The troubles of Donald Rumsfeld
There are now five retired Generals who have expressed dissatisfaction with the Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership. Their criticisms fall into two categories as summarized by retired General Paul Eaton: those of strategy and of execution.
By that rule, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead America's armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with U.S. allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on American soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in the U.S. military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.
The Jawa Report, in calling for Rumsfeld to resign, said of Eaton's two points:
Paul Eaton's editorial in the NY Times yesterday is wrong on its first point but, I believe, right on its second. First, General Eaton faults Rumsfeld for not building a larger coalition in Iraq. This is just a stupid criticism. Any one who thinks that Iraq was a failure in diplomacy just does not understand why coalitions are formed. Nations aren't talked into military invasions, they join military coalitions because they believe it is in their national interests to do so. Clearly, the fall of Saddam Hussein was not in the best interests of France and Russia. ...
But there is a great deal of merit to the second argument: that Rumsfeld was wrong on nearly all fronts on how the war in Iraq would develop once the invasion stage was complete.
Mr. Rumsfeld has also failed in terms of operations in Iraq. He rejected the so-called Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and sent just enough tech-enhanced troops to complete what we called Phase III of the war — ground combat against the uniformed Iraqis. He ignored competent advisers like Gen. Anthony Zinni and others who predicted that the Iraqi Army and security forces might melt away after the state apparatus self-destructed, leading to chaos. It is all too clear that General Shinseki was right: several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction. There was never a question that we would make quick work of the Iraqi Army.
But Secretary Rumsfeld is only the "near enemy". If the criticisms are taken seriously they must be an indictment against the "far enemy" as well -- President Bush. Nowhere is this clearer than in General Newbold's Time article, "Iraq was a Mistake".
I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. ...
I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood.
"I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon", Newbold said. The impossibility of substituting Rumsfeld for the President is exemplified by the criticism that in-country command was fatally divided between Paul Bremer and CENTCOM in the days following the fall of Saddam. This divided chain of command could only have been the President's responsibility. It was neither in Rumsfeld's interest nor within his power to alienate the chain of command in this way.
Fred Barnes writing in the WSJ Opinion Journal understands that the criticism is not primarily directed Rumsfeld but at Bush's policies and strategy. So that the President's policies may survive Barnes suggests ditching Cheney, Rumsfeld and any one else who may be needed to lighten ship. Rumsfeld is dispensable. For policies to continue it is the President who must survive.
It's time for President Bush to think about a third term. No, he doesn't need to overturn the Constitution. He can start the equivalent of his third term now, by filling his presidential staff and cabinet with new faces--or old faces in new positions--and by concentrating on new or forgotten initiatives. ... Only a few months ago, it appeared the Bush administration didn't need emergency resuscitation. ... Then he was belted with a new round of reversals. His State of the Union address was uninspiring, the Dubai ports deal had to be nixed, and his proposed spending cuts were going nowhere. This time the fallout was worse for Mr. Bush. Republican unity, so important to his past success, dissolved as congressional Republicans began criticizing the White House. And Iraq was again a political problem. Even several top Bush aides now suspect an infusion of fresh talent could liven up the administration. ...
A sweeping overhaul on a smaller scale has worked before. In one swoop in 1975, President Ford replaced Defense Secretary James Schlesinger with Donald Rumsfeld, made Dick Cheney chief of staff, appointed George H.W. Bush as CIA director in place of William Colby, and stripped Secretary of State Henry Kissinger of his second post as national security adviser, installing Brent Scowcroft. These surprising and dramatic steps strengthened a weak Ford presidency. President Carter tried something similar in 1979 when his presidency was at a low point. But the overhaul was handled clumsily. Mr. Carter appeared to act arbitrarily and his presidency never recovered.
Mr. Bush's first task must be to jettison his admirable but unrealistic sense of loyalty. Unlike other presidents, he reciprocates the loyalty of his aides. But for the good of his presidency, he must let some of them go, regardless of whether they deserve firing.
Sacrifice Rumsfeld, Barnes advises, so that things can remain essentially the same. To stay the course. But surely the entire point of critics must be to change Administration policy into something else. To change the course. Into something that will be better; something that can be carried out by Rumsfeld's prospective replacement. Yet notably absent from discussion is the answer to the question: change it to what? To more troops on the ground? To a renewed effort to bring European allies into Iraq? An accelerated withdrawal from Iraq in order to concentrate on what General Newbold called "the real threat -- Al Qaeda"? All of these are possible alternatives but only one has been formally articulated by the Administration in waiting, the Democratic Party. It is called the Real Security plan and many of Rumsfeld critics are unhappy with that as well. Unless it is the case that 'anyone will be an improvement on Rumsfeld', it is surely fair to ask: how should it be done differently. The Real Security plan has been put forward. Are there any others?
The Gateway Pundit gathered a history of the fire-Rumsfeld movement going back to 2003 which shows that while he has for long been the "near enemy" it was always the "far enemy" -- and his policies -- that ultimately mattered. Those policies framed strategy far beyond Iraq. Among the questions for which there is still no bipartisan consensus is how big should the Ground Forces be? On this fundamental point both the President and Congress must bear a fundamental responsibility on which depends the viability of "more boots on the ground". What should the strategy against terrorism be? The Real Security plan advocates a police approach aimed at pursuing a specific group called the Al Qaeda. Is this a correct appraisal of Al Qaeda's importance in the overall strategic landscape? Others have suggested a greater use of "soft power", including diplomacy, in place of utilizing the Armed Forces. Even within the bill of indictments against Rumsfeld there there is still debate over whether the de-Baathization of Iraq, which resulted in the dismantling of Saddam's Army was a mistake. There are many other unresolved questions; and that they have remained so 5 years into the War is an interesting commentary not only on the Bush administration but on American politics in general. Michael Yon, writing while transiting through Afghanistan, reminds his readers of the many forgotten things still hang in the air.
Some troops have begun calling the battle for Afghanistan “the Forgotten War.” They are largely correct. When it comes to national and media attention, Iraq is not much better, but since there are roughly six or seven times more troops in Iraq, it might seem that our soldiers there would get more recognition. An Army officer told me recently that per capita casualties for Afghanistan and Iraq are nearly the same. Although six times as much coverage would be about right, mathematically, most soldiers I encountered who were serving in Iraq told me they had never seen a journalist there.
One criticism independent of policy holds that Secretary Rumsfeld is a poor manager; a busybody; a man who will not listen and won't let subordinates get on with their jobs. According to that view Secretary Rumsfeld is incompetent regardless of the mission. The proof offered for that assertion is that of the identifiable failures in the War the weakest link was the Secretary of Defense. That is ultimately an empirical question which must be passed upon by professionals. And without violating their oath they will make it known somehow. If there is truly no confidence in the Defense Secretary it will soon become evident and the press, we should have no fear, will let us know.