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Are the revolting ret. generals feeling guilty?

Richard Holbrooke considers the motives of the growing number of recently retired generals, who call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The former ambassador to Germany and to the UN and founder of the American Academy in Berlin writes in the Washington Post:
These generals are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats. (In fact, one of the main reasons this public explosion did not happen earlier was probably concern by the generals that they would seem to be taking sides in domestic politics.) They are career men, each with more than 30 years in service, who swore after Vietnam that, as Colin Powell wrote in his memoirs, "when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in half-hearted warfare for half-baked reasons." Yet, as [Retired Marine Lt. Gen.] Newbold admits, it happened again. In the public comments of the retired generals one can hear a faint sense of guilt that, having been taught as young officers that the Vietnam-era generals failed to stand up to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson, they did the same thing.
Holbrooke assumes:
The retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside. In the tight world of senior active and retired generals, there is constant private dialogue. Recent retirees stay in close touch with old friends, who were often their subordinates; they help each other, they know what is going on and a conventional wisdom is formed.
Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out that the number of generals calling for his resignation is insignificant compared to the thousands of active and retired generals.
Following are excerpts of Ret. Gen. Newbold's strong criticism and Sec Rumsfeld's account of the success in Iraq:
Greg Newbold was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2000 until October 2002. He says he witnessed the actions that led to the invasion of Iraq, spoke out against the "unncessary war" and retired from the military four months before the invasion. Writing for Time Magazin he lists "successive policy failures" and criticizes the military leaders who did not respectfully dissent, when they saw the flawed plands:
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.
Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort. There have been exceptions, albeit uncommon, to the rule of silence among military leaders. Former Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki, when challenged to offer his professional opinion during prewar congressional testimony, suggested that more troops might be needed for the invasion's aftermath. The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense castigated him in public and marginalized him in his remaining months in his post.
He criticizes Congress and the media:
Members of Congress--from both parties--defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views. These are the same news organizations that now downplay both the heroic and the constructive in Iraq.
He concludes by calling for the replacement of Secretary Rumsfeld and opines:
While I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view--at the moment--is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists' message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts. If, however, the Iraqis prove unable to govern, and there is open civil war, then I am prepared to change my position.


Secretary Rumsfeld wrote on the third anniversary of the Iraq war in the Washington Post:
Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly -- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election -- in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks.  One of the most important developments over the past year has been the increasing participation of Iraq's Sunni community in the political process. In the volatile Anbar province, where Sunnis are an overwhelming majority, voter turnout grew from 2 percent in January to 86 percent in December. (....)
Today, some 100 Iraqi army battalions of several hundred troops each are in the fight, and 49 control their own battle space. About 75 percent of all military operations in the country include Iraqi security forces, and nearly half of those are independently Iraqi-planned, Iraqi-conducted and Iraqi-led. (...)
Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis.
Evoking the Nazis is often a sign of desperation and could indicate in this case that Rumsfeld is under a lot of pressure. The public's pressure is growing to get the troops home before the job is done, which is understandable, but not good.

For great and resourceful posts with a different take on the matter of Rumsfeld and the generals go to Live From The FDNF by Eddie Beaver, a sailor in the 7th fleet.

The Moderate Voice has an excellent post on Rumsfeld's future.

Crooks and Liars has a video of a FOX News
interview with the 8th general, who has called for Rumsfeld’s resignation: Ret. Marine General Paul Van Ripper.

Trackbacks

Atlantic Review on : Iraq: Polling, Reporting, Planning, and Learning

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• Polls: The public diplomacy blog Eccentric Star quotes an AP report about Iraqi views of their country's future, including this: About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their governmen

Comments

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Olaf Petersen on :

Seems there has been a huge discrepancy between the original war goals and the available forces.

Catfish N. Cod on :

Clearly, Rumsfeld has violated Godwin's Law and has thus lost the argument. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

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