(A guest post by See-Dubya, not Patterico.)
Patterico implored me to post something on Rumsfeld’s resignation. I think the real place to look will be Garfield Ridge this evening, but I’ll take a crack at it:
Rumsfeld arrived with a mission of transforming America’s military into a technologically superior, fast, mobile force and undoing the malign “swords into plowshares” neglect of the Clinton years. How much of that mission he was able to accomplish, I can’t really say, but I do know he was “overtaken by events” on 9/11 and needed to focus on fighting a war in the Middle East with the transitional army we have.
Anytime you have a big reform project like he had, you’re going to make enemies. Compounding this effect was his blunt personality–probably a prerequisite for the sort of sweeping changes he had planned–which people either loved or hated. I loved the guy, but a lot of people didn’t. In fact a Navy officer told me back in 2003 or so that the opinion among his seniors was that this guy hates the military.
There is a lot to dislike about military bureaucracy and inefficiency, and Rumsfeld’s dislike for it was returned in spades, but I think that was just another one of the many political attacks levelled against him. Every setback on every front was greeted with the same strident calls for his resignation, from the same people. The cries of Wolf turned me off at a point in early 2004, when I realized how trumped up the Abu Ghraib stories really were and how little they had to do with U.S. warfighting policy. Whatever Rumsfeld’s quirks, I decided then, his critics were simply not acting in good faith and had squandered any credibility they might have had. And when Ashcroft left, Rumsfeld was left out as the sole lightning rod to soak up their bolts.
But more and more critics piled on, some of them who I respected and who articulated more substantive complaints. The combined weight of these criticisms hamstrung Rumsfeld’s effectiveness more and more. Do we need to send more troops? For Rumsfeld to give such an order would set off a politically crippling shockwave that would have opened him up to attacks that we were ignoring other trouble spots and overextending ourselves by putting so many troops in Iraq–and, well, would have caused us to lose the House and Senate.
So, I wish he had given that order, and a few more, like neutralizing Al-Sadr back when it could have prevented a lot of trouble we’ve faced since then. And, as the American Spectator’s Andrew Cline memorably memo’d to Rumsfeld about the timing of his resignation: You’re supposed to leap in front of the bullet, not behind it. But he has presided over two amazing military victories, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and overseen the rebuilding of our military as the most capable and fearsome fighting force in the entire world–capable of overrunning any nation in the world, provided we have the will to win.
Which we don’t, but that’s not Rumsfeld’s fault. As for the more strident complaints against him, I challenge you to present to me this modern-day Sun Tzu who would have done his job better and pacified and unified Iraq without any American casualties. That man is a construct of hindsight, wishful thinking, and political bluster. Rumsfeld served his country well and, while he made mistakes, suffered a great degree of scorn he did not deserve. I am sorry to see such a dedicated public servant leave under these circumstances, and I do not envy his replacement.
See-Dub, over and out. Cross-posted at Junkyard Blog.
UPDATE by Seedub: Dave@GR’s take, which I mentioned above, is now up and worth your time.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I don’t share See-Dub’s love for Rummy. He has been a charming answerer of question at press conferences, but there’s a growing body of evidence that he didn’t have a decent post-war plan for Iraq, that he knew he didn’t, and that he didn’t care. In my view, his arrogance towards the military and cavalier attitude towards planning for a post-war Iraq makes this step long overdue.