- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

It happened while I was watching a telecast of Donald Rumsfeld addressing the NATO ministers in Brussels. He spoke in his businesslike way, much the way he has conducted this war against terrorism. No drums, no bugles. No medals on his chest or Churchillian phrases, and not an ounce of charisma.
Donald Rumsfeld could be president of the Dull Men's Club. Here was a man just getting the job done. And I thought, not for the first time, this is just where he needs to be, and thank goodness he's there.
George W. Bush did a good term's work when he chose Don Rumsfeld as his defense secretary. The man talks to NATO's ministers the same way he has talked to the press almost daily: without folderol. After so many years of glitz and spin in Washington, his anti-charisma has a certain, well, charisma.
By contrast, the same day's Wall Street Journal included a rundown of the press' coverage of the war in Afghanistan back when it was clear that what Donald Rumsfeld proposed to do couldn't be done. For example:
"This is a war in trouble," intoned Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio early on. No less than the distinguished R.W. Apple Jr. of the unembarrassable New York Times was comparing Afghanistan to, of course, Vietnam. Quagmire. To sum up Johnny Apple's analysis and warning at the end of October: "Signs of progress are sparse."
Air power wouldn't work, we were repeatedly told by the estimable Charles Krauthammer and the other boys at the Weekly Standard. Even as air power was working.
The Northern Alliance would not be able to overcome resistance in the South, magazines from Newsweek to the New Republic warned just as the Alliance was achieving its breakthrough and about to break out, link up with allies, and overrun the whole country. ("Of all the proxies the United States has enlisted over the past half-century, the Northern Alliance may be the least prepared to attain America's battlefield objectives." the New Republic, Nov. 19, 2001.)
It was explained that nothing but a massive commitment of ground troops would do to take Kabul. But by the time my copy of the New Republic had arrived, Kabul had fallen.
There are a lot more delicious quotes in Matthew Ross' delightful roundup of the usual suspects in the Journal, and I recommend clipping, saving and reading it the next time fainthearted experts are predicting doom.
Our defense secretary must not have kept up with NPR, the New York Times and all the magazines. Maybe because he was busy winning a war he and a lot of other folks too unsophisticated to realize it couldn't be won.
Mr. Rumsfeld is already looking ahead. He knows the war against terrorism has only begun. That's why he was in Brussels to talk about the shape of NATO, and why it shouldn't be diluting its strength on a hundred different peacekeeping missions around the world when it needs to be ready for war-winning duties.
Policing places like the Balkans is useful work, but it's time to let it be done by police forces, not armies that may be needed to crush an enemy. NATO, to quote the defense secretary, needs to beef up its intelligence work, its precision weapons and its defenses against a range of new threats chemical, biological and, yes, nuclear.
The several thousand American troops in the Balkans, and the 39,000 NATO troops there in all, represent only one drain on the Western alliance's military forces, which ought to be concentrating on fighting wars, not playing policeman.
The United States now has forces of varying sizes in some 140 countries around the world not just in Germany, Japan and South Korea but in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, East Timor and the Sinai. And it now takes seven other soldiers to supply and maintain each one in the field.
But the manpower and materiel required by these assignments are the least of the drags on American military power. Reducing an army to a scattered collection of garrison soldiers around the world eats away at its readiness, its morale and its ability to strike quickly with overwhelming power when it needs to as in Afghanistan and soon enough elsewhere. Armies rust, too.
While listening to Donald Rumsfeld at Brussels, it occurred that his first stint as defense secretary (in the Ford administration) was just practice for the job he's doing now that he's seasoned. (He'll be 70 next year.) It's as if the man had been born for this particular time, and this particular service.
For understandable reasons, Time magazine chose Rudy Giuliani as its Man of the Year. Pardon me, Person of the Year. (As if some of us wouldn't have voted for Maggie Thatcher as Man of the Year time and again.) But despite a wealth of choices this fateful year, I might have chosen a different honoree: a plainspoken American who is eloquent only when it comes to results.
You don't run across too many plain people in politics or anywhere else anymore, have you noticed? But this one is right where he belongs.
Thank you, Lord.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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