Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Burying the Traces of Don Rumsfeld

He was a Neo-Con man's man, Bush's first defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Like all the other Neo-Cons who were infiltrated into the Bush administration by Dick Cheney, Rummie wasted no time in implementing plans to revolutionize the way America killed people in other countries.

Rumsfeld's vision caught the imagination of some leading lights. England's pre-eminant military historian, Sandhurst lecturer and newspaper columnist, John Keegan, practically swooned over Rumsfeld in a piece of grotesque flattery he wrote for Vanity Fair. Later, as the war in Afghanistan blurred into Iraq, Keegan boldly assured readers of the Telegraph that all was well, America would prevail - quickly and handily.

It was the US Army in particular that Rumsfeld set out to transform from a lumbering, conventional warfighting machine into more of a light brigade, special operations force capable of deploying rapidly and conducting hit and run warfare, often covertly. It was a bold and radical move entirely in keeping with the Neo-Cons who are now seen as a gang of failed revolutionaries, their grand experiment in tatters.

I thought I detected a glint of Rumsfeld's Brave New World army in a story (May 15) that recently emerged from Afghanistan about a US special forces and intelligence operatives conducting covert raids on Afghan villages resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians. It sounded eerily like the targeted assassination operation the Americans ran in Vietnam known as the Phoenix Program. Now, less than a week after that report came out, the Pentagon is moving to shut down the special forces' authority to carry out secret counterterrorism missions on its own around the world. From the Washington Post:

"The decision culminates four years of misgivings within the military that the command, with its expertise in commando missions and unconventional war, would use its broader mandate too aggressively, by carrying out operations that had not been reviewed or approved by the regional commanders.

Roger D. Carstens, a 20-year veteran of Special Operations missions who is now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy institute, said the Special Operations Command finally “came to the conclusion that its role is not to be that of a global Lone Ranger who shows up at the last second to dispatch the bad guys.”

“That just can’t be done,” Mr. Carstens said, “or rather it should not be done.”

The change is the latest rejection of initiatives that Mr. Rumsfeld set forth during almost six years as defense secretary, before stepping down in 2006. His successor, Robert M. Gates, has increased the size of the ground forces, a move Mr. Rumsfeld resisted; signed off on a plan to keep more troops in Europe than Mr. Rumsfeld had envisioned; and called for future budgets to focus on the weapons needed to fight insurgents and terrorists today, rather than on investments in next-generation technology advocated by Mr. Rumsfeld."

Mr. Rumsfeld outlined his views in 2004 by advocating what was known as a new Unified Command Plan, one that would have shifted the center of gravity within the military. It declared that the Special Operations Command “leads, plans, synchronizes, and as directed, executes global operations against terrorist networks.” He stressed that his reorganization was intended to permit the command to send out its own small teams to capture or kill terrorists."

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