Rumsfeld and the Iraq syndrome
In January of 2005, Lawrence Freedman wrote in the Washington Post what he thought would happen when Rumsfeld would step down:
Rumsfeld cannot complain that he was the victim of poor advice, because the only advice he appears to trust is his own. This was evident from the moment he arrived at the Pentagon and is one reason why comparisons with President Lyndon B. Johnson's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, are apt and illuminating. And just as McNamara left behind the "Vietnam syndrome," when Rumsfeld departs, his bequest may well be an "Iraq syndrome."
At first glance there appears to be little in common between McNamara -- the brash, relatively young, number-crunching corporate manager of the 1960s -- and Rumsfeld, the relatively old, former wrestler and veteran political bruiser of the 2000s. But they share some traits: When it came to the defense budget, both were leery of military advice, which they believed favored certain weapons programs for institutional as much as strategic reasons. And they carried their suspicions forward into operations, leading both to be accused of arrogance. Air Force Gen. Thomas White famously chastised McNamara's Pentagon for being full of "pipe-smoking, tree-full-of-owls" defense intellectuals, much as uniformed officers today disparage the intellectuals surrounding Rumsfeld.
The irony is that for three decades, American interventionists like those surrounding Rumsfeld have been laboring to overcome the Vietnam syndrome and its reluctance to get involved in overseas wars. And now, in their hour of seeming triumph, having waged a war that was largely supported by Americans despite the perils, these interventionists have much to fear. That's because whenever Rumsfeld finally packs up his office at the Pentagon, he will leave behind an even more burdensome Iraq syndrome -- the renewed, nagging and sometimes paralyzing belief that any large-scale U.S. military intervention abroad is doomed to practical failure and moral iniquity. bold added by yours truly.
Indeed, Jim Webb, who at this point of writing has claimed victory over George Allen as Senator for Virginia, wrote about the reason why the United States ought not to engage in certain battles:
My final admonition—and I got into some trouble with this during the Gulf War—is that we are not in a position as a nation, and particularly as a military, to occupy large pieces of territory. The Wall Street Journal editorialized repeatedly during the Gulf War that we should set up a MacArthurian regency in Baghdad. There has been a lot of discussion about why we did not take Baghdad during the Gulf War. I think as much as anyone in this country, I would like to see Saddam Hussein go. To my knowledge, I was the only guy in the Reagan administration who opposed the tilt toward Iraq, in writing, in 1987. I do not think we had nor have the resources to occupy Iraq.
If you think we have problems in Israel, try putting a Judeo-Christian military system in the cradle of Muslim culture. And when you think about a military of 1.4 million people, with other responsibilities around the world, that is not a winnable situation. I tried to say ten years ago, over and over again, that we must be involved only to the extent that it directly involves our national interests. These arguments have been going on for 3,000 years. And when they do relate to our national interests, as this international terrorist movement does, we must act with a great deal of specific lethality. We must go after the people who are doing this and eliminate them.
(James/Jim Webb was an Assistant-Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration)
Credit goes to Mash at Docstrangelove for locating this source of information.
So Rumsfeld finally has left the building. We can only hope, that next year, the neoconservatives that have been put in place by this, faux-conservative administration will punch their clocks to never return as well. Hasta la vista Rummy!