VDH is compelling as always. But I tend think it’s reasonable to hold a defense secretary responsible for how a war is going. And Iraq is not going well (I don’t even think Bush or Rumsfeld think it’s going well). If the 400,000 Iraqis-in-arms figure is really meaningful, let’s just deploy a chunk of them to Baghdad to secure the capital city, and pick up and leave ourselves. But the Iraqi troops obviously aren’t up to it. That’s why if we want Baghdad secured and if the Iraqis want it secured (open to question given their recent obstruction), we have to do ourselves. That simply requires more American troops.
Now, I allow that perhaps the task we set ourselves was too difficult for any defense secretary to succeed in it (see Andy today). In which case, we shouldn’t blame Rumsfeld for the implementation, but the president and many of the war’s supporters (including me) for the conception.
I still think we can get to victory in Iraq, broadly defined. But it wasn’t going to happen with Rumsfeld, because I believe he was obstacle to sending more troops and because he had no credibility left. Perhaps Robert Gates is the wrong guy to replace him, in which case President Bush has made two bad decisions–keeping Rumsfeld longer than he should have and replacing him with the wrong guy.
One last point: I wish the American public were more patient with the Iraq war. But it’s not unreasonable for the public to say, as it has with this election, “You’ve had three years to go it right, and we haven’t seen much evidence that you have. We want things to change.” Give that we live in a democracy, it would be impossible for Bush to operate in defiance of that broad public sentiment.