The folks clamoring for the scalp of Donald Rumsfeld fall essentially into three categories: retired military brass and bureaucrats who don’t like the Secretary for reasons having little or nothing to do with Iraq; opponents of the war who want Rumsfeld out as the first step in changing our policy to one of “cut-and-run”; and supporters or former supporters of the war who attack him for the self-serving purpose of pretending that the difficulties we face in Iraq are not the inherent consequences of a decision they supported, but instead stem from the administration’s incompetence.
The burden for those in the third camp is to point to specific decisions by Rumsfeld that, if made differently, would have avoided the current difficulties. This they are unable to do. Some point to the decision to disband the Baathist army. But Rumsfeld’s detractors can’t show that this decision would have avoided the current bloodshed. Indeed, it seems at least as likely that the continued existence of Saddam’s army would have caused an uprising by the Shiite majority, thus leading to a real civil war instead of the civil war that administration critics constantly say we are “on the verge” of.
The more intelligent detractors argue that Rumsfeld should have sent in more troops when we invaded. But even with the benefit of hindsight, I haven’t seen a persuasive explanation of how sending in, say, an extra 100,000 troops would have avoided the current difficulties. The folks who are terrorizing the country now were not (or did not remain) in the field of battle during the invasion, and thus could not have been taken out of play at that time by any force no matter how large. Nor have I seen anyone demonstrate that, in a country as vast as Iraq, extra troops would have enabled us to find enough additional munitions to prevent the terrorists from blowing things. Once the terrorists came out of the woodwork, we could have sent in more troops, but for the most part Rumsfeld’s critics haven’t advocated this; nor can anyone really say even now how many troops it would take to significantly reduce the level of terrorism.
Finally, the most mindless critics resort to asserting that we “went in without a plan,” a claim for which I have seen no evidence. This contention is nothing more than a means of avoiding real discussion of the type presented above, and cannot be taken seriously.