Tuesday, December 21, 2004

It is often observed that certain brilliant people “don’t suffer fools gladly.” But the more common experience of mankind is that fools don’t suffer brilliant people gladly.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is the current attack on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by a legion of Washington little people: a pack of has-beens, never weres and wannabees. In other words, sitting senators, retired generals and journalists who, whether sitting or standing, are, regrettably, never retiring.

What they all have in common is a consuming hatred of logic (of course one often hates that with which one has no familiarity). And, what Donald Rumsfeld has in vast supply is logic: cold, undeniable, cruel, inexorable.

Logic is that way. And people who express it may seem that way to the illogical.

We all hate logic. I hate the logic that dictates that if I ingest more calories than I expend, the result is adipose tissue distributed at all the wrong parts of my body. I prefer the illogic that if I eat enough steak, bacon, fried eggs and Martinis on an Atkins diet calories won’t count.

Several senators and congressmen who have been in town for decades hate Mr. Rumsfeld’s logic that you fight a war with the Army you’ve got. They prefer the illogic that cutting the size of our Army in half between 1990-2000 should have no bearing on the size of the Army you have in 2001. How dare Mr. Rumsfeld point out the consequences of their defense budget cuts.

That was then. They had good reasons to cut the number of Army divisions from 18 to 10, to eliminate legions of armored vehicles, to let the military industrial base shrink to the point where we can barely manufacture 500 armored Humvees (read: jeeps) a month (in World War II we could produce almost 10,000 combat airplanes a month). Their good, if illogical, reason for gutting our Army was to trade a “peace dividend” for votes in the 1990s on the hope that we wouldn’t have any new enemies in the 2000s. But the logic of their action was that in our current war, the Army is too small. And, the cost of rebuilding the Army back to 15-20 divisions would double or triple today’s much-complained of deficit of about a half a trillion dollars per annum. No wonder Mr. Rumsfeld isn’t calling for massive Army expansion in today’s political climate. But the logic of his decisions outrages the Beltway sages.

Many of these outraged Rumsfeld critics also bitterly complained of his decision a few years ago to cancel production and deployment of the Crusader artillery piece — a magnificent 60-ton, fully automated ammunition handling and firing 155mm self-propelled howitzer capable of firing one round 40 km every 6 seconds. It would have been just perfect for blowing up Soviet tanks as they dashed through the Fulda Gap into West Germany, or raining death on a seiged Soviet camp. They would also have been just perfect for satisfying special interests back home and keeping artillery generals happy.

Unfortunately, with the Soviet threat having evaporated, logic suggested to Don Rumsfeld that an insufficiently mobil and imprecise 60-ton cannon would probably not be terribly useful in the asymmetrical warfare we were likely to face. So he just canceled it, which of course didn’t stop elements in the Pentagon from continuing to lobby their friendly senators to over-rule Mr. Rumsfeld. Happily, they lost.

Transforming our military into a logical structure that can defeat the enemies we will actually face in the 21st century has infuriated the legions of politicians, generals, defense contractors, lobbyists and journalists who have encrusted themselves around the magnificent weapons and methods of bygone days.

Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t even schmooze the senators. He let his logic do the talking. After many similar incidents, he is now accused of having bad relations and few friends on Capitol Hill. If the Pentagon had any more friends there our fleets would still be powered by canvas and wind — in deference to the illogic of special interests and old sentiments.

Mindlessly echoing Mr. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon and Capitol Hill opponents are the empty suits and skirts (credit to Michael Savage for the phrase) who report the news. When two or three of these people have shared their illogic with each other, it constitutes a reportable condition called “a buzz” that Rumsfeld is in trouble for not doing his job properly.

He is , in fact, doing his job just fine. But we live in age of fraudulent sentiment and paralyzing political correctness. In such a time, Don Rumsfeld1s greatest mistake is not sweetening his logic with sentimental treacle.

He could learn from Lewis Carroll’s Walrus who, before gobbling up the little oysters (which is the logical consequence of a Walrus meeting a plate of oysters), proclaimed:

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said, “I deeply sympathize.

“With sobs and tears he sorted out

“Those of the largest size,

“Holding his pocket-handkerchief

“Before his streaming eyes.”

Perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld would have more friends in Washington if he had weeped before cancelling the Crusader cannon, or explaining the realities of war.

But without his cold logic, we would expose ourselves to the fate of the ever-sentimental little oysters.

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