Secretary Of War Donald Rumsfeld



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    In 2003 Donald Harold Rumsfeld, 71, was the very word of war: he planned it, he sold it, he strutted through a postwar 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. Energized by hard work and spurred by his stubborn refusal to bend, he has extended the Pentagon's clout on all kinds of nonmilitary matters, from civil liberties at home to the conduct of diplomacy abroad. His power has at times verged on the absolute, and even some White House officials wonder whether anyone can rein him in. Yet for all his apparent certainty, he found a way, in his exquisite fashion, to make clear that he was under no illusions about the limits of America's new global war on terrorism. As a result, his campaign to transform the military is just beginning.

    In the old days, Rumsfeld might have been called the Secretary of War, and it would have better fit his style and sensibility. To be in his presence or, worse, in his employ is to risk being lulled, lured, ambushed, bludgeoned and, always, conquered in the end. "It's the wrestler in him," says a former Pentagon aide. "It's how he thinks. It's all about positioning and sizing you up. It's there every time you meet him. He's friendly; he's got that toothy grin going. But then it's like a light switch is thrown, and it's war. Even in a group of people, he'll go around the table and take each man on, one at a time. It's like he's testing himself."

    It is tempting to see Rumsfeld as an emblem of war itself, like Achilles or Ajax, lost in the calm, found in the fray. He is always fighting, always feinting, ever in conflict with something or someone or some idea. He's that way even when there's not much to fight about. Literal to a fault, Rumsfeld can spend a morning tangling over the interpretation of a poorly chosen word. He goes through periods when he takes on even friendly Senators and Representatives for sport. Devoted to trifocals, he seems to prefer to see things in conflict. You sometimes get the sense that Rumsfeld needs to fight to survive, the way sharks need to swim.

    --Winning the War

    The session with Odierno in Kirkuk was vintage Rumsfeld, and Odierno, a rising star inside the Army, passed the test easily. "When it happens to someone who can't hold his own against the boss," says an aide, "you just want someone else to come along and put him out of his misery." Rumsfeld laughs at this report when he hears it a few days later. "I was doing my thing," he says of that day in Kirkuk. "It's what I do all day, every day." Rumsfeld doesn't have a name for his habit of withering cross-examination, but he does have an analogy. "My theory in skiing is, if you're not falling, you're not trying, and that's worth remembering. I teach that to my grandchildren." The former Navy instructor pilot tries a different metaphor: "You've got to work the edge of the envelope."

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