Honest Men Need Not Apply

The point we might make is that anyone other than a “yes-man” was absolutely fobidden by the likes of Don “Cock-Crusher” Rumsfeld. This is documented extensively in the writings of Woodward, Hersh, and similar.

Joint Failure
By Andrew J. Bacevich | June 17, 2007

Responsibility for the disaster of Iraq lies not only with the President of the United States, but also with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president needs expert and candid military counsel. Not yes-men in uniform.

Washington was briefly abuzz last week with the news that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will not recommend the reappointment of General Peter Pace for a second two-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gates is instead nominating Admiral Michael Mullen for the post. The political classes reacted first with surprise and then with approval. The New York Times editorial page declared Mullen a “good choice.” Senate confirmation seems assured.

A better idea might be to abolish the position of JCS chairman altogether — and the entire JCS system along with it.

History will render this judgment of Pace, who succeeded General Richard B Myers as chairman in September 2005: As U. S. forces became mired ever more deeply in an unwinnable war, Pace remained a passive bystander, a witness to a catastrophe that he was slow to comprehend and did little to forestall. If the position of JCS chair had simply remained vacant for the past two years, it is difficult to see how the American military would be in worse shape today.

Softening history’s verdict will be this fact: Long before Pace arrived on the scene the JCS had established a well-deserved reputation as one of the most ineffective institutions in Washington. Dissatisfaction with the Joint Chiefs dates virtually from the moment in 1947 when Congress passed the legislation creating it. Trying to fix the JCS soon became a cottage industry. The widespread unhappiness with Pace’s performance, culminating in his de facto firing, affirms that these various reforms have failed.

Expectations that a permanent mechanism for providing military advice could improve the quality of civilian decision-making inspired the creation of the Joint Chiefs in the first place. After all, this had seemingly been the case during World War II, when Franklin Roosevelt had created a precursor of the modern JCS whose members had collaborated effectively with FDR in successfully directing a massive global war.

The creation of a permanent JCS two years after the war was intended to replicate that success: drawing on the accumulated wisdom of their profession, the new Joint Chiefs would help the president and Congress maintain adequate but economical defenses, avoid unnecessary wars, and wage effectively those wars that proved unavoidable.

Measured by these criteria, over the course of six decades the Joint Chiefs of Staff have performed miserably. Attempts to fix the institution only introduced new varieties of dysfunction, culminating in the rise of General Colin Powell, the most talented — and most problematic — officer ever to preside over the JCS. After Powell, things would only get worse.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff inhabit the seam at which war, statecraft, and domestic politics intersect — an environment saturated with political considerations. Charged with providing professional advice to civilian policymakers, they also represent the institutional interests of the armed services. In pursuit of those interests, the natural tendency of the chiefs is to encroach on territory ostensibly reserved for civilians. Likewise, the tendency of strong-willed civilians — for example, defense secretaries in the mold of Robert McNamara or Donald Rumsfeld — is to encroach on the territory claimed by the generals.

Read all of it here.

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