Friday, July 1, 2011

Iceland Backfill Memories

I keep coming back to this story from my Joint Staff days: that a list was handed down from Rumsfeld of American commitments around the world he wanted to end.  Supposedly to save money and stress on the troops, but mostly due to an ideological commitment that the US should not spend money on allies/multilateral commitments.

Anyhow, I have mentioned this before.  What brings this up yet again is that Rummy has a piece in the Wall Street Journal where he specifically cites the money saved from finally ending this commitment: $225 million dollars.  Perhaps the list of commitments to end (like four guys or so in a UN mission to East Timor) was really about the money, but the funny thing here is this: closing the USAF base in Iceland was not his idea.  It was something the Air Force wanted to do, not to save money (nor was the concern about the four fighter planes) but so that they could re-position the long-range search and rescue helos and planes.  How do I know this?  I was the one handling the list, and the original response memo went up the line without the Iceland commitment listed until it hit a two general in my chain of command* who was an Air Force officer.  Then, the list came back to me with a request to consider Iceland.
*  All those who know me can now giggle at the thought of me being in anyone's chain of command.

There were some difficult tradeoffs as Iceland saw this as the US/NATO commitment to its defense and essentially held the US anti-submarine warfare facilities (featured in Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising) hostage.  The new deal, as I have mentioned, has NATO sending occasional rotations to represent the NATO commitment (and I believe a similar operation applies to the Baltics--occasional tours of NATO fighter planes).

The point here is that Rummy is now taking credit for cutting a "wasteful" expense when it was really not his idea at all.  Just good old bureaucratic politics.  Rummy did cut some expensive programs (the Crusader artillery system--good thing we never had it around to deploy to a Muslim country, right?), but giving credit where it is due has never been a Rumsfeld hallmark.  Steven Metz has been reading Rummy's memoir and tweeting about it (so that the rest of us can be spared, I think), and he has noted that all of the problems in Iraq where some other dude's fault (Bremer), forgetting that he,Rummy, had demanded the responsibility for the post-war phase until it got too messy.

The other point is: why are we paying any attention to the Worst Secretary of Defense in American History?  Oh yeah, nostalgia.

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