I just watched Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s appearance on FOX NEWS SUNDAY. I know a lot of people, some who support the war effort and some who don’t, that really just plain don’t like Rumsfeld, or at least just plain don’t like his public persona.
I don’t agree with them, and (as I’m wont to do) I’ve debated the issue several times. I happen to think that Rummy’s attitude and his manner of speech reflect well on our nation and on our war effort.
Here are some of my favorite snippets from this mornings discussion with Chris Wallace of FoxNews:
WALLACE: What about the argument that you failed to find a way — I know one of the things you say is that you couldn’t keep the army around because they disappeared. But what about the argument that you should or could have found a way to keep some elements of the Sunni military leadership and given them a stake in the new Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Well, they have a stake, obviously. And today if you read everything, in terms of what people are saying in Iraq, the Shia and the Kurds are reaching out to the Sunnis. The Sunnis feel they made a big mistake by not participating in the elections. They are fully participating now. They do intend to be a part of the constitutional process.
As to the army, I just don’t know what the answer to that is. The decision was made. It was made in Iraq. We have, of course, in the 145,000 Iraqi security forces, large numbers of former military, Iraqi military, including Sunni leadership today. They just aren’t in the units they were in. But the units just disband. They went away.
And a lot of the units have a lot of Sunni generals and a lot of Shia conscripts that didn’t want to be there anyway. So the minute they had a chance, they disappeared.
I don’t think — I don’t know this for sure, but I don’t think it would have been possible to have maintained that organization, nor do I know if it would have been desirable. But it’s a fair question. [emphasis mine]
I’ve said before that I think the Sunnis (as a group) probably think that they sort of missed the boat in January, and that they’ll be working hard to have more of an impact in the general elections at the end of the year. That’s a good thing.
As for the Iraqi army, I think we were almost certainly right not to simply transform existing units and personnel into new security forces. We are having enough trouble getting reliable Iraqi troops into the field as it is…it would have been much worse initially and we’d have many more problems today if we had.
Wallace brought up the fact that many don’t like the things Rummy says or the way he says them, and he played a montage of video clips, including the famous/infamous ‘Old Europe’ remark, that ended with this (which I had not seen or heard about) concerning coalition nations withdrawing their troops from Iraq:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: We’ve seen Spain do it abruptly — not impressive…
Did you say that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Is it possible, Mr. Secretary, that sometimes you’re too quotable for your own good?
RUMSFELD: I don’t know. Time will tell. I enjoy life. I feel fortunate to be able to be participating and contributing and have the chance to work with the wonderful young men and women in uniform that serve our country, volunteers every single one of them, and to work with them and to see the support they receive from their families that also sacrifice and serve.
WALLACE: Would you like to have any of those…
RUMSFELD: It’s a great…
WALLACE: … any of those phrases back?
RUMSFELD: It’s a great privilege. Oh, no. No, no. I mean, you know, you get up in the morning and you do what you do.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s talk about the situation…
RUMSFELD: Do you think that what the Spanish did was impressive?
WALLACE: Do I think?
WALLACE: Probably not, but I’m not sure that I would have said it as secretary of defense.
I’m sure that almost no one anywhere would have said it as the US Secretary of Defense. And that, in fact, is exactly why I think what Rummy says is a credit to us and our effort.
What would Wallace be afraid of? Alienating the Spanish? Who cares? They already pulled their troops? Alienating France, or Germany, or some other nation that hasn’t deployed troops? Who cares? They aren’t going to, no matter what Rummy says. They’ve got far too much of their reputation tied up in their defiance of George Bush. I say “tell it like it is” nine times out of ten. And that tenth time really grates on my nerves, though I understand why it’s necessary.
WALLACE: All right. There you go.
You said something the other day that I’d like to explore, that the political process in Iraq, that the naming of a new government and, as part of that, the naming of a new defense structure, may actually weaken the fight against the insurgency, at least in the short term. Explain what you mean.
RUMSFELD: Well, my concern is this: Every time a new government comes in — and we’re now in the process of fashioning a new government. We’ve gone from the governing council to the interim government, now to a transitional assembly and a transitional government that will be appointed in the days immediately ahead.
Well, you’re going to get a new minister of defense, a new minister of interior, you’re going to get a new chain of command, a new prime minister possibly. You don’t know if it will be new, but possibly.
And when those people come in, the important thing is that they be competent people, talented people, and that they recognize the turbulence in those departments, when you’re in an insurgency and the ministry of interior, ministry defense forces are the ones that are going to actually deal with that insurgency, they have to be darned careful about making a lot of changes just to be putting in their friend or to be putting in someone else from their tribe or from their ethnic group.
This is too serious a business over there.
And the United States has got too much invested and too much committed and too many lives at stake for people to be careless about that. So we are urging those Iraqis that what they do is put in who you want — it’s your country and your sovereignty — but be darned careful that you don’t cause undue turbulence and weakness in the security forces because it’s the security forces of Iraq that are going to defeat that insurgency.
Thus speaketh the buffoon.
WALLACE: President Bush has named Paul Wolfowitz to be the new president of the World Bank — Wolfowitz, of course, your deputy secretary of defense and one of the architects of the Iraq war. And not surprisingly, there has been some criticism.
I want you to take a look, if you will. The German development minister has said, “The storm of enthusiasm in Old Europe” — so you see how those phrases come back to haunt you?
RUMSFELD: That’s not haunting me.
I don’t feel haunted.
And that’s basically the thing. Some are trying hard, very hard, to make Rumsfeld appear “haunted” by his so-called gaffes. But he doesn’t see them as baggage in any way. And neither do I.
Do I give Rummy my 100% unflinching, blind-faith support? Of course not.
But I’m darned glad (and proud) that he’s in our corner. (And you can read the entire transcript here, though his demeanor was at least half of the reason I so enjoyed his appearance today.)