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Jewish World Review
April 18, 2006
/20 Nissan, 5766
He thinks as well as he fights
In every army, there are (a few) Grants and (many) McClellans. The key to success in war is to
find and promote the Grants. Keep this in mind as you examine what Time magazine calls the
"Revolt of the Generals."
Six retired Army and Marine generals have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary
There are about 4,700 retired flag officers. For every general speaking out against Secretary
Rumsfeld, there are more than 780 who are not.
Many who aren't speaking out agree with the six, said the Washington Post's David Ignatius in
his column last Friday:
"When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his
colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent," Ignatius said. "Based on my
conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be
But Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't lack for enthusiastic defenders in the ranks: "My assessment
from extensive and continuous contact with young field grade officers...is that Secretary
Rumsfeld is considered the finest Secretary of Defense in the last 40 years," said an Army
lieutenant colonel in an email to the Web log "RealClear Politics."
Record re-enlistment rates do not suggest widespread dissatisfaction among the rank and file
with the secretary of defense.
Retired Marine generals Anthony Zinni, a former commander of CENTCOM, and Gregory Newbold,
once the Operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized Rumsfeld because they
think the war in Iraq was a mistake.
Retired Army generals Charles Swannack, a former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division; John
Batiste, a former commander of the 1st Infantry Division; and Paul Eaton, once responsible for
training Iraqi troops, are silent about the wisdom of the war, but critical about how it has
Virtually all the complaining generals oppose Secretary Rumsfeld's plans for military reform,
and are angered and offended by his management style. (The secretary is often brusque with
subordinates he thinks reason or perform poorly.)
The generals speaking out may have reasons other than patriotism for doing so. Gen. Zinni is
flogging a book. MajGen. John Riggs was busted a grade and forced to retire because of a
procurement scandal. MajGen. Eaton oversaw the rebuilding of the Iraqi army in 2003-2004, when
everyone now agrees this was a disaster.
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"When Swannack, for example, blames Rumsfeld for Abu Ghraib, he gives up the game," wrote
retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, now a professor at Boston University, in the Los Angeles
Times. "By pointing fingers at Rumsfeld, the generals hope to deflect attention from the
military's own egregious mistakes."
Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, whose book "Breaking the Phalanx" is a rough blueprint for
the organizational reforms the Army is making now, agrees military leaders deserve at least as
much blame for mistakes in Iraq as do the Pentagon's civilian leaders.
Many generals, especially in the Army, are overly bureaucratic and risk averse, Col. Macgregor
said. Excessive caution nearly denied the U.S. a quick victory in the march on Baghdad, and
excessive use of force after the fall of Saddam by, among others, MajGen. Swannack, fueled the
insurgency, he said.
The complaining generals said Mr. Rumsfeld doesn't listen to his subordinate commanders, a
criticism rebutted by the retired generals who dealt with him most frequently, former CENTCOM
commander Gen. Tommy Franks; his deputy, retired Marine LtGen. Michael Delong; and Air Force
Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The real problem is Secretary Rumsfeld pays too much deference to generals who are demonstrably
incompetent, Col. Macgregor said. The night Baghdad fell, Mr. Rumsfeld asked the Army ground
forces commander how long it would take to get an armored brigade to Saddam's home town of
Tikrit, Col. Macgregor recounted. The answer was 10 days. Mr. Rumsfeld then asked the Marines,
who got there in 12 hours.
The Grant of the Iraq war was then Marine MajGen. James Mattis, who thinks as well as he
"Immediately advancing Mattis to three stars...would have sent a powerful signal that
professional competence and character under fire trump all other considerations in wartime,"
Col. Macgregor said. "Unfortunately, the civilians in charge bowed to service parochialism and
appointed an Army general, because Army troops constituted the majority of the ground force."
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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