In early April, a number of retired U.S. general officers stepped forward to call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Although the immediate bone of contention was the war in Iraq, the controversy revealed a level of anger and mistrust of the Pentagon’s civilian leadership that has been simmering for some time.
To better understand this phenomenon, AFJ assembled a roundtable of some of America’s most thoughtful analysts of the relations between soldiers and statesmen. The discussion was conducted by e-mail exchange over a period of 10 days in late April. The exchanges were moderated by AFJ Editor Tom Donnelly, and the version presented here has been edited for length.
Tom Donnelly: Is this controversy essentially about Rumsfeld the man and personality, about “transformation,” as Rumsfeld argues in his defense, or about Iraq? Or some combination of these issues? Another way: What is at the heart of the revolt of the generals?
Andrew Bacevich: U.S. civil-military relations are mired in crisis. This has been the case for years — it’s one of Washington’s dirty little secrets. Periodically, the crisis erupts in public — recall, for example, the flap about gays in the military back in 1993 or the demands for Les Aspin’s head later that same year when the scapegoating for Mogadishu began. The recent “revolt of the generals” is another such eruption.
Why did this particular eruption [happen] now? Because the Iraq war looks increasingly unlikely to end in anything approximating victory, and the argument about who should bear the blame for this fiasco has begun in earnest. For the officer corps, Rumsfeld presents an immensely attractive target — much as Robert Strange McNamara did by 1967 or so.
Richard Kohn: Andy is certainly right, but your question is much broader, addressing the roots of the present explosion of anger from a half-dozen Army and Marine generals.
Civil-military relations may or may not be in crisis, but surely this is no revolt of the generals. This is a tortured cry of anger, guilt and professional impropriety from five men who served this administration and believe for a variety of reasons that they must publicly criticize it, sometimes in the most stinging and personal ways. And from a sixth, a retired four-star, who has been speaking in speeches, articles and books for two or three years and feels apparently burned by the administration’s incompetence, wrongheadedness, and policies — and by his own support, when he retired in the fall of 2000 and immediately endorsed George W. Bush for president, hardly a moment after hanging up his uniform.
Six men, of a few thousand living retired generals and admirals. Certainly they represent many on active duty (Lt. Gen. Newbold says as much in his Time magazine essay) who cannot speak, and dozens more in the retired ranks who remain silent because they know the inappropriateness of attacking an administration one served while it is still in office, for a war still going on.
The Iraq war — the way it was planned, executed and bungled — is the occasion for this violation of professional ethics on the part of the retireds but not the root cause in its entirety. Part of it is transformation, in some cases of the substance but much more the method Rumsfeld used in 2001 to formulate its character — and his disparagement, really disrespecting the military in general, and the Army’s leadership in particular. His personal style — the in-your-face, the abuse, the micromanagement, the indecision, the arrogance (also of his lieutenants, particularly Stephen Cambone), the disrespectful challenging and the purposeful intimidation — played a major role.
Some of his proposals, for example, to cut the Army by two divisions in 2001, provoked a major reaction; in May of that year, Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the retired army chief of staff and head of the Association of the United States Army, the chief Army lobbying organization, sent a blast e-mail attacking the proposal and Rumsfeld, asserting that the very future of the service was at stake. Rumsfeld leaked the name of Gen. John Keane as Gen. Shinseki’s successor, fully 18 months before Shinseki’s scheduled retirement, thus undercutting his power and influence. Indeed the Army, many not happy with the cancelation of the Crusader artillery system in 2002, was simmering with resentment against Rumsfeld almost from the beginning of his tenure.
Transformation itself is an issue. Sept. 11 opened the spigots of money so that Rumsfeld did not have to cancel politically popular but glaringly untransformational weapons systems like the F-22, F-35, DD(X) and others. He could have his cake and eat it, too. But the insistence on small numbers of people, particularly in the ground forces, and on forsaking armor and heavy units caused considerable controversy and disagreement in the Army and, perhaps, Marines.
Rumsfeld’s intimidation prevents a great deal of open discussion: of transformation, of after-action analysis of operations, of planning, and of strategy/operations/tactics within the establishment. Many believe he has appointed and promoted senior officers on the basis of agreement with his ideas, rather than accomplishment, candor and excellence.
He has also alienated the Congress. I’m told that virtually every time he testifies before the House Armed Services Committee, he so angers the members that one of them has to remind him of the sign right in front of the witness table quoting the Constitution’s “raise and support” clause in Article I.
So there are numerous sources for this outpouring of criticism. It’s almost as if a dam of anger and resentment burst. I happen to think it occurred now because these officers could not contain their own anger any longer; clearly Iraq is a mess and we will be there for some time. And they feel for the soldiers and their families. And they know now that a majority of the American people do not think the president is doing a good job, or that the war was a good idea, or that it is being handled properly. In a sense, these generals are piling on. But I also believe their own personal angst is a good part of their motivation.
Eliot Cohen: OK, I think I disagree with Dick, at least to some extent. Some propositions:
One, this is the latest manifestation of problems that date at least to Vietnam, and perhaps earlier. What dates to Vietnam is the deep, deep resentment and suspicion of civilian leadership, some of which rests on a selective or even mistaken interpretation of that history. Alas, H.R. McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” a good book, has been used to support the contention that the failure in Vietnam was not the result of a complex set of organizational perversities and individual errors but rather an absence of military backbone in standing up to the civilians. A gross oversimplification at best.
Two, to be sure, some of these kinds of behaviors are more deeply rooted yet and reflect the integration of the military into American foreign policy decision-making during the Cold War, and with it the breakdown of certain norms of professional conduct. By the way, those norms may also have been eroded in tandem with those of other professions — think of the law today and in the 1930s, for example.
Three, they also were exacerbated by the Clinton years, in which a weak administration let itself be bullied by a hostile military. And making it even worse has been a noticeable decline in the numbers of thoughtful soldiers at the top — in the Army, I think of Jack Vessey, Shy Meyer and Jack Galvin — as opposed to rough-and-tumble operators, on the one hand, or the deft semipolitical generals, Colin Powell most notably.
Four, Rumsfeld’s manner was rough, to be sure, but more importantly, he was the first post-Cold War secretary to tackle in a large way the adjustment to new geopolitical circumstances — not only transformation in terms of making the Army reorient itself along brigade lines, but redeployments globally, adoption of an expeditionary mind-set, changed personnel system in [the Office of the Secretary of Defense], etc. He may not have been gentle in how he did it, and the changes may not have been the right ones, but he was definitely interested in imposing change, and that was resented, particularly because it was seen as favoring the Air Force and Navy (as it clearly did in the Pacific, where the Army still finds it hard to take China seriously as a strategic problem).
Five, the Army, in particular, was also caught in a cognitive dissonance of its own making: its actual involvement in counterinsurgency, peacemaking, etc., and its nominal commitment to war à la Fulda Gap. The resulting psychic stress may account for some of the antagonism.
Finally, some — not all — of this simply reflects a desire not to be blamed, or to have the institution blamed, for what may be a large and consequential military failure. In that sense, we could be back to Vietnam again, alas.
Thomas Keaney: This issue is 90 percent over Iraq. It’s about transformation only to the degree that Rumsfeld can convince people, thus diverting attention from his handling of the war in Iraq. And transformation only applies to the degree Rumsfeld can associate his Iraq policies with transformational matters — and that’s not much. The heart of the matter is Rumsfeld’s history of browbeating the military and not respecting their views, in [the military’s] opinion, on a subject in which it is ever more evident that he has been profoundly wrong. Rumsfeld is in their sights, not Bush, because the president has been much nicer to the military, entirely respectful, even courting them. Better perhaps if Rumsfeld had worn a flight suit now and then.
Kohn: I do question one thing Andy has written and Eliot has endorsed here: that this speaking up and out represents an effort by the military to put the blame all on the civilians for an Iraq war gone sour. There seems to be scant evidence for that other than Newbold’s claim that he was encouraged by some on the inside to write his essay, internal evidence from the essay that lays all the blame on the civilians and the fact of the speaking out. Gen. Jack Keane has publicly, in calling this explosion improper, accepted military blame for some of the Iraq mistakes. Officers privately do, also. And there is no evidence of any coordinated campaign to make “it’s the civilians’ fault” the master narrative or trope of the early explanation of the mess.
Michael Vickers: I don’t think the impulse to place the blame solely on the civilians, or really one civilian, is limited to Newbold. I think it also clearly characterizes the position of Batiste, Eaton and Swannack, and perhaps Zinni and Riggs as well.
Cohen: On the very last point, can I amend my previous position? I think these guys would like the civilians to take the hit; I didn’t mean to suggest that it’s a general military position, although I bet quite a few would like to see that.
Vickers: I do think the revolt of the six generals (seven if you count Democratic presidential candidate Wes Clark) stems very much from personal reasons. Gen. Zinni has long made no secret of his policy disagreements with the Bush administration — first and foremost over the invasion of Iraq. He began his public opposition to the invasion of Iraq almost from the moment he retired. I think it’s clearly personal for Lt. Gen. Newbold — he was treated roughly by the secretary at a senior leadership meeting — and it is personal for Maj. Gen. Riggs, who was demoted a grade in retirement. The other principal motivation, I believe, is to place the blame for a clearly less-than-successful war solely at the feet of the Bush administration, thus absolving the senior officer corps of any responsibility for its conduct. Gen. Keane thoroughly rejected this escapism.
Donnelly: Dick, You’re the one who wrote the initial “crisis” piece in The National Interest in the 1990s, which did so much to shape the debate of that time, but it sounds to me as if you think this is less dangerous — even though it’s in time of war, and I would argue the challenge to the civilian in question is more open and direct, even though the civilian in question is the secretary and not the president. Have I mischaracterized your point? Is this a more serious situation?
Kohn: I was never comfortable with the “crisis” title and objected to [National Interest editor] Owen Harries, who coined it — but didn’t insist, with the result that the article and those who agreed with it became the “crisis school.” It could be said to fit the 1992-1993 period because the reaction to gays in the military inside the military establishment was universal: It sparked a virtual revolt of the armed forces and undying hatred of the president that lasts to this day. In the wake of the explosion came all sorts of improper behavior, from generalized resistance of the senior leadership to many Clinton decisions — slow rolling, overestimating dangers, etc., etc. — to contemptuous words uttered in private, comments about voting and further partisan behavior, and much of the civil-military tension of the 1990s.
This does seem to me less serious — a somewhat focused policy difference colored to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the individual, by emotion, personal experiences, private concerns and idiosyncratic factors certainly beyond my knowledge. That numbers of senior officers have come out publicly to oppose speaking out even by senior retired people seems to me a positive development.
Two things do disturb me considerably. First, so many civilian commentators, from Mark Shields and David Brooks to Charles Krauthammer, either support or fail to condemn these generals speaking out, suggesting that both the sophisticated nattering class and the public just don’t understand civil-military relations in general and civilian control in particular, something confirmed by our surveys at the Triangle Institute for Security Studies done in 1998-1999. Second, this incident (and the support for speaking out from military and ex-military people, like Ralph Peters), while less dangerous than those during the 1990s, provides further evidence of a deterioration in military understanding of the norms, values, ethics and behaviors necessary to make civilian control, and civil-military relations in general, work properly.
In other words, these two — civil-military relations and civilian control — need to be strengthened in professional military education and in the basic civics instruction we give our children.
Vickers: I don’t think there has been or is unbearable stress on our ground forces. There is stress, to be sure, but nothing that would justify the behavior of the six generals who’ve called for the secretary of defense’s resignation. I think a larger ground force would have produced the same result to date in Iraq. Gen. Zinni’s disagreement has more to do with the wisdom of the invasion, not the size of the force. He didn’t think it was a good idea with any size force. Ditto, supposedly ex post facto, for Lt. Gen. Newbold. I also don’t think it is a good assumption that the current level of stress will continue. I think the next few years will see significant ground forces redeployed out of Iraq and Afghanistan as more and more security responsibilities are devolved to local forces.
Bacevich: Is it possible that one factor contributing to this eruption is a not-yet-fully-articulated civilian-military disagreement over post-9/11 “imperial” grand strategy?
For the Bush administration — and in particular for the “zealots” referred to by Newbold — 9/11 created a powerful imperative to extend U.S. imperial control across the greater Middle East. As the president has said on many occasions, the U.S. has gone onto the offensive. The Iraq war is, for the moment at least, the chief expression of an offensive strategy that aims to transform (and pacify) the region. From the perspective of the generals, that effort has not gone well. By extension, to defer to civilians who may want to expand on this strategic offensive — Iran, anyone? — is to invite perpetual war of the sort that will exhaust the armed forces.
It’s not that the generals are averse to empire as such. They are not isolationists. But they are circumspect imperialists. (They certainly lack the ideological fervor of “zealots” who are gung-ho to spread freedom and democracy.) Army generals in particular are far more comfortable with imperial defense and consolidation than with expansion. Yes, the generals do prefer a Cold War-type strategy, because they see it as a strategy that works — it was good for the U.S. and good for the institutions that they serve. So for the generals, an approach that looks to containing radical Islam might have greater appeal than cockamamie schemes to export liberal democracy.
Vickers: I think the conventional forces loved the idea of Iraq, just not the way it’s turned out. The way the war was successfully conducted in Afghanistan was very threatening to land-based fighter aircraft and large ground forces. Iraq was designed to show the other, preferred way regime change could be effected.
We’ve been on the strategic offense since 9/11. We would be whether or not we invaded Iraq. It is different from pre-9/11 strategy and is not strategic defense or consolidation of the empire. There is broad support for the main offensive.
The Army embraced security, stability, transition and reconstruction operations. It’s a big job for them. Remember all the gloating about how the Bush administration was forced to accept nation-building? The trouble is, not many like how the story’s turned out.
The real debate we should be having is about direct and indirect approaches to counterinsurgency, and the insanity of thinking we can achieve rapid victory in internal conflicts. I’m with you on one big point. We ought to be questioning the political transformation strategy pursued via direct force. Not a viable military mission, to say the least.
Cohen: I would say that the really huge difference between the post-Vietnam era and now is that then the Army had an intellectually and psychologically comfortable mission to return to — getting ready for the Big One in the Fulda Gap, with Andy at the tip of the spear! The narrative they could resort to was that there was a professionally acceptable, operationally challenging task before them, and the other thing — irregular warfare — was a distraction, botched by the civilians. There’s no Fulda Gap now. So either they will have to say, “We just don’t do this stuff, and are willing to go down to a five- or six-division force, if that, since we’re not needed for China,” or they will have to look, eventually, at their own performance in Iraq, in which some generals such as Swannack and Eaton were not very successful, to say the least.
Donnelly: Let’s return to the way in which the military’s understanding of Vietnam has shaped the current crisis, particularly the charge that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have failed to give adequate military advice, or to insist upon it, in the conduct of the Iraq war. This very much echoes the story of Vietnam as told in McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” which received so much attention during the Clinton years. Sort these strands out, if you can.
Kohn: It hasn’t been demonstrated to me that the JCS failed to give proper or adequate advice. We don’t know what their advice was. Gen. Keane, in his interview April 17 on the [PBS] “NewsHour,” admitted that the chiefs and the military in general did not expect an insurgency, implying that they may have given poor advice by omitting that consideration.
What the generals “in revolt” might be saying — in a typical misreading of the McMaster book — is that the military failed to stop the civilians from ordering a campaign that in retrospect failed to secure Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein. Why ask about the JCS only? Wasn’t Gen. Franks responsible, ultimately, for a plan that used too few troops to occupy the country, close the borders, maintain order and begin the job of reconstructing Iraq as an independent country? The charge is that Rumsfeld forced a failed plan on the military — too few troops and a poor Phase IV (occupation) plan. But that plan welled up from [Central Command] and while whittled away, negotiated, disputed, massaged, nibbled, reshaped, etc., etc., etc., by Rumsfeld, we do not know what the chiefs advised. We know in the end that they and the president approved it.
The McMaster trope — the military misreading of his book — is that somehow the chiefs should have stopped this. That is not what McMaster argues in his book about Vietnam. Their duty was only to give their full, frank advice, if necessary, directly to the president and, if asked, before Congress. We have no evidence that this did not happen in 2001-2003 in the case of Iraq.
If they opposed the plan, what were they supposed to do? Leak it? Demand a different plan? How does the military “demand” anything of the civilians? Threaten to resign? There is no tradition or precedent in the American military for resignation. Can one imagine MacArthur resigning in 1941 or 1942 because American strategy was Europe first?
Bacevich: Dick, I agree with your comment. The generals in revolt are clearly wrong and yet
Were I called upon to mount a defense in their behalf, I might argue the following: The country finds itself in the highly unsatisfactory situation of being stuck in a botched war for which no one is being held accountable. We’ve lost well over 2,000 Americans, wasted several hundred billion dollars, killed any number of civilians, committed atrocities, squandered the good will of much of the world, brought Iraq to the brink of civil war, and taken our eye off the ball in terms of actually existing threats, and the people chiefly responsible have been either re-elected or promoted or awarded Medals of Freedom to go along with their hefty book advances and fat speaking fees.
The mechanisms that we might have counted on to force some sort of corrective action — Congress above all — have failed. So we continue to compound our mistakes at ever-mounting costs — I myself not agreeing with Eliot’s judgment that we are finally getting the war right. (At best, we are getting the war of 2004 right — but the war has seen changes and we are still trying to catch up.)
So one might credit the generals with performing some sort of public service in provoking consideration of the question: Who screwed the pooch? At least I would consider extending them that credit if I believed that they are acting out of disinterested motives, which I don’t.
Kohn: Andy, your expression of frustration is eloquent and persuasive, but it misses the point.
First, it is not up to the military to hold the properly (well, that can be contested, but we don’t need to go there) elected and appointed political leadership accountable. Indeed the military in any way, shape or form arrogating to itself (active or retired) corrupts the very foundation of republican government and democratic process. It is not up to the military to compensate for failures of the American people or the political system. The American military has never assumed that role and I dare say has never, ever, even considered it except for very critical times — 1780, 1862 and now in the wake of Vietnam — and then only a tiny few who, for whatever reasons, lose their perspective and their judgment.
Second, ours is not a parliamentary system, and thus the formal mechanisms of accountability operate only at stated, periodic times. One is coming in less than seven months, and there is every indication that the president’s party may indeed suffer some accountability. It will be confused and diluted by other factors and issues. It may not even occur. But there will be a moment for it, and Iraq appears to be the most dominant influence.
Third, there may be a new accountability mechanism operating through the polls, combined with the upcoming elections. Power seems to be flowing away from this White House almost visibly. The president’s agenda is dead, his influence on the Congress waning. The secretary of defense suffers nearly daily embarrassment on a number of issues and by the outpouring of books and articles on the Iraq war.
Finally, what kind of a public service could possibly compensate for a bold violation of professionalism, the consequences of which undermine civilian control, extend and increase the politicization of the American military in violation of one of its most sacred — and crucial — traditions, and poisons civil-military relations for those presently serving in the government, both civilian and military? Just for an accountability that is neither their duty nor obligation, and indeed sets a dangerous precedent? I don’t think so.
Robert Killebrew: It’s a little disingenuous to say that if generals feel rebuffed, they should come back and insist. Most generals are strong men (although I’ll grant that Franks comes across as weak in a critical time), but their strong instinct is to make their argument, hash it out and then do what they’re told to do. Remember, the climate in which these debates go on is never — under this secretary of defense in particular — a genteel one-on-one. It’s usually a presentation in front of a critical mob. If the SecDef wants military advice, it’s incumbent on him to create the dialogue.
The bulk of the generals’ arguments is several years old now. But what they’re hearing from their buddies still on active duty is that mismanagement has gotten worse, not better. I understand now that the Defense Department has now discovered the Army has a big bill for recapitalizing burned-out equipment; the solution is to offer the service a choice of either cutting force structure or deferring long-range investment, like [Future Combat Systems]. There are other examples best not discussed here. I also suspect that Iran is on some minds. And for a few, it was just a chance to vent. (Swannack comes to mind.) But, broadly speaking, I think this reflects concerns about current issues as well as the historical record.
Cohen: Bob, a Parthian shot: I’m not sure these guys ever made their case to begin with — forget “coming back.” And I don’t think they do it with other generals, either. That’s a larger problem of general-officer culture, it seems to me.
Killebrew: Hmpf. The only case to make in the Iraq war was up to Tommy Franks, who was brutal to his staff but nice to Secretary Rumsfeld. But what if it had been Zinni? Should he have retired? When you get right down to it, Eliot, isn’t a general supposed to obey orders?
But I keep seeing an inconsistency in the argument. You want generals who’re obedient to civilian authority, no matter how bad, but you also seem to say that they’re obligated to protest bad orders. Where’s the line?
Cohen: No, I’d say a general should execute bad orders, but if he felt that his opposition was such that he could not execute it effectively, he should have resigned and gone quietly into the night — and write a ferocious memoir after the administration was out. I think generals are supposed to argue fiercely in private, and then execute loyally. Like all officers. That’s the line I would recommend (and I think Keane would agree).
By the way, don’t you think that military discipline would be problematic if we apply the same standards to military subordinates and military superiors? Thus, if Tommy Franks’ executive officer thinks his boss was a real jerk, shouldn’t he, the exec, unload to the press as soon as he’s out of uniform, even if Franks is still in? How about the reservist who, having seen Franks up close at CentCom, takes off the uniform and then denounces him in an op-ed in The Washington Post? Why is that any more problematic than the retired generals going after Rumsfeld?
Killebrew: Eliot, I agree with your first point in principle. A soldier argues in private, then executes loyally, provided the orders are legal.
In practice, though, issuing and executing orders is never so simple. Certainly, sergeants, captains and colonels ultimately must obey orders they think unwise, but in practice unwise or impractical orders that endanger the mission are appealed, amended or even ignored to a degree that would surprise you. Remember the “his majesty made you a major so you would know when not to obey him” story. I’ve never served as a four-star commander, obviously, but I’d imagine that a Zinni or a Keane would have more forcefully and successfully defended the larger plan, and probably would have insisted on a better phase IV concept. That’s fully in keeping with the proper role of the military vis-a-vis civilian authority.
The problem with your second point is proportionality. If a retired colonel unloads on his active-duty boss, he can do so because he is no longer under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but who cares? The foundations of civil-military relations are hardly shaken. But when a retired senior flag goes after Secretary Rumsfeld, then the fat goes into the fire, the cops are called and the pundits begin to shake the foundations of power.
I think most of the flags were responding not only to failures of two years ago, and continued mismanagement, but also to concerns of possible war against Iran — that’s what they’re getting from their buddies in the building.
Bacevich: I wanted to elucidate my previous comments. I was not offering a defense of the generals in revolt — just trying to understand what’s going on by coming at the question from a different angle. I don’t disagree with anything you said in reply.
Perhaps what I was getting to is this: A costly and bungled policy for which there is no evident accountability exacerbates (and may bring into the open) pre-existing civil-military conflict. That’s what we are seeing now. Because our political system is not especially good at fixing accountability — or perhaps doesn’t fix it in a timely way (especially these days) — disgruntled generals have both motive and opportunity for taking their grievances to the public. Doesn’t make them right — but may be a factor contributing to the persistence of our [civilian-military] problems.
Donnelly: This revolt of the generals has been exclusively an affair of the land forces. Why is that? Is it just Iraq? Are there similar trends among officers in the other services?
Keaney: The controversy has not been about a general civil-military issue, it has boiled up from the planning and conduct of the ground war since 2003. The Air Force and Navy have not been affected in any key way, thus no issue to get the retirees up in arms about. Recall back in 1999, during and after the Kosovo bombing: lots of Air Force people yapping about the restrictions on the bombing; not many Army or Marine generals even noticed.
I don’t think the Air Force and Navy flags think we’re going to lose in Iraq, and neither do the six generals calling for Rumsfeld’s job. So, I wouldn’t paint them as more concerned with parochial interests than the national interest.
REVOLT OF THE GENERALS
Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, Army — The New York Times, March 19
“I thought we had a glimmer of hope last November when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced off with Mr. Rumsfeld on the question of how our soldiers should react if they witnessed illegal treatment of prisoners by Iraqi authorities. ... Unfortunately, the general subsequently backed down and supported the secretary’s call to have the rules clarified.”
Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, Marine Corps — “Meet the Press,” NBC, April 2
“[T]hose that have been responsible for the planning, for overriding all ... the efforts that were made in planning before that, that those that stood by and allowed this to happen, that didn’t speak out [should resign]. And there are appropriate ways within the system you can speak out, at congressional hearings and otherwise. I think they have to be held accountable.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Marine Corps — Time, April 9
“I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood.”
Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, Army — “NewsHour,” PBS, April 13
“I think the current administration repeatedly ignored sound military advice and counsel with respect to the war plans. I think that the principles of war are fundamental, and we violate those at our own peril. And military leaders of all ranks, particularly the senior military, have an obligation in a democracy to say something about it.”
Retired Lt. Gen. John Riggs, Army — National Public Radio, April 13
“[Rumsfeld and the Pentagon’s civilian leadership] only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that’s a mistake, and that’s why I think he should resign.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, Army — CNN, April 14
“I believe [Rumsfeld] has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward.”
THE ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS
Andrew Bacevich teaches international relations at Boston University, but prior to his academic career, he served as a cavalryman in the U.S. Army, eventually coming to command the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. His most recent book, published in 2005, is “The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.”
Eliot Cohen is professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a member of the Defense Policy Board. He has written widely on civil-military relations, most famously in his book “Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Wartime Leadership,” published in 2002.
Thomas Keaney, like Bacevich, is a retired colonel — although he served in the U.S. Air Force, as a B-52 pilot and commander. He has taught strategy at the National Defense University and is now director of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins SAIS, and also co-directed the Gulf War Air Power Survey.
Robert Killebrew, too, is a retired Army colonel, but a paratrooper by trade, specifically the 82nd Airborne Division. A widely published author as well as an infantryman at heart, he also directed the “Army After Next” study, critical to shaping the Army’s thinking on transformation.
Richard Kohn is a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina and the leading expert on civil-military relations, as well as the director of the current research effort by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies on the “gap between the military and civilian society.” Perhaps most notoriously, he wrote “Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations,” which appeared in the spring 1994 issue of The National Interest and which defined the problem of civil-military relations during the Clinton years.
Michael Vickers, who wrote the cover story on the Quadrennial Defense Review for the February AFJ, is a former special operations officer and CIA operative. He now hangs his hat at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and has had a powerful hand in influencing Pentagon thinking about the post-9/11 world.