The Ankle Biter Chorus – the usual columnists, pols and activists – are again trying to get between the president and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The latest (post-Zinni) round comes from Generals Newbold, Swannack and Batiste who call for Rumsfeld’s firing because he didn’t do what they and their fellow officers recommended in Iraq. Problem is, as Gen. Peter Pace said the other day (and as former Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers said many times) Rumsfeld DID follow their advice, though he put them through a tough reasoning wringer to argue their points.
Now we hear from WaPo columnist David Ignatius who argues today that Rumsfeld should be replaced in order for the president to gain public support for Iraq. Problem with that is the Big Dog is more popular than the president is. Replacing him makes it worse, not better. And Ignatius suggests that Rumsfeld be replaced with people such as Joe Lieberman, Chuck Hagel or John McCain. The first two have absolutely no credentials on defense, and — worse — Hagel is a war wobbly who couldn’t command a press conference, far less a war. McCain has long military credentials. But his problems are too numerous to mention. And the president knows this. If Bush wants to anoint McCain his successor, that would be a bad way to do it.
No, Rumsfeld should — actually must — stay where he is. The long rocky history of civilian leadership of the military is full of conflict. That some generals don’t like Rumsfeld is the sign of a strong leader, not a failed one. Keep the Big Dog running as long as he’s willing.
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