The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Noonan On Rumsfeld: Really, Woman, Really?

Posted on | March 13, 2011 | 8 Comments

by Smitty

Newspapers like the WSJ on the Kindle are a surprise feature. Reading Peggy Noonan’s review/screed against Donald Rumsfeld should have come as no surprise. I did just finish reading “Known and Unknown”, so it’s a twofer both to mention what a valuable read it was and tell Peggy what to do with her peg.

He heard all the conversations. He was in on the decisions. You’d expect him to explain the overall, overarching strategic thinking that guided them. Since some of those decisions are in the process of turning out badly, and since he obviously loves his country, you’d expect him to critique and correct certain mindsets and assumptions so that later generations will learn. When he doesn’t do this, when he merely asserts, defends and quotes his memos, you feel overwhelmed, again, by the terrible thought that there was no overall, overarching strategic thinking. There were only second-rate minds busily, consequentially at work. 

Second-rateness marks the book, which is an extended effort at blame deflection.

In a way, the book serves as an index to the documentation on his web site. He offers summaries of events in the name of smooth narration and reasonable length. I thank the man for that.
He really isn’t out for scalps. The heavier criticism, like that aimed at Paul Bremmer, maintains some decorum. The only time he really seemed passionate was in hammering the bleeding hearts on the left who came after him over Gitmo. And rightfully so: they are about a misguided pack of twerps who created major distraction simply by not thinking things through. There is a reason why the Law of Armed Conflict is not Civil Law, and if you don’t know, hold your peace until you understand.
No, it’s as though Peggy is pitching a fit because Rumsfeld refused to write the book that would have gratified her cravings.
My theory is that she wanted some outburst of Knopflerism from Rumsfeld, some remorseful bit along the lines of:

Then you’ll find me in Madame Geneva’s
keeping the demons at bay
There’s nothing like gin
for drowning them in
but they’ll always be back
on a hanging day 

Unfortunately, while there is some remorse in the book about family matters and the toll the job took on him, Rumsfeld is as ready to stand and deliver now as he was at any point in his public service.  He fails to deliver the desired mea culpa, and Peggy is in a snit.
Rumsfeld worked for the President, and when the POTUS called for war, Rummy served up the details on how it would be done. A subtext to the book is that it shows a mind that knows how to be both a subordinate and a leader, and switch between those roles better than most. The reader is left to infer that the President could have, arguably, done a better job of deconflicting the NSC, DoD, and DoS, but Rummy deftly falls short of any swipes at W.
As I keep trying to tell people: if you don’t like what the US has done since the fall of the Soviet Union in terms of foreign policy, you really have to discuss how you’re altering the National Security Strategy. The overarching strategy of the US, across administrations has the US spending blood and treasure in various parts of the globe; Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan.
An old Cold Warrior like Rumsfeld isn’t going to see a problem with the US flexing in various theaters. The problems he had were keeping the bloated US bureaucracy somewhat coordinated and keeping the lawyers from making him a red tape Rummy Mummy. Noonan:

Osama bin Laden was not “one man on the run.” He is the man who did 9/11. He had just killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, in a field in Pennsylvania. He’s the reason people held hands and jumped off the buildings. He’s the reason the towers groaned to the ground.
It is the great scandal of the wars of the Bush era that the U.S. government failed to get him and bring him to justice. It is the shame of this book that Don Rumsfeld lacks the brains to see it, or the guts to admit it.

Noonan’s fascination with “getting Osama”, while interesting, focuses on something quite tangential to the real problem of where US national strategy should go. Hence the fact that Rumsfeld doesn’t focus on the guy.
Put aside the sophomoric demands on the kind of narrative that you feel he should deliver and give the book an honest read, Peggy.


Comments are closed.