Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld resigns

Before the Democratic Party enunciates or even considers a policy on Iraq. The argument that this is a necessary mea culpa, a necessary retreat comes up against the question: retreat to what? Every rearguard action has a fallback line of defense prepared. Since the Democrats have not indicated where they want the retreat to stop, and there is no indication that the President has prepared a fallback position the appropriate term isn't a rearguard action. Retreats without an endpoint have another name. They are called a rout.

There is no sense getting excited about Rumsfeld's resignation. It is but the first step on a long road to ... has anyone decided yet? Therefore the only rational thing to do is relax. Take a loaf of French bread and cut off two slices with a utility saw and make another mayo and peanut butter sandwich. Sooner or later the enemy is going to realize what the Guderian knew in 1940. That it doesn't matter how many men, tanks or forts are serried before you. If there is no mind in opposition, and no awareness of the need to set a mind in opposition, then the road to Paris is open. The bread is theirs. The saw is ours. And the sandwich is good.

In From the Cold profiles Rummy's replacement.

"Regarding Mr. Gates, he is a good man but the wrong one for the job. He spent most of his professional life at the CIA before retiring and becoming the President of Texas A&M University. Robert Gates certainly knows the intelligence end of military affairs, but his expertise ends there. Moreover, his management skills as DCI weren't particularly impressive, and as an analyst, he was part of a CIA team that consistently got it wrong on their assessments of the former Soviet Union. Gates strikes me as a easy confirmation, someone with no ties to the current Pentagon regime. That's probably a necessity in today's political climate, but that doesn't make Mr. Gates the right choice for DoD."

While I'm sure Robert Gates is an intelligent and competent man, he appears from his resume to be a placeholder for the job of Secretary of Defense. Someone to fill the chair until Nancy Pelosi, the President or someone can figure out what to do. How far to retreat. Whether ever to stop. There was never a Democratic policy on Iraq. And now that President Bush has apparently lost his political mandate, there is now an overwhelming endorsement for nothing. Time for another bite of that sandwich. It makes more sense than anything else.


Blogger desert rat said...

As I said long ago there are two options in the Mohammedan Wars, either War or Retreat.

We've not even been at War, and it was decided to be to tough, anyway.

It's time for Retreat.

What happens when the next "big attack" is outside the US?

11/08/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger charlotte said...

We might be beyond the French bread stage. Personally, I’m ready to submit to pita toasted by blowtorch and spread with lots and lots of hummus. Then I’m going to put on my veil to cover up the garlic breath and to show off my new eyeliner.

I had a feeling Rumsfeld would go for reasons and that Congress would go Dhimmi. But was never prepared for Baker-Bush I Cold War realpolitik to make a formal come-back into the WH. Thank goodness hummus is delicious.

11/08/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Harden your hearts. This is where the rubber meets the road. But there's no sense getting stressed about it. Peanut butter is just fine.

11/08/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cruiser said...

I think the rout has been going on for some time: the Waziristan accords, the resurgence of the Taliban, Maliki's open defiance of the Administration's reasonable requests to take on the murderous Shia militias, Israel's loss to Hezbollah, the coming Nasrallah government of Lebanon, the spread of the Somali Taliban, Iran's confident pursuit of Nuclear weapons.

Our enemies around the world began to (re?)probe US weakness shortly after 9/11. They pushed and pushed and met no meaningful resistance. They watched the US Media and saw Bush's approval numbers and knew they could push further and further. This election opens the breach.

One thing that I am confident of at this point is that absent dramatic action (which there is no reason to expect) this rout will move much more quickly now. I think we may be startled by the speed and breadth of it. It may not be open violence against us (at first). Instead, we will see our interests in the middle east undermined. Worst of all we will see our few allies in that area turn to seek accommodation with our enemies at our expense.

I pray I am wrong.

11/08/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Westhawk said...

We have asserted that Mr. Rumsfeld may be out, but the problems remain.

Mr. Rumsfeld is again serving his President by taking the fall for Iraq, a problem for America that likely would not have occurred had Mr. Rumsfeld's original post-war plan in 2003 been followed. Mr. Rumsfeld and Jay Garner, the retired general he appointed for this task, planned a very brief U.S. occupation and a swift turnover to an Iraqi provisional government, the same procedure so successfully employed in Afghanistan in 2001. Regrettably, the White House staff and L. Paul Bremer intervened and the rest is a sad and frustrating history.

We are not very impressed with Mr. Gates. Happily, Mr. Rumsfeld was able to get much of his transformation agenda in place.

Mr. Bush has bought himself a little time. But the serious problems are not going away. A year from now, he will wish he had Mr. Rumsfeld back.


11/08/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger frankwolftown said...

Well I gues this means the logical choice for the next SOD Thomas Barnett!

11/08/2006 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

We have never seen Bush operate with a Congress in the opposition party's hands. For his entire tenure so far, his party has been in partial or complete control.

I think what we are going to see are jawdropping concessions to the Democrats. Remember how Bush, early in his first term, had his arm around Teddy Kennedy yukking it up as he agreed to a massive increase in education spending?

Honestly, can someone name something that they think Bush will actually stand firm on and deny the Democrats?

I predict that by the time he leaves in two years he will have nearly as low popularity ratings with Republicans as he ever has had with Democrats. We are going to be aghast at how he caves to them.

I think the truth is that at heart George Bush has never really been a conservative. He's been a "compassionate conservative,", i.e., a right-leaning liberal.

The Democrats didn't really know it, but they actually swept both houses of Congress AND the Presidency yesterday, because Bush is going to turn out to be a sort of Souter in the White House for the last two years.

11/08/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger pvnam_3 said...

«««««« mini---.---spam »»»»»»
--- Don't be Idiots!!!
--- The way to go... it isn't 'lick-the-boots' to the Majority of the Europeans!
--- The way to go... it is 'make war' against the White Parasite... i.e., the ETHNIC SEPARATISM:
(... before being too late...)
-1- a space (50%) of Total Competition (for Globalization-Lovers);
-2- another space (50%) of Natural Reserve: for the preservation of Natives Ethnic Identity.
{ see: 50-separatism-50 }

NOTE 1: The Space of Total Competition (50%)... will be for the Europeans (the majority: i.e., White Parasite)... that... want to be in the Parasite-Enjoy ... i.e.:
-1- they claim to enjoy immigrant servile labour at 'price of rain';
-2- they claim to enjoy the existence of persons to pay the retirement pension [ in spite of... they doesn't make a Society where exist Demographic Renewal!!! ]

NOTE 2: The Space of Natural Reserve (50%)... will be for the Europeans (a minority)... whom they intend to be in the Planet - with dignity, courage and determination - fighting for the Survival of his Ethnic Identity.

11/08/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Michael Yon confirms your view as you probably know.
He sees the NATO troops getting slaughtered next year in Afghanistan if the course is not changed.
Westhawk confirms my long held opinion that it was letting State take over that made victory impossible.
A very sad story about Michael Steele

11/08/2006 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Hamas ends ceasefire, threatens America: "BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Hamas' supreme leader on Wednesday called off a cease-fire with Israel and the group's military wing threatened to attack Americans after 18 members of a family, including eight children, were killed in an Israeli artillery barrage on a densely populated neighborhood." (Fox)

So it begins. No more fear of the lion. Trailing blood in the water like a dying animal. Time for another bite of that sandwich.

11/08/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Please do not tell me you want a Nutella sandwich?



11/08/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Habu1 said...

George Bush is what is commonly known in politics as a Rockefeller Republican Rockefeller Republican
Over the Orwellian years we have passed through during the ascent of PC Rochefeller Republicans who were reviled during the upsurge in conservatism morphed into "Compassionate Conservatives"
Democrats did the same thing after very heavy discussions in the late 1970's about using the word socalist democrat, so they decided on "Progressives" as their descriptive. See "Destroying Democracy:How the Government Funds Partisan Politics".
Destroying Democracy
As a bonus in this 1986 publication it mentions ACORN as a prime destroyer. Now ACORN was just found last week manufacturing 35,000 false voter registrations so the book is good. It gives names and dates of meetings on the discussion of using "Progressives" as opposed to socialists. It's well worth reading today.

11/08/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

A comment I heard today from a caller on a talk radio program is that he was very disappointed when during an interview Pres Bush said he did not plan for the Worst Case Scenario in the war on terror.

The planning for the Worst Case Scenario has been done; it's in the can, or rather, in the silo. The execution simply involves a Presidental phone call and then a number of USAF and/or USN officers turn a couple of keys in pairs and the problem gets solved in the next 30 min.

Mind you, that approach might well cause problems that are worse, at least in the short term. But that option is always there - and I have little doubt that if Iraq is "Lost" that it will become necessary in the long term. Then again, in the long term, we are all dead.

And relative to Pres Bush caving in to the Dems: It will no doubt look like that, but it will be a real question as to whether he merely is caving or giving them enough rope to hang themselves. Or Both.

11/08/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

Relax, W sez, take another bite of the PB sandwich.  OK. 

I just posted a report card on GWBs third mid-term, and IMO Rummy should have gone a year ago, even though I basically agree with westhawk.  But timidity and tentiveness have ruled the WH too long, so I suspect mark may have made an excellent point.  If he fails to grow his set of missing gonads, GWB is going to have a long, slow, dreadful fourth bi-annual (and final) term.

Cheers.  Was that the nutty-blend?  It's delicious!

11/08/2006 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

So Rumsfeld Resigning is like crossing the Meuse at Sedan - the the recovery before the sickle cut slices?

Lets hope we don't halt before Dunkirke.

11/08/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sorry 49er:
About that Sandwich:
I figured GWB's Nuts had to be put to SOME use.

11/08/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard said . . .
The argument that this is a necessary mea culpa, a necessary retreat comes up against the question: retreat to what? Every rearguard action has a fallback line of defense prepared.

In debates with drinking buddies and old colleagues back in '02-03 I used to ask: "What if we fail in Iraq? What if they don't take to democracy, or the Shiite Clerics take control?" Relax, I was assured, it will be a "cakewalk" and once we're there we'll just "have to get it right." Nope, no fallback plan, there. No idea what to do once our liberal plans of socially engineering failed. We've handed power over to the Shiite Islamofascists and called it victory. I don't think it's peanut butter we're knee deep in.

Maybe we should just pull back to Kurdistan and let the Sunni and Shiite Islamicists slaughter themselves into mutual destruction or a hard learned state of tolerance and peace. It's a suggestion. The other option is to stay the course and supply massive welfare and arms to our Shiite enemies while they laugh behind our backs and plant IEDs for our troops.

11/08/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

Well said, doug.  Cheers.

11/08/2006 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Rumsfeld is arguably the most widely accomplished member of Bush's team of Vulcans. From memory from "The Rise of Vulcans" Rummy was CEO of 2 Fortune 500 companies, which is usually an admired status. He was in Naval Reserve for 20 years, I think as a Flight Instructor. In the mid-70's, he was the youngest SecDef in our history. He comes back, in his late Sixties, from obvious comfortable retirement, to serve his country. He wins two wars in world-historic speed, he enforces a CEO-grip on the fat military bureacracy, and he looks you in the eye and speaks the truth.

Quick - give us an example of somebody as accomplished as Sec. Rumsfeld.

Ahh, maybe it's just me, I just loves the way he gives press conferences.

He looks like he's thinking about kicking your ass in the next split second. I like that look.

We're gonna miss him when he's gone. This whole Baker/oldhead thing is not encouraging.

And it's not like Rummy didn't try to resign a couple of times before. He stayed and did his duty, and made it look like fun.

11/08/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...


"...either War or Retreat."

I've long put it the choice really is "Slaughter or Surrender." Surrender leads to (our) slaughter, but folks don't want to digest that.

'What happens when the next "big attack" is outside the US?'

That, I think, is the jihadis next good move. It will lead to complete and final Euro-surrender, thereby allowing the jihadis to consolidate for the trip across the Atlantic. They can be fairly certain that we will not come to the aid of their victim country so long as the Dhimms have the grip on the U.S. government they now have. After Euro-surrender, they will ratchet the oil spiggots shut.

Restrict Euro-immigration (except Italy, Poland and East Euro) NOW. Let them (West Euro) "stand up"...if it can.

11/08/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

I like Nutella sandwiches. My Wife is German. Lotsa Nutella in da house!

Will the jihadis tear down Stonehenge?

11/08/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The mistake was in thinking a bomb was a weapon. Bombs are nothing. Only images and words are weapons. Explosives don't even make a sound when they are not reported. Mass murder doesn't even exist when it is not reported. Perfidy is nothing if it tricked out as high principle. That's the truth isn't it Winston? Here in Room 101.

11/08/2006 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Tony said...
He [Rumsfeld] wins two wars in world-historic speed, he enforces a CEO-grip on the fat military bureacracy, and he looks you in the eye and speaks the truth.

Nonsense. Afghanistan was Cofer Black's brilliant plan and he was CIA (now Blackwater). Infinite Justice (Enduring Freedom) was special ops, Northern Alliance and the Air Force -- the Pentagon had nothing on the shelf for such a war and deferred to CIA. Rummy's effort in Afganistan was to lead the press conferences and, of course, to muff Tora Bora. That was the Pentagon part of the game.

Operation Iraqi Freedom ain't concluded yet, if you haven't noticed, and if you call this "world historic speed" then I'm not sure what you'd call Desert Storm.

Rummy never lived up to hype. There's damn good reasons he was so hated at Searle for his tremendous hubris and duplicity. I know because my cousin worked with him in the 80s.

11/08/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Das said...


A good recap of Rumsfeld highpoints; I always liked those press conferences too.

The press hates a guy who has actually done stuff in life; by middle age press men and women have got to be a bit burned out on reporting what other people - that is, everybody but them - do. They realize that for all their running around and whispered confidences and scribblings they are not really doing anything in life; they hate their subjects.

Anyway, did you know that Mr and Mrs Rumsfeld were great friends of Sammy Davis, Jr? I guess Rumsfeld was the unofficial Nixon ambassador to the Hollywood set...long ago. Cheers.

11/08/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Roland was a warrior from the Land of the Midnight Sun
With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

Through sixty-six and seven they fought the Congo war
With their fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

Roland the Thompson gunner...

His comrades fought beside him - Van Owen and the rest
But of all the Thompson gunners, Roland was the best
So the CIA decided they wanted Roland dead
That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head

Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Norway's bravest son
Time, time, time
For another peaceful war
But time stands still for Roland
Til he evens up the score
They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun

Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Mombassa in a barroom drinking gin
Roland aimed his Thompson gun - he didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

Roland the headless Thompson gunner...
The eternal Thompson gunner
still wandering through the night
Now it's ten years later but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it.

- In Memory of SecDef Rummy

...and WZ, I am sure, doesn't mind the turnin' in his grave....

11/08/2006 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...


"The mistake was in thinking a bomb was a weapon. Bombs are nothing."

Have you run that one past Zarqawi?...or those Hamas honchos the IDF rocketed off bicycles, out of wheelchairs and in their moving cars a couple years back?

On the wall of one of the field houses at the rifle range at Quantico was this quote from Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock: "There is nothing on the battlefield so deadly as one well-aimed round." That's the lesson of Zarqawi and the Hamas honchos.

Images and words are weapons in the battle to make your enemy surrender without having to fight the fight, which, of course, is preferrable to fighting the fight. It is one of the reasons our enemies (the jihadis and the Marxists) hide so hard.

11/08/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


As a rule I don't bicker, since we wouldn't bicker if we were standing in some smoky foreign bar somewhere, unknown to one another, armed or not, in some unpatrolled night outside the reach of cops. We'd be nice to each other, under those circumstances.

So, just to keep the conversation going, why don't you tell us why this latent, in-place, ready-to-rock military capability that Rummy got credit for didn't roll over Afghanistan in the 90's? We were stomping on the Serbs like a high-heeled stripper over a helpless drunk. But we could only spare one night's multi-hundred-million-dollar Cruise missile spree on our actual enemies.

No, wait, I got down in the weeds. I'd really just respectfully ask you to point us to one or two other military campaigns that overcame equally formidable enemies / positions in as short an amount of time.

Give us a military campaign comparable to OEF or OIF. When you do, I'll accept you dissin' my man Rummy.

Gen. Powell was supposed to figure out all the nation-building business after our military did its job. Instead, he and his dummy Armitage undermined our country's faith in their government by initiating the false but inflammatory "Plame scandal."

Rummy was just the code-named SecDef, originally called the American Secretary of War. He did his job nobly.

11/08/2006 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger nelson said...

Rumsfeld, who was in his Pentagon office on 911 and, thus, saw personally the beginning of the war, was, doubtlessly, the brains behind the WoT. Rumsfeld was more important and decisive from 911 on than any other member of the government, the POTUS included. While he was there, one could be sure that the USA wouldn't throw in the towel, that it would go on fighting to win.

The growing importance of Condi Rice was deeply worrying, but, while Rummy was there as a counterweight, there was hope. Rumsfeld’s resignation basically means that Bush gave up on the WoT. What happened is not a way of admitting any kind of mistake, but rather a complete reversal of American policy to pre-911 times.

Rumsfeld wasn't defeated by this or that "mistake", but by the infighting inside the government itself, by the MSM’s antiwar campaign and by the MSM-influenced change of public opinion against the war.

Officially, from now on, and also, alas, actually, America is not at war with fundamentalist Islam anymore. All the government branches and the country itself have just given up on the idea that 911 was a declaration of war against the country. The US will retreat shamefully from Iraq and, as something much bigger and much more serious than Vietnam, this will be seen as a victory for the Arab and Islamic world: its greatest ever.

The USA has just given OBL and Al Qaeda, as well as the Arabs and Muslims, a victory which they couldn't even have dreamt of five years ago. OBL and every enemy of the USA, of the West, of the Enlightenment, of modernity and civilization in general can now look back at September 11, 2001, and say: "Mission accomplished - we won".

And they will be right. Imagine German troops surrounding, in 1945, the Houses of the Parliament in London, or Mac Arthur surrendering to some Japanese admiral in Japanese occupied Washington, and you'll have a picture of what's taking place right now.

With Rumsfeld gone, plan A (fighting the Islamists) is over. It's not only the Dems who were against it, but many important Reps too, mainly those friendly with the Saudis, those belonging to the "realist" school of foreign policy, people like James Baker and so on. All of them were eager to discard plan A and start implementing plan B (because it's not simply retreat and inaction they're thinking about as soon as possible).

So, what's plan B? Quite simply: address the Arab's and Muslim's so called "grievances". Where does one start doing it? By giving Israel up to them. Since, quite likely, the Israelis won't go along with this to the very end, they will be pressured and coerced. Oslo times, thus, are also back, but with a vengeance now.

What Dems and "realistic" Republicans as well as the paleo-conservatives and the “pentiti” Neocons think is that either an ultimate Arab/Muslim victory over Israel will make them definitely happy or, if that won't prove to be enough, it will at the very least keep them busy for some time, that is, until most hot potatoes are in other people's hands.

Iran will go nuclear, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will follow soon. And it's not totally assured that Jerusalem, Haifa or Tel Aviv will be the only final destinations, the only targets of those bombs. The one silver lining I see is that, whenever the WoT must be restarted (and it will be restarted, though in much worse conditions) there'll be at least a cadre of Americans (military and otherwise) who will have (thanks to the war in Iraq) gained some empirical knowledge of the enemy. In whatever relates to the WoT, this will be this administration's only relevant and (I sincerely hope) enduring legacy.

11/08/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

One element of hope I would offer - A retreat does not necessarily require a fallback position if it is a Parthian retreat.

It's worth remembering that the Bush administration is not the sort to confide its secrets to everyone the way certain earlier administrations were so it is entirely possible that their plan involves Mr. Rumsfeld being moved into another position at a more opportune time. Just a thought.

11/08/2006 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Rune said...

I'd just like to point to this old article:

"At a Nato summit in Prague, Donald Rumsfeld was once forced to sit though a performance of modern dance and poetry. Asked for his reaction afterwards, he shrugged: “I’m from Chicago.”

When Rimbaud meets Rambo

And here Victor Davis Hanson:

"But his resignation would be a grave mistake for this country at war, for a variety of reasons.


Leave Rumsfeld Be

- Rumsfeld is a man before they all turned girlie metrosexual men.

11/09/2006 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger dune runner said...

At first I was stunned by the timing of this resignation. If he had to be thrown to the wolves, why not before the elections when it may have helped the Republican party to some extent? Why wait until after the election was lost? Certainly no one in their right mind could expect this would buy GW anything with a Democratic Congress out for his blood.

Then I remembered the Pelosi promise of a never ending series of investigations and Congressional commitees. It would be impossible for Rumsfeld to perform his duties under those circumstances anyway, so it's better if he goes now and gets the SecDef transition out of the way before that particular circus starts.

I'm now sure this was planned as a contingency between Bush and Rumsfeld long before the elections took place. I hope for his sake that this now makes him more of a secondary target and he may be spared some of the ordeal that he would have had otherwise.

It's a sad commentary on our country that this is how a man who has given so much has to make his exit, but in the final analysis, there really wasn't any other choice under the circumstances.

11/09/2006 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger RCM said...

41 is now back in the White House to save 43's "legacy."

So now we will go back to watching thousands or hundreds of thousands die due to lack of interest(s).

43 long ago abandoned his "If you're not with us you're against us" mantra. I don't think it actually survived much beyond the first year.

Real politic is realistic...just like the Republican's new found love of pork.

Patriotism and a desire to free enslaved peoples - not all of them, but some - is for me.

I now accept all the cynical attacks from both the right and the left as attempting to knock the idealism out of me, as the best this country can ever hope for in the future. And so, because we have lost the will to defend ourselves, we reach to expel those from within our midst, the ones foolish enough to retain the will to fight. We will get someone more like us...someone whose specialty, like Nixon did with Kissenger, is to realize the deep limits of our courage, and to plan our retreat.

I am reminded of an article from Mark Helprin about his take on the Vietnam war:

“I thought Vietnam was so much the wrong place to fight and that the conduct of the war was so destructive in human terms and of American power, prestige and purpose that I was justified in staying out. What the existence of the re-education camps and the boat people, and the triumph of containment have taught me is that my political assessment was not all that I thought it was. I have also come to believe that, even if it had been, I still would not have been released from honoring the compact under which I had lived until that moment, and which I then broke. I did not want to participate in a war the conduct of which was often morally ambiguous. Now I understand that this was precisely my obligation.”
“I am absolutely certain that in not serving I was wrong. I began to realize this in 1967, when I served briefly in the British Merchant Navy. In the Atlantic we saw a lot of American warships, and every time we did I felt both affection and pride. One of the other sailors, a seaman named Roberts, was a partisan of the Royal Navy, and maintained that it was more powerful than our own. As I was a regular reader of the Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, and had almost memorized Jane's Fighting Ships, I quickly, let us say, blew his arguments out of the water.

“And then, in riposte, he asked why I was not in uniform. I answered with the full force of the rationalizations so painstakingly developed by the American intellectual elite. Still, he kept coming at me. Although he was not an educated man, and although I thought I had him in a lock, the last thing he said broke the lock. I remember his words exactly. He said: "But they're your mates."

“That was the essence of it. Although I did not modify my position until it was too late, I began to know then that I was wrong. I thought, mistakenly, perhaps just for the sake of holding my own in an argument, that he was saying, "My country, right or wrong," but it was not what he was saying at all. Only my sophistry converted the many virtues of his simple words from something I would not fully understand until much later.

“Neither a man nor his country can always pick the ideal quarrel, and not every war can be fought with moral surety or immediacy of effect. It would be nice if that were so, but it isn't. Any great struggle, while it remains undecided and sometimes even afterward, unfolds not in certainties but in doubts. It cannot be any other way. It never has been.”

I am glad I was not so cerebral in the days after college as was Mr. Helprin and that I had resolved long before that my countrymen fighting in Vietnam, were in fact my “mates.” So after four years of college deferments, I joined up. Sure some laughed, some just shook their heads, but most of them were working as hard on their graduate school applications as was Gollum embracing his “Precious.”

My dad back then was a Barry Goldwater hawk and he tried to talk me out of it. When I decided to enlist above his objections, he beamed with pride. What I never said back then, but know now, is why I was so resolute in joining: "It was because they were my mates."

Isn’t it curious, that today, it is the “active duty” soldier, not the citizen (nor the retired soldier), who exhibits the zeal to continue the fight and proves it with very high re-enlistment rates.


One final thought. Despite all the "conflicts" we have been in since World War II, does it strike anyone as relevant, that we have not won any of them, outright. I wonder if we are as acutely aware of that fact as we should be?

Certainly our enemies are.

11/09/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger charlotte said...


That's a great quote from Helprin: "Any great struggle, while it remains undecided and sometimes even afterward, unfolds not in certainties but in doubts. It cannot be any other way. It never has been.”

Thanks for your clear thoughts on what often seems ambiguous and relative, and especially for your service.

11/09/2006 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger RCM said...


Thank you for your efforts here, as well.

11/09/2006 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

The problem, of course, is political. Rumsfeld is obviously as good as it gets; had the leash been loosed, I trust things would have been better, considering the Awesome Floating Softball that is this whole strategic problem. Yet one cannot do anything if the media rules; individual Senators can only hold out against individual constituents, nor individual congresmen against individual constituents, for so long, to say nothing of large collections. Witness, for example, the number of conservative voters - 1 in 6, according NPR - who voted Democrat (not only stayed home) because "the Republican used to be the party of Reagan: small government, low taxes, strong national defense - and now immigration!" So they punished themselves by punishing their party. And now Rumsfeld, about whom the media has invented a virtually unchallenged litany - or rather, a litany challenged only by Bush and a few of his compadres - of complaints and allegations, that warped in that imperciptible but instant way we have become so used to, into narrative, and then into gospel, against whom the challenger bears the burden of proof. It would not be the first time, and will not be the last time, that a nation's unchecked power institution cannablizes the whole - I think they wrote the US Constitution to deal with that, or something. But here a great American, perhaps even a modestly world-historical American, and an utterly sincere man is cashiered due to sub-sub considerations. But the world is not running on sub-sub. So we shall have to prepare ourselves for another broadside. The only thing I hope is that this media consensus about Rumsfeld and Co. doesn't morph into an eternal thing. Because the Middle East was a problem for everyone, including the Middle East, FOREVER. And now it has turned its hammerhead gaze to the USA. Evidently, there are a great number of people who think this is something like blaming the Jews for stabbing Germany in the back. Or do they? Wait - I'm confused.

Oh no wait, it's not I who am confused.

Kill Sadr, you fearful fucking assholes.

If I was in the armed forces, I would not be above getting a little nervous, to the extent that things might have to be, um, "re-arranged" in the sometime not inconceivable future....

But perhaps I am just talking myself into a lather.

Here's to you, Donald Rumsfeld! I salute you, sir!

11/09/2006 02:13:00 PM  

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