Man Without Qualities

Saturday, April 12, 2003


The Wall Street Journal editorial page (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., presiding) v. Kausfiles - and this time it's serious.

Mr. Jenkins writes:

Typically off-base was one media echo that accused the Rumsfeld Pentagon of intentionally skimping on troops "to prove a point about light forces and therefore enable far more aggressive and sweeping American military actions around the world." Quite the reverse, his Iraqi success may finally give Mr. Rumsfeld the clout to carry out a transformation that has been stymied so far. Less happily, his Iraqi success will also make it that much more necessary.

That one media echo, of course, was Kausfiles - and the fact that a simple google search turns up the referent confirms how minimal was the courtesy shown by omitting Kausfiles' name. Yes, this time it's serious, but, as always the only thing worse than being talked about is ... It's important to keep in mind that Kausfiles is not accusing Secretary Rumsfeld of incompetence here: The important question isn't whether he's incompetently managed the war (he hasn't), or whether he's too mean to generals (Keller's lesson!), but whether he's proved this point.

The "transformation" that Messrs. Jenkins and Rumsfeld are urging is described by the Secretary as based on six principles, in his own words:

Before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington we had decided that to keep the peace and defend freedom in the 21st century our defense strategy and force structure must be focused on achieving six transformational goals: First, to protect the U.S. homeland and our bases overseas. Second, to project and sustain power in distant theaters. Third, to deny our enemies sanctuary, making sure they know that no corner of the world is remote enough, no mountain high enough, no cave or bunker deep enough, no SUV fast enough to protect them from our reach. Fourth, to protect our information networks from attack. Fifth, to use information technology to link up different kinds of U.S. forces so that they can in fact fight jointly. And sixth, to maintain unhindered access to space and protect our space capabilities from enemy attack..... The notion that we could transform while cutting the defense budget over the past decade was seductive, but false. Of course, while transformation requires building new capabilities and expanding our arsenal, it also means reducing stocks of weapons that are no longer necessary for the defense of our country.

Mr. Rumsfeld has been struggling to increase the defense budget and to change both the way that money is spent on weapons and how the military (including its presumptions and strategies) is structured. To a question posed by Fortune magazine last year about how much defense spending is enough, Mr. Rumsfeld answered, "We can afford to spend on national defense any absolute amount of dollars and any percentage of GDP that is necessary to have a reasonably stable, reasonably peaceful world, because without that we do not have the opportunity to enjoy our freedoms." But Messrs. Jenkins, Rmsfeld and others have argued that many current defense appropriations are unwise - and that they are being mostly treated as Congressional pork. Mr. Rumsfeld's description of what would be required to "transform" the military in the item linked above is interesting. It is also obvious that anything of the scale he is proposing would provoke a huge uproar in the Pentagon, the retired officers, the Congress and the media - regardless of whether he is right or ultimately prevails.

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