Friday, January 30, 2009

Military Government

I am beginning to think that we have, after more than 200 years, reached the point that this nation is actually run by a military government, with civilian elected officials in place merely as figureheads. After eight years of President Bush “listening to his generals” as to how to conduct the war in Iraq, I had hopes that Barack Obama would reassert civilian control of the military, but he is showing no real signs of doing so.

Consider this article in the New York Times. Obama has called his commanders in and issued a directive to create a plan to get us out of Iraq. This nation has signed an agreement with Iraq that sets a deadline for us to be out of that country. Yet here is General Odierno saying very plainly that he is the one who will decide when we leave, and that it isn’t going to be any time soon. There is not one word in what he says about civilian direction, about international agreements or about presidential directives. There is nothing other than “I think” that is determinant in his plans for leaving Iraq.

The very headline is anathema, “Obama Seeks Accord With Military.” After eight years of the constant barrage of the use, and misuse, of the title “Commander in Chief” we have the President “seeking accord” with the military? The design of our constitution is that the President issues orders to the military, and that they salute smartly and carry out those orders.

Then consider this from the German news Spiegel Online. US General John Craddock has decided that NATO forces can and should kill on sight any Afghans suspected of dealing in drugs. No proof, or even any evidence is required; if you think they might be doing anything bad just blow them away. Our European allies are already furious with us for our indiscriminate use of airstrikes and the resulting loss of noncombatant lives, and they are refusing to comply with this directive. They actually consider action pursuant to this directive to be a war crime.

This, to me, clearly falls under “rules of engagement” and as such is a policy decision. Not only is this general engaging us in activity which is sure to increase the hatred with which the population of the area views us, but he is a military person formulating national policy in making this decision.

Admittedly Obama is new in office and is dealing with economic issues. The economy is the most important thing on the public’s mind at this point, and not without good reason. Obama himself said, however, that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time.

Things are not going as well as advertised in Iraq and they are going to hell very rapidly in Afghanistan. Having generals running amok in these two highly dangerous war zones surely deserves some immediate attention from our President, and the American people deserve some reassurance from him that he is indeed in charge.

Update: Friday, 1:15pm
More develops in an interview between Rachael Maddow and Dan Rather on the former’s television show last night. Dan Rather talks about a tour of Afghanistan from which he has just returned, where he met with General David McKiernan. Rather and Maddow discuss that “policy is being formulated from the bottom up” as if that is a good thing, and Rather goes on at some length about the general’s conviction that ultimate “victory” in Afghanistan is going to involve extensive military incursion into and extensive operations within Pakistan. So here is another general discussing the invasion and military operations within what is not only a sovereign nation, but one that is nominally an ally. His discussion makes it plain that this policy is coming from the general, not from civilian leadership.

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