Sunday, April 30, 2006

He drinks his own bathwater

Sometimes you need a guy who drinks his own bathwater. Sarason Liebler says that's the kind of guy Rumsfeld is.

Clinton let control of the Pentagon to run wild with Congress after the misstep with Don't ask don't tell. After that it was a gentleman's agreement between the two to stay out of each other's way.

There is no doubt that Rumsfeld is full of himself. If one reads transcripts of his speeches, press conferences and interviews -- or better yet watches a live interview -- one likely sees a 73-year-old war horse tie his interlocutors in hopeless knots, an intellectual half nelson.

What did the generals expect? Did they think this fellow who had served and observed the military in action and discharged direct senior executive authority for more than 30 years, prior to his return as secretary of defense, was going to come in and rubber stamp the backward-looking, generally myopic and self-centered outlook of peace-time military leaders?

Having served on active duty in the Navy and then as secretary of defense in the 1970s, Rumsfeld had definite opinions of the military leaders and an excessive regard for his own capabilities. While many leaders become risk-adverse with age and experience, Rummy, with an unbroken track record of success, has clearly drunk large helpings of his own bath water.

He charged back into the Pentagon demanding "transformation" of the military. Good! Before Sept. 11, 2001 he was attacking pet parochial projects of the generals and admirals. He was determined to get the military to face the new realities and many did not want to do that as they were either stuck in the past or full of service loyalty or had simply gotten change- and risk-averse themselves. While Rumsfeld did not get his way in everything, especially as senators and congressmen fought to keep outmoded and excessive projects feeding their districts, he did make major changes while generating fury from two-star officers or higher, turned into office boys.

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