Shinseki vindicated by retired generals' revolt
Several retired generals have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
PRESIDENT Bush should have taken up Donald Rumsfeld on his offer to resign two years ago following the the scandal over abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A flurry of calls by retired generals for Rumsfeld to step down vindicates retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of Hawaii for his prophetic advice for a greater troop commitment to Iraq than was planned, but it would set a bad precedent for Rumsfeld to resign now.
Rumsfeld is right in saying that allowing protests by retired generals to cause the ouster of a defense secretary would result in the concept of civilian control of the military being "turned on its head." The judgment by some of the generals that the battle against terrorism should have been focused on al-Qaida instead of Iraq is on target, but that was a political decision made by the president and Congress.
The judgment of how many troops would be needed to invade Baghdad and secure the country in the months ahead should have been based on military knowledge. Months before the invasion, Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Service Committee that occupying Iraq would require "several hundred thousand troops," partly because of "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."
Shinseki, the first Japanese-American to wear four stars, was the right man to ask that question, having successfully commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia. However, his estimate was quickly denounced by Paul D. Wolfowitz, then Rumsfeld's deputy at the Pentagon, as "wildly off the mark," and the secretary repeated that sentiment. Shinseki was shunned and set for retirement; Rumsfeld did not attend his retirement ceremony.
In a recent interview with Newsweek, Shinseki declined to join the retired brass calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. However, he said the "person who should decide on the number of troops (to invade Iraq) is the combatant commander." That was Gen. Tommy Franks, now retired, who supports Rumsfeld.
Instead, Rumsfeld canceled the deployment of the First Cavalry Division to reinforce the U.S. invasion force. Franks went along with the decision, although field commanders felt the reinforcement was needed. Disorder and the insurgency followed.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, who retired last year as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also supports Rumsfeld, but even he says that Shinseki "was inappropriately criticized, I believe, for speaking out." He added that Shinseki did not push within the Pentagon for more troops in Iraq.
"Probably that's fair," Shinseki told Newsweek. "Not my style."
What happened three years ago because of an undersized troop level has resulted in today's quagmire. The strategy continues to be micromanaged from Rumsfeld's office by what has been called an 8,000-mile screwdriver. If Rumsfeld stays on, the methodology should change.