals are channeling a whole lot more hate and discontent:

Rumsfeld has lost the support of the uniformed military officers who work for him. Make no mistake: The retired generals who are speaking out against Rumsfeld in interviews and op-ed pieces express the views of hundreds of other officers on active duty. When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.

Furthermore, the more that folks like General Myers protest that this is not the case, the more that the rest of us believe its even more true. Myers said he never heard any criticism of the SECDEF while he was in office. Nice try sir, but I feel confident you did. However like the good loyal soldier you are, you did your best to keep the herd in line knowing full well that dissent was not going be tolerated upline by Rumsfeld and his hacks. There is anecdotal evidence of that.

Bottom line: As Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld's primary responsibilty is to resource the services properly to be ready to respond when the President asks them to. By that one criteria alone, Rumsfeld has failed. When Army units are on their 3rd and in some cases forth rotations into Iraq, when USS Abraham Lincoln has to spend 11 months on cruise in 2003, followed by 2 more cruises in the following 2 years, when the Marine Corps tells the Navy they need relief to meet their Iraqi commitments, then the force is not big enough. Period. The rightists say that the current size of the military is all Clinton's fault. No way. Its been 6 years so the statute of limitations on that one has run out. Blame Clinton for the feminization of the services if you will, but not for the size of the armed forces. Beginning Sept 11, there should have been a dedicated effort to increase the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and the SECDEF should have been actively involved in recommending to the President that in time of war, that maybe a series of broad based tax cuts that reduces the available income might not be the way to do it. We are in a long war, we need the forces to make it work, with people still having reasonable deployment rotations that allow time to be back at home, rest, train , and educate themselves. Period.

To steal a quote from Thomas Friedman, [Rumsfeld] "tried to make history on the cheap. But you can't will the ends without willing the means. That is Strategic Theory 101, and ignoring it is not just some "tactical error." No, its a major piece of management malpractice and for that reason Rumsfeld needs to go.


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