Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fred Thompson, Peter Pace, and the Harry Reid "Controversy"

Fred Thompson has decided to jump into the Harry Reid "controversy":

Well, you've heard by now that Senate leader Harry Reid insulted one of this country's brightest military minds, Marine Corps General Peter Pace -- calling him "incompetent."


But Reid's comments are not meant for logical analysis. He proclaimed the war lost some time ago, and the surge as a failure even before the additional troops were on the ground. The problem is that every one of Reid's comments I've noted here has also been reported gleefully by Al Jazeera and other anti-American media. Whether he means to or not, he’s encouraging our enemies to believe that they are winning the critical war of will.

For those of you who haven't been following this sorry Republican talking point, the gist of it is that Reid (supposedly) called Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, incompetent in a conference call with bloggers. This is, apparently, not only hugely insulting to Pace but a boon to our enemies. So says White House spokesman Tony Snow:

Snow told reporters that he hoped what he had read about Reid is "not true, because in a time of war, for a leader of a party that says its supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man that is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq.
Of course, Pace will only be responsible for military operation in Iraq until September 30, 2007, because Bush has essentially fired him. (Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates advised President Bush not to renominate Pace for the job, and Bush agreed.) Pace didn't want to step down:
In his first public comments on the Bush administration's surprise decision to replace him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace disclosed that he had turned down an offer to voluntarily retire rather than be forced out.

Now, let's get this straight. Calling General Pace incompetent in a conference call gives aid to our enemies, but firing him doesn't? Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog is all over the cognitive dissonance here:
If Pace is so competent, why is he losing his job as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff while we are in the middle of a war?

Is Tony Snow telling us that it's Pace's competence that has led us to where we are in Iraq? Pace is being fired as our top military commander either because he's incompetent (which is fine) or for purely political reasons (which is not fine in the middle of a war), so which one is it? Either way, Bush made the decision to get rid of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs "in a time of war." And now that Harry Reid agrees with Bush for once, he's the bad guy? Then who is to blame for how horribly things are going in Iraq? Not Bush, apparently. And not the military commanders either, we're now being told. So does the White House blame the troops, or did some magic pixie run the war into the ground when nobody was looking?
There is nothing inherently with either criticizing or firing generals in the middle of a war. We've done it many times before in our history. As Kos puts it:
How many generals did Lincoln go through before he found Grant?

If I was in a satirical mood, I might write something like this:

"Personally, I think it was a huge mistake on Lincoln's part to fire General George McClellan in the Civil War. Not only was it insulting, but it made the Confederacy believe they were winning the war of wills. War isn't about competence and job performance, remember, it's about stick-to-it-ivness. Lincoln should have stood by McClellan through thick and thin. If only he could have turned to Tony Snow for advice, he might have learned a thing or two about leadership."

UPDATE: For more on this topic, check out the excellent Glenn Greenwald:
But beyond that obvious point, the spectacle of George Bush's press secretary lamenting attacks on military officers is just laughable. The President was re-elected following a political convention where his followers mocked John Kerry's purple hearts by waiving around band-aids. And decorated war veterans from John Murtha to Max Cleland to Wes Clark have seen their character and integrity -- not their mere competence -- publicly mauled by the President's political movement.

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