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April 14, 2006

We're Torn on This One

major dad and I have talked about it and all the opinions swirling around...

A retired Army general on Friday continued the volleys of criticism against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his handling of the Iraq war...

...is it right, is it wrong? Should they keep their mouths shut regardless, or do they have an obligation to speak up? One of the stupidest criticisms I've read is to the effect of "it's not helpful when the civilians feel they can't trust the military..." Hello. The reverse is also true, as the civilians have the final say and the military pays the consequences. I only wonder what would have happened in Vietnam, if the retired generals had spoken up. Maybe we could have cut out that cancer and saved some lives. Maybe the military could have come home proudly, instead of shambling and despised.

Posted by tree hugging sister at April 14, 2006 10:51 AM


There is sadly a large number of citizens in our society who will never trust the military...well, at least not our military.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at April 14, 2006 10:58 AM

I think we all have an obligation to speak up... when it comes to live military action, it should be done constructively. As for the retired brass - they have a unique view and should at least be heard, but it should be the current brass that we listen to (my fear is that the civilian control isn't listening to the current brass).

Posted by: KG at April 14, 2006 11:35 AM

It is imperative that they speak their minds, even if people don't agree.

I wonder if the commandant of the Marine Corps early retirement has something to do with this as well.

I don't think a general should be required to resign if he has a disagreement with political bosses, but sadly that becomes necessary at times.

Posted by: Mike Rentner at April 14, 2006 11:45 AM

Ah KG, that's the rub with being active duty and why it's so important for RETIRED generals/officers/senior enlisted to speak up. There are laws governing the behaviour of active members, which help protect us from sedition ~ or being Chili or Argentina at the very least. You cannot criticise a civilian office holder in a public (or otherwise) forum in your capacity as a member of the U.S. armed forces. Which is where your credibilty lies, n'est pas? Your job is to defend the nation however they choose to send you to do so. You may object** to the powers in your chain of command and face (or not) the consquences of your forthrightfulness (I'll try to find our Cobra II post about what it cost General Shinseki), but, in the end, you will do your duty as they proscribe it to be. THAT'S why the fellows free from those restraints (and retirees by virtue of their decades of service would carry greater weight than a pissed off LCpl who got out after 4) are those who are speaking up. Finally.

**let me add: I believe morally OBLIGATED to do so, but that takes courage in the face of possible career suicide.

Posted by: tree hugging sister at April 14, 2006 11:47 AM

Posted by: tree hugging sister at April 14, 2006 11:51 AM

THS is entirely correct. Barring the most extraordinary events, it's the military's job to shut up and do what it's told. It's equally a retired officers obligation to speak his mind. In the case of Rumsfeld most of the bad blood concerns his attempt to change the configuration and culture of the services, which is always going to ruffle some eagles. And stars. They would want his hide even if everything had gone like duck pins in Iraq. I wish he could go without conceding the 'who's to blame?' question.

Posted by: Sluggo at April 14, 2006 11:58 AM

Interesting picture, there's a different skill-set in each case with non-overlapping parts - neither gentlemen pictured are actually IN the military. The final outcome might have been far different if MacNamara had not tried to micro-manage everything into a 5-lb bag the way his Harvard MBA instincts drove him. Some of the unintended consequences (aka f*kups) were pretty significant.

Posted by: -keith in silicon valley at April 14, 2006 12:38 PM

if MacNamara had not tried to micro-manage...

Odd you should use that, Keith, considering the thing that stuck with me after listening to a ret.gen. on NPR yesterday. He said Rumsfelt was so far beyond micro-managing it had to be called nano-management.

And of course neither are in the military ~ I chose that picture to illustrate 1)a president and his SecDef 2) the "that cancer" (McNamara) in my post.

Posted by: tree hugging sister at April 14, 2006 12:46 PM

Vietnam was a political war and McNamara made the rules. If fought by the generals (w/o intervention of political nonsense) the outcome would have been different, protesting hippies be damned.

Posted by: getalifeagain at April 14, 2006 10:38 PM

I agree that once a course has been set, the military is obligated to do it's job. All I meant is that in the planning process, it would behoove the civilian leadership to listen to the admirals and generals who have spent their lives doing this kind of thing.

As for Rummy, pre-9/11 I would have agreed that the military needed to be recalibrated. But that only works if you are not going to invoke the regime change doctrine. True regime change takes a generation and requires big guns to be in place for that time - just look at Germany and Japan.

Posted by: KG at April 14, 2006 11:29 PM

As for Rummy, pre-9/11

Exactly, KG. My beef with "Iraq" (the invasion of which I did NOT support, bloodthirsty as I am) has been that you do not start and conduct a war on the cheap. If there is anything we owe the troops we throw into harm's way in our name, it is the BEST and the MOST we can muster in their defense and support. There's no excuse for either the complete dismissal of General Shinseki's (and other senior officers') concern nor the complete disregard for a plan as all encompassing as General Zinni's was at CentCom. Covered everything, right down to the looting of national treasures. The resources and the research were already in place. Rumsfeld and his miserable toady/crony Wolfowitz failed miserably in that respect. And who's paying for it? No one in those cushy Defense Department offices.

Posted by: tree hugging sister at April 15, 2006 12:11 AM

Considering all I've heard between General Meyers and some blogs, I'd like to repeat some additional thoughts I just left over at Bill's:

It's a tough choice as an active duty flag officer, especially ~ if you are a man of integrity and honor, when you challenge your superiors. If they are not in a sympathetic mood and inclined to agree with you, I've read in quite a few conservative columns that they should then resign in protest and thereby make their point. So I would also have to believe that 97% of these pundits have never served in any capacity or, if they did, in lesser positions. That man of integrity would also be asking himself, "if I resign, who then becomes the advocate for my troops? Who watches out for their best interests if I leave?" And he may well do more damage by pulling chocks. Troops appreciate a straight shooter, even if the big guys slough him off. They know they have a champion they can trust and would vastly prefer having him cover their six than on FoxNews as a 'retired' commentator.
Troops can tell the difference between the political operators and the GENERALs ~ the difference between the weasels and the Anthony Zinnis.

Posted by: tree hugging sister at April 15, 2006 07:45 AM