Steve Clemons has an interesting notion:
Rumsfeld’s public ruminations about what might be possible in achieving efficiencies and dealing with a tough budgetary environment were leading the nation in my view to do some of the “rebalancing” back in early 2001 that would have been healthy for the country. Robert Kagan,writing in July 2001, strongly disagreed with my perspective, but his piece gives a sense of the times before 9/11 that roughly feel like the budgetary and hard choice debates unfolding today.
A return to Rumsfeld’s efforts to strangle some parts of the Pentagon while conceptualizing new ways to achieve security would be a constructive discussion for the Obama team to consider.
Obama, Leon Panetta, Tom Donilon, Ashton Carter, David Petraeus, General Dempsey and others on the Obama national security team may find that such public discourse could very well help Americans see something that might be true — that greater security deliverables are possible with reform and change, even amidst budget cuts.
Maybe it’s time to invite Donald Rumsfeld to be invited to join the respective advisory boards tasked with thinking through new blueprints for a reformed and rewired military strategy. Controversial, of course — but also a smart thing to do, even in an election year.
It’s possible that there are some lessons of value to be learned from Rumsfeld’s first eight months on the job; he did undertake a serious effort to re-think the US defense posture, and he wasn’t afraid to engage in brutal fights against entrenched Pentagon interests. As I’ve suggested at other times, in an entirely different universe Rumsfeld might have ended his career with the legacy of an important reformer, rather than as the Worst Secretary of Defense in History.
But in this universe, Donald Rumsfeld is a colossal failure who shouldn’t be admitted to polite society. Normally, that would be no object to using him strategically in the coming defense budget wars. However, Rumsfeld is almost unique in American political life in that virtually everyone recognizes him as a colossal failure. The uniformed military hates him, the Pentagon civilians hate him, the neocons hate him, liberals hate him, and even centrists don’t particularly care for him. You bring someone like Rummy on to your team in order to provide cover, but Rummy doesn’t provide cover; he attracts fire, almost all of it deserved. And while Rummy might have some private lessons to impart to Panetta, I very much doubt that he’d be interested in helping out a Democratic administration in any fashion that wouldn’t also be part of his own rehabilitation.