This has apparently been in the works for a while, maybe a couple weeks or more. Rumsfeld and Bush announced today that they mutually agreed that Rumsfeld should resign. Bush immediately announced Rumsfeld’s replacement, Robert Gates, a CIA Director from George H.W. Bush’s administration. Bush finally got the message I’m sure the public has been sending him for a long time, that Rumsfeld got us this far, but he is not the man to win this war.
What does this change mean? I wonder if Gates will put the military in a different posture, possibly following the CIA’s lead, rather than the other way around. When I got to looking at the difference in approaches that were taken in Afghanistan and Iraq, it made me wonder why there was such a difference. The CIA’s operations in Afghanistan were a success. It may be fair to say they won the battle there for us. The terrorists operate like an intelligence operation, acting stealthily, committing acts that amount to sabotage on steroids. They are not a conventional military force. As the Iraq war went on, I wondered if perhaps we were not committing one of the military mistakes made in Vietnam: using conventional forces where special forces would’ve been more appropriate. Some years back I heard a saying from the Vietnam era. It went something like, “The Vietcong rules the battlefield, except when the Navy Seals are on the ground.”
Gates’s nomination will of course need congress’s approval. The make-up of the Senate is not assured yet. I believe that’s where his nomination will be reviewed. This could get ugly, however. The AP article I link to makes a point of saying that when Gates was nominated for his CIA post in George H.W. Bush’s administration, he was accused by others working for the CIA of “manipulating intelligence” and of “corrupting the process” while he worked for the CIA during the Cold War of the 1980s. Uh oh… There’s no way this isn’t going to come back to haunt him. Depending on how the Senate turns out, he could be denied the nomination because of this. The public is not in the mood to be dealing with a guy who might feed the president inaccurate information. We’ve been there, done that.
One of the things that Rumsfeld did upon coming into office was set up a Defense intelligence arm within the Pentagon. This was a factor in some of the stories that came out after 9/11. For example, the story that an Iraqi intelligence official had met with Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers–a story that was later shown to be suspect, apparently came from this department of the Pentagon. CIA officials actively worked to discredit this story, because it didn’t check out as far as they were concerned.
The president and Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, future Speaker of the House, both have said they want to work together. It’s traditional that each side says this. They always do. I think it’s going to get ugly real fast. Just a feeling.