Who’s Rumsfeld?

Why is Rumsfeld’s ‘resignation’ irrelevant?

His departure wasn’t something George W. Bush put into motion the night of the election. His failure in Iraq has been apparent for those outside the inner circle of the White House for years and inside that inner circle for months. (I tried to find the Wonkette link describing the search for a replacement from sometime in August or September, but they write so much snark about Rummy, the signal got lost in the Googlilian noise. Of course the NYT found the story a little late.)

Teresa at Anomalous Data doesn’t think the change will make any difference. His forced departure is simply a signal to the Democrats that Bush is willing to turn over a new leaf. But that’s what it will remain, a signal not movement, not action.

Mostly, though I think it’s because I look at the Rumsfeld thing and I’m just happy he’s finally gone, but can’t get up a lot of excitement about Bush serving his head on a platter to appease the incoming Democratic majority.  If it had been a principled decision (ie. “I made a mistake and now I am correcting it, because there have just been to many deaths resulting from this man’s lack of leadership”), I would have hailed it.  If there was something of substance to it, a change in the status quo, then I would have had something to say.  Because it was a politically expedient hit-job, the only things I would have to say about it were things I have said before…more times than I care to admit.  Like Saddam being deposed, I think it’s a good thing, but I can’t get too excited about it due to the surrounding circumstances.

Perhaps more telling is the reaction of the troops in Iraq, those on the frontlines, risking their lives every day in a Herculean task presented to them by the man so despised by the liberal side. From the story in Sunday’s New York Times (Hat Tip: Laura Rosen/War and Piece).

The marines had been on a continuous foot patrol for several days, hunting for insurgents. They were lost in the hard and isolating rhythms of infantry life.

They knew nothing of the week’s news.

Now they were being told by an Iraqi whose house they occupied that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, one of the principal architects of the policies that had them here, had resigned. “Rumsfeld is gone?” the sergeant asked. “Really?”

Mr. Menti nodded. “This is better for Iraq,” he said. “Iraqi people say thank you.”

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.

“Rumsfeld’s out,” he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. “Who’s Rumsfeld?” he asked.

I think there will be two different courses presented in the next couple of months. One is the ‘cut and run’ philosophy the other will be to win using overwelming force. It really doesn’t matter which political slogan one puts on the strategy of retreat, it is basically trying to remove the major American presence from Iraq as quickly as possible. There will be variations. One involves trying to get the UN (you know, those little black helicopter people) or Europe (Oh! The French and Germans! Hide the potatoes!) involved in trying to pick up the slack and fill the vacuum as US forces leave the country.  Another variation will involve setting up rapid response forces out of the country, over the rainbow horizon. Either located on aircraft carriers or occupying foreign bases, these forces will be used by the Iraqi government to smack down unwanted elements. I doubt that the former strategy will be accepted by the international community, the latter is only politically, not tactically, practical.

The other idea will be a major increase in the number of troops. If you don’t think there are people honestly thinking about this, go read this article at military.com (Hat Tip: Noah Shachtman/DefenseTech).

[Gen. Peter] Pace[, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,] is trying to determine why Iraqi security has not improved despite the addition of more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces over the past two years, Time reported late last month.

Among the top ranks of the military, there is a growing consensus that more U.S. troops are needed to crush the insurgency and cultivate the support of an Iraqi public that is not yet convinced American forces will win, a number of well placed sources say.

But that view is increasingly out of step with lawmakers and the American public, where pressure is mounting to establish “benchmarks” for the withdrawal of some or all U.S. troops.

This shows both the military institutional silliness as well as an attempt to return to the ‘Powell Doctrine.’ The idea is silly because adding more troops would pour oil (crude pun, sorry) on the fire, both domestically and internationally. The idea is domestically ridiculous because the only realistic source of new troops would be a draft, not something either the president nor the congress would approve. Internationally, the idea wouldn’t float is because it would lead to the same situation seen in Vietnam. A large country (Iran) willing to feed weapons and support into a country large enough to hide amazing numbers of insurgents. It is also a misunderstanding of the ‘Powell Doctrine’ which have been to win first and keep the situation under control. That boat sailed long ago.

Reading between the lines, I suspect the policy of getting out as quickly (and unfortunately costly) as possible will be the best choice. Like having a tumor removed, the operation will be painful and traumatic, but the sooner it happens, the sooner healing can begin. The American world image, both as a force for democracy and as a superpower has suffered. That damage will be decades in healing. People and countries don’t forget or forgive as quickly as politicians. (I will also ignore the idea that the American world image is realisic or earned for the sake of this argument.) Perhaps in thirty years, American veterans will return to Iraq much like their fathers to Vietnam.

The birth of the policy to completely leave Iraq will be the driving force behind the 2008 elections with the policy being implemented by the next president. Bush will try various window dressings without any real effect. The Secretary of Defense, be he named Rumsfeld or Gates, will make little difference in the next two years.

One of the architects of the failure in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld, has left the field. His legacy will remain if not his name. He is no longer a target but the solders and civilians in Iraq continue to be. Quoting the NYT article again,

Up on the roof, Lance Corporal Maguire mused about the news. Whatever Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation might eventually mean, it did not matter here yet, and it would not keep them alive tonight.

Another marine, Lance Cpl. Randall D. Webb, was scanning traffic through his rifle scope, worried that they had been spotted and the insurgents would soon know where they were.

“I think they see us,” he said.

“Man, they all see us,” Lance Corporal Maguire said, and lighted another cigarette.

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