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Don Rumsfeld: Fighting With The Army He Wishes He Had

"You go to war with the army you have, not with the army you would like to have." -- Donald Rumsfeld

Richard Perle thinks that Don Rumsfeld's gotten a raw deal [listen]. He says that Rummy was in the middle of his "transformation" campaign, and had to go to war with the 'army he had': "Shinseki's armor, Bill Clinton's military establishment...." And thus, criticisms for his lack of preparation are "not only wrong, but perversely wrong."

Perle's criticisms are not entirely wrong, but he nevertheless exhibits the core flavorings of Vulcan thought: Wishful thinking, salted liberally with arrogance. Which is to say, too much faith in what ought to be true, and too little attention to what is.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Don Rumsfeld has gotten a raw deal in some ways. Aspects of American military doctrine did need to be re-thought, and he was right to push for that re-thinking. American force structures did, and do, need to be altered to deal with a post cold war environment. But that doesn't change the fact that, with the army we have, there are certain obvious things that would have to be done if you chose to invade and pacify a fairly large country with a fractious population. And it doesn't change the fact that we spend a lot of money and time training these senior uniformed officers to understand the parameters of conflict.

"I think it's important to understand what planning means," says Perle. Based on the resources available, you do what you can to prepare for the situation. But isn't that what the civilian Pentagon failed to do? Or, more accurately: What they barred the uniformed Pentagon from doing.

So, Rummy went to war with the army he had, and not the one he wanted: But he also went to war as though he had the military he wanted. He went to war with a plan built for the military he ought to have had -- not the one he actually did have.

Which is to say, Rummy went to war with the army he wished he had. He treated his ideas about what's right and proper as reality; he executed to plan, instead of adapting to the situation. He forgot that the most important thing about a plan isn't the plan itself, but the discipline of planning it out.

There's a split in the Neo-Con/Vulcan ranks on this point. The hard-core of the "Vulcans" are sorting themselves out, so that even as William Kristol turns away, and Armitage floats between loyalty to Powell and duty as a soldier, the loyal core -- actors like Perle, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz -- continue to support Rumsfeld, as though understanding that to acknowledge any weakness in their war-planning rationale is to challenge the very premise of the war. They should follow Kristol's lead: He's smarter than they are, or at least cleverer. He understands (learned from Bill Buckley, no doubt) that he can win debates before they start by speaking softly. He mouths categorical dismissals of entire schools of thought -- but he does it quietly and without apparent malice, as thought they're just accepted truths.

Interesting aside: Wikipedia seems to have removed all references to the "vulcans" as a reference to a group of Neoconservative thinkers and operatives who advised George W. Bush in the early days of his first presidential campaign. This illustrates a weakness in their version-control system: It's impossible to non-manually trace the changes to find when and where, or even whether, it happened.


"Interesting aside: Wikipedia seems to have removed ..."

Not as though things like that haven't happened before, but we must retain our faith in the "system", now as never before.

Or, maybe not?

While the rest of the world frets and worries, America slumbers forth.

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