Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I Don't Care What Generals Think

While I realize the right will welcome Gen. McChrystal with open arms and big, wet, sloppy tongue baths (since no one will ask, they won't tell) because he dissed the President and Obama Administration in an interview with Rolling Stone, the fact of the matter is, he should not only be summarily dismissed, but lose his rank and retirement benefits.

For those on the right who have never actually served in the military - most of the senior members of the Republican establishment in other words - we have a principle in this country known as "civilian control". The military takes its orders from the President who is not a member of the military. It gets its laws and is regulated by Congress which is not a part of the military establishment.

This is why, whenever someone in Congress or the press carries on about some military matter not directly relevant to issues of tactics in battle (strategy, for those who don't know the difference, is the overall plan - defeat of the enemy - and is a political goal) insisting we need to "listen to the generals" I sigh and shake my head. No, we don't. Harry Truman integrated the armed forces without listening to anyone. Congress restructured the general staff structure in the National Security Act without consulting the generals. The Republicans in Congress denied cost-of-living raises to service personnel, even though their families were living on food stamps, even though the generals insisted on it.

Jackson Diehl's little piece, not so much a full-on tongue washing, but at least a smooch on the cheek with a promise of more to come, is completely wrong. If, as he claims, the divisions within the Obama Administration on Afghanistan policy are well-known, then McChrystal's comments are redundant. If they are evidence of bureaucratic in-fighting between the commander on the ground and members of the Administration, then he is taking the fight public, which is what ended Doug MacArthur's career (well, that and directly disobeying a Presidential order). In either case, he flubbed it.

It is long past time that the civilians who are supposed to be in charge actually got some spine. If Lt. McChrystal were to retire, it seems to me that might be a bit of a lesson, wouldn't it?

Virtual Tin Cup

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