What will the departure of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld mean for U.S. policy in Iraq? Quite a number of people insist that our whole Iraq policy has been completely and wholly architected by Rumsfeld and that everybody else has just going along for the ride. If only that were true. The reality is that Rumsfeld has been simply the "point man" for the Neoconservative military policy of preemptive war. President Bush was wholeheartedly behind the push to "liberate" Iraq. Ditto for Cheney. Ditto for countless unnamed staffers within the administration. Ditto for quite a few Congressmen and Senators and their staffers. And ditto to the nth degree for the Neoconservatives and the now-defunct Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. So many people were so gung ho for every aspect of the policies that Rumsfeld was charged with carrying out. Now, as things have not turned out as expected, many of those "supporters" are either silent or actively jumping ship, leaving Rumsfeld holding the bag. Yes, he is certainly one of the main culprits, but to suggest that it was all his doing is truly absurd.
To be clear, the concept of preemptively liberating Iraq did not originate with Rumsfeld. The concept of fighting wars with smaller, technologically superior, and more agile forces did not originate with Rumsfeld. A disdain for "the generals and the admirals" did not originate with Rumsfeld. A disinterest in "nation building" did not originate with Rumsfeld. The whole Neoconservative agenda did not originate with Rumsfeld.
Yes, now that Iraq is a true quagmire, everybody blames Rumsfeld, but this is simply classic scapegoating. Even anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan notes that "He's being offered as a sacrificial lamb."
It is not sufficient to simply replace Rumsfeld. The thought that the new guy will all by himself radically change policy in Iraq is terribly naive and misguided. The big question now is how the supporters of the Neoconservative military and foreign policies will react. Will they yield, or will they only turn up the heat on President Bush and others within the administration whose ears they whisper into with urgent "briefing papers"?
The good news is that the raw power of a Democratic majority in Congress may be able to counteract the raw power of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby. The primary difficulty is that quite a few Democrats are also under the sway of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.
We will see changes in our Iraq policy, but the nature and extent of those changes is not readily apparent.
The bottom line is that changes will result more from a combination of the new Democratic majority and the upcoming recommendations from the Iraq Study Group than from Rumsfeld's departure.
The sad truth is that Rumsfeld was doing about as well as humanly possible given the misguided nature of the Neoconservative mission. Yes, we should blame Rumsfeld (and hundreds of others) for lobbying for the mission in the first place, but to suggest that the current quagmire is mostly of his doing is absurd. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Anybody who believes that the departure of Rumsfeld "changes everything" is a fool. The shifting sands that led to Rumsfeld's departure do mean everything and will change everything, but Rumsfeld was simply a bit player in the grand scheme of things. He was a dramatic symbol to be sure, but symbols are not reality.
And for those who argue that Rumsfeld's biggest mistake was not sending more soldiers, all I have to say is that we all should be eternally grateful that at least this one aspect of the war plan was in fact wise, otherwise we would have significantly higher casualty counts and a larger insurgency as well. Yes, it is counterintuitive, but the proper response to an insurgency is less force. The insurgency is politically motivated, and needs a political solution. "Crushing" the insurgency is not and has never been and never will be a reasonable policy option.
Rumsfeld should be packing his bags, but his departure alone should not be a cause for dancing in the streets.
-- Jack Krupansky