Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, April 14, 2006

Stars Align Against Rumsfeld

Six prominent, retired generals have now publicly called for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to resign: first Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, then Gen. Anthony Zinni, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Maj. Gen. John Batiste... and yesterday it was (4/13/06) Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack and Maj. Gen. Johnny Riggs.

I met Lt. Gen. Johnny Riggs briefly at a conference back in 2003--back when he was a three-star Lt. Gen.--before the Army stripped him of a star and unceremoniously retired him for criticizing the conduct of the Iraq war. It was an insulting and ignominious end to a highly decorated, 40-year Army career. (Ostensibly, his demotion was for a handful of technical infractions, all so insignificant that they were not placed on his official record, regarding permitting outside contractors to perform duities beyond their allowed scope.)

I had lunch with him at the conference, along with a few others at our table. He was intelligent and articulate... and also quite conservative. He started out with a few derogatory remarks about West Hollywood and it went on from there. (I also remember that when I asked him if he would pass the salt, and he sternly said, "No," then grinned and said of course he would--so at least he had a something of a sense of humor.)

I did not like the man much, and I strongly suspect his current public call for Rumsfeld to resign is also payback. But I am certain of this: before Rumsfeld canned him, Lt. Gen. Johnny Riggs was a loyal Army veteran working hard to transform the military, and when he told the Baltimore Sun in 2004 that the Army was too small to meet its new committments under Rumsfeld, he was speaking reluctantly, speaking from experience, probably speaking out of exasperation--and to the best of his ability, speaking the truth.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why I support Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense

Donald Rumsfeld should absolutely stay as the Secretary of Defense. I know there is a generating debate on whether Rumsfeld should or should not resign. Part of this is politically motivated and some philosophically motivated and rightly so. It is true mistakes have been made in Iraq. It is true that Donald Rumsfeld is in charge and therefore some responsibility for the successes as well as mistakes fall in his lap. However, let me tell you why Rumsfeld should not be fired.

First, Secretary Rumsfeld is and is known by many national security intellectuals and senior military officials to be the brightest and most capable man ever to serve as Secretary of Defense. He truly is a remarkable man and a beautiful mind. Any so-called mistakes Rumsfeld has made would likely have been made by another Secretary of Defense with regard to the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Second, the debate as to whether there were enough troops forged by the two military thought camps (the Shinseki-Franks groups), the arguments are often misconstrued. Rumsfeld and the new defense intellectuals arguing for new and bold execution, that is, a more network-centric and information-age execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, proved to be right in their assessment of the “number of troops” needed to defeat Saddam’s regime. This campaign was done with astonishing speed, agility, and complexity and historically speaking is one of the greatest victories in military history. It will prove to be a defining moment of warfare in the 21st century by all standards.

However, the second half of the war, that is, the rebuilding and reconstruction of the country proved to not be sufficiently nor correctly planned and prepared for. This second half could have benefited from either more troops (U.S. or coalition) or another force type the Pentagon (or other agency) has not invested sufficiently in (troops designed, trained and equipped to rapidly help stabilize and rebuild a country). This second half did not have sufficient numbers or capability because of some assumptions based on intelligence which proved to be incorrect, and the robust insurgency which emerged (arguably somewhat the result of decisions made to disband the Iraqi Army). This decision as well as the many other decisions may have allowed the insurgency to take hold easier than it otherwise would have. And these decisions rest squarely with officials in charge of the war, including Rumsfeld. However, the decision to not disband the Iraqi Army also would have had its consequences, and persons making these decisions had to look at differing views of intelligence to make their decision. Hindsight is 20/20. Rumsfeld should be graded on his prosecution of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (which includes the brilliantly successful initial campaign to topple Saddam, the aftermath of reconstruction, and the third “war” of fighting terrorists and a robust insurgency). In all accounts he has done wonders with one of the most different and complex Global wars ever to be waged.

Finally, as to running the Department and transforming the military to tackle new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities – he should be commended. While there is not yet a large camp among the general public who understand what is happening among the Department of Defense and national security apparatus at large, the changes that are taking place as a result of Rumsfeld vision and leadership will radically transform the way the Department of Defense plans and conducts war in the future. Without these bold and innovative changes the new challenges in transitioning from the industrial-age to the information-age would not be matched. The 21st century security environment is different and is changing at a rapid pace. Rumsfeld understands this and the new opportunities which must be harnessed to deal with these complex and adaptive challenges. He understands we will be fighting rapidly adaptive networks taking advantaged of globalization and the internet to do their harm. He understands the current organization and makeup of the Department of Defense and national security apparatus at large is insufficient to face these new and adaptive challenges.

There are still some defense intellectuals and Generals out there who do not yet understand these challenges and are resistant to change, but there days are numbered. Many of these Generals who demand Rumsfeld should resign are old-fashioned and still caught up in the industrial-age Cold War mentality. They do not understand the information-age and the new ways of operating. We should respect their opinions but also listen to the new breed of warriors being generated today who understand this well and are emboldened by Rumsfeld’s grand vision for change which will help secure generations to come. I highly support Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. I welcome your thoughts and commentary.
 

// posted by Anonymous

Dr. Strangelove said...

Thank you for your calm and well-reasoned comments. It is rare to be able to engage in a thoughtful debate on this issue. Let me respond to your points in order.

1. As a defense analyst who specializes in network-centric warfare, I consider myself one of the "national security intellectuals" you mention.... and I agree that Rumsfeld is a brilliant man and his philosphy regarding military transformation (a movement begun in the mid-90s, actually) is on the mark. I fully agree with your remarks re new adaptive challenges.

But I cannot disagree more with your characterization of him as, "the most capable man ever to serve," as SecDef.

It is instructive to examine what conservatives were saying about Rumsfeld in the months before the attacks of 9/11 and the Iraq war polarized the debate. Here is a representative article, "Why the Hawks are Carpet Bombing Rumsfeld" from BusinessWeek, dated August 6, 2001.

Simply put, in his few months i office before 9/11, Rumsfeld had managed to accomplish nearly nothing except to alienate the military leadership and Congress. His style of leadership was so random and dictatorial that even conservative analysts were apalled; BusinessWeek quotes one who said Rumsfeld "severely undermined any Republican claim to superior competence in defense management." Some on the Right openly called for his resignation.

The attacks of 9/11 changed Rumsfeld's reputation--in no small part due to his eloquence at the Pentagon that day--and probably saved his career. (This is not merely my opinion, but the opinion of many senior analysts I spoke with at the time. Take it as you will.)

2. You misconstrue the nature of the debate between Army Chief of Staff Gen. Shinseki and others. Shinseki's estimate of two-to-three hundred thousand troops was not for the initial war (as you said) but rather for the occupation afterward--and unfortunately, it was Shinseki who proved to be correct.

Here's a portion of the transcript of his famous testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb 25, 2003:

"Sen. CARL LEVIN (D), Michigan: General Shinseki, could you give us some idea as to the magnitude of the Army's force requirement for an occupation of Iraq, following a successful completion of the war?

Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI, Army Chief of Staff, '98-'03: In specific numbers, I would have to rely on combatant commander's exact requirements. But I think--

Sen. CARL LEVIN: How about a range?

Gen. ERIC SHINSEKI: I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers, are probably, a-- you know, figure that would be required. We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes significant ground force presence."

In response, Rumsfeld famously called Shinseki's assessment, "way off the mark," and his deputy Wolfowitz mocked the notion, saying, "it's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine." (testimony given before the House Budget Committee on Feb. 27, 2003)


There was no disagreement on the initial war plan except to the extent that Shinseki would have preferred to wait to build up additional forces in the theater for the following occupation. In fact, Shinseki had been one of the strongest proponents of network-centric, information-age warfare!

It was Gen. Shinseki who pushed for the development of the Strkyer Brigades and the Future Combat System (FCS)--both programs begun circa 1999, before Rumsfeld returned to office. Even Shinseki's official biography notes that he, "initiated the Army Transformation campaign to address both the emerging strategic challenges of the early twenty-first century and the need for cultural and technological change in the Army."

In other words, while it is fair that Rumsfeld share the credit for the success of the major combat operations (and I stress "share," because it belongs to the commanders on the ground, most of whom were appointed long before the Bush administration) he and his associates deserve the lion's share of blame for their poor planning for the occupation phase of the war.

The possibility of post-invasion "problems" invasion was grossly underestimated by Rumsfeld and his deputies--who also grossly understimated the cost of the war in both human and financial terms. (e.g.,
Wolfowitz testified re Iraq: "There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." [Atlantic Monthly, March 27, 2003])

To grade Rumsfeld solely on the performance of our troops during the major combat phase of OIF--which was indeed handled with astonishing "speed, agility and complexity" as you say--is disingenuous. This is not a matter of hindsight, but of Rumsfeld's lack of foresight... a lack not shared by others.
Many people outside Rumsfeld's inner circle did worry greatly about the aftermath.

The possibility of civil strife, even a civil war, was well-anticipated. (Many forget this, but it was all over the news. One example: columnist Molly Ivins said on 1/16/03 of the plans to invade Iraq, "can you say, 'horrible three-way civil war?'")

So to sum up, Rumsfeld's "grand vision for change" was not new to Rumsfeld, and is shared widely in the defense community. It had begun with the "digitization" and "Force XXI" efforts in the mid-90s, and continued with the FCS, Stryker Brigades, and the official "transformation" program begun in the late 1990s. If Rumsfeld were to go tomorrow, transformation would proceed apace. In fact, it might even speed up. Rumsfeld's managerial style is famously capricious and autocratic (which--interestingly--is unlike the military, which tends to work more by orderly consensus at the higher levels...) and it has severely handicapped his ability to lead transformational activities.

Rumsfeld's complete dismissal of critiques of his OIF war plan (for ALL phases of the military operation, not just the "shock and awe") and the subsequent disaster is the final nail in Rumsfeld's coffin. He is technically brilliant but managerially incompetent, visionary toward the future but blind to current reality.

I agree with you that the success of the initial combat operations will prove to be a defining moment of 21st century warfare. But I also think the failure of the stability and support operations will be another--and will be the one that most impedes the transformation that most military analysts support.

Anonymous said...

I have a question and a comment.

I his rebuttal to the his critics, Rumsfeld said that there are "thousands and thousands of generals and admirals" who haven't criticized him and that these are only six. The fact that those in currently serving can't criticize the civilian leadership aside, are there really "thousands and thousands" or generals and admirals?

There are two very important things no one has specifically brought up, although one of them would fall under the title of "management".

1. Rumsfeld's involvement and role in the prisoner abuse scandals.
2. He politicization of the chain of command. He is now requiring anyone aspiring to the level of general to be interviewed by him. This taints the type of military consul he receives.

While Rumsfeld will serve out his term, and while I do agree with both Dr. S and our guest that many of the changes that are currently taking place are necessary and in general correct, the rest of his record is troubling if not lamentable.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I want to echo one thing USWest said. Rumsfeld's role in everything from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib is the reason he should resign. Not to mention the lies. He said he knew EXACTLY WHERE the WMD were before the war, and as late as March 30 in an interview with Stephanopoulous. Flat out lies, but he hoped they would find WMD somewhere and that would save his bacon - or that Republicans and the Corporate Media would just gloss over it all. He doesn't have the moral character to serve as secretary of defense, period. And there has to be accountability for the inexcusable, not just among the privates.

Rumsfeld's supposed "vision" for the military may be sweeping, but - as Iraq shows in spades - it lacks something in the accuracy or usefulness department. His paranoid desire to squelch all opposition ensures that he never learns anything, always dangerous for a leader.

Bottom line: two and a half thousand soldiers are dead, nearly 20,000 are wounded, our national credibility is in tatters, our military is in a morale and recruiting tailspin, our allies are deserting us, and now we face real problems in Iran with so few options that apparently they are talking about nukes. No wonder Colin Powell got out early.

Impeach Rumsfeld! 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I agree with US West and LTG. Rumsfeld should have been fired - in a humiliating way - back when Abu Ghraib broke. He should also be prosecuted.

I really couldn't care less about the military reform issues at this point. On some level they are important but our country's democracy is more threatened by the people implementing these reforms than by the foreign threats such reforms are supposedly designed to protect us from. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

The new conservative tactic is to pretend that the criticism from retired generals is merely cynical, bureaucratic opposition to Rumsfeld's courageous attempts at military reform. But it is actually courageous opposition to Rumsfeld's cynical attempts at military leadership.

The conservative claims do not pass the laugh test. Generals Shinseki and Riggs, for example, were actually key leaders of the transformation effort before Rumsfeld ousted them for questioning his planning and conduct of the Iraq war.

Anonymous said...

Also, I saw that two of the critics were former Commanders of US Central Command (the military command in which Iraq is located).

These aren't just a small number of random cranks. This is a high percentage of the senior flag officiers who have worked with Rumsfeld in the planning and prosecution of this war! 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

US West said...

I tried to post this last night and it must not have taken. While I am pleased to see respected individuals speaking out, I wonder if this is a good thing in the long run for democracy. Does this set a good or bad precedent? When Generals come out of retirement to question civilian leadership, are we endangering something fundamental? This isn't the first time that Generals have challenged the executive, but never so many at one time. I find it scary when it is the military that is concerned (rightfully so) about the judgment of the civilian leadership. Isn't it usually the other way around? Does this disturb the balance we have maintained in our democracy between civilians and the military? Doesn't it further politicize the military?

That aside: let's be more precise who these generals are. It isn't only their number, but their reputations that matter here.

1. Maj. Gen. John Batiste (Army, Ret.) commanded an army division in Iraq and was offered three stars as well as the No. 2 position there. He chose instead to retire rather than continuing to serve under Rumsfeld.

2. Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (Marines, Ret.) oversaw the training of Iraqi security forces. He called Rumsfeld "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically" in a New York Times OP-Ed.

3. Lt. Gen Gregory Newbold (Marines, Ret.) served as the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff until shortly before the Iraq invasion. Writing for a Time article he said that he was sorry now that he "did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat – Al-Qaeda".

4. Gen. Anthony Zinni (Marines, Ret.)former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command(CENTCOM). He has long opposed the administration, and testified before Congress to that effect.

5. General Wesley Clarke (Us Army, Ret.) Former head of NATO and democratic presidential candidate.

6. Maj. Gen. John Riggs (Army, Ret)told NPR last week that the leadership as "arrogant", "They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that’s a mistake."

7. Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack (Army, Ret.)led the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. He is quoted as saying, "I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him. . . Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces."

While he isn't yet part of these dissident generals, General Eric Ken Shinseki (Army, Ret.) was the 34th Secretary of the Army. He and Rumsfeld locked horns more than once over how "transformation" should take place. He also testified before Congress that we needed a much larger force in Iraq to be effective, contrary to Gen. Tommy Franks and Rumsfeld.

Reports say that the Pentagon has called a Tuesday meeting of all of its "TV generals," retired generals who serve as analysts for television and newspapers and get regular Pentagon briefings to discuss the current troubles. And there have been reports that if we go to war in Iran, there is a cadre of generals who will resign in protest. So, I am sure this will heat up.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

"While I am pleased to see respected individuals speaking out, I wonder if this is a good thing in the long run for democracy. "

The answer to this question relates to if you're an elitist or a populist. I think the answer is always yes -- the free exchange of ideas and views educates the populace, who therefore make better informed decisions.

If you fear that the rabble may be unduly influenced by the demagoguery of well-spoken men in shiny uniforms with a flag waving behind them, unable to separate information from opinion and rationality from charisma, then having retired military comment on current military campaigns is risky.

To be fair, my position is taken on faith, and there are certainly many cases where the shiny-uniformed men have led their people to unforgivable atrocity. So the "elitist" position isn't necessarily wrong, just not what I think.

On the other hand, if the Pentagon can "call a ... meeting of all of its `TV generals'", then this horse has left the barn. You've already _got_ (retired) military dudes commenting on current campaigns. Up until now, they've been offering explanation in terms of the goals the military seeks to achieve, without offering their (expert) opinion on whether the methods adopted are likely to work, and what costs they'll have. That's either objective or tacitly supporting the party line, depending on your point of view. Personally, I'd rather have them tell me their opinion up front.

I think that it doesn't "further politicize the military", unless the administration takes it upon themselves to tell these retired folks what to say or, far worse, tells current military leaders what to say.

My impression is that those currently in the military have mostly (quite rightly) kept their opinions to themselves, even in the face of the administration claiming that their silence=support for Rumsfeld. As long as that stays true, I'm not worried about the military throwing its muscle around politically.

The military-industrial complex's industrial-civilian-research wing, however...that's full of warmongering lunatics dragging our country to hell in a handbasket, as I'm sure several of you know. :) 

// posted by Bob

Anonymous said...

I am very suspicious of those who think that dissent of any kind is dangerous. The enemy will pay attention to the battlefield realities and facts on the ground, not who's popping off at home. After all, would we pay any attention to public statements by Al Qaeda leaders?

I am disappointed that the generals waited to retire before making their views known. If their criticism is important, then voice it and take what comes. That would be heroic. Shooting from behind the safety of retirement is disappointing. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

"The military-industrial complex's industrial-civilian-research wing, however...that's full of warmongering lunatics dragging our country to hell in a handbasket, as I'm sure several of you know."

...and it is a very expensive, spirally developed, capabilities-based handbasket, I might add.

Dr. Strangelove said...

In an organization that cannot abide insubordination, it is reasonable to expect active military officers not to disagree publicly with their superiors--the Secretary of Defense and the Commander in Chief. There is a difference between legitimate whistleblowing and a policy dispute.

An appropriate public venue for active military officers to speak more freely would be a Congressional hearing, since Congress is--in a sense--another "superior officer" that deserves honest answers.

And retired officers can and should speak freely, as it is no longer insubordinate.

It has been understood for some time, however, that civilian leaders will only demand so much in the way of public shows of support from active military officers. To round up "TV Generals" to shill for the SecDef is insulting to the military tradition. It harms the military. The President should put a stop to it.

Anonymous said...

Dr. S. writes:
"In an organization that cannot abide insubordination, it is reasonable to expect active military officers not to disagree publicly with their superiors--the Secretary of Defense and the Commander in Chief."

Is there any evidence they disagreed privately? Or was it just "yes sir" until they got out? 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Actually, there was plenty of friction between Rumsfeld and military personnel about the war plans and the transformation. This was widely reported at the time. It was well known that the services were not in favor of going to war in Iraq nor were they happy with the conducting of it. Gen Ken Shinseki out right contradicted the Administration before Congress when he said they would need way more troops than were being allocated. It was rumored at the them that General Ken Shinseki was let go from his post as Secrety of the Army over disagreements with Rumsfeld. However, it later came out that his term had expired and that he wasn't "let go".

 

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

It is true that Shinseki's term was due to expire when it did, and that had nothing to do with his quarrel with Rumsfeld.

But Rumsfeld froze him out. There were few, if any, of the traditional honors upon his departure--it was notoriously cold. And worse yet, Rumsfeld deliberately announced Shineski's replacement several months ahead of time, thereby undermining the remainder of Shinseki's term.

As in a case the Supreme Court is currently hearing, there are a lot of ways to retaliate against an employee without technically firing him.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is very true, Dr. S. Thanks for mentioning that part of the story. And I reiterate your point that Shinseki's departure was retalitory because he publicly disagreed with the Administration.

There were several others as well among the intelligence community. It was no accident that the CIA was forced to take the hit for 9/11. Notice that George J. Tenet resigned in 2004, supposidly over the 9/11 failures. (I postulate that the real blame should fall to the NSA who failed to translate most of the critical intelligence in time.) However, the CIA was also not in favor the Iraq war and provided ample intelligence that contradicted the Administration, as noted in Congressional hearings with Condi Rice et co. Remember all the books that came out from people like Richard Clarke? Those guys were out front on this before the Generals.

I have an acquaintance who worked for DIA. She told me that reports filed by Iraq to the weapons inspectors were sitting on shelves in DIA that had never even been opened. Their bindings were as tight as the day they were delivered.


There was plenty of opposition, but it was stifled by an aggressive White House that used heavy-handed tatics with journalists, evidenced in the latest scandale over the files of Jack Anderson  .
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Well, what about the current six generals. Did they dissent? 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

Some did, some did not. Riggs dissented.