Rumsfeld Again

Andrew Sullivan:

Another blogger joins the chorus and suggests replacing the Pentagon's Captain Queeg with Lindsey Graham. I think the Democrats would be atypically shrewd to center their fall campaign on national security by focusing on Rumsfeld. They should attack him for losing the war, for not sending enough troops, and for wrecking the most high-stakes military mission in a generation. If a defense secretary who has bungled two wars cannot be replaced after six years, then we have no accountability in government.

I've said this so many times I'm growing hoarse, but this is silly. It would be one thing if Rumsfeld were in office, then made some missteps, and then Bush fired him. Presidents sometimes hire people they wind up regretting. But Rumsfeld's been in office for almost six years. And Bush has gotten rid of many members of his national security team. Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and Richard Haas were all ditched. A lot of your prominent "liberal" national security experts -- Richard Clarke, Rand Beers, Flynt Leverett -- used to work in the Bush administration (see also Anthony Zinni). Rumsfeld is around because Rumsfeld's policies are Bush's policies. Dumping him would, at this point, be a meaningless cosmetic change.

This Rumsfeld-obsession plays a genuinely pernicious role in our national discourse. The basic reality of the matter is that between September 2001 and Spring 2003 the bulk of the American political and media establishments endorsed the key elements of the Bush foreign policy. Over the subsequent 18 months or so, it became obvious to the bulk of this establishment that the Bush foreign policy was a moral and practical disaster. Rather than conclude that they were operating from mistaken premises and that they should come up with some new, authentically different ideas, the predominant impulse has simply been to say "we could have gotten away with it to if it wasn't for that meddling Rumsfeld!"

Well, no. Rumsfeld's ideas were bad ones. But the bad ideas -- the policies, Bush's policies, The Washington Post's policies, Andrew Sullivan's policies, etc. -- are the issue here, not Rumsfeld personally.