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April 15, 2006
Retired Generals Defend Rumsfeld

And now, at least one media outlet brings us the other side of the Rumsfeld debate. The Washington Times reports on three now-retired generals who worked closely with Donald Rumsfeld during the war on terror and who support his continued tenure as Secretary of Defense:

"I think what we see happening with retired general officers is bad for the military, bad for civil-military relations and bad for the country," retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Mr. Bush, said in an interview with The Washington Times. He said he would elaborate his views in an op-ed essay.

"I'm hurt," said retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael P. DeLong, who was deputy commander of U.S. Central Command during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and briefed Mr. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.

"When we have an administration that is currently at war, with a secretary of defense that has the confidence of the president and basically has done well -- no matter what grade you put on there, he has done well -- to call for his resignation right now is not good for the country," he said. ...

Retired Gen. John Keane, former Army vice chief of staff under Mr. Rumsfeld, said the secretary involved himself in war planning "just like other strong secretaries of defense."

"Generals bring forward their campaign plans, and the civilian leaders apply their judgments," he said. "As a result of that, those plans are changed. The secretary has done the same thing as pertains to our plans for invading Afghanistan and Iraq. In my view, this is healthy and in my view this collaboration-making is healthy and it serves the nation well."

This is an impressive cadre of voices speaking on Rumsfeld's behalf, and if they continue to express their support for the SecDef, it may help re-sell Congress and the American electorate on Rumsfeld and his leadership. I look forward to reading the op-ed essay promised by General Myers on this point. I hope more of Rumsfeld's former senior officers speak out, and hopefully more media outlets report on it. I notice the Washington Post failed to report it, but interestingly, the New York Times did, although they missed Gen. DeLong:

Mr. Bush's statement was followed hours later by supportive comments from Gen. Richard B. Myers, the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the retired commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both appeared on cable news programs, and General Myers pointedly criticized former colleagues for publicly questioning civilian leadership.

I've received some excellent comments on my previous post regarding Rumsfeld, most of which disagreed with me, and that's OK -- in fact, it's encouraging. I think Rumsfeld has done an excellent job as SecDef and would prefer he continue until 2009. If more retired generals speak out in support of Rumsfeld, then I think that his political liability ebbs and Rumsfeld strengthens the continued political efforts in the war on terror.

But make no mistake: the political temperament here is a critical factor in winning this war, and the Bush administration has to find a way to rebuild political support for it. That's not just important for winning elections, it's important for keeping large numbers of Americans alive. That takes priority over the unfairness of the politics surrounding Rumsfeld. If Bush cannot re-energize the electorate on fighting terrorism, then we will face a strong possibility that voters in 2008 will put an isolationist in office and take us right back to the 1990s in dealing with terrorists.

I for one do not want that. I want this nation focused and as unified as we can get these days on fighting the forward strategy on the war on terror, rather than return to the law-enforcement model that got us 9/11. I'd much prefer we can do that with Rumsfeld on board, but if fresh leadership at the DoD is what's needed to restore confidence with the American public in the war effort, then the Bush administration should consider it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 15, 2006 7:09 AM

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