Robert Novak’s latest column makes some interesting points. (“Rumsfeld is often bracketed with the neocons, but that is incorrect. In a long political career that dates back to his election to Congress in 1962, he has not even been associated with the traditional conservative movement. In the run-up to the attack on Iraq, he was not aggressively pressing intervention by force of arms, but instead was shaping a military response to fit President Bush’s command.”) Novak takes the view, shared by my colleagues, that some neoconservatives (and, it might be added, some liberal hawks) have turned on Rumsfeld in order to blame the difficulties in Iraq on poor execution rather than on the war’s being a bad idea to start with. That kind of impulse could well be at work in some people.
But I’m not persuaded by Novak’s contention that Bill Kristol’s call for Rumsfeld’s ouster “was, in effect, a declaration of war by the neoconservatives against the secretary of defense.” I’m not sure who “the neoconservatives” are, but presumably they include Midge Decter, David Frum, and John Podhoretz–all of whom think Rumsfeld should stay. Victor Davis Hanson might be described as a neocon, at least on foreign policy, and he wants Rumsfeld to stay, too. Once again, the word “neocon” just isn’t all that helpful.