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: "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."
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.
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
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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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