Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Officer Corps Fights Back... Shall We Help Them?

As anybody can see, the big news this week concerns a growing avalanche of retired generals who have decided to step forward, speaking out about this administration’s ongoing travesty of failed leadership. Specifically, a series of military men - with nearly twenty stars among them - have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling him unfit for office because of, among other failings, “gross incompetence.”

In fact, for three years I’ve been predicting that this sort of action by stalwart senior members of the United States Officer Corps would turn out to be the ultimate Achilles Heel for Bush-Cheney-Rove & co. My reasons for believing this were - and are - multitudinous, and I’ll get to them in a moment.

See: The Under-Reported Purge of the U.S. Officer Corps.

But first, I want to turn this thing around and shine light on another aspect of the news. A travesty that is erupting on the other side of the political spectrum. I’m talking about the way that some left-wing activists have chosen to react, not by welcoming the generals and embracing them, but by spitting in their faces.

In one case, a shrill blogger referred to these officers as “rats deserting a sinking ship.” Snidely calling the generals shirkers, who are late-comers to the anti-Bush movement, this fellow denigrates them for focusing solely on Rumsfeld, instead of openly and broadly attacking an administration of horrors.

True, this kind of nonsense represents a fringe, a shrill-lefty element that has always railed for the Democratic Party to be a small tent filled with ideological purists, “true to their roots.” (See addendum, below, about how each party has dealt with the radicals in their midst.) So why do I even bother to mention them?

Because, despite their small numbers, the potential damage that these fools can wreak is overwhelming. We -- not just liberals and Democrats, but all decent citizens of the U.S. and the world -- are being offered a gift. A possible way out. And a few loonies want us to indignantly throw it away.

Hence, I want to speak out now for the opposite tactic. For accepting the gift, with eagerness and gratitude.


Few civilians can appreciate how difficult this step has been for military men who spent their professional lives steeped in a tradition of stoical, apolitical silence and submission to civilian authority. Reluctance to interfere in the nation’s political affairs. That tradition, virtually unprecedented in the history of armies and nations, should be revered and respected. It OUGHT to be hard for officers to do what these generals have done. That alone explains why their agonized decision took so long in coming.

It also explains why their focus has been so specific, targeted singly and narrowly at Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. By aiming their bullets only at him, the generals are saying “we choose the monster who is closest to us in the chain of command.” True, they are perfectly aware that any damage to Rumsfeld will carry through, politically, to Bush and Cheney and the GOP. But this approach maintains, to the maximum degree possible, an appearance of veneration to civilian authority. It also expresses a moderate and restrained will toward using “minimum effective force.”

Again, this should be understood and respected.

(Indeed, military men are painfully aware of something never mentioned in the press, that Donald Rumsfeld occupied the exact same office thirty years ago, the LAST time we were humiliated in an ill-conceived ground war-of-attrition in Asia. A startling historical coincidence whose relevance is limited. Yet, it is chilling, just the same.)

If we were to pay attention to these senior military men, we might even learn a thing or two. For example, would it surprise most liberals to realize that the U.S. Officer Corps is, in fact, the 3rd best-educated clade in America today, just after college professors and medical doctors? These senior leaders know an awful lot about history, about the world and its dangers. Would it hurt to listen?

For example, their complaints don’t ONLY have to do with the tactical conduct of the Iraq War, as blithering and imbecilic as that ill-conceived adventure has been, featuring micromanagement by petty armchair Napoleans that would “make Robert MacNamara look like a hands-off kind of guy.” There are other issues afoot, some that cut even deeper, such as the demolition of America’s alliances, the misuse of our reserves, and an incredible, almost unprecedented decline in our actual readiness to respond to any kind of large scale surprise.

(For more on this, see:

What all of this ultimately amounts to is a golden opportunity to change all of the dynamics that have made the first few years of the 21st Century such bad news for America and Western Civilization. The men and women who have worked the hardest and trained the longest to protect that civilization are holding out their hands to us now -- not just to liberals and democrats, but to all moderate, pragmatic, calm and decent citizens who want common sense to prevail yet again.

Shall we accept the gift we are being offered?


For the sake of brevity, let me put forward a simple list of reasons why the leftist reflex should be rejected. Reasons why honest liberals and democrats -- and patriotic conservatives who care to join in -- should make this a key issue in the coming campaign.

1. We have short historical memories. We tend to forget how powerful a weapon this kind of issue can be for democrats, the way national defense served JFK in the election of 1960. How about “support Rummy or our troops, you can’t have it both ways!”

Indeed, by comparing the Clinton-Clark Balkans Intervention, line-by-line, against the Bush-Cheney Iraq Mess, devastating points could be won. (In the Balkans, we never lied, we achieved all objectives promptly, bolstered alliances, improved relations with the Muslim world, and created a Europe that was at peace for the 1st time in 4,000 years, all at the cost of ZERO American service personnel lost to combat! How could this be anything but a winning comparison?)

2. Have liberals really forgotten the debt they owe? That the military was THE lead institution in desegregating America, 60 years ago? After Harry Truman and George Marshall took this step, one historian said “this was the moment when I knew we would change and never go back. It’s when I realized that it would go all the way.”

3. For heaven’s sake, don’t people realize that the military and intelligence communities are among the top VICTIMS of Rove & co?

Yes, there have been other victims. American taxpayers and the poor and the middle class and the environment and freedom of speech and our debt-burdened grandchildren and science and progress itself have all suffered, as have our alliances and our status in the world. But tell me, who else has actually DIED - in large numbers - paying an ultimate price for the venality and stupidity of this gang? Isn’t that enough reason, morally, to reach out and offer them a hand?

4. In addition to combat deaths, and other direct tragedies, these skilled and dedicated men and women have been saddled, spurred and whipped by swarms of the lowest creatures around -- party hacks who were appointed to fill top jobs at Defense, CIA, Homeland Security and countless other agencies. Purely political operatives with negligible knowledge about these fields and few qualifications other than their single-minded dedication to a single goal. The goal of breaking down every tradition and rule of professionalism, bullying our skilled officers and civil servants into submission.

5. Let there be no mistake; this is where the greatest long-term danger to our republic lies. Forgive a bit of chest-thumping, but I have been an almost-solitary voice for years, calling attention to what appears to be a deliberate and far-reaching campaign to transform the US Officer Corps into a political tool. This campaign has not only featured oppression, purges and intimidation at the top - including reassignment, punishment, and forced-resignations of many top generals and admirals - but also a determined effort at the opposite end, by radical Republican House members who are using their power of appointment to fill our military academies with cadets who are either religious zealots or deeply committed to partisan politics. Or both.

All right, it’s possible that my fears are exaggerated, overblown, or even paranoid. Perhaps the long list of anecdotes does not add up to a coordinated and orchestrated “campaign.” Nevertheless, even those anecdotes (e.g. recent tales of fundamentalist bullying at the Air Force Academy) add up to a frightening trend. So why have there been no investigations? No voices risen against all this, from either the free press or the Democratic side of the aisle?

(Those of you who are well-read in the literature of science fiction may know that 2012 was forecast by the great SF author Robert Heinlein, as the year when a fundamentalist fanatic named Nehemia Scudder would take over the USA as “Prophet of the Lord,” and that his very first priority would be exactly this kind of thing, “stocking” the military academies with young men and women whose allegiance would no longer be apolitical and Constitutional, but as personal and ideological as the Praetorians, Janissaries, samurai and jaguar warriors of old. I am not calling Heinlein a soothsayer. But should not this literary horror tale be scaring us right now, fully as much as others that were written by guys like Orwell?)

6. What is the biggest reason why we absolutely must change our reflexive attitudes toward those stern "conservative" men and women, the crewcut types, in the Intelligence Community and the United States Officer Corps?

It is the best reason of all. The simplest and most compelling.

Self preservation.

Think. These people represent our only hope of preventing Rove & co. from pulling some kind of hellacious "October Surprise" in late 2006, and again in 2008. Some nasty event that might frighten the voters silly, turning their eyes away from all the scandals of theft, incompetence and betrayal, prodding the terrified to instead rally around “our national leadership.”

Hey, don’t knock it. This very method has worked for Rove, time and again. Call this paranoid. But can any of you honestly claim that these scoundrels won’t try it again? Care to bet on it? In fact, is there any chance that they won't try it again?

Obviously, the Rove-ists are shaking right now, quivering over the prospect that one or more chambers of Congress may change hands in the next election. Imagine the transformation that would then ensue, away from the worst and laziest legislative branch in our history, with fewer days spent in session, fewer committee meetings, fewer inquiries and audits, fewer bills and debates... and by far the fewest subpoenas issued... in more than a hundred years. Imagine all of that suddenly changing.

If either House or Senate were to resume actual business, recalling vacationing members to their Constitutionally-mandated role of oversight, re-activating slumbering committees, appointing investigators, calling witnesses... well, you can just picture the consequences.

The clang of jail cells will be deafening. You know it. I know it. Karl Rove knows it, all too well.

They have one chance, just one. To spark something truly terrible - perhaps a terror scare, or a pandemic scare, or war with Iran - before the November elections. Moreover, honestly, let me ask you this. Do YOU have a plan for how to stop this from happening?

The courts? The press? Whistleblowers? Oh, please.

Stop and think. There is only one group of people on Planet Earth who can prevent it. They have the skill, the knowledge, the connections and sources, the courage and the wherewithal. Reminded of their duty to the Constitution, to the American people, these members of the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Officer Corps will stand up. They will do what they were trained to do. What they swore a solemn oath to do.

They will put their careers, their bodies, their very lives between us and danger.

They will defend us from enemies of the United States, even when those enemies occupy the White House.

They are our best hope... the crewcut types…

...and it is crucial that people recognize this. Liberals and conservatives. Democrats and decent, old-fashioned Goldwater Republicans.

Above all, the best way for Democrats to prove that they deserve power will be to stand up for these men and women in the IC and the Corps. Only this will show that liberals and moderates and decent conservatives understand the true path.

Not to wage "culture war"... but to end it.



Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard of any reaction on the left until now, but instead was surprised by the things said by Rumsfeld himself.

So...instead of trying to debate on the issues, he offers a straw man: "Out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States it would be like a merry-go-round." Even former Secretary of State Powell added his voice to the criticism

<Sigh> The guys currently serving cannot say very much publicly. I'm impressed that we hear from even those few retired officers that are voicing criticism.

jbmoore said...

Those generals may still have an apolitical reason for what they are doing. They are trying to save the lives and hard work of the men who served under them. All those generals spent years training men and building the infrastructure to fight a war and win it against the USSR, and now they've had to restructure their commands and win against an amorphous "enemy" called terrorists. Add to that overthrowing two governments and trying to rebuild two nations with little in the way of resources that their predecessors had after WWII to rebuild Japan and Germany. They've done what they were tasked to do. Yet, they must have grave misgivings to come forward at a time like this. It may help McCain more than the Democrats. If the Democrats get a well known general on their side, perhaps they'll have some political hay. The GOP marginalized McCain in 2000, so I don't trust them to nominate him for President in 2008. He scares the leadership too much because he's a maverick. Several years in the Hanoi Hilton builds character and says a lot about all those men who survived that hell including McCain. He won't have the priorities that the GOP leadership wants in a President. He's too much of a populist. Not really sure who the Democrats will pick, but they still seem to be disorganized. Whoever it is needs to be a leader and not a fear monger.

David Brin said...


In fact, the biggest difference between the Democratic Party and the GOP has nothing to do with market or taxation policy or even war and peace. It lies in the role that each party has given to its radicals. Among Democrats, despite a propensity for noisy posturing, the worst screeching maniacs have mostly remained a fringe, impotent to affect real policy even when their party holds office. They are capable of doing the country harm, but only helping supply Karl Rove with “wedge issues” and sabotaging the liberal cause in tight elections.

In contrast, the Republican Party has handed itself over, body and soul, to its own fanatical-klepto-loony wing.

The millions of American conservatives who are awakening to this fact sure have their work cut out for them, reclaiming their party and movement from bona fide monsters. Elsewhere, I have spoken of their duty -- and it is nothing less than duty -- to do exactly that. In order to slake the furious spinning that’s going on in Goldwater’s grave, conservatives will have to show the same guts and determination exhibited by liberals long ago, during the “miracle of 1947.”

Can it happen? Perhaps such a magnificent act restoration and redemption will eventually take place on the moderate American Right.

We should wish them luck...

...but time is short and we should not wait any longer for help from that side. Other than a few tepid moves by men like Kevin Phillips and Newt Gingrich, there is little sign, yet, of that kind of courage. Not from the moderate GOP political caste.

As for the loonies of the left. Let us never under-rate the harm that such people can do. The topic of this article -- whether to embrace or spurn the new movement by generals to denounce Donald Rumsfeld -- only touches upon the broader theme of coalition building. The thing that people do when they are serious about politics, and not the drug of self-righteous indignation.

Should we reach out to other victims of Bushite madness, like decent “Goldwater-style” conservatives? Leftists radicals respond that “decent” and “conservative are contradictions-in-terms! The incredible political success of Karl Rove’s Big Tent Strategy -- finding ways to lure a vast array of contradictory interest groups into a grand, election-winning coalition -- is only seen as proof that the left should do the exact opposite in every way, making the Democratic Party’s tent as small and litmus-tested as possible, slashing at every conceivable ally who does not accept the party line.

If anything proved the insanity of this fringe element, it is their reaction to the Generals’ Revolt.

They would throw away a gift that has the potential of saving civilization. Because (in effect) those guys wear crewcuts.

Don Quijote said...

In one case, a shrill blogger referred to these officers as “rats deserting a sinking ship.”

my exact thoughts, a day late and a dollar short.

Snidely calling the generals shirkers, who are late-comers to the anti-Bush movement, this fellow denigrates them for focusing solely on Rumsfeld, instead of openly and broadly attacking an administration of horrors.

And he's absolutly right!

How many people have died for no good reason in the last 5 years under their command? How many people were tortured under their command? How many more people are they planning to kill & torture right now?

If these generals are so bright and well educated, what took them so long to realize that Shrub is unqualified to do hold any position higher than that of dog-catcher?

Don Quijote said...

Not to wage "culture war"... but to end it.

The "culture war" will not end, it is a sideshow whose sole purpose is to distract the rubes while the wealth-transfer from the middle & working classes is completed. When the wealth transfer is complete, the welthy will keep on using the "culture war" to redirect the anger of the immiserated middle & working class toward some other targets like immigrants, gays, or Iranians, the French, (pick the convenient boogey man of the week),etc...

PS. Where were these Generals when Kerry was being swiftboated?

2004 was the time to speak out, not now.

Woozle said...

David -- in the "readiness2" article, this link is broken:

relentless march from post-Watergate nadir to unprecedented dominion

(Fix it! I wanna read it! (-; )

Don Quijote said...

Culture War

courtesy of the Wiskey Bar

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

And I'll quote.

Iraq is in flames, Iran is a nuclear crisis (whether or not it need be) the immigration debate is raging, oil is at $70 a barrel, global climate change is accelerating, the post-Katrina recovery effort is floundering, there is no budget for the coming fiscal year.

And the Republicans are preparing their agenda for the fall elections:

GOP Campaign to Focus on Flag Burning, Gay Marriage, Abortion

Thank God they're on top of things, because if we can't get this nationwide epidemic of flag burning under control, we could be in some real trouble.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...


Atrios, Crooks and Liars, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Eric Alterman, and, heck, Alex Cockburn and Noam Chomsky (who should never be called people who are "in" the Democratic Party) have welcomed comments from the military against the Terrible President and Even Worse Vice President. Maybe Cockburn has called generals "rats" in the past, but I didn't see anything this time.

Who are you talking about? And why draw something much larger from one blogger?

And, while googling the phrase to see what I could come up with, I found this from a blog called "Radical Left" talking about Bill Buckley's defection from Bush Delusion:

"While those Americans who always opposed the Iraq War may see this unseemly scramble of Bush’s former allies as a classic case of rats deserting a sinking ship, the loss of these two prominent thinkers of the Right mark a turning point in the political battle over the U.S. occupation of Iraq."

"If Bush can’t hold William F. Buckley Jr. – and if even the ranks of the neocons are starting to crack – Bush may soon be confronted with a hard choice of either acknowledging his errors or tightening his authoritarian control of the United States."

Notice the difference in phrasing, however, when the blogger at Radical Left comments on the generals who have criticized the war and Rummy:

" Some of the most respected retired generals are publicly criticizing Rumsfeld and his policies in a manner that's nearly unprecedented in the United States, where civilian control of the military is accepted as a hallowed principle." (April 13, 2006)

Certainly, the phrase "rats deserting a sinking ship" applies to people like Buckley, David Brooks, Glenn Reynolds and even Andrew Sullivan, doesn't it--when considering their GOP and Red-baiting credentials?

I did, however, find Greg Palast, a leftist writer from the Guardian in London, saying the retired generals are rats leaving a sinking ship. He is a great reporter, who first broke the story of the Florida debacle in 2000 while it was happening, but sometimes he does lose himself.

However, the fact remains that the primary people who have been criticizing these generals for wanting book deals or deserting America's best interests are those from the Right section of the political spectrum. The voices on the Right are the ones who have far more consistently shown disrespect to soldiers these past few years. Why give them a free ride while repeating the self-destructive theme of the Left stabbing military persons in the back?

David, I love ya dearly and I know this may cost me an invite to your home--but lose that theme of left-wing Democrats who harm the Democratic Party at the polls. The sad truth is that one can make a better case that people like Joe Biden and especially Joe Lieberman have done and continue to do far more damage to the Democrats' electoral prospects.

Anonymous said...

Former Marine Captain Christopher H. Sheppard describes his disillousionment with the administration after two tours in Iraq.

David Brin said...

When the press starts tallying mere Captains and Majors, this is going to start to look even stronger.

As for my assailing foolishness on the left, please bear in mind that there are reasons.

1. Our sweet left has collaborated with (almost) every single one of Rove's wedge issue distractions, Want to make the issue flag burning instead of a bleeding national debt? Provoke some flag burnings! Want to mobilize an extra four million middlestate votes for Bush? Get a few hundred flakes out there demanding that (legitimate) Civil Unions be renamed "marriage" (with no practical purpose or difference, just a lovely shot at middle american sensitivities). Care to bet they don't have dozens of these things lined up? With friends like these...

Oh, but let me admit something. Sometimes Rove doesn't need lefty collaborators at all. Remember the Great Big War On Christmas? Ooooog. That one surprised even me. Managed to create vast smoke when there wasn't even anything at all there!

In fact, this whole wedge issue accusation is (I admit) a bit unfair to the far left. I seem to be saying that we must all walk on eggshells, lest a single loony flake give Rove the smoking gun to set off another distraction! Okay. That really is a bit dumb.

In fact, democracy shouldn't be like that! The fault for wedge issue culture war is far more attributable to a Murdochian Whore Press and millions of utterly-dopey Limbaugh-listeners who actually believe that crap.

2. Still... you needed examples? Our own dear Quijote just supplied one (above). He followed the "baby killers" rant to the letter.

3. In contrast, I am seeking to serve as a bridge. As a seed-center for Big Tent coalition-building. To get the whole liberal movement to drop its damned habit of litmus-testing every possible ally and instead start seeing allies as GOOD THINGS. Even when they disagree with you on this or that detail. Ideological purity is not only a filthy intellectual habit. It is utterly self-defeating.

I want to destroy Rove and everything he stands for, including culture war. In order to do that, we MUST drag in the Buckleys and Gingriches and generals and Goldwater Conservatives, into a coalition wide enough so that:

a. when the special prosecutors are unleashed and ten thousand Cheneyklep thieves go to jail, it WON'T be called a partisan "MacCarthian Witch Hunt" but rather the apolitical gathering of a particularly nasty criminal gang.

Think about how it might tear the country apart! Unless we have guys like McCain and Buckley saying "calm down, these guys were never REAL Republicans, they simply took over the party for a while."

Yeah, many of us will mutter at how mealymouth that is. But it will be FAR better to go along with that, than to let those ten thousand thieves portray themselves as political prisoners! Please, think ahead. Use those prefrontal lobes and ponder the possible downsides of victory! For every Cheneyklep sent to jail, we NEED half a dozen decent conservatives slapping their foreheads and saying "we wauz duped! These guys wuz never real GOPers! we gotta help clean house in order to save conservatism!"

If that happens, the country may survive.

We need the Big Tent for that reason, if no other!

b. Once Goldwater types are in the tent, we can start negotiating again. A real energy program and fuel efficiency standards, say, in exchange for one new experimental 3rd Millennium fission plant. There's jillions of deals we could strike with homo sapiens, once actual deliberation returns from its long exile.

c. the biggest reason. We are gonna need a Big Tent, just to have a chance of reclaiming constitutional government, at all.

I am stunned that so few of you comment on my final point (above). That we desperately NEED pro-constitutionalist men and women in the officer corps and intelligence community to stand up and proudly, bravely, do their jobs this year. Only they can detect autumn suprises in advance and cut off those tricks before they happen. If there were no other reason to reach out to such people, to offer them the hand of friendship... and political shelter when the chips fall... that reason would be enough.


Mitchell J. Freedman said...

As usual, David, we agree on the basic points. But look at McCain. He's completely gone in with both Bush and even Falwell, no matter his protestations aside. He has flipped and flopped in ways that has John Kerry scratching his head. He wants the worst Republicans to continue to succeed.

That coalition should indeed begin, and has, with the military folks. Most of the political candidates running across our fair land are Democrats.

Finally, thanks for agreeing that we can't control the Ward Churchill sightings by the likes of FoxNews. They will always be on the lookout for such fairly isolated, unknown guys.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Don Quijote is representative of the problem facing anyone -- right or left -- who wants to take political action? Regardless of your feelings about the military or any of the generals in question, you need to see this for what it is: an opportunity.
Instead of blasting those brave souls, you should be asking how you can help them achieve their goals, if their goals for this action match yours.

The enemy of my enemy, you know.

“A day late and a dollar short?” Even if true, it’s not relevant. Unless your goal’s to spread hate and not achievement.

Dr. Brin, regarding your “third point” about the country needing a “big tent” -- I hate to admit it, but that’s my greatest cause for despair. I can see that the only thing to restore forward momentum will be for enough moderates to come together and say “Enough!” Yet, for most of us, we’re still comfortable. From a Machiavellian perspective, the best thing the Roveans achieved was to move the killing across the sea. As long as we Americans are comfortable, we won’t act. Even Guantanamo Bay’s in Cuba, out of sight and out of mind.

Why’s that a cause for despair? Because I honestly see no way to assemble the big tent. There are too many Jophurs and not enough Tymbrims (or even Thennanins).

What if a free America simply can’t meet that threat? What if we as a species haven’t evolved sufficiently for this terribly brittle experiment in individual freedom to work? What if the terrorists have found just the button to push to make us implode from within?

I imagine, though, that many people of good will had conversations just like this during the Civil War, or during many conflicts in our past. I supposed I should take hope from the fact we’re still talking. There are a lot of smart people in this country and across the planet. As long as we're exchanging ideas and listening to each other, there's hope.

You know, history's a lot more fun in hindsight. In high school and college, I thought I’d love to be part of some big conflict. Now, I have a family, and I don't like seeing them in this kind of danger.

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me -- one could argue that as long as Americans are comfortable, the US government is doing its job: keeping its citizens safe.

That might well be true. I think folks here have already stated the idea that keeping the terrorists busy in Iraq has been a factor in keeping them out of American.

However, I don't want to buy my safety with the blood of others. That's not the American way (well, not America as I define it).

The core issue is that there are many perspectives, and from some of them, people of good will think the Rovean Way is the right way. It's only going to be through cooperation that we're going to accomplish anything positive, and we're going to have to put faith in one another. The right/left blue/red this/that false dichotomies have got to go, and we can’t wait around for the “other” side to make the first move. We’re going to have to continue reaching out and engaging anyone who will listen -- and do it with respect.

I miss being younger when I knew everything. Issues were so much more clear!

Don Quijote said...

I wonder if Don Quijote is representative of the problem facing anyone -- right or left -- who wants to take political action?

And the problem would be?

Anonymous said...

Don Quijote asked, And the problem would be?

The questions's a bit more clear if you read my entire post, but the key is the concern that instead of seeing what the generals are saying as an opportunity to achieve something worthwhile, you're seeing it as a chance to berate them.

In other words, you're doing what I see too many others in politics do: indulge in a culture of hate and disrespect.

The officers are saying something that you seem to agree with. Try running with it instead of criticizing them. Try to achieve some kind of concensus that you can use to achieve greater things.

Of course, you might well be doing just that in the "real" world. From my perspective, though, you don't seem to see the opportunity here.

David Brin said...

Once again, you have hit on the core point. The thing separating moderate pragmatists from flaming dogmatists is one of personality... but much more. It is really about substance abuse.

The worst plague of our era, is addictive self-righteous indignation. When research confirms this decisively, we moderates will finally have the power to tell all of the screamers, left and right, to go to Betty Ford and leave us adults to save the world.


Anonymous said...

@ Quijote:

How many people were tortured under their command? How many more people are they planning to kill & torture right now?

Please don't blame the military for the civilian prison administration. Do a Google search for "Lane McCotter", and marvel at the long history of prison torture he's presided over right here in the USA before he was sent to oversee Abu Ghraib. Unsurprisingly, he's another Bush crony.

I know it's tempting to be anti-military because it simplifies a lot of things. But the fact is, grunts don't make policy. Your anger is misdirected.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the worry is this desire to respond to these generals on the basis of their position rather than because they're making good arguments. For instance, why emphasise that they have "twenty stars between them" rather than saying something like "their precise descriptions of the incompetence are incredibly compelling"? I'd definitely worry about the establishment of a situation where we should pay attention to what high-ranking military leaders say because I'm not convinced all high-ranking military leaders have sensible thought out views. On the other hand, I'd entirely agree that of the carefully thought-out, well-supported arguments about military conduct and competence tend overwhelmingly to come from high-ranking military officers rather than partisan officials. But that's analysing what's being said, rather than the subtext here which appears to be that you should give blind trust to the opinion of anyone in the military. Wasn't a large part of the population's blind trust that "whoever's holding the office of US president, being the president means he must be doing the right thing" that got America into it's current positon?

(For the record, not an american.)

Anonymous said...

And yet, somehow, people still trust the Republicans on "National Security."

On one level, the retired generals speaking up are as irrelevant as any of the rest of us who've spoken up over the past six years. George W. Bush doesn't care what other people think, and values loyalty above all else. Pushing to remove Rumsfeld will just ensure he's kept around. Bush wouldn't accept Rumsfeld's resignation over Abu Ghraib and all the other torture (which Rumsfeld probably knew when he offered it) why on Earth would he ditch Rumsfeld now?

But as to the generals themselves, I have mixed feelings. I'm glad they're speaking up, but it's also kind of scary, because civilian control of the military is one of the keys of our country. But on the other hand, soldiers are required by military law to refuse illegal orders, which kind of implies they should have balked before. Though even then, it probably wouldn't have made any difference, and the Bushites would have just found a different, more enthusiastic general to screw up Iraq. But how many bad things have been done by good men who're going along and trying to pad the results of bad decisions? And their oaths are to the Constitution and the country, not to the men who happen to occupy the office now.

Although, I seem to recall a good bit of criticism of the Clintons from the military in the past.

And the fact that they have to speak out shows how pathetic the Democrats and the rest of the domestic opposition has been. All of the Democrats ran from the idea of opposing the war, and will probably do the same thing as Rove and Co. build up to attack Iran. For fear of being called "weak" or whatever. Instead of standing up and saying "No. This is wrong, and stupid, and bad for the country, and we don't trust you to do it properly, even if it WAS necessary. Which it's not."

So, mixed feelings all around. A number of my friends are ex-military, though just "grunts" for the most part, and none of them are favorable to the Administration, either. One of them was planning to go career, before Iraq, and changed his mind.

I don't know. I'm certainly not going to chase anybody who could be handy out in a time like this, but on the other hand, there's definitely a sense of "What took so long, and why not when it might have mattered?"

As for McCain, I have no trust for him. He's given himself over to the Bushes and the fundies. Claims of being "maverick" or talking about "integrity" while he's been protecting and promoting the incompetents and criminals in charge ring false. In some ways, I'm not sure merely purging the worst fanatics and criminals from the Republicans would save the party, because their worst instincts and lies have become part of the Republican Party platform and ideology all the way down. Would taking out the worst at the top just leave a gap for new Bushes and Cheneys and Falwells and Roves to grow into? I can't say.

Anonymous said...


First: I've long felt that the Federal Government should get out of the marriage business. I feel there should be a law passed creating the legal status of "Civil Union" between two (or more) individuals, that would impart upon these people legal rights... ...Everyone will be equal under the law. The Churches can have their "pure and uncorrupted" form of marriage, but lose the government sanction of it...

I agree with you completely, with the possible exception that such a contract should not be possible between people already related to each other (such as siblings, parent/child, etc.) as that can lead to tax-avoidance (and possibly immigration or other laws) abuses above and beyond those already possible.

golob said...

"Few civilians can appreciate how difficult this step has been for military men who spent their professional lives steeped in a tradition of stoical, apolitical silence and submission to civilian authority. Reluctance to interfere in the nation’s political affairs. That tradition, virtually unprecedented in the history of armies and nations, should be revered and respected. It OUGHT to be hard for officers to do what these generals have done. That alone explains why their agonized decision took so long in coming."

Another fascinating post.

How seriously do you think this nearly unprecedented critique of a civilian administration by top military officiers threatens the tradition of civilain control of the military? Any responsible embrace of this development must do so with care to protect this tradition over all others. I may find Rumsfeld loathsome, but it doesn't change the fact that he is a part of an elected civilian administration.

If nothing else, this development really makes crystal clear just how badly things have gone...

Anonymous said...


How seriously do you think this nearly unprecedented critique of a civilian administration by top military officiers threatens the tradition of civilain control of the military?

First, a few notes: (AFAIK) The active generals in the military are not speaking out, nor are any of the generals who are making statements saying in any way that the orders, however stupid, should be ignored. There are a specific set of illegal orders that can be refused, and simply bad decisions don't count among them.

I'm fairly confident that the pendulum will swing long before things get so bad that we have to worry whether the military would follow the civillian leadership.

golob said...


First, a few notes: (AFAIK) The active generals in the military are not speaking out, nor are any of the generals who are making statements saying in any way that the orders, however stupid, should be ignored. There are a specific set of illegal orders that can be refused, and simply bad decisions don't count among them.

True enough that this has been an event of (recently) retired officiers.

Still it makes me wonder if directly critiquing the judgement and decisions of the civilian leadership (no matter how correct those critiques are) isn't the ideal or most effictive way for those in the military to describe their displeasure.

The major problem seems one of information disparity. These officiers have come to their conclusions on the basis of their experiences and judgement as to the status of the military. Wouldn't it be better to clearly and definitively state the facts of our present situation and let the public come to their own conclusions?

It's easier to accept the diagnosis when the doctor shares the test results. Wouldn't that situation be preferable to just being told the conclusion?

DoctorB said...

I know this is adding a tangent to Tangent's tangent, but its the second time I have heard this recently, so I want to ask the question.
My sister-in-law told me recently that she voted for Bush because Kerry would have been much worse. This sounds like a team-Republican looking for an excuse to go with their own team even when they know their leader is incompetent or worse.

So then. How SPECIFICALLY would Kerry have been WORSE than this inept/corrupt administration? Given his track record, his voting patterns (not the Republican caricature of them) and his platform, how could he have been worse?

It boggles my mind to try and come up with an administration with a worse combination of ideology, incompetence, corruption and bull-headedness.

Anonymous said...

In one case, a shrill blogger referred to these officers as “rats deserting a sinking ship.”

my exact thoughts, a day late and a dollar short.

A day late, and a dollar short indeed.

Which is why the Officer Corps is now having to cover the debt. The dangers of having the military directly involved in politics are well known (need I name countries starting with Imperial Rome?) - which is why it is a rule of the military to obey the chain of command and follow the civillian leadership. Having the military actively speaking out shows that every single mechanism to protect the military has effectively failed.

It isn't the military that's a dollar short.

Incidently, using the US army as an army of occupation is trying to hammer with a knife. It's the best force in the world at destroying things - and completely focussed on that.

(Incidently, an effective nail in the GOP coffin may be the final bankruptcy of GM - which is IIRC currently trading while insolvent (expenditure >> income and no realistic possibility of reversing this)).

Anonymous said...

"How SPECIFICALLY would Kerry have been WORSE than this inept/corrupt administration?"

For God's sake man, he surfboards!

Don Quijote said...

"How SPECIFICALLY would Kerry have been WORSE than this inept/corrupt administration?"

He looks french, what else is there to say.

He 's also a known liar and exaggerator who uses his three unearned purple hearts, his bronze and silver stars as proof of his courage and patriotism.

Don Quijote said...

Please don't blame the military for the civilian prison administration.


Who do you think was running Abu Graib? Who do you think is running Guantanamo? Who do you think was running Bagram AFB?

And don't tell me that it's just a few bad apples, cause it ain't!

There is no way in hell that the sergeants didn't know what their troops were doing, and there is also no way in hell that the Lieutenants and the captains did not know what their NCO's were doing.

And if they didn't, they are way to imcompetent to hold their positions and should be busted down to Privates.

Don Quijote said...

It isn't the military that's a dollar short.

I would ammend that statement to:It isn't only the military that's a dollar short.

The Democrats haven't covered themselves with glory either, to busy being Pragmatist Modernist attempting to find a third way and unwilling to stand up for their base or for any principle other than getting reelected.

And as for the voting public, well what can I say? Thyey have performed way below my very low expectations.

Don Quijote said...

I wanted Clinton to be impeached and evicted from the White House. I don't want my tax dollars to be paying for his retirement. I feel he was criminal and that he stained the White House with his lies and behavior.

Cause heaven forbid that we have President that gets a BJ while in the oval office, when we can have one who can get hundreds of thousands of people killed, lose three wars and destabilize an entire region of the Globe, not to mention destroying the Credit of the US and convincing every other human being on the Planet that the US is a dangerous rogue state.

Doesn't Clinton look better with every passing day?

David Brin said...

Loathe as I am to agree with Quijote (;-) especially after his derogation of the American voter just perfectly illustrated the kind of contempt for the masses that has DRIVEN many American voters away from liberalism...

I must join him in laughter over calling Bill Clinton a “criminal.”

Please, I am being cordial, but my God. Write down on a piece of paper what actual laws you are claiming that he broke, during 8 years! W’s people break that many during any given five minute period. (And BC’s lies did not get people killed.)

The proof is in the indictments. I grow tired of pointing this out, but the far right spent A BILLION DOLLARS (half of it taxpayer money) searching for a smoking gun to apply to the Clintons. A billion dollars and FOURTEEN YEARS!

During six of those years, the neocon lynch mob had access to every file cabinet in the entire executive branch. And don’t you believe for even a second that they didn’t go through those cabinets, frantically and eagerly, as soon as Bush took office, assigning the FBI and other agencies to spend tens of thousands of taxpaid man hours searching for Clintonite crimes to indict. (And please note, this was during the run-up to 9/11, when the FBI might have had better things to do and better tasks for those agents .)

We were promised indictments of the “most corrupt and criminal administration in US history. We were promised that “heads would roll.” Only then...

Um... After all of that time and effort, the total number of Clinton era officials indicted for malfeasance in the actual execution of their office has been... Zero. Compare this to the growing list of indicted Bushites DESPITE the breatest stonewall ever erected. (e.g. A total lack of subpoenas issued by congressional “ovbersight” committees.)

Please - there is ONE single trait that distinguishes a modenist from a self righteous political cultist. CAN you see evidence that is overwhelmingly counter to your expectations and actually (if grudgingly) change your mind?

I am asking it of liberals -- that they should reject their kneejerk reflexes and instead embrace the beleaguered Officer Corps. And I am asking it of conservatives, that they see how they were hoodwinked by Clinton-bashing and “liberal baiting” and acknowledge that it’s time to see that limbaugh-foisted scam for what it was.

You are being tested. Right now. Choose.

Golob: I share your concern. This event BRUISES the tradition of military apolitical stoicism and silent obedience to civilian authority. It can’t be helped, because that tradition is under vastly worse attack by the Cheneykleps.

Again, many of you miss my key point. These guys, and the folks at CIA, are our only real hope for free elections in November. Only they can put the word out to detect and stymie any Rovean “October Surprise” in time, bringing out the whistleblowers and blowing any scheme up in the perpetrators’ faces. We need these guys. We need them desperately.

(In fact, we always have.)

Please. All of you. Look up (google) something called the Order of Cincinnatus. If ever we needed to be reminded.

on another topic:W’s committment to returning to the Moon was EXACTLY the same as his committment to controlling our borders, enhancing military and civil readiness, researching energy solutions and balancing the budget.

I would not mind seeing the Libertarian Party replace the Republican Party on the so-called “right” - in part because they are the only party that ever asked me to deliver a keynote! ;-) But they are today, alas, pathetically marginalized by loony ideologues.

Tony Fisk said...

Of course the military have to be seen to be separate from politics, otherwise democracy will come to be perceived as a sham dependant on which way the gun barrel twitches. Think Indonesia. Think Fiji.
I think the US officer corps is well aware of this. So, for officers to be making any form of public criticism should be an indication of how deeply concerned they are, and why it has taken them so long to speak out.

October surprises....

Might I suggest that the more possible scenarios we can come up with, the less startling such 'surprises' might be.

Start thinking, folks. What might trigger such acts? What might we see as precursors? How might they identified? What forms might they take, and how might they be countered? (personally, I don't think the 'Iranians have WMD' scenario is going to cut it this time round. Been there, done that...)

Sure the 'crew cut caste' might be in the best position to deal with such nastinesses, but that doesn't mean they couldn't do with a bit of support.

Remember, civilisation isn't just something that belongs to somebody else!

Adrian Cotter said...

This month's Harper's Magazine has an interesting round table on "American Coup D'Etat" - miltary thinkers discuss the unthinkable -- essentially the use of the military corp for political purposes. Worth a read.

Don Quijote said...

Loathe as I am to agree with Quijote (;-)

Ouch, that must have really hurt.

especially after his derogation of the American voter just perfectly illustrated the kind of contempt for the masses that has DRIVEN many American voters away from liberalism...

Over 50 million people voted for GWB, when is the last time you've seen someone so obviously imcompetent? what else is there to say?

David Brin said...

TONS! Like the fact that at least TEN million would not have voted for him other than because Limbaugh-driven anti-Liberalism has a root REASON!

Yeah, 99% of what Limbaugh spews is lies, lies lies. But DEEP under it all, Red stateAmericans - rural and salt-of-the-Earth types - can feel the contempt that you openly and proudly drip.

Of course it is a vicious cycle. But a cycle that lefties have more than a minimal duty to break. And there are a thousand ways they could be breaking it. Only they won't. Because contempt is THE richest, most voluptuous drug.

And undeserved. Because EVEN the Red Staters are mostly far better people than we all were, forty years ago. More tolerant, less racist (by far) less sexist and better educated and worthy of respect.

Yes, I HATE what they are doing to this country. I sometimes feel tempted to change Red-Blue metaphors to Red-Gray... representing the fact that this sho do look like the Confederacy's revenge.

But dig it. THAT AIN'T HELPFUL! It is smug, delicious, satisfying... and I can't afford those satisfactions right now. Right now I need a big tent. I need one big enough to end this shit. REALLY end it. When we win in November IT MUST NOT BE THE BLUE STATE UNION CRUSHING THE CONFEDERACY.

It must be all of us, rising up, arresting a band of thieves, and then arguing sincerely, conservatives and liberals, how to resume moving forward again.

Anonymous said...

@ Quijote

Who do you think was running Abu Graib?

Exactly who I said was. There were other sentences in my post. Perhaps your knee jerked so hard you were incapable of reading them, so I'll sum up:

Civilian contractors from the Justice Department, including Lane McCotter, a man who had previously been forced out of the Prisons Bureaus of three states for his somewhat medieval theories on corrections that left a number of dead prisoners in his wake, were hired to oversee the transition of Iraqi and Afghan prisons to American "standards".

There's nothing going on in any of those prisons that doesn't happen on a daily basis in non-miltary domestic prisons. And it's going on because EXACTLY THE SAME PEOPLE are in charge.

If you want to be indignant about that, you should be angry at the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons, not the Army.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying in American prisons, prisoner abuse consists of (from wikipedia):

*Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees.
*Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair.
*Threatening male detainees with rape.
*Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.
*Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting and severely injuring a detainee.
*Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing.
*Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time.
*Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture.

Because I find that REALLY hard to believe. I'm not trying to be argumentative (blargumentative?), but it would be very scary if the Dept of Corrections thinks this isn't reprehensible, and that we (I) haven't heard about it through the assorted media.


David Brin said...

some quirky side items… followed by a rumination about “the Essential Man Syndrome.”

1. You should all have a look at a marvelous bit of modern paranoia at:

Please, do not assume that I endorse the position taken by these film makers. Indeed, I scratched my head, wondering exactly WHAT paranoid position they are taking. Who are they blaming? What? Why? It is too bizarre. (I can point out several flaws, but admit I am intrigued by other aspects.)

Still, what matters most is NOT the surface paranoic rave, but something implicit that runs throughout. The implicit issue of cameras. There will be more, and then more. And the underlying lesson, whether or not these people have a point, is that the dispersal of a myriad cams may be the very best thing to happen in the world.

Remember Ice Station Zebra? How the world feared that cameras in space would kill us all? When, in fact, they saved all of our lives.

2. Another fantastic paranoid riff can be seen at:

While one side is clearly vastly worse than the other, Andrew Love offers this comment, putting it in perspective of where indignation-addiction…

“My initial reaction was to share the outrage of those defending Pianka (it seems clear that he was grossly misquoted – and the idea that the speech as described by Mims would get a standing ovation is just silly), but after a while, I noticed that advocates for both sides seem to be actively seeking out statements to be outraged by – either to keep their own energy level up, or to mine for statements to take back to their colleagues as examples of the bad behavior of their opponents. There’s no question that one side is right here and one wrong, but both sides are enjoying themselves a little too much.”


ahhhh indignation...

But then is paranoia sometimes valid?

I am working on a story about an author who guesses so close to a dangerous secret that arrangements are made to poison him slowly... because a sudden deathh would give him too much suspicious credibility.

I'll be reporting on my health...

Don Quijote said...

TONS! Like the fact that at least TEN million would not have voted for him other than because Limbaugh-driven anti-Liberalism has a root REASON!

Yeah, 99% of what Limbaugh spews is lies, lies lies. But DEEP under it all, Red stateAmericans - rural and salt-of-the-Earth types - can feel the contempt that you openly and proudly drip.

And you claim that I hold the American voter in contempt.

(Incidently, an effective nail in the GOP coffin may be the final bankruptcy of GM - which is IIRC currently trading while insolvent (expenditure >> income and no realistic possibility of reversing this)).
Don't you know that it will be the fault of the UAW if GM goes down, certainly not the fault of the executives, nor that of the designers, engineer, marketers, etc who actually made the long list of poor decisions that got the company where it is today.

The right will blame it all on the Unions, and the Pragmatist Modernist will go along whith them.

David Brin said...

Somebody else tell me (I can't trust myself). Does it remotely look like Quijote has a clue what he read, or what he was responding to? What a non sequitur!

Don Quijote said...

Does it remotely look like Quijote has a clue what he read, or what he was responding to? What a non sequitur!

You claim that I hold the American Voter in comtempt, which I don't deny, but then you turn around and claim that a single individual who has a crappy Radio show, is a known liar and drug user can get more than enough voters to vote for his favored candidate to change the outcome of an election. Now that's having a pretty low opinion of you fellow citizens.

Anonymous said...


Who gets the blame for GM going down will effectively depend on who was in power when it collapsed. If it's in this year, the 'Pubs will get the blame for tanking the economy (and with good reason) - people will remember that it was much better under the Dems, even if the left gets the blame for GM in specific. (And the GM jobs bank is pretty crippling even if it took both sides to make the agreement...)

David, Don,

Don't make me try to bang heads together again, please. Neither of you are exactly fond of those who disagree with you and both of you tend to be certain that you are right. You both have some good points to make. And from what I can tell, your disagreement isn't one about goals so much as methods.

Anonymous said...

Greetings and Salutations.

Speaking of Military Men, I have seen no discussion concerning a group of Democrats calling themselves "The Band of Brothers": Fifty- five retired career officers running for House and Senate seats this cycle. There seems to be a news black out on these men, which takes a whole lot of mojo, and is indicative of fear.

I dont think the Blue Bloods and there guard dogs in the Republican Party have missed the allusion to "The Order of Cincinattus" in respect to these men. In fact, I can say with some certainty the allusion was intended, as are the implications that come with it.