Generally Speaking

There has been so much written about the retired officers speaking out against Donald Rumsfeld that it's a bit hard to keep up. Below are some of the pieces- blogs, op-eds, and articles- that you really shouldn't miss, though I'm leaving the comedy pieces (i.e. the Right-Wing attacks on the Generals) for the next piece:

The first must-read is an op-ed in the Washington Post from Richard Holbrook, who looks at the differences between this crisis and the last serious rift between the military and the President- when Harry Truman relieved Douglas MacArthur from duty during the Korean War. He concludes:

If more angry generals emerge -- and they will -- if some of them are on active duty, as seems probable; if the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan does not turn around (and there is little reason to think it will, alas), then this storm will continue until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld. The only question is: Will it come so late that there is no longer any hope of salvaging something in Iraq and Afghanistan?

On the right-side of the isle we have a thoughtful piece from Pat Buchanan, who argues that Bush cannot abide by the wishes of these generals without seriously harming the firewall between the military and this nation's civilian leadership:
But if he bows to the Generals' Revolt and dismisses Rumsfeld, the generals will have effected a Pentagon putsch. An alumni association of retired generals will have dethroned civilian leadership and forced the commander in chief to fire the architect of a war upon which not only Bush's place in history depends, but the U.S. position in the Middle East and the world. The commander in chief will have been emasculated by retired generals. The stakes could scarcely be higher.

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, dismissal of Rumsfeld in response to a clamor created by ex-generals would mark Bush as a weak if not fatally compromised president. He will have capitulated to a generals' coup. Will he then have to clear Rumsfeld's successor with them?

Bush will begin to look like Czar Nicholas in 1916.

To this I would say- too late. This President has already done everything in his power to cripple and overburden our military, and the Congress has been complicit in the entire ordeal (accept for brave men like John Murtha, who speak out on behalf of the generals, but who are then smeared as losers, troop-haters, and generally bad people). What should the generals do- stand by while our nation is pushed further into a hole from where we may never emerge?

Over at Whirled View Cheryl and the two Patricia's are having an interesting debate about the whole episode. Here's a quote from each:

So generals--colonels, too--have a habit of getting uppity, even American generals. Billy Mitchell had to be court marshaled. Douglas MacArthur had to be relieved of command. The military leadership were, to my mind, culpably seditious under Bill Clinton, who made the very bad mistake of not strongly asserting civilian control when he was first scorned as a "draft dodger." At least Rummy, whom I despise in every other way, is willing to put overweening generals in their place.

Generals may give advice to presidents. They may give orders to their subordinates. But generals are subordinate to the American president, who has the right to choose his executive team.

These men are retired from the military. They are not in the position of General MacArthur, who was serving at the time he openly criticized the President and was removed from command. We have had many retired military personnel making political statements. Dwight David Eisenhower, General of the Army, retired from that position and became President of the United States. John Kennedy served in the Navy, as did John Kerry. George Bush was in the Air Force reserves. Many senators and congressional representatives have served in the armed forces.

So where do we draw that line?

Has it occurred to the Bush administration and the GOP that retired Generals Eaton, Zinni, Newbold, Batiste, Riggs, Swannack and Clark just might be doing the Republicans a huge favor by calling for Rumsfeld's speedy departure? Before the Congressional election endgame this coming the fall? After all, if these generals really wanted to send the administration a stronger message, one that would really hurt, they would foremost support - and work hard for - the election of a Democratic Congress in November. They wouldn't bother to tell the president now that - oh, by the way - Rummy's a liability.

Over at Crooks and Liars there are a bunch of relevant videos-  Wes Clark on Fox "News", Olberman's Countdown featuring Cobra II author Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor (Ret.), and Major General John Batiste on the Today Show.

At Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Ray Kimbell asks a question on a lot of minds- What Took You So Long?

Welcome to the party, boys. Where ya been? Eric Shinseki and Paul Rieckhoff and all of us bloggers have been waiting for you guys for a long, long time. Not that we minded, of course. After all, isolated stands in lonely positions against daunting odds are part of the military culture, right?

I know, I know, you were still holding out hope for that third or fourth star. And after all, there was that cushy board of directors gig for General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin or KBR hanging in front of you - can't very well do that if you're biting the hand that feeds them, now can you?

Anyway, thanks for figuring out what many of us over here at IAVA figured out a while ago, and what some guy named Washington said a few hundred years ago: "When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen." For those of you still playing catch-up, that means that even though we accept some restrictions on our ability to speak out, those of us in uniform don't cede our right as citizens to speak out on matters of national interest and policy.

Over at Democracy Arsenal there are a few interesting posts, but the one by Ike Wilson is particularly insightful, and looks at this episode from the perspective of the Soldier and the State.  

Perhaps we need to hear more from the generals when it counts the most -- during their tenure of professional service, when effective change is needed the most, and when errors in the making can be prevented.  Perhaps hearing from them after retirement and after the point of decision only muddies the already confusing waters for soldiers in the field, statesmen, and public alike.  There are already hints that this latest revolt is an act of defiance not just by these six former officers, but that the six could be acting as proxies for a wider group of active duty senior leaders -- that the active duty senior leadership is attempting to negotiate the unmarked mine-fields of contemporary civil-mil relations by speaking truth-to-Power, indirectly, through the retired officer community.

Who knows?  But if this is the case, perhaps that is the strongest indication that our traditional notions of the limits of if, when, where, and how our military should (must?) engage in the politics of war policy and strategy making deserve and demand an immediate reconsideration.  

There is more- much more- but I'll have to stop here. If you have any pieces that you've read that I didn't mention, please post them in the comments.

Update: This piece by Kevin Drum is another nicely thought out piece, with links to many other blogs discussing the Generals' Revolt.

Crossposted at Blue Force | National Security Progressives, Progressive National Security

Tags: Anthony Zinni, Bernard Trainor, Donald Rumsfeld, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, John Batiste, military, Retired Generals (all tags)


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