Paper: Rumsfeld being quietly undermined by own military

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Published: Monday April 17, 2006

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Five years ago, when Donald Rumsfeld took over at the Pentagon, he quickly moved to assert greater civilian control over senior military officers. But now, well into the Bush administration's second term, there are signs that his firm grip on the Defense Department is slipping as some uniformed officers increasingly chart their own course, the WALL STREET JOURNAL reports on registration-restricted Monday page ones. Excerpts:

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Well before the recent calls by a half-dozen retired Army and Marine Corps generals for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, there was an increasing challenge to his ideas about warfare from within the senior officer ranks...

While there is no sign the military leadership inside the Pentagon is ignoring or defying Mr. Rumsfeld's orders, senior military officials in a number of cases seem more willing to go their own way, even if that means publicly questioning or quietly trying to undo some of Mr. Rumsfeld's initiatives. "Many of his war-fighting concepts are turning out to be impractical. People are walking away from them," said Robert Killebrew, a retired colonel who spent much of his career as a strategist within top commands inside the Army. He described Mr. Rumsfeld as "increasingly a spent force."

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Though the criticism revolves around the difficult situation in Iraq, the unease reflects fundamental disagreement about how wars should be fought. Mr. Rumsfeld came into office with a mandate to shift the military from a force designed for the Cold War to one suited to today's unpredictable threats. He railed against inefficiencies in the military. "I have no desire to attack the Pentagon. I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself," he said in a speech one day before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Initially, the strategy seemed to bear fruit in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld argued that the speed of the assault by the relatively small U.S. force caught Mr. Hussein by surprise, preventing him from bursting dams or torching oilfields. But as that swift success gave way to looting and an increasingly violent insurgency, officers in the Army and Marines began to question whether technology could in fact transform how wars were fought.

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