Analysis: On Iraq, General Discontent
Council on Foreign Relations
April 19, 2006
Prepared by: Eben Kaplan
The word "quagmire" has often been used to describe the war in Iraq, but lately it also provides an apt description of the political terrain around the war's architect, Donald Rumsfeld. The secretary of defense is facing a chorus of criticism, led by a group of retired generals who say Rumsfeld's mismanagement of Iraq makes him an unfit leader and who are calling for his resignation (TIME). The White House, however, is steadfast in his defense. At an April 18 press conference, President Bush explained, "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain" (Salon).
Confidence in Rumsfeld outside the administration appears less solid, according to CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb. In an interview with cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman, Gelb says, "You can't have a secretary of defense under so much fire [still] being able to do his job at the same time." Nonetheless, a counterattack of sorts against these dissenters is underway, led by the secretary himself (NYT). Columnists and bloggers sympathetic to Rumsfeld are asking where these generals were in 2003. Melvin Laird, a Vietnam-era defense secretary, co-wrote a Washington Post op-ed saying of the generals that "while their advice and the weight of their experience should be taken into account, the important time for them to weigh in was while they were on active duty." CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot also thinks Rumsfeld should go, but is nevertheless "troubled by the Revolt of the Generals." Others are more disturbed by the efforts to question the dissenting generals' motives. As the influential blog "Belgravia Dispatch" puts it: "Let the Swift-Boating of the Generals Begin."
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