Information Warfare: Ragging Rumsfeld for the Wrong Reasons


February22, 2007: U.S. senator John McCain recently claimed that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mismanaged the war in Iraq, and was one of the worst performances as Secretary of Defense ever. McCain's comments, however do not really reflect the reality of the situation. While Iraq has not been without its bumps in the road, there have been successes in that country. At the same time, Rumsfeld may have made mistakes, but he also had a number of accomplishments to his credit.

In Iraq, the accomplishments are many. At the start of the war, Iraq was a dictatorship run by Saddam Hussein. Saddam's regime was also documented to have had a relationship with al-Qaeda (to the point of inviting personal envoys from Osama bin Laden to Baghdad for talks). Since the liberation of Iraq, it has become an emerging democracy. Also, the United States has taken out some senior terrorists, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. These accomplishments have achieved with the loweest casualty rate in American military history.

Iraq is not the first campaign in history to have things go wrong. During the American Civil War, Union generals in the East were known for varying degrees of inaction or incompetence, until George Meade took over in 1863. Even then, the Union did not see success until Ulysses S. Grant was placed in command in 1864. In 1942, the American campaign at Guadalcanal got off to a spectacularly ugly start with the battle of Savo Island, in which over a thousand Allied sailors were killed. In 1943, the North African battle of Kasserine Pass revealed defects in American training. That same year, the invasion of Tarawa went horribly wrong due to poorly-planned pre-invasion air and naval bombardments. The following year, 1944, not only featured the Battle of the Bulge (a major intelligence failure), but also the successful decoying of American naval units during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Both Korea and Vietnam also featured instances where things did not go as planned. Iraq is just the latest war where this has happened. The same will happen in future wars.

Rumsfeld's other accomplishments as Secretary of Defense also put the lie to McCain's comments. During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, the United States took three state sponsors of terror off the board. Under Rumsfeld's five-plus years of running the war on terror, the United States also took out or captured a number of high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders, including Abu Ali al-Harithi, Abu Zubaydah, Mohammed Atef, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Rumsfeld was also able to modernize the United States military while fighting that war, taking the Army is also going from 48 deployable brigades to 70 through a massive reorganization. In a very real sense, he killed the Crusader self-propelled artillery system in 2002 and the Comanche scout/attack helicopter in 2004.

Much of the criticism aimed at Rumsfeld is done with the benefit of hindsight, when consequences of decisions are clear. Perhaps in John McCain's world, Rumsfeld's tenure has been a complete failure. However, in the real world, Donald Rumsfeld's second tenure as Secretary of Defense featured very real accomplishments that put the lie to McCain's cheap shot. In a very real sense, Rumsfeld's mistakes were the result of being willing to try to do something about terrorism and states that sponsored it. – Harold C. Hutchison (


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