Missing the Point of the Joint Chiefs’ Kabuki Dance

Adm. Mullen and Gen. Dempsey. Courtesy Dept of Defense

Obama’s re-shuffling of his national security team, in particular, the new picks for chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes for great theater: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but the superficial musings of military analysts facing print deadlines. For example, after the expected platitudes to Petraeus as “the most successful general the U.S. has produced in decades,” and praising the ‘diplomatic experience’ of Adm. James Stavridis, Max Boot of Commentary allows that Gen. Martin Dempsey is an excellent choice for Chairman because of his intellect and combat experience.

So far, so conventional, but what could explain the following?

“Today’s announcements confirm the point I had made earlier about Obama: He has had to undergo a long period of on-the-job training and he has made a number of stumbles along the way but he also has a capacity to learn from experience and correct course before things go too disastrously awry. The decision to drop Cartwright in favor of Dempsey is another indication of that process in action.”

Huh? Are we still talking about Obama?

I’d tend to believe the on-the-job thing if the president was competently grappling with the real threat to the nation, soaring deficits and fiscal irresponsibility. And as far as experience, it’s probably too late to begin accumulating useful knowledge when you’re already president. But that’s a voter issue. The latest flag-officer re-boot is unlikely to clear up the president’s inept and disastrous foreign policy, as evidenced by our halting and unsure response to the uprisings in the middle east and Africa and counter productive outreach to Russia, Iran and North Korea.

But what continues to amaze is the capacity for some conservatives to continually judge the president’s actions anew, forgetting the adage that its “by deeds you shall know them.” Perhaps it’s an emotional need for magnanimity with a political opposite. While Boot describes pancake makeup, he’s blind to the machinations of the puppet master above. Obama didn’t get elected to fight the war on terror, but to reshape the domestic landscape into an socialist paradise.

All the résumé scrubbing of the flag officers in play misses the point. Cartwright’s “reputation as a devious and disloyal bureaucratic operator,” is a throwaway among guys who spent their working lives climbing the greasy pole and have black belts in bureaucratic jujitsu. And Boot’s concern that a Chairman Cartwright would set back civil-military relations is unfounded. As Obama’s favorite general and Vice Chairman, one can argue he was already the de-facto Chairman in influence; and yet, civil-military relations survived. As might be expected from a large and relatively homogenous military, our generals and admirals tend to differ only in manner, and not in kind. And the most prized characteristic of the organizational man is loyalty.

With re-election at stake and rightly perceived by voters as weak on defense, Obama needs uniformed men he can trust to execute his real endgame. Unlike Cartwright, Dempsey is highly regarded and squeaky clean. Along with Leon Panetta, the president will use both men as heat shields to take down defense spending and re-route dollars to entitlement programs that will insure democratic voting majorities, until, of course, the country goes bankrupt.

I leave it up to the reader’s imagination to wonder of a world without U.S. exceptionalism.


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