Comments on "Darth Rumsfeld"
Jude Wanniski
June 7, 2001


Memo To: Republican Hardliners
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Mailbox

I’ve recently had some sharp things to say about Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, an old friend from the Cold War days, who remains a hawk while I definitely have become a dove. Here are some comments that have come in since I posted the Tuesday, 6/5/01 memo, “Rumsfeld’s Iron Curtain,” based upon his decision to cut off contact with the Chinese military establishment. We also had recommended “Darth Rumsfeld,” by Jason Vest, which appeared in the American Prospect.

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From Nathan Lewis:

Rumsfeld may have had an illustrious past, but I was too young at the time to take much notice. Judging only from what he has done since the beginning of the W. administration, he looks to me like a kook.

It's really amazing how much the Republican establishment has convinced itself of the "need" for a missile system. I can't find another nation in the world that supports the plan, despite the fact that they don't even have to pay for it. Iraq has no nuclear devices, nor ICBMs (a lot different than a SCUD with some weed killer in the nose cone). North Korea and South Korea are busy finding ways to join together. They're clearing mines from the DMZ to put in a rail link between Seoul and Pyongyang. China is happily getting rich making shoes, clothes and hard disks. Japan, which you might think would be worried about China and North Korea, instead has had to put forth a court jester, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Makiko Tanaka, who is laughable enough to speak the truth (Japan doesn't want missile defense) and get away with it.

I've been reading Reagan In His Own Words, the series of radio essays he wrote in the late 1970s. One of his points is that the United States needed to defend itself from hostile foreign powers which might get an appetite for adventurism. The only such power left in the world today is the United States. The only reason countries like China arm themselves is to protect themselves from U.S. adventurism. All in all, I have to say that I'm increasingly happy with the Jeffords switch, as it will help put a stop to this missile nonsense. I can live with gridlock. After the Bush tax plan, which turned out to be a big practical joke, there really isn't anything left in the Bush agenda that I can support, except perhaps twiddling with Social Security, on the principle that it might serve as a precedent to meaningful reform in the future. If Congressional Republicans push through a capgains cut, it will be with Democratic support, and probably yawns from the White House.

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Anonymous Reaganaut:

Wanted you to know that I think YOU are the one who's 'way around the bend in your assault on Don Rumsfeld, and that the article and sidebar by Jason Vest are just about the goofiest "summaries" I have ever read, full of distortions and bad historical compression, let alone innuendoes. I have been on board for all of these developments, including being a founding member of the Committee on The Present Danger, and was the bridge for linking these excellent foreign policy neoconservatives to the Reagan foreign policy and defense teams. Vest's account is not only inadequate, but wrong in many respects. I read both pieces (from February, no less...did you just now see them?).

You can be against missile defense and for the standard "Republican business" policy toward the PRC (some call it the "Legs Spread Wide" approach, others think of it as the "Protect The Interests of Your Paying and Kowtowing Clients" method) but at least pretend to understand that there is another point of view informed by contrary facts and policy judgments. What's need here is a grand debate, of the sort that Scoop Jackson used to promote, but not a slash and burn attack. Seems as though we'll get none of the former, but a lot of the latter.

Finally, what's the point of addressing your memo to Condoleezza Rice? You've known Don Rumsfeld for thirty years; swell, I've known him for nearly forty, and consider him to be an exceptionally savvy and well-informed man. It's a great leap forward to have him there, though by the tone of your remarks, you'd appear to prefer the continuation of Bill Cohen as SecDef.

Yep, you used to be a "hawk," as you put it. I always thought of you as a visionary realist. But I can see that times change, and so do views. That's certainly to be expected, but in order to sustain rational discourse, you've got to calm down a bit. We all expect more. At least consider relying on someone slightly better informed than your young buddy, Jason Vest.

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John Doe:

For those of us "youngsters" who weren't "on board for all of these developments," I wish [Anonymous Reaganaut] would tell us where Vest distorts and errs. I've come to the conclusion, though, that for most of the folks who lived at the helm during the scary years, it will forever hence be impossible to uncock, unload and put the gun back in the closet. There will always be a coiled snake ready to strike that justifies maintaining a huge standing army, posted everywhere in the world on alert with bombs and missiles targeted and ready to let fly at a minute's notice. Every disagreement with a potential adversary will be Munich. The inscrutable Asians will always be plotting to sneak attack. The fanatical communist atheists have been supplanted by the Islamic religious fanatics but God is still mit uns. And the world will always be teetering on the edge of chaos in dire need of the benevolent American Empire to maintain order. This is the real collateral damage of the Cold War, I think, a kind of collective paranoia that makes routine, humdrum daily life not only unthinkable but unbearable. I have been listening to the Book-on-Tape reading of The Age of Napoleon and it struck me just how much Napoleon was the product of a French military machine that had been rampaging around Europe during the revolutionary years and was simply too uncivilized and superfluous to bring home.

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You're right, we need a debate on these issues, and maybe now we will get one with the Senate going Democratic. Dickie Morris and his triangulation made serious debate impossible, as his advice to Clinton and the Dems was always to propose a slightly smaller bomb than the Republicans wanted to drop. The Stupid Party went along and nothing I could do could persuade Gingrich & Dole that they were being had. Remember I used to be a Democrat and was brought to the WSJ in 1971 by Bartley because of my support for ABM's, which I displayed as columnist for the National Observer. When the Cold War ended, the Gorbachev government invited me to Moscow to advise them on how to convert to a market economy, but all my old Cold War friends opposed any help in that regard, and supported "shock therapy" even knowing it would blow up the USSR. A Versailles Mentality, I called it.

As far as I am concerned, the Committee on the Present Danger should focus on the United States, which continues to look for new wars to fight, as the old gladiators who I once ran around with insist that these weeny countries are about to launch ICBM's at us. The party intellectuals are hacks like Perle and Wolfowitz, who could not hold a candle to Wohlstetter, but because they are all the GOP has, they dominate this realm. I told Cheney during the transition that I could rest easier when he was put on the ticket, because I knew he would be able to referee the internal debate between Rummy and Colin Powell. There is balance in national security. There is even more balance now, with the Senate going Democratic. A blessing.

There is no debate on the WSJ editpage, which runs whatever Perle asks of it. The NYTimes has also learned from Dick Morris, so it winds up supporting the GOP hawks just a little bit less than the Republicans do. The Iraq play has been sickening to me, olf friend, as we never had any intention of lifting the sanctions. We need Saddam in place in order to pump up the Defense budget. Yugoslavia was also busted up with the help of the IMF, our establishment agent, and Wohlstetter & Co., who wanted that Commie federation in little pieces. China resists the poison we keep trying to feed it, so it has become the Present Danger.

As for Jason Vest, I never met the lad and forgot about the interview I gave him. I'd actually told him that we need Doberman's to watch for danger, and Rumsfeld was a Doberman with a brain, Wolfowitz a Doberman with half a brain, and Gaffney a brainless Doberman, who would hear the rustle of leaves, rush in and kill whatever he found... a wolf, a rabbit or a little girl. As McVeigh would put it, collateral damage.

What really irks me when these guys tell the press that if Reagan were still President, that's what he would do, bomb the hell out of anyone who rustled the leaves. I don't think so, and I had hoped that you would see a difference in this post-war world, which is supposed to be at peace.

Thanks for taking the time to admonish me. I need to be whacked around myself now and then, but it does get awfully lonely around the bend. The word is out that I am a Danger.