Smelling blood after a planted question ruffled the secretary of defense, the national media and its fellow travelers in Congress are tripping over each other for the opportunity to take a jab at Donald Rumsfeld. They hope for the opportunity to deliver the deathblow to the feisty secretary.
What the Rumsfeld detractors have failed to realize is the value that George W. Bush places on loyalty. Once again, the elite political class has underestimated the president.
This uproar erupted when a National Guardsman from Tennessee asked the secretary why soldiers had to scrounge around land fields for discarded metal to rig up their trucks for protection against roadside bombs. A Tennessee newspaper reporter planted the question.
Some have tried to minimize the question because it was planted. That is silly. The reporter was doing his job. The question itself was immediately validated when the rest of the soldiers present gave it a rousing endorsement.
But, while the question was a legitimate question, so was the secretary?s answer. Rumsfeld said you go to war with the Army you have ? not with the one you wish you had. Some viewed that remark as flippant and insensitive. Perhaps so, but it also was honest.
The fact is that Humvees and supply-transport trucks were never designed for combat. They were designed to carry men and supplies behind the front lines. Unfortunately, in Iraq, the front lines have become blurred.
The initial phase of the war was more traditional and no questions were raised over the lack of armor in these vehicles. The second phase, against an unpredictable insurgency, is not conventional at all. The front lines are anywhere a terrorist chooses to draw it.
So now that we know we are in a different kind of war, the Defense Department is moving quickly to re-equip the Humvees and transport vehicles with armor. It will take time, but it will get done.
It is unfortunate that this was not anticipated, but war by its very nature is volatile. The real issue with Rumsfeld, however, is not the lack of armor in vehicles that were not intended to have armor in the first place. The real issue is political pork.
The secretary of defense has advocated the idea that a 21st-century force needs to be more technologically equipped and mobile. This translates to a smaller military.
A smaller military means that military installations throughout the country would be closed. There are many congressmen with military installations in their districts that they do not want to lose.
A smaller military means fewer officers to lead fewer men. Military professionals whisper behind the secretary?s back for no other than self-serving reasons.
Bottom line: Rumsfeld has become a target because of his views on the future. What is happening in Iraq is merely an opening for political opportunists who want to protect the status quo that is a political or personal benefit to them.
These opportunists fail to see that Rumsfeld?s views on the future of the military are the views of George W. Bush. Despite the incredible notion many have that cabinet secretaries should challenge the man who appointed them, the fact is that Rumsfeld is advancing the president?s views.
Rumsfeld may be losing sleep over the loss of life in Iraq, but he has no reason to lose sleep over his own future in the administration.
Alfredo E. Cardenas is a freelance writer.
We are grateful to Wilson County News for making our contact with the writer possible.