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The Anger At Rumsfeld

In a characteristically good column today, Charles Krauthammer argues there are three possible complaints retired generals could have against Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. After rebutting the first two, Krauthammer hits on the third:

What's left of the general's revolt? A third complaint: He didn't listen to me. So what? Lincoln didn't listen to McClellan, and fired him. Truman had enough of listening to MacArthur and fired him too. In our system of government, civilians fire generals, not the other way around.

Krauthammer is obviously correct. Ironically enough, however, some of the animosity directed at Rumsfeld by the retired generals may have to do with the fact that Rumsfeld is himself a retired officer. Rumsfeld attained the rank of Captain while in the Navy (an O-6 which is equivalent to the rank of Colonel in the Army, Air Force or Marines) and that, according to an Army officer who emailed me on the subject recently, has been a tough pill for some to swallow:

Some flag officers however, have a difficult time taking orders from someone that is in their mind their "junior." They can not separate the civilian status from the retired military status. That has ALWAYS been a problem in DOD when former/retired military are appointed to civilian leadership positions.

Additionally, having already done a tour of duty as SecDef, Rumsfeld knows how the "system" at the Pentagon works. The result, according to my correspondent, is that while some other Secretaries of Defense could be "led" by flag officers at the DoD, with Rumsfeld it's been the other way around.