Monday, September 29, 2014

When Do Leaders Take the McMaster Option?

Guest posting over at Rick's blog at FP, Col. Gary Anderson, USMC (Ret.) lays out what many have been thinking about in the course of the last few weeks, Is it time for General Dempsey to resign?
In a telling study of the Vietnam War, H.R. McMaster, now an Army general officer himself, castigates the military general-officer class of that era for quietly carrying out orders that they knew to be wrong. 
In 2003, many generals strongly disagreed with President George W. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, but none resigned in protest. How does this happen? 
General officers have offered a number of rationalizations for lack of moral courage over the years. The most often heard is that they feel they feel compelled to stay on because only they can do the job and mitigate the worst of the senior leader's decision. 
This is tripe; no one is irreplaceable. I would bet that 80 percent of the serving military cannot remember who the last JCS chairman was.
One of the wisest words I ever heard was from a CO on my first sea tour,
Your are irreplaceable until you leave, then you are forgotten.
How true.

Easier said than done - but Anderson makes his case;
The reality is that the very private threat of a resignation might well change a bad policy. No president in his right mind wants to see the very public resignation of a top general on principle. If his policy fails, and the Islamic State strategy surely will, President Obama would alone shoulder the blame for the debacle. The threat of a resignation itself might cause the president to reconsider his ill-advised action in taking American troops in a ground role off the table. Rather than be remembered as the failed implementer of a strategy that he knew to be fatally flawed, Dempsey would be an example to generations of future West Point cadets as a soldier who put honor and professionalism above career concerns.
Resignation would have even greater impact if all of the joint chiefs ask for a closed-door meeting with the president The political and strategic miscalculations that led up to the rise of the Islamic State came because the president ignored the advice of his highest national-security advisors. General Dempsey could save the nation from further strategic folly and perhaps save this president from himself.
Is that the right thing to do? Would it be a net positive for the nation? Would it accomplish anything?

Only one person can make that call or decide if he needs to consider the McMaster Option: General Dempsey.

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