Given this piece from the other day, I thought this was an appropriate followup. Daily Show fans have probably already seen his interview from last night with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld, but for those who have not I would recommend it. Rumsfeld was unquestionably one of the most important architects of the Iraq war, and I think this interview fits in nicely with the discussion from the other day regarding the influence of unelected actors in the policymaking process. I found it particularly interesting how Rumsfeld acknowledges the important role played by presidential advisors in this process, but really seems to shift accountability away from the Defense Department and onto the State Department and the non-descript "intelligence community" (of which the DOD is an incredibly important member).
It's worth noting Rumseld's comments regarding his previous remarks on "going to war with the military you have, not the one you wish you had." I think it's easy to dismiss this comment as another of Rumsfeld's witticisms, but I think the question it poses is important and worth exploring. How much do we really know about how the decisions of an administration's predecessor constrain the ability of the current administration to act in certain ways? If we are to take Rumsfeld at his word–not much. He seems to be implying that the capabilities of the state don't factor into decisions related to the use of force, or at least that they only matter to a certain extent. Policy objectives come first–capabilities matter second.
Some of his remarks also suggest some interesting things insofar as the learning process of the miltiary/DOD is concerned. Is it preferable to invest significant amounts of money and resources up front to address possible shortfalls? Or is it better to go to war, knowing that capabilities are less than optimal, but that investments in updating or upgrading capabilities will be more efficiently and effectively applied after more information is gained through battlefield encounters? Rather, that it is impossible to know what the optimal allocation of funds is until more information is gained?