Cultural Shift Coming at the Pentagon

The departure of Donald Rumsfeld is likely to mean changes are coming in the way the Defense Department works with the CIA and other agencies, and in its basic approach to warfare.

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When Donald Rumsfeld leaves the Pentagon next month, he's likely to be followed by several of his senior civilian advisors and personnel changes could bring ideological changes as well inside the Defense Department.

NPR's Guy Raz offers a preview of what to expect.

GUY RAZ: Military strategist Harlan Olman has a suggestion for incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Put on some rubber gloves and hospital scrubs.

Mr. HARLAN OLMAN (Military Strategist): Bob Gates is in essence becoming the surgeon or the doctor of a patient, in this case Iraq, which is equivalent to a person who is now in their 60s who has smoke and drunk considerably during their entire life and the doctor says you have lung cancer, you have heart cancer and your liver is failing. And the patient says help me. There's very little real help that that doctor can bring.

RAZ: Because the options for Iraq are limited, an admission now made even by idealists like Richard Perle, who once dreamed of a Democratic Iraq.

Mr. RICHARD PERLE: I think we're beyond the point now where one can talk in terms of a benign vision of the outcome, sadly. So it's time to talk about the true price of failure.

RAZ: The men whose counsel Rumsfeld once sought have all largely split from him.

Mr. PERLE: To me, it's a heartbreaking story.

RAZ: A story of failure, says Ken Adelman. Adelman is still technically a member of the Defense Policy Board. It's a panel of outside experts who advise the Defense Secretary from time to time. What he's saying now is if Robert Gates is to salvage the Iraq project, he shouldn't be too ambitious.

Mr. KEN ADELMAN (Defense Policy Board): He's not going to be a missionary. He's not going to be out there with great ventures, because this is not a time for great ventures. This is a time to try to end some of the previous ventures that we had right there.

RAZ: Which means Robert Gates will probably bring in his own team of civilian advisers and gently part with some of the men so closely associated with Donald Rumsfeld. For example, the current undersecretary of intelligence, Stephen Cambone. Here's former Army colonel and now Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich:

Professor ANDREW BACEVICH (Boston University): The neoconservative perspective really is not useful. It's not relevant to the problem at hand in Iraq and so it does make sense for Gates to surround himself with people who might be viewed as pragmatists.

RAZ: But what does that mean for policy? Well, first, consider whether Robert Gates's arrival is really a repudiation of the so-called neoconservative vision.

Mr. OLMAN: We have exaggerated the neoconservative influence to some very large degree.

RAZ: Once again, military strategist Harlan Olman.

Mr. OLMAN: This is George Bush's war.

RAZ: And he says if President Bush isn't ready to change course -

Mr. OLMAN: I think it makes little difference who the secretary of defense is. It could be Dwight Eisenhower. It could have been Winston Churchill. But unless the president is prepared to make a major course alteration, who the secretary of defense is, beyond personnel it seems to me, is not going to be all that important.

RAZ: Not important, perhaps, for Iraq policy. That comes from the White House. But the new man at the Pentagon could bring a -

General BOB SCALES (Retired, U.S. Army): ideological shift in the approach to warfare, particularly future warfare inside the Pentagon.

RAZ: This is retired general Bob Scales. He's talking about Secretary Rumsfeld's petition project. It's called transformation.

General SCALES: Rumsfeld has assumed a sort of technocentric approach to warfare, a view that future wars could be won with machines rather than men, and I think the new administration and the Pentagon, being far more realistic in their view of warfare, are going to embrace the fact that wars in the future are going to be won with a combination of technology and human beings.

RAZ: But the first war Robert Gates is likely to tackle is not inside the Pentagon. It's between the Pentagon and other agencies.

Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon waged a cross-town war on two fronts. One, against the State Department and the other against the CIA. Rumsfeld usually won his interagency battles but that didn't mean he won the war. And now his successor, Robert Gates, will have to negotiate the peace.

Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

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