Now before anybody blows a gasket, I don’t say this because I believe he has not served well. I say it because he has served well long enough.
We have actively been at war for over 5 years now, and Donald Rumsfeld has been Secretary of Defense for that entire time. That’s longer than WWII in one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. Sec. Rumsfeld doesn’t even have a desk; he stands all day while working. Mr. Rumsfeld thank you for the Herculean efforts you and your staff and all the folks at the Pentagon, civilian and military, have made, but sir it’s time to take a seat.
There is much to be said for continuity in offices of high import, but also for a change that can reinvigorate. When faced with a monumental challenge it is easy to focus like a laser on it, and that can lead to failure to see alternatives to your way. I think Sec. Rumsfeld has been unfairly painted as too set in his ways or convinced he is correct. In a military unit it is vital that a consistent and coherent set of guidance comes down the chain of command. There should be no doubt at any level what the commander’s intent is, this is one of Sec. Rumsfeld’s strengths. There also needs to be a feeling that before a final decision is made the input of the many talented professionals involved get to air their opinions and lay out all the options detailing strengths and weaknesses of each, this is one of Sec. Rumsfeld’s weaknesses. Fair or not, he is perceived as as not taking the advice of all of those in the Pentagon and also of dominating inter-agency battles over policy.
No one person is indispensable, and Donald Rumsfeld has certainly earned some R&R. I believe he should announce that he will retire after the elections, not resign, retire. He should go out with a parade and a big party on the National Mall. The left has been calling for his resignation and if they had their way, his running out of town on a rail. What a perfect way to short circuit that by celebrating his service and letting him enjoy that time-honored military tradition of a retirement party. It may seem tacky to do so in the midst of a war, but we military folks understand irony and the idea that we should “eat and drink for tomorrow we die”.
This would also offer the president an excellent opportunity to remind people that we are still at war and his choice of a replacement would be a chance to reconnect the country with this. I believe he should appoint a Democrat to serve as the next Sec. of Defense and for some reason the name Lieberman keeps coming to mind. If not him, it should be someone from well outside the president’s current circle of advisers. I don’t subscribe to the view that the administration has done an awful job of prosecuting the war on jihadism, but I can hardly give them a glowing review. A new voice, different ideas and a fresh start may be just what we all need.