Now, noted military expert Andrew Sullivan (tongue firmly in cheek) is flogging the big story about the “four military papers” calling for Rumsfeld to go. Does Sullivan know that the Army Times does not equal the Stars and Stripes? Does he know that AT and the other “military papers” with similar names are privately owned by Gannett? Thus, they’re not officially representative of anything other than themselves and possibly Gannett’s position. And I’d be willing to bet that a poll of the Army Times’ readers would find that the papers’ position isn’t all that strong among them.
Sullivan won’t care about any of that, of course. It’s one of those facts that inconveniently get in the way of his worldview, like, just to cherrypick, the president’s position on gay marriage being no reason to throw away an entire war, especially when the opposition party claims to hold a similar position on that issue.
I’m still supportive of Rumsfeld. There have been mistakes, such as not putting Syria and Iran in their places and stopping their interference in Iraq when it might have done some good, but that mistake doesn’t start or stop with Rumsfeld imho. I do think in retrospect it would have been a good idea to wait on the Pentagon’s transformation until after the first round of the GWOT was won and behind us, but I’m open to contrary arguments on that. And it’s very possible, even likely, that taking out al-Sadr before he became such a menace would have gone a long way toward quelling the violence, but as far as I know the decision to leave him alone was made in the field and in line with the Iraqi government’s wishes. Ultimately, the SecDef serves at the pleasure of the president, and the president is fine with Rumsfeld. That doesn’t mean everything, but it doesn’t mean nothing either.
Additionally, it’s hard to see what’s going on in Iraq right now as being as much a failure of our policy as it is a failure of their culture. When a bombing at a golden mosque can trigger months of sectarian bloodletting, and it’s impossible to stop all bombers everywhere in a country the size of Iraq, then the culture may just be too brittle in the short run to achieve peace. Maybe it’s possible in the long run, after the hostilities have run their course, but the short run looks like a brutal affair that we can at best manage from above. It’s hard to see how any policy calibration on our part can, at least in the short run, make up for the gaps in what looks increasingly like a tribal and very retrograde society. And I’m not just talking about Iraq.
Update (Allahpundit): Defense has issued a point by point response to the Army Times’s editorial.