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March 19, 2006


Well, judging by his CV, Gen. Eaton should certainly know enough about how the Armed Services work to give his judgements the weight of Authority: I noticed two major flaws in his arguments against Secy. Rumsfeld, though: the first was:

"First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary."

Supposing that he is referring to the general pan-European polity that was supportive of US efforts in Afghanistan (and still is); I think the General is a bit off-base if he had had any expectations that Rumsfeld (or any other US SecDef) would have been able to get nations like France or Germany to sign on to the American campaign against Iraq: Afghanistan had been an easy choice; but the weight of public opinion in most European countries, generally at best lukewarm towards the Iraq invasion, couldn't have been discounted (and even in Britain, involvement in Iraq was less than wildly popular): as it turned out, I think the more-or-less token participation of European forces, except for the British (and the single Polish regiment), will be regarded as the best that could have been accomplished - regardless of who was heading up the Pentagon.
Second, his recommendation for Rumsfeld's replacement (Sen. Joe Lieberman??) is a risible suggestion. Gen. Eaton must not have been following political trends much lately if he could even remotely seriously entertain the notion that the Bush 43 Administration would (even if they could bestir themselves to replace Don Rumsfeld) put anyone but another Republican "insider" - and the more "inside" the better - in as important a Cabinet slot as Defense.

To Katherine's point: the fact that Rumsfeld's resignation has never been seriously debated within the White House and its journalists has to me supported the theory of a Cheney Presidency. Rumsfeld was, after all, Cheney's mentor within the Nixon administration and at one point a Presidential aspirant on his own rights (scuttled, IIRC, by the many upon whom his style had grated). Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove might be the troika for which Bush is the proper name referent. Bob McManus will probably come along to give a more pessemistic analysis.

Still, I think that Rumsfeld is far too central to the inner circle of this White House to let go. Their fortunes are joined. [black sarcasm] If one is forced out, after all, who knows what stories they might tell? [/black sarcasm]

To Jay C.: even the most radical Europeans I talked to between 2003-2005 hoped that diplomatic conditions would be possible an international peace-keeping force in Iraq. They weren't fools; they knew that their countries were corrupt and would look for their own advantage in such a problematic effort.

The problem was that the US was belligerently closing the doors: allies had to submit to US command--totally--and anyone unwilling to submit to these rules on the military front were shut out of operations on the civilian front.

It wasn't just Europe, IIRC; after some extended diplomatic manoeuvring, India also declared itself unwilling to commit its troops to a military effort under sole US control (or at least that was their excuse).

It seems clear enough to me that Rumsfeld has done a bad job in many ways (though I'm sympathetic to his general program to modernize our armed forces) and should be cashiered. It's not clear to me that he's continuing to do a bad job, esp. from the point of view of the WH. I would guess that there's also a political calculation: if he's tossed, it will be like admitting he screwed up which is like admitting the WH screwed up; plus canning him at this point would be an admission of weakness given Bush's poll numbers, and will be used to lower those numbers. And of course replacing Rumsfeld with Lieberman would give a senate seat to a Democrat.

There's another possible political calculus, of course, rilkfan, which would also be typical of this admin: Rumsfeld would become the scapegoat of everything that anyone could describe as wrong. Push him out and Bush is secure: he used to have bad advisors...

Also, I'm utterly unconvinced about the Lieberman argument, and, frankly, I don't know where the hell it's coming from. Maybe from the Bush I establishment trying to exert a moderating force; maybe from Lieberman himself trying to find a second career should he get ousted in his primary campaign.

I don't doubt that a Lieberman-directed Pentagon would be an improvement, according to some measures. Maybe reports from Iraq would filter up more effectively out of sheer contempt for the civilians, and maybe that would be an improvement from a policy perspective. But that would come at a serious cost in morale--particularly if Lieberman maintained his limpet-like attachment to Bush's policy of victory.

One great advantage of sending Sen. L to DOD is that Republicans can finally blame Dems when the thing goes completely off the rails a couple years hence. Blaming us for not clapping loud enough isn't really going to work, but put a Fifth Columnist in charge of the war effort, and the coming stab in the back becomes all the more plausible.

I've been hearing for 2 years that Rumsfeld would be gone soon after completion of the quadrennial review.

I see no reason at all to excuse either the President or his Sec of State for any of the mistakes between late 2002 and early 2005 (her) or ever (him).

I think your "political calculus" re the Bush/Rumsfeld "scapegoat" calculation might be a bit off - The Bush 43 Administration, imo, is less of an "Administration" in the usual American political sense, and more like a "regime" - and has been so since January 2001. And the hallmarks of this regime are basically two: reflexive, unquestioning loyalty, and never admitting any error if it can at all be helped. It works both ways, though: after five years of expressing unalloyed confidence in Rummy's tenure at the Pentagon, how likely is it that President Bush (or whoever makes these decision at the White House) will chuck him out (directly or subtly)? And after five years of support, how can the WH spin the dumping of Rumsfeld without making Bush look even more clueless and disconnected than he probably already is?
No, imo, the Bush gang are stuck with each other come what may (Deadeye Dick the Veep just stated that he was determined to serve out his term) - and barring some political or (God forbid) military disaster - we are, too.

I sometimes wonder whether we might start to take features of this administration/regime for granted, as normal, when they are not. For instance: once upon a time it was routine to fire cabinet officials who screwed up. It was considered worse politically not to, for more or less the same reasons why it would have been a disaster not to fire Michael Brown. Clinton fired Les Aspin, for instance, and it wasn't seen as a shocking admission of defeat, but a normal event.

Administrations do not routinely lie to Congress, either. They do not send officials over to hearings with (apparently) instructions to say nothing informative whatsoever. For the entire rest of my life, conduct like that has been seen as courting disaster, since Congress controls funding.

I worry that things like this will be seen as completely normal by the time Bush leaves, and it scares me.

No. I agree: they've had plenty of chances to make sacrificial goats and they've refused to do so; not having done so, however, indicates somethnig about who is actually making decisions in this country, I would think. My second comment should have been phrased entirely in the subjunctive mode, as logical speculation contrary to fact.

I assume that this is a result of Bush's popularity post 9/11 and the triumph of ideology over competence, and a coherent strategy that can't be backed out of easily once started. I would think the above won't be problems in future admins, because the particular circumstances won't be present and because of the historical lessons being written.

Rilkefan, I would hope that you were right, but then again I would hope that a hawkish Republican like McCain weren't elected to make it an issue.

"Clinton fired Les Aspin, for instance, and it wasn't seen as a shocking admission of defeat, but a normal event."

Technically he resigned for "personal reasons," including health, which had some credibility given his hospitalization for heart problems in February of 1993 and his return to the hospital only a month later for pacemaker implantation, and the fact that he then actually dropped dead of a stroke in May of '95 a year after he finally left office in February '94. But, yeah, presumably Clinton asked him to resign (I don't know how Clinton addressed this in his memoir). He was, however, asked to serve in a number of capacities after SecDef, such as chair of PFIAB.

"Administrations do not routinely lie to Congress, either."

It certainly happened a lot under Nixon and Reagan, though. I recently named in a post dozens of Reagan adminin officials who were convicted in court of lying to Congress.

Gary: there, I meant 'routinely' literally. It's not that I think lying to Congress is new -- obviously, it's not -- but the expectation that the administration will not be so much as trying to communicate with Congress (as opposed to privately consulting with e.g. Frist or DeLay), and that when they don't actually lie, they will as a matter of course say things that are plainly deceptive -- that , I think, is new.

"Gary: there, I meant 'routinely' literally."

Yes, I understood that. That's why I wrote "It certainly happened a lot under Nixon and Reagan, though," not "you are wrong" and not just "It certainly happened a lot under Nixon and Reagan."

I thought "though" made it clear I wasn't contradicting you, but I guess not. I wouldn't have used the word otherwise. Though.

I think I'll give up commenting for the evening, now, since I seem to be doing such a rotten job of it.

The only answer I can think of is: because George W. Bush doesn't care enough to send the very best.

The answer I can think of: Bush can't fire Rumsfeld, any more than he can fire Cheney or Rove or any of the other PNAC cabal.

"We must all hang together, or else assuredly we shall all hang separately." Who said that first? Oh, yeah, it was Benjamin Franklin... Heh.

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