Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Man Retires

No doubt in some circles Donald Rumsfeld will only be remembered for making some needed changes in the Pentagon, or for making some mistakes in the war. Such remembrance will not be worthy of the man.

I will always remember him as the manly presence and voice of our just response in deep crisis. By his obvious integrity, swift action, and then rugged endurance, he fulfilled all the obligations of heroism. His swashbuckling charisma helped. Both young men and women watched in awe this former fighter jock, with crooked legs and all, amble his old body first to pick up human pieces outside the hit building and then to respond lyrically to the prosaic media who represented another form of attack. During one of those press conferences
I heard a father lean over to his son and say, "Look you, this is a man at work. Mark it. You may not see it again."

This old man, this old prize fighter, this old jock, this minister of war, this archetypal American, dispatched great menace upon the enemy. He threw our best at them. And he kept throwing. And he called it by the right name of war as he reminded us why civilization is better than barbarism, and why it is worth defending. Not bad from a craftsman of war.

His graceful disdain for the base factions who habitually called for head was a poetic response of a man who knew his duty. His statesmanship was deeply appreciated by his fellow citizens. His conduct has been splendid. He has inspired all us ordinary men to extend ourselves beyong the petty and the routine. This old body and heart and mind walking away from the arena has reminded us of human greatness and excellence. And I thank him.

Discussions - 14 Comments

Here is my favorite memory of the crusty old guy who kept throwing our best and brightest at them:

"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

He may have done a "heckuva job," but he wasn’t very good at time, was he?

He is a true American. We need more like him. Unfortunately, petty elements of society don’t like men of strong will, character and integrity. The stark contrast when set against their own weak profiles is too much. So they claw, spit and cry.

He was a tower of a man in that office. The right man at the right time. I pray other Rumsfelds are out there. We might well need them in the coming years.

He’s an incompetent buffoon, and history will judge him as such.

Today on Meet The Press when former Secretary of State Colin Powell was asked whether he agreed with Vice President Cheney’s recent description of Rumsfeld as “the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had” refused to second it; instead he listed other former secretaries of defense he thought had done a good job, without including Rumsfeld in the list.

If Powell had been asked if Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense this nation has ever had, I’m betting he would have nodded affirmatively without reservation.


Fung, Do you dislike Rumsfeld for his optimism, then? His hope was wrong. Didn’t we all hope that six days, six weeks, six months might do it? If we had been profligate with civilian lives in the beginning, the whole thing might be over by now. Who knows? I’ve read that. But we don’t fight like that and while I also read that it is a mistake, it seems a more American way to me.

The best and the brightest have volunteered to be thrown. I know some and they know what they risk. The current crop I know go more grimly now than the previous ones did. I hear none of them say, "I’ll be back when it is over." as one boy, long since home, said at the beginning.

I do not like the elegiac tone of those who are sad to see Rumsfeld go any more than I like the glee of those who think they chased him out. He’s not dead. I hope he’s not gone from public life, because I like him. He is blunt and precise in his definitions. Integrity seems clear, as it does not always in men, and "swashbuckling" maybe was true. To see him have to walk away without winning, without winning for and with us, is very hard. To see him go feels very much like we have given up, but perhaps Mr. Gates will prove that sense wrong.

Fung, was it a case of the truth being too rugged for you to handle. Rumsfeld could handle it, but the politically correct throughout our country, throughout the West can’t handle it.

Colin Powell was one of the foremost disasters to befall this administration. Him, alone, was bad enough. But he surrounded himself with the clueless and the unimaginative, the clod and the narrow plodder. Armitage, Haas, Wilkerson. They did their level best to prevent this country severing the US/Saudi nexus after 9/11, and that will loom large as we wander deeper into the valley of the shadow. Moreover, Powell was an egomaniac, who couldn’t handle getting bested in the arguments that led to the formulation of the Bush doctrine. Thus he went to the media, all the while pretending to be "the good soldier." He was one of the most insubordinate, dishonest and disloyal cabinet members in living memory. And his determination to continue this charade with the Saudis and the Iranians is just killing the spirit of our country to close with our enemies, and destroy them.

Powell was never all that. And what’s more, Condi isn’t either. And all of us conservatives know it, and many of us sensed it, before the debacle that we’re watching play itself out.

Just think of what it would be like to have Bennett as Sec of State, Gingrich at Defense, Kristol as Chief of Staff, Perle as National Sec Advisor, Laffer at the Fed, Kudlow at the Treasury Department. Never before have so many Conservative luminaries sat the bench during a supposed conservative stewardship of our national affairs. Imagine Rudy over at Justice. THIS WAS THE ADMINISTRATION WE COULD HAVE ENJOYED, WITH THE CLARITY, ARTICULATION, IMAGINATION NECESSARY TO THE TASK. And instead, we get Card, Meirs, Brown, O’Neill, Gonzales, et al. It’s enough to make me physically sick. Bush is a cross, a flat out cross, and we’re carrying him along up to a political, domestic and foreign relations Golgatha.

Good comments, "Omega," especially about Bush’s apparent neglect of the major conservative and Republican talent in his appointments. I think he’s uncomfortable with real excellence, because it almost always comes with independence and at least slight unpredictability. One can be loyal and still see certain things differently, take risks, etc. The Bush family doesn’t seem to understand this. They place far too much emphasis on comfort. It made Bush I a mediocre president and a worse politician, and it’s had a similar effect on Bush II. He’s better than his dad, but much less than we needed in these times.

Kate - Optimism is appropriate if the optimist responsible has done his research, and has good evidence that the outcome will be as rosy as Rumsfeld tried to lead us to believe. But, when people are being asked and ordered to sacrifice their lives and their loved ones for a cause, they have a right to the truth, and Rumsfeld lied.

Along with others in the Bush camp, he mismanaged, disregarded ethics and the law and the advice of anyone with whom he disagreed. Only when he is gone do we have a "Study Group," which is telling. Only when he is gone do people dare to suggest diplomacy, study, and divergent ways of thinking. It is a shame and a crime that he was allowed (and probably encouraged) to stand firmly in the way of the kinds of alternatives that critics have clamored for since Bush took us to war in Iraq.

The enemy within Iraq was defeated. What we face presently is a new enemy taking the field, sponsored by the Iranians and their chief stooge in the region, Syria. It’s a situation not unlike that we faced in Korea, where MacArthur eviscerated the North Korean ability to wage war, and China jumped in.

We are in the midst of a proxy war against Iran. That war is taking place in Lebanon, Afghanistan, the West Bank, Gaza, and most notably for us, Iraq.

Fung, the laws of war are effectively what we, the British and the Australians decide such rules should be. For such rules are effectively a thing of our contrivance. Others may have had a small role in the formulation of such rules, but not sufficiently to take genuine notice of.

History also has rules, important, momentous rules, rules we dare not transgress. And the foremost of those rules is VANQUISH your enemy, and trouble yourself about trifles afterwards, after the anxieties are banished, after the enemy has been destroyed, after his ability to harm you is no more.

You, and unfortunately you’re not alone in this profound error, have decided to allow yourself to have an anxiety attack over whether modern customs attendant to war have been violated. History won’t care. Nor should you. No one really gives a damn about what was going on along the Eastern Front during World War Two. Nor does anyone really care what we did to the cities of our enemies during that conflict. But history does care who actually prevailed in those titanic struggles. What Lincoln did during the Civil War that stretched the authority of his office is a thing of little moment. But who won, is a thing that shall echo in eternity.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and yes, international law is minutiae, when contrasted against an enemy that doesn’t acknowledge Western predicates of such law, doesn’t acknowledge any rules of war other than those of it’s morbid creed, doesn’t extend the remotest humane treatment to those it takes, and has taken to airing snuff videos on the Internet.

You suggested that only after many mistakes does the President take the time for "diplomacy, study, divergent ways of thinking." What euphemisms! Unworthy euphemisms as well, that is for any American.

After thousands of your fellow citizens were slaughtered live on television, when the exact number we estimated would rise to the tens of thousands, when your fellow citizens took to the skies to escape the burning flames of islamic peaceful overtures, when BILLIONS of people saw the whole horror LIVE, on television, and were questioning the credibility of your response, who are you kidding by suggesting that such a time was appropriate for "diplomacy, study, divergent ways of thinking." It was a time of war, and nothing else.

Your Monday morning quarterbacking is in bad taste. What exactly were these wonderful "divergent" approaches that this administration overlooked? Pray be specific!

Perhaps he should have consulted that modern Metternich, Kofi Anan, perhaps he should have consulted that modern Woodrow Wilson, J. Chirac? Who should he have gone to? Which allies should he have procured that it was possible to procure, and would have been worth the while to procure? Which world power did this administration avoid approaching as they gathered together a coalition against the forces of barbarism? If you desired Bush to overlook the decades long provocation of Saddam, how would such a dodge be seen on the all important "Arab street." I could elicit from you either one vague nostrum after another, which would reveal you to be a not ready for prime time player, or I could allow you to demonstrate yourself as much by merely asking you to delineate your thoughts with greater specificity.

But know this, your vague euphemisms don’t cut it here. And your coy evasion of specifying what the President should have done, or not done after 9.11, only reveals you to be an armchair critic, launching cheap jibes from the cheap seats.

If you had the power after 9.11, what would you have done? Go ahead, you have a knack for the armchair strategist, you like to offer criticisms, let’s hear it, unfold the fullness of your thoughts!

Omega, have you been reading a lot of Tolkien, lately? "Know this" and "echo in eternity?"

I am not sure what you mean by my use of euphemisms.

I also don’t know how long you have been reading here, and elsewhere, but the Left has been clamoring for Bush to look before he leaps since he first indicated that Iraq was going to pay for OBL’s attack on the World Trade Center.

I am not the first to suggest that attacking Iraq after 9/11 is similar to invading Argentina after Pearl Harbor. I also was not the only one to support our fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, so don’t try to paint me as a do nothing pacifist.

I am not sure what your rant about the rules refers to, other than that it is better to win than to lose, but I think you are not seeing how terrorism is exactly what happens when the USA and the other imperialists you mentioned pretend that their rules are the only ones that matter, and that having the biggest, baddest army is a sure path to victory. History has tought ME that guerrilla warfare works very well against more traditional forms, and that terrorism is pretty effective against invading forces.

So, what should Bush have done? At the risk of putting everyone but you to sleep from repetition: (a) attack the perpetrators of 9/11, and not Iraq, (b) obtain support from the international community, (c) think about our history (and anybody’s history!) of dabbling in the Middle East, and how likely a quick victory is, (d) learn about the country that you are about to invade. (e) listen to, and take seriously the advice of people who disagree with you. Put simply: diplomacy and research!

"Unfold the fullness of my thoughts?"

Peter Schramm’s initial post did not exactly invite discussion. Peter is a passionate lover of America and the American language, and reading his post was like listening to one mountain pay tribute to another.

While I admired Rumsfeld’s performance in the early months, I grew impatient. While there is much that we don’t know (including the outcome of the Iraq adventure, which I supported), my own impression is that Rumsfeld was hired for one job (military "transformation") and found himself doing another. From what (little) is in the public record so far, we can say that his "mistakes", as Peter puts it, have badly damaged his reputation.

But none of this has anything whatever to do with Omega’s wholesale disposal of international law and the norms of decency. He seems unaware that these norms are a part of American law, and in addition, that to abandon them as he does is to besmirch the American soul.

Did Rumsfeld lie, or was he wrong? I think Steve Thomas has a good point,
Rumsfeld was hired for one job (military "transformation") and found himself doing another. That is a pity. Who would have done a better job? We thought we had one enemy, and had dealt with that enemy and then we found a Hydra.

I confess to having thought that attacking Iraq was a bad idea, not because of some desire to protect the Iraqi status quo, as everyone had been talking about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction for years and it seemed a given back then. I thought it was going to be a political mess and it has been. No matter how good America’s military is, if there isn’t political consensus behind military action, America is going to have a mess. I wish I’d been wrong.

I thought we tried to use diplomacy, study, and divergent ways of thinking. before we went in and found those things to be the equivalent of doing nothing at all. Perhaps, in retrospect, doing nothing at all seems appealing? It really is quite a bit too late to rehash the going into Iraq. I just hope our leaving of the place isn’t as complicated as our involvement.

Actually Fung, I just watched THE RETURN OF THE KING the other night.

More later.

That post, Mr. Schramm, is sheer insanity.

NY PoliSci Prof - The custom on this blog is to argue and explain. Mr. Schramm is not insane, though he may be wrong. Are New Yorkers unable to do more than - what is the word? - troll?

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