Expedite confirmation of Rummy's replacement
President Bush has named former CIA Director Robert Gates to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary.
PRESIDENT Bush's post-election ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was as stunning as the collapse of his Republican majority in both houses of Congress. His choice of Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld is a clear indication that he has agreed to seek a new direction to bring an end to the war in Iraq, although not in an abrupt way that would create havoc throughout the Middle East. Gates' nomination should be confirmed in the lame-duck session of the Senate by the end of this year.
Bush's recognition that Americans voted "to register their displeasure with the lack of progress" in Iraq resulted in Rumsfeld's departure, although the president claimed the decision to find "fresh perspective" in the Pentagon had been made prior to the election. The new Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill should welcome the decision as an invitation to work toward a bipartisan solution.
Sen. Daniel Inouye has indicated he supports such an effort. Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka were among 13 senators who called in June for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by next July. Such an exit, regardless of the Iraqi government's level of capability to provide security, could have chaotic consequences. Inouye now says the United States "would have to leave in such a way that does not create chaos."
In his announcement, Bush made several references to a bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III from his father's administration and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when Democrats last controlled the House.
Gates, who served as CIA director and national security adviser in the administration of George H.W. Bush, has been a member of the Iraq Study Group since it was created six months ago. That preparation and Gates' reputation for caution and pragmatism should bring about a new approach to the war in Iraq as soon as possible.
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