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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Posted by Jake
In reference to Mr. Rumsfeld:

I agree that it is a very hasty assertion that Mr. Rumsfeld should definitely resign, and I retract my earlier statements suggesting fact. Likewise I also reject those who call for his resignation either for symbolic or political reasons. We need competent people, and I think someone's competence can only be judged on the quality of their policies.

However, I will still argue that we should use this moment to strongly consider whether Rumsfeld's and indeed the policies of this administration have been successful, what mistakes were made, and who is responsible for them. If we find either the policies or the individuals lacking, we need to consider alternatives. Iraq is too important to allow personal loyalty to factor into the equation. I like Rumsfeld. I believe that he is a truly committed and responsible public servant. But I would rather see him leave than see us fail.

Here are two other recent quotes by George Will:

Time for Bush to See The Realities of Iraq (washingtonpost.com): "Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue. Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice."


No Flinching From the Facts (washingtonpost.com): "The first axiom is: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable."


I think that the two reasonable criticisms that can be leveled at Rumsfeld and the Pentagon are based on the failure to anticipate problems. Normally I wouldn't blame people for failing to anticipate the unexpected (it is after all unexpected), but the stakes in Iraq are so high, and the consequences of failure so great, that the standards have been raised.

I think that Rumsfeld and the Pentagon were unprepared for how rapidly the war ended. Granted this was because things went far better than expected, but the immediate post-war disorder could have been prevented if we had 10,000 MPs ready for when the war ended. As happy as I am that Saddam did not turn Baghdad into a sea of fire, reasonable war planners should prepare for both the worst and the best.

I think that the Rumsfeld and the Pentagon failed to anticipate possible severe public relations scandals that could occur in the post-war administration. I DO believe that such problems could have been anticipated. They have happened before in wars and no doubt happen periodically in American prisons. While I in general have the highest opinion of the people in the military, sick people do exist and war provides a chance for them to show themselves. If we say that adequate safeguards can be placed now to prevent that sort of thing, then they certainly could have been in place from the beginning. If he could not have prevented it in the past, what is to say that it can be prevented in the future.

With respect to troop levels, I agree that it is ambiguous whether it would help. On the one hand, Iraq is not a safe place for Americans. I am convinced that more troops protecting civilian contractors are needed to allow them to do their work and to prevent further kidnappings and murders. On the other hand, solutions requiring less troops rather than more are working in Fallujah and Najaf. I reject the idea, however, that more troops will anger the Iraqis more. Security is a necessary requisite for democracy, and people who are angered by our continued occupation will be even more angry by our failure to secure order.

All this taken together I have mixed feeling about the way the war is being conducted. I think mistakes have been made and that in some cases they have been slow to admit and react to them. On the other hand, Rumsfeld and the Pentagon have done a remarkable job in a number of areas, and I really can't think of someone who would definitely do a better job.

Should Rumsfeld resign? All in all his failures are not terribly egregious although I think that they are there. I think that decision should be left to him. If he can do his job, react to new problems, and anticipate failures before they occur then he should stay. If he feels that his credibility has been horribly undermined than he should go. But he will not free from criticism when he fails, and I think (particularly on the side of conservatives) we need to be more vigorous at producing it. Not all criticisms are politically motivated. The administration, in order to fend off its political rivals, has been ignoring its reasonable critics.


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