As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Why Do The Troops Hate The Troops?

This astonishing editorial, set to appear in the Monday edition of all four military service newspapers (Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times), calls for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. It's the closest thing you can have to an outright military coup in this country. The troops do not support the man who bungled them into war with too few, who provided them with no plan to win the peace, who kept assuring that everything was all right as Iraq slid into chaos. An excerpt:

For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don't show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.

Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.

And all along, Rumsfeld has assured us that things are well in hand.

Now, the president says he'll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.

This is a mistake.

It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation's current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers' deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This government has completely lost the confidence of the military it all-too-readily implements to send into battle. It will not be able to restore it so long as Donald Rumsfeld is at the helm. I've never seen anything like this, the entire military en masse saying that, for the good of the country, their incompetent leader must resign.

November 7th is a choice between those who would protect our troops and those who protect the President from criticism. Make the right choice.

UPDATE: Billmon, as usual, gives some very good perspective.

Now I despise Donald Rumsfeld as much as any commie pinko, but this kneejerk habit the generals have gotten into of blaming Rummy for all their problems in Iraq is getting pretty old. The Army's own failures -- most particularly, in deciding that because it doesn't like to fight guerrilla wars, it wouldn't prepare to fight one -- are well documented in Tom Ricks' Fiasco and elsewhere. The ossified bureaucracy obsessed with budgets, rank and military ceremony (in roughly that order), which led defense gadfly Chuck Spinney to label the Pentagon "the Versailles on the Potomac," had grown deeply dysfunctional long before Donald Rumsfeld came back to town. If anything, he at least tried to reform it -- even if most of his ideas went in diametrically the wrong direction for the "fourth generation" war the military now finds itself fighting.

That Rumsfeld needs to go is self-evident to everyone but Dick, Shrub and Don himself. Based on this Vanity Fair article, I'd say it's the one thing both the neocons (who have their own sins to atone for) and the generals can agree on. But trying to make Rummy the sole scapegoat for America's failure in Iraq is as big a lie as Shrub's insistence that the SecDef has done, and is still doing, a great job. It looks to me like the Times papers are simply pandering to their special constituency (something that was also their editorial bread and butter when I was there.)

The Dems may applaud now, but if I were them, I'd be extremely wary of the precedent. As a group, the joint chiefs are developing a taste for bureaucratic blood -- they're trying to destroy Rumsfeld just as they destroyed Les Aspin and emasculated Wesley Clark. Only now they're doing it openly (or at least semi-openly) and in the middle of an election campaign.

That's usually not a good sign for a republican government -- and I'm not talking about the political party.

I had a whiff that this was highly unusual, and anytime you see this kind of "come to Jesus" moment there could be blame-shifting involved. So yes, while I agree with the sentiment I don't want to see the military taking the law into their own hands.