Punditician

A place to rant about politics, the media, and especially the electorate. Much like alcohol, the electorate is both the cause of, and the solution to, all of America's problems.

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Location: Seattle, Washington

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Criticism of the civilian leadership of the military in General

There's been quite a hubbub over the last few days concerning the six retired generals critizing rummy, and calling for his resignation.

Factually, the generals are surely in the right. Rumsfeld IS an incompentent leader, allowing fantasia-style ideology free reign over actual facts. And the military, as well as the country, is the worse for it. I feel for the generals under his command - because of rummy's "war on the cheap", the soldiers have not been properly outfitted, there aren't enough of them, and there WON'T be enough of them (recruitment sucks these days).

I strongly support the generals' efforts to dislodge rummy from his imperially incompentent position, and fully believe that they have nothing but benevolent intentions for the military, and for America.

That said: were I the next President, my first act would be to replace every single active duty general involved with this "critical insurrection" - despite the fact that the generals are in the right. It is my view that the institution of civilian control of the military is too fundamental to the very concept of America to permit even the smallest baby-step in the direction of a poltically active military. Moreover, a politically active military is too much of a "one-way street" - you can't just vote out a military if you don't like it anymore.

Some might think that I'm exacting punishment from those who don't deserve it - since it was retired officers who voiced dissent - and I'm going after active duty personnel. Silliness. It's perfectly obvious that those retirees didn't just come up with the criticism after they retired. Nor is it reasonable to suppose that the criticism was only amongst the retirees - that the active duty officers didn't participate. Consider Richard Holbrooke's WaPo OpEd:

"First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside. In the tight world of senior active and retired generals, there is constant private dialogue."

This is what I do not think can be permitted - I believe this is Step .001 on a slippery precedent slope of allowing the military a voice in political matters. I'll say it once again: The generals are RIGHT on the current issue. But it doesn't matter.

An analogy may be helpful in understanding why I think it doesn't matter that the generals are in the right on this matter. Harriet, the wisest most benevolent person EVER is the President of the World. With someone so benevolent, and so wise, why on earth would we NOT want to cede dictatorial power to her? A sufficient reason is that: we don't know who will take her place once she's gone - and it's notoriously difficult to take back power once given.

Similarly with the generals' criticism of their civilian superiors. The generals are correct, NOW. But allowing their criticisms to go without response opens the door for the military to question FUTURE civilian leadership. What guarantee do we have that future questioning will be so deserved? None. What guarantee do we have that future questioning will be so polite? None.

The political power of the military, mild though it may be, is siphoned in the first instance directly from the electorate's power. The electorate's principal direct power is over the executive (you can't gerrymander states) - and the military steps on the electorate's toes in seeking a political voice. It is not to serve the interests of the executive branch that I believe reprimanding the military is in order - it is to serve the interests of the electorate, whose political power has been encroached upon.

I believe that we must never lose track of the fact that the military is the group people with the guns in this country, and we essentially never want them to do anything without being so directed by civilians. Therefore I am inclined to clear house - a strong reminder to the military as a whole that civilians run things, and, more importantly, that civilians are SUPPOSED to run things.

There is absolutely no rancor towards either the retired or active duty generals involved with my stance here - I already mentioned my belief in the goodness of the generals' motives. I would even, for example, be open to campaigning for some of the very generals I fired/reassigned, after they left the military. It's simply the princple of the matter that I believe needs to be protected and reinforced: the military MAY NOT criticize its civilian supervisors. America's guns must ALWAYS be under the TOTAL control of civilians.

Am I being paranoid? Possibly. But out of the two possible errors, it seems like the prudent one. And after 10 or 15 years of lackadaisical voters leading to a King George situation, I think a little extra caution is warranted.

And of course, rummy's resignation is priority #1. Like I said - I agree with the generals. But then, I'm a civilian; it is MY place to criticize the executive.

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