December 11, 2005

Rummy's Final Act?

OK gang, I'm hearing from just about all over the place that Rummy's days are numbered. Recently, I was called a "tool" (nice!) in comments for having so ingloriously flip-flopped on being a (relatively) strong Bush supporter. The aggrieved commenter felt that I had, I guess, misled people in the pages of this blog (on predictions on how a second Bush term national security team would play out). Did I? I had predicted Doug Feith and Wolfowitz would get the heave-ho. They did. I had predicted that Rumsfeld would be out by '06 (I had hoped earlier), which he may very well (fingers crossed!). True, I had hoped Powell might stick around and Rumsfeld has out-lasted the former Secretary of State--and by a healthy margin too. Instead, Condi Rice got the nod and Powell exited stage left. But Condi's replacement at the NSC Steve Hadley is not a raving lunatic chomping at the bit to march into Damascus, and Condi (her recent somewhat wasted and tortured, pun intended, Euro tour aside) has been a relatively responsible player on the national security team. So yes, crucify me, I'd endorsed Bush on the basis of seeing through Iraq but have become increasingly disenchanted to the point, as I said, that his refusal to kick Rumsfeld out and rein in a wayward Cheney (on torture policy) forced me to no longer be a supporter. And yet. As I said, I am hearing Rummy might still get the heave-ho, and McCain and Graham and others are fighting the Veep valiantly on the torture issues (McCain has had numerous meetings with Hadley on this, and at least one with POTUS). Still, it's deeply shameful the Administration is being dragged along on this point so begrudgingly. I blame Cheney, bien sur. Indeed, my biggest error of judgment, in all this, was back in '04 when I still likely give Cheney too much credit as an ultimately relatively sober, judicious decision-maker. But, as Brent Scowcroft has said, Cheney's changed, materially, and not for the better (more here on this point worth a read). But from there to dismissing me as a misleading source of information on the back and forth of personnel in the national security ranks is a tad harsh, no?

But on to happier thoughts. I'm no Joe Lieberman uber-cheerleader, truth be told, and would rather see Gordon England promoted or maybe Sam Nunn (Gulf War I vote notwithstanding) replace Rumsfeld. But what other names are in the air as a possible replacement? I'm hearing that it might really happen, this time. True, Rummy said he has no plans to "retire." But no one expects Rummy to head off to the environs of Ft. Lauderdale to 18-hole it into the late sunset years. I attack him here a lot, but no one can doubt he works his ass off (at least on matters he cares about) and likes to be in the proverbial arena. So he could very well move on to another job (private sector or such), thus not retiring, really. Put differently, his recent comments may well be, to a fashion, a non-denial denial. The bottom line question is this: will he still be SecDef in 3-4 months? Smart money is increasingly betting no. Not least, he will be able to declare victory, of sorts, via the convenient vehicle of the Dec 15 elections (as his assorted minions and apologists and cheerleaders are already dutifully going about in the blogosphere). It's nothing of the sort, of course, but the key for the Bushies is that he not be seen to have been pushed out, and that he has a logical Big Date to say he was waiting for (again, Dec 15). Look, the world won't change the day he steps down. I know that. Rummy's exit is not some panacea that will allow for wondrous happenings being triggered through Iraq and the GWOT writ large. But we'll finally have had a belated accountability moment, and hopefully the individual who replaces him will actually focus on the war with more intent and seriousness than Rumsfeld has been able to muster. Anyway, what say you? And who should replace him? Yeah, I'll have a lot more egg on my face if I'm wrong on this (its happened before in other contexts!), and perhaps there is a good dollop of wishful thinking in the mix over here at B.D., but I really think this time he's moving off-stage. As I said, fingers crossed...

Posted by Gregory at December 11, 2005 05:07 PM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

Greg, would you please stop acting as if George W. Bush isn't a player in this mess. He's the President -- in other words, he's Rummy and Cheney's direct supervisor. You constantly come off as appearing to think that "if only Rumsfeld and Cheney hadn't been there, things would have turned out better", as if the President was some sort of underage monach who isn't to be held personally responsible for the actions of his ministers.

Bush willed the mess in Iraq. He wanted to invade Iraq even before he took office. He chose "ministers" who would agree with him and tell him what he wanted to hear -- and shut out the counsel of anyone who dissented -- or even advised caution (when a Saudi prince is notified before the Secretary of State that the decision to go to war has been made already, and when that Sec. of State says there wasn't even a meeting where the final decision to war was discussed with the Secretary of State, its pretty damned obvious who is responsible.)

as for Rummy, as much as I'd like to see him go, his loss would create an enormous power vacuum in this administration that a new Sec. of Defense could not fill, especially with Hadley still in the cross-hairs of Fitzgeral. Whose going to take the reigns? Certainly not Bush, nor Condi the ineffectual? My guess is Cheney will wind up with even more power than he has now -- is that really a good idea?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 11, 2005 05:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I still don't understand your fear and loathing of Rummy. I think he has been quite effective in his position, considering the unkind fates that he has breen thrown into.

The problem I see here is these critics of the administration are all looking through the rearview mirror, smug in their self-serving wisdom but usually delinquent when it comes to making those tough decisions when they are needed most. War, no matter how you slice it, is unpredictable, having experienced that as a small boy growing up in the Phillippines after the Japanese army invaded my country. America could have abandoned us, after Bataan fell, but General Douglas MacArthur returned, as he promised, and liberated the Philippines.

The same will be true for Iraq, and while we have made mistakes there, it's preposterous to keep blaming Bush and Rummy for the execution of that war. The tide of the war has turned on our side, and what opposition we have remaining comes from a ragtag band of insurgents who know it's just a matter of time before their frenzied efforts to create chaos will crumble.

As for Rummy, he will be there, contrary to your wish he would be out in three or four months. He just announced he is not retiring soon, and you should at least respect him for that. Your schadenfreude, I'm afraid to say, will have to wait until Bush finishes his term in 2008.

Posted by: R. G. Lacsamana at December 11, 2005 06:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The tide of the war has turned on our side, and what opposition we have remaining comes from a ragtag band of insurgents who know it's just a matter of time before their frenzied efforts to create chaos will crumble.

you really should read the Times piece that Greg pointed out to us two entries ago. He's a quote that explodes your attempts to sell the "last throes" myth...

The increasing daily casualty rate for Iraqis, from 26 in early 2004 to an average of 64 in this fall...

Posted by: lukasiak at December 11, 2005 06:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And R.G. many of the problems were forseen before the war, in that State Dept analysis which Rumsfield both refused to use, and refused to allow involved personnel to be used in Iraq.

It is not a case of 'rear-view mirror'; it's things that people pointed out, and which, frankly anybody not a fool would have thought of beforehand.

It's pretty clear that Rumsfield had his agenda, the transformation of the US military to a stand-off force. The US military would deliver precision-guided munitions from mobile platforms at a distance, at targets identified at a distance by sensor platforms. There'd be some guys on the ground, but only for those detection/targeting missions which couldn't be handled purely from a distance.

He obviously saw the Iraq war as a chance to carry out a test/demonstration of his theory, and refused to acknowledge reality. I don't think that it's clear now that he's really acknowledged reality.

Greg: "I attack him here a lot, but no one can doubt he works his ass off (on things he cares about) and likes to be in the arena. "

Somebody who works hard on those things that he cares about has a certain specialized use, but you don't put him in a senior leadership position, where he'll have to work hard on those things which need hard work.


Posted by: Barry at December 11, 2005 06:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"considering the unkind fates that he has been thrown into"
Rummy wasnít thrown into the situation he is fighting everyday with not only the American public but with also the American media. These "unkind fates" is the crazy and out of this world idea of invading Iraq. So I think he deserves every single miserable day he has at the Pentagon.

As for Lieberman - I think that he would be one of the poorest choices for Sec.Defense. What about Holbrooke ?

Posted by: Robert at December 11, 2005 07:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

many of the problems were forseen before the war, in that State Dept analysis which Rumsfield both refused to use, and refused to allow involved personnel to be used in Iraq.

Well, even a broken watch is right two times a day. What has the State Department done for us lately? What about all of the other supergeniuses in State that said things like we should have a trisecting trifecta for Iraq? If many of the problems were 'forseen,' many more never came to pass, in large part contrary to the tireless efforts of State, but because of Defense.

And that's the point. You've cherry-picked the points that might be right, in contravention of the larger portions where State has been downright part of the problem. In other words, in accusing Rummy, you conveniently ignore the greater incompetence of State, incidently who never ever seem to have to suffer accountability. Or was I out when purges hit State for the Iranian revolution up to North Korea's lil nuclear issue and back again to the current Ahmaggeddon's "Let's move the Zionists to Germany" race-over-the-cliff Iran deal? Where's State at? Where's our vaunted 'other' options?

Hypocracy, pick up line one. Belgravia Dispatch, hold please.

Posted by: Vercingetorix at December 11, 2005 08:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As the one who called Greg a tool (and I don't usually like name calling), all I have to say is look at lukasiak's first paragraph. If you need any other reason why I think Greg is ducking the "prediction" issue, that's it.

The staff shuffling predictions weren't the only point... it was that there would be a measurable change in course in a second term because of those staffing changes. It's great that you were right about Feith and Wolfy getting the heave-ho, but there haven't been any significant course changes as far as I can see. We are still barreling forward because the President and his fervent supporters like R.G. above believe that success is right around the corner.

My greater point in that earlier (infamous?) comment was that a Kerry administration with a Republican Congress would've been easier to hold accountable and drive to a meaningful conclusion in Iraq. If you think that's garbage, I'd love to hear why.

Granted, it just doesn't matter anymore, obviously, but I like my mea culpas to be complete. ;-)

Posted by: just me at December 11, 2005 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've always thought Rumsfeld would leave when he felt like leaving, and that when he felt like leaving we would probably not know it until he left.

I still think that. I thought that about Wolfowitz as well, and in fact he did leave on his own, coincidentally to take a job much better suited to his talents than the No. 2 position at the Pentagon. I do not now and never have believed this meant that Rumsfeld would stay until the end of Bush's second term -- eight-year tenures are very rare for Cabinet Secretaries in any administration, and Rumsfeld is well into his 70s. Whether his departure is now in the works or is merely being rumored by people who wish him gone I do not know.

I suspect the latter, frankly, because Rumsfeld has played such a outsized role in this administration and gotten the Pentagon into so many things that his resignation would leave an enormous vacuum. And let's be honest: there is no public evidence that President Bush disapproves at all of the job his Secretary of Defense has done. Bush's default when his associates are criticized is to ignore the criticism (and, sometimes, to attack the critics). He has gotten rid of people suspected of being disloyal to him personally and has distanced himself from people involved in personal scandal, but criticisms of the kind Greg has often made have never moved Bush to replace anyone who has ever worked for him. Moreover, despite Greg's disapproval of the Vice President, Cheney is almost certainly hoping Rumsfeld stays on. Great, indeed unprecedented as this Vice President's influence has been over his President, Cheney's policy preferences have most often been implemented by people who work in or report to the Pentagon. No future Secretary of Defense could be expected to be as cooperative in this regard as Cheney's former boss and longtime associate Rumsfeld has been.

I do not have Greg's sources, but the signs I see suggest nothing whatever about Rumsfeld's "getting the heave-ho." He will decide when he's done at the Pentagon; that could be this evening, or two years from now. I'd only be guessing if I said he might leave sometime in 2006, after the first drawdown of American forces in Iraq.

Posted by: JEB at December 11, 2005 09:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree w/ JEB and others that Bush is in no hurry to replace Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld has done Bush's bidding, and Bush has been pleased with the outcome.

That said, if Rumsfeld should step down, I think we can assume that the replacement will come from within the normal inner cadre of Bush's comfort zone. No one too competent, no one too threatening to Bush's insecurities--we all know how Bernanke got his job in part because he was better than other economists at pretending not to look down on Bush.

So, my guess would be that Bush's next pick for Sec Def will be Harriet Miers.

Posted by: Tad Brennan at December 12, 2005 12:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The tide of the war has turned on our side, and what opposition we have remaining comes from a ragtag band of insurgents who know it's just a matter of time before their frenzied efforts to create chaos will crumble.

you really should read the Times piece that Greg pointed out to us two entries ago. He's a quote that explodes your attempts to sell the "last throes" myth...

The increasing daily casualty rate for Iraqis, from 26 in early 2004 to an average of 64 in this fall...
Posted by: lukasiak

If that's the best anyone can come up with to show that the US is losing in Iraq, then I'm pretty sure we are winning. If more Iraqis are getting trained to fight the enemy and are taking over more of the combat, and the enemy is unable to sucessfully attack the US troops and has focused its efforts on soft targets, aren't more Iraqis going to become casualties for awile? That conclusion is at least as plausible as concluding the opposite.

---

My greater point in that earlier (infamous?) comment was that a Kerry administration with a Republican Congress would've been easier to hold accountable and drive to a meaningful conclusion in Iraq. If you think that's garbage, I'd love to hear why.

posted by: just me

Kerry can't even account for what he said earlier in the day (any day) and you want to hold him accountable (hypothetically) for what goes on in the Iraq war? Kerry drive to a meaningfully conclusion? He can't even do that in a speech. Unless you consider unconditinal retreat a meaningful conclusion, I think that's garbage.

As to Rumsfeld, what is it that he has done that is so wrong? One common comment is that it was a mistake to disband Saddam's army corp. There is no evidence whatsoever to support that keeping Saddam's army intact would have brought about any better result. Pure speculation. Just as likely or more so, it would have been a greater problem.

One final point - everyone seems to ignore the fact that the US was already at war with Iraq when Bush II became president. With the No -Fly Zone, hundreds of AA missles fired at our planes, tens of thousands of troops stationed in Saudi Arbia and the surrounding area, and the French, Russians and Germans pressing to drop sanctions against Saddam so that they could do more business with him than they were under the UN oil for food program, Bush II was left with a mess created by Bush I and allowed to deteriorate by Clinton. Bush decided to win the war instead of unconditionally retreating. Unfortunatley, the war is not going perfectly (forget that none ever do) so we have to hear all of the Monday morning Stratego players tell us how everything is obvious to them how to do it better.

Posted by: DCM at December 12, 2005 01:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How old is Jim Baker now? If Bush wanted to calm the Repubs running in '06 and Lieberman is not considered appropriate, why not reprise LBJ's appointment of Clark Clifford? It would be worth it just to see Maureen Dowd pull her hair out.

Posted by: wks at December 12, 2005 01:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DCM, your point about Kerry and speeches could easily be applied (with even more accuracy) to Bush. Let's not make the debate about their speaking skills...

Posted by: just me at December 12, 2005 01:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Please God, please please God, make Rumsfeld President. Maybe Rove VP.

Posted by: Paul Revere at December 12, 2005 02:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Rummy's on his way out, then - at least from this armchair - it sounds like Holy Joe Lieberman's announcing his SecDef candidacy from the treetops. "Hey Karl- er- guys, I'm a Democrat who thinks the war is going swell and we should trust the President!"

Bush and Rove might buy it, but count me as unsold as to whether or not Lieberman can bring the competence that Rumsfeld is lacking. Personally, I'd check to see if Norman Schwarzkopf would be willing enough to step back into the public light for a couple years, though I highly doubt Cheney would approve.

Posted by: Doug H. at December 12, 2005 03:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My money is on Lieberman or Tommy Franks to replace Rumsfeld.

Posted by: Chris H at December 12, 2005 04:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with wks, as I suggested back in August on this very site, James Baker would make a fine choice. However, given the amount of grief Cheney has received over his Halliburton ties, Baker would be unlikely given his connections to Carlyle, Big Oil, etc. See below...

Aug 11.
Since the Vietnam-Iraq analogy is so popular, I will look back to Washington insider and presidential confidant Clark Clifford, who reluctantly accepted the post after MacNamara was ushered over to the World Bank. The only person who would fit the bill would have to be an elder statesman with no axe to grind while having demonstrated complete loyalty to the Bushes. That person is none other than former SecState SecTreas and WHCOS James A. Baker III. That being said, I repeat my previous question. Who in their right mind would take the job?

Posted by: Bret Eagan at December 12, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Lieberman is the guy, and I think he is the Prez choice, it won't be until after the Nov election. Lieberman is up for re-election this year, and Bush won't want a fill in appointee to the Senate seat for just 8-11 months. He'll let Joe win re-election, and then make the change after the Nov election allowing Gov. Rell to fill the spot for 2 years with a suitable Republican Senator. It even makes more sense if the Senate balance shifts dramatically in either direction. This Scenerio is void if either Cheney leaves, or Rummy's health changes dramatically (heart attack or something). In which case I agree with your projection.

Posted by: urban pioneer at December 12, 2005 03:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"NSC Steve Hadley is not a raving lunatic chomping at the bit to march into Damascus"

straw man, greg. No one serious (forget Richard Perle) is chomping at the bit to march into Damascus. Is even the oft deried Danielle Pletka calling for an invasion of Syria? I dont think so. Of course we MAY push hard enough to set off regime change in Syria, and not worry so much about the eevillll Muslim Brotherhood. Of course I think Hadley and Rice are inclined that way, and it hardly takes a raving lunatic to be so inclined.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 12, 2005 04:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, just imagine if Smokin' Joe Lieberman brought the same administrative genius to the Pentagon that he exhibited with his Department of Homeland Security brainchild! Jeez, how can we let all that raw talent waste away in the Senate?!?!

Posted by: sglover at December 12, 2005 06:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This discussion is simply tedious. What will matter is the facts on the ground a year from now, when it is much more likely we will be able to agree on what they are. In the meantime, the people who initiated this should stick with it, including Rumsfeld. The honorable thing for Democrats to do is to say, we think it was a bad idea but we hope it works out - now let's talk about our positive program for the Country (i.e. the United States). If the Democrats really think we are losing, they should just let it happen and trust the voters to assign accountablility. The way they are behaving now just convinces people that they are terribly afraid that we are winning, and that a vindicated Cheney will be more than they can stand.

Posted by: Mahon at December 12, 2005 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

straw man, greg. No one serious (forget Richard Perle) is chomping at the bit to march into Damascus. Is even the oft deried Danielle Pletka calling for an invasion of Syria? I dont think so. Of course we MAY push hard enough to set off regime change in Syria, and not worry so much about the eevillll Muslim Brotherhood.

Smilin' Billy Kristol, who last I checked isn't exactly a stranger to influential GOP circles, has publicly endorsed air raids on Syria (he didn't mention signing up for military service himself, natch). I didn't hear any howls of outrage from GOP circles when that screed came out. I didn't hear anything at all -- which kinda makes me suspect that Kristol was just espousing rightist conventional wisdom.... As far as I can tell the only thing keeping the idiots from making their strategic disaster even worse is that we're too mucked in as it is, and don't have any military resources to spare.

Posted by: sglover at December 12, 2005 06:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

cite on Kristol, please. So I can see how it maps to "marching into Damascus" and to Hadleys actual policies.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 12, 2005 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"his Department of Homeland Security brainchild!"

ISTR a lot of people were calling for that particular combination.

Posted by: liberalhawk at December 12, 2005 07:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...He can't even do that in a speech."

Oh, man. Ouch.
That made my day. Very nicely done, DCM.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 12, 2005 08:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"...He can't even do that in a speech."

Oh, man. Ouch.
That made my day. Very nicely done, DCM.

Posted by: Tommy G at December 12, 2005 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kristol didn't quite have us marching on Damascus, but he definitely is ready to invade Syria. Here's the cite, and some quotes.

Getting Serious About Syria
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=5020&R=C80D1ADC7

Quotes:
What to do? We have tried sweet talk...and tough talk...Talk has failed. Syria is a weak country with a weak regime. We now need to take action to punish and deter Assad's regime.

...We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria...

Posted by: Jon Marcus at December 13, 2005 04:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael Ledeen has definitely, and fairly recently, advocated war with both Syria and with Iran (numerous quotes available straight from the jack ass' mouth at NRO).

Posted by: avedis at December 14, 2005 01:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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