Monday, March 20, 2006

The Vicious Hindsight of Major General Eaton

Retired Major General Paul Eaton unleashed a vicious Op-Ed attack on the Secretary of Defense yesterday, calling for Rumsfeld to resign immediately due to "incompetence", among other things. In making his point that Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, Eaton also maligned nearly all of the military's key leaders of the past four years. Eaton's attack was innacurate, unprofessional and uncalled for. In summing up his case against the Secretary of Defense, the retired general illustrated a mindset that appears focused on issues that have already passed, rather than the problems being faced by commanders in the field today.

Eaton's attacks on Rumsfeld appear to be largely ad hominem, and rarely backed up by facts. He cites General Shinseki as the only uniformed officer willing to stand up to the Secretary, and that the early announcement of Shinseki's retirement scared all of the military's leadership into silence.

To boldly state that all of the flag officers lack the conviction to present ground truth to the Secretary of Defense, to the President and Congress, and ultimately to the American people is absolutely outrageous. Denigrating all of the Generals with whom and under whom you have served speaks more of a bitterness at one's current lot in life than of rational analysis.

General Shinseki may have been right about the low occupation troop estimates initially made early on by the Pentagon; however, he was ultimately proven to be stubbornly wrong about several outmoded weapon systems that cost the Pentagon billions prior to this, and his judgement was likely suspect at the point that he provided his estimate to Congress. While I am inferring what two people may or may not have thought in this one situation, Eaton, in his opinion piece today, stated outright that the ENTIRE military chain of command is too afraid to speak the truth to the American people. Who is more likely to be right, or at least accurate?

Eaton's statements about Secretary Rumsfeld alienating European allies out of supporting the Iraq mission early on are wrong, too. Building coalitions is beyond the realm of the Secretary of Defense; the President ultimately decided to go to war (with the approval of Congress) with the coalition that had been put together at the time. Rumsfeld's comments about "Old Europe" played no role in support that any other ally (ie Germany or France) was willing to provide in Iraq in the past or now (the Secretary later made light of these remarks during a tour of Europe later on, too).

Beyond his unforgivable lapse into personal attacks, Eaton's judgement is shown to be most suspect when commenting on Army end strength. The retired general called for increasing the Army's size from ten to fourteen divisions, a massive increase in manpower. While he faults Rumsfeld for seeking technological silver bullets, Eaton's own panacea to the problems of the world is an improbable giant Army. But who is being more realistic in their approach to solving problems? Not Eaton, certainly. By its own admission, the Army is challenged recruiting enough people to maintain its current end strength; increase its size by forty percent and the Army would not be able to man its formations. Thus, there would be divisions on paper (requiring Major Generals to command them, of course), but the force would truly be a hollow one.

Instead of focusing on unworkable solutions like the one suggested by Eaton, the Pentagon has spent the last few years adapting the forces available and emerging technology to enhance the effects the military has in the operational environment. Divisions are reorganizing now to maximize deployable subordinate combat units (Units of Action) by another twenty-five to thirty-three percent. Replacing soldiers with contract civilians, while maligned in Eaton's opinion piece, actually frees up Army manpower to be focused in areas more critical to the fight; infantrymen and military police are much more invaluable in counterinsurgency than cooks, after all. And finally yes, technology has increased the operational capabilities of men in battle in this war, as it has in virtually every war before it. Today, a unit's unmanned aerial vehicle (technology that has only become widely available in the last few years) can eliminate the need for a unit to conduct certain types of reconnaissance, or lower the risk that a manned overflight of a target area would incur for an operation. Technology is not a silver bullet, but it is definitely an operational enhancer in today's operational environment that should not be so easily dismissed.

Paul Eaton's op-ed piece is thus inaccurate, untrue, and served no purpose that is constructive to the successful conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While the retired general may have (arguably) served his country well in unform for three decades, his vicious attack did little more than provide soundbites to those who cheer out load at every setback and misstep in this conflict. Better that a man with Eaton's experience rolled up his sleeves and helped the country win its wars, than to bleed all over the editorial page of the New York Times.

6 comments:

AcademicElephant said...

As far as I can tell there are three generals who have come out against Rumsfeld--Shinseki, Yanni and now Eaton. How many does that leave that support him? Seems like a plurality to me--but of course when they want to show their support they have to write letters to the editor rather than get invited to write op-eds.

Bob W. said...

AcademicElephant, thanks for checking out and posting a comment on my blog. Eaton is really the first post 9/11 Field Commander to come out and disparage the administration so harshly. My guess is he will come to regret the emotional bitterness that was so evident in this op-ed. We'll see.

FYI, I checked out and liked your blog, and bookmarked it too!

Anonymous said...

Eaton is truely looking forward. The entire op-ed piece is proactive. His comments on Rumsfeld persue his clearly stated goal of Rumsfeld's regignation. Using a business analogy, if a division has failed miserably, you replace those who are responsible - the CEO, CFO, COO, etc. We need accountability for failure, and Rumsfeld is among those most responsible for this fiasco.

Bob (Wilsonizer) wasn't there. He's not a Pentagon insider. In fact, he can't verify the validity of anything Eaton wrote.

Considering the current administration' propensity to spin the facts, Bob is aligned with the their policy of denial as a means to pursue the old adage 'reality is 9/10ths perception'. It's worked for them so far.

Bob W. said...

anonymous,

It doesn't take an insider to sense the bitterness in Eaton's ad hominem attack on the secdef.

My post argues against the purported logic of Eaton's statements against the conduct of the war and management of the military. I backed up my positions with facts.

Keep in mind also that the United States military (and Federal Govt. for that matter) is NOT a corporation, so don't expect it to be run like one. That is a poor analogy in my opinion.

And thanks for reading this blog!

Anonymous said...

I did not see you mention that Eaton has two sons in the military, one of whom is still serving in Iraq.

How many of your children are over in Iraq serving? How many of any of the higher up's in this adminastration are?

Chicken-Hawks are not as rare as they should be.

"Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste minced no words. "Our world is much less safe today than it was on Sept. 11th,"

" "Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader," he said, but one who surrounds himself with "like-minded and compliant subordinates" and systematically suppresses dissent. The defense chief, Batiste went on, has cut the services' strength to "unacceptable levels and micromanaged the war" to the dismay of military commanders in the Middle East. As a result, U.S. troops, he said, have been asked to do "unconscionable things."

The rantings of a disappointed career officer, someone possibly passed over for promotion by Rumsfeld? Hardly. A year ago Ba tiste was offered a third star, promotion to lieutenant general, but rejected it and resigned to protest a policy he believes is dangerous. Nor was he alone. "

Rudyard Kipling, the poet laureate of British Imperialism:

"If any question why we died/ Tell them because our fathers lied."

Murphy/Seattle

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