Columnist Ignatius Says Rumsfeld Should Be Replaced

By: E&P Staff

David Ignatius, who’s generally considered a centrist columnist, says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should lose his job.

“With luck, Iraq will make a fresh start soon with the formation of a new government. The Bush administration should do the same thing by replacing Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary,” Ignatius wrote in his Friday column.

The Washington Post Writers Group commentator added: “Rumsfeld has lost the support of the uniformed military officers who work for him. Make no mistake: The retired generals who are speaking out against Rumsfeld in interviews and op-ed pieces express the views of hundreds of other officers on active duty. When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.

“But that isn’t the reason he should be replaced. 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. I’m dubious about the Pentagon conventional wisdom that we needed 500,000 American troops in Iraq. More troops were necessary, but they should have been Iraqi troops from an army that wasn’t disbanded.

“Rumsfeld should resign because the Bush administration is losing the war on the home front. As bad as things are in Baghdad, America won’t be defeated there militarily. But it may be forced into a hasty and chaotic retreat by mounting domestic opposition to its policy. Much of the American public has simply stopped believing the administration’s arguments about Iraq, and Rumsfeld is a symbol of that credibility gap. He is a spent force, reduced to squabbling with the secretary of state about whether ‘tactical errors’ were made in the war’s conduct.”

Ignatius said a possible Rumsfeld replacement should be “someone who can help restore a bipartisan consensus for a sensible Iraq policy.” The columnist suggested three possibilities: Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), or Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

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