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He could — and should — write about his own role in making it possible for President Bush to pull America out of the so-called ABM treaty that blocked development and deployment of a ballistic missile defense. Few know that it was Rumsfeld himself, negotiating with his Russian counterparts, who paved the way for Bush’s action.
Those are the facts, and no one knows them better. Rumsfeld’s negotiations with the Russians should be detailed, because they will provide a template for the future. American diplomacy is usually endless, often pointless. Rumsfeld knows how to negotiate and get results. The man who is most often derided as a perfect antidote to diplomacy can write — in the facts of these and other negotiations he led with tough adversaries — how American diplomats can succeed.
Closing that chapter, Rumsfeld could reflect on the meaning of the ballistic missile defenses we already have in place, and those soon to come on line (if the next administration doesn’t stop them). Right now, there’s enough in place to defend against anything North Korea might do. Soon, too, the Chinese threat can be defanged.
George W. Bush brought Donald Rumsfeld back to the Pentagon to transform it from its Cold War mentality to face the future. He succeeded, despite the entrenched bureaucracy both in and out of uniform.
He could write about how, in the first days of his second tenure as defense secretary, he called the Joint Chiefs of Staff together in the “tank” — the secure conference room near the secretary’s office — to talk about how he needed their help and support to achieve the president’s goal. Their resistance was predictable, but — with one exception — reasonable. Rumsfeld owes us some of the details of that meeting, especially the reaction of then Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki.
As one source told me soon after that meeting, Shinseki pulled a “Corleone” on the surprised Rumsfeld. He promised to use his influence on Capitol Hill (presumably with his lifelong “godfather,” Hawaii Democrat Sen. Daniel Inouye) to make Rumsfeld popular if only he’d leave the Army alone. Taken aback, Rumsfeld rejected Shinseki’s contumacious offer and implied threat and thus entered into a prolonged struggle with the Army.
Transforming the Army became a daily struggle. When Rumsfeld wanted to cancel the Army’s “Crusader” siege cannon program (the weapon was so big and so heavy as to defy deployment and battlefield use), Shinseki went behind his back and turned what should have been an easy conversion of the Army from a garrison force into a heated political battle.
It was only after Shinseki retired that the Army began to transform.
RUMSFELD WILL HAVE TO WRITE the history of the Iraq war. In this part, he can be kind or cruel to his detractors. No, not the ones in the press. Instead, those in the White House, including the president, who could have made better decisions and those in the State Department and even in the Pentagon, who fought him.
The conventional wisdom among the denizens of Capitol Hill and the media is that Rumsfeld insisted on sending too few troops into Iraq and botched the postwar planning. I know different, and Rumsfeld will have his own view.
As a sainted law partner of mine often says, the facts are what they are, and we’re all stuck with them. Rumsfeld should not be troubled by them. In Afghanistan and Iraq, his ideas worked when they were implemented, and his adversaries’ didn’t.
On 9/11, when the Pentagon was struck, Don Rumsfeld — at the age of 69 — ran to the site of the attack to help the injured and had to be pulled out of action by his security detail to answer the president’s call to war.
Bush wanted to attack Afghanistan in weeks, not months, but Rumsfeld faced — again — the opposition of Gen. Shinseki. Shinseki demanded a deployment of essentially the entire Army, requiring six months or more of preparation. So Rumsfeld did what the president asked, organizing and mounting a special operations forces-dominated campaign that threw the Taliban out of the Afghan capital of Kabul in a matter of weeks. The Army — except for its highly capable special operations forces — stayed home.
In early 2003 — months before the Iraq invasion — President Bush was presented with two plans for post-war Iraq. The first, written by CIA Director George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell, provided for a long occupation of Iraq and the nation-building that the president had campaigned against in his 2000 campaign against Al Gore. The second, a Pentagon plan authored by Rumsfeld’s team — including then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Air Force Gen. Richard Myers — provided for the establishment of a provisional government before the invasion and American withdrawal within months of Saddam’s overthrow. The president chose the Powell-Tenet plan and ordered Rumsfeld to carry it out.
Rumsfeld can, and must, illuminate the role of L. Paul Bremer, the consul of Iraq who was supposed to be Rumsfeld’s subordinate but who — instead listened only to the State Department. Bremer proved a loose cannon whose decisions made the State Department’s plan for nation-building an impossibility.
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