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New York – "We may need a bigger army," Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tells TIME in this week's Person of the Year double issue (on newsstands for two weeks beginning Monday, Dec. 22). Rumsfeld has been under pressure from Congress to expand the military by at least two divisions, or 20,000 troops, TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy and Pentagon Correspondent Mark Thompson report. The Secretary resisted that pressure over the summer and fall, but in his conversation with TIME, he said he was studying it more closely now, opening the door to a deal.

Rumsfeld tells TIME: "I don't see any analysis or any studies that persuade me that it should be larger or smaller at the moment. I'm commissioning them. I’m getting them done. And if they say we need a larger one, I will, with alacrity, recommend it, and it may very well be the case." But if he is flexible, it is only to a point. Rumsfeld remains firmly opposed to a return to the military draft. He has often said today's volunteers are smarter and more dedicated than conscripts, TIME reports.

"Secretary of War": In 2003 Donald Harold Rumsfeld, 71, was the very word of war: he planned it, he sold it, he strutted through a post-war landscape that is still far from tidy. Armed with a new doctrine of pre-emptive warfare, he spurred the military to fight lighter and faster than it had ever fought before, rewriting the battlefield playbook for perhaps a decade or more, Duffy and Thompson report.

Positioning the President as Reluctant Warrior: The White House was at pains to disguise, before the shooting started, any indication that a war was inevitable. The decision to go to war was Baghdad's, not Washington's, went the daily talking point. Job one was to position the President as a reluctant warrior. Any emphasis on what would come after a war would have put the President in a public relations bind, TIME reports.

Looking back a few days ago on this complicated minuet, Rumsfeld half conceded only that the U.S. was trying to avoid any impression that war was unavoidable. "We didn’t want that inevitability," he said, pausing slightly before quickly editing himself, "because it wasn't inevitable! We were hoping it wouldn't happen." Life in "Rummyland": The Pentagon has often behaved as if it were on its own timetable, uninterested in or even ignorant of diplomacy or politics. Two weeks ago the Pentagon posted on one of its websites a previously released announcement that only the 62 coalition allies could participate in U.S.-funded postwar contracts, needlessly angering other nations at the very moment Bush had sent James Baker to some of those countries in search of debt relief for Iraq. White House officials have a name for the Don's Pentagon. “It's Rummyland," said one aide. "They just do what they want."

"He Really Does Want to Smack You": What feels like sport to Rumsfeld is more like a blood sport to those who have to face him. They describe a man who "listens aggressively," who wants to watch you take a punch and see how you react. "He really does want to smack you," said one aide. "From that, he thinks, 'I will learn something I don't know and you weren’t planning to teach me.' The truth might not tumble out of you otherwise."

Senior Pentagon Officer: Post-War Gets a "C-minus or D-plus": Given Rumsfeld's depth of field, and his deft handling of the war, it's hard to escape the question: Where was he on the peace? How could a man with trifocals fail to see that the peace would need as much planning as the war? As one senior Pentagon officer put it, "The war gets an A-minus, but post-war is more a C-minus or D-plus."

Pentagon Civilian Close to Rumsfeld: "We Shouldn't Have Disbanded the (Iraqi) Army": White House aides finger Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer for disbanding the Iraqi army. Bremer aide Walter Slocombe claims some responsibility, but it's unlikely that a Clinton-era Democrat like Slocombe would have been allowed to make such a big decision. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the decision to disband the army was unanimous. Asked whether it was Rumsfeld’s call, Douglas Feith, a top Rumsfeld aide, says, "You could say that." A Pentagon civilian close to Rumsfeld admits, "We shouldn't have disbanded the army."

Widely Believed that Wolfowitz May Leave Administration Some Time Next Year: In a companion story on Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Thompson reports that the Rummy and Wolfie Show may soon go off the air. It is widely believed in national-security circles that Wolfowitz may leave the Administration some time in 2004. He has become too controversial for Bush to promote to Defense Secretary; Wolfowitz believed that U.S. troops in Iraq would be greeted with rose petals. He remains unbowed about the postwar effort. "I'd like to know among those people who say we should have had better plans, just which plan they had in mind that would have prevented the murderers and torturers that raped and abused that country for 35 years from continuing to fight this destructive war until they're defeated. The bottom line is," he says, "these are tough, ugly bastards."

Would Never Admit He Made a Mistake: Rumsfeld would never admit that he made a mistake, says an aide, who adds, "That's a good thing when selling a policy or a war. But if the choice turns out to be wrong, he probably won't acknowledge it until it's turned into a disaster."

Co-Owns New Mexico Ranch with Dan Rather, among others: You would think, especially after Saddam's capture, that Rumsfeld could pack it in, go out on top and settle down in that ranch in Taos, N.M., that he co-owns with, among others, Dan Rather, TIME reports. Boyhood chum Ned Jannotta, who ran his first campaign for Congress in 1962, notes that Rumsfeld never has cared about staying anywhere very long. "He doesn’t look for security in his life," says Jannotta. "It gives him great freedom to do and try and risk and fail. He's prepared to go head to head—winner take all, no second-place money—and still fail. That runs through his life."

Click on the link below for the full story on TIME.com:

Donald Rumsfeld: Secretary of War

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Debra Richman, TIME 212-522-6856

Ty Trippet, TIME 212-522-3640

Jennifer Zawadzinski, TIME 212-522-9046