ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rumsfeld's Critics - George Brinton McClellan Lives

Last week as the Secretary of Defense's critics emerged from the ranks of a few retired general officers, my first reaction was to take their criticism of Rumsfeld seriously. These were not pencil pushers. They were officers from some of the finest units in the military, including the 82nd Airborne, the 1st ID and the Marine Corps. They had led some of the very units that brought our smashing victory over Sadam. These were folks who had been there and done that. Their opinions were worthy of respect.

So what brings to mind George McClellan? Who was George McClellan? Why does it mater? What do these general officers have in common with McClellan?

McClellan was the head of the Army of the Potomac, the major Union Army in the East during the Civil War. He had an enormous ego and a shockingly low opinion of President Lincoln. When he failed to perform, Lincoln sacked him. Lincoln was willing to tolerate his insubordinate attitude but not his lack of victories on the battlefield. Lincoln sacked him when he failed to followup on the one victory he did achieve and destroy the Confederate Army after the Battle of Antietam.

McClellan became Lincoln's most outspoken critic. He said total victory was neither possible nor desirable. He eventually ran for president as a Democrat in 1864. Mercifully, he was trounced by Lincoln and the North went on to total victory.

What these six generals who are now Rumsfeld's, and Bush's by extension, critics have done is to enter into the same politcal realm that McClellan did. They are not, as is their right, entering onto the battlefield of ideas, i.e. how do we go about getting the best military result, but rather have entered into the political arena. They seem to have overlooked the notion of the civilian control of the military through the ballot box. Bush won the election, not them. It is up to Bush to select his executives, not them. They can rightfully disagree with policy once they are retired, but to try to dictate who occupies what office is beyond the pale.

It pains me to see that these fine military leaders have fallen heirs to George McClellan. Their ideas might have been taken seriously had they not done what they did. They have succeeded, like McClellan, in making victory more difficult. But they have also followed McClellan to the same end... total irrelevance when the history of this war is written.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn