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Analysis Last Updated: Apr 24th, 2006 - 01:48:23

Ending Rumsfeld's reign
By John Peebles
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 24, 2006, 01:45

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Our current strategy in Iraq is controlled by a political appointee with no combat experience, who crushes dissent with Stalinistic vigor and cannot tolerate truth when it conflicts with political goals.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's blind loyalty has been rewarded with equally blind devotion by George W. Bush, who's kept the appointee despite Rumsfeld's repeated offers of resignation.

A consummate deceiver with a candid style, Rumsfeld has been portrayed sympathetically in the media, for at least as long as mainstream coverage has chosen not to focus too hard on the results of the Iraq war. Yet now, in an election year, as the fiscal and political price of intervention in Iraq rises, Rumsfeld's star has become a gaping black-hole of a liability for the Bush administration.

Rumsfeld's "War Lite" [1] strategy of reducing the size of troop deployments hasn't survived the test of Iraq.

Six generals dissing Rumsfeld represents the tip of an iceberg of resistance to the new doctrine. Prevailing military logic -- esteemed by the Old Guard--concluded that we needed more troops in the beginning. Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki was fired for stating the truth that we needed 200,000-plus [2]. During the invasion, Barry McCaffery complained about the absence of follow-on forces to secure and stabilize, recommending instead a "brigade of MPs" at every key road junction, behind the force.[3]

Rumsfeld's incompetence and his willingness to sacrifice problem solving for politics has created a common enemy for both hawk and dove.

Doves must revel in the damage done by the secretary's alienation within the military community, knowing as they do Bush's stubborn inclination to reward loyalty to the point of excess, and in the case of FEMA's Michael Brown, to tolerate incompetence by clinging unendingly to the vassals of his rotting political machine.

On the Right, powerful Republicans are displeased with how things are going in Iraq, and their calls for change have the support of retired generals who specifically blame Rumsfeld. Remembering Vietnam and the role politics played in military decision-making then, Pentagon insiders are nervously seeing a replay of an unwinnable, open-ended commitment to defend corrupt proxy regimes evolve in Iraq.

Both hawk and dove are coming to appreciate a commonly held goal: an end to the Occupation and a restoration of our military. Should the impossiblity of victory become clear, and departure more politically viable, remaining to be decided is only the choice of when we leave.

Massive bases have been built in Iraq, the strategic heart of the Middle East. We may see a repeat of what we saw in Saudi Arabia post Gulf I, after a massive airbase was built and abandoned.

Politics in the Military

Rumsfeld has turned our military into an instrument serving the political needs of the executive. The uniformed leadership of the Pentagon has grown tired of the influence of politics in Rumsfeld's decision-making, and the secretary's self-righteous leadership style (like that of his superior, Bush).

Like Bush, Rumsfeld demanded total loyalty from his inner circle. So, in one of his first challenges to the status quo, he supplanted the traditional command hierarchy in the Armed Services using the secretaries of the service branches with a tiered array of personally selected, highly trusted, controllable minions.

For the Old Guard, an end to Rumsfeld's controversial tenure connotes a return to a more conventional military, where decisions were made by senior officers using more traditional assumptions. Buried in Rumsfeld's departure is the hope that the military may be able to avoid political influence from White House, or at least minimize it. Theoretically, less politicized leadership would allow the Pentagon to address with an apolitical eye the administrative and political problems in Iraq, and, thereby, be able to resolve them more favorably.

For far too long the military leadership has been eager to tell Rumsfeld what he wanted to hear, rather than face the truth that the insurgency was worsening. As in Vietnam, bad news has a hard time working itself up the chain-of-command. For career preservation, silence was prudent -- the outing of three-star General Shinseki showed that no one in the military was immune from the influence of politics. Likewise, Shinseki's outing sent the message that analysis would be judged more on its acceptability to political sensitivities than its accuracy. This could explain why the Iraq problem grew worse as Rumsfeld told Bush and the press that things were improving -- a style of politically sapient media management which ultimately set up big problems for our military later.

In the lead-up to the 2004 elections, master manipulators like Rove and Rumsfeld spun a utopian fantasy where we could end the terror threat and build democracy across the Middle East by liberating Iraq. The clear light of election year politics has hopefully brought new scrutiny over the conduct and progress of the occupation of Iraq. In that respect external political pressures may help alleviate the Pentagon's leadership crisis; as the trumpets of war fade, the dull spectre of mounting costs and casualties overshadows even the most vigorously spun optimism and the pressure for change grows.

With the dying dream of democracy in Iraq comes the blathering stupidity of saber-rattling against Iran. Widening the Iraq conflict to the surrounding region must really have seasoned military professionals concerned. Already, with intervention mere speculation, the price of oil rises, reflecting not only the destabilizing geopolitical impact of any US military escalation, but also the increasingly clear reality that the US military cannot control violence in Iraq, which would presumably increase even further in response to any military action against Iran.

Iran will take us directly into a draft. Our manpower shortages will further deplete our force strength. This isn't to say that the military has traditionally been concerned with casualty rates. In its purest form, military doctrine places victory ahead of cost. In this respect, politics can serve an important function by limiting the acceptability of losses.

Abandoning Legal Precedent

Under Rumsfeld too many officers have chosen to pass on the opportunity to defend the Constitution, which does NOT give infinite power to the executive. Giving infinite power to the executive can turn America into a country not ruled by laws but by a dictator or a king.

Blind allegiance has let our military devolve into a body with no head. Pentagon leadership, personified by Rumsfeld, can't discern what is right and what is wrong, or simply doesn't want to imperil career for the sake of truth, judging by the delayed emergence of anti-Rumsfeld comments until after the dissenting generals had left the service.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice was ignored under White House-driven torture initiatives inspired by the legal chicanery of John Woo [4] and present Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Torture was deemed, by strictly political types, as the most effective method for getting at the "terrorists.".

The Pentagon has done what it can to gloss over the gross violations of the Geneva Conventions that it has committed under torture-friendly Rumsfeld. Still, one day the consequences of redefining our commitment to Geneva may come back to hurt our troops in the field. While on a superficial level demonstrating a higher level of commitment to winning, willfully embracing torture as it defined in the Geneva Conventions (and the military's own code) is a sign that meddling by the politicos at the top has contaminated our military, most likely to their detriment in the long-term.

Shadows of Vietnam

Arrogance doomed us in Vietnam, where we failed to recognize the possibility of failure. Ironically, the much maligned influence of politics on the conduct of the Vietnam war is oft given as the reason for failure in Vietnam, alongside the more recently used tactic of bashing anyone bearing bad news, which is instantly labeled as the product of biased, "defeatist" media.

A key rationale for Rumsfeld's "War Lite" strategy was the reduction of casualties. The Right blames political flack for casualties as a major reason for "surrender" in Vietnam. Perhaps the force size reductions attempted to make a state of ongoing war more politically tolerable for the administration at war, thereby, feeding the Pentagon furnace for an extended period. Whether or not this was Rumsfeld's ulterior motive, surely the rise in the Iraqi resistance makes "War Lite" obsolete among realists.

Leaders who can't recognize the failures of the past are doomed to repeat them. While useful to protect public image, politically inspired denial is at the heart of weak leadership and failure to anticipate and manage problems in Iraq.

Media Management

Eager to appease his political leader, Bush, and friend, Cheney, Rumsfeld places greater value on preserving the politically popular image of victory, to the detriment of practical military concerns, which are task and result oriented.

Rumsfeld's optimistic predictions protect a domestic audience who hear what they want to hear. Rumsfeld's spinning also helps contribute to a disconnect between the what goes on in Iraq and how America reacts, so the general public is kept unaware of the scope of the problem "over there." Like addicts in denial, many in the public and politics ignore reality in order to avoid recognizing the scope of the problem they must eventually face. Withdrawal is a hard decision.

As casualties mount and questions on a future path out of Iraq go unanswered, Rumsfeld's endlessly optimistic positions, which used to appear cute and stylized now seem neither. Rumsfeld's grin and candid style, once the keys to his media popularity, now seem out of place, and haughty as hard questions from the media come with fewer easy answers.


The core neocon axis (Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheney) of the Bush war machine wobbles as its credibility fades and Iraq worsens. Infatuated with the neocons' grand imperial odyssey across the Middle East, the political masters of the Pentagon have charted a dangerous, open-ended course into the unknown for our military.

Under Rumsfeld, our military is quietly failing. Seduced by the river of blood money surging through its bowels, the Pentagon denies the existence of any reality other than that favorable to its political masters. To keep the train rolling, all are on board, the course is on cruise-control towards victory and all other possible outcomes are fabrications. Der Sieg Wird Unser Sein. ("Victory will be Ours.")

Used in Iraq to drum up pro-war, nationalist support for the "War President's" re-[s]election, those responsible for our defense must now realize that their beloved Pentagon has been used to further political ends. Only now, and painfully, they are learning the importance of avoiding politics as they are bogged down in the hardening mud of the Iraq entanglement. Closer to the truth, the rank and file military must see the course of unrealistic expectations unraveling ahead, toiling as they are in the belly of the beast.

Ultimately, a military that owes its allegiance not to a people, or government, but to a single, titular head will likely devolve into an instrument used to resolve domestic political rivalries. As the creator of our new military, and a failed Iraqi strategy, Rumsfeld represents a threat to the functioning of our country's military and must be removed.

There comes a point in the history of all nations that the reins of power must be pulled from the hands of the incompetent, for the good of the state.

The author lives in small-town Indiana and is a web-based writer and analyst covering news, politics, and international affairs.


[1] Rumsfeld's "War Lite" Strategy
a) The Revolt of the Generals by Justin Raimondo, 4/17/2006.
b) Gulf War Lite by Rahul Mahajan, AlterNet, 8/2/02
c) Blair should stop playing fall guy in Rumsfeld's war games by Simon Jenkins, Guardian Unlimited, 11/16/05.

[2] It's broadly acknowledged among Pentagon-watchers that Shinseki's career came to an end as the result of his honesty.

[3] The comments of Barry McCaffery, former General and Drug Policy "Czar" under President Clinton, as given during the invasion on MSNBC, reflect the wider reaction to Rumsfeld's war plan in Iraq, as it deviated from traditional military doctrine calling for a larger force. See Revenge of the Generals by Michael Moran, MSNBC, 9/25/03.

[4] John Yoo, Former White House Legal Counsel, Constitutional Law "Expert"

Other Sources:

(a) Time for him to go, The Economist, 4/20/06

The author lives in small-town Indiana and is a web-based writer and analyst covering news, politics, and international affairs.

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