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It’s hard to remember, but he was once the future.
November 13, 2006 2:14 AM   Subscribe

“How could this happen to someone so good, so competent?” he said. “This war made me doubt the past. Was I wrong all those years, or was he just better back then? The Donald Rumsfeld of today is not the Donald Rumsfeld I knew, but maybe I was wrong about the old Donald Rumsfeld. It’s a terrible way to end a career. It’s hard to remember, but he was once the future.”
And for comparison, How did so many smart guys make such a mess of Vietnam?
posted by orthogonality (98 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Ego
posted by asok at 2:37 AM on November 13, 2006


He shall be dissed.
posted by hal9k at 2:39 AM on November 13, 2006


I don't know that there is truly a simple answer to the questions raised in your quote, but Rumsfeld has always had a certian arrogance that does not brook criticism or argument, and it's a dangerous quality in a Secretary of Defense, as it would be in a Secretary of State. Bossing a big hierarchal bureaucracy, you need to stimulate and vet contradictory views, and guide decision making with policy and personnel management, not get in the pit yourself. In the Vietnam era, Bob McNamara got eaten by the DoD job in much the same way Rumsfeld did, for what I suspect were much the same reasons.

Hubris won't help you boss the Pentagon, or State.

But compounding that, in both the Vietnam era, and the present, we started from a position of appalling ignorance about our enemy, and the nature of the conflict in which we were becoming engaged. In both instances, there seemed, as far as I can see, to have been, at the top of the political and military structures of government, a willful substitution of assumptions for hard facts; assumptions which held that our enemies reasoned as we do, and held similar ambitions and values as we held, and in both instances, we couldn't have been more wrong.

The rest of the world do not want to be Americans, and many do not, seemingly, even want our constant acquaintance. When we forget that, we pay in blood and treasure, again, and again.
posted by paulsc at 2:47 AM on November 13, 2006 [3 favorites]


For the record, the New Yorker did a terrible job in representing Adelman as semicompetent. The man is a hack whose sole skill is to convince others that he deserves another shot despite a record littered with failures and despite the fact that he has absoultely no good ideas in his head. Looks like he worked his magic on Jeff Goldberg as well, who almost feels sorry for Adelman, instead of seeing him for what he truly is.
posted by allen.spaulding at 2:54 AM on November 13, 2006


"Arrogance" is the right word for it. Too many of Rumsfeld's speeches started out with the sentiment "Look, I know how the situation may appear to you, but..."
posted by tehloki at 3:00 AM on November 13, 2006


I, for one, am glad that Rumsfeld fucked up.

Had he been successful, the country of Iraq would be completly under the control of the US. That would be both immoral and terrifying. Also, there would probably have been a much higher body count; wars are won by killing people, after all.
posted by Clay201 at 3:02 AM on November 13, 2006


allen.spaulding writes "Looks like he worked his magic on Jeff Goldberg as well, who almost feels sorry for Adelman, instead of seeing him for what he truly is."


Yeah, the whole thing's kind of poignant -- the loss of a long friendship to policy dispute over failure, the humbled "great man" -- it's very much deflating in a men-of-affairs Washington DC way, such that you expect to see the black and white photos and the bad haircuts you see in the second link, and be reminded of al the great men who turned out to have feet of clay and fell to their own hubris.


-- Until you recall the 2848 dead soldiers who will never have a chance to become "great", and their moms and dads and wives and sweethearts and kids who will never again hug those fallen, not to mention the 600,000 dead Iraqis.

-- And remember that these dopes will never miss a meal, and will never have to pinch a penny, and will still have bigger obituaries and grander funerals than any of the boys who did their dirty work and fought their war for them and died of sucking chest wounds.
posted by orthogonality at 3:05 AM on November 13, 2006 [9 favorites]


Then I talked about two decisions: the way he handled the looting, and Abu Ghraib. He told me that he didn’t remember saying, ‘Stuff happens.’ He was really in denial that this was his fault.”

He doesn't have to remember- he can use the google like the rest of us mortals. How sad- well, vile- that this man will probably never be prosecuted for his deadly mischief. And worst yet, I don't think he'll ever get it, I doubt he'll ever allow himself the harrowing crisis of conscience he deserves. I imagine he'll live to a ripe old age on an artificial island shaped like a palm tree, indulging his obliviousness. What a luxury, to be able to carry on in total denial after you've caused such catastrophy. Goodness gracious.
posted by maryh at 3:16 AM on November 13, 2006


Henry Kissinger called him the most ruthless man he'd ever met. Henry. Kissinger.
posted by psmealey at 3:45 AM on November 13, 2006 [2 favorites]


Ha.

Where was this nincompoop two or three years ago? Six months ago? Nodding along with the rest of them.
posted by mr. strange at 3:48 AM on November 13, 2006


> Henry. Kissinger.

Henry Fucking Kissinger?
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:54 AM on November 13, 2006


psmealey writes "Henry. Kissinger."

Hey, that reminds me, when people refer to Kissinger as "Henry the K", are they just abbreviating his last name or is it an anti-Semitic allusion?
posted by orthogonality at 4:05 AM on November 13, 2006


I don't think Rumsfeld was particularly guilty. On the 21st of September 2001, when there were 500 million flags flying in the United States, it was pretty obvious that there was going to be bunches of dead Arabs quick. And the blood lust was not going to taper off until plenty of American soldiers got killed. Disappear Rumsfeld that day and the story would have been a little different, but it still would have been horrible.

The future is ahead of us and the best we can do is try not to screw it up too bad. I am glad Rusfeld is finally gone and I look forward to Bush being gone, and the Middle East ain't going away.

Maybe Iraq won't be as bad as Vietnam. We are not there yet.
posted by bukvich at 4:16 AM on November 13, 2006


An intelligent man is not the same as a wise man.

Let's note briefly that Adelman, he of "I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction" fame, is working quite doggedly to distance himself from his own Iraq war cheerleading. Not that he's necessarily wrong about Rumsfeld, but this is just one instance of a long series of finger pointing we are going to see over this strategic blunder.
posted by moonbiter at 4:25 AM on November 13, 2006


Maybe Iraq won't be as bad as Vietnam. We are not there yet.

I take no pleasure from saying this, as I hope you are correct, but there is an essential difference. In the 1970s we were not dependent on foreign rice from Southeast Asia. When we got out of there (facilitating Pol Pot's slaughter of millions), little impact of that was felt at home, or anywhere else for that matter.

What we have set into motion in Iraq will take several decades to unwind. Forgetting about the impending genocide which is almost sure to happen (unless steps are quickly taken to partition the country along sectarian and ethnic lines), oil production will be disrupted for many, many years, wreaking havoc with the economies of the west.
posted by psmealey at 4:30 AM on November 13, 2006


> Henry Fucking Kissinger?

Yes, Heinz/Henry Alfred Fucking "The Butcher of Cambodia" Kissinger.

Probably "Hank" to his friends. "Hank, the B of C, K."
posted by pracowity at 4:30 AM on November 13, 2006


Despite the fact that the reasons for the war were a complete sham, I hear that groupthink and the lack of a minority opinion mechanism in the military decision making-process is to blame for the continual US policy failures in Iraq.

I have heard that the only way for a major military decision maker, like a general, for example, to express a dissenting opinion is to resign and then make their statements.
posted by redteam at 4:40 AM on November 13, 2006


I agree with redteam. A bunch of highly paid white guys sitting around in a room all nodding together whenever anyone speaks is a recipe for disaster.
posted by TorontoSandy at 4:44 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Henry Kissinger called him the most ruthless man he'd ever met.

I'm not challenging the statement, but I was wondering if you had a source for that? Because that's…fucking, wow.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:50 AM on November 13, 2006


Speaking of Henry K. (sounds like something out of Kafka, doesn't it?), has anyone read anything about how Christopher Hitchens reacted to the news that Cheney had been consulting Kissinger about Iraq? That must have been a tough one for him to chew over, Kissinger hater that he is.
posted by Man-Thing at 4:57 AM on November 13, 2006


Rumsfeld would have been an adequate secdef in, say, the Clinton administration. He saw it as his job to shake up the military bureaucracy, and had a compelling vision for turning the US military into a post-cold war force. Most of Clinton's military interventions were precisely in line with the kind of army Rumsfeld was trying to create.

However, under Bush, there were two fatal flaws that made Rumsfeld's tenure such a catastrophe:

1) You can't put an iconoclast in charge in the middle of a hot war. Rumsfeld made dozens of enemies, and his abrasive personality made him a poor wartime leader. Rumsfeld should have stepped down (or Bush should've asked for his resignation) six months before the 2003 invasion.

2) Rumsfeld's vision was the wrong one for Iraq. A military that relies on special forces, precision bombing, and an economy of troops can't do nation building or even perform an effective search for WMDs. Because of the Defense Policy Board's startling cultural, political, and military ignorance, he conflated his personal beliefs about military reform with the requirements for success in Iraq. And he was fatally wrong.

I'd highly recommend Cobra II as the definitive military history of the 2003 invasion and its disastrous aftermath.
posted by xthlc at 5:20 AM on November 13, 2006 [3 favorites]


Speaking of "it's hard to remember, but he once was the future"...

I noticed this Pat Oliphant cartoon this morning and wondered: If not for all the blinkered arrogance over Iraq, would Rumsfeld have achieved something positive and useful with the transformation he hoped to implement? Sure as hell, we'll never know now....
posted by pax digita at 5:37 AM on November 13, 2006


You know it hard to judge whether Rumsfeld is a failure or not without knowing what the actual mission was. An anarchic divided Iraq with permanent fortified US military bases and a destroyed oil infrastructure may have been precisely the objective.

I find it funny that firefox's spellchecker suggests the crusty bastard be called feldspar.
posted by srboisvert at 5:44 AM on November 13, 2006




You don't have a government that you want, you have the government that you have. So to speak. His version of that statement, to a group of soldiers none the less, qualifies him as a gold-plated prick.

I will buy a copy of his biography if the author titles it Arrogant Prick. This I would stand in line to buy and have signed.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:49 AM on November 13, 2006


He's reviled for that comment (you go to war with the Army you have), but in my opinion, it's actually fairly insightful.

No matter how much preparation you do, no matter how much planning and thinking happens(and it's not like this administration is strong in that area, mind), there's always something more to be done. If you wait for the Army to be in perfect shape, you can never actually use it.

Now, there are many people who would argue that's the correct outcome, but the simple fact remains... if We the People decide to go to war, as we did in 2002, the Army will not be at 100%. It never will be.

That said, we waste insane amounts of money on the equipment, and spend very little on the tool that actually wins wars.. the soldiers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we needed to change our focus to small-unit tactics, and small-unit equipment... but that's not politically popular, because battleships and submarines employ so many people. The lack of body armor was definitely a problem, and a strong indicator that the Army was getting ready for the wrong war (as they always do). They weren't ready for Iraq.

Rumsfeld's comment, however, was exactly correct. When a country decides it needs its armed forces, it finds out how good the preparation work was... it doesn't get any more time to prepare.
posted by Malor at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2006


The Iraq War Wasn't Winnable.
posted by empath at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2006


Someone is going to have to show me some evidence that any person associated with this Bush administration ever had any intelligence. What has Rumsfeld ever done in goverment that history has proven a success? I think Bush (Cheney) is the kind of person so insecure that he consciously surrounds himself with mentally incapacitated yes-men. I think that has been the modus operandi for all Republican ideologues since '94. Guys like Gingrich, Lott and Delay filled Congress with dolts like Rick Santorum and George Allen so they would have no one to derail or question their misguided/criminal policies.
posted by any major dude at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hey, that reminds me, when people refer to Kissinger as "Henry the K", are they just abbreviating his last name or is it an anti-Semitic allusion?

See Murray the K. As I recall his students called him Dr. K, possibly to avoid the hard-g-soft-g problem. He was also often seen in the company of stylish women, so maybe it had something to do with Murray the K and the Ronettes.

Henry Kissinger called him the most ruthless man he'd ever met.

I'm not challenging the statement, but I was wondering if you had a source for that? Because that's…fucking, wow.


Slate. And Slate again: how Rumsfeld kneecapped Kissinger.
posted by dhartung at 6:21 AM on November 13, 2006


Hey, that reminds me, when people refer to Kissinger as "Henry the K", are they just abbreviating his last name or is it an anti-Semitic allusion?

No, they're refferring to his pre-politics career as a rock and roll DJ, which ended when he was replaced by this guy.
posted by jonmc at 6:23 AM on November 13, 2006


Damn you, dhartung! Bet you don't know that some joker cut a record called 'Go Go Radio Moscow,' featuring 'Nikita the K.'
posted by jonmc at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2006


He was also often seen in the company of stylish women,

This is something I'll never understand. For an evil, reptilian, unattractive man, Kissinger seemed to have a way with the ladies. Can any of the mefi women explain this? To me that'd be like dating Fred Mertz.
posted by jonmc at 6:26 AM on November 13, 2006


This is something I'll never understand. For an evil, reptilian, unattractive man, Kissinger seemed to have a way with the ladies. Can any of the mefi women explain this? To me that'd be like dating Fred Mertz.

Go watch the movie Spaceballs:

Druish princesses are often attracted to money and power, and I have both, and you *know* it!

posted by any major dude at 6:28 AM on November 13, 2006


From the LBJ link:

Prior to Vietnam, the US planned for a major nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union, and everything else took second fiddle.


"Took second fiddle"? What an odd expression.

jonmc, it can't be news to you that the babes like the men with money and power.
posted by languagehat at 6:54 AM on November 13, 2006


Well, that's our theory as guys, hat. And there has to be more attractive and less evil men than Kissinger with money and power. And as far as I know, he was the absolute mack daddy of that bunch.
posted by jonmc at 6:58 AM on November 13, 2006


I once urinated right next to Secretary Kissinger. I'm at least a foot taller than he is.

I didn't peek.
posted by matteo at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2006


I once urinated right next to Secretary Kissinger.

Please tell me you were in a men's room.
posted by jonmc at 7:18 AM on November 13, 2006


One thing that's always bothered me about Rummy is his contrived overuse of such folksisms like "golly gee", "gee whiz" and "goodness me". A man as profane as he is should be compelled to use actual profanity, not the language of "Leave it to Beaver".

Re: Kissinger, learing that Shirley MacLaine was romantically linked to that piece of shit diminishes her standing quite a bit, in my eyes.
posted by psmealey at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2006


You are all failing to see that part of Rumsfeld's brilliance (ruthlessness, bureaucratic skill, whatever) is that he can get younger guys like Adelman to bet their careers on him, forcing them to go on the record with stupid unsupportable statements like "I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction".

Really? You have no doubts at all?

What idiots like this don't realize is that Rumsfeld can bet his career on anything because he never needs another job. He's old, he's got plenty of money, and despite all screwups, will always have some influence in some circles, like Kissinger.

Adelman, though, still needs a job so now you see his goofy attempt to rehabilitate himself. He's a grown man, and he talks about Rumsfeld the way a teenager would talk about a meeting a pop star. If he succeeds in absolving himself of any guilt for Iraq, he also succeeds in making himself appear too incompetent and lacking in judgment to ever hold another governemnt job.

The same goes for the rest of the crew: Richard Perle, David Frum, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I once urinated right next to Secretary Kissinger.

Please tell me you were both naked and standing on a flag.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:44 AM on November 13, 2006


Thanks a lot for that mental image, armitage. Now, I'm gonna hve to sleep with a nightlight.
posted by jonmc at 7:49 AM on November 13, 2006


So President Nixon peek out his White House windown one winter day to see "Nixon sucks" written in urine on the snow. He calls in the Secret Service, and they send down samples of the urine to the lab to find out who was responsible. An hour later, a Secret Service man comes to tell Nixon that there is bad news, and worse news.

The bad news is that the urine is Kissingers.

"What's the worse news?" Nixon asks.

The handwriting is Pat's.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:50 AM on November 13, 2006 [3 favorites]


badoom-cha!
posted by jonmc at 7:53 AM on November 13, 2006


Civil_Disobedient:

That quote shocked me as well, so I dug around a bit to find it. It looks like it came from a Maureen Dowd op-ed called The Asbestos President from April 1, 2001.

"(One republican says that Henry Kissinger once called Mr. Rumsfeld the most ruthless man he knew, all global despots included.)"

I'd be interested to know who that unnamed Republican source was.
posted by icosahedral at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2006


Funny, the words "so good, so competent" are the exact opposites of what come to mind when I think about Rumsfeld.
posted by milarepa at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2006


I don't care who was in charge. These problems will always exist as long as waging (or permitting, or inciting) war is on the 'A' list of US foreign policy tools.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:12 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Let's note briefly that Adelman, he of "I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction" fame, is working quite doggedly to distance himself from his own Iraq war cheerleading. Not that he's necessarily wrong about Rumsfeld, but this is just one instance of a long series of finger pointing we are going to see over this strategic blunder.

It amazes me how many republicans are now claiming they were opposed to the war.
posted by mecran01 at 8:14 AM on November 13, 2006


I once urinated right next to Secretary Kissinger.

You missed?
posted by pracowity at 8:20 AM on November 13, 2006


Malor writes "He's reviled for that comment (you go to war with the Army you have), but in my opinion, it's actually fairly insightful.

"No matter how much preparation you do, no matter how much planning and thinking happens(and it's not like this administration is strong in that area, mind), there's always something more to be done. If you wait for the Army to be in perfect shape, you can never actually use it. "


The US decided the timeline, it wasn't like Saddam was bombarding the US with scuds or something. There was no pressing military need to invade Iraq when they did. A six month delay to up armour troops and equipment (and mobilise the number of troops everyone not drinking the koolaid knew were required) wouldn't have made any difference except to the President's approval rating and to the chance of success for bullshit like the "PATRIOT" Act
posted by Mitheral at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2006


It amazes me how many republicans are now claiming they were opposed to the war.

I suspect some of them believe it when they say it -- they mean that they turned against it after they realized it was a bad move. Unfortunately, they turned against it long after any rational observer, unblinded by politics, would have turned against it. Or they turned against it early secretly but didn't dare say anything because they put political solidarity (and their jobs) first.
posted by pracowity at 8:26 AM on November 13, 2006


if We the People decide to go to war, as we did in 2002

who's 'we', Paleface? The actual nuts & bolts of the Joint Resolution had the following authorizations:

1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

In 2003, given how the administration was clearly getting its ass handed to it in the UNSC, about 60% of the country was polling against military action. This only changed once Bush sent in the troops anyway.

The Vietnam piece was rather disenguous.

I'm a Vietnam vet, and I remember him most for running the American participation in the Vietnam War.

For one, LBJ only ran one third of our major involvement, which began with Eisenhower and extended throughout Nixon's first term.

The American military defeated its enemy in Vietnam. Why couldn't these advisors to LBJ, and the president himself, do the same?

God, where to begin... if the enemy was defeated militarily, how did it have 20 divisions of well-equipped troops manned up in 1973. . . who was taking out entire RVN provinces in late 1974. . . and who was driving those Chinese-built T-54s down QL-1 in 1975?

Our intervention in Vietnam was a limited war, and was unwinnable with the limits we had imposed on ourselves. The limits were in place for reasons.

I really hate this 'defeated our enemy militarily' BS about Vietnam. In 1974 the PVA had reoccupied every single major battlefield of the war (except Hue). The military geography of Vietnam was simply abominable; that, plus the incompetence and illegitimacy of the GVN, and the number of pro-North people in the south, doomed our intervention. The smarter people in LBJ's White House (Ball, McNamara, McNaughton)picked up on these salient facts the quickest.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:31 AM on November 13, 2006


... if We the People decide to go to war, as we did in 2002, . . .

Which People are you one of, again? Because exactly *none* of the people I am acquainted with decided to go to war in 2002. If you're talking about Afghanistan, that was the year before. The people who decided to invade Iraq did so years before, and none of them are "We."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2006


The US decided the timeline, it wasn't like Saddam was bombarding the US with scuds or something. There was no pressing military need to invade Iraq when they did.

The need wasn't military, it was political. If Bush co. had waited another six months to a year they would never have gotten Congressional approval. Actually, if they had waited another month they probably wouldn't have gotten approval. The Iraq war resolution was approved just prior to the 2002 elections. Patriotism was still running strong after 9-11 and a bunch of wimpy Dems were afraid to look wimpy on defense.
posted by caddis at 8:49 AM on November 13, 2006


I still don't get why countries don't 'declare war" any more. is it just too quaint? Doesn't congress have the exclusive power to "declare war"? What are the legalities of a war by any other name?
posted by Rumple at 9:07 AM on November 13, 2006


What has Rumsfeld ever done in goverment that history has proven a success?

any major dude, I've read elsewhere that Rumsfeld, back in the day, was a naval aviator (as I noted in this comment) and an instructor pilot in the venerable S-2F "Stoof" antisubmarine patrol plane. NAVAIR is (or used to be) sorta picky about who they'll let be IPs, and he was regarded as a competent "stick" if not exactly the leading lion of the O-club set; maybe the "gee whiz" for an epithet ties in with at least one description of him as "aloof" and "prissy." If the balloon had ever gone up and a bunch of Soviet boats had needed killing, I'm sure he'd've been at least as diligent and competent as most of his protegés at localizing, classifying, prosecuting and dropping Mk 46s on them. I surmise further that once he hung up his blue suit and entered civilian politics, he came into his true element and began failing successively upward just as fast as he could.
posted by pax digita at 9:18 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


"How did so many smart guys make such a mess of Vietnam?" It was almost impossible not to, would probably be the correct answer. 20-20 hindsight and all.
posted by koeselitz at 9:36 AM on November 13, 2006


Nixon on Rumsfeld: "he's a ruthless little bastard."
posted by Rumple at 9:37 AM on November 13, 2006


It's really fun playing the "Kissinger and Nixon = Hitler" game, but it's the lazy route. The truth is harder to get a hand on: Kissinger and Nixon were intelligent men who did what they thought was right for the US and the world. It's even harder to get in their heads and see exactly what they thought was right. But that's what politics is-- trying to understand what other people are thinking and going through. Unless you live in America, in which case "politics" means "scrabbling about unimportant fluff and ignoring everything that matters for the mere pleasure of appearing to be right."
posted by koeselitz at 9:43 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


The documentary, "Fog of War" (featuring Bob MacNamara) nicely frames the question as to how Vietnam went badly. Esssentially, they applied statistical production techniques on destroying an undeveloped nation, assuming that it would work as it did in Nazi Germany.

One thing should never be ruled out. When an irrational plan backfires into a costly quagmire, cconsider that it secretly succeeded for its commercial lobby.
posted by Brian B. at 9:55 AM on November 13, 2006


I still don't get why countries don't 'declare war" any more

These kind of wars end up with one Power occupying another Power's capital. WW I was the exception, and we learned our lessons from that (post-war) debacle.

But that's what politics is

nah, politics is the formalized taking and use of OPM . . . and property, and freedoms, hopefully, but not necessarily, for the common good.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2006


Miteral: The US decided the timeline, it wasn't like Saddam was bombarding the US with scuds or something. There was no pressing military need to invade Iraq when they did. A six month delay to up armour troops and equipment (and mobilise the number of troops everyone not drinking the koolaid knew were required) wouldn't have made any difference

A friend of mine said, in November of 2003, that the invasion would happen in four months, no matter what the domestic response, and no matter what the UN weapons inspectors found. Why? Becuase the Iraq sand-storm season starts in May. He was right, and I was appalled.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2006


"Failing successively upward."

That's my new credo. My new motto. My aspiration in life. To 'fail successively upward'. The total embodiment of slack. Bob would be proud.
posted by daq at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2006


It's really fun playing the "Kissinger and Nixon = Hitler" game, but it's the lazy route. The truth is harder to get a hand on: Kissinger and Nixon were intelligent men who did what they thought was right for the US and the world.

Oh, what crap. You think Hitler didn't "think what he was doing was right for Germany and the world"? These assholes are all power-grabbing maniacs first and thinkers about the world way down the list. Trying to "get into their heads" and "see things from their perspective" is a mug's game and leads to softening of the brain; that's why I.F. Stone refused to hang out with them in a pathetic quest for handouts and gossip (as most reporters do) and instead relied on digging up documents that proved their malfeasances. Pop-psych "understanding" is the true laziness.
posted by languagehat at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2006


Say, can any of you fellows understand this pax digita's banter? I just don't get it. Anyone? Sausage squad up the blue end?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:28 AM on November 13, 2006


Kissinger and Nixon were intelligent men who did what they thought was right for the US and the world.

What the hell do I care if they thought they were right? Every moron who screws up thought he was doing the right thing at the time.

If they had any integrity or seriousness to their personalities, not only would they be brave enough to kill thousands for the potential betterment of their country, they'd be brave enough to do a little self-examination and determine if their own confidence in their theories was justified.

You can make any slimy deed seem justifable on the surface.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2006


Say, can any of you fellows understand this pax digita's banter? I just don't get it. Anyone? Sausage squad up the blue end?

Rumsfeld was a flight officer on an ASW (anti-submarine Warfare) team. He flew a patrol craft equipped with a MAD (magnetic anomoly detector, which "sees" submarines by detecting the manner in which they warp the local magnetic field) and/or with hydrophonic buoys (which are dropped out of the plane in long linear formations--sometimes called "sticks"--and passively listen for the unique sound signatures which submarines are known to make while underway). Once a hostile sumarine is detected, the plane can drop a MK-46 anti-submarine torpedo into the water in proximity to the sub. The torpedo activates its sonar, homes in on, and sinks the enemy sub.
posted by Chrischris at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Funny that you should bring up "Fog of War." The Macnamara quote that sticks in my mind most clearly is roughly 'if you can't convince your allies of the rightness of your cause, you ought to re-think it yourself'
posted by Andrew Brinton at 11:07 AM on November 13, 2006


Chrischris: the correct response to Kirth's challenge is "Bally Jerry pranged his kite into the how's-your-father."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2006


Kirth, sorry.

I'll try to stick to English from here on out, even if it causes me more typing effort. Chrischris pretty much fixed it for me. BZ, my comps; carry on...uh, I mean, "well done, you're a swell guy, and keep up the good work." :o)

You've both made me realize I also failed to emphasize that Rummy, as an instructor-pilot naval aviator (as distinct from a non-flying "NFO" naval flight officer), taught other prospective ASW aviators how to do their missions -- not merely the flying part, but the hunting and killing skills as well, which require a lot of sustained intellectual effort, patience, and teamwork along with aggressiveness and flying skill. (Does anyone else sense a trend, or more properly a lack of it, in the making?)

Considering what a right shite he's been in having public disagreements with people, I feel sorry for his pupils and, more broadly, any subordinates who had to salute him. Like my Marine-officer brother would've said, Rumsfeld would never get hemorrhoids -- he's a perfect @$$hole.

Speculating broadly, I wonder if some wiser, more senior officer told him toward the end of his Navy experience, "You haven't put a foot wrong yet, but if you're thinking of screening for flag rank" -- seeking to become an admiral someday, which requires the ability to lead large groups of naval and Marine warriors, after all, rather than merely managing, directing, and applying political skills to them -- "you're exactly the sort of person who shouldn't." And yet...whether that happened or not, by other means he rose pretty darned high in the chain of command anyhow.

But that's what politics is-- trying to understand what other people are thinking and going through.

I (mis?)understood politics to be more about making power relationships work to one's advantage, and this "understanding" stuff is more akin to journo, history, and to some extent psychology.
posted by pax digita at 12:14 PM on November 13, 2006


intellect /= character, moral reasoning, integrity, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2006


I'm reading a novel whose opening epgraph is from Heraclitus: "A man's character is is fate." If H is right about that, Mr. R., and really this whole sorry crew of chickenhawks, will not be treated kindly by ol' Time, The Avenger. Heeestr'y seems always to have the last laugh, even if it's really hollow and bitter-sounding.

Revisionism had Vaselined the lens of history in looking back at Nixon and to an extent Reagan, but let us get a few generations removed to when all the contemporaries are long gone (lookin' at YOU, Halberstam and Kearns Goodwin, among others), and we'll see 'em all for the highly placed wankers they were/are.
posted by pax digita at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2006


has anyone read anything about how Christopher Hitchens reacted to the news that Cheney had been consulting Kissinger about Iraq?

Will we never be free of the malign effect of this little gargoyle?
posted by homunculus at 12:40 PM on November 13, 2006


Kissenger’s got a pretty deep voice.
I’m just sayin’
(I belive one of them fellers was from Arkansas, Mm hm)

I don’t think that women are that shallow though (power/wealth). I think the type of women Kissenger got are the type of women attracted to that kind of person. When I was playing rugby we had girls follow the team. And there are always women who got off on servicemen. Same sort of schtick. I kept hearing some people describe Ann Coulter as this hot looking right wing chick. Never saw it myself.

And those bohemian grovers got up to some things. Me, I prefer not to mix my enemas and my martinis, men in drag don’t make me laugh, and hollow ritual doesn’t entertain me, hence the cheap snatch (or dick) doesn’t follow me around. ...well, that and the millions upon millions of dollars thing.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:31 PM on November 13, 2006


It may be mere attribution, but back around when he was dating Jill St. John or so, HK was supposed to have said, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."
posted by pax digita at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2006


Henry Kissinger called him the most ruthless man he'd ever met.

I'm not challenging the statement, but I was wondering if you had a source for that? Because that's…fucking, wow.


The episode of Frontline entitled "Rumsfeld's War" (which is worth watching, streaming video available at that site) mentions this quote, although I believe it was in reference to bureaucratic infighting specifically.
posted by good in a vacuum at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2006


Hey guys, mind if I rerail here for a sec? I'll step off the soap box in no time. :)
OK, well, I see Rummy as someone who had something of a mental break-down but couldn't leave his job. What would you do if you couldn't resign: disappear into the night with the stapler? Not if you're the most mediated person in the entire world, you wouldn't.

Imho, if you're forced to confront a situation you loathe, daily, without any hope getting out, there's two ways to cope: (1) protect your sanity as best you can, and (2) suicide. And Rummy's not a suicidal man, so he did the alternative which loosely translated into a "my goal is not to drop any more of the balls I'm juggling & I won't let this job kill me" philosophy.

So, for instance, this guy, constantly under intense pressure, began to stop considering all contrarian views (because it takes inner calm, "wisdom", to handle that, and when you're in the throes of a nervous breakdown, you simply can't handle some complex stuff. If you've experienced breakdown, you know what I mean.) I wouldn't be surprised that there were a lot of weird things going on that the media never knew and will never know.
The whole "in deep denial" part that the original article clearly points to something like this.
Rumsfeld was, is, a very intelligent person, brilliant, ruthless, he made Henry A. Fucking. Kissinger aka "little gargoyle that gets the babes" tremble. But he lost the plot. But he did what every intelligent person does when they realize they can't do their job anymore. Resign. Except you and me, when we resign from our jobs, our bosses laugh and hire another person just as capable. His boss prolly also laughed but told him to get back to work. That doesn't make Rumsfeld Hitler. That makes him a goddamn slave.
And that speaks pretty strongly against our MBA-toting president. If someone wants to resign, you always let him resign. Positions are indispensable, but the people that occupy those positions are not.
And you know what now?
Now that he's off the job. He's gonna have a bumpy road ahead crawling out of his annus horibilis. Hell, he may even fall physically ill, and do the dual mental/physical convalescence shtick. But then, once that passes, there will be no one, no.one, as goddamn happy as Rummy that he will never ever have to set foot inside the gray Pentagon any more. No one.

*shrug
Just my 0.02$. Obviously, I have no connection whatsoever with Rummy, his workplace, or anyone/thing even remotely related. Beware of spare parts. Your mileage may vary. Don't shoot the messenger.
posted by ruelle at 1:50 PM on November 13, 2006


The people who decided to invade Iraq did so years before, and none of them are "We."

Bullshit. We the People most emphatically did invade. The populace was enthusiastically in support. If the invasion had been put to a popular vote, it would have won overwhelmingly.
posted by Malor at 4:59 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Bullshit" yourself. In 2002 war fever was middling, not overwhelming, and decreased to around 40% as the UN inspection teams were finding bupkis and the UNSC drama devolved not to our advantage.

But once it was clear we were going in, support rose up to a majority, and then once troops were on the ground it was a supermajority.

In the runup to war, there was a majority FOR going if "with the UN". Without the UN approval, this was a minority position, until the neocons had a fait accompli.

Note that we only got an ex post facto UNSC approval. This surprised me, and I expect the craven senate Dems, and really got the exercise off on the wrong foot.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:33 PM on November 13, 2006


What has Rumsfeld ever done in goverment that history has proven a success?

Say what you will about his after-the-battle strategy (I can't say anything nice, so I won't), the man took over a country of thirty million people in three weeks with 125,000 troops - a logistical nightmare no matter what the resistance. He's completely modernized Defense Department training, modeling & simulation, and experimentation. I'm pretty sure the increase in traning and simulation events over the past six years can be linked to him. He's the lead proponent of Network Centric Warfare, which is basically the idea that the unfettered access to information on the battlefield gives you a greater situational awareness, speed of command, and thus greater mission success.

He's also leading the charge on the adoption of "swarm" tactics - using small groups of networked solders to quickly adapt to any situation as needed. I'm pretty sure he was also big in killing off a lot of ground artillery defense contracts, and pushing for more strategic bombing capability.

I don't particularly like anything about him, with the exception of anytime he's in front of a live microphone, but he's done some behind-the-sceens work that's good for the continued long term sucess of the Defense Department. If only we could undo all the other damage...
posted by SweetJesus at 10:13 PM on November 13, 2006


Franken: "Clinton's military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?"

Wolfowitz: "Fuck you."

posted by homunculus at 10:48 PM on November 13, 2006


Neoconservatism -- RIP
posted by homunculus at 11:16 PM on November 13, 2006


Among the most telling things for me, on re-viewing The Power Of Nightmaresagain, are the clips of Rumsfeld in the Seventies, spreading lies about the supposedly-awesome Soviet military machine, and then enthusiastically talking up an artists impression of James Bond-style villains fortress in the mountains of Afghanistan ("...and there's not just one of these, there are many of these!").

Along with the Iraq war in general (and that story of him going into a reverie of asking questions and then answering them himself) suggest a delusory fantasist of epic proportions, whose main talent is the ability to convince himself that even the most egregious horseshit is God's Honest Truth, so that he can go in front of an audience and sell it to them.

Everybody carries a model of the world in their heads that differs in important respects from the way that the world is. For most people, when they are confronted with that difference, they are forced, painfully, to reassess their own personal model, to give it up and begin again.

Someone who is unwilling or incapable of ever giving up that false model, no matter how much it differs from reality and no matter how much reality impinges on it and contradicts it, can quite justifiably be called insane.
posted by Grangousier at 12:31 AM on November 14, 2006


I'm pretty sure he was also big in killing off a lot of ground artillery defense contracts

I wonder if killing off Crusader was really the right decision. I guess Paladin is good enough when you're largely going to be facing insurgents with mortars, IEDs and AKs; tac air can clobber most everything else.

But then, back in the day, I wondered about killing the B-1 program and then bringing it back too -- there were arguments both ways.
posted by pax digita at 5:15 AM on November 14, 2006


Wow, lot of paranoia here.

I have no doubt that Rumsfeld is arrogant and myopic. But if he wasn't arrogant and myopic, how would things have been different?

To say that Rumsfeld lost the war purposefully ignores the billion other factors that went into it. You can say it's his fault we went to war (though a debatable point) but to blame the loss on him implies that someone else would not have lost the war. I'm curious who that person might be. And what would he have done differently.

Just to be clear, I am separating two issues. Not whose fault is it we went to war, but who would have "won" the war (whatever that endpoint is.) And don't say, "anybody else."
posted by tomrac at 6:36 AM on November 14, 2006


Just to be clear, I am separating two issues. Not whose fault is it we went to war, but who would have "won" the war (whatever that endpoint is.) And don't say, "anybody else."

You are correct. The whole adventure was / is bigger in scope than simply Rumsfeld. You can have a great coach (which Rumseld is decidedly not) running a team, but if your strategy and perception (noeconservativism) is inherently flawed (i.e., fighting a technique as opposed to a quantifiable enemy) and unresponsive due to idealogical rigor mortis (it hurts right now but we'll win in the end and no one can resist American liberty) it doesn't really matter.
posted by Skygazer at 9:43 AM on November 14, 2006


tomrac - we should never have gone into Iraq in the first place. I was, and am, in favor of fostering democracy in the middle east and in Iraq in particular. The way to do that is not to falsify data concerning WMDs as a pretext to invade. Given the (dis)information at hand I was willing to believe that Hussein had a weapons program only because there were other indicators - Iran’s belligerence (and N. Korea’s weapons program) at the time being just one. But I’m not the SecDef. If I were, I would not have acted on the information we now know. Or rather - the information we now know doesn’t exist and/or was fabricated.
I may have leaned heavily on Iraq. I may have pushed an agenda through trade and such. I’d’ve given lots of attention to that country because it’s vital to our national interest. But the administration didn’t have that kind of patience (which is why they’re such shitty hunters - Cheney f’rinstance). And thought they could jerry rig the operation with no plan in place - maybe because they’re so damned smart?
I suspect they spent more time trying to figure out how to sucker us into it than how to actually accomplish anything once there. And they did do that - it’s obvious in the handling of the war.
But ultimately: pretty smart. Because does it matter now?
You rip off a few hundred bucks, they’re going to prosecute you. You rip off a few hundred million, and you own the prosecutors.
And the country goes along it’s merry way like those cattle the Masai warriors drive along, sucking blood from them. The steer has plenty of blood, so it doesn’t notice.
Doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t been committed. These kinds of things don’t just “happen.” There are people responsible and Rumsfeld is one of those people.
Who would have “won” the war? It’s not facetious to say no one could have “won” this war. The only way to win would have been if someone in the administration stood up against it from first principles - when they knew it was wrong. Plenty of lower echelon people did that. Didn’t make a dent.
But you can’t simply arbitrarily invade a sovereign nation. Even if we achieved a strategic victory and quelled dissent that’s not a win. That’s imperialism.
I could beat the living crap out of a 12 year old. Did I “win” the “fight”?
It would take a different kind of people to win this kind of war.
I’ve argued - elsewhere - that we did in fact ‘win’ the war. And I stand by that statement. We toppled Hussein’s government fairly handily. In terms of straight - nation on nation engagement, it was a cakewalk (again - Smed: 6’3’ 265 lbs, solid, trained fighter vs. Sally, 12 years old, middle school student - you call that a fight?).
But that isn’t what we’re engaged in now. Or since that “mission accomplished” banner flew.
Almost any field grade officer and up could tell you what we need to do to win. More troops, better material, bit more money, train the new Iraqi standing army, etc. etc.
But that’s predicated on wanting to win - and the political will isn’t there.
It wasn’t there in the first place because Rummy et.al. was fixated on getting us in. They don’t need to worry about what happens after they get theirs - so who cares how many boots are on the ground.
And it won’t be there now because the mission was bullshit from the get-go and people know it.
Now this doesn’t mean the mission the troops are trying to accomplish is wrong. Merely that the wrong tool is being used for the job. And it’s a noble effort to try to bring democracy to people, but nation building is not the best use of resources - and it’s a huge drain. One that we’re not willing to really fully devote ourselves to. So you’ve got our guys dying trying to get something done that wasn’t fully backed in the first place. And won’t be backed now.
And you can’t blame anyone but the asshats who started it in the first place. The way to “win” this engagement is to end it as quickly and with as little damage as possible.
Unfortunately the repercussions will last for years and years and it’s a vital area.
So I don’t really know if we’ll have the political will to take our hand off the hot stove either.
Who would win this one? Benjamin Disraeli or John Adams. Either be fully imperialist or don’t let the quasi war get out of hand.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2006


Oh there is plenty of blame to go around, tomrac. But, if you are part of a cabal that gets a country into an unwinnable war for ideological reasons, then surely the point that no-one could have won the (unwinnable) war is redundant and moot? It seems like too fine a hair to be split.

In any case, you can bet yer ass the US will be declaring victory and getting the hell out sometime. So, "win", yeah.
posted by Rumple at 10:18 AM on November 14, 2006


Yeah, it'll be the textbook definition of a pyrrhic victory, because when the most of the troops are back home (and replaced by NATO or UN troops) and smoke clears, this country is going to be profoundly changed in our eyes as well as the world. The European's clearly have a more genuine commitment to liberty and civil and human rights. It's important we never forget how we got into this mess, how we were manipulated into it and by whom.

The next president of this country is going to have to be a forward looking and hopeful individual. One who reaffirms everything about what this country once was and what it aspires to be. I just hope the blowback from Iraq doesn't have Katrina force winds.
posted by Skygazer at 11:14 AM on November 14, 2006


It's been argued that the war was anything but unwinnable, but rather that it was executed in such a glorious, magical way that it made the Katrina affair look like a model of competence.

No one was in a better position to turn this adventure into the spectacular disaster it now is than Rumsfeld. And let's not forget that he was one of the principle architects of the invasion, manufacturing evidence and just flat out lying--we're in there in the first place thanks to him.
posted by cytherea at 12:59 PM on November 14, 2006


It may have been argued the war was winnable, but that argument is pretty weak. In that article, it is exactly the post-hoc failed architects of the war who are now claiming the war was winnable had they only been allowed to conduct it differently. Well, I am sure some people still believe victory in Vietnam was possible, if only the Vietnamese had played along and American were more ok with mass bombing and genocide and stuff. Those are the kinds of arguments perfectly encapsulated by the "We Make Reality" school of neocon thought. I mean, can you imagine a "won" Iraq with twice as many US soldiers? That seems to be the main revisionist theory -- needed MORE Iraqi death and voila: pacification. More soldiers = more targets. Bring on the draft! Oh yeah, now the war is going really well.

A much stronger argument can be made that the Iraq war was misconceived and was unwinnable from the beginning - Powell said as much with his "you break it - you own it" comment, and Bush the First knew that, which is why he stopped short of Baghdad in Gulf War the First. The problem isn't just that the war was fought on false pretences (a shocking crime, presumably treason), but that it was a war with no likelihood of, or plan for, "victory", other than a fantasy league Peace Be On Bush hallucination. The Fundies sowed the wind -- and then acted like the whirlwind was a surprise.

Meanwhile the Witch is dead, long live the maggots.
posted by Rumple at 2:07 PM on November 14, 2006


Ah! I wish I hadn't read that. I believe I must have forgotten how disastrous the prospects were before we went into Iraq. And yet I was still shocked at how badly they managed to exceed my low expectations.

Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office.

I am at a complete loss for words. I think I need a shower.
posted by cytherea at 2:40 PM on November 14, 2006


Conservatives and neoconservatives are incompetent at reasoning (because it is not their first priority). It is a genuine disability that causes them to believe the ideology that “might makes right” (rather than the idea that being right “makes might”). To be fair, some of them actually think that government policy has something to do with capitalism, but they aren't sure what, so they assume government is supposed to help the wealthy (rather than enforce fairness). Such is simple thinking. Conservatives even mock and ridicule liberals as weak on values because liberals value the freedom to change.

What this means is that conservatives will always lose every modern war. It handicaps them in the same way that any dictator is handicapped during war when they are surrounded by yes-men. They don't know how to foster objective and civil argumentation in order to act with logical decisiveness (which would prevent a losing war to begin with). Instead, they foster the values of decree, force, tradition, money, discipline, loyalty, and holier-than-thou. That's why they hang onto the past (hence called "conservative"). That's also why they project wimpy emotions onto liberals (their own emotions), because the idea that liberals reason their way embarrasses the strongman traditional of authority.

Note: The disaster we saw when Rumsfeld barred the Baathists from government, and then limited the carpetbaggers to only neocons, was sheer and stunning stupidity, if not a calculated effort to milk the war for profit. So, by giving the neocons the benefit of doubt, we assume they can't reason rather than irrationally accuse them of being corrupt traitors.
posted by Brian B. at 8:52 PM on November 14, 2006


Thanks for the explanation, Brian B., but I think you'll have to put me in the irrational accusation camp. "Corrupt traitors" fits them like a glove.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:55 AM on November 15, 2006


Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs...We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.
George "Poppy" Bush, "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2006


Battle Brewing in Congress as Bush Admin Seeks Closure of Iraq Reconstruction Corruption Monitor
posted by homunculus at 2:22 PM on November 15, 2006


In a secret end run around Cheney and Rumsfeld, the secretary of state pressed Bush to back the Iraq Study Group -- and change the course of the war.
posted by homunculus at 8:58 PM on November 16, 2006


In Vietnam, Bush Repeats Kissinger: ‘We’ll Succeed Unless We Quit’
posted by homunculus at 3:05 PM on November 17, 2006


Cheney’s Deeply Pathological Speech to the Federalist Society
posted by homunculus at 3:11 PM on November 18, 2006


Rumsfeld okayed abuses says former U.S. general
posted by homunculus at 4:55 PM on November 25, 2006


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