Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration and writes at Real Clear Politics about the generals revolt of a few months ago and the new one bubbling up in the Thomas Ricks book to be published in three weeks, Fiasco: The American Adventure in Iraq.
There was a time not long ago when a general would resign rather than follow an order he could not, in good conscience, obey. A conscience is an essential part of the character we expect our officers to possess. But it is an inconvenience to a politician. Some generals who become politicians - such as Dwight Eisenhower - overcome the inconvenience by remaining faithful to their conscience. Lesser men overcome conscience by letting it fall prey to the fatal flaws of political character: ambition and the desire to take revenge.
Last April, six retired generals, each of whom had been promoted to significant rank under the Clinton administration, publicly criticized the president’s handling of the Iraq war and - some clearly and some in muddled terms - demanded the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. On April 16, in the midst of what he labeled a “military revolt,” former Clinton UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke wrote a Washington Post op-ed that characterized the generals’ mini-revolt as, “the most serious public confrontation between the military and an administration since President Harry S. Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur.”
Asked if the generals were coordinating their campaign, one participant, retired MGen. John Batiste, denied that they were. But to some of us who comment on national security matters there was an unmistakable similarity among the generals’ remarks. Holbrooke’s article casually attributed the similarity to the fact that recently-retired generals stay in close touch. But there was obviously more going on. Holbrooke, who is said to be a likely Secretary of State in a future Democratic administration but who lacks any military credentials, wasn’t a likely candidate to organize and urge the generals to rebel against civilian authority. But his column hinted darkly at more to come:
Oh yes, here’s more to come…….
My husband was a Lt. Col in the J-8 (Resource Management) in the Joint Staff during the Clinton administration. The peace dividend taken by President Clinton over his two terms castrated the military. However, to ensure that there was no bad press the Clinton administration required the cuts to be in the areas which were less visible.
A great deal of the general officers at that time rose up and in protest submitted their resignations. (this was integrity) The rumors around the Pentagon were that they would publicly decry the destruction of the military’s ability to defend our country.
This did not happen. From what my husband heard through the grapevine the administration made very viable threats against the mass protest and they had a reputation of making good on their threats.
What is little known to the public is how these cuts were accomodated by the newly appointed generals who replaced those who had resigned. They redefined the support structure of the military combat units.
My husband saw the results of these cuts when he was a senior planner for the Iraq Invasion. The accomodation made by the Clinton administration generals was to do away with support structure by contracting out the majority of our logistics. This presented a tremendous amount of problems which in Iraq, resulted in the lack of specific equipment (armored Humvees, body armor, sufficient repair parts, and transportation assets) and in some cases resulted in losses.
The Army’s new leadership under Clinton stipulated that these cuts in support would be assuaged by civilian contractors rather than the military system that had been necessary in the previous fifty years. The new “just in time logistics”, and the loss of the military Depot system as well as the reduction of support personnel was responsible for a four day lag in the march to Baghdad as well as numerous issues dealing with the logistical lines and problems with the Army support units internal capabilities. (i.e. Jessica Lynch story and others)
The generals we are now hearing from are the same ones who were the architects of this fiasco under Clinton. It is not surprising that they would blame others for their own lack of integrity which was noticably absent when they took their promotions from President Clinton. It is the epitome of hypocrisy that these individuals who were the architects of a broken system would cast the blame for that system on others.
President Bush used the military he inherited to defend our country. That it has been so successful is a tribute to him and to those who are in the fight. The problems we are seeing are a direct result of issues which do not come from this administrations actions but reside in the previous administrations policy.
Welcome Lorie Byrd and Wizbang readers!
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