Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 17, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

DECONSTRUCTING CLARK....I promised a little bit about Wesley Clark yesterday, so I guess I'd better deliver. I'm afraid it's going to be anticlimactic, but here goes.

On the positive side, Clark demonstrates in Waging Modern War an obvious appreciation of the fact that since the United States can't do everything by itself, it's imperative to work well with other nations even though it's a real pain in the ass to do so. You can practically feel the frustration oozing out of his pores when he describes the convoluted command structure of NATO and the difficulty of holding the alliance together in the face of domestic political considerations coming from a dozen countries. Despite that, he takes the grownup attitude that since there's really no other alternative, we'd better accept multinational campaigns as the future of warfare and figure out the best way of dealing with them.

On the negative side, he describes continual conflicts with his boss, the Secretary of Defense, and with his peers and superiors in the Army. He is frequently uninvited to meetings he thinks he should be at, and even though the book gives only his side of the story it's pretty obvious that there's a reason for this. We don't know what it is, of course, but it clearly involves something more than just disagreements over military strategy. The lesson Clark seems to have taken from this is that since he obviously knew more than anyone else, he should have had more autonomy and access to the White House, a conclusion that I'm not sure I find comforting.

Finally, on the both the positive and negative side, Clark seems have been surprised about how difficult it was to deal with the press in a high profile situation like a war. This surprise is a little inexplicable, but on the other hand, having learned this lesson under fire it's likely that he's now successfully absorbed it and will work well with the press during his campaign. Time will tell on this.

Disclaimer: I literally know almost nothing about Clark except what I read in his book, which gives only his side of the story. Nothing in this post should be construed as a final judgment on either Clark or his candidacy. I'll be as interested as any of you to see how he does over the next few months.

I'm also pretty agnostic about his disagreements with fellow Army officers. This fractiousness is similar to what Donald Rumsfeld is going through right now, and I think it's practically impossible for a layman to judge these things. Was Clark an arrogant twit convinced he knew better than anyone else, or were his opponents representatives of an ossified and change-phobic bureaucracy? Beats me.

Kevin Drum 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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