The resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld does not finish the job. His departure must be followed by that of Marine Corps General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a story on April 14, 2006, The Sun reported that General Pace was one of the staunchest defenders of Secretary Rumsfeld, as the clamor rose for Rumsfeld’s resignation. The support given to Rumsfeld by Pace should come as no surprise.
In an interview on Meet the Press on April 2, 2006, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni stated that the resignations at the Pentagon should not end with Rumsfeld, and that accountability must extend to the high-ranking officers who stood by while Rumsfeld ignored military planners. While Zinni and the other generals who went public last spring with their dissatisfaction over the execution of the war in Iraq were reluctant to name names among their brethren, there is no doubt that they were talking about Pace.
As disclosed in Cobra II, a remarkable book on the planning that preceded the war, Pace was among those officers, which included former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, who chose not to take the risk of disagreeing with Rumsfeld. According to retired Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Pace, who was then the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood by silently in late 2001 when Rumsfeld angrily admonished military leaders that contingency plans for an invasion of Iraq included far too many troops. Rumsfeld never retreated from his ill-considered position, and good men like Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki paid the price for their disagreement.
As disclosed this week by the Associated Press, the Pentagon’s own war games in 1999 foresaw the need for 400,000 troops for an invasion of Iraq, about twice the number approved by Rumsfeld. Even at the higher troop levels, the war games revealed that long term stability in Iraq would be difficult to achieve.
While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff formally is nominated by the President for confirmation by the Senate, it is Secretary Rumsfeld who has the held the actual power of appointment under President Bush. General Pace was rewarded for his loyalty by being elevated to Chairman in 2005.
Since the Vietnam War, military historians have lamented the fact that some senior officers, willing to risk their very lives in battle at the inception of their careers, are unwilling to risk losing a promotion or a choice assignment as their careers draw to a close. Bad advice can be the best career choice. However, General Pace now needs to accept responsibility for his advice, and resign.
November 9, 2006