Letters to the Editor

By the

January 25, 2001

Your editorial “Cleaning up the Cabinet” is not only ludicrous in its assertions but is also highly insulting to military personnel, current and former, and reveals a glaring lack of knowledge and background on the part of your editorial staff.

To begin with, you claim that with Retired General Colin Powell at the helm of the State Department, the “often-tenuous line between diplomacy and military strength has disappeared,” yet you either neglect to mention or are unaware of the fact that perhaps one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in this century, if not this country’s history, was former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General George C. Marshall. It was Marshall who played a critical role in the restructuring of postwar Europe and was the driving force behind the Marshall Plan. Powell is a man in the Marshall mold, a former military officer that was nearly as accomplished a commander as he was a diplomat. If you think that neither Marshall nor Powell had experience in “dialectic tension” then you are poorly informed of your history. Both men managed massive coalitions in times of war that united nations and factions across the political and ethnic spectrum; no small feat indeed.

But it is your assertion that our country is left “with a growing war machine eager to pick a fight,” that is particularly insulting. You depict military people as single-minded warmongers. Either you don’t know any people serving in the military or you’ve based your view of the military on Apocalypse Now. In fact, military people are much more concerned with the risks of warfare and the loss of human life than many politicians and bureaucrats, as they put their lives on the line every day for this country. You should know that Powell was initially opposed to military involvement in the Persian Gulf and cautious about the use of force in Kosovo. As a man who has served in Vietnam and witnessed the devastating effects of war firsthand, he has a perspective on the reality of combat not possessed by the typical State Department desk jockey. The “Powell Doctrine,” which is so key to contemporary military policy, warns against the use of force unless there is a clear political objective and casualties are kept to a minimum.

You also make the statement that there is “no clear and present danger” in the modern world. I find it hard to believe your staff has been in hibernation for the past several years, with the rising vitriol towards the U.S. in the Middle East, the growing threat of anti-American terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction among rogue states and fanatical organizations. Osama bin Laden and his worldwide network might, in fact, pose a greater danger than the Soviet Union ever did during the height of the Cold War.

In short, I suggest you review the facts and history before making base generalizations and stereotypical comments about the military. I would sooner trust Powell, a man who knows the dangers of engaging in a conflict either too hastily or halfheartedly, with our nation’s foreign and military policy than a university academic or career politician. What should scare the American public is a national security team like the kind we saw during the Clinton years, where decisions were being made that directly affected our country’s men and women in uniform by individuals who had never worn that uniform themselves.

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