Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eliot Cohen on the disgruntled generals

Eliot Cohen is a pretty well respected commentators on things military. What he has to say about the retired generals who are asking for Rumsfeld to step down in his Opinion Journal article is not kind, but well worth a read, especially for the generals in question themselves, IMHO.
Begin by noting that public denunciation will almost surely fail, because no president who thinks much of his role as commander in chief will throw the top Pentagon civilian overboard to please officers of any kind. If he did, he would establish the precedent that secretaries of defense serve at the pleasure of their subordinates, overturn the most fundamental feature of civilian control of the military, and neuter his own effectiveness in the conduct of national defense.

Even if ineffectual, however, these declarations do great harm. Retired generals never really leave the public service--that's why, after all, we still call them "general." They set examples for those junior to them in rank, and still on active duty. Imagine, for example, the disgruntled major in the Office of the Secretary of Defense deciding to subvert policy with which he disagrees by, say, leaking confidential memoranda to the press. "Not the same thing," one might respond, but remember that angry majors do not, for the most part, make discriminating moral philosophers. The retired generals have, in effect and perhaps unwittingly, made a case for disloyalty. Indeed, their most troubling belief is that an officer's civilian superiors--and the secretary of defense stands in the chain of command just below the president--do not merit the loyalty that they, as military superiors, would deserve and expect.
Go read the whole thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home