View Full Version : Wall Street Journal: Rumsfeld being quietly undermined by ranking officers

Taco John
04-17-2006, 10:18 AM
Paper: Rumsfeld being quietly undermined by own military

Published: Monday April 17, 2006

Print This | Email This

Five years ago, when Donald Rumsfeld took over at the Pentagon, he quickly moved to assert greater civilian control over senior military officers. But now, well into the Bush administration's second term, there are signs that his firm grip on the Defense Department is slipping as some uniformed officers increasingly chart their own course, the WALL STREET JOURNAL reports on registration-restricted Monday page ones. Excerpts:

Well before the recent calls by a half-dozen retired Army and Marine Corps generals for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, there was an increasing challenge to his ideas about warfare from within the senior officer ranks...

While there is no sign the military leadership inside the Pentagon is ignoring or defying Mr. Rumsfeld's orders, senior military officials in a number of cases seem more willing to go their own way, even if that means publicly questioning or quietly trying to undo some of Mr. Rumsfeld's initiatives. "Many of his war-fighting concepts are turning out to be impractical. People are walking away from them," said Robert Killebrew, a retired colonel who spent much of his career as a strategist within top commands inside the Army. He described Mr. Rumsfeld as "increasingly a spent force."


Though the criticism revolves around the difficult situation in Iraq, the unease reflects fundamental disagreement about how wars should be fought. Mr. Rumsfeld came into office with a mandate to shift the military from a force designed for the Cold War to one suited to today's unpredictable threats. He railed against inefficiencies in the military. "I have no desire to attack the Pentagon. I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself," he said in a speech one day before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Initially, the strategy seemed to bear fruit in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld argued that the speed of the assault by the relatively small U.S. force caught Mr. Hussein by surprise, preventing him from bursting dams or torching oilfields. But as that swift success gave way to looting and an increasingly violent insurgency, officers in the Army and Marines began to question whether technology could in fact transform how wars were fought.


04-17-2006, 11:48 AM
More from the WSJ:


The Generals War
What's behind the attacks against Rumsfeld.

Monday, April 17, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

So when did Generals cease to be responsible for outcomes in war? We ask that question amid the latest calls by certain retired senior military officers for Donald Rumsfeld to resign over U.S. difficulties in Iraq.

Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr., for one, was quoted last week as saying the Defense Secretary's "absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam in Iraq" mean he is not "the right person" to continue leading the Pentagon. Mr. Swannack, who commanded the 82nd Airborne in Iraq, joins other ex-uniformed Iraq War critics such as former Centcom Commander Anthony Zinni and retired Army Major General John Batiste. But there's far more behind this firefight than Mr. Rumsfeld's performance.

Mr. Zinni in particular neither fought the Iraq War nor supported it in the first place. He is a longtime advocate of "realism" in the Middle East, which is fancy-speak for leaving Arab dictators alone in the name of "stability." What Mr. Zinni really opposes is President Bush's "forward strategy of freedom," not the means by which the Administration has waged the Iraq campaign.

As for those who've raised the issue of competence, we'd be more persuaded if they weren't so impossibly vague. If their critique is that Mr. Rumsfeld underestimated the Sunni insurgency, well, so did the CIA and military intelligence. Retired General Tommy Franks, who led and planned the campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein, took a victory lap after the invasion even as the insurgency gathered strength.

If their complaint is that Mr. Rumsfeld has since fought the insurgents with too few troops, well, what about current Centcom Commander John Abizaid? He is by far the most forceful advocate of the "small footprint" strategy--the idea that fewer U.S. troops mean less Iraqi resentment of occupation.

Our point here isn't to join the generals, real or armchair, in pointing fingers of blame for what has gone wrong in Iraq. Mistakes are made in every war; there's a reason the word "snafu" began as a military acronym whose meaning we can't reprint in a family newspaper. But if we're going to start assigning blame, then the generals themselves are going to have to assume much of it.

A recent article by former Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor for the Center for Defense Information details how the U.S. advance on Baghdad in March and April 2003 was slowed against Mr. Rumsfeld's wishes by overcautious commanders on the scene. That may have allowed Saddam and many of his supporters to escape to fight the insurgency. General Abizaid also resisted the first assault on Fallujah, in April 2004, which sent a signal of U.S. political weakness. We don't agree with all of Mr. Macgregor's points, but it is likely that these Rumsfeld critics are trying to write their own first, rough draft of historic blame shifting.

Our own view is that the worst mistakes in Iraq have been more political than military, especially in not establishing a provisional Iraqi government from the very start. Instead, the U.S. allowed itself to be portrayed as occupiers, a fact that the insurgency exploited. But the blame for that goes well beyond Mr. Rumsfeld--and would extend to then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and to Mr. Bush himself.

Mr. Rumsfeld's largest mistake may have been giving L. Paul Bremer too free a hand to govern like a viceroy in 2003 and 2004 when a more rapid turnover of political power to Iraqis, and more rapid training of Iraqi forces, might have made a big difference. More than anything else, that unnecessary delay in Iraq's political and self-defense evolution has contributed to the current instability.

But that is for the historians to sort out. What matters now is doing what it takes to prevail in Iraq, setting up a new government and defeating the terrorists. How firing Mr. Rumsfeld will help in any of this, none of the critics say. They certainly aren't offering any better military strategy for victory.

More than likely, Mr. Rumsfeld's departure would create new problems, starting with a crisis of confidence in Iraq about American staying power. What do Mr. Rumsfeld's critics imagine Iraqis think as they watch former commanders assigning blame? And how would a Rumsfeld resignation contribute to the credible threat of force necessary to meet America's next major security challenge, which is Iran's attempt to build a nuclear bomb? Sacking the Defense Secretary mid-conflict would only reinforce the Iranian mullahs' belief that they have nothing to worry about because Americans have no stomach for a prolonged engagement in their part of the world.

The anti-Rumsfeld generals have a right to their opinion. But there's a reason the Founders provided for civilian control of the military, and a danger in military men using their presumed authority to push elected Administrations around. As for Democrats and their media allies, we can only admire their sudden new deference to the senior U.S. officer corps, which follows their strange new respect for the "intelligence community" they also once despised. U.S. military recruiters might not be welcome on Ivy League campuses, but they're heroes when they trash the Bush Administration.

Mr. Rumsfeld's departure has been loudly demanded in various quarters for a couple of years now, without much success, and on Friday Mr. Bush said he still has his every confidence. We suspect the President understands that most of those calling for Mr. Rumsfeld's head are really longing for his.

Source (http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008249)

04-17-2006, 12:00 PM
Nice article, patteau.

I maintain that we have been fighting this war with one hand behind our back because of the political BS going on back here, which never should have entered into the equation - if there was a primary mistake made, it's that. Instead of the only objective being total, complete, overwhelming victory, the goal seemed to be 'victory with style points to appease those who opposed the campaign to start with'

Taco John
04-17-2006, 12:07 PM
You think they're fighting the war to appease the anti-war folks back home?

HAR! HAR! HAR! *Cough* *choke* *cough*

Please man... Don't make me laugh so hard. I'm liable to have a stroke.

04-17-2006, 02:02 PM
Funny that patteau has sunk to pretending that opinionjournal = wallstreetjournal. The difference between journalism and op-ed is obvious to all, but patty I guess.

As the Washington Post confessed in response to critics pointing out that on the same day that their journalists printed a factual article, their editorial board printed a (factually inaccurate) propaganda article...

"Editorials and news stories have different purposes. News stories are to inform; editorials are to influence."

Josh Marshall's reponse to her comments:

"Out of context we might figure this was just sloppiness of phrasing. But I think it demonstrates misunderstanding. The point of an editorial is to influence WITH FACTS. Connecting readers up with actual facts, what's actually happening isn't something the editorial pages leave in the hands of the news department. It's their job too. This is what opinion journalism is about -- whether on editorial pages or magazines of opinion or blogs. It's what opinion journalists do. They argue for what the facts mean, how differents facts relate to each other, how some don't.

This is all another way of saying that editorial writers come to the canvass with much of the paint already applied. They can't make up their own facts just because they're helpful to the storyline.

That of course is not to say that editorialists and opinion columnists don't make up their own facts all the time. But that's not how it's supposed to work. And that's why people were upset with what they saw."

04-17-2006, 02:09 PM
You know this article makes me wonder how great military leaders like Washington and Patton would have survived in the internet age.

Radar Chief
04-17-2006, 03:12 PM
You think they're fighting the war to appease the anti-war folks back home?

HAR! HAR! HAR! *Cough* *choke* *cough*

Please man... Don't make me laugh so hard. I'm liable to have a stroke.

If you think thatís what he posted maybe itís too late and the stroke has already taken hold. :shrug:

04-17-2006, 04:07 PM
Funny that patteau has sunk to pretending that opinionjournal = wallstreetjournal. The difference between journalism and op-ed is obvious to all, but patty I guess.

Uh, opinionjournal is the wallstreetjournal. That's why they say


I never claimed that what I was posting was anything other than an op-ed. Where did you get that idea?

When I sink so low that I quote Josh Marshall on a regular basis, shoot me.

go bo
04-17-2006, 04:15 PM
aw, c'mon...

you know you really like josh marshall...

i mean, he's so cuddly and everything...