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April 14, 2006

Night of the Generals
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:34 AM * 153 comments

Michael Brown isn’t the first, or most dangerous, of the incompetents that Bush has appointed to office. And unlike some, Brownie is gone.

First on the list of Dangerous Clowns is Donald Rumsfeld. You’d have to go back to Robert McNamara to find another Secretary of Defense who was so incompetent. Now we’re hearing criticism of Rummie from an unexpected source: the generals themselves.

These are retired generals, no longer under military discipline and able to say aloud what they’ve long thought privately. The list of who’s come out and said Rumsfeld should go is like a who’s who of stars:

Major General Charles Swannack, former commanding officer of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The general who led the elite 82nd Airborne Division during its mission in Iraq has joined the chorus of cadre calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon.

“I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him,” retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, told CNN’s Barbara Starr on Thursday.

“Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there,” Swannack said in the telephone interview.

“And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press … and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward.”

Major General John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, 2004-2005:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Another retired general called for the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, adding to a drumbeat of pressure from the military for new leadership and fresh thinking on Iraq.

Major General John Batiste, former commander of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, criticized Rumsfeld for ignoring military advice and failing to provide sound military planning.

“You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense,” Batiste said in an interview with CNN.

His was the latest in a groundswell of calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation by respected retired generals who served in Iraq or key positions in the military hierarchy. Batiste led the 1st Infantry Division during a year-long Iraq tour in 2004 and 2005.

“We need a leader who understands team work, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,” said Batiste.

“Conversely, I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is,” he said.

General Anthony Zinni, commander US Central Command:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A former senior US military commander, Anthony Zinni, called for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over critical mistakes made in the Iraq war.

Zinni, who headed the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000, was asked if anyone should lose their job over how Washington has managed its Iraq policy.

“Secretary of defense to begin with,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

“Integrity and getting on with the mission and doing it right is more important than loyalty. Both are great traits, but integrity, honesty and performance and competence have to outweigh, in this business, loyalty,” the former Marine Corps general said.

“There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. They were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here,” he said.

Lieutenant General Anthony Newbold, director of operations to the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

In the current issue of Time magazine, another retired Marine, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, writes an extraordinary viewpoint calling for Rumsfeld’s ouster.

In it, the former three-star general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he should have spoken out more publicly before the war:

“After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq — an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots’ rationale for war made no sense. … But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat — al-Qaida. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11’s tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I’ve been silent long enough.”

Like many war critics, Newbold says simply pulling out now would be a mistake. But he pulls no punches about how we got to this point:

“The consequence of the military’s quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaida, became a secondary effort.”

And, with a note of bitterness, he charged that, “My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions — or bury the results.”

What to do?

“We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them.”

We agree.

Major General Paul Eaton, tasked with training the new Iraqi army:

Former Fort Benning commanding general Paul Eaton, in a Sunday op-ed piece in the New York Times, has called for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, claiming Rumsfeld “is not competent to lead our armed forces.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Eaton, who served as post commander from October 2001 to June 2003, when he was sent to Baghdad to train the Iraqi army, has been an outspoken critic of his old boss since retiring from active duty on Jan. 1.

“He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq,” wrote Eaton, who now lives in Fox Island, Wash.

He added: “Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.”

In response, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff has supposedly leapt to his feet to defend his boss. Last we heard from General Pace, he was being openly contemptuous of Rumsfeld (as we blogged here). Now:

(CNN) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from new criticism by former Pentagon brass Tuesday, telling reporters that “nobody works harder than he does.”

“He does his homework. He works weekends. He works nights,” Gen. Peter Pace said. “People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld.”

What’s interesting about Pace’s remarks is that they don’t say a thing about the actual charges, which are that Rumsfeld is incompetent. Pace doesn’t argue with that. What he’s effectively saying is, “Well, yeah, but he’s trying really hard” —which in a command position is no defense at all.

No one’s questioned Rumsfeld’s dedication, his patriotism, or the hours he works. No one said Rumsfeld doesn’t arrive early or stay at his desk late. For all we know he comes in on holidays. Maybe he hasn’t taken a vacation in years.

But that isn’t why he’s being criticized. The word we’re hearing, from the people who would know best, is that Rumsfeld is incompetent.

On that point, General Pace is tellingly silent.

Update:

President Bush said today in a written statement that embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has his full support and deepest appreciation. “Earlier today I spoke with Don Rumsfeld about ongoing military operations in the Global War on Terror,” the statement said. “I reiterated my strong support for his leadership during this historic and challenging time for our Nation.”

“Heckuva job, Brownie.”

Update 2:

The game may be going into extra innings. From today’s New York Times:

But there were also signs that the spate of retired generals calling for Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure was not finished. Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who is retired from the Marine Corps, said in an interview Thursday he had received a telephone call from another retired general who was weighing whether to publicly join the calls for Mr. Rumsfeld’s dismissal.
Comments on Night of the Generals:
#1 ::: corpuscle ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Heh. I was going to call my post this morning "Night of the Generals" as well. Fortunately, I changed my mind and named it "Some Number of Days in March and April".

#2 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 11:03 AM:

My grandfather resigned his position as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force over Robert McNamara's plans to change the armed forces. Now, I'm glad he did. At the time, it must've been tough. I feel for these guys, they won't get a fair hearing on their opinions. They're being disloyal to the machine.

Rummy, like Bobby before him, wants a leaner, more agile organization that responds better to modern realities. They both wanted an Enron Army, but the rules and culture they're breaking were put there to protect the Army and screwing with it puts the Army at risk. If you can't tolerate the risk of an Enron-like collapse, you can't take the risks of Enron-like lies^h^h^h^h^h culture.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 11:10 AM:

The thing is, Rummy is a symptom, he isn't the problem itself. That is W and his entire coterie of neo-con men and women. Getting rid of Rummy doesn't get rid of Condi, nor of the 'war president'. Nor does it undo the mess that we're in.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 11:13 AM:

I'll keep saying it: if the ungodly mess we're in could be fixed in a flash by giving someone a blowjob in the Oval Office, what patriotic American would hesitate to volunteer?

#5 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 11:42 AM:

General Pace's comments about Rumsfeld's dedication reminds me of something my partner says. I was telling him my frustration with a coworker who tries hard but is not suited to the job. My boss is one of those types who thinks if you stay late, parrot the party line and blame other departments, you're doing a good job. And my partner says "Never confuse effort with results."

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:08 PM:

General defends secretary

However, a former top aide to Gen. Tommy Franks stepped forward Thursday to defend Rumsfeld.

"Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," retired Marine Gen. Mike DeLong told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday.

"When you walk into him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

Sort of like General Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, who knew what he was talking about (as subsequent events have proven), but was summarily dismissed. General Shinseki told Rumsfeld that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure post-war Iraq. As a result, General Shinseki was marginalized and forced out.

"The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark," Mr. Rumsfeld said. General Shinseki gave his estimate in response to a question at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday: "I would say that what's been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." He also said that the regional commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, would determine the precise figure.

A spokesman for General Shinseki, Col. Joe Curtin, said today that the general stood by his estimate. "He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment," Colonel Curtin said. General Shinseki is a former commander of the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction," Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:16 PM:

Update: More from Major General Batiste :

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, one of several retired generals who has recently called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said Friday there is no coordinated anti-Rumsfeld effort among the generals, and that he hasn't talked to the others.

On NBC's "Today" show, Batiste called the timing "absolutely coincidental," and added, "I think there's a lot of people now starting to ask questions, and I think that's healthy in a democracy."

Batiste was asked why he had waited until now to go public with his criticism of Rumsfeld.

He answered, "I have nothing to gain in doing this. There is no political agenda at all. For 31 years I was a loyal subordinate and did not tolerate dissension in the ranks. My sole motivation, pure and simple, are the service men and women and their incredible families."

Batiste was also interviewed on CBS's "Early Show" on Friday, and had harsh words for Rumsfeld.

He said, "We went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team."

Emphasis mine.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Sort of related: I was dealing with a proxy for a BofA election, and one of the proposed directors was Tommy Franks. I voted against. I don't want yes-men (or not-saying-no-men) running things, even at a bank I avoid doing business with.

#9 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:23 PM:

Teresa, you wicked woman.

[Smiles with lots and lots of sharp teeth]

Anyone for Rocky Mountain Oysters and sausage?

#10 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:27 PM:

Did any of you hear the commentary on this and the commentator rushing to Rummy's defense on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday? It was so full to brimming with tough guy sound bites the guy might have well said, "He's hung like a horse and can bench press 250 lbs."

I distinctly remember the phrase "not in touch with his feminine side". Well thank God for that! I'd tremble to think that all that was between me and Osama Bin Laden was those romance reading, shoe shopping, chamomile tea drinking men of the 82nd airborne.


#11 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Avery: I did hear that. He was sure painting Rumsfeld to be a real man's man, has to be or the enemy will win. I think what upset me the most was that he said Rumsfeld wasn't the type to dwell on his mistakes. He just learned from them and moved on.

Exactly what has Rumsfeld done that shows he's learned anything or changed anything since the start of the war?

Check out the link titled, Rumsfeld Should Stay as Head of Defense.

(Posted but not listened to a second time as I am at work right now.)

#12 ::: bonniers ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:41 PM:

It concerns me that so many experienced generals who knew what they were doing have left the military recently. I used to have a certain amount of faith that however incompetent the administration might be, most of the people running the army knew the score. But who's left to run the store?

And have these men all been pushed out for something they couldn't bring themselves to do?

#13 ::: Matt Stevens ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:42 PM:

You’d have to go back to Robert McNamara to find another Secretary of Defense who was so incompetent.

Was McNamara really as incompetent as Rumsfeld? I don't mean that rhetorically; I'm genuinely not sure. I understand that the Vietnam War was more costly and destructive than the Iraq war has been, but that's not the same thing.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 12:51 PM:

McNamara was the guy who gave us single-engine, single screw ships, since a ship only needs one propeller to go forward, and the pricetag is much lower if you cut corners. Unfortunately, he didn't think to ask what would happen if that single engine stopped working for some reason.

(He's also the guy who came up with the concept of the "mission kill," that is, if we destroy the enemy's radar they can no longer fight against us, so we should put our efforts into anti-radar weapons.)

Rumsfeld is definitely on that level. The future will tell if he's surpassed McNamara, the "upward failure," in over-all harm done to the US military.

#15 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:01 PM:

One piece of the larger problem is that we've got an attention-deficit president who doesn't like to finish what he starts -- including wars.

Now that Junior is bored with both Afghanistan and Iraq, he's ready to move on to Iran. Never mind that there are those in Iraq with a strong pro-America view. Never mind that there are Iraqis who couldn't be more pleased that we removed Hussein and his secular government. Never mind that Iran could actually be an ally.

Nope. They're just more "A-rabs" in his cowboys-and-indians mentality. And they've got oil.

#16 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:12 PM:

And in ten years, after the U.S. has been soundly thrashed in a poorly planned and catastrophically badly executed invasion of Iran, will we be treated to yet another parade of retired generals finally telling us publically what they've known privately all along?

I'm not sure which I find more annoying, the "I told you so" crowd, or the "I wish I had told you so" crowd.

#17 ::: Dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:12 PM:

James,

" And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. 'I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,' Mr. Wolfowitz said. "

Which is interesting because, lo and behold, when the time came Colin Powell was saying "ehhh, not so much". I guess there was just too much potential profit to share.

I get the feeling this administration counts on, indeed thrives on, a sort of national ADD.

#18 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:26 PM:

Add another general to the mix: Major General John M. Riggs:

Retired Major Gen. John Riggs told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld had helped create an atmosphere of "arrogance" among the Pentagon's top civilian leadership.

"They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that's a mistake, and that's why I think he should resign," Riggs said.

And:

Another retired officer, Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, said he believes that his peer group is "a pretty closemouthed bunch" but that, even so, his sense is "everyone pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out."

He emphatically agrees, Riggs said, explaining that he believes Rumsfeld and his advisers have "made fools of themselves, and totally underestimated what would be needed for a sustained conflict."

Now, what about John Riggs? Rose through the ranks from being an enlisted man to being the commanding officer of the First US Army.

He's a guy who did state his objections to the Iraq fiasco while he was still on active duty. The result: he was forced to retire at a reduced rank.

Sunday 29 May 2005

Outspoken general fights demotion.

Washington - John Riggs spent 39 years in the Army, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during the Vietnam War and working his way up to become a three-star general entrusted with creating a high-tech Army for the 21st century.

But on a spring day last year, Riggs was told by senior Army officials that he would be retired at a reduced rank, losing one of his stars because of infractions considered so minor that they were not placed in his official record.

He was given 24 hours to leave the Army. He had no parade in review, no rousing martial music, no speeches or official proclamations praising his decades in uniform, the trappings that normally herald a high-level military retirement.

Instead, Riggs went to a basement room at Fort Myer, Va., and signed some mandatory forms. Then a young sergeant mechanically presented him with a flag and a form letter of thanks from President Bush.

"That's the coldest way in the world to leave," Riggs, 58, said in a drawl that betrays his rural roots in southeast Missouri. "It's like being buried and no one attends your funeral."

So what cost Riggs his star?

His Pentagon superiors said he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do, creating "an adverse command climate."

But some of the general's supporters believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics. Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.

"They all went bat s- - when that happened," recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. "The military part of [the defense secretary's office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined."

[more...]

So that's the atmosphere. Given the examples of General Riggs and General Shinseki, is there any wonder the brass is waiting until after they retire to talk?

#19 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:26 PM:

Well Powerline has explained it all for me. See these generals, with their entire careers behind them, they weren't shaped by that, no, what really motivates them isn't love for the Army, the Republic or the troops, nope.

They were... Clinton appointees.

Now it's all clear.

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:42 PM:

For the people playing along at home who might not know this:

Paygrade O7, Brigadier General, one star.
Paygrade O8, Major General, two stars
Paygrade O9, Lieutenant General, three stars
Paygrade O10, General, four stars

General of the Army (wartime only), five stars.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Teresa...well, I'd do BILL CLINTON in the Oval Office, that's for sure. But he's a sexay man, unlike the current toad.

#22 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 01:56 PM:

"So that's the atmosphere. Given the examples of General Riggs and General Shinseki, is there any wonder the brass is waiting until after they retire to talk?"

Yeah. Why risk being demoted and processed out with no parade and no ceremony and only a form letter? It's not like there was anything worth resisting. (Pay no attention to the man in the corner with the jumper cables clamped to his testicles.)

#23 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 02:03 PM:

A blow job in the oval office would be high comedy. The President is doubtlessly on stupendous dosages of antidepressants. He's probably lucky he can still find his short arm, much less put it to practical use.

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 02:17 PM:

We're not going to go to war with Iran. They're doing everything they can to give us the impression that they really do have WMDs.

Bush doesn't want to fight a nation that has WMDs. He wants to fight one that used to have WMDs but doesn't have them now, so he can claim they're a still a danger and therefore have to be attacked.

We're doing a great job of teaching the less powerful nations that the last thing they ever want to do is disarm.

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 02:31 PM:

TNH: Remember, 'everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran'. That's still not beyond the bounds of possibility. As Juan Cole points out, right now Iran has the capability to make glowing Mickey Mouse watches.

#27 ::: Winchell Chung ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 02:38 PM:

Teresa said: We're doing a great job of teaching the less powerful nations that the last thing they ever want to do is disarm.

There are few here who agree with the views of noted conservative Jerry Pournelle, but he did make a remarkably similar observation:

First, anyone not blind will see that the West has been teaching powerful lessons over the years:

The first lesson is: if you are a dictator, or part of an unpopular government structure, get nukes, get them quick, get them in any way you have to. Get nukes and get them now.

The second lesson is, don't let go. Even if you are a reluctant dictator, even if you hate dictatorship and wish peace and democracy to your country, do not relax your grip, and do not contemplate retirement. That way lies persecution of yourself and your family, and you will probably die in a foreign jail. If you are lucky you may be put under house arrest or seek asylum in a foreign embassy.

If you are a dictator, your only chance of survival is to hang on and get nukes. Nothing else works.

Those are the lessons we teach, and anyone with sense has learned them well.

#28 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 03:12 PM:

There's a point about Generals-dumping-on-Rumsfeld that I think people are missing. Military people have the chain of command imprinted on their brains-- it's a fundamental life-or-death aspect of being a soldier. So,... I'm morally certain that every General who says bad things about Rummy has the reservation in the back of his mind that Bush is the one who's really responsible.

#29 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 03:14 PM:

T -

I wish I could manage to feel that reassured.

At least one substantial administration faction wants to nuke Iran, presumably pour encoragé les autres -- though what in the seven names of pain tney think it's going to encourage les autres to do I should not care to speculate -- and I see no reason to believe that they regard the Iranians as posessing a credible deterent.

North Korea can do an immense amount of economic damage by taking out most of the electronics manufacturing house of cards with one or two bombs. (Seoul and effectively anywhere in Japan; they could hit Taipei, too, though I suspect that even in an 'everybody dies' scenario they won't, given how the Chinese could chose to react to that.) This gives them an assymetrically effective deterent, even if they can't hit CONUS. (Which they very probably cannot.)

Iran doesn't have that option, it's far from clear that they've got a bomb, and the folks in that faction are likely to believe that the best way to make sure that they don't hit CONUS is to blow up their stockpiles. (Since North Korea doesn't engage in high volume trade with anybody, it's nothing like the same smuggled-bomb risk that Iran is, either.)

So if Rummy figures the USAF is about a year away from a credible missile defense, maintains the bizarre mental block about nukes in containers labelled 'pistachios', and believes -- as all available evidence indicates that he believes -- "let them hate me so long as they fear me" is a good approach to dealing with others, and yeah, he might well decide that what Iraq means is that he's right and that wars with ground troops involved are a mistake, and that having anybody think that hardening sites to the point where it requires nuclear weapons to destroy them will act as a deterent is a mistake, too.

There's a kind of hideous stupidity of power that mistakes cringing for deference and deference for respect. It can't cope with what it percieves as disdain -- which is pretty much everything except cringing and deference -- and the public calls for resignation aren't going to encouage whatever vestigal temptation toward being sane and calm may have existed in Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld.

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Re NK Graydon sez: "even if they can't hit CONUS."

There are some 35,000 American soldiers in/around the DMZ in Korea, who knows how many in Japan, and, not to be parochial, an entire state in the mid-Pacific and another in the Northwest (Alaska) which they have claimed in the past that they could reach with missiles. Don't forget us.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 04:12 PM:

Iran can make a dirty bomb, yes?

#32 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 04:37 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Iran can make a dirty bomb, yes?

Well, yeah, but how big it would be depends on their stockpile of Mickey Mouse watches. If only Presidential Medal of Freedom winner George Tenet were still on duty. He would know.

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 05:08 PM:

TNH: Well, yes, and so can Jamaica. If all we mean by a dirty bomb is one that spews radiation. There's lots of radioactive waste (mostly medical) around. If you mean, can it make an effective dirty bomb, one that spews a lot of radiation and kills lots of people, that depends, as Michael Weholt says, on how many Mickey Mouse watches it has.

#35 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 05:39 PM:

My suspicion is that it's not so much the WMDs as the fight. The people Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc allowed themselves to listen to in 2002 told them that Iraq would be a pushover, that we'd have a brief bout of fighting, the evil regime would collapse, and they'd get to pose for front-page photos with a telegenic grateful populace. Now they know better, but can't allow themselves to back down, because that would be an admission of error.

No way they want to go through that with Iran. But the thing I something worry about is that there's evidence that it was Iran that fed us the false info about Iraq. In other words, that they set the administration up for their current mess. Bush is just the kind of petty bully who'd love a chance at revenge.

#36 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:09 PM:

You see, I take the public affirmation of support from W as the kiss of death. Time to start the countdown to resignation of Rummy.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Melissa: I suspect you're right.

#38 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:25 PM:

melissa: You see, I take the public affirmation of support from W as the kiss of death. Time to start the countdown to resignation of Rummy.

Ah, yes. The Harriet Myers Effect. Quite possibly. Quite possibly.

#39 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:37 PM:

I don't disagree at all that Rumsfeld's management of the wars has been disgraceful, and that he ought to be dismissed.

But there is another piece to the story, which is that the Pentagon military leadership really is incredibly resistant to change. Rumsfeld, no more or less than Aspin, Perry, Cohen*, or for that matter, Cheney, tried to perform some necessary modernization and realignment, and ran into a brick wall. Rumsfeld, in typical Bush Administration style, was particularly arrogant and insular about it, and I have little doubt that in some part, this revolt of the Generals is payback for that.

I hope that the idea of the modernization of the armed forces isn't tainted by the fact that Rumsfeld tried to do it, and that the next SecDef (hopefully soon, but if not in the next administration) keeps pushing the military leadership.

* no relation

#40 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:41 PM:

The Harriet Myers effect was there with Michael Brown as well.

#41 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 06:45 PM:

melissa --

Rummy used to be Cheney's boss. I doubt that W can force him to resign. I doubt he wants to, either, becuase if W gave even tiny fractions of rodent patotie about competence, he'd have done it some time since. The GOP has no respect for military service nor the opinions of those who serve or who have served.

T -

A dirty bomb isn't in the running as a credible deterent; there is no plausible way for a dirty bomb to be more dangerous or more directly harmful than the smoke plume for the World Trade Center or a medium-bad train derailment, and the use of one on American territory would present the strong possibility of a legal or pseudo-legal de jure assumption of dictatorial powers by the present administration.

I don't think the government of Iran would see that result as being in their interest, and because such a device would constitute a 'weapon of mass destruction', they'd leave themselves open to a thorough and vigorous nuking.

Linkmeister --

Neither Hawaii or Alaska would produce unmanageble political fallout in the way LA eating a couple megatons would be expected to do. That's the only measure this lot are using; military casualties would almost be welcomed. (Having Japan hit wouldn't be, because the regional politics would promptly go pear-shaped for values of pear that involve relativistic angular components of velocity, and that would have nearly immediate economic effects and those would have political consequences.)

The present administration have made it clear that they can, somehow, escape coherent political blame for, at a minimum, passively assisting in the destruction of a major American city. They might figure this would be just as easy to do if NK manages to nuke Hawaii, especially if that gives W. the chance to make some New Pearl Harbor speaches.

#42 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 07:26 PM:

Has anyone here read Digby's [self-acknowledged] tin foil hat speculation today? Also this.

#43 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Graydon, you may be right about our relative value, but I do think the symbolic value of landing a missile in the middle of the Old Pearl Harbor might inflame a little political fallout. Since I live about 2 miles north of the Arizona Memorial, I might not be around to notice, but I'd like to think my former countrymen would think the worse of a President which allowed it to happen.

#44 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 07:35 PM:

Iran can make a dirty bomb, yes?

Eventually.

Eventually, iran could make a doomsday device.

If we are willing to assume that they are suicidal and care nothing about being deterred, a doomsday device would give them everything fairly cheaply.

It needs no delivery system. It's relatively easy to defend. They only need one. They get to kill all their enemies (and neutrals, and friends) in one strike. If they can't be allowed nukes we sure can't allow them a doomsday device.

Now, consider Chernobyl and it's tiny world-wide effects. What would happen if the people running a reactor did their level best to make it go as bad as possible? They could put a lot of nuclear pollution across the world. Maybe a whole lot, particularly if they had more than one reactor to work with. People who mustn't be allowed nukes mustn't be allowed civilian reactors either.

Iran mines their own uranium. We can't keep them from getting uranium. But if we destroy their economy they can't build sophisticated weapons. Destroy all their power plants, and water works, and their railroad and road networks, and whatever industry they have ... then iran will be like Katrina only 300 times as big. No electricity, no water, no fire department, no food in the grocery stores.... They aren't going to be building any reactors any time soon.

But that still isn't enough. Iranian nuclear experts could sneak into the USA along with a bunch of terrorists. Say a hundred or two hundred could capture one of our nuclear reactors and hold it long enough for the experts to turn it into a mega-Chernobyl. We'd be cautious trying to retake the reactor because we wouldn't want to damage things, we'd probably assume they were trying to steal reactor fuel to make a tiny dirty bomb. By the time we figured out that anything we did to damage the reactor would make the disaster smaller, it would be too late. So it isn't enough to bomb iran back to the stone age. We must also invade iran and kill or detain every iranian who has nuclear expertise.

And we really ought to shut down all of our own reactors, to keep them out of the enemy's hands.

It's the only way to be sure.

On the other hand, if the iranians can be deterred like everybody else then we have a different choice to make. Once they get nukes we'll be scared to invade them. Should we do it now, so they can't stop us from invading them later?

#45 ::: John Miles ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 08:33 PM:

North Korea can do an immense amount of economic damage by taking out most of the electronics manufacturing house of cards with one or two bombs. (Seoul and effectively anywhere in Japan; they could hit Taipei, too...)

Hmm, that raises an interesting point.

If North Korea were to (apparently) go nuts and hit Taipei, then China would almost have to invade Taiwan, wouldn't they? Just to "stabilize things?"

So, when / if the Chinese are ready to make their move toward forced annexation of Taiwan, Kim Jong-Il could be the useful idiot who allows them to get away with it without excessive international condemnation or US interference. In such a scenario, the US will be too busy invading and neutralizing Pyongyang to pay much attention to anything happening between Taiwan and China. What's worse than a land war in Asia? A land war in Asia on multiple fronts. Scary stuff!

#46 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 08:42 PM:

j h woodyatt: My impression is that the military has been telling us that invading Iraq was a bad idea, planned badly, and executed badly, since day one. Thing is, telling us politely that we're making a mistake is about all they can do --- to do more would be a military coup or revolt, and those have a reputation for leading to unhappiness down the road, no matter how well-intentioned they were at the start.

James D. Macdonald: "[McNamara is] also the guy who came up with the concept of the "mission kill," ... " Can you explain to this non-military person what the problem is/was? Obviously you can't put all your eggs in that basket; the enemy can react by relying less on radar, or whatever. But as a technique among several, what is its flaw?

bonniers: "It concerns me that so many experienced generals who knew what they were doing have left the military recently." I have the same concern. Bad management can quickly gut any organization of its most competent people.

#47 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 08:49 PM:

As far as I can tell, Ahmadinejad is a not-so-Bizarro-world mirror image of GWB. Today he predicted the extinction of the state of Israel.

WTF to do? If Bush fires Rumsfeld, which I don't believe he will, he will merely appoint someone else of the same tribe.

#48 ::: TikiPundit ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:21 PM:

My opinion of the Gang of Six is negative. Perk-accepting, money-grubbing careerists.

So, I did what I could. I created "motivational posters" that they might well have had in their offices.

Just for fun, check 'em out at:
http://tikipundit.blogspot.com/

#49 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Wim L --

There's nothing inherently wrong with a mission kill; there's a whole lot wrong with designing and equipping your military to achieve mission kills -- which are generally easier to get -- in preference to hard kills.

The simplest example of why that's coming to mind right now is the USS YORKTOWN and the Battle of Midway; YORKTOWN had been mission-killed in the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Imperial Japanese Navy planners concluded that she could not be returned to action in time for the Battle of Midway; this conclusion happened to be wrong, and the error was to their severe detriment.

USS LEXINGTON, sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea (a 'hard kill'), did not participate in the Battle of Midway in any capacity whatsoever.

Mission kills don't last and don't fundamentally reduce the other fellow's war-fighting capability. They're a useful tactical determination in that if it's mission-killed you don't have to worry about it right this instant.

For example, one of the consequences of the use of anti-radiation (electromagnetic radiation) missiles to suppress air-defense radars has been the partitioning of air-defense systems, so that the radar emitters are numerous, cheap, and a considerable distance from the expensive processing gear and the folks directing the defense. The suppression efforts still work, but the air defenses don't stay suppressed as new radar emitters are switched on to replace the blown-up ones. This can be very bad if you're in the follow-up wave.

This is all fundamentally one aspect of the ancient tension between the grunts, who want whomever they shoot to die dead, instantly, and not commit any final heroics, and the logistics officers and folks funding the army, who want to spend as little as possible to get the desired result.

#50 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:30 PM:

John Miles --

The Chinese in that instance would not invade Taiwan; they'd invade or attack North Korea, with whom they have a land border and over which they conduct the large majority of such economic ties as North Korea posesses, on the grounds that an attack on Taipei (or anywhere else in Taiwan) was an attack on Chinese territory.

This would be wildly unpopular in South Korea -- independence from China is a big thing, culturally, for the Koreans -- but difficult to argue against; similarly for the US, which does not have the capability to successfully assault North Korea.

The Chinese would probably seek to extract re-unification with Taiwan as part of the quid-pro-quo over the whole thing, but the immediate negative consequences would be the global economy, gutshot by lengthy interruptions to well over half the integrated and printed circuit fabrication capacity on the planet, crashing and crashing hard.

#51 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:30 PM:

Wim L writes: "Thing is, telling us politely that we're making a mistake is about all they can do"

I keep reminding my friends that one of the annoying things Seymour Hersh reports in his most recent article in The New Yorker is that some members of the Pentagon brass are considering "resignations under protest" as a means of registering their dissatisfaction over the planning to use tactical nuclear weapons in Iran.

When large numbers of lives are on the line, especially when there are large numbers of American lives on the line, one would hope that the place you are least likely to find people without the courage to resist illegal and immoral orders by resigning their posts— much less by going to jail for insubordination— would be among the top brass at the Pentagon.

One would hope. On the other hand, maybe one feels sympathetic for the poor downtrodden generals who are just trying to make sure that there will still be a parade in review when they retire and not just some form letter in the basement.

I mean (ganking a line from "Martin Random" at somethingawful.com), you don't protest global warming by stepping out in front of speeding freight truck on the highway, right? You might stop the one truck, but it's just part of a extensive trucking system.

I'm so not impressed with these generals who've all decided to come out and aim the political long knives for Rumsfeld's back. Why did they wait until now? Oh right— they had to finish separating from the military without any inconvenient disruptions to their retirement plans. Why couldn't they have waited longer still? Well, you know— Rumsfeld is a clodhopper.

Still, if Rumsfeld is a such a problem, couldn't they have, at least, risked a demotion by telling us sooner? Maybe he's really not that bad— he's just a little unpopular with some retired generals who wouldn't even risk a slightly less comfortable retirement to speak out against him when it really would have made a difference.

#52 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:38 PM:

jh --

It's a very, very big deal for a general to publically denouce his boss as an egg-sucking poltroon who drools on his shoes. The degree to which civilian control of the military is a graven idol in that group is hard to overstate. That two-hundred plus year tradition is vitally, critically important to the republic and they all have that as an axiomatic article of faith. (Are in large part selected for having that as an axiomatic article of faith.)

Right now, though, there's a monumental disaster looming, and they might be able to help stop it, unlike the monumental disaster of Iraq, which wouldn't have stopped unless the entire officer corps resigned, and maybe not then.

The calculus -- for them -- has to include the cost of breaking that tradition, or bending it, and breaking the Army, versus the cost of the disaster; they're coming down on the side of the disaster being worse, which is significant. (When was the last time six retired generals commented on any political question this specifically?)

They're figuring it's worth doing now; it wouldn't have done squat earlier, and the couple guys who were particularly stiff-necked got hammered in like tent pegs to prove it.

#53 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:46 PM:

Wim L, the loss of competent management is not confined to generals: See this NYT article about mid-level (Captains) officers leaving the Army at very high rates relative to the past.

#54 ::: Leslie David ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Wasn't Bush the say guy who said Brownie was doing a "heck of a job"? I guess Rumsfeld must also be doing a "heck of a job". It would be nice if the Secretary of Defense was required to have served in the military, and I mean as more than an absent weekend warrior, like Bush.

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Rummy actually was a Navy pilot in the late 1950s, as I recall. Cheney and Bush ducked service.

#56 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 10:28 PM:

Over on TPMCafe, there's a thread on this where people have asked, repeatedly, just how many generals and retired generals there are, and no one has answered. Rumsfeld is quoted as saying today, "There are I don't know what 3, 4, 5, 6,000 generals..."

A quick google turns up a table that says that as of April 30, 2002 there were a grand total of 875 flag officers (Generals/Admirals) more than half of whom (439) had only one star -- all the recent critics have at least two. Subtract out 220 admirals, and there were 655 serving generals, 326 two-star or above.

Flag officers apparently move "up or out" every 4 years, with about half of each grade getting promoted and the rest retiring. That makes the average service time of a general a little under 8 years. Now, even though they retire pretty early (52 to 62, average in the mid 50's. Wow) I don't think they live much more than 30 years on average after retirement. So there are about 4 retired generals per active-duty general -- somewhere around 2600 of them, well over half being one-stars. Limit it to retirees within the last 5 years and it's probably less than 600, maybe 200 with 2 or more stars

So a) Considering his position, Donald Rumsfeld has a pretty poor idea of the number of retired generals, and b) we've heard from roughly 3% of all the 2-star-and-up generals who've retired in the last 5 years, and a much higher percentage of those who actually had something to do with the ground war in Iraq.

Jim (or anyone else) do those numbers look right to you?

#57 ::: Jon Swift ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 10:54 PM:

With so many in the military rebelling against Rumsfeld's leadership, it's clear what must be done. The troops should resign immediately.
http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2006/04/night-of-generals.html

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:05 AM:

j h woodyatt, does it ever bother you that you don't know squat about the military and its culture?

#59 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:46 AM:

Rummy actually was a Navy pilot in the late 1950s, as I recall. Cheney and Bush ducked service.

A Navy pilot? Just like former rep and now jailbird Randy "Duke" Cunningham? Some of the stories I read about him spoke of the sense of entitlement people get from the (admittedly difficult) task of putting a hot plane on a carrier in one piece; maybe Rummy thinks his entitlement is power rather than money?

#60 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:54 AM:

I'll keep saying it: if the ungodly mess we're in could be fixed in a flash by giving someone a blowjob in the Oval Office, what patriotic American would hesitate to volunteer?

You mean if someone gave Ann Coulter a blowjob, this would all be over??? Gees, talk about throwing yourself on a grenade...

Oh, wait, that must be wrong.

Ann doesn't work in the Oval Office.

#61 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:03 AM:

Does this qualify as comment spam?

it certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth that seems similar to spam.

Unless, perhaps, TikiPundit is an active duty member of the armed forces who is also actively protesting Donald Rumsfeld and calling for his resignation?

Funny how Tiki chastizes these generals as basically being cowards for keeping their heads down until they retired, but Tiki doesn't even have the guts to sign his own name to his post. His blog is completely devoid of any personal information such as a name or rank or serial number.

Coward or hypocrite, I'm not sure. Maybe both...

#62 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:13 AM:

screw it, I let tiki know directly...

#63 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:29 AM:

I'm so not impressed with these generals who've all decided to come out and aim the political long knives for Rumsfeld's back. Why did they wait until now?

Because men with guns shouldn't be in politics?

It was entirely right for them to wait until they were no longer in a position of power to start attacking Rummy. To have done otherwise would be very suspect. Heading towards treason, to be honest.

#64 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:38 AM:

TNH: Yes, now that you ask— it bothers me a lot that I've never understood how military people are supposed to recognize when they've been given an unlawful order and how they can reliably know when to disobey. I understand they all instinctively get this, but I don't.

Sure, the obviously contrived cases are easy, but the real world cases are never simple. They basically tell you that claiming "I was just following orders" is no excuse and it's your ass if you screw up, but they also tell you that disobedience carries the toughest penalties, and it isn't going to be you who ultimately gets to decide if your orders you disobeyed were lawful or not. The historical record contains a few accounts of guys who didn't realize their orders were unlawful until it was explained to them at their trial, e.g. Charles Graner. On the other hand, it contains countless accounts of guys mistakenly thinking their commanders were looped and getting hammered down for insubordination, c.f. General Riggs above. You think, hey— I know, I'll just obey them all except for the ones obviously contrived as a test to see whether I'm smart enough disobey the truly, awfully, stupid ones. And more than likely, nobody will ever order you to do something that only later do you find turns out to be war crime for which you'll be hanged. The worst that usually happens is your career will be wrecked because you zigged when you should have zagged, or vice-versa. Because, hey— we're all in it together, right? Right?

Or maybe that doesn't work either. As I said, it bothers me that I never managed to figure this out. I wish I had, because then I wouldn't have made an ass out of myself more times than I can count. (You're not the first person to decide that I can't be taught this material. My instructors at the academy years and years ago stopped answering questions and gave up on me. They didn't even bother to try to tell me why. I decided that it was a matter of simply not belonging in the culture. You either "get it" or you don't, and if you don't, you will hate hate hate life in the military. My potential career in the service was probably destroyed by reading Joseph Heller's Catch-22 as fourth-class midshipman.)

I suppose I've worn out my license on this subject once again. Sigh. Let me conclude by reiterating that I'm not trying to be an asshole. I'm just stupid. Dumb as a post. Really. Maybe, you'll get smarter commenters— ones that can be taught politeness and manners— in the next revision of the system. In the meantime, I offer my apologies for any offense I've inadvertantly given once again. I suppose asking forgiveness this time would be pointless, but I'm humbly asking for it anyway.

#65 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:02 AM:

Mentioning Charlse Graner is a red herring.

None of these generals did anything illegal in conducting their orders that was supported by Congress, the Senate, and the President. I never thought we should have invaded Iraq and I never believed all the crap that Dubya was saying were our reasons for needing to go in. But just because I disapproved of the war doesn't mean I'm going to claim that it is illegal or a violation of the Geneva Convention.

If you can't see a difference between (1) executing a war approved by your government and within the confines of the Geneva Convention and (2) torturing prisoners, then we might as well stop here.


#66 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:13 AM:

The thing of it is that I think we could have pulled off the mission in Iraq when we first invaded. We could have conquered the country, replaced Saddam with an Iraqi, democratically elected, government, and pulled out.

Whether any of the reasons given were true or not, our military could have accomplished what it was ordered to do. So, it was a legally sanctioned war and it wasn't immoral for the generals to execute it. Definitely not a "charles Graner" thing going on.

The problem seems to be that in the period between when the war was approved and today, a number of things that the military depended on our government doing didn't happen. And a number of things that the military did not expect our government to do, did happen.

And so now, I believe that we've reached a point where our military can't implement the mission it was given because Rumsfeld and the entire White House made some horendously bad strategic decisions.

of course, everything I say is wrong, so...

#67 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:50 AM:

Greg London writes: "If you can't see a difference between (1) executing a war approved by your government and within the confines of the Geneva Convention and (2) torturing prisoners, then we might as well stop here."

I didn't mean to imply an equivalence, nor do I think there is one, but if you're going to insist on misinterpreting everything I've written as if it were produced by a caricature of fuzzy-headed pacifism, then you're right— you have nothing to gain by including me in your discussion. You've already decided to have a different discussion with a sock puppet you've constructed to take my place. Have fun with that.

#68 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 03:43 AM:

And on the off chance that anyone else here wants to continue lecturing me on the subject of civil-military relations, I would recommend this article, called "Out of Control: the crisis in civil-military relations" from the Spring 1994 issue of The National Interest, which goes into some length about the degree to which our military then, only twelve years ago, had come to have— um, less than total respect for its civilian leadership.

It's really quite enlightening now to be reminded of how politically polarized was the relationship when Clinton was their CIC. If there's been any more recent developments to reduce the polarization since Clinton left office, I'd be happy to hear about them. Honestly. I'm not trying to grind an axe, and I know there are a lot of people here with knowledge to contribute on the topic. If I've been misled into thinking that civil-military relations have degraded more than they have, or that the problems I'm talking about are not as serious as they seem to me, then I'd like to know.

So far, though, I have to say I am not viewing this recent news about retired generals mucking with the civilian political process with much enthusiasm and I think I'm right to question their motivations and timing for coming forward with their public criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld. If that reveals my utter ignorance of the military and its culture to you, then well— I guess that means I suck.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:01 AM:

jh -

Most of the Clinto-era articles were intended to create the belief that the military despised Clinton, and have about as much inherent veracity as the recent 'Bush is popular' articles. It was the prevailing narrative; whether it meant anything would take a lot of research to say. (I would look at retention and recruitment rates, myself.)

The army always gripes. Every sargeant's and warrant's mess I've ever been in in Canada -- which was awhile ago, but was a goodly number -- had the poem about "we the willing, lead by the uncaring, are doing the impossible for the unknowing" up in a frame somewhere. The interesting thing is where griping turns into action.

As for the whole culture issue, who is your tribe?

The military works, depends on, on the idea that it's more important to do your job than survive; examples, like HMS LION's Q turrent commander who ordered the compartment he was in flooded to control a fire (and keep the ship from exploding) being lauded are pretty easy to find.

In that context, your tribe is who you go out and do your job with at the risk of your life, and their lives; the current abstraction for this, the thing made more important than life, is 'mission'; doing the job. (it has been honor and lots of other things historically, but right now it's mostly mission.)

That makes the judgement of your peers that you have done your job emotionally important, on a 'core definition of self' level; "retired at reduced rank" is a heck of a kick in the teeth, becuase it's a very public statement that you haven't done your job.

This is all emotional and irrational; it has to be, becuase it's supposed to work when your rational mind is chanting 'Oh shit I'm going to die'. Attach that to a culture of scientific rationalism that doesn't have a vocabulary suitable for talking about the states of mind involved directly and it gets dangerously unregarded in a number of ways, but fundamentally the idea of 'army' is not supposed to have a rational basis. It's the people who are like you in prefering the job over their lives. (Modern special forces training, starting with the British Special Boat Service model in the Second World War, emphasises ensuring that the individuals in the unit are all utterly convinced that the mission is more important than their own personal survival.)

Once you leave troops in combat for too long -- somewhere between 12 and 15 weeks -- the notion of the job starts to give, and that's when you start getting attrocities, irreversible thousand yard stare, and the notion that the job is to kill and not die and that's about it. (Something has to give, and the notion of mission is the most complex thing in the mix, so it is what gives.)

Pretty much the entire US Army has been cycled through Iraq and kept in combat too long. The whole thing, including the groups from which future senior leaders can be expected to be drawn, are functioning as "veterans of the Eastern Front".

In the case of these particular generals at this particular time, my guess is that they've decided that expressing a political opinion is less bad than not; the army is already broken and will have to be rebuilt more or less from scratch, the job they've been given in Iraq is unrecoverably borked, and the job they are being given is either impossible (take out Iran via conventional assault) or inherently disastrous for the Republic (use nukes).

It's also possible that the issue involves withdrawal; the consensus of the flag officers may well be that they hav to get the army out of Iraq before the place melts down completely and said army is destroyed, or before it's too broken to fix, and Secretary Rumsfeld refuses to listen.

I don't think you should be viewing this with enthusiasm; I think it's entirely appropriate to be viewing this with alarm. I don't think it's appropriate to be supposing venal motives, because none of the generals involved are going to benefit at all in a material way, and the specific generals are coming from the sort of leadership positions that are typically given to people about whom nothing bad is known; the commands given to someone who is expected to advance further and who is being selected for professional excellence, rather than sufficient competence.

It's still six steps back from mutiny, but it's a very clear indication that they think things are really, really bad. Their oath to your constitution does oblige them to speak when things are bad enough, even when the question is political; I'd take the present occasion as the decision having been reached that, yeah, things are that bad.

#70 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:02 AM:

Greg London: Giving Ann Coulter a blow-job fits the definition of 'above and beyond' to a tee.

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:26 AM:

There's a strong tradition that the highest form of protest in the officer corps is resignation.

Given that the alternatives are suicide (a big part of the frightening death rate among officers O6 and above in the Wehrmacht in 1939 was suicide), or tanks on the White House lawn, it's a good thing that it's engrained in the culture that if you can't support the civilian leadership the correct and honorable thing that makes the strongest statement is to retire.

#72 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:03 AM:

Speaking of mission kills, there was a time when we had only three weapons systems in the Navy that were capable of a hard kill (not counting the nukes).

One problem with mission kill is that even after you've "killed" your target, you still have to keep track of it. And it's hard enough to keep track of the ships on your own side, where they're moving according to published plans and are in radio communication with you and are willing to tell you exactly where they are any time you ask, without adding the problem of keeping track of the bad guys.

When you've mission-killed your target, you have to remember to inform him that he's been mission-killed. Maybe that works on the bad guys, but with our people they kinda take pride in how creative they get when some piece of gear stops working. During the Falklands war, the Argentine air force managed to put a missile through the radar antenna of one of the British ships; this was, by definition, a mission kill. Since the British sailors aboard were unaware that their ship had been mission-killed, they continued to carry out their mission for the rest of the war.

#73 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:36 AM:

Last night, Jordin Kare was trying to come up with an estimate of the total number of retired generals, as Rumsfeld's "3-6,000" number seems high.

Somebody in this discussion probably knows for sure, but I'm under the impression that officers are often (usually?) kicked up a step on the occasion of their retirement. So I think it's possible that there could well be several thousand "Colonels" enjoying the title and pension of "General" - officers who never actually served at flag rank.

Is this a plausible explanation for the difference in numbers?

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Rummy actually was a Navy pilot in the late 1950s, as I recall. Cheney and Bush ducked service.

Rumsfeld was indeed a Navy pilot 1954-57 (post-Korea/pre-Vietnam). He continued in the reserves until 1975, when he retired with the rank of Captain.


Q. How do you know there's a Navy pilot at your party?

A. He'll tell you.

Q. What's the difference between a Navy jet and a Navy pilot?

A. Once you shut down the engine the jet stops whining.

#75 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:03 AM:

Typically egotistically Off-Topic, I hereby submit Exhibit A in support of my ongoing campaign to get people to say "whine" rather than "whinge":

Q. What's the difference between a Navy jet and a Navy pilot?

A. Once you shut down the engine the jet stops whining.

Okay, say whatever you want, it's your bees-wax, but I say "whining" sounds like somebody whining (also, jet engines), and "whinging" does not. Onomatopoeia Roolz!

#76 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:15 AM:

It seems to me that military pensions are handled more as favors than as contracts. They can't be increased at whim, but they can be reduced. Am I right about this, and if so, is it a good thing?

Graydon, it sounds to me as though the military is based on a premise of infinite devotion, but such is actually not available so you need people in charge who understand what can actually be gotten out of soldiers, no matter what the rhetoric says.

#77 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:06 PM:

On the topic of nuclear doom:

Here's link to a photo essay of a tour of modern-day Chernobyl.

The gist of it is that a Soviet bloc girl borrowed her Dad's geiger counter and did a motorcycle tour of Chernobyl and the surrounding area. The essay and accompanying photographs are absolutely fascinating reading, IMHO.

If you like that, I'd also highly recommend reading Dark Sun, by Richard Rhodes.

#78 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 12:55 PM:

if you're going to insist on misinterpreting everything I've written as if it were produced by a caricature of fuzzy-headed pacifism, then you're right— you have nothing to gain by including me in your discussion. You've already decided to have a different discussion with a sock puppet you've constructed to take my place. Have fun with that.

Dude, chill out. You were the one who brought Charles Graner and implied linkages to Abu Graib into this. You brought in a red herring, a non sequitor, and all I did was point it out that you're the one having the different discussion. The original topic was a number of generals who are calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. Graner is totally irrelevant to that discussion.

#79 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:20 PM:

Scott H: I remember when Neil Gaiman posted a link to that Chernobyl website on his blog in 2004. Eventually, someone informed him that the page was a fraud. The girl who supposedly rode her motorcycle through the evacuated zone was actually just a tourist who brought a bike helmet with her on a tour to the city.

A fraud exposed, and a true thing...

It does make for interesting reading, although it is largely fiction.

Personally, I've developed a morbid fascination with Chernobyl. It may be because, to me, the idea of dealing with nuclear fallout is seeming more and more likely.

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:50 PM:

The thing that everyone must realize is this:

Nuclear weapons are nineteen-forties technology.

#81 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 02:49 PM:

JDM: Nuclear weapons are nineteen-forties technology.

Thankfully, they're 1940's technology that requires the development of a substantial infrasctructure to assemble enough fissile material to make one.

It's kind of like jumbo jets, a 40-year old technology, but only 3 political/economic entities ever managed to make them, and only two ever made a profit at it. (Admittedly, profit wasn't a motive of the third, but neither was air safety.)

I wasn't too alarmed when India built a bomb, but I was when Pakistan did. Mostly because it meant that am unstable country with a really tiny wealthy class was able to pull together enough resources to do it.

It feels as if we've missed the whole lesson of the Cold War. We beat the Soviets not by fighting them with guns, but by getting them into a competition they couldn't win, economically or politically. And we still got our media messages into their closed societies.

For some reason we seem to be unwilling to see the so-called WoT in the same terms. We'd rather bomb countries that really had little or nothing to do with the recent terrorist attacts on the US than engage them. And we steadfastly ignore the countries that really do support anti-Western terrorism. And people who point this out get slandered in the media. Let's see how long it takes before Fox starts denouncing the Generals.

#82 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 03:44 PM:

James D. Macdonald writes: There's a strong tradition that the highest form of protest in the officer corps is resignation.

I'd like to extend and clarify my earlier remarks.

My principle complaint with these generals is that I don't like seeing them use their career history to meddle with the civilian political process. I understand lots of folks want to believe they're motivated by a genuinely good and patriotic desire to avert a catastrophe of some kind, but as Mr. Macdonald observes, they had a chance to register a protest before they retired on schedule and at full pay, and they didn't do that.

Coming forward now, they are a day late and a dollar short. I have a lot of complaints with the President, but he's right to snap back at them like he has done. These guys are sending a bad message to the active duty corps, and this amounts to a setback for any ongoing efforts— such as they may be— to improve civil-military affairs.

And just to clear up one last point, my principle complaint with these generals is not that I think they're motivated to speak out now by venal concerns. Observing that these generals have books they're promoting seems more than a little rude to me.

#83 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Once you leave troops in combat for too long -- somewhere between 12 and 15 weeks -- the notion of the job starts to give, and that's when you start getting attrocities, irreversible thousand yard stare, and the notion that the job is to kill and not die and that's about it. (Something has to give, and the notion of mission is the most complex thing in the mix, so it is what gives.)

If I can ask, why is it that the (Western, Allied) WWII veterans did not, as a general rule, suffer from these things? A more complete rotation policy? A difference in rationale or justification, i.e. a genuine sense that the world was on the line? Or did they, and do we simply lack reportage/correlation of the cases?

#84 ::: CD318 ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 04:44 PM:

In my rear view mirror the sun is going down
Sinking behind bridges in the road
And I think of all the good things
That we have left undone
And I suffer premonitions
Confirm suspicions
Of the holocaust to come
The wire that holds the cork
That keeps the anger in
Gives way
And suddenly it’s day again
The sun is in the east
Even though the day is done
Two suns in the sunset
Hmmmmmmmmm
Could be the human race is run
Like the moment when your brakes lock
And you slide toward the big truck
And stretch the frozen moments with your fear
And you’ll never hear their voices
And you’ll never see their faces
You have no recourse to the law anymore
And as the windshield melts
My tears evaporate
Leaving only charcoal to defend
Finally I understand
The feelings of the few
Ashes and diamonds
Foe and friend
We were all equal in the end

- Roger Waters

#85 ::: CD318 ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 04:50 PM:

If I can ask, why is it that the (Western, Allied) WWII veterans did not, as a general rule, suffer from these things?

That's a bizarre thing to say. Why on earth would you say that?

#86 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 06:11 PM:

I would answer:
1. What makes you think they didn't?
2. Encirclement and besiegement are one of the best causes of combat fatigue (see Beevor, "Stalingrad") and that didn't happen to allied troops so often. The 51st at St Valery were beaten fairly fast. The rest of the BEF evacuated successfully. Malta was under bombardment, but not besieged on land - the island remained free throughout. The Greek islands fell fast, as did the Narvik expedition. The 101st didn't spend long at Bastogne before being relieved.

#87 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 06:44 PM:

...but as Mr. Macdonald observes, they had a chance to register a protest before they retired on schedule and at full pay, and they didn't do that.

I observed no such thing.

Any time after twenty years active service, they're going to go on the retired list. You tend to hit twenty years somewhere around Colonel (O6).

Nor can they just walk off the job. Every change of station, every promotion, carries with it obligated service.

Of the six retired generals (and recall that if they leave the service other than as the result of a sentence of a courts martial they will be retired), one was forced out (Riggs). One resigned, by his own account, in protest over US policy (Newbold). Two resigned this January, at the first moment they could legally do so (Swannack, Batiste).

All of them had years left. Take Eaton, for example. He's 55 years old. That means he had ten years remaining before he would have reached mandatory retirement age -- and he was on the fast track for a third or fourth star. That's what he gave up.

Please notice, none of these fellows retired "at full pay." The most they can get is 3/4 of base pay, without allowances.

#88 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Anarch --

The relative lack -- and it's only relative -- of psychological casualties has a lot to do with much better rotation policies (including deliberate attempts to measure the psych consequences of combat operations; there was a lot of worry about the potential long term industrial damage caused by full mobilization), relatively limited periods of high-intensity combat, and typically being on the winning side.

A very great deal of study has gone into this stuff since; it's not like the miserable failures giving the US military orders couldn't have found this stuff out if they'd cared to know.

#89 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:22 PM:

Scott H: I remember when Neil Gaiman posted a link to that Chernobyl website on his blog in 2004. Eventually, someone informed him that the page was a fraud. The girl who supposedly rode her motorcycle through the evacuated zone was actually just a tourist who brought a bike helmet with her on a tour to the city.

Seriously? @#$^ing @#$ of a (*%%$# %%@!.

This is why I'll never get rich. I'm too gullible.

Well, thanks for the heads-up.

#90 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 08:23 PM:

CD318: That's a bizarre thing to say. Why on earth would you say that?

Because as near as I can tell it's true. I'm not claiming that no such psychological casualties existed -- and thanks, Graydon, for pointing out (as I failed to) that I was/should've been talking about a relative lack here -- merely that the US, the UK, the French and Australia veterans (as well as possibly Indian, Burmese and Filipino vets too) didn't seem to suffer the same psychological damage that they'd suffered in WWI, say, nor what the Axis soldiers suffered in WWII.

I'm not even close to an expert on these things and I could well be talking out my ass here, of course, especially given that while studies of mental health are tricky enough at the best times, studies of mental health in war are a whole order of magnitude more delicate. [PTSD, shellshock, cowardice? And so forth.] Nevertheless, having lived in three of those four countries and with a passing familiarity with a few of the others, I don't recall seeing anything like the extent of psychological scarring for those soldiers in that war than almost any other I know.

And thanks, Ajay, for the point about besiegement and encirclement. Makes a lot of sense. And no, I don't know for sure that they didn't -- hence my final query in my first post -- merely that I haven't observed it in the same way that I have in other cases.

#91 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Whoops. Also forgot to thank Graydon for his response too. Sorry! :)

A very great deal of study has gone into this stuff since; it's not like the miserable failures giving the US military orders couldn't have found this stuff out if they'd cared to know.

I knew they had, but part of what's stymied me is that I don't know how far back those studies go, nor how the definitions have changed in the interim.

And this is actually one of the larger things I'm wondering about: could it be that the, well, miserable failures simply assumed that, because we were Fighting The Good Fight, morale/combat fatigue simply wouldn't be a factor? That somehow our Love Of The Homeland would triumph (or god forbid, is triumphing) over any potential exhaustion? In particular, does there exist a body of revisionist literature (probably from Heritage or Hoover or someplace equally odious) that asserts that such things don't exist, or are weaknesses only in "liberals", or some other fig-leaf of justification that the miserable failures could have glommed onto?

If so -- and let me don this very groovy tinfoil hat right here -- then it suggests that one possible reason the Bush Administration is slavering over Iran isn't just to quell its domestic troubles... it's to "fix" the army. Which is a terrifying thought indeed.

#92 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 09:23 PM:

http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2004/05/fraud-exposed-and-true-thing.asp

I looked up the debunking on the story about the girl on the motorcycle in Chernobyl.

Basicly the claim was: This did not happen because it was illegal, and illegal things do not happen in ukraine.

I was amazed. It was so -- soviet.

The website admitting the illegal events was immediately taken down and changed heavily, which was taken as proof that it did not happen.

There was a post from somebody else who had the same tourguide, who explained that "everybody" had been bugging that tourguide to let them have the special tour just like the woman with the website. But there was no special tour for anybody and never had been. That would be illegal. However, this other woman's website had a panoramic camera shot she'd taken on her own special tour, with the guide recognizably in the thing twice because of the way the photos were spliced. With friends like that.....

#93 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 10:49 PM:

These guys are sending a bad message to the active duty corps, and this amounts to a setback for any ongoing efforts— such as they may be— to improve civil-military affairs.

What the hell? First you say these generals should have complained while they were active duty. Now you're saying that they're sending a "bad message" to the active duty troops telling them to complain while they're still active?

What do you think would have happened to civil-military affairs if these guys had complained while they were commanding troops on the ground in Iraq???

All I can say is there aint nothing going to satisfy you on this one.

#94 ::: a kate ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:14 PM:

With respect to the apparent relative lack of PTSD type things in WWII--

Well, I think there was/is a lot more PTSD out there than you'd think, for one thing. It's just that the reporting and coping with it was/is a lot more private.

As others noted, being "On The Right Side" and having the support of your folks back home helps a lot.

But also, it seems to have been a function of slightly less chaos. The thing that's emphasized in the clinical discussions of PTSD in Vietnam and the scanty useful commentary about the current Iraq situation is that the hyper-awareness to possible threat is an important causative factor-- you're alert and strained ALL THE TIME. And that's the unifying factor in a lot of the stories of WWI, too. From discussion of WWII, that seems to have been less true, although obviously, I haven't a real clue about combat situations there.

#95 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 11:54 PM:

I'm afraid that all I know about PTSD comes from Jonathan Shay's book, Achilles in Vietnam, which functions both as commentary on the Iliad as well as on PTSD by pointing out the similarities and differences between the war experiences in the Iliad and those experienced by Vietnam veterans. (In particular, it advances the thesis that Achilles suffered from PTSD.)

In any case, along the way, he point out how some of the US military's practices during the Vietnam war increased the likelihood of PTSD. e.g., they rotated soldiers invididually rather than by unit (as was the case in WWII). This deprived soldiers the opportunity to be part of an integrated unit within which they could de-brief.

(He also points out that he has no data about the prevalence of PTSD 20 years after WWII comparable to the data we have for 20 years after Vietnam.)

Reading the book was an eerie experience as I kept finding parallels to our current situation in Iraq.

#96 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:07 AM:

j.h. woodyatt

The treatment of Riggs and (esp.) Shinseki is more appalling to someone in uniform than it appears to someone on the outside.

They were publicly humiliated, treated as if the decades of service they rendered were frauds, and the work they did meaningless.

It doesn't resonate to the outside world as stongly as it does inside the services, but they were embarrassed and shamed. To those of us who place a great deal on the symbolisms of service to have it mocked, and stripped, for doing one's duty is chilling.

#97 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 12:26 AM:

jh woodyatt:

Not to be offensive, but you are clueless about what resigning one's commission means.

Imagine, if you will, a priest who was opposed to a doctrine of the pope, who resigned.

That is a Major, or below.

For a Lt Colonel, or a Colonel, it would be a bishop.

For a General to do so would be as if a Cardninal got up from the pew, laid his birreta his crozier and his surplice at the pope's feet, walked to the door and clapped the dust from his sandals.

About the only thing a Flag Officer (esp. one with more than one star) could to do make it more effective a protest would be to slap the President in the face before doing it.

It is culturally understood that such a resignation is the ultimate sanction an officer can give. It's telling the world that you no longer support the orders you are asked to pass along, they are either immoral, illegal or both.

Were a general to resign, because of a policy, would make it feasible for me, a Staff Sergeant, to refuse to obey the orders he resigned to protest, and to tell my troops to do the same. Were a number to do so, it could become expected I should do so.

This ain't Wall Street. There aren't unlimited supplies of people willing to do what we do (kill people because we are told, which is what I do, and don't you forget it, because I don't. It's a dirty fucking job, and to be honest, although I am good at it, the only reason I do it is because sometimes it needs to be done. I don't like that aspect of it, and only by being certain it is less bad than the alternatives can I keep at it) and having those who have risen to the status of demi-god (because they can order me to my death, pretty much at whim) say they refuse; that means more than it seems you can imagine.

Pray, hard, long and with fervor, that there are generals willing to resign over this, because if there aren't, we are more likely than not to nuke Iran.

#98 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 01:30 AM:

No offense taken— but I should tell say that you haven't informed me of anything I didn't already know.

I may be "clueless" about a great many things, sir, but I don't know why you are presuming you need to lecture me about what is signaled by a flag officer resigning under protest. Perhaps you are laboring under the mistaken belief that this is classified information not available to civilians?

"Pray, hard, long and with fervor, that there are generals willing to resign over this, because if there aren't, we are more likely than not to nuke Iran."

How did I manage to give you the impression I don't think it would be helpful for any the current brass to be willing to resign in protest over plans to nuke Iran?

#99 ::: a kate ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 01:36 AM:

Well, the second to last paragraph (if not all of it) in your comment back up here did seem to indicate that they were essentially doing it only to spite Rumsfeld, and for no reason other than that.

#100 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 01:40 AM:

Greg London writes: What the hell? First you say these generals should have complained while they were active duty. Now you're saying that they're sending a "bad message" to the active duty troops telling them to complain while they're still active?

Once again, I've miscommunicated. I don't remember suggesting these generals should have "complained" while they were on active duty. I think I have clearly indicated all along that I think it would have been better if they had signaled their displeasure by tendering their resignations, rather than quietly serving until their scheduled retirements and coming forward to the goddam MEDIA when it's too late to make a bit of difference.

All I can say is there aint nothing going to satisfy you on this one.

How's that sock puppet holding up for you?

#101 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 01:57 AM:

James Macdonald— thank you for bringing to my attention the history of four of those generals. It escaped me that Riggs was one of the six we are hearing about today. The others who resigned in protest or otherwise separated at their earliest available opportunity have apparently done precisely what I've tried to say I wanted to see all along. I withdraw my criticisms about the timing of their separations. Obviously, I should have been better informed.

I'm still dismayed by the attempts to pressure the President to fire the SecDef. Keeping in mind the last time we all saw a parade of retired generals criticizing the civilian leadership in the national media, I think there are good reasons to be suspicious that their motivations might be more political than anything else.

#102 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 02:11 AM:

I think it would have been better if they had signaled their displeasure by tendering their resignations, rather than quietly serving until their scheduled retirements and coming forward to the goddam MEDIA when it's too late to make a bit of difference.

Without wishing to get in the middle of this, I would like to suggest that one reason the generals who are now speaking to the media chose not to resign while in the field was due to how that resignation would resonate with the soldiers who were serving under them. Soldiers can't resign -- it's called desertion, and they get court-martialed.

Also, jh -- isn't this what the media is for: to provide a place for these remarks to be made public? I am not sure why you're mad at the media in this particular context. And, again a serious question, why do you think it's too late to make a difference? You might want -- we all might want -- for it (the generals' comments, Rumsfeld's resignation, whatever) to have happened months ago, but anything that can improve the situation is good, especially if we're looking at some use of nukes in the vicinity of...anywhere.

Mr. Macdonald, why is it so important to note that nukes are 1940s technology? I am sure you're right, but could you expand? Thanks.

Oh, and for those for whom it's relevant -- He is risen. Allelulia!

#103 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 08:21 AM:

Once again, I've miscommunicated. I don't remember suggesting these generals should have "complained" while they were on active duty.

I realize that this may sound like I'm being part of a hypothetical "j h woodyatt pile on", but when you write:

I understand lots of folks want to believe they're motivated by a genuinely good and patriotic desire to avert a catastrophe of some kind, but as Mr. Macdonald observes, they had a chance to register a protest before they retired on schedule and at full pay, and they didn't do that.

Coming forward now, they are a day late and a dollar short.

It's hard for me to interpret this as anything but someone suggesting that they should have "complained" while they were on active duty. (As a matter of record, I believe some or all of them did actually protest privately, before finally resigning in protest, before finally protesting publically. But I don't remember where I read that.)

But as you state, perhaps you might not have stated your position as clearly as you might have liked. Or perhaps I have misread your words.

In any case, it's worth noting that, at least publically, Rumsfeld does not acknowledge seriousness of the retired generals' actions. I hope that it's not because he does not recognize their seriousness. (If he's former military, then he ought to, right?)

(Interestingly, Daniel Schorr is commenting about this on NPR right now.)

#104 ::: Bent Franklin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 08:27 AM:

I have a problem with high-ranking officers trying to get their boss fired, even if they get retired officers to do it for them. We're supposed to have civilian control of the military in this country. In the short term, this will always pose problems but given a choice between unelected generals and a perceived incompetent appointee of an elected president, as a democrat I must side with the latter.

#105 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 09:37 AM:

Bent Franklin --

Control, that tricky word, has a bunch of technical definitions, but what matters in this specific case is what people do when they're given orders; if people didn't obey Rumsfeld's orders, he'd just be an old guy in a room with a phone.

The other way to put that is that control implies feedback, even in some sort of borg-like direct brain implant setup, and that's not what you've got.

Aggressive use of nuclear weapons more-or-less guaruntees the subsequent destruction of the United States. Exactly how and exactly when is highly unclear, but it would become a strategic necessity for pretty much everyone else on the planet. This is painfully obvious; if it's painfully obvious to me (and our gracious hostess, and a great many other people) is has to be painfully obvious to the bunch of smart, driven careerists who make general in the US Army.

So the generals have to decide if their oath to the Constitution -- to preserve the Republic from all enemies, foreign and domestic -- covers a situation where the arguably-legit civilian authority is acting to destroy the Republic.

"Civilian control of the military" isn't an absolute; there are orders ("go kill everybody in Chicago") that the civilian authority can't legitimately give, and part of the military's job is to refuse to carry out those orders.

I think what we're seeing is the command authority attempting to assert that 'nuke Iran' is one of the orders that the civilian authority cannot legitimately give, and doing it as properly as they can. (I refuse to believe that not one of those guys could have arranged to shoot Rummy, or that none of them thought about it pretty carefully.)

I hope to unhurried Hel it works.

The long term effort to inculcate a millenist Christianist cult in the Air Force doesn't bode well for the attempt, but I suppose I can hope that lot of crazies are still too junior to have launch keys.

Oh, and 'percieved incompetent'? Rumsfeld's losing. He's losing the war of his choice and desire after those as know better told him in public how and why he was going to lose it before he started it, and he told them to get stuffed.

Incompetent is the nice word, the kind word, the soft, gentle, restrained word. It's the word that takes no account of the pile of corpses, betrayed to futile death by Rumsfeld's uncaring folly. It's the word that has no knowledge of the profit and the loss.

#106 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Leaving aside the quarrels that are breaking out over this issue, can someone summarize why these people are speaking up now rather than four years ago? Was Shinseki the only general with vision, or the only one with the courage/insubordination/... to say that Rumsfeld was asking him to make bricks without straw? The Republican line for some time has been that everybody is hindsighting (and they're some fraction right, e.g. Kerry); could not the generals (retd) speaking now have spoken (or resigned) then?

A comment on the issue of the relative military behavior toward Clinton and Rumsfeld: there is a difference between "This person is bad because he didn't fight" (to the extent that this was said and not simply made up by Faux's predecessors) and "This person has misused his tool (instances a, b, ...) to the detriment of the nation." (Yes, that was also said about Clinton later, but not by the military....) As I see it, the first is outside proper military conduct (similarly to, e.g., showing up in uniform to support a political rally), while the second is a hard but necessary part of service -- it may get a why-didn't-you-tell-us-this-when-it-mattered, but it is not comparable.

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 10:49 AM:

It's important that nukes are 'forties technology because as more and more countries reach the tech level of the US in the nineteen-forties, more and more will have the technical ability to make nukes.

Even smaller groups with access to post-forties tech can make nukes. Right the way down to individual Boy Scouts.

At one point in my life I was part of a study group on the simpliest atomic bomb that could be constructed. The answer was "appallingly simple" if you didn't assume the guy who was setting it off intended to survive.

The main atomic secret is that it can be done at all.

#108 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:13 AM:

The tradition of civilian control of the military is very strong. If national command authority turns to the Joint Chiefs and says "We're going to invade Iraq," they'll make it happen without asking whether it's the right thing to do. The assumption is, even if the order doesn't appear to make any sense at all, that the civilian leadership knows what it's doing and has access to better and more complete information than they do.

I feel that I'm not adequately expressing how broken things must be before we start seeing generals resigning, and how catastrophically broken things must be before we start seeing those retired generals talking to the press about their concerns.

As to whether it's proper for them to go to the press: if the people with the expertise and experience to speak can't speak out in public, who can? Nor would a private phone call to Rumsfeld likely to be effective. For all I know the reason some of these fellows resigned was that they phoned up Rumsfeld to voice misgivings and his response was "I expect your letter of resignation on my desk in the morning."

#109 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Was Shinseki the only general with vision, or the only one with the courage/insubordination/... to say that Rumsfeld was asking him to make bricks without straw?

Wasn't it the case that Shinseki was explicitly asked for his opinion in a public setting and refused to lie? The difference in the more recent examples have been of generals actively seeking out an opportunity to say it. Personally, I take that to mean that these generals are determined to make in public points that they have been ready to make, or have been making in private or up through the chain of command, all along.

I suppose I can see why people might see the more recent instances as retired generals undermining the proper balance of power by speaking out against their former commanders, although I don't agree with that. But I don't think you can make even that accusation stick on Shinseki: the problem there seems to have been that this US administration sees it as insubordination simply to give, when asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee, an opinion on one's area of expertise which happens not to fit with the message they are trying to send.

(Mind you, a brief Google suggests that Shinseki had clashed with Rumsfeld before over other issues, so I guess he might be accused of having an interest in making Rumsfeld look bad. Damn my ability to undermine my own points.)

#110 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Terry, James: Thank you for your explanations. I'm a born civilian, and my ignorance is not helped by the fact that the only Army guys I see around here are low-ranking, mouthbreathing Bush cultists. I hope they'll see these generals the way you do; if not, we're toast.

#111 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 06:18 PM:

(Mind you, a brief Google suggests that Shinseki had clashed with Rumsfeld before over other issues, so I guess he might be accused of having an interest in making Rumsfeld look bad. Damn my ability to undermine my own points.)

Perhaps, but subsequent events have proven Shinseki right, and Rumsfeld wrong. Reality trumps any amount of blue-sky theorizing.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 06:51 PM:
He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

-- Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, 17MAY06.

Dear Citizens of the Earth:

Please judge America by our ideals rather than our actions; and likewise, judge our enemies by their actions rather than their ideals.

Otherwise, we’ll fuck your shit up.

-- Electrolite, 07MAY04

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 07:43 PM:

These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

James, have Shrub and Cheney and Rumsfeld ever visited the Nevada test site? Because I think they need that particular piece of education Right Now rather than later, particularly the larger craters. (I would prefer, myself, that they get up close and personal with one of the 'hotter' spots, but I don't think that can be arranged easily.) The Sedan crater might be a good place to start: my father said it didn't look all that big, until you realized those things moving around in it were trucks.

#114 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 07:57 PM:

P J, if the human cost* of our conventional bombing campaign** in Iraq didn't melt the hearts of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, some sandy craters won't either.

Repeat the mantra:

Precision targeting. A few regrettable incidents. Freshly painted schools. Purple fingers.

* Copiously photographed, but not shown here.

* "Eeeeehh! Ooooh! Shock and awwwwwwe! Yeahhh! Shock and awwwwwwwe!"

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Stefan, I think that when everything gets turned into mushroom clouds, and Shrub, Dick and Rumsfeld get to the Pearly Gates, they will be very surprised to discover that isn't their destination, because the rest of us will be there pointing at them and saying 'Them, over there, yeah, those guys: they wanted it to happen and wouldn't listen ...'

I still think that trying to provoke Armageddon should get you a free pass to the lowest circle.

#116 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 09:11 PM:

George Orwell had a great line, about looking forward to the next war because, thanks to strategic bombing, there was a good chance of the jingoists getting killed this time around.

I find myself thinking the same way about the neoconservative think-tank crowd. ("Nuclear weapons? Why the fuss, they're just another tool! Iranians? All busting at the seams to breathe free!") They are entirely too comfortable and isolated.

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 10:59 PM:

I do not think the size of craters in Nevada would have any effect on Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld: remember, they think they are "tough" and that it is important, indeed, necessary, to be "tough." Large. old holes in the ground would not deter them. Hell, I don't think corpses at their feet would deter them.

#118 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Failing a field trip to see Alamagordo, I suggested here that somebody screen the great 1962 movie "Fail Safe" for Bush, Cheney, Rummy, and anyone else with input on a nuclear decision.

#119 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:22 PM:

rather than quietly serving until their scheduled retirements and coming forward to the goddam MEDIA when it's too late to make a bit of difference.

so, resigning, i.e. giving up your command to your superiors, in protest of your supperior's lack of competence will accomplish what that is so different than coming forward after retirement? In either case, it would seem that said generals have no authority to force any change, and that their actions are nothing but an attempt to generate PUBLIC attention through the MEDIA on what they view as a problem.

If a General resigned quietly and no media coverage ever occurred, it would accomplish nothing. This administration responds to individuals critical of them by ignoring them and saying they have a "mandate". The only thing that may get their attention is widespread public attention on a severe problem. And even then, Katrina showed that this may not do much.

But in either case, either resigning or post-retirement, the general in question has no command authority to effect any changes. All they can do is get the media tell the public, and hope it causes something to change for the better.


#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2006, 11:43 PM:

We're supposed to have civilian control of the military in this country.

Good grief. What does that have to do with the price of tea in china? If the military is perfectly willing to execute its orders but think the Barney Fife currently running things is getting personel needlessly killed, I hope to f**k that they complain about it.

None of this sounds like the military is trying to take over the government, does it? None of this sounds like anyone but the President will still be the commander in chief of the armed forces and that no one but Congress can declare war, does it?

So, if the civilians still control the military when this is all over and Ducky is long gone, invoking this is a red herring.

#121 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:32 AM:

Death pays for everything; core tenet of the Western traditions of armed service, going back to pre-Christian days.

This lot didn't serve. (Or served in another age, and can't seem to adapt whatsoever.)

They may not have figured out that the death in question is your own.

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 10:47 AM:

j h woodyatt: I'm sorry if my level of irk seems to be personal, or over the top.

My complaint is that you say these guys were a day late and a dollar short. You said you didn't need me to lecture you on just what it means to resign one's commission just because you are a civilian.

Trust me, it wasn't your being a civilian which caused me to make that lecture. Maybe it's me, but there seems to be something in the way you write which strikes discordant notes.

Saying, for example, that not giving up the things they have earned, by going out in a blaze of glory was wrong (and implying it is immoral, or at least somehow lacking to speak up now) offends me. I don't see a whole lot of civilians risking their pensions to protest. I also don't see a whole lot of them risking felony arrests, public humiliation and prison for it.

And those are real (if not likely risks, because of the publicity which would ensue) possibilties for anyone in the service who publically speaks out in the ways these men have. If you go my livejournal you will see a statement disucussing Army Regulations, and how they pertain to my writings. I do that because people have been cashiered, lost their retirements, been threatened with courts martial and gotten less than honorable discharges for far less than the generals in question have said.

At the risk of being offensive, reading about what a resignation on principle means, and feeling it in your bones, is sort of like comparing letters to Penthouse with real sex.

When you say you don't like to see them using their experience to "meddle" in civilian affairs, I'm confused. They are civilians again. They have relevant experience. We hire all sorts of people, and call on them to provide just what these guys are doing. It's why everyone said Colin Powell was such a great idea for secretary of state.

Would you have the same complaints if they were coming out and saying the people who protest the president's plans are all wet, because they don't know all the details? Because that's what it looks like when you decry them with I have a lot of complaints with the President, but he's right to snap back at them like he has done. These guys are sending a bad message to the active duty corps, and this amounts to a setback for any ongoing efforts— such as they may be— to improve civil-military affairs.

That looks a lot like soldiers give up all right to critique, publically, for the rest of their lives, just by signing up. Part of the problem, as I see it, with the civil/military relationship is the expectation that we must become either automatons, or paragons, who will sacrifice all personal interest when we enlist.

Look at the attitudes of those who've served to these guys. It's pretty favorable, across the board, that should say something.


The relationship with Clinton wasn't (at least from the inside, and from a more grunt level view) as polarized as all that. There were guys who didn't like him, but he didn't abuse us. Didn't abuse our leaders, and (no more than any other president) didn't ask us to do the impossible. Hell, life in the barracks got a fair bit better under him.

The story that the army hated him seemed (to me at least) like some propaganda meant to point out the Dems were evil and no good for defense, why even the Army doesn't trust 'em. That the policies of reduction and re-alignment designed under Bush pere came into effect in Clinton's term didn't help him, as everyone blamed him for things he'd not done.

Bent Franklin: I have a problem with people who think the Army is like some other job. No one (at least not in my hearing) is talking a coup. They aren't even talking mutiny. So there is still control of the military.

But one of my jobs is to tell my leadership when they are screwing up. If they are screwing up badly enough I ought to go up-chain and get it looked at (well, there are other ways to get around some things, but that's not the question here). The only spot up-chain for these guys to go is to the body politic.

Some of them have done that, by talking to Rep. Murtha, et al. That hasn't worked. This is an extention of that.

CHip: There were people who spoke up four years ago. They were laughed at, kicked to the curb and ignored (By pretty much everyone). Some of the people who are disagreeing now had doubts, but not enough to say there was no hope of the meta-plan for Iraq to succeed.

Now those people know better, and (more importantly) some people are listening.

#123 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Terry: I don't think the point about the Generals "resigning" to speak out against Bush policies is being registered in mass media. All the newspaper stories I've read are careful to use the phrase "retired Generals." The common perception seems to be "all these guys were over 55 and about ready for retirement, anyway."

I'm not agreeing with that, just noting that the element of career sacrifice in the generals taking an early retirement may not be registering with people outside the Blogoverse. Maybe this would be a good subject for letter-writing campaigns to newspapers.

#124 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 01:23 PM:

I suspect that most of you guys already know this, but I thought it was worth spelling out as even the technically literate may not be clear on all the details.

I completely agree with previous posters that the expertise required to design and construct a functional atomic bomb is well within reach of most national (and even some sub-national) groups. This point isn't even really debatable--recall John Aristotle Phillips, who as a Princeton graduate student submitted a design for a fission bomb that was plausible enough to raise eyebrows. (See Mushroom for a poorly written account of an interesting story.)

Here's some fine points that you might want to keep in mind.

1. While it is true that there are any number of folks bright enought to design and potentially construct a bomb, their ability to actually do so is limited by their ability to lay hands on fissionable materials in quantity.

You can't just pull uranium out of the ground and wrap it in dynamite and expect it to fission. In order to be utilized in a weapon the uranium must first be refined into a much purer collection of U-235. My understanding is that "weapons-grade" uranium is about 85% pure U-235. The process of refinement is fiendishly expensive (billions, not millions), somewhat time-consuming and difficult to accomplish without attracting attention, as evidenced by the recent squaking about Iran.

2. On a darker note, once the uranium has been refined, there's no guarantee that the refining nation will keep it to itself. I've read accounts of post-Soviet era stockpiles of fissionable material being kept in sheet metal warehouses, guarded by grandmothers with unloaded weapons. (See One Point Safe for more details.) It's not unreasonable to presume that at least some of that material--worth dramatically more than gold--has made it on to the black market.

For that reason I don't think it's unreasonable to worry that a sub-national group might be able to field a credible nuclear threat.

3. I also think it's worth noting that there are degrees of nuclear threat. My understanding is that the yield of a fission bomb is theoretically limited to about 1 megaton. In practice, the yield from a first-attempt (by, say, Iran or some terrorist group) is likely to be considerably less, perhaps in the 10-20 kiloton range. See here to get an idea of the relative destructiveness of thermonuclear vs. fission bombs.

10-20 kilotons is obviously quite a bang, but it's orders of magnitude below the level of yield you get from a thermonuclear weapon. I don't want to be too flippant--such an attack would be an unprecedented catastrophe that made 9/11 seem trivial--but it doesn't rise to the apocalyptic level of even a limited thermonuclear engagement.

Thermonuclear weapons are the really scary ones, primarily because there's no theoretical limit on how big a bang they can produce. My understanding is that, in practice, strategic weapons (the ones the put on the tips of ICBMs) yield in the 10-megaton range. I've heard rumors that some Soviet era thermonuclear weapons may be on the black market. Whether or not they are fully functional is open to debate, but at the very least they will provide fissionable material in sufficient quantity to make a bomb.

All this by way of pointing out that while we are (IMHO) likely to see sub-national groups doing silly things with fission bombs at some point in our lifetime, I think it unlikely that such groups will be able to field thermonuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Here's why I think so:

First, problems of design and construction of such weapons are not, IMHO, likely to be solved by any group smaller than a reasonably prosperous nation.

Second, those nations that attempt to solve the problems have thus far not been able to do so without alarming the nations large enough to already have them.

While I disagree with Bush about nearly every other thing he's ever said or done, I fully support the idea that Iran must not be allowed to achieve a nuclear capability. It's a rare instance of his baffling irrationality coincidentally overlapping with reality to a servicable degree.

I hope Bush isn't fool enough to shut down the Iranian nuclear program by bombing it with a fission bomb (or, god help us, a fusion bomb)--thereby ending a precendent of 60+ years of admirable self-restraint by all concerned--but I do think it's at least debatable whether such an attack would be preferable to simply sitting back and doing nothing.


#125 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 01:43 PM:

It's not really debatable: if we are planning to take out the Iranians, and they have stockpiles of fissionables in underground bunkers, we should use conventional weapons.

The shafts could be huge. If someone bombed Cheyenne Mountain, at the mouth, the contents wouldn't be destroyed.

So all the entrances would need to be hit. The bombs don't really penetrate all that deeply, so they make a crater (and tons of fallout) but the interior remains. The people may starve, but the hardware can be recovered.

If the blast just knocks stuff around, it might send radioactives (or chem, or bio) into the air.

High explosive at the tunnel mouths would do as well, in that regard, and better in the realm of the political/diplomatic, since it doesn't cross the threshold of "Madmen with nukes", engaging in state run terrorism.

#126 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 01:56 PM:

It seems to me that if Condoleeza Rice had any brains, she'd be working to elicit a series of "no buy, no sell" statements from the European Union, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and anyone else in range (even China), if Iran doesn't quit it. Also, more condemnatory statements from NATO and the U.N. -- to give Ahmadinejad the concrete knowledge that an attack on the state of Israel would be regarded as a criminal action with probable military consequences. (Power drunk, stupid U.S. administration or no power drunk, stupid U.S. administration.)

I guess this kind of stuff is much too Old School, for Bush & Cheney to bother focusing serious attention on. (Their visible response suggests that they might see themselves the same way that the rest of the world does -- as a crime gang with the biggest cache of guns.)

It's still amazing to me that they're so stupid they don't know how to use traditional diplomatic approaches to apply pressure to rogue states.

#127 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Lenny if Condoleeza Rice had any brains, she'd resign and get another job.

These guys can't use traditional diplomatic approachs to apply pressure to rogue states, because they are a rogue state. So the methods don't work for them.

Look back at iraq where Bush decided that an old UN resolution gave him carte blanche, after they refused to authorise an attack. What's the chance they give him a blank check this time?

OK, every time there's a new great power they prove it by beating up an old ailing great power. Who's going to beat up the USA? How about, first everybody gives us lots of rope. We go to the UN wanting to attack iran, and they keep giving us more and more rope and finally somebody -- china, say -- saves iran at the last minute. The iranians get the chance to be grateful to their friendly saviours, and everybody gets to see that china was strong enough to face down the USA.

Or they can play the game harder. Watch us nuke iran and then get the world's agreement. Could they devalue the dollar another 50%? Why not, they have a lot more control of that than we do. Double the price of oil. Our forest products and crops etc could get twice the dollar price when we export them, which of course also doubles the price of what we don't export....

They could be giving us lots of rope so they can bring us up short all of a sudden.

#128 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 05:54 PM:

It seems to me that if Condoleeza Rice had any brains, she'd be working to elicit a series of "no buy, no sell" statements from the European Union, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and anyone else in range (even China), if Iran doesn't quit it.

The League of Nations achieved little or nothing with sanctions hence the UN Security Council. The UN Security Council like all cartels faces a strong (too much so) incentive to defect - China has more or less auctioned its veto (for oil concessions often enough) lo these many years (see Darfur and Africa in general). Looks to me as though Putin is reverting to cold war knee jerk opposition to US policies as well.

CF the success of the oil for palaces program in pressuring old Iraq and the lack of success for honest first world countries like Australia in staying honest themselves in their sale of food with major kickbacks.

Looks to me like this sanctions regime would be doing the same thing and expecting different results?

If it is to be done why is Rice the person to push it as opposed to the Europeans?

#129 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Clark: I wish I had a history grad student to farm out the assignment of convincing you that NATO and U.N. sanctions have occasionally been employed, over the long histories of those organizations, to some good effect. Similarly, that economic boycotts and sanctions occasionally facilitate beneficial political changes. I'll beg off, right now, by inviting you to fight with Wikipedia.

#130 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:11 PM:

I don't know with any certainty what we should do about Iran. But I do know that Rumsfeld is Barney Fife with a nuclear weapon, and he's taken it out of his pocket and loaded it into his gun. And somebody needs to can his ass before he shoots somebody and takes out the whole town.

#131 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Greg, please don't insult the memory of Barney Fife.

Good day to you.

#132 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 06:45 PM:

sanctions can work. Not all political power grows out of a barrel of a gun. But imagining this administration applying sanctions generates images of chimpanzees beating on a laptop keyboard, then smearing the keyboard with their own poop, and finally throwing the laptop across the room. Dubya simply doesn't have the brains for sanctions. He'd have to be able to do some math, think things through, etc.

Cripes, Bush hates having any long-term strategy that he simply declared major combat operations over in the hope that he could stop thinking about it.

#133 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 07:31 PM:

In re NATO, here's McCain proposing that we should attempt to work within it to create united European pressure against antisocial behavior. Even he seems to realize (or did in February) that this makes more sense than us playing a long-distance game of "chicken" with Iran.

#134 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 08:12 PM:

Even when sanctions don't completely work, they can work some. If a nation allows illegal trade in exchange for significant kickbacks, that still means the sanctioned nation gets less money for their stuff.

The question is how much it costs. If it's just bureaucrats accepting individual-size bribes that isn't significant. But selling at a significant discount is a disincentive even when you're doing a lot of sales.

#135 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 08:25 PM:

The soon-to-be-in-print edition of Newsweek has an analysis of the Generals v. Rumsfeld, with quotes from the long-silent Shinseki. He's still circumspect, however. As drawn in this article, Rumsfeld is either a hard-charger with a vision for reshaping the Army or a nitwit manager who focuses on one tree while neglecting the health of the forest.

#136 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 09:55 PM:

It's a given that sanctions have some effect. If the free trade model which maximizes efficiency in the model applies in the real world then sanctions reduce efficiency. Sanctions also drive nations to form interesting coalitions as FREX South Africa, Israel and Taiwan cooperating militarily more than they might have absent sanctions.

Most models and most experience suggest that sanctions increase costs all the way around by reducing efficiency. It is not obvious how the gains and losses are divided under a system of managed trade by sanction. Most perhaps all sanctioning parties have an incentive to defect in an effort to either increase their own sales to the sanctioned party or to buy something from the sanctioned party at a lower price than elsewhere. A few of the sanctioning parties may be, at least in the short run, direct competitors of the sanctioned party. Given the usual models of comparative advantage and Edgeworth Box and so forth and so on free trade has many advantages in the model. There has been some interesting opposition to the limited free trade agreements seen in the form of NAFTA and CAFTA and others. Thus it's not obvious that the alternative to a regime of sanctions is free trade rather the alternative may be some other form of managed trade.

I don't suppose very many people here recall Haile Selassie's plea for help
....The deadly rain that fell from the aircraft made all those whom it touched fly shrieking with pain. All those who drank the poisoned water or ate the infected food also succumbed in dreadful suffering. In tens of thousands, the victims of the Italian mustard gas fell. It is in order to denounce to the civilized world the tortures inflicted upon the Ethiopian people that I resolved to come to Geneva....

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/selassie.htm - shades of Rwanda and Darfur and other places. Quoting from Wikipedia on the League of Nations The League of Nations condemned Italy's aggression and imposed economic sanctions in November 1935, but the sanctions were largely ineffective.

In general, again from the Wikipedia on the League of Nations:

Economic sanctions, which were the most severe measure the League could implement short of military action, were difficult to enforce and had no great impact on the target country, because they could simply trade with those outside the League. The problem is exemplified in the following passage, taken from The Essential Facts About the League of Nations, a handbook published in Geneva in 1939:

"As regards the military sanctions provided for in paragraph 2 of Article 16, there is no legal obligation to apply them… there may be a political and moral duty incumbent on states… but, once again, there is no obligation on them."
The League's two most important members, the United Kingdom and France, were reluctant to use sanctions and even more reluctant to resort to military action on behalf of the League. So soon after World War I, the populations and governments of the two countries were pacifist. The British Conservatives were especially tepid on the League and preferred, when in government, to negotiate treaties without the involvement of the organization.

It's not obvious how the gains and losses from sanctions are allocated. Arguably the decision makers in Iraq found the sanction regime quite tolerable and those most adversely affected were not able to influence decision making. Decision makers may find sanctions offer an opportunity despite the lower overall efficiency.

Assuming arguendo that sanctions sometimes do some good is there any reason to think that anything close to global sanctions on Iran could be achieved without defections and that if such be achieved that would accomplish much?

Wikipedia is interesting these days - I notice the article on Paul Robeson has completely altered its slant since last I looked at it.

#137 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2006, 10:59 PM:

It seems to me that if Condoleeza Rice had any brains, she'd be working to elicit a series of "no buy, no sell" statements from the European Union, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and anyone else in range (even China)

Condi can try all she wants, but Russia and China have already made it clear they're in too deep with Iran to go for sanctions; together they make enough of a market that Iran could trade with them and ignore the rest of the world. They probably figure they're safe even if the shit starts flying, because Iran has been making so much noise about Israel and the U.S. that it hasn't had breath to spare for the Muslims oppressed by Russia and China. It's an interesting turnabout: conservative theology says we "defeated" the USSR by goading them (with our overspending) into overspending until they collapsed; now Russia looks to keep making actionless diplomatic noises until the U.S. overextends itself to collapse.

#138 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:33 AM:

Human rights sanctions blocked
By James Bone
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2138685.html
China and Russia last night thwarted a year-long diplomatic drive by Britain to impose United Nations sanctions on the perpetrators in of [sic] the violence in the Darfur province of Sudan......

“This will be a test for the council to see if the sanctions procedure is going to work at all,” John Bolton, the US Ambassador, said. ......

China has at least energy concessions from Sudan.

#139 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:30 AM:

If Russia and China decide they're willing to live with Iran as a nuclear power, our sane course of action is to avoid initiating a war over the issue. It seems to me that our best strategy, right now, would be to encourage the European Union and countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to unite in developing and stating a "no neighborhood bullies" policy. Support that, rather than declaring ourselves to be a long-distance super-busybody that will step in to vanquish all evil doers. It may be unrealistic to assume that Russia and China can be persuaded to support a local "no new bullies" campaign around Iran. Obviously, compensatory trade deals would have to be part of that bargaining -- and with the U.S. administration being what it is now, it's hard to see where those trade deals would come from.

Hard for me, anyway. I'm a computer geek, not a political strategist. Might Russia and China exert some no-nukes pressure on Iran if the U.S. removed itself from Iraq? I don't know. All I know is what's crazy -- and what the Scriptures tell us happened to Dr. Manhattan.

#140 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:13 AM:

Some additional comments:

Before the Iraq war, many of these generals feared the consequences. By now, the worse case scenario has happened, and the worst case scenario is the most likely outcome. They probably had hopes of muddling through, beforehand.

Also, the administration has shown that it doesn't want to learn, that it benefits even from a f*cked up war. The administration now seems to feel that another war is called for - the warbloggers don't mean much, but there've been a lot of prep articles in the 'liberal' media. It's obviously part of a propaganda preparation, just like in 2002-03.

Last, the 'liberal' media isn't 100% Bush-worshipping now. Some outlets will publicize facts, even if those facts are anti-american (meaning that the administration doesn't like them). The means that generals who speak out will be able to get their message through to the American people. In '02-'03, that wouldn't have happened.

#141 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 12:59 PM:
"I hear the voices, and I read the front page and I know the speculation," the president said. "But I'm the decider, and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

-- George Bush

That's because Don Rumsfeld is the one telling him "Yeah, go ahead, start a war with Iran."

Also, George himself is incompetent.

#142 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:25 PM:

I hear the voices

So which voices is he hearing? Does he need his meds adjusted again? [/snark]

I have yet to see or hear anything to make me think he's getting any input from his enablers that would not reinforce his belief that He's Always Right.

#143 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:29 PM:

I hear the voices?

Boy, do I wish he wouldn't keep saying things like that.

#144 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Condi can try all she wants, but Russia and China have already made it clear they're in too deep with Iran to go for sanctions; together they make enough of a market that Iran could trade with them and ignore the rest of the world.

Any chance that would extend to mutual defense pacts?

Maybe one that gets announced right after we say something particularly blusterous....

#145 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 02:18 PM:
Any chance that would extend to mutual defense pacts?

Maybe one that gets announced right after we say something particularly blusterous....

How about one that's announced right after we've done something particularly stupid? Then we can have WWI all over again.

#146 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:00 PM:

How about one that's announced right after we've done something particularly stupid? Then we can have WWI all over again.

Secret defense pacts have that problem.

Better to announce it ahead of time, and increase the chance you don't actually have to fight.

#147 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 09:11 PM:

So which voices is he hearing? Does he need his meds adjusted again?

Oh, crap, I bet you he forgot to take out the reciever and earpiece from the debates and is picking up whatever happens to be on that frequency. Howard Stern, perhaps?

#148 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:22 PM:

Oh. My. Gawd.

From an interview with Tim Russert on Imus's show this morning:


IMUS: Is there anything going on with the Rumsfeld story that is – I mean, the President is pledging this support and all that, and that’s usually the kiss of death, but not always. But probably not with this guy. But what do you hear?

RUSSERT: Well, I knew something was happening when I had John Murtha on several months ago and he talked about his plan for a timetable. And I got several calls from people at the Pentagon and others and they said, “You know Murtha’s right.” And I was stunned because you don’t usually get those kinds of calls. They were obviously people who would not allow me to broadcast their names. And then it continued with General Zinni who came on “Meet the Press” and said that Secretary Rumsfeld should resign. So the last couple of weeks, as I talked to people, one former general said we have the equivalent of a civil war going on at the Pentagon. The generals are trying to reclaim control of the war because they do believe serious mistakes were made. That’s a very serious statement. And then, someone very close to the President said to me, you know, he won’t fire Rumsfeld because it would be the equivalent of firing himself. He can’t acknowledge that it was such a big mistake, in so many ways. And so Rumsfeld will stay. And that’s the decision that the President has made and I think Rumsfeld will stay and try to see this through.

#149 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 06:48 PM:

A couple more clicks past that link and you get a timeline of the last three years in Iraq. talk about depressing the hell out of you...

#150 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 10:06 PM:

More on Rumsfeld and the Generals:

This, ultimately, is what the retired generals—and many of their silent allies still active—resent so deeply about Rumsfeld: that he fiddled with the war plan and threw it out of whack, without knowing what he was doing; and that (as Rumsfeld himself, in one of his poetic moods, might put it) he didn't know just how much he didn't know.

As a result (and Gen. Zinni, who's been retired for longer than the other generals, foretold this at the time), an easy victory turned into a deadly stalemate and possibly a defeat to come. As a further result, the military, especially the Army, has suffered great loss of life and limb, which has made it harder to recruit and retain good officers and enlisted personnel—and a great squandering of resources, which has tightened their budgets at precisely the time when sky-high deficits are about to force budget cuts.

#151 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2006, 11:46 PM:

And there you have it: the ones who know most like him least.

#153 ::: protected static sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 02:57 AM:

Seventh verse, same as the first. A little bit louder, but a whole lot worse.

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