Apr 18, 2006

Sour grapes and CYA

Are the real motives behind the assault on Donald Rumsfeld by the disaffected generals.
Retired Marine generals Anthony Zinni, a former commander of CENTCOM, and Gregory Newbold, once the Operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized Rumsfeld because they think the war in Iraq was a mistake.

Retired Army generals Charles Swannack, a former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division; John Batiste, a former commander of the 1st Infantry Division; and Paul Eaton, once responsible for training Iraqi troops, are silent about the wisdom of the war, but critical about how it has been fought.

Virtually all the complaining generals oppose Secretary Rumsfeld's plans for military reform, and are angered and offended by his management style. (The secretary is often brusque with subordinates he thinks reason or perform poorly.) The generals speaking out may have reasons other than patriotism for doing so. Gen. Zinni is flogging a book.

MajGen. John Riggs was busted a grade and forced to retire because of a procurement scandal. MajGen. Eaton oversaw the rebuilding of the Iraqi army in 2003-2004, when everyone now agrees this was a disaster.

"When Swannack, for example, blames Rumsfeld for Abu Ghraib, he gives up the game," wrote retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, now a professor at Boston University, in the Los Angeles Times. "By pointing fingers at Rumsfeld, the generals hope to deflect attention from the military's own egregious mistakes."

Rumsfeld's just doing his job, says Dean Godson.
WHO WILL be the Admiral Byng of the Iraq conflict — the symbolic victim executed for the alleged failures of the war? That is what the current “revolt of the generals” against Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, is about. It is the ruthless Washingtonian version of “pass the parcel”.

Much of the military brass feels that it carried the can for the civilian leadership’s errors in Vietnam and is determined never to do so again. General Anthony Zinni — the former US commander in the Middle East and perhaps the most voluble of Mr Rumsfeld’s critics — was particularly taken with a study written by a youngish Army officer, H.R. McMaster, criticising the US Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Robert McNamara era for not speaking up more loudly against a war they knew could not be won.
If Rumsfeld's is guilty of anything, it's of not being tough enough with the brass at the Pentagon.
The Defence Secretary has trod on toes in this process. He has insisted on interviewing every appointment to four and three-star rank — something that was more of a pro forma process under his predecessors. He appointed a retired Special Forces general, Peter Schoomaker, as US Army Chief of Staff, thus passing over stacks of serving officers. And with his greater emphasis on high-tech “jointery”, he has forced both the Army and the Marines to depend more on Air Force and Navy supporting fire.

The real criticism of Mr Rumsfeld is not that he “kicked to much butt”, but that he kicked too little. At George Bush’s behest, he sent the US armed forces into a war that they weren’t yet fully ready to fight: they are much more prepared now, but the insurgency genie is out of the bottle. He was part of the Republican consensus that was contemptuous of Clinton-era peacekeeping operations, believing that real soldiers don’t do social workerish stuff. Like so many reformers, his problem is that his changes discomfit existing interest groups before the benefits become fully visible.

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