A discussion I had with a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Air Force Reserve last week and a column today from Mark Steyn has prompted this post.
My friend, the Lt. Col, said that he thinks Rumsfeld was 3 for 4 and he gives him much credit even though he was not very fond of Rumsfeld the person. He said that Rumsfeld was very successful in helping transform the military into a more sleeker, faster fighting force than it was before he took the helm. He also credits him with a brilliant invasion plan in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The one miss for Rumsfeld, according to my friend, was the occupation of Iraq.
I've seen enough "experts" echo these sentiments to believe they are correct. That brings us to this morning's column by Mark Steyn and this paragraph in particular:
For the rest of the world, the Iraq war isn't about Iraq; it's about America, and American will. I'm told that deep in the bowels of the Pentagon there are strategists wargaming for the big showdown with China circa 2030/2040. Well, it's steady work, I guess. But, as things stand, by the time China's powerful enough to challenge the United States it won't need to. Meanwhile, the guys who are challenging us right now -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere -- are regarded by the American electorate like a reality show we're bored with. Sorry, we don't want to stick around to see if we win; we'd rather vote ourselves off the island.Emphasis added.
One of the things that helped bring Rumsfeld down was on the record and off the record grousing from certain Generals. It seems to me that much of that grousing was the result of Rumsfeld transforming the miltary to handle quick response wars against smaller foes versus the planning of a huge war with China.
What I don't get is that under Clinton sensitive missile technology was sold to the Chinese (who the Generals supposedly viewed as the biggest military threat) and military spending and prestige were at ebb tide. The Generals' actions which helped the Democrats win the election and helped hasten Rumsfeld's exit seem to clearly fit the maxim of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Do the Generals think that things would be better for them if Rumsfeld was out of the picture but the Democrats were in power? Most of the Generals complained that their branch of the service did not have enough troops in Iraq. Do they think the Democrats are going to authorize more troops or less?
If I had to grade these Generals on tactics and strategy - I would have to give them F's.