"What Rumsfeld was most effective in doing," says a former senior White House official, "was not so much undermining a decision that had yet to be made as finding every way possible to delay the implementation of a decision that had been made and that he didn't like." At meetings, he'd throw up every obstacle he could. "Rumsfeld would say, 'Golly, we haven't had time to read all of these documents! I mean, this is radical change!'" the official adds. "And then, if you suggested that maybe he should've read all the documents when everyone first got them a week ago, he'd say: 'Well! I've been all over the world since then! What have you been doing?'"
At times, this my-way-or-no-way approach could even come at the expense of his soldiers. Shortly before the Iraq invasion, King Abdullah II of Jordan decreed that warplanes could not overfly his country if they had previously flown over Israel. The king's demand meant that U.S. fighters would need to make a multiple-hour detour before proceeding to their targets. Rumsfeld had himself been a fighter pilot and presumably recognized the absurdity of the detour, and so one NSC aide approached him during a meeting in the Situation Room as the matter was being discussed.
"Excuse me, Mr. Secretary," said the aide. "I want you to know that Dr. Rice is prepared to call the king to get that restriction removed so that our kids don't have to fly the extra two and a half or three hours."
Rumsfeld looked up from his coffee. "When I need your help," he said, "I'll ask."
The secretary did not ask for the help, and so his soldiers went the extra distance, unnecessarily. This seemingly instinctive stubbornness adds to the growing consensus that Rumsfeld's obduracy - on increasing troop levels, on recognizing the insurgency - was a primary cause of mishap in Iraq.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Great piece detailing former SECDEF Rumsfeld's obstructionism.