THE BLOG

The Revolt of a Colonel

05/03/2007 01:01 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two years ago I wrote on Meandted.com; "for the first time in my life I could foresee a military coup. The military has always considered Republicans its allies, but the military has never been as badly treated as it is now [being treated] under a Republican administration. I think that given all of the above junior officers serving in Iraq will never again fully trust the Pentagon because the Pentagon has not earned that trust."

This week Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote, "For the second time in a generation the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency...these debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crises in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy."

"U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in the 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq...one army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq...Privately, many senior general officers, both active and retired, expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq...however, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength to required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public."

Yingling writes that American generals "did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public...For more than three years, America's generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. He states flatly, "The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Viet Nam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship."

To those who have read Fiasco or Cobra much of the above is no surprise but never before has a serving army officer so publicly stated his views and so openly indicted his leaders. In America, Yingling is unique, but "revolts of the colonels" are not uncommon in Asia and Latin America. (In Cuba it was a revolt of the sergeants that promoted Sgt. Batista to general and dictator.) They occur when field officers and non-coms who face the reality of war recognize the incompetence or, more particularly in this case, the complaisance of their generals.

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld micromanaged the war in Iraq and Bush and Cheney continue to do so. From the beginning they told the generals how many troops they could have. Later, they withdrew forces around election time for obvious political reasons. Political considerations took priority. In 2003 they refused to recognize the virtues of the Petraeus plan and exiled him to Kansas. His plan called for an increase in troops just before the 2004 Presidential election. It wasn't until after 2006, the final election of the Bush years, that the President finally ordered the "surge" and put General Petraeus in charge. Even now the administration is looking for an "Iraq tsar" to sit atop Petraeus. No way this administration will permit generals to make final strategic decisions.

That's what Col.Yingling refers to when he writes, "While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt there is less certainty regarding their moral courage...professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters." I read that as code for: the generals were so afraid of "their civilian masters" that they refused to speak out against the politicians who micromanaged and mismanaged the war so far.

If Colonel Yingling, who saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, doubts the "moral courage" of his superiors then what about the majors, captains and lieutenants who serve under him? What about non-coms and privates? Are they as disgusted as Yingling seems to be? If so, what are they going to do about it?

More importantly, what are we going to do about it?