| Friday, April 14, 2006
| Revolt of the generals
|Powerline and friends may dismiss them as disgruntled "Clinton generals," but the military men who are speaking out and calling for Donald Rumsfeld to be replaced as Pentagon chief have a serious case to make, and one that should be noted by the American people. After all, these men are experienced warriors, and some of them have fought the present war, under Mr. Rumsfeld. Besides, what defense is there of the Secretary of Defense? Certainly, the on-the-ground situation in Iraq doesn't speak well of him... From today's NYT:
The widening circle of retired generals who have stepped forward to call for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation is shaping up as an unusual outcry that could pose a significant challenge to Mr. Rumsfeld's leadership, current and former generals said on Thursday.That Mr. Rumsfeld rules by intimidation and dismissal (of ideas as well as criticisms,) has become a truism of the so-called "war on terror," which in Rummy's world seems to be as much a war for military "transformation" as for the remaking of the Muslim world. More evidence of the Rummy Effect on the senior military men whom President Bush keeps assuring us are the ones making the decisions "on the ground" (code for: blame the military men, not the administration...):
Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., who led troops on the ground in Iraq as recently as 2004 as the commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, on Thursday became the fifth retired senior general in recent days to call publicly for Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster. Also Thursday, another retired Army general, Maj. Gen. John Riggs, joined in the fray.
"We need to continue to fight the global war on terror and keep it off our shores," General Swannack said in a telephone interview. "But I do not believe Secretary Rumsfeld is the right person to fight that war based on his absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam in Iraq."
Another former Army commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the First Infantry Division, publicly broke ranks with Mr. Rumsfeld on Wednesday. Mr. Rumsfeld long ago became a magnet for political attacks. But the current uproar is significant because Mr. Rumsfeld's critics include generals who were involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq under the defense secretary's leadership.
There were indications on Thursday that the concern about Mr. Rumsfeld, rooted in years of pent-up anger about his handling of the war, was sweeping aside the reticence of retired generals who took part in the Iraq war to criticize an enterprise in which they participated. Current and former officers said they were unaware of any organized campaign to seek Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster, but they described a blizzard of telephone calls and e-mail messages as retired generals critical of Mr. Rumsfeld weighed the pros and cons of joining in the condemnation.
Even as some of their retired colleagues spoke out publicly about Mr. Rumsfeld, other senior officers, retired and active alike, had to be promised anonymity before they would discuss their own views of why the criticism of him was mounting. Some were concerned about what would happen to them if they spoke openly, others about damage to the military that might result from amplifying the debate, and some about talking outside of channels, which in military circles is often viewed as inappropriate.And of course, President Bush believes Rummy is doing one heck of a job. Another piece from the Times story:
Among the retired generals who have called for Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster, some have emphasized that they still believe it was right for the United States to invade Iraq. But a common thread in their complaints has been an assertion that Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides too often inserted themselves unnecessarily into military decisionmaking, often disregarding advice from military commanders.And many of us civilians can't wait till it's over.
The outcry also appears based in part on a coalescing of concern about the toll that the war is taking on American armed forces, with little sign, three years after the invasion, that United States troops will be able to withdraw in large numbers anytime soon. ...
... Some retired officers, however, said they believed the momentum was turning against Mr. Rumsfeld.
"Are the floodgates opening?" asked one retired Army general, who drew a connection between the complaints and the fact that President Bush's second term ends in less than three years. "The tide is changing, and folks are seeing the end of this administration."
So who are these unhappy generals?
"Rumsfeld has been contemptuous of the views of senior military officers since the day he walked in as secretary of defense. It's about time they got sick and tired," Thomas E. White, the former Army secretary, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. Mr. White was forced out of his job by Mr. Rumsfeld in April of 2003.Well, at least Rummy will always have Powerline. I think members of the administration could spit on John Hinderaker's mother and he and his clan would still defend them. And he'll have Victor Davis Hansen, whose most recent NRO column is so deluded and convoluted (he thinks -- wait for it -- that the debate over whether Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaida has been decided ... in the Bush administration's favor...) that one gets confused throughout the text whether he's talking about Iraq or Iran. Come to think of it, Hansen sounds like he'd make a spanking good Bush administration secretar of defense...
Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold of the Marine Corps, who retired in late 2002, has said he regarded the American invasion of Iraq unnecessary. He issued his call for replacing Mr. Rumsfeld in an essay in the current edition of Time magazine. General Newbold said he regretted not opposing the invasion of Iraq more vigorously, and called the invasion peripheral to the job of defeating Al Qaeda.
General Swannack, by contrast, continues to support the invasion but said that Mr. Rumsfeld had micromanaged the war in Iraq, rather than leaving it to senior commanders there, including Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, the top American officer in Iraq, and Gen. John P. Abizaid of the Army, the top officer in the Middle East. "My belief is Rumsfeld does not really understand the dynamic of counterinsurgency warfare," General Swannack said.
By the way, who would replace Rumsfeld if he were to slip the surly bonds of the Pentagon? My guess would be another true believer in the Iraq campaign, a la Joe Lieberman, or a bars-wearing yes-man like Richard Myers (Ret.) In other words, would change bring change? The jury is, as they say, most certainly "out"...
Update: Rawstory has Gen. Batiste, Ret. of the 82nd Airborne, on the morning talk shows. HT to ThinkProgress.
Update 2: Pro-war columnist David Ignatius of the WaPo agrees: time for Rummy to go:
Rumsfeld has lost the support of the uniformed military officers who work for him. Make no mistake: The retired generals who are speaking out against Rumsfeld in interviews and op-ed pieces express the views of hundreds of other officers on active duty. When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.Among his choices to succeed Rummy? Surprise! Joe Lieberman... who by the way would be an awful choice. Just look how well his Department of Homeland Security idea worked out. And he's such a hawk on Israel -- nearly a Likudnik, that he would lack credibility in the Muslim world, one would think. But there you go. He's the GOP's favorite Democrat, and the neocons just can't stop loving him.
But that isn't the reason he should be replaced. Military officers often dislike the civilians they work for, but in our system strong civilian control is essential. On some of the issues over which he has tangled with the military brass, Rumsfeld has been right. The Pentagon is a hidebound place, and it has needed the "transformation" ethic Rumsfeld brought to his job. I'm dubious about the Pentagon conventional wisdom that we needed 500,000 American troops in Iraq. More troops were necessary, but they should have been Iraqi troops from an army that wasn't disbanded.
Rumsfeld should resign because the Bush administration is losing the war on the home front. As bad as things are in Baghdad, America won't be defeated there militarily. But it may be forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat by mounting domestic opposition to its policy. Much of the American public has simply stopped believing the administration's arguments about Iraq, and Rumsfeld is a symbol of that credibility gap. He is a spent force, reduced to squabbling with the secretary of state about whether "tactical errors" were made in the war's conduct.
The Bush administration has rightly been insisting that the Iraqis put unity first and that in forming a permanent government they remove ineffectual and divisive leaders and replace them with people who can pull the country together. The administration should heed its own advice. America needs leadership that can speak to the whole country, not just the people who already agree with the president.
Tags: Rumsfeld, Bush, Iraq, Politics, Cheney, War, News, Military, Iraq War
|posted by JReid @ 11:28 AM