April 11, 2006
A Few Good Marines

You know how I keep telling you that the Marines just have outstanding general officers? Here's another one - retired Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, former Director of Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff between 2000-2002, speaking out in Time Magazine:

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.

With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't--or don't have the opportunity to--speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.

Before the antiwar banners start to unfurl, however, let me make clear--I am not opposed to war. I would gladly have traded my general's stars for a captain's bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And while I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view--at the moment--is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists' message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts. If, however, the Iraqis prove unable to govern, and there is open civil war, then I am prepared to change my position.

I knew of the general when he was on the Joint Staff, and my impressions were that he was a very sharp guy. He was kidded when, in October 2001, he stated "the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated" - I think it was General Meyers who stated something to the effect that that was a big word for a Marine. I didn't realize that the reason he retired early was due to his dissatisfaction with Rumsfeld. This isn't the first time that he's criticized Rumsfeld, but this open essay aligns him with Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and Gen. Anthony Zinni in recent calls by general officers for Rumsfeld to step down. A quick Google search shows that Newbold is currently an executive vice president for the Potomac Institute.

I'm not sure what the right wing milbloggers are going to do with this. I don't see Newbold's talk making their head explode, but I think they're going to have to be cautious with any frontal attacks on this guy. While Zinni's a known radical and advocate against Rumsfeld, Newbold's a different story. If you read his narratives in this 2004 NewsHour interview, they aren't flames, they're quiet analyses. But read his essay - I think you'll see the dillema that many of us ex-military types are in - we have nothing against practicing the art of war, it's just when the civilian leadership decides to use the military for questionable policy objectives, then stops listening to senior military leadership and decides they know better how to execute military operations that we have a serious issue.