S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Disentangling the Military from Civilians and Politics

In a time of war it is inevitable that the U.S. Military will be deeply involved in the business of the nation. Our first president, George Washington understood how important it is to put civilian leadership over the military. Most of the time this check and balance system works very well. Since the turn of the century, however, the Military has become the answer for far too many of the country's questions. And that is a natural reaction because its discipline, organization, and resources work so well to solve serious problems. They provided invaluable help with natural disasters around the world, with gathering signals intelligence, and with being available to protect the homeland from invasion from a foreign nation. Success has been more elusive when the Military has tried to wage war against non-uniformed terrorists, when they have been asked to do the work of nation-building and diplomacy, or when they have set up their own internal intelligence gathering system.

In a time of war
it is important for the top brass to speak the unpleasant professional military truth to their civilian bosses. Most career military leaders were in over their heads when it comes being politically savvy enough to survive the experience in the Bush administration. For far too many it has meant the end of their careers. Steve Clemons at The Washington Note wrote recently on Corrupting the military. . . " (9/5/07). To quote,
Given the complicity between the Executive branch and the military industrial complex in feeding at the trough of the treasury, I'm not sure that there has ever been much "objectivity of voice" among the military leadership -- but perhaps the myth itself was useful.

. . . Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman['s] . . . sense of things is validated in the interviews that biographer Robert Draper did with Bush and which were reported in the New York Times. Here is a clip on Bush's comfort with using Petraeus as his political messenger. . .

For now, though, Mr. Bush told the author, Robert Draper, in a later session, "I'm playing for October-November." That is when he hopes the Iraq troop increase will finally show enough results to help him achieve the central goal of his remaining time in office: "To get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence," and, he said later, "stay longer."
This is the month our current president has in mind for reports from the Military on how well the undeclared war in Iraq is going. General David Petraeus has previewed that he will report to Congress next week that some troops could be redeployed in the spring. Congress mandated reports from non-military sources as well. To date the Government Accountability Office of Congress has reported on Iraq's in ability to reach benchmarks. The Independent Commission on the Security Forces in Iraq, chaired by retired Marine Corps General James Jones, recommended to Congress the the Iraqi police force should be disbanded and reconstituted. The report also discussed a reduction in U.S. forces in the country.
In a time of war it is imperative that the Congress hears the truth from Military leaders. The Congress, the founding fathers decided, would be the branch of government to declare war and authorize war spending. Upcoming weeks will highlight the divisions over the war in Iraq within and between the parties. Today headlined, "Anti-war Dems fight for timeline" (9/7/07), for example. All legislation should be grounded in the truth of the situation in Iraq. General Petraeus now carries the bulk of the administration's credibility, along with Ambassador Crocker. Their truth-telling to Congress is but a part of the larger truth to be found.
Congress should also give heavy weight to their own "commissioned" reports, i.e., the GAO Iraq government benchmark assessment, along with the Jones Commission report. Though what the reports say is crucial, who is saying it is equally crucial. David Walker's and James Jones' thoughts carry a lot of weight for their objectivity, and should be taken very seriously by congressional decision-makers. Last year the Washington Post (11/9/06) reporter David Ignatius wrote this on General James Jones. To quote from this very pertinent piece,
To the end, even when Rumsfeld must have known that his time in the job was short, he wouldn't give up that option to meddle with his field commanders. When Marine Gen. James Jones, the retiring NATO commander, went to see Rumsfeld a few weeks ago to talk about becoming commander of Centcom, he asked whether the defense secretary intended to continue his direct line of communication with the theater commander, Gen. George Casey, sometimes bypassing Centcom. When Rumsfeld wouldn't rule out such contacts, Jones began to doubt the Centcom job would work. And when Rumsfeld said he didn't foresee significant changes in Iraq strategy, Jones withdrew his name from consideration.
More on Jones - There is a wealth of interesting information on General Jones here at (Wikipedia): Retired General James Jones, USMC. My money is on him, as he is one of the best. I have been watching and posting about him since last last year as he retired from leading NATO, attended the world leadership conference at Davos, Switzerland, and in: Dare we hope for balance- 10/16/06 and The world's army. . . 11/24/06.
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1 comment:

The Future Was Yesterday said...

You wrote an information packed post, that needs to be read by the nation.

Most of this, if not all, revolves around Congress in one way or the other. Sadly, Congress seems to be "broke", to be polite.

I have no lasting answers for that problem.