FROM THE O CLUB TO THE BOARDROOM
Wynnie and I recently spent three restful weeks on a home exchange in the Ile de France.
In Paris, while relaxing in a hotel room, I found CNN, in English. It supplemented my daily search for the International Herald Tribune.
Candy Crowley was interviewing three men with deep ties to the Iraq war, regarding the planned withdrawal of combat troops.
Zalmad Khalilzad was G.W. Bush's Ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to 2007.
Admiral William Fallon was head of the U.S. Central Command, and General Richard Myers was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Three high-powered, well-spoken guys.
I soon became uncomfortable. None were saying anything substantive. I watched Crowley prod them to open up, to move away from the bland, squishy statements I was hearing. Here, in direct quotes, are some examples:
(Khalilzad) "The question for me is whether, next year, withdrawing the entire force, with some residual training elements, perhaps, remaining, whether the Iraqis will be ready then. And I believe that's a tall order."
(Myers) "And so I would take General Odierno's word that we're---we are ready for that. And I think we just have to---at some point, the Iraqis have to be responsible for their---their own situation. And maybe this will be the impetus to go ahead and finish their---their political debate."
(Fallon) "But I think it's really in our interests, and I think in the interests of the Iraqis, that we continue a relationship with them. For example, the Iraqis have made a decision to buy U.S. equipment, tanks and airplanes and a lot of other things that are very important to them."
My head began to broil. I'd just read Fareed Zakaria's excellent article, Be More Like Ike, referring to Eisenhower's concern about the unchecked growth of the "military-industrial complex."
Defense Secretary Gates is struggling to sell a $100 billion reduction in defense spending over the next five years, from a budget targeted at $3.5 trillion.
Donald Rumsfeld complained of having 17 staff levels between him and line officers. Gates guesses that today there are 30 levels.
To further reference Fareek's article, today we are burdened with 530 assistant defense secretaries. In 1960, amidst the Cold War, we had 78.
We have over 3,200 tactical combat aircraft, and our Navy has more ships than the next 13 countries combined.
Then CNN ran a teaser showing the Directorships that both Myers and Fallon currently serve on. It hit me between the eyes like a Nolan Ryan fastball!
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