Some Generals May Quit if Bush Orders Iran Attack
Four or five of the hundreds of generals on active duty might resign if President Bush orders an attack on Iran, report Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter for the Sunday Times of London.
Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack. “There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them. “There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
So be it. Civilian control of the military is a fundamental principle of our Republic; it is the job of our elected leadership to make these decisions and the job our our military professionals to render their best advice and then salute and carry out their orders to the best of their ability. Those who can not do that in good conscience must indeed resign.
Kevin Hayden titles his post on this matter “As close to a Mutiny as it gets” and gives the impression he thinks that’s a good thing. Do we really want to become a banana republic, where the generals make these decisions rather than our elected and accountable leaders? Thankfully, though, resignation in protest is not mutiny; it’s a recognition that one can’t do one’s duty.
(Bruce McQuain‘s point, that if these “most senior military commanders” are actually working at the Pentagon then they are not in command of anything is a point well taken, though.)
I say that even though my ultimate judgment is the same as that of these generals. While I think we likely do have the military resources necessary to invade and even occupy Iran, there is a strong consensus among people who study this sort of thing for a living that the negative consequences of war with Iran would outstrip any conceivable benefit. Sy Hersh’s incessant banging of the drum to the contrary, that remains the public position of the administration.
UPDATE: Reader Greg emails wondering whether said generals will “quit” or merely retire. There’s a big difference, as he notes, in that the latter would allow them to “start drawing up to 100% base pay in retirement pay (new policy effective 1 Jan 07 allows service members to keep accruing retirement benefits at 2.5% per year beyond the traditional 75% @ 30 yrs).” He feels that, “If the ‘senior leadership’ really wanted to make a statement, they would resign their commission and forgo their military ‘retirement’ pay. . . . Retiring and receiving full benefits and pay as a retired officer isn’t really much of a statement.” A fair point.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey adds some valuable perspective:
[Resignation in this case is] not the only honorable route, and it may well be more honorable to stay and try to convince the political leadership to change course, but staff officer resignations are not desertions and have never been considered as such.
In fact, that was one of the bases of trying Nazi staff officers and military commanders at Nuremberg and elswhere. When they claimed that they had to follow the Fuehrer’s orders, the answer was that they had the option — and in this case, the duty — to resign rather than commit the crimes they did.
Now, it seems that these unnamed officers are threatening to resign because they think the hypothetical mission foolhardy, not morally objectionable. Still, they have the right to resign rather than serve if the feel strongly.