Sunday, October 19, 2008
Night Of The Generals
Who was the worst general in American History? There are a lot of candidates. Even the brilliant generals like Lee, Patton and Sherman made mistakes. But there are generals who only made mistakes, generals whose actions prolonged wars, increased casualties and created future problems.
Some people say that George Washington was an incompetent general. He lost battle after battle but the effect of his staying in the field was that he won the war. His tactics against a well disciplined enemy could raise some questions but his strategy was a winner. He had the strength of character to keep the entire enterprise from going on the rocks and the image of him standing strong led, in the end, to his opponents realizing that they could never win and that any resources that they spent trying to hold on to their American Colonies were wasted.
Usually George McClelland is cited as the worst general in American History. With good reason. In the peninsular campaign he had a 4-1 advantage over Lee and ended up running with his tail between his legs. After the bloody collision at Antietam, when Lee was wounded and trapped on the wrong side of the Potomac McClelland could have finished him off and ended the war. Lincoln was so furious he fired him. The strategic effect of McClelland's blunder was that the war continued three more years and the South was totally destroyed. But McClelland built the Army Of The Potomac from nothing and in the end that led to the defeat of Lee and the Union Victory.
But there is one general who has been consistently wrong at every step of his career as a general. the long-term effects of his foolish decisions have included the destrustion of ten percent of the office space in New York City and the felony conviction of a totally innocent man.
What did Powell's decisions have to do with 9/11? Think back to the attack on our marines in Beirut. First of all Powell and his mentor Casper Weinburger put those brave men in the middle of a chaotic war between some of the most murderous and crazed fanatics in history. One of those factions was Hezbollah. Hezbollah found some deranged lunatic and got him behind the wheel of a truck filled with explosives which he rammed into the Marine barracks causing 350 or so deaths. This was after the US Embassy had been similarly attacked a week before with 50 deaths. That the Marines hadn't been dispersed in the face of this is another thing that should be charged to the leading military commander in this age of micromanagement.
But then the terrorists struck. The panic in Washington was sickening to behold. A female Senator, whose name I forget, was sobbing into the microphone bawling that we had to get our people out of there! It was like watching a pack of chickens react to the entry of a rattlesnake into their coup. Even Reagan was stunned and slow to react, partly because he had Powell and Whine-burger moaning in his ear about disengagement. The only thing on anybody's mind was avoiding additional casualties.
In Baalbek and the Bekaa Valley they waited for the waves of B-52's which they expected to arrive at any moment to send their seedy Islamic butts to paradise. But the azure blue skies never were filled with a rain of 2000 lb bombs. The people who were proposing making Beirut uninhabitable by bombing every power plant, water pumping station and bridge in the area were just spouting hot air. The battleship New Jersey showed up a few weeks later and lobbed a few shells into the mainly Druze villages on the coastal mountainsides but the fact that Hezbollah continued to exist and thrive instead of being a broken remnant counting its losses in the ruined moonscape of the Bekaa Valley was a message to terrorists everywhere that they could kill Americans with impunity because we were so terrified of casualties and bad publicity that we would never use our awesome firepower to any effect regardless of the provocation.
When it came to moving in for the kill in Iraq in 1991 it was the same story. Swartzkopf asked for one more day to finish off the Republican Guards. He didn't get it. The symbolism of a 100 Hour War and Powell's aversion to further Iraqi casualties drove the decision to let the remaining Republican Guard units escape the trap and survive to suppress the Shi'ite rebellion. Powell then stood silent while several hundred thousand Shi'ite civilians were slaughtered by the people he was so merciful to.
Somalia, same story. The death and mutilation of our Rangers didn't provoke a devastating response, just more sniveling and hand-wringing. The Powell Doctrine was a message to Osama Bin Laden that the sky was the limit. The cowardly west would absorb blow after blow and the Powell Doctrine, without Powell in command, ruled the day. The only response to these horrible terrorist attacks were a couple of random cruise-missile strikes and a feeble bombing of Baghdad timed to politically benefit the embattled Clinton Administration.
As Secretary Of State Powell made one of his worst mistakes when a group of Venezuelan military officers arrested Hugo Chavez. Powell insisted that the 'democratically elected leader' of Venezuela be released...condemning the officers who arrested him to exile or prison and condemning the Venezuelan people to a brutal dictatorship which is impoverishing them and actively acting against democracy in the region. Once again Powell's actions aided an enemy of our country to survive and flourish.
Then we have Powell, feeling aggrieved that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 happened in spite of the year and a half of diplomatic fiddling around and that his name was attached to it. He resigned with bitter feelings against the Bush Administration for linking his good name to what had become an unpopular policy amongst his inside-the-beltway social circuit. He directed his minion, Richard Armitage, to start blabbing around to journalists that the lying scumbag Joe Wilson was married to a CIA agent named Valerie Plame who had possibly been the reason that Wilson was sent on his mission to Niger. Then, in one of the great non-coincidences of history, Upchuck Schumer, the most baldly partisan Senator in the Senate, called for an investigation into whether karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the White House were behind the leak.
Powell sat there for two years, while a totally innocent man was convicted on a process crime based on the perjury of a liberal journalist, silent; knowing that the original leak and all the coverage in the press had been generated by his own man. It is the most disgusting and dishonorable act, an act seeking to sabotage the policies of a sitting president and land his innocent associates in prison, that has ever been committed by any American general in history. It was pure spite and bile.
That's the inner soul of this timid and incompetent general. His record of misjudgement is long and our country has paid a very high price for his 'leadership'. Maybe he was to be expected from the Vietnam Era officer corps who saw their military victory in Vietnam turned into a political defeat and vowed that they would never be hung out to dry like that again. Their criteria for using force was so cramped and narrow that it almost negated any military advantage in capability that the US had by convincing our adversaries that we would never use it. Bush and Rumsfeld have altered this a tiny bit, and a whole new group of officers are emerging from our actions in the War On Terror who can take pride in their accomplishments and treat the media with the contempt they deserve. Maybe, if the military survives the coming national bankruptcy, the damage of the Powell Doctrine can be reversed but the author of that doctrine will always be a figure of contempt and a symbol of prevarication and indecision. The Plame Affair showed Powell to be a man of dishonor and to have have the self-centered soul of a political bureaucrat, not the honor of a general. That this man's endoesement is seen as lending 'military credibility to the anti-military Obama clique is an example of whats in store if BHO is elected.