April 17, 2006
“Men of strenuous minds and high ideals come forward.... The attacks they sustain are more cruel than the collision of arms.... Friends desert and despise them.... They stand alone....” --Woodrow Wilson
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a strong personality, tasked (among other things greater and lesser) with managing a puzzle palace full of strong personalities and huge egos.
‘No plan survives first contact.’ And hindsight is always 20/20.
Currently an excrement storm is swirling around the SecDef as a few retired General officers are grousing that their former boss should be pink slipped.
President Bush is standing fast with his guy and says Rumsfeld has his full support and that Rummy’s leadership was “exactly what is needed at this critical period.”
Notwithstanding the Presidents support, a small collection of perfumed princes have taken umbrage with Don’s management style and leadership. Hey, even before 9/11, everyone knew Don Rumsfeld could be a s.o.b. Fortune magazine had listed him as one of America’s toughest bosses…before he took over the Pentagon.
It is axiomatic that an alpha dog like Rumsfeld would p.o. other alpha dogs in uniform…and he did/does.
Rumsfeld was a wresting champ in high school and at Princeton. He was a navy pilot, congress critter, U.S. ambassador to NATO, chief of staff for Gerald Ford and then Ford’s Secretary of Defense. He was CEO of Fortune 500 companies and always, an effective, superior tough bastard.
Prior to ascending to SecDef, his plans for morphing the Pentagon into a leaner meaner, more efficient entity had institutional bureaucrats apoplectic.
One of his 154 “Rumsfeld’s Rules” states, "Prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually." (Click here to see the full list)
So a few retired generals have their panties in a bunch over what their boss did or didn’t do and how he did or didn’t do it…big whoop!?!
Retired 2-Star John Batiste said he thinks the clamor for Rumsfeld to step down is "happening for a reason." Yeah, because retired the generals can say whatever they want. Batiste said, “We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, and who didn't build a strong team."
Wait one General…the same guy who ran Fortune 500 companies to billions, served as SecDef and a President’s Chief of Staff; Ambassador to NATO doesn’t understand leadership?
Another whiney 2-star said Rumsfeld fostered an “atmosphere of arrogance.” Gee, I saw the same thing at Fort Benning and Fort Bragg…and it persists at Coronado, Quantico, and other places where ‘Eagles Flock.’
One interesting sidebar Rumsfeld mentioned in the wake of the recent itching and moaning is significant on a couple of counts. He noted there are between 3,000 to 6,000 retired and active generals. The mere fact there are so many flag officers hanging around supports my contention there are way too many generals. Also, a statistical analysis of the number of general offices cheap shoting the SecDef suggests this noise is a minor minority report.
Civilian and military leaders have bumped heads before…and will in the future.
Lincoln relieved General McClellan. Truman fired MacArthur. During Vietnam, generals were chronically grumpy about White House command and control of bombing missions.
Batiste referenced Gen. Eric Shinseki, who as then the Army chief of staff, told Congress a month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that occupying the country could require "several hundred thousand troops," rather than the smaller force that did the job. Batiste snidely says "And we all remember what happened to him…He was retired early, and the Secretary of Defense did not go to his retirement ceremony."
Hey, Shinseki was in deep kimchi before the “several hundred thousand troops” comment. He is the guy who gave the entire Army nifty black berets (previously the distinctive headgear of Army Rangers). Eric had ‘other’ problems, which sealed his fate before his mouth wrote checks his body couldn’t cash.
It is also no big surprise that the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Peter Pace, is the strongest defender in uniform of his boss. Hey, Rummy is his boss! "He does his homework. He works weekends, he works nights. People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld," Pace said.
Could Rumsfeld have done things differently? Sure. Should he be fired because he’s a ‘hard Richard’? No!
Doctor Robert Jarvick (who invented the artificial heart) once said, “Leaders are visionsaries, with a poorly developed sense of fear, and no concept of the odds against them. They make things happen.” That quote personifies Don Rumsfeld. If he is a tough, mean, arrogant, confident s.o.b., that is probably a good thing. If he upsets the institutional equilibrium of General Officers and Pentagon bureaucrats, HOOAH!
© 2006 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved
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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's