Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post reports that Adm Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, “felt very good, very positive” about his initial meeting with Barack Obama. That one-on-one encounter lasted 45 minutes.
Mullen has every incentive to give a positive report about the meeting, but I take at face value his statement that he found Obama to be pragmatic and a good listener. Obama’s reputation for listening to everyone extends back to his days as head of the Harvard Law Review. Moreover, unlike Bill Clinton circa 1992-93, Obama and his circle have made it a point to show their respect for the military.
It’s more difficult to take at face the claims of DeYoung’s sources that they were the victims of the “ideological certitude” of the Bush administration. This sentiment would seem to represent the attempt of some in the military leadership to evade responsibility for the poor advice they offered regarding Iraq. Even DeYoung acknowledges that “few in their ranks voiced misgivings over the Iraq war.” But her sources blame George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for not “encouraging” them to air misgivings and somehow requiring them to “drink the Kool-Aid.”
This tired line is simultaneously a cop-out and an admission of the failure of those who invoke it to have done their duty. Fortunately, Gen. Petraeus did his duty and President Bush’s alleged ideological certainty proved to be no barrier.
But all of this is in the past. It’s honeymoon time now, and the military brass seems willing to ignore Obama’s prior dovish pronouncements, which helped cause him to lose the military vote by an estimated 3-1 margin according to a Military Times poll cited by DeYoung. And Obama is probably happy to overlook the revisionist tendencies and self-confessed spinelessness of elements of the brass. But he should make a mental note of them.
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