Sacrificial Rumsfeld

Diana West

11/10/2006 9:01:00 AM - Diana West

Boy, am I going to miss Rummy -- and not just because his post-election exit looks like a square-jawed head on a platter served up to the incoming Democratic leadership on the Hill by the president. If the president thinks Donald Rumsfeld is a sacrifice tasty enough to satisfy ravenous Democrats, he is dead wrong. "Let them eat Rumsfeld" isn't going to stop the Democratic power grab in progress. As incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it on hearing the Rumsfeld news: "I welcome the long overdue change in leadership at the Pentagon -- now we need a change in policy." And as I have argued before, we do need a change. But we need to make changes in order to accomplish the civilization-saving mission of neutralizing jihad in the Middle East and Islamization everywhere else, not to placate Democrats jabbering about (to quote Pelosi's Rumsfeld statement again) a "change in policy," a "fresh start," "a better way forward," a "new direction" without offering a plan. Certainly, there's been intense dissent over Rumsfeld's belief in the efficacy of a smaller, more maneuverable, more high-tech army. Indeed, his policy has frustrated many military minds who have seen a dire need in Iraq for additional "boots on the ground." As an admittedly non-military mind, I don't believe more troops alone would have changed Iraq for the better. After all, common sense tells us we haven't unleashed the ones we already have there. Otherwise, Fallujah, for example, would no longer exist. For my money, the day we "lost" Iraq -- or lost control of Iraq by showing we didn't really mean business -- was back in 2003 when top man L. Paul Bremer wanted the military to shoot some of the looters who were ripping Baghdad, and U.S. military commanders put the kibosh on the tactic for being too severe. Not exactly Patton-esque. I suppose Donald Rumsfeld is ultimately responsible for that, too -- the kind of policy that indicates 21st-century America simply may be too sensitive to actually win wars. But this a generational flaw, and not why Rumsfeld is leaving. I've always liked the steely, jaunty face Rummy presented to the world -- a face for jihadists to fear. There is the inimitable way he has taken on his media inquisitors, turning Gotcha Journalism back on its own. There was his unforgettable dig about "Old Europe" that once upon a time sent France and Germany into cardi-plomatic arrest. There is his almost sub-rosa understanding of the moral bankruptcy of the misnamed Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," signaled by a deft discussion of "the so-called occupied territories." Maybe most important, however, is that I can actually imagine Rumsfeld counseling the president to push the button, or whatever it is presidents must do, to eliminate Iran or other foes who threaten our security -- a tactic that will increasingly present itself as a dire but salvational option. The same, alas, is unlikely to be said about his proposed replacement, Robert Gates. That's because Gates, known as a "consensus builder," is all for "sustained engagement" with the nuking dervishes in Iran. Indeed, such engagement apparently looms large in his strategic thinking about stabilizing Iraq. Particularly in the immediate aftermath of GOP defeat, this shift at the Pentagon looks like presidential retreat, and not only where Bush's domestic critics are concerned but also our jihadist foes. One of Rumsfeld's supposed offenses (to Democrats) came when he compared critics of the president's war efforts to appeasers who allowed fascism to spread unchecked in the 1930s. Now, it can be argued, it is Rumsfeld himself whom the president has offered to appease those same war critics. But there is more to it than that. Bush postponed his decision to replace Rumsfeld until after the election so as not to appear to play politics with American military command. Certainly, the president should have taken the same pains to avoid signaling a diminution of political resolve to jihadists the world over, particularly with this post-election timing. I don't think Bush has lost his resolve in the fight against what he persists in calling "terror," and what I call "global jihad." But he has lost his way. He can't see that Rumsfeld in command is better for America than Rumsfeld on a plate, no matter how happy it makes Democrats. Diana West is a columnist for The Washington Times. She can be contacted via dianawest@verizon.net. Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.