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October 29, 2006
Strange Resignation Talk

Jules Crittendon, one of my favorite columnists, usually has a gimlet-eyed bead on the truth and excellent analysis, which is why he should be a must-read for anyone interested in national politics. Every once in a while, and less often than I do, Jules throws a shoe -- and today's the day. Jules demands Bush administration resignations in order to rescue the war in Iraq, and he wants them in the next week ... from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?

[T]he United States must remain committed to Iraq. We must quietly apply pressure on Iraqi leaders to take control of their country, to look beyond personal, partisan, sectarian objectives. We must increase the number of U.S. advisors attached to Iraqi army and police units. We must put enough troops in Iraq to destroy the Shiite militias, and hand bellicose Iran’s proxy forces another defeat, on top of their defeat in Lebanon this year. We must destroy al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency. Ruthlessly.

To accomplish this, President Bush must finally do what he failed to do five years ago: Increase the size of the U.S. military. We needed it then, as these wars were forced on us, and we need it now, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as a credible deterrent to threats from Iran, North Korea and eventually China.

Congress, whether Democratic or Republican, must provide funding to recruit, train and equip a larger army. Technology and special forces, tanks and infantrymen. But just as important, we need the national political will to continue to prosecute this war.

This means Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney must go. They must announce before this election decides which party will control Congress. On Jan. 1, heads high, with their president’s accolades, Cheney and Rumsfeld must walk out the door.

I understand the calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, even if I don't share the sentiment. Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, has the penultimate responsibility for the composition and use of American military assets and the success and failure of military actions. Many have concluded that we had enough troops to win the war against Saddam Hussein but didn't commit enough resources to win the peace. A lack of troops, the argument goes, allowed the rise of the militias and the general insecurity that has resulted since May 2003. It's certainly possible, although one has to wonder whether Congress would ever have agreed to station 250,000 to 300,000 American troops in Iraq after the invasion, the figures that seem to be the median suggested (Shinseki said 4-500,000, John Kerry said an additional 40,000 during his presidential run) Given the politics of 2003-6, that seems rather doubtful, even if the Secretary of Defense had been Joe Lieberman.

As a political appointee, Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the President, who has the ultimate responsibility for the success and failure of military action. If George Bush has lost confidence in Rumsfeld's ability to carry out his policies at the Pentagon, or if Bush decides that he needs to make a change for political purposes -- both of which Jules argues -- then it's appropriate for Bush to ask for his resignation. I don't think the change will do any good, because the Democrats are certainly not going to agree to allocate more funding for our operations in Iraq, and certainly not at a rate of double what we're spending now. They've made it clear that they want to defund the operation altogether, and kicking the SecDef under the bus isn't going to change their minds.

However, Dick Cheney isn't a political appointee. He was elected Vice President by the people of the United States, and Bush doesn't have the authority to demand his resignation. Cheney serves at the pleasure of the people, not the President, and many voters who cast their ballots for Bush in both elections did so with more enthusiasm for Cheney than the President. It's inappropriate, outside of some specific charge of personal malfeasance, to demand the resignation of the Vice President -- especially for the political purposes Jules describes here.

Jules wants Condoleezza Rice to take over for Dick Cheney. I think Rice would make an excellent Vice President ... which is why I suggested the move in 2003, when Cheney looked like more of a political liability than an asset. That was the appropriate time for a change in the office -- at the election, when the voters could decide whether to support a Vice President Rice. It would have put her in a good position to run for President in 2008, and it also would have given the administration an opportunity to use her considerable diplomatic skills on domestic policy and consensus building.

However, the Republicans kept Cheney on the ticket in 2004, and he won the election. Cheney should leave when his term expires, as the voters decided, not when someone needs another body to throw under the bus for political purposes. And in practical terms, the resignation of either or both just days before the election will not inspire new support for the Iraq project, but instead completely demoralize its supporters and provide momentum to the cut-and-run crowd as voters go to the polls. It's a bad idea, and it comes from someone whose long run of good ones far outweighs this momentary lapse.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 29, 2006 8:32 AM

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» Web Reconnaissance for 10/29/2006 from The Thunder Run
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention. [Read More]

Tracked on October 29, 2006 10:50 AM

» Time for Rumsfeld to fall on his sword? ... and Cheney? from Bill's Bites
... Jules, you're a smart man and I don't find a lot to disagree with you about, but on this one all I can give you is partial credit. ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 29, 2006 1:11 PM


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