April 13, 2006

General Mayhem

There are many negative vibes coming from US military Generals these days. More accurately, there is a rash of former Generals who now decry the Iraq war. The movement is well-documented by Fred Kaplen in Slate:

Some of the most respected retired generals are publicly criticizing Rumsfeld and his policies in a manner that's nearly unprecedented in the United States, where civilian control of the military is accepted as a hallowed principle. Gen. Anthony Zinni, a Marine with a long record of command positions (his last was as head of U.S. Central Command, which runs military operations in the Persian Gulf and South Asia), called last month for Rumsfeld's resignation. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who ran the program to train the Iraqi military, followed with a New York Times op-ed piece lambasting Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically," and a man who "has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his Cold Warrior's view of the world, and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower."

But the most eye-popping instance appears in this week's Time magazine, where retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, the former operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not only slams the secretary and what he calls "the unnecessary war" but also urges active-duty officers who share his views to speak up. Newbold resigned his position in late 2002—quite a gesture, since he was widely regarded as a candidate for the next Marine Corps commandant. His fellow officers knew he resigned over the coming war in Iraq. The public and the president did not.

The rapid shift that one's attitude undergoes once you leave the service is well documented by TNR:

We've got great Iraqis who are patriots, committed to a free and democratic Iraq.

--Major General John Batiste, then-commander of the First Infantry Division, November 14, 2004

Iraqis, frankly, in my experience, do not understand democracy. Nor do they understand their responsibilities for a free society.

--Retired Major General John Batiste, CNN, today

Well, which is it? If the General was right the second time, WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING THERE?

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