The new Joint Chiefs chairman should strive for independent thinking

tags: Obama, Joint Chiefs chairman, Joseph Dunford

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing writer to Opinion.

President Obama has nominated Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford waged war effectively in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But it's one thing to be a battlefield commander, even a four-star theater commander, and another thing to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs — a job that is more political than strictly military.

What kind of chairman will he be? History suggests that he will struggle to make his mark.

The chairman is not in the chain of command, which runs from the president to the secretary of Defense to combatant commanders, but he is in a position of great potential influence as the president's primary military advisor and liaison between the armed forces and the White House. Yet few chairmen have wielded their office's influence effectively.

Army Gen. Earle “Bus” Wheeler, chairman from 1966 to 1970, was typical. Along with the other chiefs at the time, he had considerable misgivings about how the Vietnam War was being conducted but he never effectively stood up to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. There was talk of the chiefs resigning en masse in protest, but such talk fizzled along with their authority.

Similar ineffectuality characterized Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who served as chairman from 2001 to 2005, and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman from 2005 to 2007. Their tenures covered the Iraq War, when U.S. armed forces were in danger of suffering their greatest defeat since Vietnam. Yet neither of them spoke out against the failed policies pursued by their military colleagues and by their boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. ...

Read entire article at The Los Angeles Times

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