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The Knives Are Out For Rummy

David Ignatius joins the chorus of folks calling for the head of Secretary Don Rumsfeld in today's Washington Post. Ignatius calls Rumsfeld a "spent force" and says that he's lost nearly all support from the officers' corps:

When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.

David Cloud and Eric Schmitt co-author a front page story in today's New York Times profiling the growing ranks of retired generals - currently numbering six - that have come forward to call for Rumsfeld's ouster. Well into the second page of the article, however, we get a dissenting opinion:

Some officers who have worked closely with Mr. Rumsfeld reject the idea that he is primarily to blame for the inability of American forces to defeat the insurgency in Iraq. One active-duty, four-star Army officer said he had not heard among his peers widespread criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld, and said he thought the criticism from his retired colleagues was off base. "They are entitled to their views, but I believe them to be wrong. And it is unfortunate they have allowed themselves to become in some respects, politicized."

Yesterday in a press briefing Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace offered a vigorous defense of Secretary Rumsfeld saying, "this country is exceptionally well-served by the man standing on my left." Pace also defended the process and the decision making of the prewar planning, saying he was very comfortable with the way it was done and pointing out that the invasion plan was approved by all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Loren Thompson, a military analyst of the Lexington Institute, told the Christian Science Monitor that while some of the rancor towards Rumsfeld can be attributed to his well publicized efforts to transform the military, "much of the officer corps thinks he simply doesn't understand technology or operations in sufficient depth to grasp the consequences of his policies, and yet he routinely uses his position to quash dissent."

In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles Stevenson of The School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University agrees that Rumsfeld has "lost some important allies on [Capitol] Hill and in the senior military" but that he doesn't expect to see Rumsfeld leaving any time soon:

"I don't see how the President would find it in his political interest to get rid of Rumsfeld unless he also wants to change policy and use Rumsfeld as kind of a scapegoat or whipping boy or whatever. But there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the President wants to blame anybody or change his mind."

This echoes the theme from my column two weeks ago, where I argued that Bush wouldn't replace Rumsfeld because doing so would "would be seen as a tacit admission of failure in Iraq - something that would give the Democrats a neatly-wrapped gift for the elections this November and, more importantly, would be interpreted as a sign of weakness by our enemies overseas and cast further doubt on our commitment and resolve to hang tough in Iraq."

Getting harangued by a few retired generals is one thing, losing support from 75%+ of senior level active duty military officers (as Ignatius suggests today) is another. Whether Ignatius is accurate, or whether he's passing along badly skewed anecdotal information, remains to be seen.