Pragmatists at the gates

Adm. Michael G. Mullen On Friday, I noted the interesting fact that two of the top U.S. military posts will soon be held by Navy admirals. But here’s something much more significant about Friday’s personnel moves: The early retirement of Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, completes ...

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601338_070611_mullen_05.jpg

Adm. Michael G. Mullen

Adm. Michael G. Mullen

On Friday, I noted the interesting fact that two of the top U.S. military posts will soon be held by Navy admirals. But here’s something much more significant about Friday’s personnel moves: The early retirement of Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, completes the rise of a significant bloc of senior officials who aren’t exactly gung-ho about the surge strategy in Iraq.

Consider:

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates was a key member of the Iraq Study Group, and reportedly authored many of its findings.
  • Incoming Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael G. Mullen is said to be “pragmatic about Iraq.”
  • Recently appointed “War Czar” Douglas E. Lute has been publicly skeptical about U.S. progress in Iraq.
  • Adm. William J. Fallon, new head of Central Command, quietly retired Gen. John Abizaid’s formulation of the “Long War” against terrorism. He has publicly expressed pessimism about the potential for sectarian reconciliation in Iraq.

What does it all mean? It’s hard to say. I don’t think it means that the United States will begin withdrawing anytime soon—President Bush has been adamant that leaving Iraq is tantamount to defeat, and congressional Democrats don’t yet have the votes to force his hand. Rather, I think it’s likely that these new military leaders will opt for the kind of smaller long-term presence laid out in this must-read article by Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post. Bush gets to save face, and the generals get to save the U.S. military from an impending crackup.

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