UNCIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS. Andrew Bacevich has a nice discussion of the dysfunctional state of civil-military relations during Donald Rumsfeld's term at Secretary of Defense. State of Denial has served to turn over a nasty log in Washington.
Donald Rumsfeld's tenure as Secretary of Defense has two achievements worth remembering. After the Clinton years, someone needed to bring the military to heel. Uniformed active duty officers were, publicaly and privately, questioning the moral character and leadership ability of the president of the United States, something that ought not happen in a context of healthy civil-military relations. It was appropriate and necessary for Rumsfeld to knock some heads when he took over as SecDef. Unfortunately, Rumsfeld and his lackeys went beyond a sensible policy of re-establishing civilian supremacy and adopted an attitude that rejected not only the political pretension of the military leadership but also the practical expertise that senior officers brought to military affairs. Bacevich:
Assuming -- not without reason -- that professional military advice frequently comes tainted with extraneous considerations, he has treated that advice with disdain. Flawed decisions have resulted, adversely affecting everything from war planning to dealing with the Iraq insurgency. Perhaps worse still, Rumsfeld's de facto silencing of the most senior generals has induced a strategic paralysis. Because the secretary of Defense is not inclined to entertain fundamental questions about Iraq, no one else dares even to pose such questions.
The result has been two wars conceived of and conducted in a strategic and operational fog, with both civilian and military personnel lacking confidence in leadership and senior decision-making.
Rumsfeld's other credit has been military transformation, a concept which sounds great in the abstract but that has, in the context of two wars under his watch, played out disastrously. Rumsfeld's efforts to complete the transformation of the Cold War military establishment have foundered upon military and congressional intrasigence, a phenomenon worsened by the requirements of war and by Rumsfeld's abrasive style. A politically weakened Rumsfeld has been unable to push through the procurement and doctrinal changes he desired, and the requirements of the Iraq War may force the abandonment of the most important transformation projects. Notably, the Office of Force Transformation, created in October 2001, has largely ceased to exist.
In a different context, Rumsfeld's personal characteristics and policy agenda might have made him a successful Secretary of Defense. Unfortunately, his tenure has been disastrous. He is simply not capable of doing the job he has been given. The ultimate blame must be laid at the feet of the president, who (perhaps forgiveably) did not perceive that Rumsfeld was inadequate to the job in the first place, and (most unforgivably) has resisted every effort to remove an incompetent official from his position. Future historians will no doubt compare Rumsfeld's term with that of Robert McNamara, and find it particularly disturbing that he manages to fall short of McNamara on nearly every metric.