February 20, 2006

The Kinder, Gentler Rummy: It's "Long, Twilight Struggle" Time!

Let's hand it to Don Rumsfeld: there are few, if any, more adept bureaucratic warriors that we've witnessed pass through Washington in the history of these United States. And now, as the quasi-unilateral, 'coalition of the willing' excesses of Bush I pass through something of a Thermidor--replaced instead by our positively furious multilateralizing in places like North Korea and Iran--Rummy again shows us what a wondrous bureaucratic survivor he is.

Yep, he's ably adapting to the new climes.

Exhibit A: Here he is at the CFR, channeling, none other than Francis Fukuyama!

Rumsfeld: "In the early years of the Cold War -- another "long twilight struggle" -- President Eisenhower made a perceptive observation -- despite the differences between this war and the Cold War -- that has resonance even today.He said: "We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope. . . ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. . . to meet it successfully [we must] . . . carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake." For nearly 50 years we did just that. We will need to show the same perseverance in the long struggle we face today."

Fukuyama: "Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight."

More:

Fukuyama: "If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective."

And now, Rumsfeld again: We need to consider the possibility of new organizations and programs that can serve a similarly valuable role in the War on Terror in this new century.

What, for example, should a U.S. Information Agency, or a Radio Free Europe for the 21st Century look like? These are tough questions.

And I suggest that some humility is in order, because there is no guide book -- no roadmap -- to tell our hard working folks what to do to meet these new challenges.

Secretary of State Rice's proposal to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people through expanded broadcasting, the Internet and student exchanges is a good start, and deserves support. [my emphasis throughout]

Why, who would have thunk it? Don Rumsfeld describing "expanded broadcasting, the Internet, and student exchanges" favorably as the way forward on Iran policy? Or calling for a revamped USIA? Fukuyama would be proud, and Charles Krauthammer dismayed! After all, friends, "student exchanges" and "expanded broadcasting" seem far removed, don't they, from Rummy's originally enunciated game plan: "(g)o massive...Sweep it all up. Things related and not"? Heh. But hey, times change, and we wouldn't want to "overplay our hand" now, would we?

On one thing, though, we can agree. The time for "some humility", as Stuff Happens stated to his CFR audience, is certainly "in order". Not least, dare I say, from our so accomplished Secretary of Defense himself...although his reference to "hard working folks" trying to get it right (did he have the Secretary of State in mind here?) appears to showcase that hubris levels are still running about an 11 on a 10 point scale. And, on idea generation on all this 'soft power' loosey-goosey stuff, he seems to be coming up pretty empty (I challenge you to detect a truly innovative idea in his entire speech and, no, merely mentioning blackberries or blogs doesn't cut it)--cuz, you know, there's no "guidebook" or "roadmap" and such...but at least Condi's cobbled together a "good start", so huzzah!

UPDATE: We get mail:

Your gloating commentary is misplaced if it's intention is to show how Rumsfeld has abandoned neo-conservatism since having been exposed to Fukiyama's recent apostasy. First of all, I am not sure either of them were neocons to begin with- but if you simply mean an acknowledgment that the ambitions of neocons to begin the process of democratizing the mideast through Iraq in order to lessen the threats we face from fundamentalism as having been wrong and that we need to retrench and take a page from the cold war containment strategies of the 20th century then you are simply being unfair to Rumsfeld's words.

You are conflating Rumsfeld's views regarding the entire 'war on terror' with all its manifold fronts and issues with his approach to war in Iraq.

I have heard him say much the same kinds of things you quote from CFR since the earliest days after 9/11. Yes he famously mischaracterized the insurgents as 'dead-enders' but his wider view has always been a dark one. He is always pessimistic when speculating on how long this threat will last and how great the sacrifices will be. He clearly expects this to be a generational undertaking and also that we will experience future devastating attacks. He never to my knowledge indicated that the war in Iraq was the alpha and the omega or that it had to act as the template for all our approaches. While he had good reason to disparage the German and French attempts at obstruction in the UN he is not a unilateralist for unilateralism's sake.

Can democracy be foisted on people who do not want it? Of course not. But the question has always been with regards to Iraq 'do they want it?'

Fukiyama may never have believed they did. Rumsfeld probably never much believed in this either-but it was his job to support his presidents policies..

But he can still sincerely believe Iraq will emerge a better place and have a positive effect on the region while also urging increased cooperation between nations and establishing institutions to contain the threat Islamic terrorism poses.

Just posting this reader reax as a counter to my original post. FYI, however, please note I am well aware that Rumsfeld was and is not a neo-con per se. That was not my intent in "gloating" so, er, sophomorically. What was, however, is to suggest that this hubris-ridden Jacksonian, which is what I think Don Rumsfeld is, is nowhere near as powerful as he was back in the heady days of '02, when he was often playing SecState too. He's now forced to tout the party line a bit better, you see, and not piss all over Foggy Bottom like was his wont during Bush I. This is largely because crude realities have intruded, alas. His stewardship of the first two years of the Iraq occupation will go down as one of the most abysmally botched handlings of a post-conflict situation in US history (sorry, "post major combat..."). Embarrassing, indeed frightfully so, and on an epic scale. Second, his moral repute is in tatters (at least outside of the Hannity-Coulter wing of the Party, where 'ragheads' deserve their sorry due) as evidence continues to accumulate that the widespread torture and abuse of detainees that has occurred from Guantanamo to Iraq to Afghanistan and likely points beyond unknown stem from conscious decisions taken in his office (as well as lack of leadership and oversight that bordered on the criminally negligent). Third, this is the man who didn't even game-plan for an insurgency, swallowed Ken Adleman types hokum that this was going to be a "cakewalk", and resisted troop increases, at critical junctures, because we were just fighting a few hapless "dead-enders" (it still pains him to utter the word "insurgency"). If ever a man should have resigned from Bush's cabinet, this was the one. Deep down, I suspect, he knows this, but his arrogance prevented him from doing the right thing and stepping aside (and Bush's sad dependence on him, of course, played a role too). Regardless, history will not treat him kindly, so while he can play matinee idol tough guy for a couple more years at the podium--with an often cretinously supine Pentagon press corps along for the cheap ride--the long view will be much less generous. And, for that, I am happy indeed, as at least this rough, if delayed, measure of justice will be exacted. Is it all I would have hoped for? No, not by a long shot. But it's something, and I'll take it...


Posted by Gregory at February 20, 2006 12:36 AM | TrackBack (0)
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persepctive: great powers are forced to interact with lesser powers for several reasons: security; for profit; to appease certain chauvinisms running within and without the culture. In short these interactions are governed by needs which are not necessarily in any rational way attached to the policies or ends evinced by them. America was compelled to go into Iraq. All these attempts to set that compulsion on a rational footing that can be defended after the fact seem misplaced, evasive, excuplatory.

Posted by: saintsimon at February 20, 2006 11:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, okay. Except the "long twilight struggle" quote is of course Kennedy's description of the Cold War:

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
And both seem to be channeling John Lewis Gaddis's recent book THE COLD WAR, and Rummy is perhaps responding to this recent review:
And yet Gaddis's conclusions in his new book call into question other aspects of the current administration's thinking. Several of the administration's leading officials, starting with Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, started their careers and developed their ideas during the Cold War. They have emphasized, above all, the importance of American military power. But Gaddis draws the opposite lesson. "The Cold War may well be remembered, then, as the point at which military strength, a defining characteristic of 'power' itself for the past five centuries, ceased to be that," he argues. "The Soviet Union collapsed, after all, with its military forces, even its nuclear capabilities, fully intact." Those are words worth keeping in mind as America, the surviving superpower, deals with the world in the aftermath of the Cold War. Without ideals, the missiles won't matter. ·

Posted by: Cecil Turner at February 20, 2006 01:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

He has offered to resign. Twice. And Bush refused both times.

Posted by: Jeff at February 21, 2006 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to that it doesn't really matter whether Rumsfeld is a neo con or what, what matters is that he was tragically wrong in his view of what would work in Iraq. Reading through the disasters over there I was struck by how some of the policies could be considered liberal, like no nation building was certainly something many Democrats supported under Clinton after Somalia. The idea that they could go on a mission and reform people from the top down by forcing Democracy on them sounds an awful lot like liberal welfare programs that conservatives have decried for decades applied offshore.

No, the problem isn't that they are neoconservatives, it is that they were not in touch with reality, and when others tried to point that out to them they refused to listen.

Posted by: napablogger at February 21, 2006 08:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was at the CFR for Rumsfeld's speech, and I'd encourage you to read the whole thing (though perhaps you have, but the same goes for anyone else reading this post) before anyone decides Rumsfeld has become some kind of convinced soft-power warrior. I and many of the other journalists found the talk aggressive bordering on offensive (I heard several use that word) to our profession. Short version: Rummy to Journalists - Drop Dead. It's our fault that America's image is tarnished around the world, our fault that a perfectly good propaganda operation (placing articles in Iraqi newspapers) was ruined, our fault that Abu Ghraib is getting more column inches than Saddam's mass graves.

Journalists to Rummy: Hey, it's supposed to be a big story when America behaves awfully, and it's not a story that Saddam was a bad guy. If you'd like us to treat American abuse as some kind of routine non-event, we've lost the moral high ground.

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Posted by: Taylor at February 21, 2006 06:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeff, about that "he has offered to resign" remark... take a look at it again.

He did not resign. He floated a trial balloon - "Gee, boss, I didn't do so good. You want to have me put in my papers?" You don't offer to resign if you think you did a bad job. You offer to resign if you think you didn't do a good job in other people's eyes.

Or... I know a gentleman at a former place of employment who "offers to resign" a couple of times a month. It was a political power-play of sorts - he was good at his (fairly difficult) job and hard to replace, and he'd use this when negotiating for who-does-what decisions and various evaluations in which he was a subject.

No, I give no weight to "he offered to resign". Once, perhaps, is a legitimate case of wishing to do so - of turning in a resignation letter with full intention of following through - and being persuaded otherwise. Three time? No. That's too much protestation.

Posted by: Kirk Spencer at March 6, 2006 03:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Rummy usually gets a pass, based on his ability--unique in the GWB regime--to put words together. The walking malapropism in the White House makes him shine the brighter by contrast.

All Rummy's "leaning forward" Princeton wrestling crap has served to do is persuade my daughter to attend . . . Columbia instead.

It may be an expression too "young" for me, but when I listen to Rumsfeld all I can think is, "what a tool !"

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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