Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The World According to Melvin Laird

NixonlairdWhat an interesting rebuttal Karl Rove mounted to the current flap over Donald Rumsfeld’s ability or lack thereof to run the Pentagon.


84 year old Melvin Laird dragged out of mothballs, Nixon’s Secretary of Defense before Nixon got shamed out of office, something in today’s ambiguous world that seems an act of simpler times. Is it possible we used to have some degree of moral power over our elected presidents and co-conspirators?


One can imagine the call to arms.

Mel, Donald needs you. Mel, wake up, you remember Donald Rumsfeld, the guy Nixon had around all the time. What? No, Bob Pursley will write it, Mel, just say he’s doing a fine job. No, not Pursley, Rumsfeld, Mel. Get your head together.

So goes the reach back to a discredited administration to shore up a discredited administration. What goes ‘round, comes ‘round.


Laird’s op-ed piece is appropriately titled, Why Are They Speaking Up Now? and asserts the “retired general officers who have recently called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld want to convince the public that civilian control has silenced military wisdom regarding the war in Iraq.”


Genjohnbatiste_3That’s not what I read of it, Mel, but then all you Nixon guys seem to have a hard time with certain flavors of reality. Major General John Batiste claims “a pattern of poor strategic decisions and a leadership style that is contemptuous, dismissive, arrogant and abusive.” Doesn’t sound to me like anyone was silenced, they were merely overruled with contempt and disastrous results.


You rather charmingly propose “the important time for them to weigh in was while they were on active duty.” I know we've interrupted your nap, Mel, but they did that and were ignored.


When civilian leadership gives direct orders to the military, the military salutes and executes. Didn’t they explain that to you when you were in the Secretary’s chair? It’s called chain-of-command and the top part is the President, who this morning simply said

“I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.”

That particular form of Nixon-before-the-fall arrogance is what Batiste and the other generals are disputing and, quite properly, they have chosen to dispute it from outside the military, from retirement. You continue, Mel,

“For them to now imply otherwise is disingenuous and quite possibly harmful for our prospects in Iraq. And it misrepresents the healthy give-and-take that we are confident is widespread between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the capable military hierarchy.”

Hello. Earth to Mel. They have not implied otherwise, but if you are ‘confident’ that a healthy give and take exists between Rumsfeld and senior officers, then you must have been off somewhere fly-fishing for the past four years. This Secretary of Defense has gloried in his personal power, asserting it publicly and driving out dialog until he arrived at his present Joint Chiefs yes-man, General Peter Pace.


RumsfeldpaceWhen Rumsfeld called a press conference, Pace stood at his side, interrupting to answer questions asked of Rummy. One wonders when press secretary became one of the duties of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but then all things are possible in an administration born of and reaching-back to Nixon.

“But ultimately, and rightly, our system leaves the final decisions to the elected civilians and their appointees.”

Elected officials like whom, Mel? Like Dick Nixon? Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condi and George, the architects of this disaster who claim omnipotence while the bits and pieces are falling on their (and our) heads?

“Access by the military through the Joint Chiefs of Staff structure and especially through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is frequent and influential,” Laird writes.

Unless of course the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is otherwise busy serving as press secretary.
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Read more of my musings on the war in Iraq at my personal web site.