Leading US generals are deepening President Bush's "Watergate Moment," reinforcing problems for military recruiters and anti-war feeling among American troops on the ground, thus weakening important pillars of the policy itself.
Similar pressures enveloped President Johnson in 1968 when a group of "wise men" criticized the Vietnam War, and President Nixon when he crossed the line into illegal spying in 1973. By 1968-69, sentiment among American soldiers had become rebellious.
The difference in this case -- so far -- is that Rumsfeld is not the commander-in-chief, only a stand-in. More important, the dissident generals are not calling for withdrawal from Iraq but only for better management, an echo of the CIA critics and the Democratic Party position from 2004 through the present.
Therefore, while the generals' public criticism is damaging, and may quickly become devastating to Rumsfeld's prospects for survival, it leaves wide open the question of what alternative in Iraq the generals have in mind. According to the Zogby Poll, 31 percent of our troops want immediate withdrawal, and a slight majority favor withdrawal within one year. Will their feelings be considered? If Rumsfeld goes, it will create a sudden opportunity to review all options, including the withdrawal proposals of Vietnam-era veterans John Murtha and John Kerry, but also the option of continuing the same old status quo under new leadership.
Those who oppose the war therefore should welcome the pressure on Rumsfeld [and his sponsor in the White House] but elevate the demand for an exit strategy, not simply new faces in high places.