Yet Another Lesson in the Chain of Command

The ironic thing is that these are the people that were once so trusted in protecting us.

Yup, the whole Bush crew.  Karl Rove from 2002 on told Republicans to run on the war, to run on National Security, and yet the people in power, like Donald Rumsfeld, didn’t even understand the basic precepts of the Chain of Command.

For instance, did you know that the Secretary of Defense pretty much outranks everyone in uniform?  I know, it’s weird, who’da thunk it, right?

But it’s true.  In fact, you can take a little gander at this site to get a full grasp on who’s in charge of who.  Now, as you’ll notice, it goes from Bush, to the Secretary of Defense, to another stuffed shirt (Secretary of whichever service you’re discussing), then the military branch’s contribution to the Joint Chiefs, and THEN the individual generals.

So it’s important to keep in mind that Rummy, when he was in Secretary Gates’ position, was a couple of tiers above any general that had anything to do with Iraq.

I bring this up because Rummy seems to have forgotten this when he blamed the generals for the extremely poor pre-war planning in Iraq.  This is also important to bring up when we listen to Bush and McCain talk about listening to the commanders on the ground in Iraq.


Because those generals aren’t the ultimate decision makers.  This is a point that I find myself coming back to over and over again, and one of the reasons why I do not pile on to Petraeus as much as others.  Generals are soldiers.  Very very HIGH ranking soldiers, yes, very experienced soldiers, yes.  But they are soldiers, and soliders follow orders.

That’s their job.

The key problem with the civilian leadership essentially since Bush took over is that they have outsourced their entire role in the military, that is decision making and being responsible for those decisions, to the men and women in uniform.

Rummy’s little fit of scapegoating here only further illustrates this point.  Generals provide feedback to their civilian bosses, but the bosses have to have the knowledge, wisdom, insight, foresight, etc. to make the decisions based upon that feedback, and ultimately deliver the orders.  Once those orders have been delivered, they are ultimately responsible for them.

For their part, even the highest ranking general or admiral in the military (otherwise known as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff) is at the mercy of these orders.  They can protest all they want, they can offer alternative advice and solutions if they choose, but when all is said and done, once an order has been delivered, their job is to carry it out.

Not to argue the scope or wisdom of the mission.

So, when we look to 2008, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who recognizes this, as opposed to more of the same from someone like, say, McCain?

Listen to the generals, yes, I agree, but the question is, are you going to listen to all of them, or just the ones that agree with you, and at the end of the day, are you going to let them answer for you, make them responsible for decisions you have made or should have made, or will you take that responsibility yourself?


One Response to “Yet Another Lesson in the Chain of Command”

  1. Steve J. says:


    Rummy lied again…

    Satyam at ThinkProgress notes that in 2006, Rumsfeld claimed that the commanders on the ground in Iraq never asked for more troops:

    RUMSFELD: Now, it turns out he [Shinkseki] was right. The commanders–you guys ended up wanting roughly the same as you had for the major combat operation, and that’s what we have. There is no damned guidebook that says what the number ought to be. We were queued up to go up to what, 400-plus thousand.

    Q: Yes, they were already in queue.

    RUMSFELD: They were in the queue. We would have gone right on if they’d wanted them, but they didn’t, so life goes on.

    Gen. James “Spider” Marks says the opposite:

    BLITZER: But — I want to bring our other generals in in a moment. But based on your firsthand observations, your firsthand knowledge, General Marks, did the defense secretary reject recommendations from military commanders for more troops?

    BRIG. GEN. JAMES “SPIDER” MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Sure. Oh, absolutely. I mean, that’s been documented if you read General Franks’ book, and the current book, “Cobra II,” indicates very, very clearly, and in fact, that is in fact what happened. We requested the 1st Cavalry Division. That was denied. At a very critical point in the war, I might say.


  1. Outside The Beltway | OTB - Rumsfeld Blames Generals for Troop Strength... Some recently released Pentagon documents include an “hour-long talk [then-Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld…

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