OxBlog

Monday, April 24, 2006

# Posted 11:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO ARE GENERALS SUPPOSED TO LIE? Courtesy of Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: Why did you say in 2004 that Secretary Rumsfeld was a man of courage and conviction, who was determined to win the war against terrorism? Were you as disillusioned then as you are now? Do you regret saying that?

Maj. Gen. BATISTE: Bob, I was a loyal subordinate introducing the secretary of defense to my soldiers. I said what I had to say. Was I disillusioned at that point? You bet. Because for months I had been dealing with the effects of the decisions to go to war with the wrong plan, to set the conditions for Abu Ghraib, and to stand down the Iraqi military when I needed them desperately, to set the conditions for Iraqi self-reliance, to build the peace in Iraq.
I think Batiste is telling the truth. I believe he lied to his own soldiers by regaling them false praise for the Secretary of Defense, because that is what Batiste thought loyalty is all about. But does this mean that dissent is punished at Rumsfeld's Pentagon? Or does it mean that the Pentagon brass has developed a very disturbing habit of always praising the next man up the totem pole?

Although I wouldn't suggest that Rumsfeld is kind to dissenters, I think that only decades of being steeped in military culture could have taught Gen. Batiste to deceive his troops the way he did. Although some might say that a soldier's effectiveness on the battlefield depends on his or her total confidence in the leadership, that position can be taken to extremes.

Perhaps there is no substitute for having confidence in the lieutenant or captain leading you into battle. I wouldn't know. I haven't been there. But there is no reason that generals and admirals should feel compelled to say only the nicest things about each other in public, all the while resenting each other profoundly.
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
"But there is no reason that generals and admirals should feel compelled to say only the nicest things about each other in public, all the while resenting each other profoundly."

Yes, there is a good reason: The military is a top-down authoritarian organization in which public dissent is rightly described as "insubordination." Active-duty soldiers live and work in a highly disciplined environment and may not have the right to express dissent in private, much less in public. Soldiers don't have the same rights that we do, and they understand that perfectly well on the day that they enlist. This is so obvious that I'm ashamed at having to write it.

This is why it is significant when retired officers criticize their former superiors: Retired officers, being civilians again, are free to speak and are therefore the closest barometer that we have to the real feelings among the officers' corps.

By the way, someone in another thread here claimed that retired generals are technically not civilians and therefore still should not criticize their superiors. That, however, applies only to five star officers, none of whom exist today. The five star rank is conferred by Congress and is never forfeited even when the officer steps down from his duties: technically, a five star officer never retires, and remains on full pay until death. But that is irrelevant today.
 
David: I never served either, but do come from a military family and I suspect you are right--a soldier must have faith in his immediate superior, but each degree of separation lessens the degree of trust necessary. You may remember the scene from Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks explains that complaints travel up the line of command, not down. And it's common for enlisted men to hold officers in low esteem.

Anonymous' point is also correct, but there is a middle ground between false praise and disloyal criticism--there is silence and neutral comments.
 
There are ~870 active General rank officers. I can't find any stats on retired, but has to be in the high hundreds (most retire after 30 years, in their early 50's) if not thousands. The comment that retired generals are a good barometer probably has some validity, but keep in mind that, at least so far, the number that have chosen to critisize is well under 1% of the total.
 
What about this?

1.THEN: Batiste, 10/06/2004:
PHILLIPS [CNN]: General, while we watch the successful operations go down side by side with Iraqi troops, of course we continue to see a lot of violence throughout Iraq. We see children being targeted and, most recently, Ambassador Paul Bremer coming forward saying there was a mistake in the strategy in Iraq, and there just weren't enough troops post Saddam Hussein.Do you agree with that?

BATISTE: Let me answer that by saying that while we were conducting the operation in Samarra, at the same time we were conducting a battalion task force level air assault into an objective in the vicinity of Sharkak (ph), at the same time we were conducting a battalion level operation in the vicinity of Muqdadiyah. And at the same time, we were conducting a battalion level operation south of Balad. So, I think we had plenty of flexibility. Add to that the Iraqi security forces. They really do bring a lot to the fight now.

NOW: Batiste, 04/13/2006:
BATISTE:...It is much harder than warfare, and you need to have sufficient troops on the ground to control the people, to secure the borders, twould even come close as dramatic as that may sound.......... crazy i know especially when its someone you have never met ..... This is one of lifes little mysteries....

there is so much to write but i am a little out of it .. you have a zillion things going through your mind and you really dont know what to tackle first... you have questions, your have your emotions going into a million diffrent directions.. sometimes its zombie like sometimes it numbs you ....

i know i miss him everyday .. what short time i get to talk to him i am very thankful for... its like better to have that short a time than none at all ... soon it seems that would be it and i am dreading it .... i am happy when he gets back in the next few weeks or so - he would get the chance to do what he has been planning , be with his family and friends and what not and of course safe too .. then he faces the challenges that comes with that and i can only pray for him from a distance .......

i wrote entry on the things i miss about and its always the little things that makes up the bulk of it .. I figured i would just include it here since i never posted that entry ....

i know that inspite of all
 
He could have kept to non-committal statements.
Shoveling the crap must have meant he had another star in mind. Didn't want to ruin his chances.

The generals complaining can be reasonably thought of as being upset that Rumsfeld has made some substantial changes in the military--which they didn't like--and pretending that their only gripe is Iraq.

I'd be more inclined to listen if they separated the issues.

Just for the fun of it, read "An Army at Dawn" about Operation Torch. My father fought in Europe, and figured it was an amateur operation from the get-go. Seeing as we'd ramped up the military by about fifty times in a couple of years, it couldn't be anything else. But Torch was one major learning opportunity before D-Day. And my father found himself unable to finish the book because it was so full of screwups. What he thought was bad was not, by comparison, much at all.
Compared to that, what do we have in OIF besides disputes over doctrine?
Looting? In war, looting is meaningless. It got ink solely because it was the only bad thing Bush's opponents could find.
Considering how difficult it has been to get a competent Iraqi force up and running, the idea that the undisciplined, poorly-trained, unhappy conscripts (Shia) of the pre-war Iraqi army officered by incompetent and brutal and cowardly Sunni could possibly have been useful is absolutely stupidsillycrazy.
No doubt some Iraqi division commander might have wanted to be given an area to look after. You bet. A warlord with US backing...? Kewl.

It's interesting that the people who are most likely to despise the military, especially the generals, are now considering them the font of all wisdom. If they say the right things.
 
That previous post has a strange misquote. Here's the actual quote:

NOW: Batiste, 04/13/2006:
BATISTE:...It is much harder than warfare, and you need to have sufficient troops on the ground to control the people, to secure the borders, to intimidate the insurgency, to own the ground in every respect. My area in Iraq was the size of the state of West Virginia, huge. And we were forced over time to conduct a series of movements to contact where we only controlled the ground for a moment in time; that's not how you fight an insurgency. [NewHour, PBS]
 
Im confused

How is

" a man of courage and conviction, who was determined to win the war against terrorism? "


a contradiction of his later statements? Just because someone has the above qualities, doesnt mean they didnt make massive errors, and should resign.

I beleive Mr Rumsfeld IS a man of courage and conviction. However he is no longer an asset in the WOT.
 
There are ~870 active General rank officers. I can't find any stats on retired, but has to be in the high hundreds (most retire after 30 years, in their early 50's) if not thousands. The comment that retired generals are a good barometer probably has some validity, but keep in mind that, at least so far, the number that have chosen to critisize is well under 1% of the total.

This is perhaps the most ridiculous pro-administration talking point on this entire issue. Generals are not created equal. Out of the six generals that have spoken out, one is a four star, one a three star, and four are two stars. It is exponentially harder (and therefore there are exponentially fewer) to increase from the each general rank to the next. The majority of the retired generals you cite are likely only one-stars.

If that weren't enough, these Generals have all been directly involved with the decisions that have been made over the last five years. 3 of these generals have commanded troops in Iraq and one was the head of U.S. Central Command, the theatre in which both Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought.

To compare the (non)opinions of all retired generals irregardless of the rank and proximity to the theatre and key decisions to these high ranking generals who saw the events up close and personal is pure nonsense.
 
I agree with liberalhawk: You might disagree with someone on very important issues, and still acknowledge his personal virtues. Most people in government, even the most wrongheaded, are dedicated and well meaning, and we would all be better off if we recognized that fact more often.
 
An officer owes loyalty down to his subordinates as well as up to his superior officers. I am appalled to think MG Batiste felt he owed more loyalty to the secretary than he did to his soldiers.
 
Post a Comment


Home