Best Defense

Gen. Dempsey is the right man for the job

This item, by "Kriegsakademie," is being promoted from the comments section: Dempsey was one of the smartest students I taught at the National War College. His core strength was his ability to take any idea and quickly outline the second- and third-order implications. He also wrote unusually well for a colonel — which was probably ...

Pablo Martinez Monsivais - Pool/Getty Images
Pablo Martinez Monsivais - Pool/Getty Images

This item, by "Kriegsakademie," is being promoted from the comments section:

Dempsey was one of the smartest students I taught at the National War College. His core strength was his ability to take any idea and quickly outline the second- and third-order implications. He also wrote unusually well for a colonel — which was probably a corollary of his strategic style.

I would not like to see Marty resign on a point of principle at this juncture.

Over the past several years I think that he has been a useful foil for Obama. He has been open to fully exploring all lines of action — including the ones he regards as dangerous or futile. He wants his president to know that he is not oblivious to the McCains of the political world who press dangerous courses of action on the President all the time. "Yes, Mr. President, we can do that. Here is what it will take in blood and treasure up front and here are some of the possible or likely follow-ons and what they will cost in blood and treasure".

If we were to have a McChrystal, McRaven, McWhatever in Dempsey’s job they would be much more likely to say "Yes, Mr. President, we can do that. When do you want to pull the trigger?"

I am sure that Dempsey would have preferred if the president had limited his ISIS war objective to "degrade" rather than "destroy." And I am sure that he advised him that air power alone will absolutely not "destroy" ISIS and will only degrade it to a point.

Like many presidents, Obama does not want to acknowledge the slipperiness of the slippery slope — or he believes that he won’t slip where others have. Obama’s caution leads him to take rhetorical steps against slipping (promising "no boots") while Dempsey tells him that, in the end, there are going to be some boots.

None of this adds up, in my mind, to "Dempsey should resign" or "Dempsey should fall on his sword."

He serves a cautious but militarily naive president in what I see as a quite responsible manner. Again, I would be less happy with a McRaven, a McChrystal or a McWhatever taking up the chairmanship in the wake of Dempsey’s resignation.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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