Should he stay or should he go?

David Ignatius argues that President Bush should replace Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, but not because of the criticism from certain generals. As Ignatius says:

Military officers often dislike the civilians they work for, but in our system strong civilian control is essential. On some of the issues over which he has tangled with the military brass, Rumsfeld has been right. The Pentagon is a hidebound place, and it has needed the “transformation” ethic Rumsfeld brought to his job.

Ignatius argues instead that Rumsfeld needs to be replaced in order to increase domestic support for the war. He thinks that by appointing someone like Senator Lieberman or Senator Hagel, Bush could rebuild a consensus in support of the war.

Consider me skeptical. The war has lost domestic support because it is perceived as not going well. That perception is based in part on reality and in part on biased reporting. Bringing in Lieberman, Hagel, or whomever will change neither the reality nor the biased reporting.

JOHN adds: When you’re President, you get lots of free advice. Some of it is well-intentioned; much of it is not. Here is why I think so many liberals are anxious for President Bush to replace Rumsfeld: they have staked a great deal on the proposition that the Iraq war has not gone well, and, in fact, has been a disaster. But they are troubled because they are not at all sure that is true. By any reasonable standard, casualties have been low and Iraq’s progress toward democracy has been impressive. This doesn’t mean the project couldn’t still go off the rails; it clearly could. But it is also possible–likely, I think–that the Iraqis will succeed in forming a government, violence will continue to decline, our troops levels will be substantially reduced, and, in a year or two, the consensus will be that the war was pretty successful after all. This, I think, is what liberals fear most. They want President Bush to stipulate, in effect, that the war has been poorly conducted and has been a failure. That’s the way in which firing Rumsfeld would rightly be interpreted. This would largely insulate liberals against the consequences if the war does, in fact, turn out to be successful. The same logic, I think, explains why liberals are always hectoring President Bush to “admit his mistakes.” What they fear, deep down, is that the President’s policies haven’t been mistakes at all.


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