I thought for sure the blogosphere would jump all over this, but if so I missed it. The other day the New York Times ran an article about General Wesley Clark by Katharine Q. Seelye entitled Weighing his Run, General Was Encouraged and Praised by Clintons. Now, I'll be the first to admit that the source here is not the most reliable one. This is after all the same Katharine Seelye who so memorably and unprofessionally slanted her coverage of the last Presidential election. (Want examples to substantiate this serious charge? OK. Look here, here, and here.) Nevertheless, this was an eyebrow-raiser:
To Clark's humiliation, Clinton's Pentagon relieved him of his command. And Clinton had signed off on the plan, according to several published accounts, apparently unaware that he was being deceived by Clark's detractors.
The end came unceremoniously. It was July 1999, shortly after Clark had led the successful air war against Serbia. Clark was forced to retire early by top people at the Pentagon who, according to several accounts, tricked Clinton.
This is pretty amazing stuff: top military or civilian officials deceiving or tricking the President. Is this common knowledge? Substantiated? Did heads roll? If not, why not?
Of course, it makes a major difference if it was the civilians or the military.
If it was the civilian appointees, it is a sign that things were more rotten in the bowels of the Clinton administration that I'd suspected, that the mendacity of some officials involved in the Hilarycare plan was equaled elsewhere. At this point, that would be more of a historical curiosity than anything else. If, on the other hand, the deceivers wore uniforms, that would be a big deal.
Our top military officers now play political roles. General Clark's own experiences in Kosovo illustrate this, but the real proconsuls are the “CINCs”—the five regionally oriented Unified Commands (Central Command, Southern Command, Pacific Command, European Command, and Joint Forces Command). As General James T. Scott put it, CINCs “find themselves more and more relied upon to exercise 'operational diplomacy' because of the resources the CINC's possess”. That doesn't mean we want them feeling they can lie like politicians.
To avoid being misunderstood here, I suppose I should say a thing or two about my utterly unscientific view of the officer corps. I grew up in a time and place in which the military was not popular. The Vietnam war was the issue of the day, and the military was stereotyped by Gen. Curtis LeMay and Lt. William Calley. That is not my view today. I've met a number of serving and former officers, and been very, very impressed by the higher-ranking ones and some but not all of the more junior officers. The Army Captains and down I've met are a pretty mixed bag, but by the time you get to Lt. Colonels, or Navy Captains, they tend to be pretty serious people, and even more so when they have stars on their shoulders. All the more reason why I'd imagine it was the politicals, and be surprised and disappointed to find Admirals and Generals lying to the President in this way, even to one they may not have liked much.