With Rummy Gone, Does Everything Change?
If we are to believe the Times of London, a day after Rummy leaves, the Iraqis and the Americans suddenly agree on a timeline for American forces to turn over control for the entire country by the end of 2007, in essence relieving the GOP’s candidates of Iraq as a campaign burden. Tomorrow’s NYT says that Robert Gates will be reaching back and out to the GOP’s moderates to chart a new path out of Iraq, apparently with the full support of Bush. So if we are to believe these developments, Bush has decided suddenly to junk his whole Iraq policy and let the wise men take over, relegating Shooter to the couch and Rummy to a war crimes trial. The NYT says that Gates has been authorized to clean the Pentagon of all Rummy’s team, and Stephen Cambone is already on his way out.
And yet, what was the only thing that changed between Tuesday and Wednesday? Why did the failed policy and the resistance to changing that policy not matter on Tuesday, or last Tuesday, or a month of Tuesdays ago, but now suddenly matter yesterday? Why does Bush just now, after months of a deteriorating security situation in Iraq, and a deplorable loss of American and Iraqi life now feel that something needs to be changed? Well, if we are to believe the NYT’s Jim Rutenberg in tomorrow’s paper, the White House had been discussing the timing of Rummy’s departure since late summer, but Bush held off until yesterday because he didn’t want the move to look like it was tied to the election and didn’t want to act until he had the successor lined up. So instead of helping GOP incumbents by taking Rummy out of the equation before the election, Bush waits until after the political damage has been done to his party because he himself doesn’t want to look like he was pushed.
With Gates’ nomination, the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group report is now hardwired for adoption when it is issued in January. But even if Bush is now ready to turn the country over to the Iraqis on the eve of the 2008 campaign season, don’t be surprised if one of the recommendations of the report is for more troops to be sent into Baghdad and al-Anbar province to root out Al Qaeda and stabilize Baghdad as much as possible before we get out. But these and other steps could have been taken months ago as part of a comprehensive strategy to accelerate our departure if only George W. Bush had put the lives of our troops and our national security ahead of his unwillingness to look the least bit cowed.
But at least Bush is consistent on some things. If we are to believe Rutenberg’s story that Bush had been planning Rumsfeld’s replacement for months, then he stone-face lied to reporters just last week.