web counter Media Lies: Support for Rumsfeld

Saturday, December 25, 2004

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Support for Rumsfeld

National Review published two recent articles supporting Rumsfeld, one from John Hillen, who was a defense-policy adviser to the Bush campaign in 2000 and Victor Davis Hanson whose work I've admired for some time.

Hillen argues that transformation of our military and force end strength are two different issues and there is great danger in conflating those issues.
Nonetheless, Washington being what it is, things have a curious way of spinning out of control and you never know who will be a political casualty.

This poses a great danger to the important wave of change and reformation that Rumsfeld is pushing in the Pentagon. Many of his critics are lumping the transformation of the military in with their criticism of Secretary Rumsfeld. The failure of the forces in Iraq to immediately tamp down the counter-insurgency has led even some of his defenders to shift blame to "his way of war," i.e. transformation of the military.

While Rumsfeld has solidly identified himself with transformation and broken a good amount of Pentagon china in pursuit of it, this sort of analysis conflates two very separate issues and imperils the critical impetus of change for what is largely a Cold War military. It would be very unfortunate for American security if the transformation baby were to be thrown out with the Iraq strategy bathwater or even Rumsfeld himself.

Many critics, and even supporters of Rumsfeld, confuse transformation with a debate about the size of the armed forces. There are reports ad infintum about the "smaller," more agile force that Rumsfeld is pushing the military to build. More agile, no doubt, but smaller is by no means a precondition to transformation.
Hanson argues that the critics are completely off the mark and demonstrate complete ignorance of the issues Rumsfeld has to deal with every day.
Third, the demand for Rumsfeld's scalp is also predicated on supposedly too few troops in the theater. But here too the picture is far more complicated. Vietnam was no more secure with 530,000 American soldiers in 1968 than it was with 24,000 in 1972. How troops are used, rather than their sheer numbers, is the key to the proper force deployment — explaining why Alexander the Great could take a Persian empire of 2 million square miles with an army less than 50,000, while earlier Xerxes with 500,000 on land and sea could not subdue tiny Greece, one-fortieth of Persia's size.

Offensive action, not troop numbers alone, creates deterrence; mere patrolling and garrison duty will always create an insatiable demand for ever more men and an enormously visible American military bureaucracy — and a perennial Iraqi dependency on someone else to protect the nascent democracy. Thus if the argument can be made that Rumsfeld was responsible for either disbanding the Iraqi army or the April stand-down from Fallujah — the latter being the worst American military decision since Mogadishu — then he deserves our blame. But so far, from what we know, the near-fatal decision to pull-back from Fallujah was made from either above Rumsfeld (e.g., the election-eve White House) or below him (Paul Bremmer and the Iraqi provisional government).

In truth, the real troop problem transcends Iraq. Our shortages are caused by a military that was slashed after the Cold War and still hasn't properly recouped to meet the global demands of the war against Islamic fascism — resulting in rotation nightmares, National Guard emergencies, and stop-order controversies. The amazing victories in Afghanistan and Iraq not only set up unrealistic expectations about the ease of implementing post-bellum democracy among tribal Islamic societies, but also allowed the public, the Congress, and the president not to mobilize to confront the strategic challenges facing the United States that now pose a more serious threat than did the 1980s Soviet Union.
It would be redundant to say I agree with both these men.