Will President Obama Listen To His Generals?

Throughout history, leaders have won or lost wars based on a single criterion. Did they listen to their generals? In WW2, Hitler continually overrode his generals and made them fight battles that they wished to avoid. Stalin, on the other hand realised that Marshall Zhukov was the only person in Russia who understood how to defeat the ‘Fascists’, as the Russian still call the Nazis, and for a while he allowed him to rule the roost. Once the war was over, he demoted him rapidly jealous of his reputation. But while the dangers were obvious, Stalin played it right, and Hitler played it wrong.

George Bush will go down in history as another leader who believed he knew better than his generals. Prior to Iraq he sacked General Shinseki who said the USA would need 400,000 troops to hold down the country post invasion. He had previously ignored the CIA’s well researched opinion that Iraq did not present a threat to the USA. Now Bush is at it again, this time firing his supreme commander in the Middle East, Admiral Robert Fallon (Pictured) who thinks that Bush’s focus on the Iranian nuclear programme is too intense given the multiplicity of problems faced in the Middle East.

From an article in the International Herald Tribune, Fallon’s views like those of the earlier ignored ‘generals’ make a lot of sense. It seems that Bush, like Hitler, is a serial non-listener and mistake-maker. The primary cause of his failure is his inability to listen to his commanders.

Obama will probably win the Democratic nomination, and the condition of the economy will probably ensure that he then wins the Presidency in November. The way Obama has run his nomination campaign could offer hope that he can pick and listen to advisers. America and the western world will be most grateful for some wise leadership, as soon as it becomes available.

The IHT article –

It is a worrisome sign that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to accept the obviously forced resignation of Admiral William Fallon, chief of the United States Central Command. Even if Gates was right to say, as he did Tuesday, that it would be “ridiculous” to take Fallon’s departure as an augury of war with Iran, the fate of the outspoken admiral suggests that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have learned nothing about the value of letting military chiefs speak their minds, particularly when they disagree with questionable administration doctrines.

As Central Command chief, Fallon presided over U.S. military operations in the Middle East. In a recent Esquire article that precipitated his ouster, he sagely observed that in this region, “where five or six pots are boiling over, our nation can’t afford to be mesmerized by one problem” – an assertion that has been interpreted as a rebuke of Bush’s approach toward Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

It is possible that Fallon’s fall was not the result of his holding dissenting views on Iran or, for that matter, on the pace of a drawdown for U.S. troops in Iraq. Apparently he doomed himself by airing those views, repeatedly, in public. Gates intimated as much when he termed speculation about radical policy differences a “misperception.”

Instead, Gates implied he had to uphold a tradition that permits the military brass to voice policy differences only in private. Once those dissenting views have been heard and rejected, dissenters are expected to salute, swallow their pride, and accept as final the judgment of the commander in chief.

There are good reasons for this tradition. It helps preserve civilian authority over the military. The expectation that generals and admirals will voice their criticisms only privately may also help ensure that advice given to a president or defense secretary will remain confidential. In theory, such confidentiality can encourage candor.

In this particular case, however, the usual strictures against airing policy differences in public should not have been enforced. For one thing, the Bush administration has a history of stumbling into grievous strategic errors when it has refused to heed sound public warnings from senior military leaders. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the administration effectively fired the army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, after he testified to Congress that more than 400,000 troops would be needed to maintain order in the aftermath.

Perhaps even more to the point is the validity of Fallon’s advice. He recommends patience and “engagement” with Iran, a quicker reduction of forces in Iraq, and more attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan. For these views he should be heeded, not fired.

UPDATE – Esquire Magazine sums it up.

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2 Responses to “Will President Obama Listen To His Generals?”

  1. Tom says:

    See video: we need to get the word out as much as we can, stop war with Iran

    tell everyone not to participate in an illegal act:
    The uniform code makes it abundantly clear that it must be the Lawful orders of a superior officer. In fact it says, ‘Members of the military have an obligation to disobey unlawful orders.’ This principle was considered so important that we, the government of the United States, proposed that it be internationally applied in the Nuremberg trials.” – Senator Inouye, a decorated World War II veteran and hero
    see blog

  2. tapestry says:

    good links Tom. Thanks. I read Esquire magazine. Seems like Bush is a nightmare without end.

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