Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rumsfeld Roundup... 
The Moderate Voice has a terrific roundup of blogger reaction to the recent spate of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Remember, though, that America has hundreds of retired flag officers - and scores of them have retired since Rumsfeld took over as SecDef.

Look, there is always a broad spectrum of opinion within the military. And reasonable people differ over innumerable policy decisions. Reasonable arguments can be made, for instance on whether it was sound policy to disband the Iraqi army, on whether troop levels were optimal, on the extent to which the U.S. taxpayer should resource reconstruction projects, CERP projects, and hundreds of other questions.

And where there is a spectrum of informed opinion among Generals, the SecDef and Commander in Chief are entitled to make a policy decision. And no matter what policy decision they make, half of the generals are not going to get their way.

But from what I've seen so far, the policy desicions specifically objected to by these officers are entirely and legitimately within the realm of the Secretary of Defense to make.

Furthermore, the military is a community, and within that community are a number of professional journals. Proceedings, Military Review, Infantry Magazine, Logistics, and literally scores of other policy journals. Any officer with an idea can push the idea behind the scenes, through the chain of command, through personal contacts, through blogs (though blogs work better for us company level dorks at the pointy end of the stick), and there's a professional dialogue which informs military decisionmaking and military advice to civilian authorities.

But military advice is just that - advice. As long as this republic subordinates the military to civilian authorities, that's all it can be. And the civilians at the top of the chain command are free to accept it or reject it. That doesn't mean civilians should meddle in or micromanage the operational details best left to military professionals. But on broad decisions of policy, and on matters that require an extensive interface between State Department functions and large budgetary issues, and on matters that involve prioritizing resource between the different MACOMS, then those decisions properly belong to the Service Secretaries, the Secretary of Defense, and the President.

Rumsfeld may be a demanding boss. But we should remember that it is not the SecDef's job to make generals happy. It's not the SecDef's job to rubber stamp every general's pet weapons system or pet project and then go back to Congress and ask them to make the taxpayer pay for it. Many generals are still peeved over not getting their shiny new Paladin artillery system, and that was Rumsfeld's doing. And while reasonable people disagree over the necessity of the Paladin system, that was a legitimate decision for the SecDef to make, in that commanders at all levels must carfully allocate limited resources among competing priorities.

I haven't seen any serious charges that Rumsfeld does not have a grasp of detail. No one seems to be arguing that he's corrupt, or has broken the law. None of these generals is arguing that Rumsfeld has done anything unconstitutional. It all comes down to these generals not feeling like Rumsfeld listens to them. General Baptiste hints that in his opinion, Rumsfeld doesn't understand the principle of war, or is insufficiently ruthless in applying them. Unfortunately, the press accounts I can find don't expand on that opinion in sufficient detail to make it useful. (It's as if all they were interested in were scoring a political point, and informing the public or advancing the debate just is not a consideration.)

Well, just because Rumsfeld didn't take the advice of these generals doesn't mean he didn't take the advice of any of them. Rumsfeld listens to a lot of people every day. But he's not obligated to take the advice of any particular constituency, or anyone else other than the President.

In the absence of evidence that Rumsfeld has broken the law, acted unconstitutionally, or is simply incompetent, as opposed to unpopular, then the blasts from these generals against the proper and reasonable exercise of civilian control over the military strikes me as slightly unseemly.

But only slightly. We are still a democracy, and retired officers (and cantankerous reservists like me) do get to make their voices heard, and I'm glad we have a wide spectrum of opinion within the military, and that we do get to hear some different ideas from officers who have recently retired - though I don't think this crop has done much to advance the football.

Now, one thing that strikes me about these four is how utterly inarticulate they have been at explaining their reasoning. Liet. Gen. Newbold, in particular, couldn't even organize his thoughts into a coherent essay on why we boloed the war.

Now, take a look at this defense of Rumsfeld by retired USMC three-star Mike DeLong, who was CENTCOM's deputy commander under General Franks:

Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," DeLong told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday.

"When you walk into him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

DeLong was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003 under Franks.

Now, if Newbold, with years to reflect on the issue, couldn't organize his thoughts for a coherent Time Magazine essay, is it surprising if he had a hard time organizing his thoughts for a Rumsfeld briefing?

Meanwhile, the three generals whose opinions matter most - Former CENTCOM boss Tommy Franks, his Deputy Commander DeLong, and the current Chairman of the JCS General Peter Pace, are vocal in Rumsfeld's defense. Apparently, they didn't have a problem with him.

Splash, out


It doesn't surprise me that those generals could not make a coherent argument. After making say, O-6, they no longer have to draft their own correspondence. And that is a skill that if it does not get used, will wither.
Slight nitpick: Rumsfeld canned the Crusader system, not the Paladin.

As was stated on another blog, a big reason why some of these generals hate Rumsfeld is that he treats them just like they treat their junior officers.
That was my blog, Anonymous.

These GO's are coming across like whiny babies who didn't get their way.

It must be tough to have that ego that power and then find out that your opinion isn't the one that the big guy is looking for or values the most...but for most of us it's how life is...you win some you loose some. Just because they weren't listen to, to the degree they thought was appropriate we are supposed to fire the SECDEF? Who put you in charge General? They are entitled to their opinions...but as a wise man once said opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and most of them stink. They need to get over it and move on to that contractor job they were working on before they retired.
I'm most disturbed by Newbold's statement that properly apponted civil authority "hijacked our security policy." Apparently this high-and-mighty LTG has forgotten the proper role of the military under our constitution. We execute policy, we don't make it.

"Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die."
Crusader. Great name for a system to be deployed to the mid-East, eh? Maybe one of genius generals will field the "Zionist" attack helo.

I guess these generals would have genially accepted their subordinate officers posting editorials in the Stars & Stripes or blogging about their decisions, right?
Batiste is quoted as saying: "When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril." Where is the manual that lists the "principles" of THIS war? I would like to see it so I can see how we are in mass violating them.

Oh, it doesn't exist? You mean we are learning and adjusting our approach to this conflict, just like all the others we've been in, and "priciples" of war don't apply across all wars? Wow! What a concept.
Well, they apply in all wars, all the time. But they don't take on the same relative importance in every war, and when they do apply, they apply in surprising and unpredictable ways.

Furthermore, you can never maximize Mass and Economy of Force in the same place and time, while simultaneously being constrained by the principle of proportionality in Jus in Bello theory.

Pick any two, but the three of them are mutually exclusive - and no matter what course of action the command authority selects, at any level, someone will always be able to nitpick it and say 'we should have used more troops,' or 'more firepower,' or 'the footprint was too big' or 'we were too trigger happy' or 'the effort was not sustainable.'
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