Friday, August 04, 2006

Gunning for Rummy

Hillary locks and loads:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, hours after excoriating him at a public hearing over what she called "failed policy" in Iraq....

"The secretary has lost credibility with the Congress and with the people," she said. "It's time for him to step down and be replaced by someone who can develop an effective strategy and communicate it effectively to the American people and to the world."

Can't say I disagree; I've been critical of Rumsfeld for a long time. He let a valid point -- a need to build a faster, lighter military -- and a valid belief -- that we could win wars with fewer troops -- blind him to the actual requirements of occupation. And while it was necessary to confront the Pentagon bureaucracy in order to achieve his goals, he also got into unnecessary confrontations thanks to his detached and indecisive management style and alienated Congress with his abrasive treatment.

Okay, you say, Rumsfeld deserves to be fired. But is now the time to replace him, with just two years left in Bush's term? Isn't Rumsfeld better than the leadership turmoil that would ensue while a replacement was vetted, nominated and confirmed?

A fair point, but I don't think so. There's still more than two years left until Bush leaves office. Rumsfeld could remain until his replacement is confirmed. But even if he resigns before then, that would leave a Rumsfeld deputy in charge. And the confirmation process wouldn't have to be lengthy, since both parties would recognize the need to fill the position quickly.

The more important points would be these:

1. Bush isn't going to fire Rumsfeld, because doing so would be an admission that the administration had made mistakes -- something Bush seems almost congenitally incapable of doing. So any such call is simply political posturing. It may need to be said, but don't expect it to translate into action.

2. Bush is apparently happy with Rumsfeld's work, so even if he fired Rumsfeld we could probably expect the president to nominate a Rumsfeld clone.

Thus, nice as it would be to see Bush hold someone -- anyone -- responsible for their actions, it will only happen in two instances:

1. Rumsfeld becomes too big a political liability to ignore;

2. Bush decides a new strategy is needed.

The former is unlikely unless Republicans turn against Rumsfeld in large numbers. The latter could happen if Bush decides that Rumsfeld's approach is hampering the success of the occupation.

So if we really want Rumsfeld gone, we need to do two things: show Bush that Rumsfeld has strong bipartisan opposition, and persuade Bush that he needs a new strategy -- with new leadership.

I'm not holding my breath.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, Rummy should stay. It's better to have an impotent loser than gamble on some other neocon nut.
- Caracarn

8/07/2006 4:39 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Fair enough. I'd rather not have an impotent Pentagon chief when so much of our military is in a combat zone, but there might be something to the "devil you know" aspect of it.

8/07/2006 9:58 PM  

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