The View From 1776

Is Senator Kerry an LBJ Clone?

Didn’t we learn in the Vietnam War that it’s disastrous for a President to micro-manage day-to-day conduct of the battlefield?

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Senator Kerry has frequently castigated President Bush for failing to do specific things in the Iraq campaign. 

The latest example is his blast that the President failed to prevent the looting of 380 tons of extremely powerful explosives, which in the Senator’s description sound like WMD.  That not unintentional image is suggested by news accounts that describe the missing explosives as capable of triggering a nuclear bomb.

No evidence proves that the explosives went missing during the time of occupation of Iraq by coalition forces.  In fact, as NBCNEWS reported after the story broke, its embedded news crew accompanied U. S. troops when they moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003 , one day after the liberation of Iraq.  No one saw the IAEA tags that had been used to secure the weapons bunkers in which the 380 missing tons of explosives had last been seen, before the start of the war.

This point has been exhaustively reported in internet blogs and some mainstream media.  It has, however, been ignored or buried by the New York Times, which published the original charge as a page-one story.

The more interesting point is that Senator Kerry evidently expects whoever is President and commander-in-chief to call every shot, make every decision on the battle field. 

He can’t have it both ways.  If the President is to be charged with massive failure, then it must be the President who issues every order to the troops in the field.

If not, then Senator Kerry’s charge is a criticism of our military forces in the field and their leaders.

In all of America’s wars before Vietnam, Presidents were responsible for establishing war aims, appointing senior military officers, signing-off on military grand strategy, and directing mobilization on the home front.  But no president before LBJ demanded that battlefield commanders get daily permission for proposed actions. 

Lincoln, for example, suffered through a string of Union generals who “had the slows” before he finally found in General Grant a commander who would fight relentlessly to bring the Civil War to an end.  But Lincoln wisely never tried to issue specific battle orders.  The same could be said for Presidents Woodrow Wilson in World War I and Franklin Roosevelt in World War II.

LBJ, in contrast, arrogated the right to approve daily battle plans based partly on his assessment of their impact on political sentiment here in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  American servicemen in the field were sometimes not permitted to take offensive or defensive actions that field commanders recommended, because LBJ countermanded them.

LBJ’s “sensitivity” to public opinion is exactly the mindset that Senator Kerry exhibits at every turn when denouncing the war in Iraq.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/27 at 06:16 PM
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