Rumsfeld Must Stay, Time for Generals to Fade Away

When the criticism of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came from strictly civilian quarters, there was some room for debate as to whether he should continue to lead the Department. Now there is no question that Rumsfeld absolutely must stay. There are two points here, one minor and one major. The minor point is that when 6 generals, those most responsible for building and directly responsible for implementing the battle plan, start criticizing the way things turned out, their motives are certainly not clear.

Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel who now works as a military analyst, says the critics are trying to pin blame on the defence secretary for their own errors of planning and execution.

Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducting a foot patrol through the streets of Haditha
Critics doubt there are enough troops on the ground
“The generals see it as everyone else’s fault other than theirs,” he says.

He says Mr Rumsfeld set goals for the military to accomplish and left the generals to make the battle plans – as he should have done.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Vocal Rumsfeld critics break ranks

The second, much more important point, is that civilian control of the military is a bedrock principle of the American Constitutional system. One of the ex-generals commented that had he made these statements while in the military he would have been subject to arrest. What he left out is that there is excellent reason for that. Making the civilan bosses subject to the public criticism of generals, even after their retirement undermines civilian control of the military. General MacArthur was right tactically and strategically in Korea, but Harry Truman was right on a more important matter in firing him. Likewise, while these generals may be correct in their Monday morning quarterbacking, the President is right on a much more important matter in sticking with his civilian leadership. Now, it’s time for Batiste, Zinni, Riggs, Newbold, Eaton and Swannack to fade away.

Update: Sorry, I uninentionally left comments off. Kevin emailed a link to this Chicago Sun Times editorial “If Rumsfeld’s so bad, why didn’t generals resign?”. Here’s a bit:

But the question really isn’t whether Rumsfeld should resign. He has already resigned several times and had President Bush tear up his letters of resignation. He clearly is taking responsibility for his actions on a continuing basis.

But now that a galaxy of flag officers [note: I don’t know if 6 is a “galaxy” in a universe of 880 active duty flag officers and at least several hundred retired. Maybe a backwater solar system.] are raining down on Rumsfeld demanding his resignation, no one seems to have bothered to ask which, if any, of these generals had ever submitted his own resignation in protest against the conduct of the Iraq war, or the bumpy transition we are locked in now.


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