To the editor:
As Mr. Robert Lee continues his ongoing series of observations about, among other things, our nation’s foreign and domestic policies, permit me some commentary about his Jan. 24 column. Mr. Lee takes President Obama to task for his military approaches in Afghanistan, and his removal of high ranking military officers.
While Mr. Lee rightly observes that the Afghanistan war now belongs to President Obama, he must acknowledge that this president was handed not one, but two wars to simultaneously administer. It was relatively easy to attack Afghanistan in the emotional aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks in the U.S. While certainly justified initially, it is proving to be a ‘devil’ of a thing to leave after more than 12 years. Surely Mr. Lee would credit the President for managing to extract us from active combat in Iraq.
Mr. Lee’s citation of 80,000 troops requested for Afghanistan by Gen. Stanley McChrystal was an overstatement as 40,000 was closer to the actual request. Besides, as the draft was not a serious option, which already overburdened National Guard units should the president tapped for a further increase?
Generals always seem to want more: Gen. Westmoreland wanted more from President Johnson during the Vietnam War, Gen. MacArthur wanted more from President Truman during Korea, and Gen. McClellan wanted more from President Lincoln during the Civil War, to cite a few. We elect presidents to maintain a responsible check on our military.
Removal of high ranking officers from command, further, is an occasional consequence of our system, and nothing at all akin to the draconian comparison to Joseph Stalin’s destruction of his army’s officer corp in the early days of World War II.
Should President Lincoln have left Gen. McClellan alone and risked a stalemate during the Civil War? Should President Truman have retained Gen. MacArthur and risked an expansion of the Korean War while accepting open defiance from his general? Should President George W. Bush have listened to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki’s counsel about troop levels needed for the Iraq War rather than nudging him out the door?
We will never know any of these answers, but at least the decisions were made by those we elected. Mr. Lee may enjoy reading “The Generals,” by Thomas Ricks, for further understanding of this subject.