Sunday, April 23, 2006


Don’t put too much stock in the opinions of retired generals. Several are now getting a lot of publicity from calling for the retirement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They cite his mismanagement of the war. I suspect they are disgruntled residue of other lost policy battles.

Generals are notorious for getting things wrong, for being behind the times. In WWII many favored trench warfare. When I was in Vietnam in ’62, I distinctly remember some generals calling for the disbanding of Special Forces. In ’62 the Special Forces represented nearly half of our effort there.

The general’s argument was that there should be no elite units in the army. They wanted to sell the idea that the army was one large elite unit. Recruitment ads at the time made that point. They wanted to do away with berets that some units would adopt for self identity. I think General Westmoreland was very sympathetic to that school of thought, but that was another battle he lost.

It was common knowledge that Special Forces was in such disfavor to these hide-bound brass that to join them automatically put a ceiling on a career. An officer with a Special Forces background could only advance so far. They didn’t want that kind of radical thinking to penetrate the upper levels of the General Corps.

When Rumsfeld came in a Defense Secretary he was the worst nightmare to this reactionary school of generals. He killed off expensive pet programs. Worse, he wanted to modernize everything. Even worse to the “trench warfare school,” he wanted to expand the hated Special Forces and increase their mission.

Of course that meant war. Many of these generals have been working to undermine Rumsfeld for years.

Now, in retirement, they are taking their final shots.


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