2006 April 23 Sunday
Middle Level Officers Join Iraq Debate

The debate isn't about whether Iraq is a mess and a mistake. The debate is over who to blame: senior officers, Rumsfeld, or Bush. Offered anonymity by the New York Times lots of middle level officers vented on Iraq.

"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better someday."

An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might otherwise have stayed in uniform.

In some respects it is Vietnam all over again and the officers know it. The war is very unpopular back home. The civilian leadership made big mistakes and are dishonest about it. The soldiers lack sufficient resources to do the job and Bush isn't about to ask for a draft, tax increases, and spending cuts in other areas to put in enough troops to control the place. Plus, why should the war have been started in the first place?

Condi Rice is such a lightweight. Therefore she's perfect for Bush.

The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

But the Bushies do not admit to mistakes.

I love hearing what the officers think because informed expert opinion is invaluable. Before the war the Bush Administration and neocons struck a pose that if we only could see what the secret intelligence showed we'd be convinced that we had to go in and stop Saddam's development of nasty weapons. Well, these officers get to see tons of intelligence information. They have first hand experience in Iraq. They have knowledge and expertise. Plus, they are a pretty conservative bunch of people. Can't fault them for being pacifist lefties. But as Steve Sailer has been reporting the neocons are trying to argue that generals and other officers should either shut up or support the war. One of Steve's readers points out that the neocons are arguing for something strongly reminiscient of the Nazi Fuhrer Principle of blind obedience to leaders.

Do you think that the neocons realize that some of their criticism of the retired generals comes dangerously close to the Nazi's Fuhrer principle? One of the most important steps in the road to disaster for Germany was the requirement that the officer corps swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler instead of to the republic or the nation.

Increasingly, i see the same mistake being made by vocal hawks. Although, in truth, i see the explicit argument made more on warblogs than in newspaper columns. Essentially, they say, retired officers may not voice an opinion that disagrees with the civilian leadership. It is fine, however, for retired officers to support the SecDef, or President. They may even campaign for him.

I do not see why any jerk with a modem is allowed to have an opinion on Iraq or Iran and can even advocate war and more war. But the men who have most knowledge about war, strategy and logistics must be silent. Frankly, I want to hear more from them and less from JPod or Ledeen.

Also see my previous post As Ethnic Cleansing Deaths Escalate In Iraq US Generals Object To War.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 April 23 06:41 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Hans Gruber said at April 23, 2006 8:09 PM:

Who cares if she used "tactical" instead of strategic or whatever you would prefer.

The invocation of the Hitler=Bush meme is a nice touch, too. Puh-leeze. We elect our leaders in this country, and our civilians run the military. This isn't to say retired generals can't speak their mind but a lot of people rightly recoil at the thought of an overly political military establishment (retired or not). In a lot of other countries the military is a quasi-political body that weighs into politics more than most Americans would prefer. Of course, after utilizing Tommy Franks in the re-election campaign, I suppose what's good for the goose...

Also, if the generals are quibbling with past, rather than present, mistakes, what good is done by undermining morale among troops? The troops can take the pessimism from the press but true or not this sort of whinning from former generals can't help things.

Bob Badour said at April 23, 2006 8:29 PM:


Germany elected Hitler.

Randall Parker said at April 23, 2006 9:22 PM:


Max Boot implies that anyone who calls a neocon a neocon is an anti-Semite (which makes Irving Kristol an anti-Semite as well as some other neocons who used to revel in the label before their own policies made it into such a term of derision that they now run away from it). Bill Kristol just wrote an article in the Weekly Standard arguing that a failure to stop Iran's nuclear program now is like a failure to stop Hitler in the mid 1930s. These guys are the ones who keep trying to argue their opponents are either Nazis or appeasers. I figure turn around is fair play.

As for Rice: She was trying to deflect blame downward. Her choice of terminology was calculated and aimed at deflecting blame from the level where it belongs.

Undermining morale: If generals can't say what is going wrong then the problems can't get fixed. Past mistakes are also present mistakes.

Hans Gruber said at April 23, 2006 11:14 PM:


The second Bush refuses to leave office is the second that point becomes relevant.


I'm not sure if I made my points clear enough. I like that our military isn't too into politics, whether that be retired or current personel. They exert influence but it's limited. Eisenhower, for one, never even voted while he was in the military because he believed in that separation so strongly (obviously he changed his mind, at least for those in retirement). Our soldiers are citizens, too. They are entitled to their opinions and they are certainly entitled to express them. But there IS this tradition of deference and separation within the military itself, and I don't see that as terrible thing. I can understand why this sort of politicization gives some pause. That's all. It's not totally irrational or crazy to wonder if this is a good thing, even if I agree that the generals have every right to do so.

I don't know if her language was intended to deflect blame. The use of "tactical" could be explained easily enough, though saying thousands of tactical mistakes occurred lends to your interpretation.

I am no defender of neocons; I think their idealism and blind optimism has and will continue to hurt the country. I think this was going to be a bitch no matter what, more troops or not. Kristol calling for Rumsfeld's head just makes me laugh--the perfect little war didn't turn out so perfect, so they need a fall guy. Now the neocons are busy pushing the country toward another disaster, amnesty and guest workers.

Finally, I don't see a problem comparing Iran to Hitler's Germany; though that obviously exaggerates the threat and nature of the regime.

John S Bolton said at April 24, 2006 1:20 AM:

This administration apparently believes that there is no price to be paid for betrayal. They're antagonizing even those who have the greatest difficulty in expressing criticism, to the point where they say something.
What has triggered this, is that there appears to be an attempt to push blame down the ranks, as if soldiers were failing.
The left isn't going to run with that line, though, since they're after big fish.
In the article, an officer complains of 'innovative' methods being used for retention of those subject to probability of being sent to war zones.
This means that traditional methods, which were used in every other war, are being diversified away from.
They are diversifying away from the use of promotions for merit, because, even in wartime; the military to them, is a source of racial quota positions, with which to reward the disloyal.
Rumsfeld calls himself an 'agent of change'. In this context, that means that the disadvantaged minority officer proportions must rise, regardless of how often this conflicts with the need to promote those who do well in the places where hostile fire is run into.
The administration appears to regard the percentage of Mexican officers in the military, as of more importance than the competent conduct of a military establishment; even while they have two wars going, and are heading for a third, even larger, one!

David Lajaunie said at April 24, 2006 9:51 AM:

Der Fuhrer Befiehl Wir Folgen!

Mik said at April 24, 2006 12:54 PM:

"Max Boot implies that anyone who calls a neocon a neocon is an anti-Semite "

And your source for this is?

I hardly know who Max Boot is (it is pretty funny name, is it an alias?), but I gather he pointificates regularly in major papers and is establishment open-border/free-trade conservative/libertoad. Given a huge number of Jews (90%?) in media and elsewhere who are not neo or any other conservatives and who constantly use the term, it is very foolish to make this assertion.

More often that assertion is used by people who have problem with Jews in general and use that assertion as a preventive innoculation against charges of anti-semitism.

Mik said at April 24, 2006 1:18 PM:

"As for Rice: She was trying to deflect blame downward. Her choice of terminology was calculated and aimed at deflecting blame from the level where it belongs."

It is worse than that. It totally muddles the waters and prevents a rational analysis.

Underlaying philosophy of Bush democratization project is wrong. No amount of tactical brilliance can fix that. An idea that we all are the same and want the freedom and democracy as understood by Bush (there question here if he understands much of anything), Rice and Wolfowitz is ahistorical and demonstratably wrong. Iraqis are Czechs or Pols or Estonians. In 100 years they may - a very big may - reach the point where Czechs and others were in 1989.

In addition US pols and US military has proven to be incapable to conduct a brutal war needed to beat motivated savages. All comparisons with Germany and Japan are wrong, we have a different country, different pols and different Army, all components have declined in my opinion. We will not do to Iraqis what was done to Germans and Japanise and what has to be done in Iraq today.

It is interesting that both sides in officers dispute, compaining officers as well as carrierists still on payrol don't have a plan for a real victory. A plan to keep 500K-1M troops in Iraq for years is not really a plan but a day dream. Voters will not allow it. Will voters allow a war prosecution with brutality needed to win? They may or they may not, hard to say. They may with an intelligent articulate leader. Ignorant, inarticulate, closed-minded messia from Texas is not the one.

Jorge D.C. said at April 24, 2006 8:04 PM:

A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

Classic Condi! She is quick to apologize (erroneously) for the supposed failings of our society and our culture. And so does her boss. These people's first instinct is to blame America. We are "vigilantes"! And hopeless racists and bigots etc.

She is a Leftist. So maybe it's good that she's a lightweight.

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