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Rumsfeld preparing to duck out the back door?

Remember way back when Donald Rumsfeld was getting media attention for leaning on the generals to tell him what he wanted to hear?

Before we invaded Iraq, Rumsfeld wanted to hear that the invasion could be done with a smaller number of ground troops than some of his generals were suggesting. Famously, Rumsfeld and his neocon civilian advisers in the Pentagon publicly undercut former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki by suggesting to a Senate panel that Shinseki's estimate of the troop strength required for Iraq was too high. A good chronology, with links, can be found here.

Rumsfeld, it seemed, thought the Army leadership was mistaken about America's defense needs both in the specific case of Afghanistan and Iraq and in the general case of weapons procurement and defense spending broadly construed. A good summary is here.

Now that things might not be going so well in Iraq, Rumsfeld is portraying himself as relying upon the advice of his generals--something he never seemed to want to do before.

"Needless to say, if at any moment the military commanders indicated that they need more U.S. troops, I would certainly recommend it to the president and we would increase the number of troops but the advice we're getting is just the opposite. . ."

Asked if U.S. commanders might be sugarcoating their reports, the defense secretary insisted: "What I want to hear is the truth. And I hope they're telling the truth and you believe they're telling the truth and if they're not, they're not serve their country very well because I have no bias one way or the other."

Might Rumsfeld be setting up the field commanders to take the fall for bad consequences in Iraq? It's not a conclusion we're compelled to accept by the claims of his recent "deference" to the advice of his generals. But it's something we should remember if Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration attempt to duck the responsibility for a less-than-perfect outcome, while claiming all of the credit for the successes.