Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Will Anyone call out Republicans for their Dishonesty with Commanders on the Ground?

One of the commonly repeated tropes in the Republican Debates in regards to the military is the desire to "listen to Commanders on the ground." Presumptive Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney frequently repeated this in regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Pizza Mogul Herman Cain went so far as to say he didn't need to know anything about foreign policy as long as he had good advisers. This trend did not begin with the 2011-2012 Republican Presidential cycle. During the deepest dregs of the Iraq War, President George W. Bush said "“Troop levels will be decided by our commanders on the ground, not by political figures in Washington, D.C.”

There are many issues with this concept of simply deferring to the generals or military leaders. First and foremost is the fact that the President serves as Commander in Chief and is the ultimate decision-maker in any military issue. Second of all, the concept of simply listening to commanders can lead to the military controlling foreign policy without any checks and balances. However, if one is to take Conservatives at their word, it is clear that they have not followed their own platitudes in the past and are more than willing to ignore them when it comes to Iran.

The most classic example of this comes with the build up to the Iraq War. As the Bush Administration hocked that Saddam Hussein was in the process of building Weapons of Mass Destruction, they were met with considerable opposition from security experts who felt that the War would either be disastrous for American interest or they were misjudging the gravity of such a war. The most glaring example of this of course comes with General Colin Powell, then serving as President Bush's Secretary of State, who famously warned the President "if you break it you own it." Similarly, General Anthony Zinni, who served as President Bush's Middle East Envoy, voiced his opposition to the war and in hindsight said the Iraq War was a blunder. Similarly, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was rebuked in a smear campaign after he remarked that the Administration was not planning to have nearly enough troops to secure victory in Iraq. Throughout the war, it was apparent that the President did not follow his own maxim and only did so when it was finally apparent that his own vision was not panning out.

Now, both in Israel and the United States, conservatives are once again flouting the better opinions of military leaders and security experts. Governor Romney has stated that he would back an Israeli strike on Iran if they even get the capacity for nuclear weapons, thereby moving the goal posts for an military strike. Similarly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently attempted to compare the threat of Iran to Nazi Germany, giving a causus belli to a possible military strike. All the while however, American Security Experts on both sides have said an Israeli attack would be disastrous. Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad has said claimed an Israeli strike would cause the Islamic Republic to go nuclear. Similarly, former Israeli Security chief Yuval Diskin has denounced the idea right out as has Major General Benny Gantz.

Yet, all the while, it appears that the Israeli Prime Minister and the Massachusetts Governor remain undaunted in their drumming up for war. In turn, the prove their hypocrisy. They claim to be patriots, wrap themselves in their respective flags and spout platitudes about the nobility and wisdom of the American and Israeli military and intelligence agencies. Yet when the opinions of the leaders of those institutions are contrary to their own, they are more than willing to disavow and discredit them.

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