Why The Military Won't Stop Bush
There’s a fascinating piece in Sunday’s NYT about the debates going on regarding the Iraq war among the next generation of Army leadership. The story tells us that in the leadership development circles at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, majors and colonels are expressing their dismay about the generals above them who didn’t more forcefully try and stop the Bush Administration from a military disaster in Iraq by committing too few troops to do the job. General Eric Shinseki is viewed by many as one of the only men of principle, who paid a price for his candor.
The story tells us that the next generation of Army leadership is greatly saddened by the troop losses in Iraq, and is now seriously questioning why the senior leadership didn’t speak out against the war and the lack of resources to manage the aftermath. To some of these new leaders, simply going along with the civilian leadership when you know they are wrong isn’t good enough, and some feel that more needs to be done the next time, like resigning or going to the media if necessary. Naturally, this goes against the grain of the Colin Powell School of service, which is to salute the commander in chief as he takes the military and the country down into hell, even if you feel he is a misguided fool or worse, an incompetent.
Yet these new leaders are being told by instructors that they should not stand up to the civilian leadership to stop a war or action, even if the military knows it is a disaster in the making. And why are these new leaders being told to go along with a disaster?
Col. Gregory Fontenot, a Leavenworth instructor, said it was typical of young officers to feel that the senior commanders had not spoken up for their interests, and that he had felt the same way when he was their age. But Colonel Fontenot, who commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war and a brigade in Bosnia and has since retired, said he questioned whether Americans really wanted a four-star general to stand up publicly and say no to the president of a nation where civilians control the armed forces.
For the sake of argument, a question was posed: If enough four-star generals had done that, would it have stopped the war?
“Yeah, we’d call it a coup d’etat,” Colonel Fontenot said. “Do you want to have a coup d’etat? You kind of have to decide what you want. Do you like the Constitution, or are you so upset about the Iraq war that you’re willing to dismiss the Constitution in just this one instance and hopefully things will be O.K.? I don’t think so.”
The best and brightest are being told that it is against the Constitution for them to stop a misguided or out of control civilian leadership from waging a disaster for the military. They are being told that the simple act of saying “no sir” and trying to stop a disaster while wearing the uniform is a coup d’etat.
And George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have taken full advantage of this mindset and may soon again in Iran.
But understand what Colonel Fontenot is really saying: It isn’t the military’s job or function to stop the civilian leadership, but rather the responsibility of wiser heads in the political process to stop these disasters.
Does Nancy Pelosi take this into account when she and other Democrats give Bush and Cheney preemptive immunity from impeachment?