According to recently published reports, the Bush administration quietly approached several retired four-star generals last March about accepting a newly created position to coordinate military and political/diplomatic activity in Iraq. None accepted. One of those who refused was highly decorated retired Marine Corps Gen. John J. Sheehan, who was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.' " How unreasonable indeed it was of the president of the United States to ask a retired Marine Corps four-star general -- during a time of war -- to do something hard, particularly at the risk of an upset tummy.Well, at least the good General won't have to take a pay cut.
So to sum: Gen. Sheehan is willing to allow the men and women of our armed forces to continue languishing in a lethal environment that he believes to be dysfunctional, but refuses to get involved because it would be hard and might cause him to "develop an ulcer."
Where are the men like former Marine Corps Gen. Clifton B. Cates, who was cited for heroism fighting in the bloodiest battles of World War I, and years later when given one of the toughest missions of World War II -- taking Iwo Jima -- didn't hesitate? Throughout American history when the times were difficult, tough military leaders have always risen to the occasion. When Eisenhower asked who could relieve the beleaguered men of Bastogne in December 1944, George Patton with all his swagger and confidence didn't hesitate to throw himself and his men into the teeth of the German offensive and won the day; when the Germans threatened to capture Paris in World War I, it was John "Black Jack" Pershing who thrust the American Army into the breach and helped save the French capitol; and who could imagine Col. Teddy Roosevelt turning his Rough Riders away from San Juan Hill because, well, there were bad guys up there and it could be hard? Where are men of this caliber today? Are we to understand that not one of the hundreds of living retired three and four star generals are up to the task of answering the president's call in our present war? What does this say about the quality of generalship in America today?
It is time -- well past time -- that we examine the performance of all those who have had leadership roles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But it's also time for today's Roosevelts, Pershings, Pattons and Cates to step up and be counted; the courage and resolve shown by the privates, sergeants, lieutenants and captains who do the fighting and dying in this war demand it.
General John Sheehan is senior vice president and partner at Bechtel Corporation, the largest civil engineering company in the world. He serves as Manager of Operations for the Oil, Gas and Chemicals Global Business Unit.Ahem. After reading this pompous OP/ED Sheehan wrote for The Washington Post - perhaps it is best he stays at Bechtel. After all, I am sure the stock options are worth quite a bit right now - and who wants to get out and help push where there is so much more to do on the outside pissing in.