The Generals Speak Out
You may have noticed that six retired Army Generals have begun calling for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. That's more than a little unusual. First of all, the U.S. military is entirely wedded to the idea of civilian control. Publicly 'defaming' the Commander-in-Chief, or any civilian superior is a court martial offense. And I like it that way. It doesn't take a very long look around the world to see a bunch of countries that are, or recently have been, run by military juntas. They're all pretty screwed up. Granted that may be what led to some military coups, but the truth is this, military coups are rarely good for democracy, or the country. So I like their willing submission..
But the experience of Nazi Germany proved there may be a point where the Generals have to say 'no'. Somewhere short of Auschwitz. But exactly where to draw that line is a very murky thing indeed. Many of us on the left, at least those of us who actually know something about war and the Middle East, have long known that the Bush Administration tendency to push aside an bad news on its way to creating it's own New World Order. Not too mention a few instances of petty revenge on the way. They got rid of a number of Generals who dared 'caution' them too loudly, and Rumsfeld is notorious for using bullying management techniques to get you going where he wants to lead. The problem is that Rumsfeld was a low-ranking Air Force officer, and air operations are very different than combat on the ground. Particularly a military occupation. HIs many statements make it very clear that he in no way took seriously the idea that we'd face an insurrection after 'major combat operations' ended. He in no way took seriously the ethnic divisions of Iraq, which have fed that conflict, but in some ways made the occupation possible in that we started out with only one of three ethnic groups displeased at events. The post-war planning was botched in the most incredible ways.
A lot of General Officers feel as though they should have pushed harder back then. They themselves aren't sure how hard, but they do feel remorse over simply accepting a civilian control that had no respect for sound military advice.
Now there is talk of war against Iran. Some of it may be bluster (on both sides) but if you're the Iranian leader who hates all things Western war looks like a better deal for you than us. We've already proved that we don't have enough troops to occupy Iraq, which is far easier than Iran for many reasons. If we stick to air strikes alone, the best we can hope for is to delay an Iranian nuclear program, all while pushing Iran's largely pro-American populace into the arms of the mullahs, making Iran a leader in the Islamic world (so far as any Shi'ite can lead a bunch of Sunnis) and making everyone in Iran forget the country's many problems. Not to mention that any war or strike will probably lead to an oil shortage, which will hit America very hard in the pocket book. Maybe enought to cause another sharp recession.
To put it simply, Iran has a lot less to lose than we do, and a lot more to gain.
But as Seymour Hersh revealed in The New Yorker, the Bush Administration is thinking about using tactical nuclear weapons to bust underground bunkers in Iran. No doubt nukes would make the purely military planning easier. But the generals are almost to a man against it. That's because they know that the entire world will see it not as a tactical decision, but a decision by America to attack a much smaller country whom it is not fighting with nuclear weapons.
And if Hersh is right, and he certainly is a lot more believable than anyone in the Bush Administration, the civilians are keeping this in the package.
Okay, maybe this is part of an elaborate game of chicken. But 'chicken' only works when the other guy has as much to lose as you. If he has a martyrdom complex, or certain he will benefit from a crash, is they kind of person you don't want to plame that game against. I think the Iranians think they will win any confrontation in the long run, no matter what happens in the short term.
So my guess is, and it is only a guess, is that many of the generals are coming forward now in part to derail the Administration's Iran policy. After all, Iraq is a done deal. When we broke it back in 2003 we bought it and nothing can undo that. Either we find a face saving exit, or we face naked defeat. But Iran might still be prevented. If you take down Rumsfeld, Bush might face enough congressional pressure to appoint someone with actual common sense. Someone who might actually listen to the Generals before we're committed to battle.
That might actually insert a bit of reality into the fantasy world of George W. Bush.