Gen. Zinni (Ret.) Calls Rumsfeld a Ninny

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The Wash Post reports on a bunch of old generals who think Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should step down:

"The problem is that we've wasted three years" in Iraq, said General [Anthony] Zinni, who was the chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, in the late 1990s. He added that he "absolutely" believes that Mr. Rumsfeld should resign.

Other retirees who served in Iraq seconding that emotion include Army Major General Paul Eaton, Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, and Army Major General John Batiste.

On the flip side, reports the Post (which worries that such outbursts might undermine civilian control of the military):

The generals themselves may be partly to blame for the fiasco in Iraq, along with Mr. Rumsfeld and the White House, said Michael Vickers, an analyst at a Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "It's just absurd to lay the blame on Don Rumsfeld alone," he said.

Whole thing here.

A few weeks ago, on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Reason asked our staff and others what they thought then, what they think now, and what they think we should do in the future. Check it out here.

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  1. What fiasco in Iraq?

    You won’t get the rules from the MSM, which is devoted to all quagmire all the time, but you could read, say, bellmont club for an inkling that there’s actually something sensible happening.

    http://www.fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com

    Or you can stay with soap opera. It’s really none of my business.

  2. I had no idea General Anthony Zinni was part of teh Emm Ess Emm.

    If only career soldiers who have risen to the highest ranks of our military and have extensive knowledge of the Middle East knew as much about the situation in Iraq as your typical warblogger.

  3. Look, you go to war with the secretary of defense you have.

  4. Yeah Joe, if only the career soldiers has risen up and revolted against civilian control. I don’t Zini anymore than I like the people who bitched and whined about Clinton during his presidency. Civilian control of the military is a lot more important in the long run than arguments about Iraq. First, just because you are a general doesn’t mean you are right about everything. If the country had listened to McClellan it would have never won the civil war or it had listened to McArthur it would have nuked China. Second, it is not Zini or Franks or any of their jobs to run to the NYT and whine whenever they don’t like something. If Zini wants to make policy, run for office. Democrats need to think long and hard about this whole, “he wears a uniform he has moral authority” crap. Is that the country we really want to live in? Its not the one I want to live in. I would rather have elected officials running things and run the risk of them messing things up than have it where the military feels free to undercut the civilian leadership everytime they don’t agree with something.

    This is not about Iraq. This is about not becoming the Weimar Republic.

  5. Yeah, ron, what fiasco?! That Belmont Club link was fun. Wow, it’s nothing but good news! And this is somehow more representative of Iraq than everything else? Their source for the top story is…Michelle Malkin. Excuse me if I’m not shaken by it.

  6. And Victor Davis Hanson says we’re winning too. So it must be true. Why are we winning? Because fewer Americans got killed in March 2006 than 2005. So everything must be A-OK, I’ll book my flight to Baghdad tomorrow. Naturally I always take the word of conservative arm-chair QBs over officers who actually served in Iraq, or Iraqi bloggers who live there.

  7. Nice strawman, fake soldier John. Care to point out the quotes where anyone is calling for the military to overthrow the government?

    But then, “retired military criticizing White House policy = military coup” is pretty much equivalent to “public criticizing White House policy = treason,” so at least you’re being consistent in fascist overreaction to dissent.

  8. “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,”
    That was a recent quote from retired Lt. Gen. Newbold.

  9. Joe, where did the words military coup come in? I want to see what you have to say there is eventually a Democratic President and every retired old fart comes out of the woodwork to undercut his policy. You will be screaming like a stuck pig. The point is that the military needs to stay the hell out of policy debates and execute what they are told. You can dig up a four star that will tell you anything, especially if doing so will get his name in the paper. You shouldn’t have policy debates based on “my general is better than your general”. I think Tommy Franks would have a different opinion than Zini. Does that end the argument?

    I am the one argueing for civilian control of the military but I am the fascist. You are amazing Joe.

  10. Joe, where did the words military coup come in? I want to see what you have to say there is eventually a Democratic President and every retired old fart comes out of the woodwork to undercut his policy. You will be screaming like a stuck pig. The point is that the military needs to stay the hell out of policy debates and execute what they are told. You can dig up a four star that will tell you anything, especially if doing so will get his name in the paper. You shouldn’t have policy debates based on “my general is better than your general”. I think Tommy Franks would have a different opinion than Zini. Does that end the argument?

    I am the one argueing for civilian control of the military but I am the fascist. You are amazing Joe.

  11. The focus on Rumsfeld does let a lot of people off the hook. Starting with the petulant Manchild in Chief. Why don’t these generals resign before they enable a fiasco (like Iran) rather than afterwards?

  12. I think you’ll find Belmont Club has a lot of sources.

    A lot of people find him unreadable, but I think he writes like Walter Lord when he’s good.

    It’s sort of eye-opening if you’re not an expert in military history, what there is to be seen.

    The MSM puts out what draws audience, by contrast, and all-quagmire gets the most eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

  13. John, you may not have used the word “coup”, but here are some things that you did say:

    Yeah Joe, if only the career soldiers has risen up and revolted against civilian control

    You accuse joe of wanting career soldiers to revolt.

    Civilian control of the military is a lot more important in the long run than arguments about Iraq….I would rather have elected officials running things and run the risk of them messing things up than have it where the military feels free to undercut the civilian leadership everytime they don’t agree with something.

    Here you equate criticism from officers with removing the military from civilian control.

    This is not about Iraq. This is about not becoming the Weimar Republic.

    Here you equate criticism of Rumsfeld with a slippery slope that leads to Weimar.

    You know what? That’s the last thing I have to say to you.

    Astroturf.

  14. “I am the one argueing for civilian control of the military but I am the fascist.”

    No, John, no no no! You’re incredibly disingenuous here. Here’s the state of things:

    1) military leaders criticize civilian leadership.

    2) john discounts their criticism based solely on the notion that civilian leadership of the military is important. this does not relate logically, and it is not a valid criticism of their arguments.

    3) joe calls you out on that, and asserts that this is no excuse to invalidate their arguments

    4) you claim that you are “arguing for civilian control of the military”.

    This is absurdity, John. Absolute absurdity. If you want to argue about civilian control of the military, then, shit, go right ahead—but don’t be so intellectually dishonest as to think that “civilian control of the military is important!” is a valid counterargument to the specific criticisms levelled by the generals. It’s a non sequitor…like if I said, “George W. Bush has been reckless with the budget”, and your retort was, “civilians like you should not be able to usurp the president’s power to control the budget!”

    In other words, it doesn’t address the argument itself, it simply sidesteps it—thus, it is disingenuous, argumentatively.

  15. You won’t get the rules from the MSM, which is devoted to all quagmire all the time,

    Geez, Ron, this is from the NY Sun, a hawkish rag if there ever was one.

  16. Excuse me I just had to go get some prosac to get over my depression that Thoreau might never talk to me again. The point is not that Zini said something. Its a free country and he is retired, he can say what he wants. The point is when people like Joe hold him up as a special authority because he wears a uniform and agree with him. Just because Zini doesn’t mean he is right or in fact more likely to be right than anyone else. To argue that he does is to set the military up as a pretorian class.

    If there is anything disengenious going on it is people who normally would have nothing good to say about the military now acting like the military is this special priestly class when one of them happens to agree with them.

  17. Like I said, I want to hear what Joe has to say when the next generalisimo gets on the pages of the Washington Times and says that some Democratic president is selling out the military. He will cry foul and rightfully so.

  18. John,
    It seems to me that most here are able to call a spade a spade, whether he or she be military or civilian.

  19. “Why don’t these generals resign before they enable a fiasco (like Iran) rather than afterwards?”

    Actually, Newbold did. He resigned in 2002, i.e., before the invasion of Iraq. He just didn’t speak out publicly until recently.

  20. Ruthless,

    Sometimes. The argument on this thread seems to be “well GEN Zini said it and all the “professionals” believe it, it therefore must be true. Bullshit. That is about as disengenuous as it gets.

  21. Newbold is an example of exactly what I am talking about. He argues that since officers take an oath to defend the constitution, active duty officers have a duty to criticize civilian leaders when they don’t agree with the decisions. That is just wrong.

  22. John,
    Here’s what this thread is about:
    1. The Emperor (Bush) has no clothes.
    2. How many widdle kids (generals) does it take to open the eyes of the hoi polloi?

  23. That Belmont Club link was fun. Wow, it’s nothing but good news!

    You must be reading a different Belmont Club blog than the one I read.

  24. Wow, John, you’re pulling out all the stops in the “logical fallacy” department today—from Strawmen to red herrings, you’re really doing a number.

    I want you to do a few things for me:

    #1 (Strawman): Please quote, chapter and verse, where anyone in this comment thread said “General Zinni said it, all the professionals believe it, so therefore it must be true”, or anything like that.

    #2 (Argumentative Assumptions based on nothing but your own perceptions): Please show me where Joe said that it would be different if the administration was democratic.

    Perhaps Joe and other partisan cheerleaders WOULD do that—but you have no rational or lagical basis for your assumption, and thus, it really has no place in judging the validity of the Officers’ criticisms.

    Your arguments all skillfully skirt the real substance of this issue. Not only that, but you make this incredible logical leap from “ex-army generals’ word should not be taken as gospel just because they were army generals” (a valid assertion) to “he’s no more likely to be right than anyone else”. This is absurd. If you cannot swallow the fuckin’ glaring, obvious fact that the JOINT CHIEFS are in a UNIQUE POSITION to provide commentary on the war that they executed, then, well, it’s quite obvious that you’re just being willfully ignorant.

  25. The point is when people like Joe hold him up as a special authority because he wears a uniform and agree with him.

    I agree with Joe.

    The subject under discussion is “How to run a war.” Generals damn well better have expert knowledge of that subject, because that’s what they do. If your mechanic says your car needs new brake shoes, do you get a second opinion from your accountant?

    Weimar Republic? Puleeze. It’s a long way from retired commanders saying, “The Secretary of Defense should be replaced.” to “Officers unite! Take over Congress!”

    “It’s just absurd to lay the blame on Don Rumsfeld alone,” he said.

    First rule of military leadership: The commander is responsible for everything his unit does or fails to do.

  26. er, make that “joint chiefs and military generals”. Somehow that got deleted.

  27. The argument on this thread seems to be “well GEN Zini said it and all the “professionals” believe it, it therefore must be true. Bullshit. That is about as disengenuous as it gets.

    Right because the ‘conservative arm-chair QBs’ and ‘those who have never had to execute these missions’ are completely genous.

  28. Warren:

    No, you don’t get it. In John’s eye, everyone is equal. My 10-year old cousin’s opinion is no more or less valid than General Zinni’s. Experience and position lend no credibility to you whatsoever.

  29. Evan,

    The issue is what is the duty of an officer? Do we want to have a culture where officers and former officers feel free to use their positions to undercut whatever policy they disagree with? My answer is no. That once you join the military you take an oath to faithfully execute what the civilian leadership tells you to execute (within the confines of the laws of war). If you want to publicly debate policy, then don’t join the military. If Howard Dean gets elected President and O8 and abandons the Iraqis, I personally think that would be a tragedy. I am not however going to get on CNN and play the veteren card to undercut his policies. He won the election. If Zini has an issue with the President, then bring it up to the President, but don’t abuse your position or former position to undercut civilian leadership. The military is different in that regard. If Zini wants to run for office ala Eisenhower, that is one thing. What he and others like him are doing is using their positions as retired generals to undercut public policies they don’t like. If Zini doesn’t like taking orders from politicians, he should have become one and never joined the military or moved to a banana republic where the military gives the orders.

  30. Basically Generals ought to stay the hell out of politics. I don’t see why that is such a radical idea, especially to a bunch of alleged libertarians.

  31. If Zini has an issue with the President, then bring it up to the President, but don’t abuse your position or former position to undercut civilian leadership.

    Right, because when electing a president the voters evaluation of the candidates should not be contaminated by the views of people who know more than they do.

  32. Basically Generals ought to stay the hell out of politics. I don’t see why that is such a radical idea, especially to a bunch of alleged libertarians.

    It’s worth noting that as a General, he did stay out of politics. Now that he’s a civilian, he’s exercising his first amendment rights, and his former position gives weight to his views.

  33. This whole thing is a good example of a broader phenomenon. We used to be too differential to experts. Now we’ve gone completely the other way and yes, in Dick Cheney’s PoMo America, a warblogger in a basement is as knowledgable as a general. It’s funny to hear conservatives saying things a lefty campus type in 1992 might have said – Darwinism is just one of many equally valid narratives and actually, you’re oppressing me by insisting I learn about it!

  34. So, according to the Busheviks, anyone who has ever been in the military must never again criticize any government policy, even if they’re no longer in the military.

    Way to “support the troops,” guys.

    Incidentally, here’s the oath that officers take when comissioned:

    I, {insert name here}, do solemnly swear, (or affirm), that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

    Note that it doesn’t include “faithfully execute what the civilian leadership tells you to execute.” It does mention defending the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

  35. Warren,

    That’s right, lets just let the Generals tell us what to do. They know better about these things. If they know so much better, why do we even bother to have civilian control of the military? Lets just leave all of the decisions relating to war and peace to them. If Zini knows so much more than the President, why give some idiot President any authority? Lets just leave it to the professionals. That is the path that kind of thinking leads to and its a very dangerous one.

    Again, I think Generals ought to stay the hell out of politics. I think if they were honest with themselves most people on this thread would agree with me if they were not so opportunistic about finding someone, anyone, that agrees with them.

  36. Ken,

    Defending the Constitution does not include making policy. The Constitution is the President and Congress have the warmaking power not the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Brian,

    Yes, only a few people writing blogs believe in the war. No one in the military does. They are all just like Zini. No all of the “experts” whoever they are are not in agrement. Yeah, a few generals are disgurntled that Rumsfeld didn’t kiss their asses like Less Aspin and William Cohen did. Just like the bureaucrats at State, the bureaucrats at the Pentegon hate the fact that someone came in and said “I am in charge, this is the way it is going to be”. What is funny is to see people who have spent their entire lives distrusting “the military industrial complex” now holding up some of that very same complex as experts that elected officials should have deffered to over their own judgements.

  37. John,

    That’s right, lets just let the Politicians tell us what to do. They know better about these things. If they know so much better, why do we even bother to put Generals in the military? Lets just leave all of the decisions relating to war and peace to them. If Rumsfeld knows so much more than his Generals, why give some idiot general any authority? Let’s just leave it to the amateurs. That is the path that kind of thinking leads to and it’s a very dangerous one.

    Again, I think retired Generals ought to have the same opportunity to influence politics as anyone else. I think if you were honest with yourself you would agree with me if you were not so opportunistic about dismissing someone, anyone, that disagrees with you.

  38. The issue is what is the duty of an officer? Do we want to have a culture where officers and former officers feel free to use their positions to undercut whatever policy they disagree with?

    Yes, frankly. The same way we want to have a culture where Congresscritters and former Congresscritters, Former Presidents, policy analysts, Governors, columnists, and your cousin Jed with the lisp feel free to “undercut” policy they don’t agree with by saying “Dudes, I think something is wrong over here” and stating reasons. It’s a long way from “I think Rumsfeld has screwed up and should resign” to “I AM BENITO MUSSOLINI!”

  39. “That’s right, lets just let the Politicians tell us what to do.”

    Warren, unlike the military, we elect those politicians, so its okay for them to make decisions. That is how it is supposed to work.

  40. Warren, unlike the military, we elect those politicians, so its okay for them to make decisions. That is how it is supposed to work.

    see
    Comment by: Warren at April 13, 2006 12:16 PM

  41. No, you don’t get it. In John’s eye, everyone is equal. My 10-year old cousin’s opinion is no more or less valid than General Zinni’s. Experience and position lend no credibility to you whatsoever.

    Careful with this…

    …you’ll be unable to argue against the opinions of Drug Warriors, Vice Cops, policy makers…

  42. Here’s a bit from an article in today’s Slate. The idea being, that while we don’t expect the military to run the country, we do expect our civilian leadership to at least consider military opinion that disagrees with their ideology.

    Zinni, Eaton, and Newbold are explicitly trying to supplant the lesson of Shinseki with an earlier lesson?one that was propagated throughout the U.S. armed forces in the late 1990s but laid aside once the war in Iraq got under way. It came from a book called Dereliction of Duty, by H.R. McMaster, then an Army major, now a colonel. Based on extensive research into declassified files, the book concluded that during the 1960s, the Joint Chiefs of Staff betrayed their constitutional duties by failing to provide their honest military judgment to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as they plunged into the quagmire of Vietnam. When McMaster’s book was published in 1997, during the Clinton administration, Gen. Hugh Shelton, then the JCS chairman, ordered all his service chiefs and commanders to read it and follow its lessons to the letter?to express disagreements to their superiors, even at the risk of getting yelled at. William Cohen, Clinton’s secretary of defense, echoed the sentiment. Ever since, Dereliction of Duty has been a must-read for all senior officers.

  43. Maybe the lesson is that good soldiers aren’t robots to be programmed by the civilians. They can have opinions and should be able to disagree with our leaders without fear of reprisal.

  44. Just back from “google news” land- interesting article here:

    http://news.monstersandcritics.com/northamerica/
    article_1154812.php/Rumsfeld%60s_management_style

    Some stuff about Rumsfeld’s relentless intellectual curiosity and eagerness to examine alternative views in order to better comprehend a situation. And his penchant for handsomely rewarding those who honestly speak their minds.

  45. “Joe, where did the words military coup come in?”

    I dunno, maybe in your opening line, “Yeah Joe, if only the career soldiers has risen up and revolted against civilian control.”

    “I want to see what you have to say there is eventually a Democratic President and every retired old fart comes out of the woodwork to undercut his policy.”

    I imagine I will take exception to their position, if I disagree with it.

    “The point is that the military needs to stay the hell out of policy debates and execute what they are told.” Active duty military, yes, when on duty and in uniform. Retired military people should feel free to participate in our democracy like any other citizen, and draw on their experience like everyone else.

    “I think Tommy Franks would have a different opinion than Zini. Does that end the argument?” No, it begins the argument. It demonstrates that there are military men on both sides of the issue, and undercuts either side’s capacity to claim that they have the experts on the military on their side.

    “I am the one argueing for civilian control of the military but I am the fascist.” No, we’re both arguing – a-r-g-u-i-n-g – for civilian control of the military. You are arguing for cutting a segment of the population out of the democratic process, and THAT I consider fascist.

    “You are amazing Joe.”

    Thank you. Can I use you for a reference next time I send out resumes?

  46. “The point is when people like Joe hold him up as a special authority because he wears a uniform and agree with him.” I hold up civil engineers as special authorities on road construction, architects as special authorities on building design, and senior career military officers as special authorities on preparing for and fighting wars. Call me crazy.

    “If there is anything disengenious going on it is people who normally would have nothing good to say about the military now acting like the military is this special priestly class when one of them happens to agree with them.” If someone who has nothing good to say about the military were to treat them like a special priestly class, that would indeed be disingenuous.

  47. Just to be clear, I think on duty, uninformed military should stay out of policy debates IN THE PUBLIC ARENA. Of course they should argue about policy in meetings with civilians and other military. That’s what top staff does.

    And, oh my goodness, does John throw out a lot of bogus arguments! Good gracious. Does that undercut his credibility? Heavens to Betsy, yes.

  48. Generals of the world!
    Rise up and cast off your muzzles!

  49. Hey, General, that’s just, like, your OPINION, man. You might, like, you know, think that you know about war and stuff, but what makes you think that you’re so smart? What if, like, the politicians just want to do what they feel is right cuz it’s like, you know, their opinion? Are you going to tell them that they can’t have their opinion too?

    Retired generals should just shut up instead of acting all like “Look at me, look at me, I’m this big fancy expert!” Yeah, man, well, you know, we have our opinions too. And you don’t think our opinions are valid. So just, you know, shove it and shut up and stop ruining the mood here, man.

    And who do those scientists think they are? Just cuz they’ve got their big atomtron stuff for analyzing the electrons in the rock nucleus they think that they can tell us the rock is old like dinosaurs and stuff. But that’s just, like, their perspective, man. The Bible says that the rocks aren’t all that old, and that’s a perspective too. But those scientists are just all intolerant and shit.

    Experts just need to stop jumping up and down like “Look at me!” and acting like they have something for us to listen to, cuz it’s all just their opinions, man.

  50. You can email President Bush, VP Cheney, Congressional Leaders & Rush Limbaugh from my eclectic homepage. Check it out here……
    http://www.geocities.com/capitolhill/8889

  51. “that’s just, like, your OPINION, man.”

    Har!

    Well done.

  52. Wow, Warblogger, that like totally blew my mind, man! Have you been reading my columns for inspiration?

  53. “The point is when people like Joe hold him up as a special authority because he wears a uniform and agree with him.”

    My perception of Rumsfeld as incompetent sprung, initially, from his pathetic implementation of his pathetic interrogation policy. He should have resigned over that alone… Oh wait–that’s right!

    …I think most of the regulars here use their critical thinking bone more often than most; certainly, for most of us, that bone’s well developed enough that we don’t believe a general just because he’s a general.

    …and even if your issue really is civilian control of the military, are you suggesting it’s wrong for us civilians to criticize the civilians in control? Indeed, isn’t the ability to subject the military to civilian criticism the very reason civilian control of the military is desirable in the first place?

  54. John spews: If Zini has an issue with the President, then bring it up to the President, but don’t abuse your position or former position to undercut civilian leadership. The military is different in that regard. If Zini wants to run for office ala Eisenhower, that is one thing. What he and others like him are doing is using their positions as retired generals to undercut public policies they don’t like.

    Yes, it’s awful. Retired generals should only use their positions to promote and justify a war. Criticizing it, however, is always wrong and endangers the republic.

  55. Under the theory that the libertarian minded are less likely to reverence authority, I’d bet that, statistically, for regular commenters, the appeal to authority is among the least often occurring logical fallacies.

    …not that I’m sure joe would call himself “libertarian minded”. …even if he is.

  56. Ken,

    Criticize all you want, it is a free country. You may even be right. I don’t think Zini is wrong in everything he says. I am personally not a huge fan of Rumsfeld, although he has done some really good things that pissed off a lot of people in the Pentagon who needed to be pissed off. My issue is with the role of generals and retired generals in society. I hate the idea of the military undercutting an elected administration’s policies. I don’t care if I agree with the policies or not. That is not the military’s role.

    Tom Pain’s goiter makes the right point. I will remmeber all of this “we must defer to the experts talk” next time there is a post on by some cop or prosecutor defending the war on drugs or minimum manditories. Hey, they are the experts, who are we to disagree?

  57. Actually, when it comes to drug prohibition, economists are the experts.

  58. John spews some more: I will remmeber all of this “we must defer to the experts talk” next time there is a post on by some cop or prosecutor defending the war on drugs or minimum manditories. Hey, they are the experts, who are we to disagree?

    I’m not seeing undue deference to Zinni or any generals going on here. However, when so many generals begin stepping forward to describe Iraq as failed and the Sec’y of Defense as incompetent, I’d say that is quite significant. The WaPo quotes yet another general as saying he expects we’ll be hearing more of this kind of thing, from more military, whom he says are profoundly frustrated.

    The phenomonen of a huge mass of brass that believes Iraq is a failure and Rumsfeld a screw-up, is most news-worthy.

  59. “I hate the idea of the military undercutting an elected administration’s policies.”

    These guys are retired. They are no longer in the military. Are you advocating that all military veterans should now lose the right to vote as that is one way for them to “undercut” or support an elected administrations policies?

  60. I hate the idea of the military undercutting an elected administration’s policies. I don’t care if I agree with the policies or not. That is not the military’s role.

    If the military doesn’t have a role in formulating policy–feasibility, continued feasibility, are you kidding?–then we’re in big trouble.

  61. Yes Ken, of course they have a roll, but they don’t get the ultimate say and when the elected officials make the decision, that is the end of it. The military should not be out waging a public campaign to undo a decision they don’t like.

    Mona,

    Its not all the retired generals. There are 100s of retired generals. You just don’t get yourself in the Post if you don’t tote the party line “Rumsfeld is an idiot, we were sold out by our civilian leaders” line. No question if this were a Democratic administration those retired critics wouldn’t be given the time of day by the Post.

  62. “The military should not be out waging a public campaign to undo a decision they don’t like.”

    How many times do you have to be told, they’re not in the active-duty military anymore, they are retired and thus just civilian citizens??

  63. Taiko,

    If you are a retired 4 star general you are not just a citizen. The clear implication of the article and of what Zini is doing is to say the military as a whole is against the policy and just can’t say so. Not only is that not true, it is irresponsible and wrong of him to imply such.

  64. “No question if this were a Democratic administration those retired critics wouldn’t be given the time of day by the Post.”

    Partisan supposition on your part with no basis in fact.

    “Not only is that not true, it is irresponsible and wrong of him to imply such.”

    And you know this how? Or do you mean you believe this is not true?

  65. John spews: Its not all the retired generals. There are 100s of retired generals. You just don’t get yourself in the Post if you don’t tote the party line “Rumsfeld is an idiot, we were sold out by our civilian leaders” line. No question if this were a Democratic administration those retired critics wouldn’t be given the time of day by the Post.

    Irrelevant, even if that is all true.

    A significant number of retired generals — who served in Afghanistan and Iraq — coming forward to denounce Rumsfeld as incompetent and the Iraq war as failed, merits attention. Whether WaPo is their platform, or whether they have started blogs.

    I listened to Tommy Franks back in the day; no reason not to listen to Newbold, Batiste & etc now.

  66. The writer at Slate has it exactly right. Fine let military officers and retired brass undercut a SECDEF and see what happens next. The next time someone comes into the Pentagon, they better get the approval of the “experts” you people are so wowed by, because if they don’t all the brass has to do is whine enough to the press and the SECDEF looses. That is not civilian control over the military. From Slate:

    MacArthur’s legacy in particular has kept even the boldest generals deeply reluctant to criticize civilian leaders over the decades. Rumsfeld’s arrogance, his “casualness and swagger” as Gen. Newbold put it?which have caused so many strategic blunders, so much death and disaster?have started to tip some officers over the edge. They may prove a good influence in the short run. But if Rumsfeld resists their encroachments and fights back, the whole hierarchy of command could implode as officers feel compelled not merely to stay silent but to choose one side or the other. And if the rebel officers win, they might find they like the taste of bureaucratic victory?and feel less constrained to renew the internecine combat when other, less momentous disputes arise in the future.”

  67. John quotes from Slate: Rumsfeld’s arrogance, his “casualness and swagger” as Gen. Newbold put it?which have caused so many strategic blunders, so much death and disaster

    The Slate article is clearly in substantive agreement with the retired generals, no matter what the author thinks about the propriety of their speaking out.

    Rumsfeld is an incompetent with blood on his hands.

  68. Mona,

    My entire point has been about the dangers of letting generals run our policy and letting generals run off a SECDEF they don’t like. I have never said one word about Rumsfeld’s performance. I think Zini is full of shit in a lot of ways, but I certainly don’t disagree with everthing he says. Regardless, that debate will pass, what is more important is the point that the Slate article makes about an emboldened officer corps.

    According to the Reasonites, however, I am fascist for thinking that the officer corps and retired officer corps ought not to be trying to replace a SECDEF that some of them don’t agree with.

  69. Just yesterday I posted on a thread that I was surprised we didn’t have more members of the military finding fault with our grand Middle Eastern adventure, and this was John’s response:

    Maybe that is because the people serving who have actually been to Iraq and Afghanistan know a few things that you don’t.
    Comment by: John at April 12, 2006 05:26 PM

    John, by that same logic, isn’t it possible that generals who served on the US Central Command know a few things that you don’t? Or is your complaint here that yes, they may know things we don’t, but they should just shut up about these things if they make the administration look bad?

  70. Jennifer,

    There is nothing wrong with the military supporting a policy. The problem arises when the military feels free to undercut policies and elected officials that they don’t agree with.

    Yes, absolutely, those guys know things I or you don’t. The maybe right about Rumsfeld, but even if they are, I would rather live with Rumsfeld than the precident that retired generals and the officer corps can dipose of a SECDEF is they don’t like what he is doing. That is the problem.

  71. There is nothing wrong with the military supporting a policy. The problem arises when the military feels free to undercut policies and elected officials that they don’t agree with.

    So the bit where military guys take an oath to defend the Constitution from “domestic” threats should be taken out, do you think?

    Also, what if they specifically disagree with a policy because with their specialized knowledge they know it cannot work? Like for example, suppose–hypothetically–an administration decided to invade a country with far less troops and weapons than the military said would be necessary to do the job? And three years later things were still a clusterfuck? Would it then be okay for a retired general to say something like “these last three years have been a waste?”

  72. Also, John: would you feel better if career military members simply signed a statement agreeing to never discuss politics for the rest of their lives unless their opinions support the current administration? The fact that they haven’t seems to be the basis for your complaint here.

  73. Its not all the retired generals. There are 100s of retired generals. You just don’t get yourself in the Post if you don’t tote the party line “Rumsfeld is an idiot, we were sold out by our civilian leaders” line. No question if this were a Democratic administration those retired critics wouldn’t be given the time of day by the Post.

    Again with the partisan bias of the media–as if it was pertinent. How dare they publish something critical of the Bush Administration! …Surely you can see how someone reading this might mistake you for a partisan hack.

    You don’t think of your arguments as flowing from the facts by way of logic yourself, do you? …You just think of yourself as defending the Bush Administration when necessary, full stop. …Do you not?

  74. The whole panoply of charges and countercharges reminds me of Count Ciano’s phrase “Victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan”

    Poor Ciano, he got on his father-in-law’s bad side…

  75. Guys, let’s observe something: This started out with a person who knows something about war saying that he thinks that a war was conducted poorly. Now, maybe Gen. Zinni knows what he’s talking about, or maybe he doesn’t, or maybe he’s a knowledgeable guy but he’s making mistakes here, or whatever.

    But whatever the case may be, somebody decided that his team might look bad if that issue was discussed. So he accused us of wanting the US to be more like Turkey. And we all fell for the bait and switch (myself included). And now he’s falling back on blaming this all on the liberal media.

    Don’t feed the astroturf trolls.

  76. My take on the Belmont Club – it quotes Pierce Wetter’s read of Brookings Institute numbers that March was one of “the more peaceful months in Iraq, even for civilians.” The Pentagon’s own estimates show 1,300+ civilians killed in March – and that only includes the people whose bodies were actually found. Some peaceful month – if that’s the best they can do for good news, it’s not much different from the bad. The long screed by Malkin and the labored dissection of the “suspicious” AP photographer pissed me off, too – who gives a shit? What about the guys like Steve Vincent who got themselves killed trying to tell people what was really going on? I didn’t hear a word from Ms Malkin or her ilk about that.

  77. OK, so some expert Generals, who are retired (and subject to recall to active duty at the President’s call) want to see Rumsfeld ousted.

    This is a god-send for guys like Ken Schultz and joe who both hate Rumsfeld about as rabidly and blindly as it gets.

    But truth is, there are a LOT of PO’d Army generals who’d like to see Rumsfeld ousted, mainly because he’s forcing the “transformation” concept down their throats. The brass doesn’t want to change the way they do business, and are PO’d that Rumsfeld would accept their esignations rather than change course. Similar, I’d guess, to the way MacNamara was treated as SECDEF when he forced the Pentagon to organize (what a concept!) and become better stewards of their services.

    So what?

    As soon as I saw this I started my watch waiting for the 40 or so retired generals who agree with current policy to weigh in… Guess what? The current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs supports Rumsfeld:
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/11/rumsfeld.iraq/

    So, experts on both sides, with differing opinions. Frankly, I think that Rumsfeld and MacNamara (based on the first’s emphasis on TRANFORMATION which is essential to a Cold War-based military and the latter’s introduction of ORGANIZATION to the DoD) make them – warts and all – two of the best SECDEFs in history.

    This IS Rumsfeld’s SECOND tour as SECDEF, and I honestly can’t think of anyone with a better resume for the job.

    Of course, there are plenty of people like Ken Schultz who think that there are lots of folks who could have done better, but I haven’t seen them propose anyone for the job. Because then their pick would be subject to the kind of scrutiny the current SECDEF gets. It’s easy to dump on the guy doing the job when you’re not even brave enough to offer up who you think is qualified to replace him.

    I don’t think Rumsfeld’s always right – or has always made the right decisions – but no one who runs an organization the size of DoD is going to be 100% on target every time.

    Hmmm… I bet even Ken Schultz and joe have had to apologize to their bosses for mistakes. I know I have – as recently as this morning!

    Should we be fired when we’re doing our best? If these are mistakes anyone would have made in their position with the information available?

    I can hear the response now: “But LIVES are on the line when SECDEF makes mistakes – he’s dangerously incompetent! Look at all the mistakes and messes!”

    Yeah, and living with those mistakes is part of the burden of command – and trying not to ever repeat them is the commander’s responsibility. Ken is just plain wrong when he asserts that mistakes = incompetence. That’s simply not the case, or competent experts would be right all the time and we’d live in a perfect world where the children play by marshmallow rivers with gum-drop smiles.

    Story I was told by an NCO:

    A brand new Lieutenant was in his first firefight and his Sergeant told him he had to make a decision NOW. He did, sending three guys to the left. All 3 died. When the LT freaked out and turned to the Sergeant and asked him what he SHOULD have done and what he SHOULD do now, the Sarge replied “Sir, I don’t know, but you’ve got to make the call – just don’t do THAT again!”

    Moral of the story: No decision is perfect, no leader is perfect, do the best you can and try to live down the results without shirking responsibility for those decisions.

    IMO, Rumsfeld does seem to do this, as much as it pisses some people off.

    Bottom line: Generals have the right to their opinions, but only the President can remove Rumsfeld as far as I’ve heard. So those opinions are pretty much moot on both sides of the aisle. It’s that whole civilian control of the military thing, y’know?

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