The myth of George Bush' s national security "leadership"
For months I have used my blog to criticize the Bush Administration's disastrous decision to invade Iraq and its subsequent mismanagement of the occupation. I have also argued that the Administration is wasting billions of dollars to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, which most prominent scientists believe is worthless, and to develop highly-advanced weapon systems whose requirement is questionable. Meanwhile, it has failed to sufficiently supply the troops in Iraq with such an obvious item as armor for military vehicles.
Growing numbers of top-level military officers, who are no longer on active service, are now confirming my argument about the Bush Administration's military blunders. For example, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week that he regrets not challenging the decision to invade Iraq "whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--Al Qaeda." He retired, he said, because he opposed "those who used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy."
"A fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, Al Qaeda, became a secondary effort," Gen. Newbold wrote in a Time Magazine essay. "We must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one [harking back to Vietnam] and then mismanage it."
Gen. Newbold's criticism is echoed by other high-ranking retired officers such as Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who formerly led the military's Central Command, which was responsible for Middle East operations. These critics regard the Iraq invasion as a strategic mistake that took the focus off the real war on terrorism.
I claim no professional military expertise, unless I can take the liberty of citing my experience as an Army staff sergeant during World War II. But I have credentials that do give me some credibility to critique the Bush Administration and its disastrous decision to invade Iraq and its subsequent mismanagement of the occupation.
For a decade during the 1950s and early 1960s, I was a journalist specializing in defense affairs. I covered the Pentagon as a Business Week correspondent, reporting on Secretaries of Defense Charles Wilson, onetime CEO of General Motors; Neal McElroy, former CEO of Procter & Gamble; and Robert McNamara, onetime CEO of Ford Motor Co.
Donald Rumsfeld, the current Defense Secretary, was formerly CEO of G.D. Searle & Co., a major pharmaceutical company, and of General Instrument Co. His performance overseeing the operations in Iraq reinforces my belief that former CEOs of major corporations are not necessarily the best candidates to head the Pentagon. Perhaps the U.S. ought to emulate Israel, whose ministers of defense are invariably retired generals.
The greatest political irony of the past decade is that George W. Bush was elected twice to be President largely because he was viewed as being "strong on defense." Those who voted for him apparently regarded his opponents, Al Gore and John Kerry, both Vietnam war veterans (in contrast to Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney, both Vietnam draft-dodgers), as being "weak on defense." I never could figure out the basis for this foolish assumption.
In any event, our commander-in-chief has brought us to a situation in which young Army officers are leaving the service at a high rate, where recruitment of enlisted personnel is slowing, where increasing numbers of top brass are calling for Rumsfeld to resign as Defense Secretary, and our military capabilities have been seriously diminished. This is the record of a President who is "strong on defense"?