Monday, April 17, 2006

After Rummy

Rummy's near departure isn't a foregone conclusion by any means.  But in an article that recaps the current controversy over Rummy's tenure in office (Rumsfeld's Fall Drags Hawks in Its Wake Inter Press Service 04/17/06), Jim Lobe also speculates on the policy implications of Rummy leaving soon:

Given Bush's record low approval ratings - as well as the dissent Rumsfeld's performance has stirred up among the military brass and, for that matter, on Capitol Hill -- any successor likely to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate will almost certainly have to be less hawkish and not nearly as closely linked to Cheney. This would deprive the vice president, who was clearly the most important influence on U.S. foreign policy during Bush's first term, of his most important and effective ideological and operational ally.

In fact, most of the candidates who have surfaced as potential successors - in particular, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Dan Coates; Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner; and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (who last week called for direct negotiations with Iran) - are considered "realists".

While conservative, they are much more inclined to defer to the uniformed military and their State Department colleagues. The only exception is Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a strongly pro-Israel Democrat who favours a policy of confrontation with Tehran.

Coates when he was a Senator was known as a Christian Right stalwart.  But maybe his foreign-policy views are more reality-based than some of his theocratic friends.

Lobe also tells us how the Pentagon instructed some of its former officers on the Correct Line to take:

In the face of this onslaught - which, according to the dissenters, is likely to be followed by other statements from retired senior officers - Bush issued a statement Friday insisting that Rumsfeld "has my full support and deepest appreciation". At the same time, the Pentagon sent out a memorandum to a group of former military commanders and civilian analysts who often appear on television talk shows about what they could say in Rumsfeld's defence.

Lobe suggests that some of those who did defend Rumsfeld may have been damning him with faint praise:

Sure enough, ret. Central Commander chief Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the Iraq campaign; former Joint Chief of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers - both of whom had been implicitly criticised by the dissenters for deferring too much to Rumsfeld's wishes - came to his defence, as did the current Joint Chiefs chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace whose remarks, however, curiously stressed Rumsfeld's "dedication... patriotism and ... work ethic" - attributes that were never in doubt.

Three other generals who appeared on the Sunday talk shows also insisted that Rumsfeld should not be forced out, although their praise was remarkably faint. Indeed, one, ret. Air Force Major Gen. Don Shepperd, said the Pentagon had made "some severe mistakes" in Iraq, while ret. Army Gen. James Marks confirmed reports that senior officers had requested more forces during the invasion "at a very critical point in the war" and been denied.

Their lack of enthusiasm helped illustrate the loss of credibility - and authority - Rumsfeld and his fellow-hawks have suffered with the uniformed military, a trend that was described at length in a Journal article Monday, entitled "Rumsfeld's Control of Military Policy Appears to Weaken". It noted, among other things, that senior officers are growing increasingly inclined to ignore or publicly contradict Rumsfeld's policy preferences, such as limiting military exchanges with China.

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