Sunday, August 28, 2005

The General

As the 2008 Democratic field begins to take shape, it's worth considering the liabilities each may bring to the race.

Although widely regarded by many party followers as the prototypical national security Democrat, General Wesley Clark has come in for criticism regarding his NATO command in Kosovo, and likely will again should he progress very far in the 2008 primaries.

Among those critical of Clark is Andrew Bacevich, a self-described conservative whose recent book The New American Militarism I've discussed favorably on prior occasions in this space for its critique of the Bush administration's military overstretch. Although saving most of his critique for the Republican administration and the conservative forces pushing a messianic American militarism Bacevich disapproved of the Kosovo venture, viewing it as "using limited force in pursuit of less than vital objectives."

Bacevich criticizes Clark for his part in encouraging the bombing campaign, for overestimating the bombing's effects as Serb troops dispersed to villages and forests, and for underestimating the humanitarian crisis spawned by the air attacks as the Serbs accelerated their policy of ethnic cleansing.

Bacevich faults Operation Allied Force and Clark for undermining "the Powell Doctrine" of using overwhelming force (sparingly) for certain completeable national security interests, for discrediting the judgment of military leaders in the eyes of political officials who would thereafter invite themselves to second-guess military strategies and advice, and for reintroducing the mingling of the civil-political with the military when matters of waging war, limited or otherwise, were concerned.

I recite this not to validate or negate Bacevich as a critic of military policy or of Clark as a candidate.

I merely offer it for your consideration, to evaluate and to do with as you wish.

I report, you decide.

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