Friday, April 14, 2006

The Turncoat Generals: Et tu, Brutus?

They ought to be ashamed, these former military men, with their blabbing mouths and lack of discretion.

CNN is reporting the fifth, or perhaps the sixth, retired general to come forth and complain about Rumsfeld. You have to wonder about their sense of honor. In what was a very self-revealing remark, one of these worthies was quoted by The Washington Post recently:

Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, said he believes that his peer group is "a pretty closemouthed bunch" but that, even so, his sense is "everyone pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out."

This bunch of talking heads, wanting face time on television, are a disgrace. They undermine the men they left behind and they ought to be told so. “Closemouthed bunch” indeed.

Colonel John Boyd used to tell those in the Pentagon that he mentored that they would reach a point in their lives where they would have to decide to do something or to be somebody. If they wanted to do, they could give up the track for a general's star. But they could rest assured they would be making a real contribution rather than just being part of the pack in "The Building" -- as he termed the Pentagon.

is part of a testimony to Colonel Boyd:

a man who, as a full colonel, went toe to toe, time after time, with a phalanx of two-and three-star generals for the good of the country, winning most of his battles and surviving long enough to help provide secretary of defense Richard Cheney the ideas needed for swift and decisive victory in the Persian Gulf War. ("Keep it simple - so that the generals will understand it," Boyd frequently told his small band of fellow guerrillas, known collectively as "The Acolytes.")

Boyd was, in the words of Pierre Sprey - a Pentagon "Whiz Kid" who became a close friend and advocate of the colonel and eulogized him that wintry morning five years ago - one of the rare few who were "defined by the courts-martial and investigations they faced." He also was, biographer Robert Coram tells Insight, "the most important unknown man of his time and the most remarkable unsung hero in American military history."

Read the rest of "How Colonel Boyd Beat the Generals" (linked above) and realize how superfluous most of these glory boys are.

Boyd was a contrarian genius who changed warfare. This opportunistic bunch are collecting their pensions and betraying the men they led and their former boss. Of course they’re doing it from the safety of their armchairs under the bright TV lights.

Book deals, anyone?


Francis W. Porretto said...

Colonel Boyd is one of my personal heroes -- I'm in the aerospace game -- and the country has suffered badly for his demise. If all he'd ever done was to compose the energy-maneuver theory of air combat, it would be more than enough for awards and plaudits galore, but that was just where he started. No one ever did more for military aviation, or the men who pilot America's warplanes, than John Boyd. Rest in peace, Colonel.

Dymphna said...

Amen to that, Mr. Paretto. He is also one of my heroes.

I think his personal life was hell sometimes, but his devotion to his craft and to his fellows was exceptional. That's why, seven years after he's gone, we still feel the loss.

He proved you *can* buck the system and he didn't mind paying the price. I don't think his family was so sanguine about it, though.

Still and all, he was a man of courage and honor. That's why he was loved -- and hated.

I think the comparison people make to Sun Tzu is correct.

Isn't it amazing how many applications have been found for his ideas?

hank_F_M said...


If I may present a different perspective.

There are several issues here that get intertwined but an effort should be made to keep them separate.

Since it is a basic principle that the military is subordinate to civilian control, there is a long tradition of officers who followed the orders of the civilian leadership while in uniform and when they retired they offered a rather negative assessment of the orders and leadership. There has been a constant stream of this since Rumsfeld became SDEF. What annoys me is not that they are exercising their rights of free speech but that they are allowing themselves to be used for a political agenda that if it came to power would be worse for the armed forces than they are accusing Rumsfeld.

There are lots of legitimate questions about Rumsfeld’s management of the department. Agree or disagree there is some opinion that what was done in Iraq was more despite his leadership than because of it. Disagree with them if you wish, but don’t disparage the fact that want the Presidents policies in the Middle East to succeed. Certainly the left is not presenting a credible alternative.

Has the Baron ever explained spaghetti code programming versus structured top down programming. Rumsfeld is “spaghetti code” person; the difference is that with a genius level IQ he can get away with it for a lot longer than I could.

For one thing he does not seem to think personnel management out more than six months. People enlist for 2, 3 or 4 years. Individual training takes three months and unit training six months. The Navy Times has an article about sailors deploying to Afghanistan as ground troops. I have no doubt they will do a good job but why not the Marines or the Army. Because he needs more ground troops and past short term decisions and the resulting political commitments leave him in position where he can’t politically expand the ground services.

When he came to office he had a commitment for a SDI program. With which I have no objection. But ground based air defense is in the Army (because the Air Force refused take it in 1945.) Rumsfeld advocated an eight division army, mostly I think to fund the SDI program by reallocating funds. To work, this would require a large reduction in commitments. The administration also came to office saying that Clintons 10 division Army was to small for the commitment given it and that it was a hollow Army. Most people expected a modest increase in end strength and/or reduction in commitments. By November 2001 it was pretty obvious that for at least 5 or 10 years we would have additional commitments above a 10 division Army. (My estimate was and still is 2 new Army Divisions and new Marine division.) For at least a year after 9/11 he was still pushing for an eight division Army. The latest plans still do not call for an active duty staffing to support the commitments we know we will have. It has been one short term decision after another until he has to raid the Navy to provide ground troops. And we are not talking about cost savings here, current law gives him the ability for a temporary expansion of the armed forces no more expense than the incremental costs of the extra troops. The constant use of the reserves to maintain the active strength levels after the time needed for a post 9/11 transition period is leaving the reserves in the position that they are too committed to be a reserve force to handle unexpected requirements in places like Iran, Korea and elsewhere.

To be fair to him, he has learned in office. He has gotten the civilian bean counters off the military services backs so that reforms that have been advocated in the Armed forces since at least the 1980’s could be implemented. And certainly he is the best SECDEF than we have had since Clintons first one was fired/quit in disgust.

Another issue on the national political is the left is trying to use legitimate questions about his tenure as a means to attack the President and US policy. The cynical use of militray policy issues is discusting. The worst thing that could happen is to have him forced out because of opposition political pressure.

Given the political consequences of his being forced out it is probably best to keep him, but we should not quash legitimate discussion of his policies.

Baron Bodissey said...

Hank_F_M --

Since you invoke me, I appear. Structured top-down programming is definitely the way to go. Sphaghetti is what you want to avoid.

But you want to know something I've learned in 30+ years of programming? There's almost nothing but spaghetti programming out there, at least in the places I have dealt with. Everything is a kloodge. The careful modular coding is the exception.

I think it's because no place can ever budget enough money to do the job right, and everything has to be done by yesterday. Don't sweat the niceties; just code something that will work and get it distributed, for cryin' out loud.

So maybe the DD is the same way.

Dymphna said...


A very good analysis. You really took apart the issues and allowed them to be seen.

These guys aren't doing this. And there are retired generals who don't dislike Rumsfeld but they don't get invited to the party.

In addition, non-flag rank and file officers still serving find these guys abominable, which might be part of what you're saying.

Given the intricacies of this war, the long learning curve for any SecDef who is actually involved in a foreign war -- never mind two theatres simulataneously -- it would be the depth of stupidity to get rid of him.

I find it hard to take Bush's socialist domestic programs but if he jettisons his civilian military leader at this late date, there won't be much left to salvage. I hope he realizes that.

Bush's warm endorsement of Rumsfeld does not reassure me of his intentions.

I have no intention of attempting to quash the armchair generals. I just plan to call them what they so obviously are. Men of principle do not act like this.

Have they acquired the Carter/Clinton syndrome? once out you can fire off your mouth anytime you want without regard for the consequences of what you say...thus Clinton praising Syria at Davos.

These men are cut from the same mold.

geoffgo said...

Lack of discretion, perhaps why the generals retired as soon as the adults arrived? Usually, such tactlessness is observed early in one's career. How did they get to star-level, when their deficiencies should have been so obvious, for so long? Notice no serving 4-stars are speaking out. Either the active duty folks disagree with the press-enabled dagger-wielders, or they're all just complicit.

geoffgo said...


It seems to me the view from the top, was/is simple.

Nuke = no troops, some testing and analysis NGOS
Heavy conventional = some troops, many NGOs

I don't hear any of these retired generals saying we prosescuted this wrong, because we didn't use enough force.

Given the truly awesome perfomance that was OIF, all they can be sayin' is: "Doing it my way we may have lost X% fewer troops (bless them all)(which should be evaluated), or lost XX% less material, or 2 fewer choppers, or we would have arrived at point Romeo two days sooner.

Pretty lame, given they complain about the SecDef/Admin, from the comfort of a flag-grade retirement.

It's not as if any of them had a solution to IEDs, VBIEDs, or suicide bombers, which have killed many more troops than AK-47 fire, or RPG fire. Spit.