Monday, April 24, 2006

Eliot Cohen smacks down retired generals 
Here's Johns Hopkins Professor Eliot Cohen:

One could say much to defend Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld against the recent attacks of half a dozen retired generals--that the indictments are either old ("not enough troops," a trope from April 2003) or vague ("ignoring the Powell doctrine"), plodding ("violating the principles of war," a hazy collection of often-ignored, self-contradictory military platitudes), or downright silly (being disrespectful in meetings, as though generals would never, ever, be caught dressing down subordinates in front of their peers). Generals, one might note, may yield to vanity and pique, institutional parochialism and thwarted ambition, limited introspection and all the other foibles of proud men. One might, finally, observe that in the unhappy generals' account of Iraq there is no alternative strategy proposed, no fellow general held to account by name, scant acceptance of personal responsibility for what went awry on their watch, little repudiation of contrary statements made on active duty.

Read the whole thing. Cohen concludes by castigating Republicans as well as Democrats for exploiting retired flag officers.

I remember being surprised, as a young lieutenant in 1992, when Admiral William Crowe publicly endorsed Clinton over the President whom he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. At the time I was very much a Democrat (though not registered as one) and pro-Clinton, and very much in the minority in my peer group.

I also remember attending a function at Fort Benning, while in the Infantry Officers Basic Course in 1992, where a recently retired colonel was brought in as a guest speaker a few months prior to the election, and he told us "if you're supporting Clinton this year, you might as well turn in your crossed rifles" (the infantry branch insignia that infantry officers wear on their collars).

I was offended, and thought he was a bit of a jerk, and his remarks in that context were highly inappropriate. I never felt that way and still don't, and served with excellent Democrat and Republican officers and enlisted alike.

But if Republicans are uncomfortable with the fact that General Zinni and General Batiste and General Eaton and General Swannack are violating protocol by calling for Rumsfeld to step down, why did they trot out General Tommy Franks so much when Franks, also retired, publicly endorsed Bush in 2004?

Why did they trot out Colin Powell as a speaker at the Republican Convention in - I don't know when his first one was - 1996 or 2000.

Sauce for the goose.

Overall, I agree with Cohen - but it's easy to overstate the argument, and my objections to the current constellation of retired flaggies are centered more on substance than on protocol. As Cohen argues in his lead paragraph, the public statements from this group are fact-deficient, inarticulate, and for the most part wholly lacking in substance - as I've argued here on this blog.

Splash, out


Interesting you posted this now, I just got done commenting on a picture over at BlackFive. I
commented on the undesirableness of having politics play a part in the Armed Forces.
Blogsphere is a strange place sometimes.
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