Krauthammer thinks 1st Amendment does not apply to generals.
by Eternal Hope, Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 08:53:59 PM EDT
This, of course, is a case of selective outrage. Typical of the New Morality practiced by the Republicans, they make up all sorts of moral rules that we have to follow very strictly. But in their books, if you're a Republican, it's all good. If Krauthammer wants to be credible when criticizing generals who speak out, he needs to go after General Myers as well as the generals criticizing Bush. It works both ways.
Last time around, the antiwar left did not have a very high opinion of generals. A popular slogan in the 1960s was "war is too important to be left to the generals." It was the generals who had advocated attacking Cuba during the missile crisis of October 1962, while the civilians preferred -- and got -- a diplomatic solution. In popular culture, "Dr. Strangelove" made indelible the caricature of the war-crazed general. And it was I-know-better generals who took over the U.S. government in a coup in the 1960s bestseller and movie "Seven Days in May."
Another war, another take. I-know-better generals are back. Six of them, retired, are denouncing the Bush administration and calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as secretary of defense. The antiwar types think this is just swell.
Actually, most of us thought it swell that John Kerry spoke out against the war and helped bring it to an end. But things have changed since the 1960's. Most of the left has become smarter and wiser and recognizes that soldiers and generals offer a unique take on war found nowhere else. It was military types like Shinseki who warned that Iraq would fail unless we had three times as many troops. And it was civilians who had never fought in a war in their lives such as Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld who were the most hawkish on Iraq and who are the most hawkish on Iran as well.
In addition, the opposition by the generals within the Pentagon to Bush's war policies is overwhelming. Why else would you explain why normally hawkish politicians like John Murtha and Chuck Hagel, who have as much access to the Pentagon generals as anybody, want us out of Iraq as quickly as possible?
There are three possible complaints that the military brass could have against a secretary of defense. The first is that he doesn't listen to or consult military advisers. The six generals make that charge, but it is thoroughly disproved by the two men who were closer to Rumsfeld day to day, week in, week out than any of the accusing generals: former Joint Chiefs chairman Richard Myers and retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong. Both attest to Rumsfeld's continual consultation and give-and-take with the military.
Circular reasoning. These generals were also more supportive of Iraq than anyone. A much more credible argument would have involved producing generals opposed to Iraq in the first place who said that. From the whole context, it is clear that Rumsfeld would only consult those who were yes-men. On the other hand, he would shut out those who were not.
A second complaint is that the defense secretary disregards settled, consensual military advice. The military brass recommends X and SecDef willfully chooses Y.
Krauthammer then goes on to invoke Afghanistan as a success model for this. But that is simply not true that Afghanistan is a stunning military success. If that was the case, then where is Bin Laden? And why is the Taliban still resisting the Afghan government? Why are they actually on the offensive in some places?
As for Iraq, it is hardly as if the military was of a single opinion on the critical questions of de-Baathification, disbanding Saddam Hussein's army or optimal coalition troop levels. There were divisions of opinion within the military as there were among the civilians and, indeed, among the best military experts in the country. Rumsfeld chose among the different camps. That's what defense secretaries are supposed to do.
And we know how badly his decisions turned out. Donald Trump would have fired one of his contestants from The Apprentice a long time ago for making one bad decision after another. You can do all you can in deciding from the different camps, but if you are wrong time and time again, then you cannot be trusted to run one of my companies, let alone protect our country from terrorism. And not only that, Bush is even more accountable since he continues to cling to Rumsfeld, although he may well be plotting to show him the door soon.
What's left of the generals' revolt? A third complaint: He didn't listen to me . So what? Lincoln didn't listen to McClellan, and fired him. Truman had enough of listening to MacArthur and fired him, too. In our system of government, civilians fire generals, not the other way around.
Lame. They turned out to be right, so they have a legitimate complaint.
Now, Krauthammer goes from answering their complaints into scaremongering:
We've always had discontented officers in every war and in every period of our history. But they rarely coalesce into factions. That happens in places such as Hussein's Iraq, Pinochet's Chile or your run-of-the-mill banana republic. And when it does, outsiders (including the United States) do their best to exploit it, seeking out the dissident factions to either stage a coup or force the government to change policy.
That kind of dissident party within the military is alien to America. Some other retired generals have found it necessary to rise to the defense of the administration. Will the rest of the generals, retired or serving, now have to declare which camp they belong to?
This is typical of right-wing scaremongering and is just one more example of the same old politics as usual - you can't answer the arguments, so you resort to scaremongering instead. But it would be interesting to see if Krauthammer had this kind of outrage against generals who did that during the Clinton years. Would it have been OK for generals to speak out against Wes Clark? What about the British general who smeared Clark by suggesting that he almost started World War III over Kosovo? What does Krauthammer think of that smear?
At the very start of his book on Politics, Aristotle sets out the definition of community as being for the common good and as existing for the benefit of all people. But if some people are censored for the fact that it would be too dangerous for them to speak out, we no longer have a community, but a tyranny. This is why the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech to anyone - including Krauthammer. It is a lot more dangerous to suppress free speech than it is to encourage free speech. And the Constitution did not make any exceptions for what occupation you had.