"Sympathy for the Devil"
Author: Samuel Metz
We ought to give Donald
Rumsfeld a little sympathy for his handling of a surprise
question from a common soldier.
But not much.
He deserves some sympathy
because he fielded an extremely difficult question from an
unexpected direction at an unexpected time. And the press
seized on his improvised answers as if they were White
Paper policy statements. Give this 70 year old man a
break: from out of the blue comes the most important
question about a war for which he takes full
responsibility, and he manages to keep his head to
produce, with only a few seconds of thought, reasonable
answers that did not look too foolish.
Furthermore, this powerful
question, "Why are we soldiers fighting without the armor
we need?" turns out to have been planted by a member of
the press who probably knew if he had asked the question
himself, the Secretary of Defense would have destroyed
But our sympathy ends there.
Because this was indeed the
most important question about this war, Mr. Rumsfeld
needed a well prepared, well crafted answer tucked in his
hip pocket. Then, having not left home without it, his
response to this inevitable query would have begun, "I am
glad you asked me that question…"
His actual answer, "You fight
with the army you’ve got, not the army you want," would
have been perfect after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
But this administration was set on invading Iraq from the
moment it hung its collective hat in the White House.
After 9/11, the President set his military preparing for
nearly 12 months before crossing the Kuwaiti border. And
no one compelled the Secretary to invade when he did – he
would have jeopardized no strategic advantage by delaying
until he was confident all preparations were complete.
Thus the unhappy result of a
brief exchange between a soldier and a Secretary is that
somewhere, somehow, Mr. Rumsfeld needs to own up to a
mistake. He can choose one of three.
First mistake: The
administration was blindsided when a rapid military
victory over uniformed troops morphed into an insurrection
quagmire against urban guerillas. Although our new
improved Rumsfeld-designed army is better prepared than
ever to fight Russian tanks on the plains of central
Europe, or Iraqi tanks in the barren deserts of the
Arabian peninsula, it is woefully unprepared to stage a
prolonged police action against improvised explosive
Or Mr. Rumsfeld might prefer
a second mistake: The administration was not surprised
when Battle turned into Insurrection. The Secretary of
Defense knew from the inception that our troops would be
fighting house to house against paramilitary fanatics.
Nonetheless he invaded in spite of this shortfall knowing
our inadequately armored military would be bled white by
international terrorists flocking to Iraq for the unique
opportunity to launch rocket propelled grenades at
Ah, but perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld
will choose Mistake Number Three: No mistakes were made.
The war is going perfectly. The daily deaths of American
soldiers are all part of his grand plan, ultimately
vindicated by the creation of democratic, all–inclusive
government in Iraq that will never dare to organize a
terrorist attack against the United States or create
weapons of mass destruction to use against us. Not, mind
you, that Iraq did either before the invasion, but you can
never be too careful, can you?
So in this remarkable and
unprecedented exchange, Mr. Rumsfeld is finally held
accountable for a war of his own creation, fought with an
army of his own design, at a time of his own choosing. Now
he must face the consequences. If he accepts credit for
the initial military victory, he must accept
responsibility for the morass that followed. His unsavory
alternative is to contend his war is going perfectly, and
that these annoying complaints from a few malcontented
soldiers are the result of dangerous exposure to
delusional liberal propaganda, allowing their minds to be
twisted by traitorous journalists daring to question their
government during wartime.
Why is it important to
acknowledge a mistake of this magnitude? Mr. Rumsfeld is
not the first presidential advisor making a sincere
judgment call on the best information available (to give
the Secretary credit he may not deserve) which turned
awry. But if the mistake is not appreciated, we can be
sure that the same mistake will be repeated again. And
again. Mr. Rumsfeld would have benefited greatly from the
reflections of a former holder of his position, Robert
McNamara, who learned bitter lessons from his mistakes. Or
from a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff whose
carefully articulated Powell doctrine would possibly have
avoided the entire disgraceful enterprise.
So Mr. Rumsfeld, no more
sympathy for you until you demonstrate the respect due to
soldiers who fight in your name, to a President who
depends upon you to chose wars carefully, and to your
fellow citizens whose sons, fathers, brothers and sisters
will be put in harm’s way when you choose your next war.
Which mistake will you own up