Donald Rumsfeld had plenty of reasons to resign his post as Defense Secretary. Not the least of them must have been that the specter of facing a bucketful of subpoenas from congressional oversight committees was more than he wanted to expose his beautiful ugliness to. But does Rumsfeld's exit through a trap door signal a new direction in Iraq, or will we merely trade one wicked witch for another?
Robert Gates, a career Central Intelligence Agency officer, has been named to succeed Rummy as wartime second in command of America's armed forces. Gates's sum total of military experience was his two years of service during the Vietnam War in which he gave intelligence briefings to ICBM crews at Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri. Gates was first nominated to become Director of the CIA in 1987 by Ronald Reagan, but that nomination was withdrawn when questions arose over his involvement in the Iran/Contra Affair. The Senate eventually confirmed Gates as CIA Director in 1991 when he was again nominated by fellow Iran/Contra figure George H.W. Bush.
Gates's management style may bring a breath of fresh air to the Pentagon, but frankly, any management style would be welcome after six years of Rumsfeld's. And let's not kid ourselves; no management style, however enlightened, can undo the damage that Rummy has done.
Winners and Losers
Young Mister Bush can make all the happy talk he wants to about "complete victory" in Iraq, but the closest we can come to complete victory in this conflict is to avoid total defeat. In order to craft a strategy that avoids total defeat, we'll need to specifically identify what total defeat would consist of.
For all the boo noise Bush and his echo chamberlains have fed us about why we need to "stay the course," one talking point has emerged that kinda/sorta resonates with a ring of truth. In a September 2005 speech given at Naval Air Station North Island in California, Mister Bush said that if al Qaeda leadership gained control of Iraq, "… they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions."
There's a dollop of bunker mentality bunk in that reasoning. Al Qaeda won't take control of a Shia dominated Iraq, much less the oil fields located in Shia and Kurdish territory. The Shias and Kurds, however, aren't technologically advanced enough to pull their oil out of the ground by themselves, and if the U.S. pulls completely out of the Gulf Region, it will leave an industrial vacuum that Iran's "axis of energy" partners China and Russia will be more than happy to fill. If our old Cold War nemeses shoulder us and our Western European allies out of the Middle East oil game, they will have defeated us without firing a single shot or having made any effort to compete with us in terms of military power.
Donkeys, Elephants, Dragons and Bears
The great 18th century Prussian warfare philosopher Carl von Clausewitz spoke of a "remarkable trinity" of warfare that included the military, the government and the people. For too long, the Bush government has been dishonest with both the military and the people about its true motivations. The paper trail of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century makes it clear that the objective of invading Iraq was to establish a military base of operations in the center of the Middle East from which the U.S. could control the flow the region's oil. It never had much to do with terrorism. The 9/11 attacks were merely the "Perle Harbor" the neocons needed to set their plan in motion. Even Saddam Hussein himself was little more than a convenient excuse to justify the neocons' aim of establishing a larger military footprint in the oil rich Middle East.
The recent election results and Rumsfeld's resignation irrefutably indicate that both the people and the military have had it up to their choke collars with the horse feathers the government has been feeding them about our reasons for being in Iraq. Our national interest in the Middle East is about oil, it always has been about oil, and it always will be about oil.
Admitting that will be a big pill for both the donkeys and the elephants to swallow, but not nearly as big as the lie they've been asking the military and the people to swallow for half a decade.
Confessing to the oil aim will also reveal the biggest failing of the Bush administration. Through its delusional, incompetent attempt to dominate the global energy market through armed force, it has come perilously close to squandering the gains made during 50 years of Cold War.
Abandoning a dead horse like Rumsfeld in mid-stream is a good start in America's comeback as a dominant world power, but it's only a start. The Department of Defense can only do so much to regain the balance of power leverage lost by the neoconservatives' pathetic agenda.
Any change to the Iraq strategy has to include larger "grand strategy" initiatives to woo Iran away from China and Russia, and that won't only involve swallowing a bitter pill or two, it will involve eating a generous serving of crow.
Whether or not the new government will have the humility and candor to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said remains to be seen.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.