Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2002 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness | A lot of generals and admirals in the Pentagon don't think much of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Washington Post said in a front page story. "Many senior officers...describe Rumsfeld as frequently abusive and indecisive, trusting only a tiny circle of close advisers, seemingly eager to slap down officers with decades of distinguished service," the Post said Oct. 16.

There are four broad reasons for friction:

  • Many military leaders are less sanguine about war with Iraq than Rumsfeld is.

  • Rumsfeld is sticking his nose into matters military leaders regard as their turf.

  • When Rumsfeld thinks something a general said or did is stupid, he says so. Generals aren't used to that.

  • Rumsfeld and service leaders disagree profoundly on the types of weapons the military should be buying. Of these, the last is by far the most important. Most marriages which founder do so over money, and the fights over money in the Pentagon these days are ferocious.

Rumsfeld inherited a defense budget crisis. Defense budgets fell significantly during the Clinton administration, but - thanks to peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Bosnia, and the Kosovo war - military "op tempo" rose considerably. Weapons purchases were deferred to pay for current operations. Estimates of the capital shortfall go as high as $400 billion.

War is expensive. Last year the war on terror cost the Pentagon $16.8 billion over and above expenditures planned before Sept. 11. President Bush got through Congress the largest increase in defense spending since the Reagan administration, but it isn't nearly enough both to pay for the war we're fighting now, and to modernize the force.

Rumsfeld and the service chiefs want to spend what little money is available for modernization on very different things. Each of the services wants to buy new and improved versions of the kinds of systems it was buying during the Cold War. Rumsfeld thinks these systems guard against a threat which largely has vanished. He wants to spend procurement money on systems which take full advantage of modern technology, and which would be more useful in the war we are fighting now.

So Rumsfeld has put a sacred cow or two from each of the services on his chopping block. He's already cancelled the Army's Crusader artillery system.

The Comanche helicopter and the Stryker armored car may follow. He wants to delay and reduce the buy of the Air Force's F-22 Stealth fighter, and to delay or cancel the Navy's next generation aircraft carrier.

Analysts who have less emotion and prestige invested in these systems than do the service chiefs have difficulty disagreeing with Rumsfeld. The Crusader would have been the finest howitzer ever. But the gun and its ammunition carrier weigh 70 tons, which means it couldn't be moved by air, and wouldn't be of much use in chasing guerrillas through the hills even if it could. The F-22 is designed chiefly to shoot down enemy fighters. But no air force in the world has fighters which can match the ones we have now.

The other frictions stem mostly from the disputes over money. The Army wanted a plan for Iraq that involved lots and lots of ground troops, because that's what the Army has always done, and such a plan would boost the Army's share of the defense budget. Generals and admirals who have their impassioned arguments for the sacred cows in their budgets dismissed out of hand take it personally. The anonymous leaks on which the Washington Post story is based suggest that Rumsfeld is probably correct to trust "only a tiny circle of close advisers."

Rumsfeld has more impressive credentials than any secretary of defense save George Marshall. A former naval aviator, he had been Secdef for President Ford and chaired two defense commissions before President Bush picked him for a second Pentagon tour. The war in Afghanistan was fought his way, over the objections of many in the Army. It worked out pretty well. He's been doing a good job. The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of it.

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10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly