I have become increasingly disturbed by media reports that senior active-duty flag and general officers have spoken to reporters, on condition of anonymity, of their disagreements with the Obama administration’s policy regarding the war on terrorism. As to the merits of their disagreements, I likely would agree with most of them: misleading claims of victory, a flawed or absent strategy, and failure to forge and lead an effective alliance.
What bothers me is not the substance of what they are saying but the erosive effect not speaking for attribution has on the chain of command. There is only one person on top of that chain, and he is the Commander-in-Chief, whether you like him or not.
Our history is replete with flag and general officers, the vast majority of whom served with distinction and personal heroism under fire, failing to understand or respect this simple concept. Douglas MacArthur is the poster boy for this. He learned that even a “mere” one-time horse-drawn artillery captain named Harry S Truman outranked him. MacArthur’s public disagreements with Truman’s prosecution of the Korean War cost the general his job and fouled his reputation.