Balkinization  

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Commander-in-Chief Defies His Generals

Sandy Levinson

One should read this mornings story in today's Washington Post by Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright, and Thomas Ricks, tellingly titled "With Iraq Speech, Bush to Pull Away From His Generals"? No doubt the President continues to rely on his "gut" that things just have to get better, since otherwise it would call his what I suspect is his self-believed theory of divine election into doubt (or suggest, even worse, that God is actually on the side of our enemies).

I'm reading a manuscript right now of a forthcoming book on the Nixon-Agnew relationship, and I couldn't help noticing the following statement by Nixon with regard to his otherwise inexplicable choice: "There is a mysticism about men. . . . You lok a man in the eye and you know he's got it--brains. This guy has got it. If he doesn't, Nixon has made a bum choice." Indeed. Recall Bush's habit of looking into "the soul" of Putin and others and deciding on that basis what US policy should be.

There are serious people, like Senator McCain, who support a significant escalation of the war by sending in, say, another 100,000 troops. There are even more serious people who believe that it is time to begin the inevitable withdrawal. I truly wonder whether any truly serious person believes that a 20,000-person escalatory surge makes any sense. Or perhaps the real answer is that this is Rovian bait being thrown to the Democrats, in the hope that they will try to prevent it and therefore take the "blame" for the inevitably inglorious withdrawal.

Incidentally, I offer the following sidenote about General Petraeus, by almost all accounts an enormously accomplished man: A student of mine at the UT Law School, who had had combat experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq, referred to him as "General Betrayus" because of what was thought to be his inordinate interest in good publicity (and presumed self-promotion) rather than concern for his troops. I have no idea whether this is fair, but I do know that this is what my sober and thoughtful student told me.

In any event, things to consider with regard to the fact that George W. Bush will continue to be Commander-in-Chief for another 741 days, thanks to our unfortunate Constitution.

Comments:

Professor Levinson:

I was under the impression that the President was Commander in Chief and the generals were supposed to follow his orders, not the other way around. Therefore, it is impossible for the CiC to defy his generals, only the other way around.

Lincoln went through a series of generals until he found a few who would attack and win battles and eventually the war.

Similarly, Mr. Bush has fired the generals who were not getting the job done in Iraq and appointed General Petraeus to attack and win the war.

Petraeus is arguably the most successful general in Iraq, having pacified Mosul when he commanded the 101st Airborne and trained up the 200,000 strong Iraqi military after nothing was done in that regard for the first year or two of the war.

From what I have read, it also appears that Petraeus is also a egomaniac as are many of our better generals. It would not surprise me at all if Petraeus is also a self promoter as your student claims. Generals do not advance as quickly as he has by being shrinking violets.

I only care about results. If headlines motivate Petraeus as they did Patton, may he have many good headlines over the next couple years of his command.

This nonsense from the Dems about Bush defying his generals is advance CYA against General Petraeus testifying before Congress and asking for more troops to win the war.
 

"Bart" DePalma seeks to derail serious discussion:

I was under the impression that the President was Commander in Chief and the generals were supposed to follow his orders, not the other way around. Therefore, it is impossible for the CiC to defy his generals, only the other way around.

It may be impossible for Dubya to defy his generals' orders, but that hardly precludes his defying their recommendations, suggestions, advice, or request. "Bart" would like to elide the manner of the defiance, in order to forestall legitimate discussion as to whether Dubya should ignore what the generals have said.

Don't let him derail the discussion. This is a "red herring", and should be ignored for the stinky piece of rotten trash it is. Step around it, my dear correspondents, and don't look down.

More "BartSpeak":

Similarly, Mr. Bush has fired the generals who were not getting the job done in Iraq and appointed General Petraeus to attack and win the war.

But... but... but... Dubya's the Deciderator-In-Chief!!! And he said that whatever the generals asked for, he'd give them (except when he didn't, except when he told them that he's gonna give them something that they didn't want).

But I'm curious: Did Dubya not order the last buch of scapegoats to "attack and win the war"? Maybe he was too busy clearing brush that day and forgot....

This nonsense from the Dems about Bush defying his generals is advance CYA against General Petraeus testifying before Congress and asking for more troops to win the war.

Oh, but Dubya assured us that he listened to his generals, and what they wanted, they got (well, except maybe for body armour, etc. ... oh, yeah, it was the grunts that asked for that, nevermind). And he had full confidence in Casey and Abizaid and all.... "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie..." That is the Dubya maladministration (and Dubya's sorry life history) writ large. Why "Bart" continues to kiss Dubya's **** is a mystery to me, but I can guarantee you I wouldn't share a water fountain with "Bart".

Cheers,
 

Bart: I was under the impression that the President was Commander in Chief and the generals were supposed to follow his orders, not the other way around.

Yes, Bart. And you seem the kind of commander who would ignore the realities on the ground and reports of your scouts in favor of your unfounded "gut feelings", no matter how many of your men's lives had to be spent before your higher ups could pull you. The President's higher ups are the voters, and the voters want an end to Iraq. The President's "scouts", his source of intel from which to form plans, are his generals. There is no excuse for Bush's intransigence wrt escalation...except it plays well to a certain sort of dimwitted soul.
 

Robert:

The President backed up the old regime of generals in Iraq for years by faithfully maintaining that no more and no fewer troops were needed in Iraq while we waited passively for the Iraqi government to get their act together. By changing generals and changing course, Bush is admitting that he was wrong all that time. Like his father, George II takes loyalty far beyond that point which is often wise.

We all know a majority of the Dem Party wants to withdraw from Iraq. None of the removed generals supported retreating and the Dems have relentlessly criticized the "stay the course" plans of these generals as wrongheaded. Thus, the current Dem whining that Mr. Bush is "defying" the advice of those self same generals is the height of hypocrisy.

Likewise, the Kennedy bill capping troop levels and the Pelousi / Reed plans for non binding resolution votes is nothing more than moral and political cowardice.

If you Dems have the courage of your convictions and truly want the US to withdraw and surrender Iraq just like we did in the good old days of Vietnam, then offer and vote on a bill to defund the war. Don't just whine and obstruct. Do something.

A frequently used cliche in the military seems particularly apt here: "Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way."
 

"Bart" DePama says:

Bush is admitting that he was wrong all that time.

Now we're getting somewhere. But I'd say it's more likely that Dubya is reading the polls again (I'll believe he thinks he's wrong when he says: "I was wrong all this time!"). His response is illustrative.

Do check out (and follow) the links; I put them there for your benefit.

Cheers,
 

Bart: Bush is admitting that he was wrong all that time.

Finally we agree on something. Except we don't. He wasn't ever simply wrong, he was complicit in illegal and immoral acts of aggression against a sovereign nation, a former ally, with trumped up claims of WMDs, ties to nine-one-one, a boogey-man of "Islamic Fascists" and lots of fatty-pork for his Bechtel-Halliburton puppeteers on PNAC. It's a failed policy and a failed presidency and it's kind of nice to know there are folks like you out there to show what fanatical loyalty looks like: It looks like another few thousand dead sons and daughters to pay for Bush's failures and crimes and lies.

Hell, I figure you actually believed that "mission accomplished" nonsense too.

Meanwhile, as Arne says, all you're really trying to do here is distance yourself from the embarassment of 43's steady stream of "Bring it on" and "Stay the Course" rhetoric. To what end you practice such intellectual dishonesty one can only guess. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force. Maybe you just can't help yourself. Or maybe you need to unplug from the "no spin zone" (ahem...) long enough to let your brain do it's own reasoning for a minute or twelve.
 

Robert:

Bush is your fixation, not mine. I am not spending my time playing the partisan opposite to your knee jerk "Whatever Bush has does is wrong" arguments. I agree with the man on some things and disagree on others.

I have detailed my own opinions (not Mr. Bush's) on how the US should prosecute and win the war. I would more than welcome your plans to win the war. Heck, you can even offer your plans for the most expeditious way of losing the war. However, constant kabitzing about Bush from the peanut gallery is not a substantive discussion of alternative courses of action. The man is a lame duck not running for election. Thus, your playing Ahab to Bush's Moby Dick is getting boring.
 

"Bart" DePalma doesn't care how many soldiers live or die. All he cares about is whether the Republicans will have a cudgel they can wield (see my reply here) to attempt to paint the Democrats with the ""Dolchstoßlegende" and thus to avoid the responsibility for their own debacle. In fact, this desire on "Bart"'s part is obvious from the first link above. He thinks this strategy is a "winner" ... unless, of course, you happen to be one of the grunts caught on the ground in what "Bart" hopes is a lot of political infighting -- ensuring that nothing much changes in Iraq that can be used ["Bart" hopes] can be used to political advantage by the Republicans....

Here "Bart" taunts us to 'step into my parlour':

If you Dems have the courage of your convictions and truly want the US to withdraw and surrender Iraq just like we did in the good old days of Vietnam, then offer and vote on a bill to defund the war. Don't just whine and obstruct. Do something.

I can only hope that the adults stand up, and we do have the courage to do the right thing. There's thousands of names on a cold, black piece of stone in Washignton D.C. that are there because we were slow on the uptake last time around.

As for "Bart"'s taunts: 8^P

Cheers,
 

Bart: Bush is your fixation, not mine.

Bart: This nonsense from the Dems about Bush defying his generals is advance CYA...

You're slipping, chum; usually you save this kind of blatant self-contradiction for older threads.

Bart: ...how the US should prosecute and win the war.

Robert ...another few thousand dead sons and daughters to pay for Bush's failures and crimes and lies.

Glad we're finally clear on that matter. Back to the killfile for you.
 

"Bart" DePalma said:

Thus, your playing Ahab to Bush's Moby Dick is getting boring....

Don't ... don't ... DON'T insult Moby Dick like that. Moby Dick was the "good guy" there. Dubya's Ahab. Or, perhaps more accurately, Queeg.

Cheers,
 

I am surprised you let him out. Bart is a laugh that chooses to blindly follow the president when he says he's right and when he says he's wrong but not willing to make the choices to make anything right. It's fun though to read Bart through your eyes and quotes. Unfortunately the killfile only work when not on the commenting sheet.
 

Don't you guys see that Bart has set you up and you're falling into his trap? Ignore him, please! Let's make the comments on Balkinization worth reading. There's nothing wrong with commenters taking for granted some fundamental assumptions and then debating within a limited universe that excludes the likes of Bart.
 

Because Henry is right of course a nice link on General Petraeous the new man the US' Blunderer in Chief puts his faith in. Maybe, just maybe Petraeous could have made a difference (what is one consenting Sgt?) when their was still a counterinsurgency to be fought. Now there are just warring factions.

@Henry: although you're right, I didn't feel Prof Levinson was especially contributing lots to elevate the discourse in this thread.
 

Robert Link said...

Bart: Bush is your fixation, not mine.

Bart: This nonsense from the Dems about Bush defying his generals is advance CYA...

You're slipping, chum; usually you save this kind of blatant self-contradiction for older threads.


How are these two statements in any way contradictory?

The subject of the second post are the actions of the Dem leadership, not Bush. Like you, the Dem leadership is fixated on Mr. Bush.

Bart: ...how the US should prosecute and win the war.

Robert ...another few thousand dead sons and daughters to pay for Bush's failures and crimes and lies.

Glad we're finally clear on that matter. Back to the killfile for you.


Does than mean you are not going to offer your plan to win the war? Color me surprised.
 

If we can leave the sniping for a moment, ABC News is reporting that Mr. Bush has already started the surge of troops, which implies that there is budgetary room to pay for this action.

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/IraqCoverage/
story?id=2785532
 

Henry: Don't you guys see that Bart has set you up and you're falling into his trap?

You are right, of course, and usually I'm the one giving that sage advice rather than receiving it. :)

@Bart: No, I'm not going to give you suggestions on how to succeed with the failed immoral and illegal invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq. The only way to win after sinning is to repent, atone, and sin no more. You, and other followers of the Cheney junta, of course, are capable of none of the above. Color _me_ surprised at the heartless way you gloat about sending thousands more of our children into harm's way for the failures, crimes and lies you so gladly defend. The blood of all those innocents is on _your_ hands, and the hands of all who supported this administration's evil acts.

Me, I'll be sleeping just fine tonight. But I sometimes wonder how you salve conscience.
 

Robert:

Time for a reality check...

Our soldiers are professional men and women, not a group of innocent naifs on a Children's Crusade.

A dictator which took power by military force, ruled through terror and murdered well over a million of his own people and those of its neighbors is not "sovereign," he is a war criminal like Hitler. The people are sovereign and sovereignty can only be given by the people. It cannot be taken.

When our soldiers risked their lives to liberate 23 million Iraqis from that dictator, they were not committing an unspeakable evil, they were removing one.

When our soldiers fall in battle, their blood in on the hands of the enemy which killed them, not on the hands of your country.

When terrorists murder innocent civilians, that blood is on the hands of the terrorists, not on the hands of our soldiers fighting the terrorists or those who support the soldiers.

When my unit helped liberate Kuwait from the tyrant which you defend as "sovereign," that was one of the finest feelings of accomplishment I experienced in my life. I slept soundly, content in our accomplishment.

When I eagerly supported a new generation of troops including my younger brother as they liberated Iraq from the tyrant you defend as "sovereign," I felt utter pride in those soldiers and my country. I slept soundly, content in their accomplishment.

Now, when I support our soldiers fighting terrorists who are aligned with the al Qaeada gang who murdered 3000 of our citizens and who think nothing of murdering thousands more Iraqis, I still feel pride on our troops and what they are doing.

However, for those of our citizens who slander the hard work and sacrifices of our troops as "evil" and a "sin," then sleep peacefully without a conscience, I feel only pity.
 

So sad. "Bart" DePalma still believes the horsesh*t that we're fighting "al Qaeda" (and only al Qaeda) in Iraq:

Now, when I support our soldiers fighting terrorists who are aligned with the al Qaeada gang who murdered 3000 of our citizens and who think nothing of murdering thousands more Iraqis, I still feel pride on our troops and what they are doing.

"Bart"'s like the guy in "Stalag 17": "I believe. I believe."

"Bart" needs to get his head out of ... the sand, and pay attention to who's fighting there, who'se killiing there, and why. Pretending it's all those bad, bad "al Qaeda IslamoPinkoCommieFascists" (AKA "Satan incarnate") may be comforting to those that need bed time stories, but it hardly helps solve the problems there. And such a ignorant belief, if actually held by those on the ground there, is probably likely to get more U.S. soldiers killed....

Hey, ask "Bart" if the thinks the Mahdi Army is "al Qaeda in drag". He won't answer me, but I'm curious to know how far his ignorance extends.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma said:

A dictator which took power by military force,...

Hey, "Bart": You misspelled "with CIA help."

But that doesn't bother li'l ol' "Bart" at all; he thought the Reagan Contra project was just ducky ... prolly the same for ol' Pinochet as well. Installing "U.S.-friendly" gummints at the point of a gun makes perfect sense to "Bart" ... hey ... waiddaminnit, that's what we're trying to do once again in Iraq (guess the last one "didn't take").... Don't expect "Bart" to twig to this fact, though.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

Time for a reality check...

Our soldiers are professional men and women, not a group of innocent naifs on a Children's Crusade....


Ummm, time for a "reality check". It may well be another "Children's Crusade".... You know, as I was going to Dallas last week, I sat next to three "young soldiers" on their way over to prop up Dubya's legacy. Young kids. Two were barely kids out of high school, lovers, and married to each other. I told the to take care of each other and wished them well and a safe return. I can only hope those young kids have a chance to have some kids of their own ... and no thanks to Dubya on that. May Dubya burn in Hell ... or may he have his bright and earnest daughters sent over there so he can finally figure out what it's like wondering if your kid's coming home crippled and maimed ... or in a body bag.

Cheers,
 

I'm not sure here what the answer the generals have to offer is. If the Generals' plan was just to keep doing what we have been doing then that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense being as the trajectory of Iraq has been steadily downward over the last couple of years. Even if "stay the course" was the right answer, politically it is a non-starter. However, other than the authors of the plan there doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for Bush's answer either.

One thing I just do not see is letting the Iraqis lead this operation. Maliki wants to go after the Sunnis but does not want to deal with the Shiite death squads. Maybe we are embracing Cheney's "Darwin option". I certainly hope not.

So I don't think I like what is behind door #1 or door #2.

At this point most Americans, whether they supposrted or opposed it initially, are sick of the war and ready for it to be over. Bush can play for time but I really think as the 2008 cycle heats up he is going to be even more isolated than he is now. The Republicans in Congress I'm sure do not want another 2006. I hope sooner rather than later we can start bringing the troops home. I hope we can find something worthwhile behind door #3.
 

Come to think of it, Bush is actually a troll and he behaves just like Bart. Who'd thought that Bush be shaking his fist to Iran and Syria instead of keeping focused on Iraq? Just to change the debate and take the eyes of the ball.
 

Bart,

Who is Pelousi?

thanks.
 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 

Bart: When my unit helped liberate Kuwait...

How many weeks was it after we gave "the tyrant" the gas to use on the Kurds that you "liberated Kuwait"? How long had "the tyrant" been our ally as he warred on Iran?

Yes, we kicked Hussein out of Kuwait. And we left him in power, as head of a sovereign nation. And then a few years later we started a new war. He was the same evil, despicable person we propped up all those years before Kuwait. What changed?

Nothing. PNAC announced plans for the region. Nine-one-one gave a political climate conducive to those plans. The Cheney junta took advantage of that climate. And over 3,000 of our men and woman have died for those KBR contracts. So have untold thousands of innocent Iraqis.

I know, there's no such thing as an innocent Iraqi, or if there is they are too few and far between, there are too many "Islamic Fascists" out there hiding among them, so their lives are forfeit. At least so long as there are folks like you to support plans like Bush's. But it is sickening to see you try to hide behind what should be the honorable memory of your service to support putting thousand's more of our citizens in harms way for a failed illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation.
 

Robert:

How many weeks was it after we gave "the tyrant" the gas to use on the Kurds that you "liberated Kuwait"?

I am doing my best to stay civil here, but your unfounded slanders are beginning to wear exceeding thin.

Saddam committed mass murder against the Kurds using chemical weapons delivery systems provided by the Soviets filled with sarin and mustard gas which the Soviets, Germans and French gave Iraq the expertise to manufacture.

Your country did not supply any of the chemical weapons Saddam used to murder the Kurds.

You owe your country an apology.
 

"Bart" DePalma [to Robert Link]:

Saddam committed mass murder against the Kurds using chemical weapons delivery systems provided by the Soviets filled with sarin and mustard gas which the Soviets, Germans and French gave Iraq the expertise to manufacture.

Your country did not supply any of the chemical weapons Saddam used to murder the Kurds.


Well, maybe we didn't hand them the actual gas ... but the actual story is still pretty damn ugly:

"Conventional military sales resumed in December 1982. In 1983, the Reagan administration approved the sale of 60 Hughes helicopters to Iraq in 1983 'for civilian use'. However, as Phythian pointed out, these aircraft could be 'weaponised' within hours of delivery. Then US Secretary of State George Schultz and commerce secretary George Baldridge also lobbied for the delivery of Bell helicopters equipped for 'crop spraying'. It is believed that US-supplied choppers were used in the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, which killed 5000 people."

and:

"A 1994 US Senate report revealed that US companies were licenced by the commerce department to export a “witch's brew” of biological and chemical materials, including bacillus anthracis (which causes anthrax) and clostridium botulinum (the source of botulism). The American Type Culture Collection made 70 shipments of the anthrax bug and other pathogenic agents.

"The report also noted that US exports to Iraq included the precursors to chemical warfare agents, plans for chemical and biological warfare facilities and chemical warhead filling equipment. US firms supplied advanced and specialised computers, lasers, testing and analysing equipment. Among the better-known companies were Hewlett Packard, Unisys, Data General and Honeywell."

The Reagan/Bush regime resisted efforts of others to rein in Saddam:

"On March 16, 1988, Iraqi forces launched a poison gas attack on the Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja, killing 5000 people. While that attack is today being touted by senior US officials as one of the main reasons why Hussein must now be 'taken out', at the time Washington's response to the atrocity was much more relaxed.

"Just four months later, Washington stood by as the US giant Bechtel corporation won the contract to build a huge petrochemical plant that would give the Hussein regime the capacity to generate chemical weapons.

"On September 8, 1988, the US Senate passed the Prevention of Genocide Act, which would have imposed sanctions on the Hussein regime. Immediately, the Reagan administration announced its opposition to the bill, calling it 'premature'. The White House used its influence to stall the bill in the House of Representatives. When Congress did eventually pass the bill, the White House did not implement it."

There's a lot more at that link as well.

Cheers,
 

@Arne: Thanks for the assist, and the top-notch link.
 

Bart may have a kernel of technical truth here when he says, "Your country did not supply any of the chemical weapons Saddam used to murder the Kurds." (Apparently all we did was build him a plant four months later giving him capacity to make more on his own, a sound business plan.)

Thanks to the link Arne offered as a jumping off point, then to wikipedia for "Iraqgate" we find a cornucopia of wonderful items at the end of the wikipedia entry, my favorite so far being:

ABC News Nightline opened last June 9 with words to make the heart stop. "It is becoming increasingly clear," said a grave Ted Koppel, "that George Bush, operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy."
Columbia Journalism Review; March/April 1993(with "George Bush" referring to the first President Bush.)

I suspect it's the Bechtel deal mentioned in Arne's post which gives rise to the claims I've heard elsewhere that we gave Iraq the chemical weapons used on the Kurds. I stand corrected; it's a small price to pay for the deeper details on the damning truth and I will be happy to be able to point people to better information. Reagan and Bush and Cheney and the rest are the ones who owe the country an apology, for putting this blood on our hands. What kind of child, Bart, insists his parents are innocent despite that blood? What kind of citizen, Bart, accepts such evil in his name?
 

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