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Rumsfeld Should Stay as Head of Defense


Commentator Dan Goure is also in the camp that thinks Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should stay. He's a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, and he used to work with Donald Rumsfeld.

DANIEL GOURE: Seems to me that the recent welter of calls for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign have less to do with any mistakes he made than how he carries himself in public. Unlike other national leaders, including at least one recent president, Rumsfeld is not one for public demonstrations of repentance. He's not an Oprah, Maury or Dr. Phil kind of guy. Wearing his feelings on his sleeves, exposing his inner doubts, getting in touch with his feminine side.

He is no Jack Bauer, compelled to fight but weighed down by the moral dilemma of using violence even when combating a greater violence. Many of us do not really know what to do with a national leader who does not show at least a tinge of weakness or a hint of self-doubt.

A friend of mine with a decidedly liberal bent said that what she particularly disliked about Rumsfeld was his hubris. She made me think. Hubris is exaggerated pride or self-confidence. Yes, that describes Rumsfeld. What I think she meant was that the mistakes made in Iraq do not seem to have changed his view on the rightness of the decision to go to war or the basic necessity of winning it now that we are there. In her view, Rumsfeld should demonstrate some humility by now behaving more circumspectly.

We are at war, and war is ultimately a test of wills. Self-confidence is an important weapon in our arsenal. Remember Winston Churchill's famous blood, sweat and tears speech when Britain's military fortunes were at their lowest ebb in 1940? Self-confidence in a time when the struggle is most intense and the cause most in doubt can be the key to eventual victory.

Has Rumsfeld made mistakes? Certainly. Has he learned from these mistakes? Undoubtedly. What he has not done is allowed himself to be paralyzed by those mistakes or the very prospect that he'll make others in the future.

That is the nature of war. Rumsfeld will not permit human frailties, particularly his own, from standing in the way of efforts to protect our nation and defeat our enemies.

A few weeks ago I was invited along with a handful of other defense experts to a meeting with the Secretary of Defense. They bombarded him with questions about the situation in Iraq, he deftly dodged and parried each one of them. He remained poised, confident, perhaps with just a touch of the hubris of which my friend had spoken. In his view, we fight because we must and, mistakes not withstanding, we much continue to fight.

Rumsfeld is supremely confident that we can overcome the mistakes that have been made. Speaking of hubris, today we are fighting enemies who believe in the end that their will to win is greater than ours. They believe that God is on their side and that this justifies any atrocity.

Rumsfeld's certitude in the American cause is a strength that our side dearly needs in the long war against religious fanaticism.

I am reminded of the story about Abraham Lincoln's response to a group of citizens who came to him with the request that he fire General Ulysses Grant because of the man's personal weaknesses. It was said he drank. Lincoln responded simply, I cannot spare this man, he fights.

We cannot lose Don Rumsfeld for despite his sin of hubris, he too fights.

NORRIS: Dan Goure is a fellow at the Lexington Institute. That's a think tank in Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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