Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2002 / 7 Tishrei, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion | In the months before DESERT SHIELD morphed into DESERT STORM, then Central Command commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf presented then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney with a plan for attacking Iraqi forces in Kuwait. It called for a frontal assault on the Iraqi lines.

This was stupid, for two reasons: A direct attack into the teeth of Iraq's defenses likely would result in more American casualties than any other course of action. And even if the attack were tactically successful, it likely would fail in the strategic objective of crippling Saddam's SS, the Republican Guard divisions, which were being held in reserve near the Kuwait-Iraq border.

Cheney told Schwarzkopf to try again. After this guidance, and with the assistance of planners from other services, Schwarzkopf came up with the blinding insights that it is better to go around minefields than to go through them; better to strike the enemy where he doesn't expect you than where he does.

The revised plan called for the Marines to launch a frontal assault to "fix" the Iraqis in place, while the armor heavy VII Corps would race around their right flank and strike in their rear. (The plan was sound, but failed because the Marines were too successful. Rather than "fixing" the Iraqis in place, they acted like a piston, pushing them out of Kuwait before the dawdling VII Corps could get behind them.)

The point of this anecdote is that Cheney, the civilian, was right, and Schwarzkopf, the general, was wrong. Opponents of military action against Iraq increasing are relying on the "chickenhawk" argument, asserting that the views of hawks such as Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz are somehow illegitimate because they have not served in the military.

The most prominent person to make the "chickenhawk" argument is retired Marine General Anthony Zinni. In a speech to the Economic Club of Florida, Zinni said war with Iraq would have undesirable side effects and should be a low priority. He asserted other military men agree with him.

"It's pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way, and all the others who have never fired a shot are hot to go to war," Zinni said. The doubts of Zinni and some other former generals, such as Schwarzkopf and Brent Scowcroft, who was an Air Force lieutenant general before he was National Security Adviser to the first President Bush, has brought about a strange new respect for the military from liberals who have had nothing but contempt for soldiers since the Vietnam war.

"Why would the Bush administration bother to listen to anyone who happens to be a general when it comes to war," asked MSNBC and Nation columnist Eric Alterman. "Didn't Dick Cheney learn everything he needed to know ducking Vietnam?

The irrepressibly shallow New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said that President Bush's apparent determination to go to war despite the doubts of some generals amounted to a "coup against the military."

Zinni is a former CENTCOM commander. His credentials to Speak With Authority on war with Iraq are impeccable. But they are no better than those of enthusiastic hawks such as retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, a former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; retired Air Force LtGen. Thomas McInerny, a highly decorated fighter pilot, and retired Marine LtGen. Bernard Trainor, who commanded troops in the Gulf War and later wrote a book about the conflict. That Downing, McInerny, Trainor and many other retired generals favor removing Saddam Hussein suggests Zinni was in error when he said "all the generals see it the same way."

Logic and consistency tend to be as unimportant to liberals as are facts, but those who oppose war with Iraq should think carefully before jumping on the "chickenhawk" bandwagon. Do liberals really think veterans are more likely to be against fighting Saddam than those who have never served? How much money would you like to bet on that? And do liberals really think that only those who have been in the military have something worthwhile to say on the issue? If so, I suggest that liberals who have never served (almost all of them) take their own advice, and shut up.

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© 2002, Jack Kelly