Thursday, May 17, 2007

Opinionator: Generals

While civilian officials have received most of the blame for America’s missteps in Iraq, the Pentagon’s top officers are increasingly coming under scrutiny. Robert Haddick at TCS Daily focuses on the most prominent recent example, an article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in the Armed Forces Journal that held out three basic criticisms: “First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America’s generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.”

Does Haddick, himself a former Marine officer, feel that Yingling’s charges hold up under closer examination?

Lt. Col. Yingling has been to the war and is understandably frustrated. He is correct when he states that America’s generals did not prepare the military for the wars they are now fighting.

But the bigger frustration is that the U.S. military has been assigned a mission, creating a multi-sectarian democracy in Iraq, which no amount of U.S. infantrymen or 5.56 mm ammunition can achieve. It is America’s elected civilian leadership that specified the mission and assigned it to the military. When he calls for “intelligent, creative and courageous general officers” Lt. Col. Yingling comes close to calling for a general officer corps that will oppose its civilian masters.

  • Yesterday Rudy Giuliani spent time, over the phone anyway, with some of the nation’s most influential bloggers. Ann Althouse offers a rundown of the conversation, but ends with a bit of pique: “This was billed as a blogger conference call, but it was heavily weighted with mainstream media. I mean: ABC News?? If you’ve got some mainstream reporters doing some of their writing in the blog format at an MSM site, those aren’t really bloggers in the meaningful sense of the word. Looking back, I’m annoyed that I got lost in the queue behind so many MSM reporters. If the candidate really wants to open himself to the bloggers, he should do conference calls that do not include mainstream reporters.”

  • E.J. Drummond of the conservative blog Wizbang also has a problem with the Republican presidential contenders, but not one you’d expect.

    I watched the Republicans debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, and I noticed how many of them tried to compare themselves to Ronald Reagan. It was, frankly, laughable. The Reagan Aura has grown far beyond anything a mortal man could hope to claim, but even the real Reagan was much more than any of these yokels could hope to compare.

    I happen to think that the Republicans in the race would be very wise to try to show how much they are like our current President, George W. Bush. Yep, that’s right. For all the conventional wisdom that folks should try to avoid being seen with Dubya, I argue that anyone who wants to get elected in 2008 had better start moving towards him, not away.

    There are many reasons why I believe this. Let’s start with the obvious fact that somehow got lost; Dubya collected more than 62 million votes in 2004. And at that time, his Job Approval, the number most media hacks were noting, was floating around 50 percent. The present media number is an average Job Approval of 34%, according to Real Clear Politics, which by simple math means that President Bush still has over 42 million people who vote by the Bush Standard. Not that 42 million would be enough to win, but only a complete moron would drive away 42 million or think that they could win without them.

  • - Tobin Harshaw


    Immigration Scuffle

    The Senate has reached a compromise on immigration reform. The blogosphere, naturally, has not.

    The conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, writing at Town Hall, calls it “White flag time on the border, and a national security and thus a political disaster. …This is McCain’s continuing gift to the G.O.P., and the immigration absolutists’ legacy: Lots and lots of promises and no fence worth calling a fence.”

    Chris Kelly, the LoneWacko, is absolutely positive the that racial power groups - and the Democrats that they control - “will not try to water” the bill down as immigrants assimilate. “The Republicans fail to note that they’re thinking in current terms, when they should be thinking of the future,” Kelly insists. “A decade or less from now, those groups that have “virtual veto power” over the Democratic immigration proposals will have vastly more race-based power than they do now. If they’re able to control Teddy Kennedy now, imagine what it will be like after they have several million more potential voters ready to take the word of the National Council of The Race or MALDEF. At that point in time, all of the ‘tough’ provisions will be on the chopping block.”

    Kate O’Beirne at National Review’s The Corner feels the Republican senators were more motivated by political gamesmanship than ideology. “The political calculation by conservative senators appears to be that the White House was going to cut a deal with Ted Kennedy with or without them and moderate senators would provide enough votes to pass any such bill. In the absence of vociferous opposition by conservatives, only about a dozen or so G.O.P. senators are likely to oppose the grand ‘comprehensive’ compromise,” she writes. “My previous optimism about the Senate’s inability to come up with a consensus plan that could win broad bipartisan approval obviously underestimated Republican senators’ capacity for self-delusion.”

    Her Corner colleague Jonah Goldberg, however, doesn’t think it’s the end of the world:

    I am against blanket amnesty (though I’m sure my definition of amnesty differs from Mark’s). And I am certainly against amnesty of any kind for terrorists. But let’s say for the sake of argument that we could come up with a form of amnesty or earned citizenship or something that most conservatives could agree on. Does it really make sense that such a plan should be scuttled because it might accidentally cover the .000000001 percent of immigrants who happen to be terrorists already living on our soil? Doesn’t this argument work for any public policy? I mean, I’m against nationalized medicine. But if I have to resort to saying that we can’t have it because it will result in members of al Qaeda getting prostate exams on my dime, I think I’ll have already lost the argument. These sorts of extreme-case arguments have a whiff of desperation to them.

    Not all liberals are celebrating. Chris Bowers at MyDD looks at the political implications, and sees nothing but clouds. “I imagine this bill will have opposition from both the left and the right, and I can’t speak to the left-wing opposition with any clarity,” he writes. “Also, it isn’t as easy as saying that this is a Democratic success, since it has the support of the White House. Immigration is one of the very few policy areas where Bush and Rove do not pander exclusively to the far-right elements in their base … I have to wonder what impact it will have on the Latino vote, which helped push Dems over the top in 2006. It is going to be hard to stay at 69 percent among Latinos - will this help or hurt?”

    Nobody has the answer now, of course, but one thing is for certain: Sen. John McCain, hated by the party’s vast “anti-amnesty” wing over his role in the legislation, must be pretty pleased that the Republican presidential debate was held Tuesday rather than tonight.

    Tobin Harshaw

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