McCain Disses Rumsfeld

December 14, 2004

Senator McCain once again gets media attention for undercutting the Bush administration. Now I realize that many of you are beginning to jump on the dump-Rumsfeld bandwagon, but I’m not jumping up there with you. And it’s not because of a blind allegiance to the Bush administration. In fact, it’s mainly because of the confidence I’ve acquired in Secretary Rumsfeld over the last few years.

The MSM, always portrays McCain as a hero when he is taking on the administration. And they rarely question the wisdom of the statements by Bush’s critics. This story provides an example of that.

It appears that McCain’s major complaint with Rumsfeld concerning Iraq is in the number of troops there. The article reports:

He [McCain] estimated an additional 80,000 Army personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 more Marines would be needed to secure Iraq.

“I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops — linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.,” said McCain, R-Ariz. “There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue.”

I know it’s been widely reported that Rumsfeld is a great believer in adopting a new approach to war involving smaller numbers of troops with superior equipment and technology who will be “lighter and quicker.” (Please excuse the oversimplification). And I know that the conventional wisdom today is that we need more troops on the ground in Iraq because the “insurgency” is substantial and spread out over a wide geographical area. So shouldn’t that be the end of the discussion? Let’s just send in more troops and be done with it.

What the unquestioning media fail to address is that combat ready troops don’t just magically appear at the snap of the Defense Secretary’s fingers. And they don’t ever appear for free. While I’ve read no treatise on Secretary Rumsfeld’s theory of modern war, I dare speculate that even he would favor sending a maximum number of troops at all times if there were no other counterbalancing considerations.

But isn’t it curious that these same high and mighty critics who are demanding Rumsfeld’s head for not callously answering the soldier’s question the other day about insufficient armored equipment and for committing an inadequate number of troops in the Iraqi theater, are the ones who have castigated the president for his bloated budget deficits and helped spread the propaganda that the president was implementing a back-door draft and furtively planning to resurrect the actual draft? Aren’t these the same people who wouldn’t dare suggest that our manpower and equipment are stressed largely due to President Clinton’s irresponsible reductions in the defense budget and simultaneous expansion of our military commitments?

Why aren’t these media McCain-sycophants asking the good Senator where he would get those additional troops he proposes and how he would pay for them? Why aren’t they asking themselves why they jumped on the bandwagon with those criticizing Bush for the old bait and switch when he is making National Guard troops serve longer than they were originally promised? Wouldn’t these substantial additional troops necessarily result in more of such extended commitments? Why don’t we hear this other side of the story?

A few other quick points: 1) Remember that McCain has a knack for garnering media attention by going against the grain. And he’s thinking about a presidential bid for 2008, though he is being coy about that right now. The more he presents himself as a maverick, for now, the better for his high profile and media darling-ship; 2) Do Bush and Rumsfeld critics just believe that Rumsfeld would oppose appropriate troop levels just to be stubborn, even if it would cost American lives? Surely only the Maureen Dowds of the world believe he is an evil man. Rumsfeld has said repeatedly that he is following the requests of his commanders on the ground in Iraq as to troop levels. The article reports:

Rumsfeld has “relied upon the judgment of the military commanders to determine what force levels are appropriate for the situation at hand,” Di Rita said.

If Rumsfeld is telling the truth, which I have no reason to doubt — remember, he doesn’t need this thankless job — he is following the wishes of those who know more about this than anyone in the world, i.e. the commanders in combat. Are we to assume that John McCain has more knowledge and expertise than these guys? I don’t know about you, but I will not make that assumption. Unlike McCain, these people have no political considerations effecting their judgment or recommendations. So while we’ve heard all these stories about Rumsfeld’s quixotic allegiance to this new military approach, which he’ll reputedly stick to even when the evidence proves he is wrong — dead wrong — we don’t even know if he’s applying that theory in the War in Iraq. The information we have, as indicated, is that Rumsfeld is basing his troop levels on the requests of the generals in the field, not as part of an outworking of a supposedly discredited theory he has as to a lighter and quicker modern strike force. (By the way, I’m not suggesting Rumsfeld’s theory is wrong — merely that his critics say it is.)

In fact, I surmise that Rumsfeld’s theory about this lighter, quicker force applies to the kind of war we engaged in in the initial phase of the Iraq War when we toppled Saddam. (And who can deny that it worked brilliantly there?) I doubt that it necessarily applies to the type of terrorist-spawned insurgency spread throughout Iraq. Who knows whether Rumsfeld would advocate, in the abstract, that a lighter and quicker force be used to quell this type of insurgency. We’re not all that experienced in fighting this type of war and all of our defense and military leaders may be rethinking war strategies each and every day as we — unfortunately — are acquiring that experience.