How America Lost Its Four Great Generals

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

                                             

 

 

” The quasi-official ideology of the U.S. armed forces holds that generals are virtually interchangeable, that individual personalities don’t matter much, that ordinary grunts are in any case more important than their leaders, and that what really counts are larger systems that make a complex bureaucracy function. There is some truth to all of this. But for all of the bureaucratic heft of the services and the heroism of ordinary soldiers, it is hard to imagine the Civil War having been won without Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan—or World War II without Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Arnold, LeMay, Nimitz, Halsey, and all the other senior generals and admirals.

Likewise it is hard to imagine the War on Terror having been waged without four-star commanders such as David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, John Allen, and James Mattis. They are among the most illustrious generals produced by the last decade of fighting. They are the stars of their generation. From Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, they emerged from anonymity to orchestrate campaigns that, after initial setbacks, have given the United States a chance to salvage a decent outcome from protracted counterinsurgencies; they have also literally rewritten the book on how to wage modern war successfully. Yet aside from the similarities in the challenges they faced and the skills they displayed in rising to the task, these men share another, more troubling resemblance: They are either gone from the military or (in the case of Mattis) about to go as of this writing. And for the most part they are leaving under unhappy circumstances. A strong case can be made that all were shabbily treated to one extent or another. Petraeus was hounded out of the CIA and McChrystal out of high command in Afghanistan under a cloud of scandal; Allen saw his reputation unfairly marred by scandal before deciding to call it quits; and Mattis is said to have been pushed out early after clashes with the White House. Certainly none of them was afforded the respect and honors that successful officers at the pinnacle of their career ought to expect—in part to drive younger officers to follow their example and seize the day when their time comes. The treatment of these four remarkable generals at the hands of President Obama and his aides, whatever the merits of each individual case, is likely to rankle within the armed forces and leave those forces less prepared for future challenges.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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