May 18, 2006 3:44 pm


I am writing in the hope of lowering my blood pressure. Islamists around the world are on a rampage and all the media focus is on retired generals who did not dare confront their superiors or even tell the truth to the president when asked to do so in the most direct manner.

I have called for Rumsfeld's replacement months ago but that is besides the point. For the generals to attack the Secretary of Defense on the issue of troop numbers in Iraq in 2003 is ridiculous. I want to know whether they think we need more troops in Iraq today or tomorrow. To hear two and three star generals whine that Rumsfeld is too intimidating causes one to ask who else can so easily intimidate them? Are we talking perhaps of the insurgents, Ahmadinejad, Assad Fils, the North Korean or China? Imagine being a soldier who has served under the command of so easily intimidated a general. Their retired generals' contention that they are speaking for their active duty colleagues merely makes matters worse.

On This Week Joe Klein, whom no one can accuse of being a Bush fan, said that Bush repeatedly asked the generals in Iraq if they had everything they needed and they repeatedly assured him they did. But when Jerry Bremer asked them what they would do with an additional division, they said, we'd clear Baghdad. Excuse me? The American army in Iraq does not have a single general with enough guts to respond to the president's question with"depends on what you want us to do?"

Sorry, guys, civil control of the military is not our problem. Gutless military leadership is.

For General Pace's response click here.

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Barry DeCicco - 4/24/2006

Judith, if you perhaps were to check the actual history, Shinseki did. Rumsfield f*cked with him; the rest got the message.

The results are clear by now; that's also history.

Barry DeCicco - 4/24/2006

Why should people care? Take your favorite blogs, scroll back to their archives from the first few months of 2003, and see how well they've aged.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 4/24/2006

My problem is not with generals who refuse to accomodate unrealistic demands. My problem is with generals who claim that they are too intimidated to tell the President of the Secretary of State that the demands ARE unrealistic.

J.R. Clark - 4/24/2006

Dr. Klinghoffer,

I think something is wrong within the Bush administration, not within the military leadership.

For a US Army officer, a theater, corps, or division command in combat is near the pinnacle of a military career and represents a possible golden ticket punch to the JCS. When 3-and 4-stars balk and drag their heels in response to the administration it probably means that either Bush or Rumsfeld are pressuring the generals to achieve some unrealistic objective.

Thank goodness the Army doesn't have a modern-day "can-do, gung ho, how high sir?" general in 2006 Iraq/Afghanistan like William C. Westmoreland was in 1966 Vietnam.

Hemlock for Gadflies - 4/20/2006

Judy Judy Judy. How easy it must be to sit on your ass in New Jersey while men -- real men -- go to fight your neoconservative battles for you. I was one of those men -- so thanks for shitting on my leaders. You know, the ones who kept me alive in combat?

By the way -- besides wearing out caps on your teeth with your incessant and inane chatter, what have you done for the war lately?

Michael Roetzel - 4/20/2006

Nothing like a sentitious fool to rush to pass judgment on what other people should have done, and thoughtlessly insult them to boot. The lack of understanding and reasonableness in this post is astonishing. At the least, you might have addressed some of the generals' stated reasonings for why they waited. Instead, you merely produced straw men. More than mendacious, it's shoddy writing. Even high schoolers are taught to produce a defense for the criticized position.

DR - 4/20/2006

No one can call Joe Klein a Bush fan?

Change that to "No conservative will can call Joe Klein a Bush fan", because most of us non-conservatives despise Joe Klein and his Bush-enabling rhetoric.

Kubelsitz Kommando - 4/20/2006

Did Professor Klinghoffer wear one of those Purple Heart bandages at the RNC meetings? We've had the opportunity to have a real military veteran in the White House twice and were shot down by right wing supreme court justices, corrupted voting processes, and the incipient racism of the disaffected and frightened midleid. The Professor will no doubt recall the wonders of the Weimar period in Germany and perhaps ponder the parallels to the Reichstag fire warmly with a glass of brandy by the fire with the Horst Wessel Leid on infinite repeat in the background. These few brave men are what stand between the last shreds of our republican representative democracy and the neofeudal oligarchy of the inherited wealth classes.

merlallen - 4/20/2006

The generals are gutless? How brave are you sitting back taking cheap shots?

idahogie - 4/20/2006

They weren't intimidated--they were overruled. The administration was too worried about making this adventure look like a cakewalk to be honest about the number of troops, the investment, and the time required.

anon - 4/19/2006

Wow, Djeranian has really taken you down. What a fucking gutless pig you are.

You should sign up or shut up.

JF - 4/19/2006

Some of the generals speaking up now lead our troops into some of the most dangerous missions of this war. Glad to see the brave Perfessor Klinghoffer at the ready to spit in their faces when they return from the battlefront.

Richard DiMatteo - 4/19/2006

This will be brief. For you, a person with a cushy professor gig, safely behind your keyboard, to even use the word cowardly and the names men who have led soldiers into some of the most dangerous ground on this planet is at once ignorant, soulless and utterly without a shred of class or decency.

MarkD - 4/19/2006

If there was a point to the previous comment "gutless generals", it escapes me.

If you mean that civilians are not qualified to comment on military affairs, you might want to think long and hard about the "junta of the month" form of government. I prefer our tradition, thank you.

Being former military, I like to think I have some experience. There are good generals and there are bad generals. There are corrupt and abusive generals. There are political generals. Given a large enough sample, you get pretty near all kinds - I will concede that the qualifications likely weed out the insane and psychopaths.

So we have a few yes men with inflated egos who don't like Rumsfeld. Tough. And we have a lot of generals who know that the next star depends on luck and ability and standing out from the crowd and not ticking off the promotion board.

So some of these guys retired, then think they are still right and should be calling the shots. Surprised? I'm not. Read Britt Hume's takedown of Zinni with his own words and tell me why I should care?

aeolius - 4/19/2006

When you know more of tactics then a novice in a nunnery...

Ari Tai - 4/18/2006

I've seen this behavior before. An less-than-friendly corporate takeover. The new leadership brings in just a few people (into an organization that clearly has shed most of its "A" class people, else they'd be the predator) and then close-coaches the rest of the leadership team, sorting the wheat from the chaff and demanding intellect and judgement from those that remain.

Time will tell. It'll be another 40-50 years before we get a dispassionate history written of this era.

blaster - 4/18/2006

I used to participate in a discussion list for West Point graduates.

I heard the complaints about Secretary Rumsfeld a long time ago, and I made the very same point - flag officers can't take the heat of *questions* from the SecDef?

And I had the same answer - the problem was officers without courage of their convictions.

David Thomson - 4/18/2006

“I have called for Rumsfeld's replacement months ago”

You have made a good case why Donald Rumsfeld should have been removed months ago. However, that time is long gone. John Podhoretz is right---Rumsfeld’s resignation now would effectively destroy the Bush presidency. The Democrats would use it to end the war in Iraq. No, he must stay.