Retired General Watch


Like Maggie Thatcher and Tip O'Neill in their great SCTV debate, Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff, understands that there's no foreign policy question that can't be solved by considering the lyrics of The Who:

To us, ["Won't Get Fooled Again"]'s lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again…

To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.

What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions–or bury the results.

Whole article. It's not totally coherent. Newbold starts off in the Kwiatkowski-Zinni-Shinseki mode of anger against the "zealots" whose rationale for an "unncesssary war…made no sense." But then he downshifts to arguing over details of the invasion and occupation. But if the invasion itself was the problem, what amount of tinkering is going to make anything come of that? I believe it was your folk-rock legend Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas who said, "After the first death, there is no other."