By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld
In the spring and summer of 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld busied himself putting together a detailed briefing for Congressional leaders and national security officials that would outline where he saw threats in the post Cold War world. In many respects, he was on the money, focusing his presentation on terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyberwarfare, and rogue nations. The plan was to alarm Congress enough to give Rumsfeld the political backing he needed to undertake a massive overhaul of how the Pentagon did business, and to drag the American military out of its Cold War mindset and into the realm of complex 21st century threats.
It was to be Rumsfeld’s blueprint for his tenure as Secretary of Defense, the “next Mr. X article” as one of his aides said, comparing it to the famous 1947 Foreign Affairs article by George F. Keenan that laid out the policy of containment that the United States would largely follow until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But the briefings were never presented as Rumsfeld had planned. The first one was scheduled for September 17, 2001, but by that point the case that Rumsfeld wanted to present had already been made in the form of jetliners used as missiles aimed at American civilian and military targets. While the 9/11 attacks in one sense interrupted Rumsfeld’s plans for the transformation of the American military from a heavy force structured to fight two near peer competitors simultaneously into a lighter, networked force that uses the latest technologies to move quickly across several theaters; in another sense the technological revolution spurred by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped to bring the Rumsfeld dream into reality—though he never seemed able to fully grasp how to manage this change. (more…)