Obama Dumps a Smart, Independently Minded General
12:40 PM, Jan 22, 2013 • By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
It seems clear that American civil-military relations have been healthiest when there is a high level of trust between civilian and military leaders, i.e. when there is mutual respect and understanding between them that leads to the exchange of candid views and perspectives between the two parties as part of the decision-making process.
On the one hand, the military must have a voice in strategy making, while realizing that politics permeates the conduct of war and that civilians have the final say, not only concerning the goals of the war but also how it is conducted. On the other, civilians must understand that to implement effective policy and strategy requires the proper military instrument and therefore must insist that soldiers present their views frankly and forcefully throughout the strategy-making and implementation process. This is the key to healthy civil-military relations.
No general in recent times has represented the military side in the civil-military dialogue better than General James Mattis, the current commander of U.S. Central Command. Nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in the summer of 2010, Gen. Mattis has presided over the most volatile region in the world. During his time as commander, none of the symptoms of unhealthy civil-military relations such as those that characterized the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, have manifested themselves. There have been no leaks to the press over policy disagreements and no reports of “slow rolling” or “foot dragging” in Gen. Mattis’s implementation of the president’s policy.
Yet in December, it was announced that Gen. Mattis would be leaving his post in March, well short of what would be expected of a combatant commander whose has acquitted himself well in the position. Most observers were stunned. There seemed to be no logical reason for his being replaced early. But according to Tom Ricks’s blog, The Best Defense, at FP online:
In a follow-up to his original post, Ricks provided an account of what he been told since his original piece: