Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Soldier-Scholar Generals

By Alan Caruba

Two examples of our soldier-scholar generals have a lot to say about the men who have risen to lead our military these days. They also reflect how politicized that leadership has become.

Gen. David Petraeus, the most honored among the generals who fought our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan retired and was appointed as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He fell from grace when it was revealed he had had an affair with his biographer. He resigned and a lifetime of service to the nation was forever besmirched by his moral failure and lack of judgment.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, leading the war in Afghanistan was brought down by a Rolling Stone article that reported indiscreet comments by members of his staff. He tendered his resignation to the President and retired from service.

Both represented what most people regard as the best and the brightest of the men currently leading our military these days. Even so, I recalled General Douglas MacArthur, a hero of World War II and a man behind the strategic and successful attack on Inchon during the Korean conflict. He was sacked by President Truman when his ego and ambition got the best of him while advocating widening the conflict to attack Red China. An earlier general, George B. McClellan, General of the Army of the Potomac with similar presidential ambitions, was sacked by Lincoln when he failed to vigorously pursue the Civil War. 

Politics has always played a role in the waging of war and defense. For a very long time, Americans elected either generals or men who had led troops in battles of one sort or another. In recent times, we have had a draft-dodger, Bill Clinton, as President and the current Commander-in-Chief has never served in uniform, nor gives any indication he has any knowledge of military affairs. He is free to over-ride the advice of his generals.

Gen. McChrystal is making the rounds on television talk shows promoting his new book, “My Share of the Task.” He resigned because his role as a leader had been compromised by the Rolling Stone article and because a leader must take responsibility for the actions of his aides even if he was not a party to them.

The son of a West Pointer, a general, McChrystal wrote “I was raised to respect soldiers, leaders, and heroes. They were what I wanted to be. They were why I was there.” The man he respected and revered most was his father.

His autobiography is long and detailed, not the easiest reading experience, but one that reveals what brings young men (and now women) to West Point to pursue a career in the U.S. Army. The same holds true for those who enter Annapolis and the Air Force Academy. This is where they learn the history and strategies of war.

America is at a crossroads of determining whether to downsize our military—at this point in response to a draconian reduction in its budget that may or may not be reversed by Congress. We have done this before. The success of World War II came only after that war had been going on in Europe since 1939. Only after the homeland was attacked by Japan in 1941 America was all in. It is as if we have learned nothing from this and other elements of our history.

The first priority of government is the defense of the nation and we are getting ready to leave ourselves defenseless in a dangerous world in the wake of the continued hollowing out of our armed forces.

The Air Force’s fleet of planes; some of which have been in service since the Vietnam War. Others have flown thousands of sorties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our Navy has fewer ships than we had at the end of World War I. Between those in for repairs and those in port for R&R that leaves about 90 vessels to patrol the seven seas to protect and project American interests. Our services are staffed by volunteers; a small army of civilians ensures that the service personnel are free to concentrate on their mission. Sequestration cuts would force the Pentagon to initiate monthly furloughs among 791,000 civilian force.

Under agreements made by President Bush our military is out of Iraq and that nation is wracked by attacks from insurgent radical Islamists, often aided by Iran. In Afghanistan, after approving a limited surge against the Taliban, President Obama has made it clear he intends to withdraw our troops by the end of 2014 if not sooner.

Americans are understandably asking whether either conflict was worth the blood and treasure they consumed. There are more than a few military observers who think we have failed in Afghanistan just as the Russians learned to their regret.

Meanwhile, we are led by a White House filled with people who are reluctant to link the words “Islam” and “terrorism” despite 9/11 and its aftermath. We are led by a President who says all the right things about terrorism, but whose policies will allow Islamic terrorists to take control of nations like Afghanistan and possibly Iraq where we fought to free them from despotism. The current administration is reluctant to be drawn into conflicts that might expand, such as Libya or the new conflict in Mali where the French are taking the lead.

Both Generals Petraeus and McChrystal were regarded as the masters of counter-terrorism on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the new way wars are fought these days. It is long and slow, and it is a response to the rise of fanatical Islam throughout the Middle East and in other parts of the world such as the northern tier of Africa and elsewhere on that continent. It is made more difficult by the corrupt leadership in those nations.

As McChrystal notes in his book, “After Iraq, ‘nation building’ was an unpopular term, but our assessment had concluded that Afghanistan’s inherent weakness in governance was the core of the problem. Security had to come first, or else the government could not function. But absent legitimate governance, real progress was impossible.” Real progress has proven impossible. We have spent billions to train and equip an Afghani army and police. Their allegiance to the government is unreliable at best.

What is never mentioned is the way  U.S. generals were transitioned in and out of Afghanistan every year, never there long enough to do more than deal with the bureaucracy back in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.

Two of our generals are now removed from positions of leadership, one through a personal failing and the other through the happenstance of an article in a leftist publication. This hardly seems the way to wage war abroad or to protect the nation at home.

© Alan Caruba, 2013


Lime Lite said...

I have to disagree with you Alan. It is BECAUSE of these types of generals that America has tasted defeat once again. Their whole strategy has been completely wrong in dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan - as has recently been reported. I watched McChrystal on Hannity two weeks ago and I was left with a very poor view of the man. He wouldn't answer a direct question - it was all diplomatic innuendo. Obama basically fired the man, yet he wouldn't say so to Hannity. He also refused to say even one bad word about Obama. And he all but admitted that he had voted for him again this time around. No, it is because of weak leadership at the top of the USA military that America has failed. The next generation are no better as they all toe the line with regards to political correctness within their ranks. They are pushing for diversity and gender and sexual equality, more than they are to keep the American military a strong, respected force.

Alan Caruba said...

Lime, perhaps I did not state my criticism more strongly, but I thought I made it clear that I thought both Iraq and Afghanistan have been failures and traceable to both generals. McChrystal is a perfect example of how so many who have risen to top rank did so by working the politics of the military. We haven't really "won" a war since WWII.

Lime Lite said...

Thanks Alan. Then I agree with you!

Ronbo said...


As a Vietnam veteran (class of 67 to 69)- the U.S. military machine did not lose that war.

If we did, then name the battle(s) we lost?

I had boots on the ground during the Tet Offensive in 1968, the Gettysburg of the Vietnam War and I personally witnessed as a member of Military Intelligence, the almost complete destruction of the South Vietnamese communists by the U.S. Armed Forces in about 90 days.

Ditto for Iraq, ditto for Afghanistan - in all these wars the American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines kicked butt and took names.

Yes, we lost men, good men, but our graves are maybe 10% of their bone yards - the Vietnamese communists alone lost over two million dead and suffered the destruction of their country.


However, our many victories on the battlefield have been stolen since WW II by Leftist traitors like Obama, who by the politics of appeasement have thrown away the many triumphs of the American Eagle.

I say the time has come at long last for American patriots to deal with the countless filthy little wimp traitors who infest our government and culture.

The most dangerous enemy of the American Republic are not the ones overseas - It is the Democrat-Communist Party within and its willing stooges, who pray for a Bolshevik revolution in America.

Ancient wisdom:

"Be careful what you pray for, because God may answer your prayer, AND YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT!"

Alan Caruba said...

Ron, we did win many battles, but in the end we sued for peace with North Vietnam after they captured Saigon. The objective of protecting South Vietnam failed.

Ir'Rational said...

Inchong? Lose a 'g'.

Otherwise - agree.

Alan Caruba said...


Lime Lite said...

Alan, when you have time, do some research on the South African Defence Force during the 80's. South Africa was under attack by USSR, Cuba and East Germany from Angola, and we gave them all a hiding and sent them packing. We didn't have nearly the fire power or the man-power that they brought to battle, BUT we had the smartest generals who looked at the guerrilla war tactics they were using and planned how to defeat them accordingly. It is such a pity that these generals were lost when the country was handed over to the ANC. Their brilliance should have been picked up by America or some other western country. Instead they were shut up and put in the closet, the ANC too scared of them. I have no doubt that they would have worked out a winning strategy for your military. Even your marines came to train with our army back then. Israel and South Africa had very close ties in those days as both countries faced similar situations. They exchanged military tactics and weaponry. As a result, I have a lot of time for the Israeli's. We also had Denel, which produced ground-breaking military equipment - we had to as the world wouldn't supply us. However, the USA and other NATO forces were only too keen to buy our prototypes....We sure were respected back then. Since then, the world has allowed the take over of that country without our fighting our army by communist Marxists - the ANC - aided and abetted by traitors within our own borders - all so that they could get their grubby paws on the mineral wealth of the country. The world and our traitors sold out that country to the commies for 30 pieces of silver.