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Monday, June 27, 2005

Listen to Our Military Leaders ... or Get Out

In today’s Wall Street Journal, General Barry McCaffrey has a commentary entitled “Failure isn’t an option.” In it, he rightly points out that “the American people are losing faith in the statements of our Defense Department leadership.” One reason for that, I would argue, is because the top civilian leaders in the department have consistently refused to listen to our military leaders.

Lest everyone forget, in the spring of 2003, General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, was asked by the Senate Armed Forces Committee how many troops would be needed to keep the peace after war. Shinseki forthrightly replied “Something on the order of several hundred thousand.” Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Defense Secretary, derided Shinseki’s estimate as “wildly off the mark.” Wolfowitz was supported by Rumsfeld, and Shinseki was quietly – albeit controversially – retired shortly thereafter. In light of McCaffrey’s plea for an additional 80,000 army personnel and 25,000 Marines, it now appears that it was Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld who were “wildly off the mark.”

Until our civilian leaders in the Defense Department acknowledge the magnitude and complexity of the conflict in Iraq and then have the courage to honestly tell the American public what it will take to get the job done, our faith in their optimistic estimates will continue to erode.

I don't support the war in Iraq. I believe it is "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time" and, as senator, I will oppose it. However, I wish my opponents -- if they are to continue to favor the war -- would at least have the courage to tell the public what it will really take to get the job done. By their refusal to do, they are actually putting the lives of our troops over in Iraq in greater jeopardy. At the present time, our forces are too thinly spread out to offer proper protection to their fellow soldiers.

My point is this: If my opponents are unwilling to call for more troops (an intellectually honest position), then they should admit the alternative ... it is time to get out. The one thing that will not work is the status quo.

Jack Uldrich