Jewish World Review Jan 2, 2001 / 7 Teves, 5761
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
GEORGE W. BUSH'S selection of Donald Rumsfeld to serve as his
Secretary of Defense is momentous, not only because of the extraordinary
capabilities the nominee will bring to the job, but because of what this
choice says about America's President-elect.
Don Rumsfeld is one of the most accomplished policy practitioners of
our time. Like his one-time protégé, close friend and colleague, Vice
President-elect Dick Cheney, he is a seasoned leader. The two share
impressive credentials as White House Chiefs of Staff, Secretaries of
Defense and, since leaving Washington years ago, corporate executives in
some of the Nation's best-run and most lucrative companies.
What is more, Secretary Rumsfeld has remained an active and
influential figure in national security affairs. Particularly encouraging
is the prospect that his tenure in the Bush II Pentagon will give policy
impetus to the work of two congressionally mandated, blue-ribbon commissions
he has chaired: the 1998 panel on the ballistic missile threat and the panel
currently finishing up its work on space power.
The really good news about George W. Bush's selection of Donald
Rumsfeld is that he has -- with this key personnel choice -- established
that he is not only willing to hear such advice, but that he will insist
upon doing so. This is a huge development. It may mean that, instead of a
national security team dominated by a single personality, whose principal
product would likely be a homogenized lowest-common-denominator of policy
mush, the new President will get the benefit of the best, and usually,
competing ideas concerning the formulation and conduct of U.S. defense and
Missile defense: Both the President-elect and his Secretary of
Defense-designee underscored at their joint press conference on December
28th the impression the findings of the first Rumsfeld commission had made
on them and on the debate about national missile defense.
It is no exaggeration to say that, thanks to Mr. Rumsfeld's
leadership, that debate has been wholly transformed by the bipartisan
panel's unanimous finding that -- contrary to claims by the Clinton
Administration and its politicized intelligence community -- the United
States is indeed at risk of missile attack from rogue states like North
Korea, Iran and Iraq, as well as from Russia and China.
This was an extraordinary accomplishment, noteworthy as Senator Jon
Kyl, Republican of Arizona has observed, both for the commonsensical
approach it took to the available evidence, and for virtually immediate
turnaround it caused the CIA to make when its contention that such threats
would not emerge for at least fifteen years became untenable.
In the wake of the Rumsfeld Commission's report in July 1998 -- and
its validation one month later by a long-range, three-stage missile launch
over Japan by North Korea, the Congress adopted by overwhelming majorities
legislation making it U.S. policy to deploy effective national missile
defenses as soon as technologically possible. This creates the bipartisan
basis for Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to fulfill the President-elect's
campaign promise to do just that: On Inauguration Day, the new President
should announce that, in six-months' time, he will begin deploying such a
global anti-missile system aboard existing Navy Aegis ships.
In this fashion, the incoming Administration can get defenses that
leading Republicans and Democrats alike agree would be more effective, can
be deployed faster and at far less cost than the Clinton alternative in
Alaska; it can provide protection most quickly to U.S. forces and allies
overseas -- doing much to allay the latters' stated concerns; and it can
provide ample opportunity for discussions with the Russians and Chinese, but
in he context of our impending deployment, not an open-ended excuse for
delaying such a step.
- Space power: The work of Mr. Rumsfeld's present commission is
likely to prove no less important. The United States' future security and
economic competitiveness depend critically upon the Nation's ability 1) to
have ready, affordable access to and use of space and 2) to be able, if
necessary, to deny potential adversaries the ability to exploit that
strategic high ground against U.S. interests.
While this panel's final report will not be completed until
mid-January, it is a safe bet that it will find perilous deficiencies in all
these areas. A no-less-sure thing is that this commission's recommendations
will be taken to heart by senior policy-makers.
- The defense budget: A third area on which Don Rumsfeld will be
bringing his enormous expertise and authority to bear will involve the
Pentagon's budget and programs. While the President-elect has clearly
signaled his determination to pursue defense modernization and reform, it
will fall to Secretary Rumsfeld to give him some bad news: There is a
$50-100 billion annual shortfall over each of the next five-to-ten years in
the funding available to recapitalize the armed forces.
This bill -- incurred by deferring for most of a decade needed
purchases of modern equipment and spare parts -- will have to be paid, even
if ways are found to: streamline how the Defense Department does business;
make the military more mobile and combat-effective; and reduce the costs of
missile defense by using the Navy's existing infrastructure.
Such a process can sometimes appear messy to outsiders, as was the
case when Cap Weinberger and George Shultz squared off over arms control,
foreign interventions and other matters during the Reagan years. But the
fact that President-elect Bush has chosen a man who is "no shrinking violet"
to run his Defense Department suggests he himself will not shrink from the
hard facts and the best counsel about how to deal with them -- and that he
is willing to allow the dynamic tension necessary to ensure that's what he
If Don Rumsfeld is now given a free hand -- including in the choice
of personnel to help him -- his nomination means that we will not only have
a terrific Secretary of Defense but, in the incoming President and Vice
President, men whose good judgment, self-confidence and secure personalities
are up to the daunting national security and other tasks that await
JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait
© 2000, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.