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August 29, 2006

ISO New Speechwriter for SecDef
Posted by Michael Signer

Donald Rumsfeld has just made an extraordinary speech at the American Legion's national convention in Salt Lake City, likening opposition to the President's policies against terrorism to appeasement of Hitler in the 1930's. 

Many people will have many things to say about the speech, which is just breathtaking in its manipulation of history and the harsh political polarization of any rational discussion of the Administration's policies.  But I want to focus here on a narrower question. 

What's up with Rumsfeld concluding with this quotation of George Clemenceau?:

"You know from experience that in every war -- personally -- there have been mistakes and setbacks and casualties," [Rumsfeld] said. "War is," as Clemenceau said, 'A series of catastrophes that results in victory.'"

Clemenceau was premier of France during WWI and a critical ally of America.  Good.  But he's not the most providential source of Administration-friendly quotes.  Here are the others that the Columbia World of Quotations offers:

"War is too important a matter to be left to the military."

"America is the only nation in history which, miraculously, has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization."

"My home policy: I wage war; my foreign policy: I wage war. All the time I wage war."

And, my personal favorite for this SecDef:

"It is far easier to make war than to make peace."


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Nice catch, Mike. It's one of the more psychologically-intriguing features of Beltway life that SecDefs (or their speechwriters) tend to be among the biggest suckers for slipping Euro-sophistication into their speeches without, apparently, considering the context. A certain Clinton-era SecDef occasioned much snickering across the Potomac for his habit of larding speeches with TS Eliot and Yeats.

Does my memory serve me correctly in thinking that Republicans who opposed the Clinton administration's confrontational policies vis-a-vis Serbia were accused of appeasing a hideous tyrant?

Rummy's criticisms are almost boilerplate quality. Michael protests too much.

Revealing list of quotes, though. One might collect a similar hodgepodge of zingers from Patton for example. Still, the quote Rumsfeld chose is descriptive of even the most successful wars.

The proper question is not whether the analogy to the 1930s is true, but whether, if it is true, the military response of the United States is commensurate.

I really liked this comment (taken from the DefenseLink story on same speech):

“Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and our country,” Rumsfeld said while addressing the American Legion National Convention. “The struggle we are in –- the consequences are too severe, the struggle too important, to have the luxury of returning to the old mentality of ‘Blame America first.’”

Yes. We bloggers who criticize Rumsfeld's bungling of military operations are all traitors to the country. We're all symptomatic of the "old mentality" - what is that anyway? The good old Clinton days? He's really losing touch with reality.

And Rumsfeld would certainly agree that war is too important to be left to the generals--as would Lincoln and Churchill, as well as Hitler and Johnson. It is a common opinion held by civilians running wars, to justify their interference--for better or worse--in something they have little expertise.
And I would love to see the part of the speech where "J" says he accused critics of being traitors. "J", can you help? I read both the linked article and the on-line transcript and missed it completely.

Noting that the SECDEF did not mention anyone specifically, nor even refer to any recognizable alternative plan for Iraq, exactly who was supposed insulted? How is it that any manner of dissent is fine and abmirable, but it is beyond the pale for the Administration to warn, even in general terms, about the dangers of appeasement and defeatism? Isn't it the SECDEF's duty to try to win the war?

And,after all, if his words don't apply, then they don't apply and no harm done.

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