Monday, September 04, 2006

I'll have a Rum & Mac on the rocks

It is happy hour here at the Repeating History Bar, and the drink of the day is the Rum & Mac on the rocks.

UPDATE: Friday, November 3, 2006
I originally posted this on Labor day, predicting that Rumsfeld's resignation/firing was imminent. My point was that Rumsfeld has presided over such breathtaking incompetence in the prosecution of the Iraq occupation, that the Republicans could not maintain Congress if he retained his post. Two months later, Rumsfeld is still in his post, and the Republicans are a few days away from losing at least one house of Congress. On a compaign swing this week, President Bush stated that "he wanted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the top architect of the war... to remain with him until the end of his presidency". This reinforced another key point of this post. George W. Bush practices a private sector hands-off management style that demands accountability from and replacement of direct reports that fail to meet agreed objectives. Problem being, despite frequent empty rhetoric about accountability, this President has not held Donald Rumsfeld accountable for his failure in Iraq. This simply passes all understanding, and is another reason why it is important that a divided government/Democratic congress be elected on Tuesday. We need a Congress that will accept the responsibility that the executive branch has abandoned, and impose the oversight and accountability on Rumsfeld and the execution of this war that the executive branch has failed to implement. This post is more relevant now than when I wrote it:

Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense '61-'68) from "The Fog of War":
"I had this enormous respect and affection, loyalty, to both Kennedy and Johnson. But at the end, Johnson and I found ourselves poles apart... And I said to a very close and dear friend of mine, Kay Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post:"Even to this day, Kay, I don't know whether I quit or was fired?" She said, "You're out of your mind. Of course you were fired." ... Something had to give. There was a rumor that I was facing a mental breakdown. I was under such pressure and stress. I don't think that was the case at all. But it was a really traumatic departure. That's the way it ended. Except for one thing: he awarded me the Medal of Freedom in a very beautiful ceremony at the White House."
Let's see, a President caught between the "rock" of growing unpopularity of a costly war, and the "hard place" of affection and loyalty for the Secretary of Defense / architect of that war, and completely convinced of the correctness of his own administration's actions in that war.

I have seen this movie before, and I remember how it ends.

Rumsfeld is history. It is only a question of time and timing. Rumsfeld resigns as soon as a replacement is identified and agreed. Is it politic to wait until after the mid-terms, or to act now? My guess - He resigns within the week and (since we are already out on a limb, might as well climb out on the small branches) John McCain is the new Secretary of Defense.

The Democrats are ramping up for a Rumsfeld Rip-Fest. A non-binding resolution declaring "No-Confidence" in the Secretary of Defense will be offered by Democrats in Congress on Wednesday. The outrage is being rehearsed and the purple prose is being prepared as we speak. Democrats are salivating to take their pound of Rummy flesh while demonstrating their oratorial skills on you-tube, c-span, and the nightly news (in that order).

Rove and the Republicans know exactly what is coming, and no one has ever accused them of being politically naive. What better way to take the air out of the expanding Democratic political balloon than by announcing Rumsfeld's resignation before the speechifying starts? What better way to respond to all those speeches, than to keep them on the shelf? Paradoxically, the shit-storm around Rumsfeld's recent comments has handed the administration a perfect face saving opportunity to strike a potentially game changing blow in the 2006 political season. Rumsfeld can play the misunderstood, misquoted, patriotic, loyal soldier, taking a bullet for the team, while the media takes the blame. Here is his speech: - "Even though my words have been misreported and misrepresented, I cannot allow my words and my presence to become a distraction, and a detriment to the important work facing the President and the American people in this war against terror." The President expresses his regrets, and appoints a universally respected unassailable warrior in his place. In a couple of weeks, Rumsfeld gets his medal, and we move on.

Will it happen? Just ask yourself - Can the Republicans maintain the majority with two months of continuous Rumsfeld/Iraq War bashing between now and the election? On the other hand, can they possibly pull it out with a "fresh start" and a new voice calling for a new direction on war?

Done Deal.Rum & Mac on the cover of Time magazine.
Coincidently each cover appeared two years before their respective resignations.

Politics are the wrong reason for this move , but it is still the right move for our country. We really need a change. We need new thinking from our leadership on this war and we need it right now. Take this example from Rumsfeld's speech: "The extremists themselves call Iraq the “epicenter” in the War on Terror." This just begs the question (and I mean fully prostrate plaintive begging) of exactly Why did the extremists not think that way, before we occupied the country? But lest I be accused of "moral and intellectual confusion", let us just call this one more instance in the continuing series of what Rumsfeld and other adminstration officials now seem perfectly comfortable saying - to whit: "mistakes were made" in the prosecution of the war.

So let's get to the right reason for getting rid of Rumsfeld. It is understandable in the "fog of war" that "mistakes are made". The American people can accept that. But when the stakes are thousands of American soldiers lives, tens of thousands of civilian Iraqi lives, hundred of billions of dollars, and staring into the abyss of a failed policy, it is not acceptable for there to be no consquences when "mistakes are made". We are not talking about small mistakes or a minor miss here:
This is a breathtakingly large mistake. This is not, as Rumsfeld said in his Tuesday speech simply a matter of "As the nature of the threat and the conflict in Iraq has changed over these past several years, so have the tactics and the deployments. " This was a big-time, world class screw-up, and someone has to be accountable and take the fall.

Bush and Cheney are elected, so barring impeachment, that only leaves the Donald. The change can be justified purely on the failure of tactics/strategy which I do not need to further belabor here. Anton Kaiser, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam vet, does a much better job than I can explaining "Why Rumsfeld Should Be Fired For not learning the lessons of previous conflicts."

There is another reason, and it has to do with the President's management style. His leadership has been likened to a private sector CEO . This quote summarizes his style as well as any "Bush's 10 common-sense leadership lessons: Hire smart, build trust, talk straight, and leave aides alone..."

This is a classic private sector management style. If you get the right team in place, it is highly effective. I can speak from personal experience, having managed large and small teams most of my professional career. My greatest success in business was using this style when I had a great team working for me. They made me look like a genius and left plenty of time for golf and pontificating on how to win in business.

The problem centers on the word "accountability", a word that GWB uses frequently, but does not seeem to apply to his direct reports. With that management style, "say what you'll do, do what you say" is the mantra. It is incumbent to have clear agreed objectives, and if the objectives are not met, immediate replacement is expected. If you, as the leader, are not going to get deep in the details yourself, then your only tool for managing performance is changing personnel when agreed objectives are not met. If you do not, then you have abrogated your leadership responsibility.

I am not going to go into details of "coulda, shoulda, woulda" in Iraq. That particular dead horse is being continually beaten every day throughout the blogosphere. George Will explains why "Regarding Iraq, there will not soon be an Eisenhower moment. " (i.e. just stop the war - as in Korea). My point is simple. Regardless of the specifics of how we got here, regardless of how long we need to stay, it is absolutely clear, that we are not now where we expected to be in Iraq, and the same guys that did the planning and then executed the plan that got us here are still in charge.

Accountability demands that Bush replace Rumsfeld. Sometimes change for the sake of change is the right answer. Bush put Rumsfeld in the pilot seat of a plane that took off from New York and was flying to Paris, but instead, landed in San Francisco. The fact that he is still flying the plane, is a reflection of a boss that does not understand the meaning of the word accountibility.

And if the President does not understand this principle of accountability, it must be applied another way:

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

Just Vote Divided.


The Ridger, FCD said...

You actually think this administration or anyone in it understands the concept of firing someone because he's incompetent? They certainly don't seem to have any form for it... Accountability isn't in their lexicon, or if it is, only in an Arthur Dentish sort of way.

mw said...

The administration seems to use the word often enough. I thought they might just look up the meaning and apply it to themselves. Perhaps, a little more help is called for: Unabridged (v 1.0.1) -

ac‧count‧a‧bil‧i‧ty  /əˌkaʊntəˈbɪlɪti/
1. the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.
[Origin: 1785–95; account(able) + -ability]

ac·count·a·ble adj.
1. Liable to being called to account; answerable. See Synonyms at responsible.

Thanks for the comment- mw [always helpful - 42]