Friday, November 10, 2006

Rummy is Relieved
I know I'm a little behind the news cycle on this one, but I didn't want to let the departure of SecDef Rumsfeld to pass without some comments.

I'm sorry to see him go.

I realize that such a statement is anathema to many, but I'm not afraid to admit it. It's become fashionable of late to fault Rummy with what's become of Iraq and for failing to see a way out. Well, he's certainly not the only one who should have been expected to prevent those problems, and solve them if he fell short of that goal.

I do believe that the buck stops at the top. While I admit that a SecDef could easily prevent the President's goals from succeeding, I don't think that Rummy did.

Why not? Because I've read Rumsfeld's Rules. I recommend you do the same, but I'll provide some of the highlights in this post.

On the first page, Rumsfeld says, consecutively,

Don't begin to think you're the President. You're not. The Constitution provides for only one.
and
In the execution of Presidential decisions work to be true to his views, in fact and tone.
Sure, it's possible that Rummy doesn't live according to his own beliefs—but I think it's unlikely that he'd blatantly disregard two that he thought not only important enough to codify, but important enough to do so on the first page.

I genuinely believe that he would not have wanted to prosecute the Iraq war if he could have avoided it, but when ordered to do so he did to the best of his ability.
Amidst all the clutter, beyond all the obstacles, aside from all the static, are the goals set. Put your head down, do the best job possible, let the flak pass, and work towards those goals.
I think that's the kind of guy he is.

But this is not to say that Rummy just goes along to get along. I have little doubt that he spoke his mind to the President, and volunteered when he thought the man in the Oval Office was wrong—but that he did so privately. Another pair of rules support this idea:
Don't accept the post or stay unless you have an understanding with the President that you're free to tell him what you think "with the bark off" and you have the courage to do it.

Don't automatically obey Presidential directives if you disagree or if you suspect he hasn't considered key aspects of the issue.
What makes me believe that he didn't want to go to war? Again, another rule from the first page:
It is easier to get into something than to get out of it.
And if that's true, why doesn't he say it? Why is he allowing himself to be thrown under the presidential bus?

Because he's working towards two goals important to him. First:
When asked for your views, by the press or others, remember that what they really want to
know is the President's views.
And second:
Preserve the President's options. He may need them.
He has admitted before that his resignation has been tendered repeatedly, and refused by the President. He knew he was causing problems for Bush, and he was at all times prepared to step aside. After all, that's another quality he deems important:
Be able to resign. It will improve your value to the President and do wonders for your
performance.
His willingness to resign, however, was never accepted. This lends the double-meaning in the title of his post. "Resignation" does not accurately define what happened; he was relieved of duty. And, I imagine, he's feeling more than a little relief at the moment. I think he's trying to give his boss a way out. And I think he doesn't resent being the scapegoat (though I'm sure he didn't enjoy it) because he knows that such criticism comes with celebrity:
Know that the amount of criticism you receive may correlate somewhat to the amount of
publicity you receive.
And it comes with trying to make important changes:
If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.


Will he come clean in a few years and point the finger at W? I highly doubt it:
Don't blame the boss. He has enough problems.
There's a lot more worth reading in the full rules. I think you'll enjoy them, and they're brief—so read the whole thing.

I think Rummy did a lot of good because he is an honorable man. He gets a lot of criticism, because he put himself in the line of fire to do the right thing. So I'll end this post with a few of his favorite thoughts on life that I think illustrate why he is the man he is:
"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." (James B. Conant)

"Most people spend their time on the 'urgent' rather than on the 'important.'" (Robert Hutchins)

"Victory is never final. Defeat is never fatal. It is courage that counts." (Winston Churchill)
Let's hope that Bob Gates proves to be at least half the man that Donald Rumsfeld has shown himself to be, again and again.

1 comment:

Me said...

I think Rumsfeld is an honorable man who has done his work as SecDef. He deserves the relief.

I particularly like that after 13 pages of Rumsfeld's Rules, the last is "if you develop rules, never have more than ten".

Great Post