To hear two and three star generals whine that Rumsfeld is too intimidating causes one to ask who else can so easily intimidate them? Are we talking perhaps of the insurgents, Ahmadinejad, Assad Fils, the North Korean or China? Imagine being a soldier who has served under the command of so easily intimidated a general. Their retired generals' contention that they are speaking for their active duty colleagues merely makes matters worse.
On This Week Joe Klein, whom no one can accuse of being a Bush fan, said that Bush repeatedly asked the generals in Iraq if they had everything they needed and they repeatedly assured him they did. But when Jerry Bremer asked them what they would do with an additional division, they said, we'd clear Baghdad. Excuse me? The American army in Iraq does not have a single general with enough guts to respond to the president's question with "depends on what you want us to do?"
Sorry, guys, civil control of the military is not our problem. Gutless military leadership is.
Ouch. And this, mind you, is from someone who's wanted Rumsfeld out for months.
It threatens the essential democratic principle of military subordination to civilian control -- the more so because a couple of the officers claim they are speaking for some still on active duty. Anyone who protested the pushback of uniformed military against President Bill Clinton's attempt to allow gays to serve ought to also object to generals who criticize the decisions of a president and his defense secretary in wartime. If they are successful in forcing Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, they will set an ugly precedent. Will future defense secretaries have to worry about potential rebellions by their brass, and will they start to choose commanders according to calculations of political loyalty?
If things were so bad before, they should have resigned in protest instead of complaining publicly once they were safely in retirement and, in some cases, had books to promote.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian -- whose hostility toward Rumsfeld is intense these days -- thinks I'm unfair to the generals by linking this. Yes, they've served in combat. But as JFK noted in Profiles in Courage, physical courage is far more common than political courage, and it is their political courage that is in question here.
I keep hearing people say that Rumsfeld must go, but the argument about what, exactly, we should be doing instead is less clear, and the dump-Rumsfeld movement seems to me to be more about internal Pentagon politics, and about giving former war supporters political cover for changing their views, than about Rumsfeld himself. I'm entirely open to hearing suggestions about what we should be doing differently, but when those suggestions always seem to turn into Bush-bashing, or in this case proxy-Bush-bashing, I tend to tune out.
Meanwhile there's an interesting back-and-forth on the subject between Prof. Bainbridge and his commenters here.
MORE: I guess I'd also like to hear why I should listen to those retired generals instead of these:
But the extraordinary parade of generals who have stepped forward to defend Mr. Rumsfeld includes a bevy of retired officers, including Gen. Richard B. Myers of the Air Force, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army, who commanded American troops in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.