Revolt of the Generals

3 October 2006, 1801 EDT

Here’s the provocative lead paragraph from an interesting new article well worth a read:

A revolt is brewing among our retired Army and Marine generals. This rebellion–quiet and nonconfrontational, but remarkable nonetheless–comes not because their beloved forces are bearing the brunt of ground combat in Iraq but because the retirees see the US adventure in Mesopotamia as another Vietnam-like, strategically failed war, and they blame the errant, arrogant civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The dissenters include two generals who led combat troops in Iraq: Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr., who commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, and Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the First Infantry Division (the “Big Red One”). These men recently sacrificed their careers by retiring and joining the public protest.

The article is filled with quotes from recently retired generals , as well as Vietnam-era military leaders, who are thoroughly disgusted with the way the Pentagon is managed — and the way the Iraq war has been prosecuted.

I know that Dan has reminded everyone to avoid evaluating arguments based on the authority of the source, I likewise want to remind everyone to avoid ad hominem attacks. After all, author of the above paragraph is Richard J. Whalen, who has penned “Revolt of the Generals,” for the October 16, 2006 issue of The Nation.

That’s right, The Nation.***

Here are some of the on-the-record criticisms:

  • Retired Lieut. Gen. William Odom calls the Iraq War “the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States” and draws a grim parallel with the Vietnam War.
  • Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, now retired. “But we damned well know that the Iraq War we’ve won militarily is being lost politically.” …As the Iraqi insurgency grew, the generals found Rumsfeld “completely unable and unwilling to understand the collapse of security in Iraq,” says Maj. Gen. Eaton.
  • As General Newbold says: “Our opposition to Rumsfeld is all about his accountability for getting Iraq wrong from day one.”
  • Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a hero in the 1991 Gulf War who visited Iraq and Kuwait this past spring, writes in an unpublished report: “We need to better equip the Iraqi Army with a capability to deter foreign attack and to have a leveraged advantage over the Shia militias and the insurgents they must continue to confront. The resources we are now planning to provide are inadequate by an order of magnitude or more.

Previously, I blogged about the Generals against the war on my own blog, May 2004. That post can lead you to links about opposition from General Anthony Zinni, Reagan’s Navy Secretary James Webb (now a Senate candidate in Virginia), Bush I National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft, and former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark.

***Not that it is particularly important, but Whalen has previously been well-positioned to offer internal dissent:

At the height of the Vietnam War, between 1966 and 1968, I was a conservative Republican in my early 30s on the campaign staff of the likely next President, Richard Nixon.

In the article, Whalen claims to have helped to end the draft.

Filed as: