The guy who should have been a pundit in my family — my Dad, Phil — had this to say in an e-mail about election results and Rumsfeld’s resignation:
The way to fight terrorists is to search them out with small specialized units, Special Forces, SEALS, mercenaries, or clandestine forces, and kill them. Large conventional forces don’t work with what military writer William Lind calls Fourth Generation warfare or what some call asymetrical warfare.
But the Pentagon is full of generals and admirals who like to command large armies or large battle groups organized around aircraft carriers. And congressmen with military installations or defense contractors in their districts prefer these kind of officers because of the pork their ideas bring to their districts. Any defense secretary is immediately confronted with these officers, who, like others in DC, cultivate powerful members of Congress in order to get what they want. One of the most famous of these officers was Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy. He was a master at using powerful friends in Congress against his foes in the Pentagon. (Read his biography by Norman Polmar and Thomas Matthews)
Rumsfeld’s ideas were pretty much overshadowed after 9/11. He had to fight President Bush’s war with the organization he inherited.
It’s an old story, when John Holland developed his submarine in 1896, he was resisted by the usual suspects in the Navy. He said they disliked submarines because “They had no deck to strut upon.” Billy Mitchell ran into the same people in the 1920’s when he promoted aviation.
9/11 was a case of events getting in the saddle and riding the horse. If Iraq had turned out they way the neocons thought it would have, Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest would be celebrating even larger gains in Congress today. Wars, which are almost always ill-advised and preventable, create either heroes or goats. “Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan.”
There’s no redemption in politics.