It should come as a surprise to no one who has been following the war in Iraq that the calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation have recently raised to a fever pitch over the last month. However, the latest calls for his dismissal have caused the usually jaded Washington press corps to pause as they have come not from Democratic politicians or anti-war activists, but six retired generals, all of whom have served under Rumsfeld.
The six generals have attacked Rumsfeld and, by proxy, the administration for fostering a culture of incompetence (both in the run-up to the war and the present-day situation on the ground in Iraq) and arrogance in the Pentagon which in turn has been harming American military effectiveness. While it’s not unusual for retired military officers to speak out against a civilian defense secretary and presidential administration after they’ve left the armed forces, the general’s claims appear to be dead on.
On the issue of incompetence, it’s rather clear, in retrospect, the Pentagon bought into the administration’s belief that the war would be over in six months and that the troops would be back in a year. After all, how else can one explain away ignoring the advice of the then Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, who called for more troops to be sent to Iraq in accordance with the Powell Doctrine. Instead, the Pentagon attempted to pacify a country of 26 million with around 150,000 personnel.
Let’s not forget that the military is still, three years after the start of hostilities, lacking the equipment needed to properly combat an insurgency campaign. While Rumsfeld was correct when he made his infamous comment about fighting with the army you have not the one you wish you had, he evidently forgot who was responsible for creating and molding the army in the first place.
As for arrogance, Rumsfeld denigrated our allies in Western Europe by referring to them as “Old Europe,” when they refused to play ball and help us to invade. Now, when we could desperately use Dutch, Canadian (not that Canada is in Europe, obviously) and German troops to keep the peace, as their troops are trained more for peacekeeping and not combat, their people and governments, including conservatives such as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are now insistent that they stay out of the Middle East at all costs. To be fair, they would have been hesitant anyway, and this situation is by no stretch of the imagination all Rumsfeld’s fault, but he didn’t exactly help matters any with his comments.
Regardless, there is almost no chance that the president will fire Rumsfeld, as it is only perceived disloyalty and not incompetence that merits dismissal from this White House. Just ask former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil.
However, it is our belief that Rumsfeld, despite his early successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, should resign and save Bush the trouble of agonizing over firing a loyal, if wrong, adviser. Both for the reasons mentioned above and the simple truth that perhaps new blood will lead to new ideas for removing, one way or the other, the United States from the present quagmire in the Middle East.
The above is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.