The brass pushes back.

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180pxmacarthur_manila Yesterday, on Fox New Sunday (FNS), Admiral Mullen, (CJCS) firmly told the host that the armed forces make plans in the context of the policy of the Commander in Chief (CinC),the president.  He continued to say that when there is another CinC of either party who has a different set of policies, then the armed forces will plan to fit those policies.

General Petraeus said today to Andrea Mitchell (NBC News) that if she or anyone else wants to know if the armed forces can withdraw from Iraq in 16 months, then he needs to be told what his mission is before he can answer the question.  He is exactly correct.  He, like all US military commanders, operates within the context of national policy.  He went on to say that if policy requires a 16 month withdrawal then it will be done.  If policy requires a withdrawal that leaves Iraq relatively stable then this will take longer.

The foolish notion that military commanders and ambassadors make national policy has never been anything but a deception and an evasion of responsibility by the political leaders of the US.

Now, the military evidently see that this idea has vast potential for them to be left "holding the bag" in the event of misadventure.  As a result they are pushing back against assignment of responsibility where it does not exist.

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14 Responses to The brass pushes back.

  1. J says:

    Colonel,
    it is sad watching our civilian political leadership trying to ‘dump’ on the military leadership, as they don’t want to admit to the american public that they are ‘bought off’ by a foreign power through one of its storefront organization — country/storefront — israel/aipac. so the civilian ‘elected’ leadership sees/hears the outcry from a mad as hell public that ‘don’t want no more wars’ — period, and they are caught between a foreign power who has greased their palms (literally) versus the outraged constituents at home, so they say fall back on the flagrant misnomer that military commanders/ambassadors make national policy.
    those civilian elected leaders who have sold their souls/offices to a foreign power/storefront need to be ‘un-elected’ and sent to the nearest state prison cell for their betraying their office and trust to the states/constituents who hired them in the first place.

  2. The “Brass” is deceiving itself if it thinks there will not be public or political accountability in either the long or short run for its Iraq and Afghanistant performance. After all the “Professional” military can only be compared very unfavorably with the performance of the drafted millions in the past. Why was all the COIN lessons learned from RVN totally forgotten? You can argue all you want but it appears that consent is given even when silence reigns. Obama could follow Bush’s footsteps by bringing out of retirement another flag rank-General Shinsheki (sic) and in that one step make up for Bush’s total incompetence in managing the US military and destroying its capacity for the really necessary roles probably down the road. This is not going to be pretty watching both inter-service big war types vie with those that see the need for a different military. Is it true that the military has experienced 24,000 desertions between 2001 and 2007? The real deserters were the “ticket punchers.”

  3. Larry K says:

    Col. Lang: About the accompanying photo of Gen. MacArthur above — is that meant to be a somewhat ironic commentary on your: “The foolish notion that military commanders and ambassadors make national policy has never been anything but a deception and an evasion of responsibility by the political leaders of the US.”
    MacArthur in WWII did try to make national policy in wartime to some considerable degree (in terms of what broad strategic choices to make in the Pacific theater) and often got away with it because FDR felt that MacArthur had a considerable potential political constituency in the U.S. — a fact or a perception that MacArthur himself cultivated assiduously and that FDR felt he could not ignore.
    No need, probably, to mention MacArthur’s eventual role in Korea, where his national policy-making impulses went right through the roof, Truman dismissed him, and MacArthur returned to the U.S. to waves of acclaim and was regarded (for a time) as the most likely Republican nominee in 1952, until the unsuitability of his imperious, “Man on a White Horse” character to the give-and-take of American political life (which he was understandably not willing to engage in to the degree necessary or even to take much notice of) became evident to key figures in his own party and to good-sized segments of the general public as well.

  4. Cold War Zoomie says:

    There’s a strong belief in this country that we could have won in Vietnam if the military was allowed to fight the war without “meddlesome politicians” getting in the way.
    (I don’t know, and don’t have a dog in that fight.)
    I think that’s where this “listening to the commanders on the ground” argument probably first originated. It’s a way to reassure the folks at home that this isn’t Vietnam redux.
    Maybe it then morphed into the “shite rolls downhill” reality from the view of those commanders, especially when the pundits start trying to defend their favorite Decider-in-Chief.

  5. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    If it is fair to assume that Bush is not Truman, is it equally reasonable to assume that Petraeus is not MacArthur? You seem to be arguing that case, and, I would agree, he is not.
    In the absence of another Truman, however, I have to wonder whether it is our current political climate that prevents Petraeus from becoming another MacArthur or even another Al Haig. MacArthur had political and popular opinion on his side when Truman fired him. Petraeus has neither.
    It’s also a relief to think that the military might genuinely be concerned about “holding the bag.” Perhaps SecDef Gates recent actions in removing both the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff for issues related to competence may also have helped to reshape the environment for the rest of them.
    Regardless, I’m glad they’re pushing back.

  6. frank durkee says:

    What was the oreoaration or at least recommendations for the post invasion situation? Who if any one will be held accountable for the failure in the first 2-3 years of the occupation? Clearly part of the reality was the civilian leaderships decisions and framework, but some part of it was the top military going along with what some later described as a flawed plan { the LtGen in charg of operations on the Joint chiefs}. with due reguard to the threat from the SecDef re the Army Chief of staff, the inertia nd training to follow the civilian leaderships direction, yet there were as far as one knows no strong and obvious fights against the post invasion policy or lack. By and large that would point of a dgree of culpability on the part of the unifrmed leadership. Perhaps minuets of meetings etc will in time overthrow that perception and again perhaps not. i think I see the situation as somewhat more ambigious than the article above. I do think the prime responsiblity lies with the top of the administration and especially the SecDef and the President who gave him his head.

  7. zanzibar says:

    O/T.
    It is the first time in the history of independent India that a foreign policy disagreement threatens to bring down a democratically elected government.
    Mr. Singh’s Congress Party-led coalition took power in 2004 with support from four Communist parties. Their relationship grew increasingly embattled and snapped recently, when Mr. Singh said he would proceed with the nuclear agreement initiated by the United States.
    The Communists, who opposed deepening relations with Washington, have since linked arms with Ms. Mayawati, 52, the nation’s most powerful politician of the Dalits, as Indians on the lowest rungs of the caste ladder are known. The two factions do not agree on much, except both are bent on bringing down this government.
    On Monday, Ms. Mayawati, spoke against closer ties to the United States and in a bald political appeal to Muslim voters, said that Washington’s moves to isolate Iran would make life difficult for India. She warned Mr. Singh not to press ahead with the nuclear agreement as an issue of “personal honor.”

    Is this an example of how to win friends and influence people or just domestic politics in another country that we shouldn’t pay too much attention?

  8. Redhand says:

    The foolish notion that military commanders and ambassadors make national policy has never been anything but a deception and an evasion of responsibility by the political leaders of the US.
    Now, the military evidently see that this idea has vast potential for them to be left “holding the bag” in the event of misadventure. As a result they are pushing back against assignment of responsibility where it does not exist.

    I agree with these statements, except that “pushing back” may be too kind a characterization. “Climb down” may better express what’s happening.
    Petraeus was all too willing to carry Bush’s water, again and again, in his testimony before the Congress. And he’s been rewarded handsomely with a promotion for his military, and political, work on behalf of the Administration.
    Shinsecki remains for me the acme of what top military leader should be: an individual unafraid to tell it like it is even if the consequence is being pushed on his sword afterwards.

  9. Brian Hart says:

    Invading a country without a plan for occupation.
    Poorly equipping troops for the mission and failing to address the problem in a timely manner once the problems became obvious.
    Failure to kill or capture Osama or Omar.
    There is plenty of room for accountability in this no account war.

  10. LeaNder says:

    “The foolish notion that military commanders and ambassadors make national policy has never been anything but a deception and an evasion of responsibility by the political leaders of the US.
    I wonder what you think about this (I expected it from my larger German post-war experience – please understand I am not comparing beyond basic humanitarian issues):
    Political harmony v. the rule of law: an easy choice for the political establishment
    “Harmony” by the way was an often cited “necessity”, I encountered as a juvenile or young adult. Coincidence?

  11. J says:

    Colonel,
    the ‘brass’ need to be paying attention to turkey and its islamic revolution that is in play, and the return of the top intellectual on the globe and one of the more important islamic figurers on the globe – gulen to turkey. this is monumental for turkey and the mideast as a whole as was the return of the ayatollah to iran.
    i hope the ‘brass’ are paying attention to the impact that gulen’s return poses for turkey and the mideast.

  12. searp says:

    Brass are conflicted. They hate the Iraq war, but they want to “win”. The smarter among them know they “won” some time ago.

  13. Curious says:

    Here come the Israel generals parade. When is Condi’s deadline is going to end? the 2 week?
    So it’s either going to be bombing or blockade.
    The problem once it’s started. Iran is not bound by IAEA anymore. They can immediately pull North Korean move. get out of IAEA, declare act of war, start shooting.
    (Anybody really think they are going to just sit there and ride the blockade is crazy. Because that’s what we expect them to do and that’s what we prepare for. They know we are not prepare for another war. So they will start a war. which probably will get them bigger return than trying to ride blockade. They will open a front in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, along with missile attack on all oil nodes in the middle east.)
    Their objective is fairly simple, bring oil to at least $300, then fight the war. Our economy will collapse first before theirs.
    We will use heavy bombing tactic, they will use light infantry and special forces in as wide area as possible.
    It’s battle of logistic and attrition of national economy.
    http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/007766.html
    Israeli defense forces chief of staff in Washington: “Ashkenazi’s schedule on Wednesday included meetings with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and key members of Congress. On Thursday, he is to meet Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

  14. Michael singer says:

    Dear Pat,
    I have been taking a leave from your blog because I was becoming like a junkie–couldn’t get enough. Now I have read your last few blogs and I find them stunningly sensible.Your pleas to the Iranians scare me because you obviously know something about the hair trigger in Bush’s unsteady hand. It is hard to believe there won’t be people in the streets if he attacks Iran, and with what is left of our Armed Forces? I know he could unleach the AF but will the people let him? Maybe I’m a 60’s dreamer but I wonder. Now to Obama and Mc Cain. Only David Brooks has been more insightful. However, being close to the Obama campaign has left me feeling more confident about what he may do. I think your caution is well placed. I think your take on McCain is on target and it is wonderous that he isn’t 15 points behind. And I agree that the race issue is not dead by a long shot and will play a big part in the campaign in creating a new “Bradley Effect.”
    I wish you and Brooks were on the same Editorial Page in the NYT. More people have to hear what sense you are making.
    An Admirer,
    Michael Singer

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