IN OTHER WORDS : Don’s gone

President Bush should have asked for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation a long time ago. Replacing Rumsfeld with former CIA Director Robert Gates will be meaningful if it ushers in a willingness to reconsider all aspects of the US engagement in Iraq.

With blatant hubris, Rumsfeld insisted on applying in Iraq his pet concepts of a revolution in military affairs. He disdained State Department planning for post-war Iraq. He made light of the ominous outbreak of looting after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He preferred a formal US military occupation of Iraq with insufficient troops to an early transfer of political authority to an Iraqi government. Instead he sent the woefully unsuited L Paul Bremer to rule Iraq as America’s proconsul. And Rumsfeld denied the reality of a burgeoning insurgency.

Bush said he will consider the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group chaired by his father’s former secretary of state, James Baker, and Lee Hamilton, former Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Baker was adept at doing deals with the reigning godfathers in the Middle East. If Gates proves amenable to such an exercise of diplomatic power, he may help to overcome some of the harm done by Rumsfeld. As Baker liked to say when he was in office, in Washington personnel is policy.