"A war born in spin," observes Steve Coll, "has now reached its Lewis Carroll period." His comment, in this week’s New Yorker, takes a swipe at White House treatment of free-speaking senior military officers. He cites the impending retirement of U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff William Cody as context, following his brief last week to the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which he suggested that the health of US forces is less than vibrant. Cody, who at the end of his career may have felt freer than most to provide an honest assessment, quoted by Coll:
The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies. . . . Soldiers, families, support systems and equipment are stretched and stressed. . . . Overall, our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it. If unaddressed, this lack of balance poses a significant risk to the all-volunteer force and degrades the Army’s ability to make a timely response to other contingencies.
Coll notes that "Flag officers in the Bush Administration’s military have learned that they can be marginalized or retired if they speak out too boldly. The Administration does not romanticize the role of the loyal opposition." This does not bode well for Gen David Petraeus, who though "a loyal Army man… has distinctive views about military doctrine." Coll suggests that the suppression of public dissent from professional military officers "is depriving American voters of an election-year debate " on critical defence issues. "In the long run," he points out, "success or failure for the United States in Iraq will not hinge on who wins the argument about the surge; it will depend on whether it proves possible to change the subject."
‘T was brillig, and the slithy toves, did gyre and gimble in the wabe…
Coll, Steve. "Military Conflict." New Yorker (14 April 2008).