October 24, 2006

WaPo Hearts Rummy

The only thing wrong with this WaPo piece is that is framed as an excuse not to blame Rumsfeld for screwing up Iraq, on the wierd basis that things are now so screwed up everywhere else as well:
Five years ago, President Bush launched an experiment in tough-talk diplomacy, warning foreign leaders that they must be with us or against us in the war on terrorism. At first this yielded at least one achievement: Pakistan sent troops for the first time into its wild border regions to root out Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. But that success has now gone into reverse. Pakistan recently withdrew its soldiers, in effect ceding the border territory to the radicals.

It would be nice if this merely proved that tough talk can backfire. But traditional diplomacy is faring no better. In North Korea and Iran, the United States has tried every diplomatic trick to prevent nuclear proliferation, making common cause with Western Europe, Russia, China and Japan, and wielding both sticks and carrots. The result is failure: North Korea has tested a nuke and Iran still presses on with its enrichment program.

A few years ago, the collapse of Russia's currency triggered a furious debate in Washington over who lost Russia. Now Russia's pro-Western voices are being snuffed out, and Americans are so inured to the limits of their power that they don't even pose that question. A crusading journalist has been killed, and on Thursday Vladimir Putin silenced Human Rights, Amnesty International and more than 90 other foreign organizations. Everyone accepts that there's not much the West can do about this.

In Somalia, a Taliban-style group of Islamic militants has seized part of the country. One of its commanders is said to be sheltering terrorists who blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: A brand-new terrorist haven may be emerging. Again, it is assumed that the world's sole superpower can't do much but watch.

Three long years ago, the Bush administration described the killing in Darfur as genocide. You might think that an impoverished African state that can't control its own territory would be a pushover. But the Bush administration has tried sanctions, peace talks and United Nations resolutions. Sudan's tin-pot dictator thumbs his nose at Uncle Sam and dispatches more death squads.
Curiously, that article links to another WaPo piece painting Rummy as a convenient scapegoat for all Bush's mistakes. It sure sounds like this a concerted effort by Rumsfeld to get his side of the story across before everything goes tits-up:
Don Rumsfeld is the shrewdest person in Washington. He understands better than anyone that somebody has to be in line to take the blame when things go wrong. So far he has been willing to do so. But not much longer...

Until now George W. Bush has resisted all of the pressure to get rid of his defense secretary. But those in the know say that the president may have reached the point where he realizes that Rumsfeld has outlived his usefulness.

Still, the president must be aware on some level that once the pugnacious, outspoken and flak-attracting Rumsfeld leaves the stage, the focus will be on the president. Whether Bush realizes it or not, this is about a scapegoat...

[I]f Rumsfeld goes, the attention and criticism can be directed only to Cheney, or to Bush.
What the author fails to mention is that you don't need to sacrifice a scapegoat if you haven't made a big mistake. And ... er... isn't Rummy in charge of some department called the Pentagon? And hasn't he consistently (and loudly) spouted a line of argument which turns out to have been completely wrong? That's not scape-goating: that's accountability, baby.

Meanwhile, Rummy is busy with a little scape-goating of his own:
"The biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and competence," said Rumsfeld. "It's their country, they're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it, and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later. And that means they've got to take pieces of it as we go along."


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