The Arrogance of Power
Dale R. Herspring
Not since Robert McNamara has a secretary of defense been so hated by the military and derided by the public, yet played such a critical role in national security policy—with such disastrous results.
Donald Rumsfeld was a natural for secretary of defense, a position he'd already occupied once before. He was smart. He worked hard. He was skeptical of the status quo in military affairs and dedicated to high-tech innovations. He seemed the right man at the right time-but history was to prove otherwise.
“Herspring places his subject in the public dock and concisely but completely lays out an indictment of Donald Rumsfeld for his inept performance in office. . . . For those seeking to understand the debacle in Iraq, [title] offers much. . . . It is highly recommended to graduate schools in national security affairs and strategic studies as a useful case history in civil-military relations, strategic leadership, and military innovation.”
—War in History
“This critique of the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq War and lack of preparation for post-hostilities reconstruction carries weight because the author writes without political or ideological animus. Herspring is a conservative scholar with extensive service in the navy and a career as a distinguished author in the field of military affairs and civil-military relations.”
—ChoiceSee all reviews...
“[Despite its minor flaws, this is] a model of contemporary history. Although his argument is not strictly original, Herspring usefully summarizes and supplements the growing literature on the Iraq War. His book should be read by anyone interested in bureaucratic politics, civil-military relations, or military strategy.”
“Herspring is a twenty-year Foreign Service officer, a retired Naval Reserve Captain, and one of the best living scholars of Russian civil-military relations. Importantly, Herspring confesses to voting twice for President George H.W. Bush and initially supporting the invasion of Iraq. He is a serious man, and his criticisms deserve to be taken seriously. . . . Well-written and accessible even to those who have little previous knowledge of the subject. . . . Herspring's anger is evident but controlled . . . . [it] will continue to burn in the reader's mind for a long time to come.”
“Dale Herspring has written a brilliant and well-researched book analyzing the remarkable failures of the Rumsfeld Pentagon. It is an important work that provides superb insights and valuable lessons learned. Herspring is honest, clear, and accurate. This is a must read for all those who desire to understand and never repeat the mistakes of the past.”
—General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Retired)
“With careful documentation and scathing analysis, Herspring demonstrates that Rumsfeld failed in far more than his management of the Iraq war. This conservative critique of the once-vaunted secretary of defense also exposes Rumsfeld’s confused approach to military transformation and his arrogant handling of civil-military relations.”
—Charles Stevenson, author of SecDef: The Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense and Warriors and Politicians
“Rumsfeld’s Wars is an important analysis of the impact of the most influential secretary of defense in several generations. . . . Highly recommended.”
—John A. Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and VietnamSee fewer reviews...
Now Dale Herspring, a political conservative and lifelong Republican, offers a nonpartisan assessment of Rumsfeld's impact on the U.S. military establishment from 2001 to 2006, focusing especially on the Iraq War-from the decision to invade through the development and execution of operational strategy and the enormous failures associated with the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.
Extending the critique of civil-military relations he began in The Pentagon and the Presidency, Herspring highlights the relationship between the secretary and senior military leadership, showing how Rumsfeld and a handful of advisers—notably Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—manipulated intelligence and often ignored the military in order to implement their policies. And he demonstrates that the secretary's domineering leadership style and trademark arrogance undermined his vision for both military transformation and Iraq.
Herspring shows that, contrary to his public deference to the generals, Rumsfeld dictated strategy and operations—sometimes even tactics—to prove his transformation theories. He signed off on abolishing the Iraqi army, famously refused to see the need for a counterinsurgency plan, and seemed more than willing to tolerate the torture of prisoners. Meanwhile, the military became demoralized and junior officers left in droves.
Rumsfeld's Wars revisits and reignites the concept of "arrogance of power," once associated with our dogged failure to understand the true nature of a tragic war in Southeast Asia. It provides further evidence that success in military affairs is hard to achieve without mutual respect between civilian authorities and military leaders—and offers a definitive case study in how not to run the office of secretary of defense.