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Letter from an alumnus saying Rumsfeld planned poorly

Date Posted: January 26, 2004

In his letter in the Dec. 8 PAW, written in response to our earlier letter in the Nov. 3 PAW, Elwin E. Fraley ’57 suggests that the U.S. invasion of Iraq (and of Afghanistan) “was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, triumph in military history.” Although we lack the expertise of military historians, we do wonder whether those invasions really rank with triumphs such as the Battle of Midway or the Normandy invasion, not to mention military triumphs in antiquity.

Be that as it may, the widespread criticism voiced against Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ’54 is not focused on the short period of conquest, but on the subsequent occupation of Iraq, for which the Secretary appears to have planned very poorly.

To fathom Secretary Rumsfeld’s thinking in this regard, witness his inchoate responses to a courageous young soldier who queried the secretary recently why, at this stage of the occupation, so many Army reserve units in Iraq are still equipped with unarmored vehicles. As if to suggest that armor does not matter, the secretary remarked, within a longer response: “If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up.” Should soldiers in Iraq and their families take solace in this flippant bit of condescension?

To shift the blame for any lack of proper equipment in Iraq away from himself and the administration to none other than God, the secretary lectured the young soldier that “it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.” Surely one must worry about a secretary of defense who fails to see the differences between the human laws of resource management and production and God’s laws of physics. Did God, through the laws of physics, prevent this nation from producing, on very short order, a Liberty ship every two weeks and thousands upon thousands of trucks, tanks, fighter airplanes and bombers during World War II, and all that with much older production technology than exists today?

On behalf of his entire family, Mr. Fraley thanks Secretary Rumsfeld for his work. It makes us wonder whether that work puts any member of Mr. Fraley’s family personally at risk in Iraq.

May C. Reinhardt
Uwe E. Reinhardt
James Madison Professor of Political Economy, Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton, N.J.

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Date Posted: January 26, 2004

Thank you for publishing Elwin Fraley ’57’s letter in the Dec. 8 PAW. Frankly, when I first read it, I was puzzled. He writes of our “liberating Iraq,” the Abu Ghraib “fiasco” and “keeping us safe following 9/11.” I found myself wondering what he meant about “liberating” Iraq, based on the news reports I read and see, and why he thinks it is this country’s right or duty to “liberate” other countries from their dictators. Who else would be on his list — North Korea, Syria, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia? Certainly all good candidates — so many dictators, so little time. And I wondered about who the “us” is that has been kept safe by Donald Rumsfeld ’54 et al. Surely not the thousands of U.S. citizens killed or injured in our unlawful invasion of Iraq, and surely not the thousands of Iraqi civilians we have killed or injured. Are they not “us”?

Then it dawned on me. His letter was not meant to be read literally; it is subtle satire. I’m not a satirist, and here is my non-satirical take on Mr. Rumsfeld. History will eventually record him as one of the main architects of the beginning of the end of U.S. hegemony, primarily because of the unnecessary, unwise, and immoral attack on Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld and his fellow “architects” have managed in a remarkably short time to weaken this country in fundamental ways: weakening our financial status and debasing our currency, in part through massive borrowing from foreign lenders; antagonizing our allies and embittering our enemies, and most of all; forfeiting any U.S. claims to moral leadership among nations.

I am sure there are others, but, not being a historian or a political scientist, I can’t list them all. But I do thank Mr. Fraley for his letter; like all good satire, it stimulated me to think about its subject.

Jay C. Ripps ’63
San Francisco, Calif.

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