Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Rumsfeld and Iraq
David von Drehle wrote a great account of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's approach to the current war in Iraq in Sunday's Washington Post, 11/13/05. He also hosted a chat on the article here. He provides valuable context for those of us who weren't alive or weren't following politics during the Nixon era, because many of the dynamics of the Bush administration spring from old ideas and clashes between Rumsfeld and Cheney on one side, and Powell on the other. (All of von Drehle's work coheres with George Packer's The Assassin's Gate (which I'm working on now) and the recent accusations of Wilkerson, Powell's former aide.) I've felt that Wolfowitz, not Rumsfeld, was the McNamara figure when it came to Iraq (right down to the World Bank!), the true believer unbound by realities. This article suggest that Rumsfeld, for all his strengths and faults, was not a true believer in the cause per se, but was and is a true believer in his own, that of reshaping the military for a post-Cold War era. While Rumsfeld is to be lauded for seriously looking into this, his seeming staggering imcompetence regarding Iraq overshadows everything. Since my first real acquaintance with Rumsfeld was with his handling of Iraq, I was a bit surprised to read in The Price of Loyalty that at one point Rumsfeld had been highly regarded as an intelligent and effective, if partisan, official. Much as some folks wonder what happened to Dick Cheney, so much more nakedly partisan and ideological than once he was, Rumsfeld (Cheney's onetime boss) seems to have transformed. Doubtless more could be explained by the Rumsfeld war-planning memo he is still not cleared to share. Or maybe, in these times that try men's souls, 9/11 and the Iraq war did not change the personalities of Cheney and Rumsfeld as much as reveal what had been inside all along.