Home / Robert Farley / Return of the Rummy?

Return of the Rummy?


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.

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  • wengler

    Stand up desks for everyone, and we’ll invade Tehran with a couple C-130s dropping flying tanks.

    • While they claim its going to be drastic cuts, i think it shouldn’t touch on Research on development as this has been the core of American military might over other countries.

      • Slocum

        Oh, then that is exactly what we should cut.

  • Marek

    So, “interesting” = “totally insane”?

    • DrDick


    • Njorl

      I’d say “totally insane” is more of a subset of “interesting”.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Shorter Farley: As you know, you seek advice from the Rummy you have, not the Rummy you might want or wish to have had at an earlier time.

    • Njorl

      I liked that.

  • Murc

    In some ways, I feel a little bit bad for Rummy. The man spent his entire adult life working and scheming to get into a position where he could enact his vision for the Defense Department; smaller, leaner, with a clear mission and infrastructure supporting that mission and ONLY that mission. The man dearly wanted to build an army that not only wasn’t focused on occupying other countries in support of nation-building efforts, but was literally incapable of doing so even if it wanted to.

    Then he finally got his chance to implement his vision, in what was likely to be the last job he ever had, and eight months later 9/11 happened and, well.

    He also tried to resign, I believe? Multiple times, on the grounds that he was ill-suited for the job at hand and responsible for a number of ongoing fuck-ups.

    But in the end, I only feel a TINY bit bad for him. A lot of people died or ended up crippled because he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, and I reserve my greater sympathies for them.

    • Warren Terra

      You make an excellent substantive case that he was trapped by circumstances not entirely of his own making. But he was so g-d arrogant about it at the time that my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for him. And whether or not some person or some reality forced him to fiddle while Baghdad was looted, no-one forced him to seemingly enjoy the tune.

      • Warren Terra

        (All that said, he’s an old man, and if he wants to pull a McNamara without first waiting thirty years, I’d suggest we give him a decent chance to show some contrition before we start throwing vegetables. FSM knows, it’d be nice if someone from that administration more senior than Lawrence Wilkerson or Christine Whitman showed any signs of having learned a damn thing from those eight years.

        • Ben


          • witless chum

            What’d General Powell learn? He hasn’t ever offered any sort of “Gee, maybe I shouldn’t have made asinine statements to the U.N. on behalf of a nutty war just because the president said I should” apology, has he?

            • Ben

              He said in 2005 that the speech was a “blot” and something that “was painful. It’s painful now.”

              That’s the same kind of language Wilkerson used to describe the speech, saying that it was the “lowest point” of his life. It doesn’t seem crazy to say they had comparable bouts of regret in the public eye over that event.

              Wilkerson has been more outspoken about stuff like his desire to see Cheney et al prosecuted for war crimes (saying that he’ll “take what’s coming to him” if that happens). In that way he and Powell aren’t in the same ballpark. But that’s a far cry from “showing any signs of having learned a damn thing.”

              • dangermouse

                Lots of people’ve been through shit that was painful, doesn’t mean they learned anything from and/or are sorry for it.

              • ajay

                He said in 2005 that the speech was a “blot” and something that “was painful. It’s painful now.”

                This is kind of the difference between regret and remorse. It is open to debate whether Powell is thinking “I deceived the UN and I wish I hadn’t because it got tens of thousands of people killed” or “I deceived the UN and it probably scuppered my chance of becoming vice-president.”

        • Bart

          If he waits 30 years he will be 110.

          Older even than Ron Paul and St McCain, his time is past.

        • DrDick

          I did not accept McNamara’s contrition, long after he had caused massive damage to millions, in any way redeemed him from the consequences of his behavior at the time. That is even more true for Rumsfeld (for the reasons you cite).

    • He also tried to resign, I believe? Multiple times, on the grounds that he was ill-suited for the job at hand and responsible for a number of ongoing fuck-ups.

      Just out of curiosity, what sort of incompetent tries and fails to resign from a cabinet position? Is it esp. difficult? Was there a stop-rummy-loss order?

      • Marek


      • Murc

        My understanding is that he offered his resignation more than once and Bush and Cheney played the ‘you cannot leave, good of your country, good of your party, we need you’ card.

        I’m shaky on this, tho. I could be wrong.

        • Warren Terra

          That’s what I’ve heard as well – though obviously my recollections are basically of rumors and self-serving claims.

          It’s worth noting that a week before his departure was announced Bush swore he’d keep him on. It may be relevant that his departure was announced the day after the 2006 election.

          • Murc

            It may also be worth noting that I started hearing this sort of thing about Rummy about the same time I started hearing claims that Cheney had gone round the bend. Back in 07-08 there were a lot of anonymously sourced quotes to the effect of “I’ve known Dick Cheney for thirty years across five Presidencies. I was in the Defense Department with him. I’ve been to his children’s graduations. I don’t know who that crazy man with the man-sized safe in his office is, but it isn’t my old friend Dick.”

        • Sure. But what kind of idiot was he to buy that?

          Now, if they had something on him, that would be interesting.

        • It’s pleasing to think that Cheney screwed Rummy over, and not all that hard to believe. That doesn’t mean that Rummy wasn’t fully complicit, or Powell either, just that Cheney was better at being evil.

  • cpinva

    i had not thought it was possible for the nation to produce a worse secty. of defense than robert mcnamara. donald rumsfeld rose to the challenge, and proved me wrong. he gets no style points for this.

    with any luck, there actually is a hell, and dante, from his grave, will create a special circle, strictly for mcnamara and rumsfeld.

    • DrDick


    • Malaclypse

      I cannot think of any better illustration for Marx’ “first as tragedy, then as farce” than McNamara and Rumsfeld.

      • stickler

        Not to be too arch, but Marx’s original Napoleon I and Napoleon III are still pretty much unbeatable in that regard.

        Even if you give Napoleon III the benefit of the doubt for all the things he did for France, 1870 really knocks him down.

        More than Iraq v. Vietnam, even.

        • Hogan

          The second French monarch to be taken as a POW.

          • rea

            Third, surely (John II, Francis I)

            • Hogan

              There I go, forgetting Poitiers again.

  • efgoldman

    Both Farley and Clemons leave out the part where Rummy deserves to be prosecuted as a f-cking war criminal.

    • DrDick

      There is that as well (which also came to my mind).

    • Murc

      I sort of assume this as a given in any conversation about Rummy. I mean, yes, in an ideal world he’d be in prison, in the cell next to Kissinger. But if that’s all you talk about whenever he comes up you miss the entire rich tapestry of all his other failures and fuckups.

      • witless chum

        You’re letting Rummy have his own cel1?

    • rea

      We could call in tht Hitler guy as a consultant about superhighways!

      • DrDick

        And on economical designs for a “people’s car”!

  • Jim Lynch

    “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”.

    True. Still, I can see Obama appointing him to just such a commission, can’t you? If you can’t, think Alan Simpson and social security.

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