Saturday, April 15, 2006

Generals, Rumsfeld and Iraq

As in Korea and Vietnam, the mire of the Iraq War is exposing cracks in the relationship between civilian government and the military.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been criticized by retired Generals. Photo source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
Not since the "Big One," the almost affectionate name given to World War II has this relationship been anything like smooth.

Retired Gens. John Batiste, Paul Eaton, Greg Newbold, John Riggs, Charles Swannac and Anthony Zinni have called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.

This is no anti-war statement, but a judgement on Rumsfeld's handling of the war and how this bungling has marred the military's image.

The problem started with Rumsfeld's treatment of Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had suggested that many more troops were needed for a successful Iraq campaign. Shinseki was a well-liked guy among his peers, and the humiliation that he was exposed to for his views touched a nerve.

That's understandable, because you have people who have trained all their lives as experts in one thing. Shinseki's advice was purely military in nature, and in that field he should have been the true expert. He was not only a "scholar" in the area of military operations, but one with hands-on experience.

However, the rift is deeper than any recent events. With the advent of large standing armies and other armed forces since Cold War days, a military culture has flourished. At one time, people serving in the armed forces could not vote. It was believed that this would give too much power to military commanders who could coerce their troops on ballot choices.

Today, those serving in the military are more politically-aware, and they can vote. In fact, they strongly-influenced the last two presidential elections. Like any other group they are expressing their opinions. The days of the suffering but silent veteran, it seems, are over.

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