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Bombs and wars

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Retired General Wesley Clark questions John McCain's military experience because while McCain was a squadron commander in the 1970s after returning from Viet Nam, he hadn't "ordered the bombs to fall".

Hey, Clark. Remember the Cold War? Remember how the Soviet Union fell without us dropping any bombs on them? It's a good thing, too, since those bombs were nuclear.

Oh, say, Clark. Weren't you the one who ordered the Brits to block the Russians in Kosovo in 1999? Fortunately, General Jackson, with the backing of the the British defense establishment - and evidently that of your own boss at the time, Hugh Shelton - said he wasn't going to "start the Third World War" for you.

McCain may have spent less years in uniform than you did, but hopefully he learned a lesson that you didn't: that the purpose of the military is to win wars, not to drop bombs.
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On July 2nd, 2008 03:20 am (UTC), harrock commented:
I'm curious to know what your analysis would be if Clark didn't have such a juicy bad call on his record.

And it certainly does seem like a strange call on his part. Perhaps he forgot that Russia has been politically invested in the Balkans for a heck of a long time, not just since WW2. Not a favorable place for a showdown, from what I can tell.
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On July 2nd, 2008 05:24 am (UTC), psychohist replied:
I'd still think Clark was an idiot. I'd just have left the third paragraph out.

If he'd stuck to 'getting shot down is not a qualification to be Commander in Chief', I probably wouldn't have commented. Of course, getting shot down is pretty similar to John F. Kennedy's qualification of 'getting his PT boat sunk', but while Kennedy did make some good calls - like the Cuban missile crisis - he also made some bad calls, like the Bay of Pigs.

What did push my buttons was the implication that 'ordering the dropping of bombs' was the only useful form of military command experience. From the standpoint of the effectiveness of the Navy, the training squadron McCain commanded probably had a bigger impact than any single combat squadron would have.

More importantly, the point of war is not to be as nasty to the enemy as possible. Contrary to popular American perception, war is not a zero sum game. The U.S. has perhaps gotten too used to playing with other peoples' poker chips - and lives.

Now, I kind of understand where Clark is coming from. I suspect he's still feeling some sour grapes over losing the 2004 nomination to Kerry - he probably thinks he could have done better than Kerry in the general election - and I suspect he feels that he didn't get that opportunity because his command experience was not properly valued when compared to Kerry's more limited military experience.

I think he's wrong, though; Clark may have had more military experience, but Kerry had political experience that Clark didn't. I also think the 'bad call' at Pristina shows that some people can have the experience and still not learn from it. I just hope Obama doesn't have this guy slotted for Secretary of Defense in his cabinet.
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On July 2nd, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC), greyautumnrain replied:
I just hope Obama doesn't have this guy slotted for Secretary of Defense in his cabinet.

I suspect he probably does. I think usually if someone is your main adviser on whatever they get the relevant cabinet position if you win. Of course many liberals think that the military is all about killing people. If Obama is that type of liberal then the choice would make perfect sense.
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On July 2nd, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC), psychohist replied:
He could still dump the guy. That's what he eventually did last time he had to disagree publicly with one of his advisers.
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On July 3rd, 2008 04:00 am (UTC), harrock replied:
The interview definitely feels like Clark was trying to force in a particular set of sound bites, and fumbled. The way he did it, trying to draw attention to his own record vs. McCain's, suggests to me that he's angling for a job which hasn't been offered.

I wouldn't assume that Obama is so psyched about Clark--Clark was a Clinton backer who came over the day she pulled the plug. Given this display, I think Clark's best chance for a job would be if Clinton was pushing it as part of the deal to concede gracefully.

Provisionally, I agree with you. The data on this guy is not looking good.
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On July 3rd, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC), psychohist replied:
Did Clark replace someone, or did Obama not have any military advisors previously? My impression is that what few Democratic military folks there are were all Clinton backers; I believe Shelton also backed Clinton, despite his having said in 2004 that Clark was pressured out of his NATO job for "integrity and character issues".
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On July 4th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC), harrock replied:
I've had the same impression. Certainly, if you were a Democratic military folk, back when Clinton looked inevitable, and they all had connections dating from the '90s, no reason not to get on the train.

For Obama's pre-existing military advisors, Merrill McPeak is getting the most press, most of it negative.

Whether Clark is actually the top military advisor now, or is merely assumed to be, is not clear to me from the news articles I've been able to dig up.
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