« The Joshua Moment? Race and the '08 Election | Main | Speak Now Larry, Or Forever Hold Your Peace »

November 02, 2008

Comments

What about Wesley Clark for SecDef?

Presumably "State" should be "Defense" in the first sentence.

KC: Ack! Thanks.

"What about Wesley Clark for SecDef?"

He also retired in 2000, so faces the same limitation as Zinni.

SecDef should be a person of exceptional competence, energy and intelligence.

Does that describe Chuck Hagel? Near as I can tell, no.

Once Gates is replaced (maybe not right away) it should and probably will be Richard Danzig.

Aaaaargh! No, Obama should not keep Gates on to placate either the generals or the wingnuts. The damned generals answer to the POTUS, and they can resign if they don't like his orders. The wingnuts will shout "stab in the back" no matter what, just as surely as al-Qaida will shout "victory!" no matter what, as soon as we start leaving Iraq. There is no upside to winning on "change" and then catering to institutional interests.

Gates can stay ONLY if he gives a very public speech within a few days of the election, declaring victory in, and therefore withdrawal from, Iraq: "We won, so we're getting the hell out. Good job, generals! Medals for everybody!!"

--TP

If my hunch is correct, the purpose of the law that prevents Tony Zinni from serving as Defense Secretary until after he's been retired for ten years is that the leadership of the Department should be, without ambiguity, civil and not military. If that is so, and if there's a good reason for questioning whether retired officers fully appreciate this distinction such that a "cooling off" period is warranted, I'm left wondering why even ten years is viewed as enough time out of the service. What is it about a retired officer five years out of the service that gives us pause which a retired officer ten years out of the service is presumed to lack?

I think the flaw in your reasoning is shown by your enthusiasm for Webb.

Webb was a horrible Secretary of the Navy, for the same reasons he is an excellent author and policy advocate: he is insubordinate and stubborn and doesn't suffer fools gladly.

With a position like SecDef, ability to do the job far outdoes symbolism in importance.

Most of the symbolic picks, including Webb and Hagel, would be horrible at the job.

But I was told Defense was reserved for Al Sharpton.

slaney: the enthusiasm for Webb is Spencer's, not mine.

And KC: BE QUIET!!! We're supposed to talk soberly about various "reasonable" picks until the election, when Obama's secret plans can be revealed!

Besides, SecDef is Ayers. ;)

I found this post rather disturbing. Spencer's premise seems to be that if Obama fails to kiss the asses of a group of high ranking generals, they will strategically leak information and disinformation so as to produce a political firestorm sufficient to compel Obama to do what they want. Isn't that, you know, a problem? I mean, isn't that problem far more significant than the question of how long Gates gets to stick around after the inauguration?

If this group of generals has such power and is willing to use it just because they don't like Obama's choice of SecDef, do we really have a civilian control of the military? If they don't have such power or they're not willing to use it, Spencer's post (and this one) makes no sense at all. If these generals are willing to create political crisis to serve their own interests, then I don't see how they can possibly be taking their oaths seriously. Such people should not be given responsibility and certainly should not be placed in positions of authority over the most powerful military force in the world.

Also, it seems somewhat bizarre to suggest that high ranking generals won't use leaks to sabotage the Obama administration even if Gates sticks around. After all, Gates has already pissed off a lot of people in the air force and Obama's stances on the Army's Future Combat Systems and cutting delusional strategic missile defense will enrage some portions of the armed services no matter what. In addition, the officer corps is very very conservative and votes very very Republican: these are people most likely to believe that Obama is a crazy muslim trying to kill us all or at the very least someone who cannot be trusted on military affairs because he is a Democrat. Institutions need to build narratives that protect them from taking responsibility for past mistakes no less than individuals and there are probably many high ranking officers who are already looking for ways to blame the Obama administration for premature withdrawal from the "success" of Iraq; that narrative is most likely to hold if they can kneecap Obama on military affairs.

Hilzoy, you've shocked me frequently over the past few weeks, but this is the first time I think you've actually appalled me.

The US military is collectively guilty of multiple war crimes in Iraq, including the torture and killing of prisoners, the kidnapping and torture of children, the extra-judicial imprisonment of thousands of Iraqis, and the killing of unarmed civilians. The Bush regime has either condoned or encouraged these crimes.

Obama has a chance - just a chance - that he can present himself as a new broom, as an adinistration uncontaminated by the Bush regime, that will neither condone nor encourage the crimes of the last, even if he does not at once begin to investigate and prosecute the crimes. (Which obviously should be a priority, but any decent commission will necessarily take time to set up...)

Obama cannot possibly afford to allow anyone who served the Bush regime in a senior position to keep their post. No one who was not willing to condone their crimes would have kept their post.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jesurgislac on the (de)merits of sticking with Gates.

However, I seriously doubt that Obama will play things this way. Gates or some other Republican is very likely in the Pentagon.

(And I wouldn't be surprised if in January 2012 there are still >50k U.S. troops in Iraq.)

Besides, SecDef is Ayers. ;)

Ayers is Secretary of HUD, bring to bear his expertise in building demolition.

I sure had the impression that a lot of the brass didn't like Gates--didn't he just purge the Air Force's top leadership? Or is that a plus from the point of view of the Army and Navy?

Gates as a lightning rod looks like an interesting idea. Obama* could appoint http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Manlius_Torquatus_(347_BC)>Titus Manlius or Attila the Hun to be SecDef and would still be painted as a weakling/defeatist/[slur of the month] but Gates might impress enough people to render those attacks futile. Keeping Gates (temporarily) could also help Obama's across the aisle credentials. A "purge"** will definitely be needed at the Pentagon and to use a Republican to do it would be the right way. If it does not work out Obama can at least claim that he tried but the other side refused cooperation.

*should he become president
**Boykin first!

No way, Gates is a Republican. The Republican party is guilty of many crimes against humanity and lesser ones committed in the past 8 years - they need a very long time-out to rebuild their credibility.

And if a Republican claims that they have been critical of the party's conduct and policies all along, let me just say this: if your party supports wars of aggression, torture and such, you should leave the party if you don't want to be complicit.

i vote we let Obama do what he wants to do and look at the results of what he does, instead of analyzing the optics of every breath he takes.

". A 'purge'** will definitely be needed at the Pentagon [...] **Boykin first!"

William G. "Jerry" Boykin: "LTG Boykin retired on August 1, 2007 and currently teaches at Hampden-Sydney College."

You want him purged from Hampden-Sydney College?

Hampden-Sydney College? Guess his god wasn't big enough to get him into the ivies.

aimai

Blather.

One of the larger problems with America is partisanship.

As Chief Magistrate,President,and Commander-in-Chief, the soon-to-be-chosen President needs a staff of people that he personnally trusts and that are capable.

I hope the President chooses among the alternatives and selects competent people regardless of hue, stripe, or gender.

And this time, I hope they are adults.

Yeah, let's continue the dishonesty and fool the American public into some faux security blanket before we completely pull the rug out from beneath them. Where's General Powell, he's trolling for work?

What Tony P. and Turbulence said. This notion that somehow Democratic presidents have to appoint Republicans to defense needs to be stopped in its tracks now.

I would nominate Jesurgislac.

Turb: "Isn't that, you know, a problem? I mean, isn't that problem far more significant than the question of how long Gates gets to stick around after the inauguration?"

Yeah, I think it's a big problem. (Not unique to the military, but stories of the form 'Administration rejects views of government professionals for ideological reasons!' seem to pack more punch when the professionals are generals than when they're, e.g., chemists at EPA.) The question is: what to do about it.

(Before I get to that: I think that not all of the stuff Spencer is talking about is a problem. If generals are willing to undermine policies they don't agree with by going around their civilian leadership, that's a huge problem. But another part of Spencer's argument for Gates is: they trust him. And preferring to appoint someone who is trusted by the military over someone who is not, or: preferring to have your SecDef trusted while you earn their trust, and appoint a new SecDef who also has to earn their trust later, when you have already earned it, so that everyone doesn't have to be earning trust all at once -- all else equal, that seems to me a totally OK thing to prefer.) Back to the main point, though:

In general, I don't want to say that government officials should not leak stuff about administration actions they feel are damaging, ever. I mean, I'm very glad the JAGs leaked stuff about torture, for instance. The problem is doing it too easily and for the wrong reasons. So I think the deeper problem is military (esp. officer corps) suspicion of Democrats.

That is, I think, a real problem. One way to try to deal with it would be to simply say: I am the President, and you will obey my orders. (I think any Pres. should be willing to say that; the question is whether that's the whole of your response.)

The second would be to try to buy yourself enough time to carve out a better working relationship with them, which would allow you to convince them to reconsider, and hopefully get them out of whatever mindset made them think that these sorts of leaks were OK by persuasion (backed by the possibility of the first response, but hoping that that response didn't have to be used excessively -- for the same reasons why you'd hope not to have to actually use the threat to fire someone.)

I think any President is entitled to simply use the first. I have no problem with that. The question is whether it's wise. And here various things matter to me. First, what is it that you'd have to do in order to use the second response? If the brass were insisting on, say, Rumsfeld, I'd say: no way. No way in hell. -- But Gates is actually a decent SecDef, and (pace Jes) does not, as far as I know, have responsibility for war crimes. (Again, unlike Rumsfeld.) He would probably do a good job of getting us out of Iraq. He might even do a better job than other candidates, if only because he wouldn't have to go through the whole 'establishing authority and dominance' thing, having already done it.

That means: I think that Obama would probably not have to compromise his policies if he went this route. (Or at least: that Gates is the kind of guy who would let him know up front whether or not he would be able to implement them.) Nor would he be keeping someone around who had done unconscionable things. It would not be a serious sacrifice of that kind.

Second, what are the costs of direct confrontation? -- I want us to get out of Iraq. I believe Gates could do that. (If I didn't -- if I thought he'd be slow-walking withdrawal, for instance -- I would not support nominating him.) I also want Obama to have a successful Presidency in other ways. I want him to get a serious energy policy through; I want him to actually tackle health care; etc. I think that having withdrawal from Iraq occur without drama would help there.

I also really want us to overcome suspicion of Democrats in the officer corps. As far as I'm concerned, they don't have to like us, but they do have to get over the idea that we can be presumed to be hostile to them, or not serious about national security, etc. Again, the question is how you get there.

I think it's always a judgment call whether to go with direct confrontation or not. In this case, given that I think Gates is OK and would carry out Obama's policies, and given also that it matters more to me that we get out of Iraq as quickly and smoothly as we can than that we take every opportunity to force the officer corps to confront its biasses, I can see the case for nonconfrontation in this instance.

I would nominate Jesurgislac.

Wouldn't I have to be a US citizen?

But Gates is actually a decent SecDef, and (pace Jes) does not, as far as I know, have responsibility for war crimes.

He took office on December 18 2006. To the best of my knowledge, the number of senior military officers that Gates has tried to hold responsible for ordering kidnappings, torture, murder, and extra-judicial imprisonment is zero. So yeah: he does have responsibility for war crimes, even if we assume that the number of war crimes committed in Iraq since he took office is also zero.

In 1984, Gates advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in order to bring down the democratically-elected government - a war crime. cite His level of involvement in Iran-Contra has never been established to be criminal, but he was certainly closely involved with it. If it was not sufficiently close for him to stand trial, fine: that does not mean he should be rewarded with an official position under a non-criminal administration, which I take it we hope the Obama administration will be.

No, Hilzoy: it appals me that you appear never to have considered any of these factors, but have adopted the official Democratic cringe that of course the US military can't respect anyone but a Republican.

I don't believe there is any citizenship requirement for cabinet officers. Maybe someone here knows better than I though? OTOH I guess it would likely be difficult to get congress to confirm a non-citizen.

Jes: "have adopted the official Democratic cringe that of course the US military can't respect anyone but a Republican."

I thought I explicitly agreed with the idea that we should not nominate Republicans for Sec Def precisely so that we would not give even the semblance of support for this idea, and made one exception for fairly specific reasons. But whatever.

In this case, given that I think Gates is OK and would carry out Obama's policies, and given also that it matters more to me that we get out of Iraq as quickly and smoothly as we can than that we take every opportunity to force the officer corps to confront its biasses, I can see the case for nonconfrontation in this instance.

The most important people that Obama has to convince, with regard to the withdrawal from Iraq, are not in the US officer corps: he has to convince the people of Iraq that he represents real change.

I don't believe he can convince the Iraqis that if he just leaves the same man in charge as was in charge under George W. Bush.

There's a name for countries where the government is controlled by the officer corps, and it's not "democracy".

I thought I explicitly agreed with the idea that we should not nominate Republicans for Sec Def precisely so that we would not give even the semblance of support for this idea, and made one exception for fairly specific reasons. But whatever.

Yeah. Whatever. "Really, just one Republican... just one Bush appointee..."

No.

Jokes about nominating me aside, obviously, this isn't my election, this isn't my country, and this isn't my government.

The Bush administration has caused a great deal of damage to the rest of the world, and a great deal of damage to its international reputation, since Bush took office in January 2001.

I know I'm not the only non-American watching these elections with a passionate intensity, hoping that all will go well - that the next President will represent a real change.

There probably are administrative posts with Bush appointees filling them, where the person the Bush administration approved could be left in place without the rest of the world noting and wondering "so, is this 'change we can believe in', or just 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss'?

But I tell you for sure: the Secretary of Defense post is not one of those.

If Obama's for real, if he really doesn't plan to just continue on the same old Bush way, he's not going to want to leave a Bush appointee in place in a key position.

I really want to believe Obama is for real.

Gates has been a good SecDef and Obama should keep him on.

Speaking of the officer corps, a Marine Major I know told me last week he voted for Obama on his absentee ballot, from Iraq. He's no liberal or democrat.

Know hope. :)

You want Gates as Sec of Defense in order to cover the removal of US forces from Iraq?

Prepare to be dissapointed. Obama will not withdraw from Iraq. Obama will not keep Gates.

Obama is going to reward his friends, in typical Chicago style, by placing someone loyal only to Obama in appointed positions.

Obama will surrender to the military and its insistence on victory in Iraq. There is no way Obama is going to lead on this issue.

Shocked that people have not mentioned the fact that Clinton did this with Powell.

Did not turn out well. Powell sabotaged Clinton anyways. There is even less reason to believe that Gates would be any better.

You want him purged from Hampden-Sydney College?

Yes.

And any other position of responsibility he ever finds himself in.

The top level post by hilzoy and her clarification at 9:49am pretty much say everything I've been thinking on the subject, with the proviso which I'm reading in to them that Gates has to sign up explicitly as a loyal executor of the priorities coming from the White House in terms of Defense policy.

Quite frankly there just aren't going to be many candidates for SecDef who are simultaneously somebody the officer corps of the US armed forces regard with trust and comfort and who some significant number of peace activists around the world and here in the US don't regard as a borderline war criminal. I don't see how that circle can be squared right now.

Until such time as people like Zinni and Clark are eligible, I like the idea of using Gates to smooth over the transition, because anything which can be used to blunt the force of the Iraq war dolchstosslegende which is coming will benefit a wealth of other priorities which will otherwise be derailed.

I don't think having Gates in the admin. will stop the dolchstosslegende, but it will blunt it from gaining traction with the beltway pundit class. The reality is that the White House and Congress are only two of the multiple power centers in the US, and until such time as a more progessive leaning pundit class and media environment are in place (something that 4 years of successful governance under Obama will help to create), the Obama administration will have a broad but shallow mandate for very limited change. This isn't a realignment election yet - those are confirmed in retrospect after they are confirmed by subsequent elections, i.e. the 2010 midterms and 2012 general election. For comparison, look at how the 1964 landslide segued into the 1966 midterms and the 1968 election very much to the advantage of the right.

Also, it seems to me that Gates will be able to hit the ground running in terms of prioritizing budget cutbacks in the branches of the armed forces (Air Force, Navy) which will need to be pared back to deal with the unpleasant budgetary environment the US Govt faces for the forseeable future.

I imagine this puts me to the right of the center of gravity of opinion on this blog (color me a radical pragmatist), but I see this in Deng Xiaoping's "I don't care if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice" terms. Ideological correctness at a level to disqualify Gates is a luxury IMHO - and I don't think we (the US) can afford that luxury.

'have the military onboard'...god that sounds like a bananna republic. Do they 'yay or nay' the war? I thought they were sworn to uphold the Constitution.

I agree with Eisenhower, beware the MIC. Just too much emphasis on the military in the budget. Why do we have to be the ONLY policeman in the world? Oh, I forgot, world domination, empire, US hegemony, etc, etc.

If that's the agenda, I'll opt out. Canada looks better every day.

I actually agree with you. Sullivan has been saying this for awhile and it makes sense to me. I even think Gates will be inclined to rat on Bush and his cronies, since by all indication they can't stand each other.

Scott

TLeftT: Quite frankly there just aren't going to be many candidates for SecDef who are simultaneously somebody the officer corps of the US armed forces regard with trust and comfort and who some significant number of peace activists around the world and here in the US don't regard as a borderline war criminal. I don't see how that circle can be squared right now.

Simple. In the US you are supposed to have civilian control of the military. The private personal opinion of the officer corps about their civilian controllers is irrelevant.

Or, what jean said.

What Tlt said is a pragmatic description of at least alleged fact. (I'm not inclined to argue, myself, but some might.)

What Jes asserted is abstract theory.

(This is a highly repeated dynamic, not incidentally.)

What jean said is "If that's the agenda, I'll opt out. Canada looks better every day."

Since Jes is already a foreign citizen, it's unclear what would change by her "opting out" of the U.S.

For the rest of us. leaving isn't actually a practical option for most of us, either.

In the end, what Jes seems to say is that we should all close our eyes and stamp our foot, which will cause... what, exactly?

Maybe I'm the only one who is unclear on how this would lead to an improvement of the situation over TLTIA's scenario.

Shocked that people have not mentioned the fact that Clinton did this with Powell.

Did what? Make him Secretary of Defense? I know Powell looks just like this guy, but it's not actually him.


In the end, what Jes seems to say is that we should all close our eyes and stamp our foot, which will cause... what, exactly?

That's a little unfair. One of Jes' central points is that Americans responsible for war crimes should, in fact, be prosecuted for those war crimes. [Meaningfully prosecuted, if you want to quibble.] It is a fact -- a despicable fact -- that they won't be, but that's miles different than just saying we should stamp our little feet in petulance over this fact.

If the generals whine about Obama's first choice (whatever it is), I think he should bring back Rumsfeld. That would teach them.

"One of Jes' central points is that Americans responsible for war crimes should, in fact, be prosecuted for those war crimes."

I don't disagree with that. She said it in another comment, not in the comment I was responding to.

TLTIQ wrote: "I don't see how that circle can be squared right now."

Jes responded: "Simple. In the US you are supposed to have civilian control of the military. The private personal opinion of the officer corps about their civilian controllers is irrelevant."

I fail to see how that in any way "squares the circle." It's just stating an ideal. It's an important ideal, but it doesn't do anything, let alone square a circle.

And prosecuting war crimes seems to be a separate point.

The most important war crimes, though, far and away, are those of the President, Secretary of Defense, and levels just below that. That junior officers carried out what they believed to be lawful orders makes them considerably less culpable.


Simple. In the US you are supposed to have civilian control of the military. The private personal opinion of the officer corps about their civilian controllers is irrelevant.

First off, no imputations of foot-stomping, of any of the small, medium or large variety should be read into my comments. I respect the position that Jes is taking here, what from my viewpoint appears to be a highly idealistic position. I don’t disagree with her ideals, rather I am very pessimistic about the likelihood of them ever being met by an administration which is capable of both taking and holding power in the US, given the present and (it seems to me) likely future state of politics in this country.

I feel my view is informed by history but I welcome attempts at correcting that view with citations to historical examples I may be ignorant of, examples of a major geopolitical power subjecting its own leadership to war crimes trials without first undergoing a radical change in power structure via civil war, revolution, or foreign occupation. The 2nd Boer War and its political impact in early 20th Cen. Great Britain strike me as a reasonable parallel at the most general level to the Iraq War and its place in present day US politics.

Secondly, I submit that if members of the current Bush administration are to be, in lieu of standing trial in defense of their choices and actions, at the very least held accountable to some very small extent by being excluded from power and influence by the next administration, then it seems proper to me to establish priority in the degree to which different members should be held to account.

Since Secretary Gates was appointed SecDef in the wake of the Iraq study group report and the 2006 midterm elections, I just don’t see him as bearing more than a tiny fraction of the responsibility for the sum total of what the Iraq war has been under the Bush admin from 2003 to the present. The list of people in and out of the administration who bear a greater responsibility seems to me to be a very long one.

It seems to me that if we are to engage in the business of marking people for exclusion from our policy making bodies, that this process will be politically feasible and productive to the extent that the list of such persons is short and obvious. Extending it down to the level where someone like Secretary Gates would qualify strikes me as a self-defeating proposition best designed to replicate in the USA what the de-Baathification in occupied Iraq achieved – namely to unnecessarily broaden the membership of an irredentist faction which is bound to make trouble and render the country ungovernable to the extent that they can do so within the limits of their ideology.

This is of course a completely different argument from suggesting that Gates somehow deserves to be rewarded with the position of SecDef. The case for keeping him on IMHO rests on the idea that a large amount of insider knowledge is needed to fight bureaucratic battles inside the Pentagon when the budget is in flux, and that he is better positioned to do this than almost any likely successor and intends to work his tail off on behalf of the new administration at doing precisely that. I think he (Gates) needs to make a positive case to Obama and his transition team that this is all true. I don’t know if that will be a public conversation or not. What I am saying is that I can see a possible rationale for keeping Gates, and if the new administration decides to do so them I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and find more productive things to kvetch about.

Gary: I don't disagree with that. She said it in another comment, not in the comment I was responding to.

Fair enough -- but in that case, would you mind including a reference to the comment to which you're responding in your response? I didn't see any foot-stomping in Jes' post, which confused me somewhat.

TLTIA: I feel my view is informed by history but I welcome attempts at correcting that view with citations to historical examples I may be ignorant of, examples of a major geopolitical power subjecting its own leadership to war crimes trials without first undergoing a radical change in power structure via civil war, revolution, or foreign occupation.

I tend to agree with you on this; the real question is, to what extent is the removal of the Bush Administration from office a radical change in the power structure of the United States?

[And no, I'm not being sardonic.]

I think that we will find that it's a massive one, which brings me to the slightly subtler point that it isn't the power structure as formally chartered (by, e.g., the Constitution) that needs to change for this to happen, it's the power structure as actually practiced, and permitted to be practiced, by the society that needs to change. The example I would look to here isn't a foreign one at all, it's the slow destruction of segregation during the Civil Rights movement. It's by no means a perfect example but I don't think one can reasonably expect there to be anything perfect about such a process; it is, however, something to which we can realistically aspire.

[There's also a much larger point to be made about the deNazification of Germany as practiced by the different occupying powers that I don't have to make right now. Suffice to say that changing the formal power structure is insufficient without also changing the underlying society.]

"Simple. In the US you are supposed to have civilian control of the military."

three words for you, JEs:

The little Corproal

Civilian control of the military is not soem panacea. we just cmae out of complete civilian control of the miltary. how did that work fuh yuh? Remember that Gates is the antidote to Donald f*cking Rumsfled, as corproate a CEO as they could find. His remit was to transform the military and he did that - they are all turning Democrat to vote for Obama. that marine officer mentioned above is not some kind of anomaly.

In fact this whole discussion is a complete re-run of a discussion on Daniel Drezner's blog, where all the righties thundered exactly the same sentiment as yours, Jes, at the suggestion that the officer corps would have the temerity to have a professional opinion that was not supportive of whatever incompetent jackass the jackass currently in the Oval Office happened to be pleased to inflict on the nation.

The point is trust. Trust in a commander, even a commander-in-chief, has to be earned, it is a response to demonstrated competence and it cannot be earned in a ballot booth. It would be different if the voting public had made even the slightest effor to earn the trust of the miltary, but as it is, the voting public has acted less like citizens with a stake in the miltary and more like consumers who treat the miltary like some kind of security contractor. what kind of idiot is going to trust his or her life to the political judgment of a suburbanite breed sow dragging her litter around in a gas-guzzling SUV? So how worhty of trust is the judgment that comes out of an election where such a person's votes decides the outcome? It would be diffenret if the vote were restricted to people who had shouldered all the burdens of citizenship, who were real and full citizens, but that's not the system we have.

The issue is trust, not sullen obedience. Obedience of one kind or another is a given. That issue came up and was settled in Clinton's adminstration, over the issue of military adventurism in putting down tribal conflict in Europe in the 90's. The complaint was then that butchering each other was just how Europeans act and why risk American lives to try to change nature. The miltary was told to shut up and salute. So that is not an open issue.


I think that we will find that it's a massive one, which brings me to the slightly subtler point that it isn't the power structure as formally chartered (by, e.g., the Constitution) that needs to change for this to happen, it's the power structure as actually practiced, and permitted to be practiced, by the society that needs to change.

Agreed. The Bush 43 administration executed a radical coup d’état against the informal unwritten constitution of the US, based on the theory of the unitary executive and using 9-11 and the subsequent GWOT as its enabling act.

One of the principle tasks of the next administration is to restore the pre-2001 status quo, to act as a restoration government, in somewhat the same manner as William of Orange did in 1688. The problem we face is that informal constitutions are difficult to repair - once the precedent for violating them is established it is virtually impossible to erase and the temptation will always exist for future administrations to draw on those precedents, just as David Addington invoked the war time powers of FDR to build a legal rationale for W.’s power grab.

For that reason I do hope that an Obama DOJ will undertake investigations of the actions taken by the Bush 43 admin. to document prosecutable violations of US and international law, but I expect this process to be at best a slow grinding affair unlikely to achieve a high public profile until after the things which are of greater direct interest to the majority of the public (the economy and jobs, health care) are already taken care and hence have generated enough political credit for the administration to sink political capital into things which while beneficial for the long-term health of our democracy are unlikely to reap much credit with the voting public.

In other words, this is the political equivalent of rebuilding the city sewage treatment infrastructure – necessary, desirable, but probably something that isn’t going to make it onto the 11 o’clock news, at least not in a good way, until it is done and over with. And even then you won’t get any credit for doing it.

"Fair enough -- but in that case, would you mind including a reference to the comment to which you're responding in your response?"

Huh? I quoted the comment I responded to, like always, rather than another comment that you referred to, which I wasn't responding to, which is why I didn't respond to it, and didn't quote it.

[Wesley Clark] also retired in 2000, so faces the same limitation as Zinni.

How could he run for president in 2000 and not be eligible for SecDef in 2008? Just curious.

Jeff: How could he run for president in 2000 and not be eligible for SecDef in 2008? Just curious.

By statute (TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 2 > § 113. Secretary of Defense): "There is a Secretary of Defense, who is the head of the Department of Defense, appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within 10 years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force."

There is no such statutory restriction for being President or Vice President.

On the previous page: Anarch is right.

Jes, thanks for the info on SecDef.

This notion of privileging the comfort of high ranking generals makes zero sense to me. We expect professionals to do their jobs and follow the law even when they don't trust their bosses completely. Being "uncomfortable" with your boss is not a valid justification for a professional to shirk their duties and it is certainly not a justification for violation of confidentiality agreements. Why exactly should we hold the highest ranking military officers in the land to a lesser standard than any other professional?

Of course, the subordinates of these officers do not get to shirk their duties or leak information to a the press simply because they're "uncomfortable" with their new bosses.


Finally, I think you (hilzoy) are missing the point by talking about trust. If these officers are willing to torpedo Obama politically for something as ephemeral as his failure to kiss their ass, there is nothing stopping them from doing the same thing if he appoints Gates as SecDef and then tries to reduce defense spending. Or tries to change the military's policy regarding gays. Or tries to do anything else that some of them don't care for. This is the problem with insubordination: not that you can negotiate away any individual issue but that you can't trust them on all issues.

Goodness, the Democrats haven't even won the vote and are already caving in to all sorts of "realities" that are purely rhetorical constructs. Why prematurely cede the playing field to the military-industrial-security complex without a fight? Is it because a deeply rooted conflict aversion or because you don't really want substantial change, but prefer a slightly more agreeable version of the status quo?

Gary: Huh? I quoted the comment I responded to, like always, rather than another comment that you referred to...

Uh, no you didn't. You quoted neither Jes (nor TLTIA for that matter), only jean; and while it was clear to me from context that your first invocation of Jes' remarks referred to her (then) most recent comment, it was not at all clear that you were restricting your comments about her foot-stamping to that same comment. That's all.

[In fact, I still don't see how one can equate this with "we should all close our eyes and stamp our foot", but whatever.]

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad