Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Rumsfeld II: My view

One reader, old Obie Stephen Saideman, commented that I shouldn’t just leave General Myers’s view, expressed at a conference at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, hanging out there without offering my own thoughts. I thought about that, and I agree. This is what I would say: Calling Rumsfeld a former wrestler who liked to ...

trix0r/flickr
trix0r/flickr

One reader, old Obie Stephen Saideman, commented that I shouldn't just leave General Myers's view, expressed at a conference at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, hanging out there without offering my own thoughts. I thought about that, and I agree.

This is what I would say:

Calling Rumsfeld a former wrestler who liked to take an adversarial stance is indeed an alibi. Wrestlers face each other in a ring with a referee, on a fairly equal basis. Rumsfeld did not. Rather, I think he tended to bully people. It is one thing to chew out a subordinate who has to take it, but in my experience, Rumsfeld was very uncomfortable when dealing with people who didn't have to suffer him in silence. For example, with reporters who challenged him (like me), instead of happily going along for the ride, he tended to become snappish and sarcastic. Likewise, he seemed to squirm sometimes in congressional testimony, where he was the one who generally had to grin and bear it.

One reader, old Obie Stephen Saideman, commented that I shouldn’t just leave General Myers’s view, expressed at a conference at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, hanging out there without offering my own thoughts. I thought about that, and I agree.

This is what I would say:

Calling Rumsfeld a former wrestler who liked to take an adversarial stance is indeed an alibi. Wrestlers face each other in a ring with a referee, on a fairly equal basis. Rumsfeld did not. Rather, I think he tended to bully people. It is one thing to chew out a subordinate who has to take it, but in my experience, Rumsfeld was very uncomfortable when dealing with people who didn’t have to suffer him in silence. For example, with reporters who challenged him (like me), instead of happily going along for the ride, he tended to become snappish and sarcastic. Likewise, he seemed to squirm sometimes in congressional testimony, where he was the one who generally had to grin and bear it.

So yes, I should have thrown the bullshit flag, especially on Admiral Giambastiani, who was glib when he should have been serious.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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