Walking the tightrope
The balancing act
Pardon My Opinion
Sun Apr 16, 2006 at 06:42:42 PM PDT
General Richard Myers, newly retired former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apparently got his Pentagon "fact sheet." He says it is very rude of former generals to criticize Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:
General Myers, who has emerged as one of Mr. Rumsfeld's chief defenders, repeated his comments from late last week that generals speaking out against the defense secretary are inappropriately breaching military etiquette that dictates officers only air complaints with the civilian leadership privately.
Oh my goodness! How can we survive a breach in military etiquette! I'm sure the families of our dead soldiers would be appalled at this rudeness. That's undoubtedly what is motivating General Myers to speak out so strongly about the this incredible threat to national security, rude retired military personnel.
But then we get this little show from Myers, in which he criticizes the Bush administration for admonishing General Eric Shinseki:
"He was inappropriately criticized, I believe, for speaking out," General Myers said during an interview on the ABC News program "This Week With George Stephanopoulos."
. . [H]is comments also marked the first time since his retirement that General Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has weighed in on the administration's handling of the 2003 troop estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who was then the Army chief of staff. General Myers's remarks today were focused on the criticism of General Shinseki, and not on the substance of his comments about troop levels in Iraq.
The clash three years ago between General Shinseki and the civilian Pentagon leadership still rankles some of his former military colleagues and goes to the heart of the complaints that Mr. Rumsfeld and his top aides -- who are philosophically in favor of a smaller, faster military disregarded calls for more troops to secure Iraq that came even before the invasion began.
In February 2003 General Shinseki, who had commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Iraq, testified in Congress that peacekeeping operations in Iraq could require several hundred thousand troops, in part because it was a country with "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."
Days later, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, called the estimate "wildly off the mark," a sentiment that Mr. Rumsfeld repeated in unusual public comments that were widely interpreted in Washington as a rebuke to General Shinseki.
Mr. Wolfowitz told Congress then that the American force could be sufficiently smaller than Mr. Shinseki had estimated because the Iraqis would welcome the Americans and because the country had no history of ethnic strife and was unlike Bosnia. Just this week, commanders on the ground in Iraq have said the current sectarian strife there reminded them of the situation in the former Yugoslavia.
. . . "Now, there were some mistakes made by, I think, some of the senior civilian leadership in taking General Shinseki on about that comment. I think that was wrong, and I've expressed those views, as a matter of fact."
Criticizing the administration, the Commander-in-Chief? How dare you breach military etiquette General Myers? You are emboldening the . . . um . . . rude.
This is not as simple as good guys and bad guys. Swannack's tactics in Fallujah in 2003 were a massive mistake, Baptiste couldn't handle Sadr City. That doesn't mean they're evil, but liberals have to resist the temptation to make them into instant heroes and Myers, who is a Bush toady, into a bad guy. This is about politics, military politics, but politics all the same.
What we are watching is like an iceberg, the very top are the retired officers speaking for the Army's bureaucracy. Having three combat commanders, including Paul Eaton, the former chief of the infantry branch, denounce Rumsfeld, is a big deal. These guys paid the price for Rummy's snowflakes. But there is a very big sea of discontent below them and its families, EM's, NCO's and Officers as well. Make no mistake, the Army, and the Marines, are sick of Rummy.
The Army leadership detest him because they think he has no respect for the Army. As a former aviator, or airdale, he thinks tech solves everything. They don't. But he disrespected them.
Myers is sending a signal to his peers that he is worried about the direction this is heading, which is a challenge to the civilian leadership, with Cheney being the next stop on the highway. This is no small thing in a democracy.
But at the same time, he's says he gets what they are saying by discussing the way Shinseki was humiliated by Rummy.
Myers doesn't want to be written off by his peers as a tool, so he has to give them something.
The main game here is to save the Army, and place the failure on the civilian leadership. These people are not anti-war per se, but they are anti-destroy the Army, and that is what will happen. The idea isn't just to replace Rummy, but get someone they can talk to, like Lieberman.
He may support this colonial adventure, but he's not stupid. Once Rummy is gone, the generals will tell the new SecDef the truth, and then hope to reach the President so they can get the Army out. A new Sec Def, not invested in the Iraq War as his idea, might understand when the generals tell him we've lost. Because that is what they told Jack Murtha.
This debate will only grow, because the fear is that the Army will barely escape from Iraq.
posted by Steve @ 12:10:00 AM