Friday, April 14, 2006

Should Rummy Resign?

In the Herald-Leader this morning, there was an article concerning recent calls for Don Rumsfeld to resign. This isn't unusual. People have been calling for him to resign since the beginning of the Iraq war, at the least. What made an impression was that these men were all former generals who had served under Rumsfeld. Ostensibly, they disagree with his management of the war in Iraq. However, the only concrete accusation was that "Rumsfeld and his aides too often inserted themselves unnecessarily into military decision-making, often disregarding advice from military commanders".

While I can certainly see Rumsfeld inserting his opinion into military discussions, I think this is a duty of the Secretary of Defense. The military is very good at its job, but civilian defense officials still need to insert their input at times. The military is, after all, basically a bureaucracy with guns. We discussed yesterday how little the military is changing in response to the new challenges of today's world. Without an outsider at the top, the military would be even more resistant to change. Even with a hands-on, hard-nosed Secretary like Rumsfeld, the military is still digging in its heels. What would the military be like with a more weak-willed secretary?

I can't shake the feeling that at least some of these calls to resign come from a military resentment of Rumsfeld. The military has been suspicious of excessive civilian control since the Vietnam war, where Johnson reportedly had to give his personal okay on all bombing targets. While civilians certainly have no business interfering at the tactical level, and little more at the operational level, they should certainly be involved to some extent in the strategic level of military planning. I'm not sure the US military completely accepts this. They were burned by Johnson's rather dictatorial ways, and they don't want to get burned again. However, if a Secretary of Defense stays out of defense matters, then he's neglecting his duties. One of the primary roles of a politically appointed Pentagon official is to maintain civilian control of the military. If Rumsfeld is forced to step down, I would hope that Bush would select an equally stubborn man as his replacement. With a bureaucracy as politically powerful as the military, you need a strong SecDef to maintain control.

I'm not defending the Iraq war or its conduct. I am, however, deeply concerned that civilian officials continue to be able to assert control over the military bureaucracy.

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