"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rumsfeld - The Lion in Winter

I once sat in Don Rumsfeld's seats at a Redskins game in Washington.  He was Princeton Class of 1954; I was Princeton Class of 1981.   A friend of mine's father had been Rumsfeld's roommate at PU; that's how we got the tickets.  I don't think that even qualifies as fifteen seconds of fame for me.  It's always interested me how the lives of average people -- I am one, hence "The Regular Guy" -- occasionally intersect with the famous or powerful, and why some individuals with intellectual talent become famous or powerful and others with perhaps as much natural talent don't.   Is it luck?  Drive?  Right place at the right time?  Or are there different skill sets -- leadership, organization, focus -- beyond pure intellectual ability?  The answer is obviously yes on all counts. 

In any case, Rumsfeld has his memoirs out now, and it appears to be a book that will make history, or at least help define the parameters of how history will tell the story of the War on Terror going forward.   Hugh Hewitt has a long interview up with Rumsfeld about the book, and it bears reading in its entirety.   Here's a passage that jumped out at me, because it highlights both the quality of Rumsfeld's mind, and the difference between how a person in the arena at a high level thinks about war and how war gets reported and over-simplified in the media:
HH: I was digging into, I’m wondering if America, being such a Western country, is just simply not equipped to understand the Muslim world and the Arab world for these long insurgencies, because we couldn’t anticipate a target like that, whereas after 9/11, we hardened up all of the symbolic targets in my conversations with your colleagues during those years. Do you think we have the ability to actually understand how insurgency will be waged long term and in a Muslim country?
DR: The implication of the question is that it would be waged in a single way. And it seems to me that probably is never going to be the case. The enemy has a brain. They watch what goes on. They adjust to the tactics, techniques and procedures that we put in place. And as they do so, then we have to adjust those tactics, techniques and procedures to adapt to fit the changing nature of the enemy’s approach. And the battlefield is a continually evolving thing. And what happens in one six month period in one area might be notably different from what happens in another six month period in other areas. And I think that’s exactly what took place. The insurgency, well, let’s use that word as a catch-all. Saddam Hussein let 100,000 prisoners loose in his country as he was being thrown out of office. So you had that element. You had a whole lot of Shia conscripts that went home and left, because they didn’t want to be in the Iraqi military in the first place. You ended up with Saddam Hussein calling for jihad, and bringing in terrorists from Iran, and a lot of them through Damascus and Syria, and coming across other borders in the area, people from all across North Africa. You had the Sunni Baathists who wanted to, they created what was called the Party of Return early on, and that was the beginning of the insurgency. I don’t know that you’d call it an insurgency, but it was an attempt by the Baathists and the Saddamists to try to take back the country. And over time, the al Qaeda came, and various other elements became part of what in the aggregate was called the insurgency. There was the Sadr militia, or army, which wasn’t an army. He just had the ability to put maybe 10,000 thugs into the street at his beck and call. So there were all of these mixed elements that came into being as part of what you and I would consider the broader insurgency.
By the way, Hewitt, a lawyer and law professor, conducts extraordinarily good interviews on his radio program, and always posts the transcripts on his website.   The other person who does really good interviews -- by which I mean interviews that really get into the substance of serious issues -- is Peter Robinson on National Review Online.   Here, for instance, is Robinson's recent interview of William Voegeli, the author of Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State. 

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