Sunday, October 14, 2007

The bright red line

By Libby

The NYT takes a look inside an Army think tank for "elite officers" and the the debate is rather illuminating. They argue whether Rumsfeld or the generals who fell in line behind him are more culpable for the failure of the Iraq occupation and ponder the moral imperative of the red line, the "point at which they would defy a command from the civilians — the president and the defense secretary — who lead the military."

“We have an obligation that if our civilian leaders give us an order, unless it is illegal, immoral or unethical, then we’re supposed to execute it, and to not do so would be considered insubordinate,” said Major Timothy Jacobsen, another student. “How do you define what is truly illegal, immoral or unethical? At what point do you cross that threshold where this is no longer right, I need to raise my hand or resign or go to the media?”


They ask, "If enough four-star generals had done that, would it have stopped the war?" It's not an easy answer. All choices have consequences.

“Yeah, we’d call it a coup d’etat,” Colonel Fontenot said. “Do you want to have a coup d’etat? You kind of have to decide what you want. Do you like the Constitution, or are you so upset about the Iraq war that you’re willing to dismiss the Constitution in just this one instance and hopefully things will be O.K.? I don’t think so.”

I don't know. A military coup is not a comfortable thought but the Colonel's response doesn't take into account what the moral imperative is when the orders issued are already immoral and unconstitutional. These are not ordinary times. But the trillion dollar question is one that none have been able to answer, not even our sainted Petraeus. "Should the war have been fought?"
“I honestly don’t know how I feel about that,” Major Powell said in a telephone conversation after the discussions at Leavenworth.

“That’s a big, open question,” General Caldwell said after a long pause.

You know I have some empathy for these guys. It's a difficult choice. Their loyalty and obedience is tied by rule and custom to their fellow soldiers and the chain of command but their oath is to country. Nonetheless, that question must be answered and soon if we're to salvage what's left of our world standing and even more importantly, the follow-up question must be honestly addressed as well. Do they honor their oath to country by continuing this occupation indefinitely without protest or are they merely serving the interests of politicians by following orders to the detriment of our national security?

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