Following an apparent Democratic Party sweep of both houses of Congress, U.S. President George W. Bush announced yesterday that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has resigned his position as head of America’s defense establishment. In a short speech at the White House, Bush said that he met with Rumsfeld and that “we both agreed that it was time for him to step down as Secretary of Defense.”
Bush as nominated Robert Gates, a former CIA head during Bush’s father’s Presidential Administration, to replace the outgoing Rumsfeld. Gates is a close friend of the Bush family, and is currently President of Texas A & M University. He served as CIA chief from 1991 to 1993. Upon accepting the nomination, Gates said: “the world is fighting terrorism on a world-wide scale. It is no longer a regional issue that many can ignore”. The nomination of Gates, however, is not a ‘shoe-in’ and must now be confirmed by a Senate which is no longer in ‘partisan’ hands. Rumsfeld’s resignation did not come as a surprise to many; and had probably been in the pipeline for some time, awaiting the right opportunity.
It’s still too early to say what changes will be made within the Defense Department. With a less friendly Congress to deal with, it’s certain that the situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan will be a top priority. Increasing opposition against the military actions and occupation by an American public who want solutions will be the new Congress’s most pressing agenda when it convenes in January, 2007. Incidents such as the Abu Ghiraib prison scandal and many incidents involving the rape and killing of Iraqi civilians by American troops only added to the problems during Rumsfeld’s ‘watch’, with far too many high ranking officers complaining of inadequate equipment and manpower to do the job.
More pressing priorities, such as a nuclear armed Iran and North Korea, now face the incoming Defense Secretary, not to mention the current situation in the Middle East. The Bush Administration in its remaining two years will have to deal with a war on terror involving increasing religious ideology versus Western democracy. America will have to decide whether to conduct a strategic retreat from both Iraq and Afghanistan, letting the peoples of those countries sort out their own problems; or to make an all out effort to achieve military victory on a scale not seen since World War II, which will include a return to military conscription (the draft) as well as possible rationing of fuel and certain commodities on the home front. Fighting a ‘partial war’ just won’t work, as the ultimate stakes are much too high.
Photo; Associated Press