Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ralph Peters on `Hawks for Dissent'

Ralph Peters sheds some light on the so-called `revolt of the generals'..and says some telling things about what happens when there's a political layer between the president and the professional military in wartime. A great piece...

Pop quiz: Who was our secretary of war--the closest figure we had to a secretary of defense--in 1942? Too hard? Then who was FDR's trusted adviser on how to wage the Second World War?

The secretary of war was Henry L. Stimson. But it is General George C. Marshall whom we remember, the man who shaped a war-winning strategy and then went on to win the peace with the Marshall Plan. Secretary Stimson's performance was competent and constructive, but he did not interfere with military operations. By contrast, everyone remembers that Robert S. McNamara was the secretary of defense as the Vietnam war went awry, but few could name the nation's most senior military officers in any given year of that conflict.

Unpalatable as it may be to those raised on Oliver Stone's reinvention of history, the truth is that our nation's most successful wartime partnerships have been between presidents and generals: Lincoln and Grant, Wilson and Pershing, FDR and Marshall. Such professional, non-political relationships brought us a remarkable century of victories, from Mexico City to Tokyo Bay.

Thereafter, the miserable road to Saigon--and Baghdad--was paved with the best intentions. Six decades ago, the National Security Act of 1947 inserted buffers between presidents and their top military men, leading immediately to a series of military debacles or, at best, stalemates. Instead of Marshall speaking--respectfully but frankly--to FDR, we got McNamara huddling with LBJ and, now, Donald Rumsfeld, who never saw combat, interpreting warfare to a president who never saw combat. Instead of making battlefield decisions based upon military necessity, the rise of powerful secretaries of defense resulted in combat decisions based upon political expediency.

Read the rest: "Hawks for Dissent" by Ralph Peters

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