Once again today we get an abbreviated gaggle aboard Air Force One in flight to North Carolina. Scottie is asked about the little dust-up between Rummy and Rice.
Q Scott, Secretary Rumsfeld disputed remarks by Secretary Rice that the United States made tactical errors in Iraq. Who does the President think is correct on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, I think if you look at what they’ve talked about, everybody has essentially been saying the same thing, which is that the strategic decisions have been the right ones, we have the right strategy in place. But when you are at war, you’re going to have to adapt and adjust to circumstances on the ground. And so all of us — the President, Secretary Rice, Secretary Rumsfeld — have been talking about the lessons that we have learned and how we’ve adapted and adjusted to circumstances on the ground. And I think that’s what everybody is talking about in the remarks.
I know Secretary Rice talked about how she was speaking figuratively, not literally, in some of the remarks that she made. But if you look at Secretary Rumsfeld’s whole transcript, he talked about how the enemy is constantly adapting, and that’s the nature of warfare, and we have to be able to adapt and adjust to circumstances on the ground, as well. And the President has talked at length about some of the difficulties we face and how we’ve had to learn from experience and then apply those lessons as we move forward. Reconstruction is a great example.
Some of our initial reconstruction efforts focused on larger projects, when we realized that we needed to move to some of the smaller projects, it would have a more immediate impact on people’s lives. And that’s what we’ve done. He’s talked about how we’ve — the President has talked about how we’ve adjusted the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces and in the political arena, as well.
Q So you don’t see this as a disagreement between the two?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think if you look at what both were talking about, they were talking about how we’ve had to adapt and adjust to circumstances on the ground. And the President has talked about that at length in his remarks, particularly over the last few months.
So Scottie urges us to “look at Secretary Rumsfeld’s whole transcript”, meaning the trascript of his interview on WDAY radio of Fargo, N.D. (interviewer Scott Hennen). Here is the Department of Defense’s transcript, and I have excerpted the relevant exchange in the extended section of this post. Click Read More and tell me if it sounds like Rummy and Rice are in agreement.
HENNEN: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, our Secretary of State, speaking figuratively suggested recently we’ve made thousands of tactical errors; also suggested the important test was making the right strategic decisions and that would be the test of history.
Do you agree with that? Have we made thousands of tactical errors? And does that concern you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don’t know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest.
The reality in war is this. You fashion a war plan and then you proceed with it. And as the old saying goes, no war plan survives first contact with the enemy. Why? Because the enemy’s got a brain; the enemy watches what you do and then adjusts to that, so you have to constantly adjust and change your tactics, your techniques, and your procedures.
If someone says well, that’s a tactical mistake then I guess it’s a lack of understanding, at least my understanding, of what warfare is about.
If you had a static situation and you made a mistake in how you addressed the static situation that would be one thing. What you have here is not a static situation, you have a dynamic situation with an enemy that thinks, uses their brain, constantly adjusts, and therefore our commanders have to constantly make tactical adjustments.