Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chester and the Washington Post

The Washington Post in an op-ed titled The General's Revolt suggests the campaign by some retired general officers against Secretary Rumsfeld sets a disturbing precedent.

It threatens the essential democratic principle of military subordination to civilian control -- the more so because a couple of the officers claim they are speaking for some still on active duty. Anyone who protested the pushback of uniformed military against President Bill Clinton's attempt to allow gays to serve ought to also object to generals who criticize the decisions of a president and his defense secretary in wartime. If they are successful in forcing Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation, they will set an ugly precedent. Will future defense secretaries have to worry about potential rebellions by their brass, and will they start to choose commanders according to calculations of political loyalty?

Chester beat the Washington Post to that one days ago. His piece not only anticipates the Post but is more thoughtful and scholarly in every way.

As Eliot Cohen (who literally wrote the book on civil-military command issues) has noted, the generals are sometimes wrong: were Kennedy's military advisors correct when they recommended a nuclear first-strike during the Cuban Missile Crisis? As Cohen argues, only civilian leaders who actively challenge, question, and debate with their military officers are best equipped to guide the nation through its roughest times. A Cohen states, generals are experts in how to fight, not whether to fight. ...

But even that is not the most disturbing aspect of all of this. Most disturbing is the trend toward more open political expression among recently retired senior military officers. Recall the 2004 election, when each candidate lined up on stage with a few dozen retired senior officers, hoping to prove that he would make the best leader for their ranks. Are we soon to enter a period when a candidate cannot think of running successfully without vocal support from the officer class? Many democracies live with this curse, but I for one do not think it is healthy.

Suppose Rumsfeld were to resign at the behest of his generals. Would the next Secretary of Defense be more or less likely to challenge his generals in a very aggressive or pointed way? What if they all shunned him once they were out of uniform? Perhaps it would be best if he just kept his trap shut and let them have the run of things, rather than try to rock the boat, no? This is the danger that we face if we give too much encouragement to the type of behavior on display of late.


Even the most anti-Bush activists must know that once doubt has entered the heart there is no return to perfect faith. One day there will be a Democrat in the White House and the sauce for the goose will be served over the gander. Regrets by definition, always come too late. But then, the General's Revolt was the inevitable result of a reflexive instinct the politicize everything. Religion, funerals, the Oscars, the Pulitzers -- everything. It happened because 'activists' couldn't help themselves. And help themselves they did until they wound up cheapening the very prize they hoped to attain.


In From the Cold takes us back to when general officers stood up to their superiors within the chain of command and willingly suffered the consequences. The President: FDR. The war: World War 2.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson reached the apex of his Navy career, with appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. But Richardson soon ran afoul of his superiors, namely the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold "Betty" Stark and President Franklin Roosevelt. The President wanted to keep the Pacific Fleet--normally based on the U.S. West Coast--at Pearl Harbor. Richardson refused, noting that his ships were short of trained personnel, the waters around Hawaii ill-suited for training, and, in its forward location, the fleet was vulnerable to a potential suprise attack by Japanese forces. Richardson liked Pearl Harbor to a "g--d---ed mousetrap." ...

FDR had neatly solved the "Richardson problem" by removing the admiral from command. For a successor, the President reached far down the list of eligible naval officers and selected Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who took command of the Pacific Fleet on February 1, 1941. Ironically, Kimmel shared Richardson's misgivings about Pearl Harbor, but as the newly-appointed CINCPAC, he was less inclined to press the issue with Admiral Stark and the President. Just over 10 months after Kimmel assumed command, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Richardson's warnings about a surprise attack--and potential disaster--were proven correct.

Today (ironically), Admiral Richardson is little more than a footnote to history. He published a slim volume of memoirs (On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor) in 1958, but said little publicly about his battles with FDR, and his refusal to compromise the security of the Pacific Fleet. Admiral Richardson passed away in 1974, at the age of 95.

Kimmel himself was made the scapegoat for the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Wikipedia writes:

Along with Army Lieutenant General Walter Short, Admiral Kimmel became a scapegoat for American unpreparedness prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and their careers were effectively ruined. He was relieved of his command in mid-December 1941 and reverted to the rank of Rear Admiral....


Westhawk:Do they want a caudillo for the U.S.?

Real Clear Politics:Seven Days in April


Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

Man, Wretchard, that's some commentary--"Tellin' It Like It Is" (the Boomer mantra that we see on gray-headed display now, as the 'activists' who are saucing themselves) ain't quite what it tells it like it is.

4/18/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

There is another dynamic at work here: the American press.

This administration has a very difficult relationship with the press corp. Bush's famous gaffe during his first campaign set the stage and his behavior toward the press since then has done nothing to assuage bruised egos.

Mr Rumsfeld routinely smacks around ill prepared questioners. Last week he publically humiliated a reporter for asking a typical leading question.

Couple this antimosity to a deepening concern about loss of franchise and we have an explosive situation.

Therefore any critic of the Administration is likely to receive a warm welcome among the anti Bush press corps. A general, no matter his professional credentials, who professes criticism of bush will imediately be rushed to the pulpit.

We will live with the poor performance of the press until they come to their senses or are made completely irrelevant by sites such as this.

4/18/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Undertoad said...

Sauce for the gander was an independent prosecutor collecting evidence on things other than the initial crime which may or may not have actually been a crime in the first place.

4/18/2006 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Too true - If they are serious they should have stood up to percieved misguided civilian leadership while still in uniform (and fallen on their swords as appropriate).

Of course, folks who do that are not likely to make general (in any army) ....

4/18/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Throw in the financial benefits available now for these people via books and as consultants for the news channels, and there is a lot of incentive for them to speak out. Of course, the press will tend to publicize those who cater to their own views of Rumsfeld/Bush/Iraq much more than those who support the admin's policies.

4/18/2006 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

This is dangerous for another reason. Military science is a specialty field, like being a doctor or an accountant. I don't think it is in our interest to have various military men offer their military opinions in public to be voted on. That wouldn't work well for the medical profession, and I can't imagine it would work well here.

4/18/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"A Cohen states, generals are experts in how to fight, not whether to fight. ..."

And yet most of the widespread dissatisfaction and frustration is directly related to the 'how. This I do know. And it is certainly not limited to the generals.

It is far better that the retired officers do this. The alternative would be ugly indeed.

Rumsfeld has decided to dig in, so Chester's and the WaPo's pleas will be ignored.

4/18/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

There has been much comment about "transformation" within the pentagon. Is the military really undergoing a transformation? Is this a source of anger for these guys?

The book deal/ appearance fee angle is interesting. In this era (as in all others I'm sure) conflict sells. So dissention has a market value.

4/18/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger DanMyers said...


We want a "strong" military that "speaks truth to power"? My, My... thar be dictators thar..

4/18/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger James Kielland said...

I noticed Chester's post not long after he put it up, and it did give me a lot to think about. The idea of a politicized Pentagon, with politicians seeking to court endorsements from high-ranking military brass does get into an area of real concern.

On the other hand, the notion that generals should always be silent and keep all of their doubts to themselves sounds like a recipe for a complete mess. Just as the historical record shows us the problems of politicans seeking political alliances with military leaders, it also shows us the problems created when military leaders refuse to deliver bad news.

How bad does a Secretary of Defense or an Administration have to be before a general has the right (or the duty) to speak out?

4/18/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Westhawk said...

We had our own thoughts on this matter on Saturday:

Do they want a caudillo for the U.S.?.

It's in the interest of the American Democratic Party to nip this in the bud right now.


4/18/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

To me this speaks volumes about the unprofessionalism & despair evident in today's MSM.

They are now pillaging blogs for their op-ed material.

They trot every retired axe-to-grind type that fits their politcal ends to any outlet.

Now they are hounding two 20-year olds who've been accused accused by a drunken exotic dancer. They may be found guilty. I just wish the press would allow proper justice.

Too much to ask from the bastards.

4/18/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Tony Blakely writes

"...More specifically, can a series of lawful resignations turn into a mutiny? And if they are agreed upon in advance, have the agreeing generals formed a felonious conspiracy to make a mutiny?

This may sound far-fetched, but in Sunday's Washington Post the very smart, very well-connected former Clinton Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke published an article entitled "Behind the Military Revolt." ... "

" ... He takes that model one step further later in his article when he compares the current campaign against Rumsfeld with the MacArthur event and with Gen. George McClellan vs. Lincoln and Gen. John Singlaub against Carter, writing: "But such challenges are rare enough to be memorable, and none of these solo rebellions metastasized into a group, a movement that can fairly be described as a revolt."

A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

The upcoming, unprecedented generals' "revolt" described by Mr. Holbrooke, if it is not against the law, certainly comes dangerously close to violating three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: ..."

Seven Days in April
"Generals Prepare to 'Revolt' Against Rumsfeld"

4/18/2006 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

I must dissent. This is not the first disturbing precedent. The planned attack on Iraq was a disturbing precedent in US foreign policy and the use of our military in a pre-emptive war has possible implications still unknown to the military. Rules, traditions, accepted behavior, when fractured can always result in further changes. Relevent precedent during the sixties over Viet Nam, the civil rights protests, black insurrection in the cities shattered American self confidence for a generation. Hotspur Bush has opened up a real hornet's nest and the stinging has not yet stopped. In a worrying way there is not a good anaolgy with Viet Nam. Viet Nam never was a strategic issue for the United States. The mess we are in is strategic. It would be a good time for some cool thoughtful reflection. A GENERAL stand down should be the order of the day, but someone better start asking some tough politcal questions about where we are and where we are going.

4/18/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"It's in the interest of the American Democratic Party to nip this in the bud right now."

The Democratic Party can do no such thing. This is not their baby.

Those on the Right who are determined to see this as a political matter miss the point entirely. That it's not a political matter would give them serious pause, if only they were capable of seeing any criticism at all as something other than self-aggrandizement and petty partisanship. It would be funny, were it not so sad.

Rumsfeld knows, better than anyone, what this is about. Chester's notion that this is some hawks vs. doves squabble is as much nonsense as the notion offered by Westhawk.

4/18/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

It's a terrible precedent. Well summed-up, Wretchard. More focus on the enemy and the raw material of the Islamic world, less on the "mistakes," like looting howling mobs and demagogue theocrat mullahs and squabbling tribal BS sessions and trucks full of artillery shells. We won the war, we're trying to build not only a country but a civil society. Get in the game, or get out and shut up. Isaac Newton was "wrong" too. These political avalanches are also intimitely involved in the calculations of our enemies, who comprehend it through their own warped views, as the Foreign Affairs article on "Saddam's Delusions" makes quite clear. And I suppose few people remember all the Iraqi man-on-the-street quotes concerning some Iraqis' belief that the political volatility surrounding the 2004 portended a civil war in the USA. The generals are doing a diservice to their country that will resonate beyond their tenure and this sitting administration during a time when our enemy's only chance for victory is a Byzantine divisiveness among the allies. I'd say that with that in mind, all considered, we are tied, Osama has been correct, and we damn well better get down to correcting this right now. We are beyond "well-informed" on the "mistakes" made so far. This is a political stunt, and it undermines the backbone of the republic.

4/18/2006 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger DanMyers said...


Are they subject to the UCMJ? If they colluded while on active duty, yes. If after retirement, no. If there is active duty collusion, then Article 94 must be invoked. It states that - "1) with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny;"

The big question would then be, who has the political will to charge them?

4/18/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"How bad does a Secretary of Defense or an Administration have to be before a general has the right (or the duty) to speak out?"
A separate question is what are their motives.
For me, their arguments are diminished by their obvious political and personal calculations, compounded by their extreme self-contradiction over a very short time period.

...and again, there was nothing to stop them from confronting people somewhere other than in front of the cameras in a staged and orchestrated affair.

4/18/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Huan said...

Some, like Generals Zinni, Newbold, Eaton, Batiste, Swannack, Riggs and others, may not like Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership style. They certainly have the right as private citizens now to speak their minds. Some may feel that he's been unfair, arrogant and autocratic to some senior officers. But those sentiments and feelings are irrelevant. In the end he's the man in charge and the buck stops with him. As long as he retains the confidence of the commander in chief he will make the important calls at the top of the department of defense. That's the way America works. So let's all breathe into a bag and get on with winning the global war against radical Islam. In time the electorate, and history, will grade their decisions.

above is from a WSJ editorial on Monday by the following individuals. they also recognize the importance of the civilian command
Lt. Gen. Crosby (ret.) is former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Lt. Gen. McInerney (ret.) is former assistant vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force. Maj. Gen. Moore (ret.), U.S. Air Force, was director of Central Command during Operation Desert Storm. Maj. Gen. Vallely (ret.) is former deputy commander of the U.S. Army, Pacific.

4/18/2006 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Rush outlined three scenarios he read or heard about.
The last one had to do with the Generals preparing the field for a Powell run in '08.
Sure hope that doesn't turn out to be true.
Bring back Zell!

4/18/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger skipsailing said...

2164th Those questions are being asked incessantly IMHO. this is probably the most hotly debated war in history.

Is something a foot? I would think so. complaining about the civilian leadership is a perogative of those who serve. I recall my mom referring to "mack the knife" as in McNamara. Nobody seemed to like him. Were there publically celebrated resignations during his tenure?

4/18/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"That's the way America works."
As Wretchard points out, it was always exactly that way.
I agree with the descriptions of the relatively recent developments by Wretchard and the posters..
Before that, as I have said, were the Kefaufer Hearings, which brought the fame of the Tube to our distinguished Senators, and now generals.
Now we add the adulation of the Anti-Military MSM lauding elements of the Military for damaging the President and our Military's efforts around the world.

4/18/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"WASN'T always exactly that way"

4/18/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ash said...

W has, on so, so, many occasions said that withdrawal will be determined by what the military on the ground in Iraq tell him. Now, once retired, some generals are offering evidence that this isn't quite true. More blowback directly related to Bush's words and actions. Mr. Bush made his bed and now we all get to lie in it.

It is really quite absurd to go from 'retired generals express opinions' to 'mutiny'.

4/18/2006 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Trish - like troop numbers? Reluctance to use force in Fallujah I? Have we not heard of these things? Or are there other things?

Having had autocratic bosses before, for example, in my opinion the generals can just suck that up.

4/18/2006 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


The first time I saw the word "mutiny" was in certain press articles and blog posts attacking Rumsfeld. Chester didn't use the word. And neither did the Washington Post, to it's credit. That's exactly what some are hoping it will be: a mutiny, though they haven't stopped to think of the consequences.

Now I can't judge the motives, and I'll suspend judgement on the factual correctness of the general officer complaints. Let that be as it may. But it seems clear that if this is OK there's no reason not to expect more behavior like it in the future. Maybe that's good and maybe that's bad.

4/18/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

As to Generals staying out of Politics, that is lunacy.
General Washington
General Jackson
General Taylor
General Harrison
General Grant
General Hayes
General Garfield
General Eisenhower
all became President of the US
As did Colonel Roosevelt, Captain Truman, Lieutenant Commander Ford.
Presidents' Nixon, Carter, Kennedy, Bush 41 & 43, also served in the Military.

The idea that Generals stay out of US Politics is not confirmed, historicly.
As those listed are just the Generals that won the big prize, not all those that may have tried out and fallen short.

4/18/2006 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'll repeat this fact:
"Now we add the adulation of the Anti-Military, Anti-Bush MSM lauding elements of the Military for damaging the President and our Military's efforts around the world. "

4/18/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Yeah, but Washington never made a big deal about it on TV. ;-)

4/18/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

does General Powell run as a Democrat or a Republican?

I could see him as the Dem's
Great Right Hope.
Give 'em gravitus, in some quarters.

4/18/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

westhawk, 1:22 PM

"Incompetent public officials obviously should be held to account, but within the civilian political process, which is more than adequate for the task."

The Congress is receptive to the complaints of service members. It does not seem unreasonable to assume that general officers would have somewhat easier access than members, on the whole. Additionally, I think that most flag officers are personally acquainted with at least some small number of members of Congress. Moreover, unless waived, anonymity is almost certainly guaranteed. Therefore, for the current crop of disaffected flag officers, the political avenue was always available.

Among others, General McArthur was for many, many years quite dexterous in use of the Legislative branch. The services do appear quite adept at working the Congress on funding issues, even when those may occasionally not fit perfectly with the Sec. DoD's views.

Finally, when in doubt, a dissatisfied general can always count on good press coverage of the ubiquitous leak.

I do agree with the tone of your piece, if I fully understand it: it is a small but dangerous step from disloyalty to mutiny.

4/18/2006 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


You are as bad as Sean Hannity. Of course its a political matter (anything involving more than one person becomes political). We have senior level military leadership monkeying with politics trying to influence policy, policy that is the business of the elected officials setting.

I recall the same things going on (in remarkably similar terms) during our Civil War. General McClellan referred to the President as the original gorilla. McClellan too demanded more troops.

In 2000, a certain pentagon general (don't have the name) labeled the civilian leadership as the enemy. That's incredible and very bad.

As far as this being a Democratic baby, well maybe it is–maybe it isn't. I tend to think it is and they are the last people who should encourage the military to get out of line with their CinC and his Secretary of Defense.

President Clinton had an extremely bad situation with the Pentagon. First there was all of his baggage and then there is the fact the military didn't much like him either. Whenever President Clinton and his team tried to get the military to do something they ran into extreme resistance. One officer in a public speech referred to President Clinton as dope-smoking draft dodging philanderer (that officer was correctly reprimanded and lost his command), you want more of that Trish?

4/18/2006 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

So far, this is all a Wesley Clark type of Bravo Sierra from these Generals and if it weren't for the antigue media's BDS, they wouldn't have a platform from which to snipe.

4/18/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Desert Rat,

Yeah, you are right about generals and politics.

According to Dr. Richard Kohn in a 2002 artcle for the Naval War College Review (The Erosion of Civilian Control of the Military in The United States Today) quite a few officers refused to vote on the grounds it would spoil their relationships between them, their command, and their leadership.

It is hard to find the balance here. I do not in anyway want to deny every non-felonious citizen the right to fully participate in the political process but it is certainly not correct for the Pentagon to be driving policy.

Also, the evidence points to this sort of behavior as being rampant especially behind the scenes. Rumsfeld is often wrapped for being secretive (as he is in the article I point to above) but it is pointed out he must be otherwise Pentagon opponents will work behind the scenes to derail his plans.

This is not confined to Rummy either and those who think it is are not seeing the whole picture. Les Aspin and Clinton's other Secretaries of Defense (with the possible exception of Cohen) had it just as bad if not worse than Rumsfeld.

4/18/2006 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

desert rat,

"Tony Blankley writes"

Good piece, thanks.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that there did occur a mass revolt in the ranks concerning a president's policy. Resignations, within the army and navy were rampant.

As I'm sure you have now guessed, the event took place in 1861.

4/18/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger whit said...

Random Thoughts
In a political climate such as this, there will be no long war. Just a long surrender.
A heavy price will be paid by the first President who is not killing jihadis on a foreign battlefield and suffers another 9/11 event.

4/18/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger chthus said...


What if the potential Powell run is neither Dem nor Rep. A Third Party that offers to finish this as quickly and efficiently as possible (not speaking to their actual success, but promise) while maintaining the status quo at home until done, may stand to gain the middle ground and win by plurality in '08. A democratic miltary (ret.) coup of sorts.

4/18/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

OT but highly interesting and, in a sense, a "middle way" in dealing with Iran, by the respected strategic thinker Edward Luttwak (I found this on the excellent "Irish Pennants" site):


Jamie Irons

4/18/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

It seems to me that "generals are often politically active" is not mutually exclusive of the proposition that retired or sitting generals ought not, except in cases of gross negligence or fraud or whatever, mount a public relations campaign aimed at undermining specific sitting department Secretaries.

4/18/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Buddy, you wrote:

Man, Wretchard, that's some commentary--"Tellin' It Like It Is" ...

Doesn't it seem like Tellin' it like it is has long since morphed into Keepin' it real...?

And of course Dave Chapelle has had some interesting commentary on where that can lead...


Jamie Irons

4/18/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

A Perot with Gravitus?
Surely he could be as well funded.

Would break the Dems hold of the Black bloc w/out giving credit to the Republicans.
That'd be sweet.
He'd grab portions of the moderate left, right and center.

McCain, Clinton, Powell.
that'd be somethin' to see.

4/18/2006 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

On a lighter, happier note the fellows at Realclearpolitics have made it into the MSM.

"...Forbes.com Launches New Section Covering Washington and Business, and Announces Partnership With RealClearPolitics.com
Tuesday April 18, 12:30 pm ET
RealClearPolitics.com to Supply Feeds and Monthly Video Program With Larry Kudlow as First Guest ..."

Always have liked their site.

the Story on Yahoo

4/18/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I don't mind the generals speaking out. I should point out that nobody made a big deal about Franks showing up at the Republican convention, doing TV shows supporting the President, etc. I thought that was great then, and still do.

What I find repellant is the mindless media propping these guys up without scrutinizing their comments. The news here is "Generals speak out against Rumsfeld", i.e. the controversy itself, rather than the merits of their statements. "Bush bad! Rummy bad!" is their litmus test for these stories. Casey was on Meet the Press a few weeks ago defending the necessity of the war plan, and all we got from the media was a parsed sentence or two that seemed like it tended to kind of say that things weren't going so well in Iraq. We didn't get the page-one headline "General supports Rumsfeld and War Plan!" Likewise, Casey's statements on strategy and tactics were also ignored, unanalyzed, and now it seems, forgotten. But now that we have statements on strategy and tactics that reflect poorly on Rumsfeld and Bush, those statements are splashed across the front page of every newspaper on the planet. Still unanalyzed, but now "unignorable!"

What are we talking about anyways? Management style? War planning? Number of troops? If it's management style, Bush has the final say on the efficacy of Rumsfeld's leadership. If it's war planning, or underneath this rubric number of troops, then yes, Rumsfeld had considerable input on that. According to Woodward, though, Rummy's input on OIF was far less substantive than limiting.

We'll never know whether 500,000 troops would have been enough, or too much. We do know that we are fighting an insurgency, and we know that you don't win an insurgency with an occupation that massively disrupts the day-to-day local activities of the people you're trying to win over. Yes, with more troops we could have held more ground. Do we know if that would have been sufficient? No, of course not.

Look, this debate is fine, and in many ways necessary. I don't necessarily ascribe bad faith to the Generals (though some of the things they said sounded an awful lot like agenda-driven advocacy--as in throwing shit at the wall), but I do ascribe it to the gate-keepers of this discussion: the MSM.

But I have a solution: from now on, whenever anybody on the national stage is solicited by the MSM for their opinion, the interviewer should ask the interviewee what the arguments are against his opinion, who holds them, and why he doesn't think they are persuasive. Furthermore, the interviewer should be knowledgeable enough to catch any obfuscation or dissembling on this point, and nail the poor bastard if doesn't know.

If they did that for these Generals, I think everybody would realize that both sides have very plausible opinions and assertions. Furthermore, the public would see that both sides were well supported within the military brass, that all sides were heard, and that Rumsfeld and Bush gave their best judgment on who was correct--which is exactly what civilian leaders are supposed to do.

4/18/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Also, I thought Ari Fleischer's comment on the press was right on. He said that it is less a bias issue (though it is that) than a culture issue with the MSM: the MSM has a culture that worships at the altar of Conflict and Controversy.

It's this culture that provides the distortion in overall news content.

4/18/2006 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

As far as I know, this essay from James Fallows from The Atlantic provides the most comprehensive projection as to what post-war Iraq would look like and entail.

The 51st State.


(Sorry I don't seem to have the link-transformation buttons.)

Interesting to review.

4/18/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

A conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor is a felony.

4/18/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston said...

As a retired Marine Corps officer, I freely express my opinions. But then again, I don't do it as a "retired Marine Corps officer." I try to communicate a proposition and then support it with facts. By that standard, Wesley Clark is a joke and Anthony Zinni has flip-flopped on his pre-war WMD statements (see Brit Hume column on FoxNews.com of Tuesday, April 18, 2006). Zinni was an overweight egotistical loudmouth while in the Corps and retirement has only increased these characteristics.

4/18/2006 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

I said:

This is not confined to Rummy either and those who think it is are not seeing the whole picture. Les Aspin and Clinton's other Secretaries of Defense (with the possible exception of Cohen) had it just as bad if not worse than Rumsfeld. The article I read indicates it was not William Cohen who was the exception but William Perry.

4/18/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Ah, yes, marcus, the unhappy Clinton years. When the JAG had to issue a general warning on criticism of of the C in C. I remember well. There was an exceptionally sour relationship between Clinton and the military.

There is not, at this time, an exceptionally sour relationship between the President and the military, but between the military and Rumsfeld. He isn't simply solidly disliked; he does not have the trust and confidence of most who work for him, whether here in DC or in overseas theaters. His judgement is determined to be something other than sound.

He apparently believes that his continuing on as SecDef is more important than a restoration of that trust and confidence in the civilian leadership of the institution he serves.

All he has to do is come forward and say that he is not the best person to lead the DoD at this time. If he doesn't, it's not just the military that he's hurting, it's the Republican Party, too.

You only have to look at the numbers. The push to get him out is not motivated by Party, but it definitely has an effect there - and not for the better.

4/18/2006 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger geoffgo said...

OT, but our concerns about the NYT are not completely unheard.

Morgan Stanley Investment Management said Tuesday it withheld votes for the [New York] Times' director nominees because it believes the company's board and management have become unaccountable to shareholders.

The firm, which says it owns more than 5% of the Times' Class A stock, called for the elimination of the dual-stock structure that leaves control of the board with minority shareholders led by the founding Sulzberger family [Emph. added]

That seems at least as much of a revolt as six retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation, no? Except that Morgan Stanley is still on active duty. It's a mutiny! ... P.S.: Morgan Stanley noted that "[D]espite significant underperformance, management's total compensation is substantial and has increased considerably over this period." ...
according the street.com

4/18/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ari Tai said...

I think all these efforts resemble an unfriendly (corporate) takeover. Be it the SecDef under attack, or a new (conservative) administration just taking power - often taken away from incumbent leftists and elites that tend to find lifetime fulfillment in bureaucracies and intrusive governance, esp. in a military that has been treated as a political constituency (to be kept fed and quiet) after the end-of-history - v. the only important function a government must do.. all others are secondary are secondary to defense.

After a hostile takeover the new CEO comes in with just a few key and trusted staffers. They quickly sort thru the people who can contribute and who can't (sorting for intellect and judgment, putting these employees under pressure to deliver). They close-coach the A players who have been performing at the "B" level because no one has demanded better of them (and if they had been performing, they wouldn't have suffered the takeover). In time they carefully choose from inside and outside the new leadership team.

Rumsfeld in one of his early meetings was asked what "transformation" meant. The general up on the dais with him started talking about technology and practices. Rummy stepped to the microphone and said (roughly), "yes, it's all those things, but they are transient. Transformation is really about people, and the next set of nominations that the President will make for these leadership positions are key and they themselves will be the transformers long after we're gone."


How fortunate we are to have men like Mr. Rumsfeld (and many other CEOs) who risk their health and their reputation in their efforts to make big differences (no small ball) which improves all of our lives. The current backbiting is minimal given the normal fallout from a takeover. I'd expect 1000s and more of irritated and likely angry executives and middle managers in any a takeover of an "company" the size of the DoD (1% of 3 million+ employees is only 30,000).

4/18/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

the ring of truth is in your words, ari tai.

the oppo, weak on the issue front, is now trying to roll up the admin from the 'competency' angle.

4/18/2006 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Did Caesar become Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon or when he ignored the Senate?

Did Caesar become Caesar when the Senate saw arguing and bitterness elevated over actual debate and policy making?

These men are motivated by ego and the limelight as much as anything else. Watching them I get the feeling they are Chavez in reticulum.

4/19/2006 07:47:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

For a view of the Pentagon that is both flattering and not so flattering go read John Boyd's biography.

If weapons procurement - which is pretty straightforward - is so messed up - then imagine the scenarios when doctrine is produced - which is not so clearcut.

A good book into how decision making is undertaken is "Not a Good Day to Die" where we we get to see Generals taking over operations once they become successful.

Its very hard for a General officer to watch his lane.

4/19/2006 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


Read Ari Tai's last piece. That is what is going on, a large institution full of inertia is having its course changed and we are seeing inertia resistance to change.

4/19/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...

red river, 7:54 AM

Boyd was to military science what Einstein was to physics. Yet, the Air Force has never adequately recognized his achievements. While the Commandant came with a Marine contingent, as I recall, the Air Force couldn't be troubled to show at his funeral in force or in stature. I think there is now a small, non-descript plague honoring Boyd on a building on the Air Force Academy campus. Shameful.

As you a probably aware, his family did not donate his collections to the Air Force. Says something, I think.

4/19/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I asked my dad, USAF-ret. at colonel, what he thought about "The Generals'" speaking out publicly against Rumsfeld - not what he thought about Rumsfeld (to my shock, I discovered a few years ago that my own dad is a liberal), but what he, as a retired military officer, thought of these generals' tactics. He said that since they were no longer active duty, their first duty was no longer to the nation but to the troops, and they were speaking on their, the troops', behalf. I told him that in that case I hoped they'd exhausted every piece of private, behind-the-scenes influence they had before going to the press, because they'd just ensured that Rumsfeld would remain SecDef until Bush is out of office, if only because Bush will have an obligation to act against the precedent The Generals appear to be going for - some kind of retiree junta or something.

He added, somewhere in there, that the military people he's spoken with (that is, Air Force officers who cut their teeth in Vietnam, if that combination is meaningful at all - I think it might be, but I'm not sure) agree with The Generals that there was insufficient postwar planning in Iraq, etc., etc. Because he's my dad and it was Easter, I didn't press the question of what they expect to accomplish with this critique, since claiming insufficient planning for something that started years ago now is a far cry from putting forth an alternate plan. (I did eventually get in a little dig about Shinseki and the black-beret thing.)

I'm still recovering from the disappointment that this is one more thing he and I disagree on, but the more I consider the question, the less relevant the opinions of retired generals appear to me to be in a theater unlike any that these generals would have experienced while on active duty. What's that saying about always fighting the last war? I think we're incredibly fortunate that we appear to have an active crop of generals interested in fighting this war effectively, changing tactics and aims as need be to achieve the larger goals with (from what I see from the outside) a minimum of CYA. Oh, and let me not forget that the military as a whole, generals to sergeants and maybe even at recruit level, appears very cognizant indeed of the fact that they may only have three more years to do what needs to be done in Iraq, and are acting accordingly. (Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your service.)

4/19/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger stackja1945 said...

Earlier military civilian disputes

Patton was soon relieved of his Third Army command and transferred to the Fifteenth Army, a paper command preparing a history of the war.

President Truman relieved General MacArthur of his military command.

4/21/2006 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Jamie, I think you'll find most former military don't have a problem with Rumsfeld. I retired from the Marine Corps in October 2005 and don't recall a single discussion about him since 2000, except his proposals on the retirement system and occasionally when he slammed a reporter during a press conference.
Your dad is certainly entitled to his opinion (as I am) and as a private citizen can vote and volunteer, etc. or just sit back on the couch and opine. Like you said, he's more likely to have an opinion about the general conduct of the war and occupation than Rummy.
The one thing I wouldn't do is stain the uniform by invoking my rank in a public place. The so-called "generals revolt" is led by guys who were loudmouths when they were in the service, they have a history of taking themselves too seriously, particularly Clark and Zinni.
Trish seems to think that all current military are against Rumsfeld. I have no idea where she gets her info, I've seen past comments to the effect that her husband was/is in the service but a little proof is in order here. Substantiate or stop making broad generalizations such as "He isn't simply solidly disliked; he does not have the trust and confidence of most who work for him, whether here in DC or in overseas theaters."
Y'know, link to some milblogs or something or just admit that you have an axe to grind and that you think you have psychic powers that enable you to speak for hundreds of thousands of people.

4/22/2006 05:45:00 PM  

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