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The Reporters: US mid-terms

Adam Brookes

Rumsfeld: Open case


There's a term used often in the military - "command climate".

rumsfeld_getty203b.jpgIt signifies the atmosphere that a senior leader generates through his language, his behaviour, his attitude. The command climate seeps down from the top and influences the way the entire chain of command makes its decisions.

The command climate that Donald Rumsfeld generated in the Pentagon was unforgiving. He questioned everything and everybody.

His memos - known as "Rummy's snowflakes" because they came in blizzards - would have officers at their wits' end.

Major General John Batiste, after he retired, called him "arrogant" and "abusive".

Bob Woodward, in his book State of Denial, recounts seeing the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, with his head in his hands after another meeting with Sec Def.

An army major I once met said bluntly: "Rumsfeld hates us, he hates the army." I think that few in the uniformed military will be sad to see him gone.

But Rumsfeld saw himself as crusading against military inertia and conservatism. He loathed what he saw as the military's addiction to outmoded, expensive weapons platforms and its desire to fight only the wars it already knew how to fight.

In common with many of President Bush's advisers, he believed that America should not respond to the world, it should transform the world. For Rumsfeld that meant transforming the military, Afghanistan, Iraq, the very environment in which America's adversaries operate worldwide.

It will be a long time before history reaches a stable verdict on Donald Rumsfeld's second tenure as Secretary of Defense.

Many of his decisions will be condemned. His inability to ensure control Baghdad immediately after US troops stormed into the city will, I imagine, be reviled.

But his understanding of the threats that America faces today, and his instincts as to how America should answer them, will be the subject of long debate.

Adam Brookes is the BBC's Pentagon correspondent.

Comments  Post your comment

"he believed that America should not respond to the world, it should transform the world. For Rumsfeld that meant transforming the military, Afghanistan, Iraq"

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The USA, being the super-power that it is, has the responsibility of helping carve out the way for struggling nations. Sure, we can all sit back now and say "well, maybe Iraq should have been left alone" - but America; being the size and force that it is shouldn't and hasn't been reactionary in its foreign policy. And that's a good thing.

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  • 2.
  • At 11:47 PM on 08 Nov 2006,
  • AJ wrote:

So, in summary, the historical verdict on Rummy is as yet unknown... but it's a known unknown.

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  • 3.
  • At 12:10 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Ann R. wrote:

I'd say good riddance, but it looks like we've just been sold some more snake oil. Out of the closet comes Gates of the Iran Contra club, just when Bush needs him.

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  • 4.
  • At 12:38 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • LJ wrote:

I hope that the lesson learned in all this is, humility. Regarding the first comment left to this blog, the US is one of many nations. In many ways it is better then others, and in many ways it is worse. The best recommendation I always offer people is to try to live in a different country. When you do you find that your perception and understanding of your home country (wherever it may be) will be different. Why? Because your understanding of the world around you, your country and your place in it will have changed.

In short, America has a duty to keep, that all other countries should also keep. To find ways to work and live together because we have to. The aggressive nature that the US (well, I mean the Bush Administration) went after Iraq was really to fuel a successful presidency. A 'wartime' George Bush can appear for more in charge then a 'peace time' GB. I mean when you are at peace you have to deal with all those pesky domestic issues. War is far more glamorous. Too bad this one turned out so badly for GB, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest of the gang.

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  • 5.
  • At 01:23 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • shear ali wrote:

rummy only lost his job, but the many he sent on his folly us/iraqie/brit lost there lives, I bet he will get a better pension than those service men/women families will get in compensation, for there lost ones for me he should be in the next cell to Saddam. all in all shut the door on the way out

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  • 6.
  • At 01:45 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Roger Cedras wrote:

I think the "debate" is still open only in the columnist's mind. Isn't there conclusive evidence that the Iraq invasion was a disaster in every way? Didn't the election just show that most people think so? Thousands of innocent people dead, a whole region in turmoil, and the columnist still thinks the question is open? I wonder what it would take to convince him?

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  • 7.
  • At 01:50 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • RL wrote:

Rumsfeld is old enough to remember previous wars, but for some reason ran the military like a naive teenager.

Blitzkrieg style invasions didn't bring the Nazis victory. Ultimately, you have to occupy the land to hold it. Germany was great on taking, but dismal at keeping.

"Carpet bombing" (the 1960's version of "shock and awe") didn't work against the Vietcong. The Vietcong "insurgents" (yes, they had them back then too) had victories on the ground where it counted. Such as the 1964 Battle of Binh Gia.

Napalm did nothing but produce pictures of badly burned naked children running through the streets of Vietnam. He must remember those pictures. What makes him think that White Phosphorous helps in Iraq?

Rumsfeld is also old enough to remember: the French losing Algeria, the British-backed Ian Smith losing Rhodesia, and the Portuguese defeat in Mozambique. For some reason White people from hi-tech first world nations, chasing People of Color around the country side of poor agricultural countries, never goes out of style.

Rumsfeld is also old enough to know that "White Man's Burden" doesn't work in real life.


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  • 8.
  • At 02:11 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • KT wrote:

Response to Misery and Suffering (#1 above):

"This is not necessarily a bad thing. The USA, being the super-power that it is, has the responsibility of helping carve out the way for struggling nations."

Let me get this straight: If another nation becomes a super-power and comes to believe the United States is a struggling nation, it would be alright for them to use military power to invade the U.S. in order to show/tell the citizens how they should live their lives?

I think it's time for a sociology class...

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  • 9.
  • At 02:13 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • aeskelin wrote:

The reluctance to listen to *any* criticism lead to the stupid mantra "stay on the course" ending to a dead
end street in Iraq.

Cheney's slogan "full speed ahead" against the wall is making the mess even worse.

We need only one word to describe the underlaying causality: *incompetence* of the political leadership in Pentagon and in White House.

Rummy and W should apologize the American soldiers!

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  • 10.
  • At 02:16 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Bruce wrote:

The Democrat Party has undermined the Defense Dept. purposefully for the past six years--after trying to actively dismantle it during the Clinton years-- knowing full well the global trade-offs they proffer for supposed domestic advantage. Bush rewards them by throwing Rummy under the bus. Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah and bin Laden are laughing their hate-filled arses off.

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  • 11.
  • At 03:08 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • J Miller wrote:

If Rummy questioned "everything and everybody" how did the US end up with the WMD embarrassment?
How did he "lose" a munitions warehouse full of high explosives as US soldiers occupied Iraq? Why wasn't armor adequate? Where are the billions of dollars that were supposed to spent on rebuilding Iraq? Why did he humiliate the US worldwide for his treatment of "detainees."
The list goes on -- each blunder by itself should have been more than enough to fire him.

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  • 12.
  • At 03:31 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Ali G wrote:

I was inspired by Mr. Rumsfelds vision for transforming the military. I was, however, dumbfounded by his complete ignorance of the the middle east culture and sheer incompetence when it came to military planning and execution. We will all be dealing with Rumsfelds "Transforming the world" fantasy for a long time.

Misery and Suffering (comment #1 above), writes "America; being the size and force that it is shouldn't and hasn't been reactionary in its foreign policy." Maybe I'm misunderstanding the comment, but I'm not sure how much more reactionary you can get than creating an imaginary threat and pre-emptively going to war over it.

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  • 13.
  • At 06:07 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • John wrote:

Donald Rumsfled was without doubt the single most dangerous person in the Bush Administration. We wake up this morning to a better and safer world now that he has left office.

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The world is a safer place with out the mad man known as Mr D "I am right dont qestion me" Rumsfield.

President Hussian was a more stable and less tiranicale person.

Lets hope Rumsfield and Bush both face War Crime charges for what they have done.


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  • 15.
  • At 07:10 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Ron Spoons wrote:

The change in Sec. of Defense provides Bush with a cover for his failed policies in Iraq. Washington will give Gates time to outline his approach to the problems of Iraq. The Democrats will continue to talk about change but will not be able to do much.

How many years did Viet Nam drag on under Nixon? The same will be true this time with Iraq. Biden and the crew will hold hearings and make suggestions but the people of Iraq and our soldiers will continue to die.

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  • 16.
  • At 07:11 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • GUY FOX wrote:

RUMMY LOST HIS JOB... BUT ONLY AFTER 2800 AMERICAN SOLDIERS AND 650,000+ IRAQIS LOST THEIR LIVES IN A SENSELESS WAR... IN IRAQ-NAM.

I THINK DONALD RUMSFELD, DICK CHENEY AND GEORGE W. BUSH SHOULD BE SENT OFF TO THE WORLD COURT AT THE HAGUE TO FACE CHARGES OF WAR CRIMES

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  • 17.
  • At 09:44 AM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Belinda wrote:

He loathed what he saw as the military's addiction to outmoded, expensive weapons platforms and its desire to fight only the wars it already knew how to fight

Yeah, because we have all seen how well the military do fighting wars without any equipment, not to mention fighting wars for which strategy is unknown apart from "Ooh let's bomb them!". Rummie's leadership of the forces borders on negligence.

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The replacement of Rumsfeld shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was under fire for almost a year, especially from veteran generals in the US armed forces who were critical of his management of the war in Iraq and the running of the defence department. It is significant that he was replaced. This means he didn’t offer his resignation. He stuck to his position to the last moment when the Bush administration was faced with the reality through mid-term election results and not from polls or editorials in military press or in influential press like the Washington post which was among the first to publish the shortcomings of the US military in Iraq.

The resignation of Rumsfeld is likely to create a shake-up in the defence department. But his departure is unlikely to create a major new approach to the situation in Iraq as the Bush administration is set to stay there until its job is finished. Rumsfeld should be seen just as minus one from the group of hawks of war such as Bush, Cheney and Rice are still running the policy in Iraq. His shadow will stay in the defence department as a new defence secretary doesn't mean the early return of US forces from Iraq. The situation in Iraq for Bush is equated with the US interests in the Middle East.

The Republicans are facing double challenge. First, how to succeed in keeping the government going smoothly without severe confrontation with the Democrats at the Congress. Second how to ensure staying in power after 2008 presidential elections.

The remaining years for Bush in office can bring surprises, now that the Republicans lost control of the Congress. The US policy may undergo a new drama. As Bush came to office in a dramatic way through the Supreme Court decision, he may end his presidency in a dramatic way. In what way? Time will tell.

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  • 19.
  • At 03:48 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • J.Chandan wrote:

It sounds great that an arrogant and I "know all" type of person like D.Rumsfield had quit . We from the other side of the world want to see Mr G W Bush is impeached , after all USA is not the owner of this world where we live , thanks I liked your reporting

regards

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  • 20.
  • At 06:02 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Niels M. Bohr wrote:

Why is everyone vilifying Rummie so comprehensively? Rummie was the youngest Defence Secretary in U.S. in the 1970's.Had Rummie sent in the 200000+ troops that the Pentagon generals say is the minimum required to passify the insurgents,and had the situation STILL have been uncontrollable,Rummie would have been castigated for holding on to a 1970s Cold War mentality. Instead of doing so,he tried to streamline the military and relied on uber-sophisticated military technology to do the job. In the event,this effort failed in Iraq. So people are blaming him for hanging the status-quo. He was in a fail-fail situation. The real reason America is losing the Iraq war is best understood by observing something Kissinger said of the Viet Cong--that you can't fight people of "this kind of mind-set", ie. people who place absolutely no value on life and are prepared to die in droves to achieve the war objective--which in this case is a carbon copy of the Viet Cong war aim--to drive out the Americans. You simply can't win with folks like these.

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  • 21.
  • At 09:02 PM on 09 Nov 2006,
  • Dave Parker wrote:

Wow, it's a while since I heard Kissinger cited approvingly, and I'm a fan by most standards. But maybe instead it's time to question the rationale of people who place absolutely no value on life and are prepared to kill in droves to achieve no attainable objective. That's what Rummy signed on for, and that's why he's gone. Fail-fail indeed pretty much sums up this Administration. You simply can't win with folks like these.

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It is brilliant that Rumsfeld has gone now, because he is now out of the way so we can stop all the suffering. He took us all to war when we didn't want to go and now he has paid for it. Pity he didn't step down in 2003 when we were starting to see the brutal affects of the war. I am confident that his replacement will do a better job now that he has a Democratic senate and house to answer to.

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