Secretary of Defense Donald Rumfeld resigned today, and this departure was both necessary and overdue. Secretary Rumsfeld has been superlatively loyal to his boss, often effective in his position -- and has a slew of accomplishments to his credit. Past master of bureaucratic politics, Secretary Rumsfeld made plenty of enemies, not least in his own Department.
It is important for a Secretary of Defense, (and a President), to take well-informed military advice when and as appropriate, but not to ever be dominated or bamboozled by service agendas masquerading as expert advice.
Rumsfeld, armed with a ferocious temper, formidable political skills and both massive ego and intellect -- sucessfully avoided co-optation by the military, but perhaps he succeeded too well. Rumsfeld's relentless pressure: well-documented in such works on the Second Gulf War as Trainor and Gordon's Cobra II, to do more with less, and go into Iraq with a minimum of conventional force, combined with his reluctance to see the military sucked into nation-building missions, appears to have been at least in part responsible for the initial failure to properly respond to the developing Iraq insurgency in late 2003 early 2004. To a layman looking in from the outside, Secretary Rumsfeld appears to have harbored a certain amount of bias against plans and suggestions of the Army leadership.
President Bush has many faults, but the absence of loyalty isn't one of them. A President, or other political leader has to be able to discard even loyal subordinates ruthlessly and without compunction, when it is necessary to advance the mission. With Secretary Rumsfeld, that point had certainly been reached.
The choice of replacement (Texas A&M President Robert Gates) is interesting: an old Washington hand with long experience at CIA, and on the National Security Council. Dr. Gates is supposed to be close personally to President Bush. . . and the President's father, the first President Bush.
Dr Gates's prior experience is primarily with an agency that, at the very least, would be characterized as "troubled" and often at odds with the Department of Defense. How effective Dr. Gates will prove as Secretary of Defense remains to be seen. Dr. Gates figured as a witness in the 1980's Iran-Contra affair -- which might concern Democrats, who saw aid to the Nicaraguan anti-communist rebels as a scandal rather than intelligent. If the Democrats are especially stupid, (that is, more so than usual), Dr. Gates's confirmation hearings might be interesting.