In Defense of Secretary Rumsfeld

February 18, 2005

Is it any wonder Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a little testy — if you can even call it that — during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee this week?

If the media and a slew of armchair quarterback politicians had persistently derided you like they have Secretary Rumsfeld, blaming you for every negative turn in the war and crediting you with none of its achievements, how warm and fuzzy would you feel toward them?

Almost every time Mr. Rumsfeld opens his mouth in public, people accuse him of arrogance, rudeness, evasiveness and insubordination to people who aren’t even his superiors. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this brilliant, sagacious man is treated like a punching bag by people who couldn’t hold his briefcase. We are talking about a man who is in his late sixties, independently wealthy, professionally accomplished beyond the wildest dreams of his detractors, and who has nothing personally to gain through his position.

His critics are constantly accusing him of misjudgments, wrongdoing and a sinister, militaristic worldview. They call him, along with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, a liar, a warmonger, an empire builder, a know-it-all and a know-nothing.

To them, Secretary Rumsfeld is an exasperating paradox, a man who they think craves more power, yet just this week recommended against the Pentagon taking charge of CIA paramilitary operations. He’s a fossil out of step with modernity, but who advocates a futuristic, leaner military machine. He’s an ogre who delights in placing our troops in harm’s way, yet resists the quarterbacks’ calls for more troops in Iraq. This guy just drives them crazy.

So they berate him, insisting he is responsible for Abu Ghraib because he “created a climate conducive to abuse and torture” — a slanderous fantasy concocted by these virtuosos of psychobabble. They sensationalize as catastrophically insensitive his candid response to a soldier that we are trying to up-armor our military vehicles as quickly as possible.

The vultures even mischaracterize his position on modernizing our forces by saying he wants to scale down our army. Mr. Rumsfeld again clarified his position to the Committee. “When we say ‘agile,’ some people seem to think it means making the military smaller; it does not. It’s the shape of the forces, not the size, that it refers to.”

Back in long ago days, when the War on Terror was a bit more palatable to the intelligentsia, Secretary Rumsfeld’s confidence, brashness and directness were received with approbation. He was even portrayed as a sex object.

But now that the war is the focus of their naysaying, Rumsfeld, along with President Bush, is the personification of the evil policies that brought it about, and what used to be viewed as charming is now contemptuous.

The truth — an enormously refreshing truth — is that Mr. Rumsfeld has not changed a bit since he took the position. He’s the same guy doing the same thankless job, taking gratuitous hits from an unappreciative, ignorant press corps that disagrees with him on policy and from certain congressmen with political axes to grind.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote a scathing anti-Rumsfeld piece (I think the Post categorized it as a news story in its objective, unbiased glory) after his appearance before the Committee.

No, Milbank didn’t engage in name calling, but he cherry picked the transcript for Rumsfeld’s responses that he obviously thought supported his case that Rumsfeld was a “Secretary on the Offensive” in his appearance before the Committee.

Milbank sought to disparage Rumsfeld for such sins as refusing to divulge classified information as to the number of estimated insurgents in Iraq and, for the thousandth time, refusing to provide the “unknowable” answer to “How long will the war last?”

While Old Media agents like Milbank are indignant about Rumsfeld’s refusal to grovel, I savor his politically incorrect answers and his unwillingness to manufacture phony responses to accommodate their childish insistence on his divulging the unknowable. There is no substitute for such Rumsfeld gems as, “There’s never been a war that was predictable as to length, casualty or cost in the history of mankind.”

I challenge you to read the transcript of Rumsfeld’s testimony and Milbank’s piece. Study carefully every Rumsfeld response Milbank chose to highlight, and tell me what on earth is wrong with any of them.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s refusal to state more than the facts allow is not evasiveness; his directness is not disrespectfulness, his confidence is not arrogance, and his refusal to apologize for doing an extraordinary job in an extremely difficult position is not insubordination. He is a consummate adult in a sea of sniping children.

This country would be infinitely better off if we had dozens more Donald Rumsfelds, who serve for the sake of their love of country. My hat is off to this exemplary public servant.