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April 21, 2006


Ah, the world before think tanks.

An age where making it go, and getting it to work, took precidence over haaving it conform to Correct Thought.

this is such an interestingly told story. Even without reference to its timeliness, it is fun to read in its own right.

i am not military ("i am not now, nor have i ever been, military."), but, being southern, many of my family are.

it is my opinion, and i stress opinion, not certain knowledge, that the american military at its highest levels has hundreds, of exceptionally well-educated leaders in every area of military endeavor. i chose the word "educated" over "trained" because these folk, men and women, have experienced much more than just routine training and field experience, with a few "skills update" camps thrown in from time to time.

i wonder if some of the problems we have experienced in the last six years (in iraq, afghanistan, iran) are due in part, maybe substantially, to the contempt for the upper levels of the military displayed by secdef rumsfeld and his merry band of neo-cons.

and by rumsfeld's apparent disinclination to make the most of his uniformed military human capital.

as you describe him, marshall is a man of extraordinary competence in planning - whether logistics or the occupation of a defeated enemy's country.

but i wonder if there may not be, at present, several people of at least somewhat similar skills in our military; they just were never called on. or their suggestions were ignored if they challenged rumsfeldian assumptions or expectations.

my thesis leads, obviously, to the assertion that these folks were not asked to exercise their talent and training.

at any event, if i'm reading you correctly, one thing i take away from your tale is that roosevelt and other american military leaders of the time let the military do the planning and "do their thing" in the military occupation of germany.

am i wrong in inferring that?

by contrast, bush and his civilian defense corp have intervened in every possible way in military activities.

as what may seem an odd example, i have never been anything but curious about the appearance of one of condeleeza rice's staff at the abu grabh prison in november, 20??.

or the put down of gen shinsecki,,

or the ignoring of what one general recently described as "10 years of war planning" when bush/cheney/rumsfeld decided to invade iraq in 2002.

if the leaders existed in the american military to do a better job than was actually done in either iraq or afghanistan, and rumsfeld failed to use them or listen to their council, then his malfeasance is even greater than i had previously imagined.

personally, that is what i believe to be the motive behind the very unusual public commentary of over half-dozen very senior military officers criticizing the rumsfeld "leadership".

There are few people anywhere ever who had the competence of General Marshall. His biggest mistake was keeping military genius Joseph Stillwell in place as a useless diplomat in China instead of using him to head up the invasion of North Africa, Italy and/or Normandy.

I always thought Eisenhower contemptible for failing to stick up for Marshall -- the man who made Eisenhower's career -- when McCarthy attacked Marshall for having empolyed a "pink Army dentist."

By the same token, Marshall made it a practice when in the Army of never voting.


Eisenhower became Supreme Commander because he was a good diplomat first, and judge of military matters second. Ike had great operational support around him. Understanding Ike is about understanding his relationship with Bradley. Sadly Viniger Joe was a great military mind, but can you see him managing Montogomery and Churchill? Nah.

One of the early chapters in Wes Clark's first book, "Waging Modern War" includes a short essay on the place of the Military + Scholar in the scheme of things in the wake of Vietnam. Clark claims they came under great suspicion -- and to that point he references Brent Scowcroft who was both. (Scowcroft has a Columbia PHD on the politics of the Balkins).

I tend to think the issue is cultural, we have been in an anti-intellectual environment more or less since the Reagan Era (witness calling policy folk Policy Wonks during the Clinton years -- ar back up to George Wallace and his claim that the intellectuals could not park their bikes straight) and you have a prejudice that needs addressing. What Clark contends is that intellectual depth and bredth is not the way to get promoted these days in the Army -- and if so, that does have to do with who achieves stars and leadership.

I see Roosevelt and Marshall as an arms length partnership. They intentionally spent little time together, meeting during WWII perhaps twice a month. But they had a super liason person, Admiral Leahy, who sat in on all Marshall's critical meetings, and had the key to Roosevelt's office and bedroom. Leahy had been FDR's envoy to Vichy France up to the N. African invasion which means he dealt with Petan -- and that probably seasoned him for being the liason between Marshall and Roosevelt.

To comprehend FDR -- start with the fact that he was Deputy Sec. of the Navy in Wilson's administration, and thus had built, quite quickly, a modern navy. It is not the end all and be all training -- but FDR clearly knew in the 30's what was involved in building a modern military -- as he had participated in doing it. He understood the difference between Political leadership and Military leadership, something our current occupant does not comprehend. (Can you imagine FDR dropping on the deck of a carrier with a codpiece?) No -- FDR toured factories in his convertable with his hat and cloke. He never pretended to be a military leader -- and he took great delight in downsizing Churchill's pretensions to such. He met with Stalin and on occassion he had lunch with the privates getting ready to go overseas. Everything between that really belonged to Marshall -- except you do have to look carefully at FDR's hand written edit of Churchill's first outline of the UN (dates to early 1942), in which he eliminated (destroyed) the British Empire in the outline, and set down a host of countries that should be (would become) independent. FDR would help defeat Germany, but he had a few additional post war objectives. That was his business, not Marshall's business. (Robert Sherwood includes a copy of this document in his edit of the Harry Hopkins Diaries.) (And that raise
yt another point -- FDR had a prisewinning playwright and novelist working as his scribe. -- Winesberg Ohio and the American collaborator with Composer Kurt Weill. It was an entirely different time, as some have observed.) And that is why assessing some of the particulars of it all are useful.

I actually don't blame leadership as much as I blame Americans for this -- for while my local Barnes and Noble is full of World War II books -- and nothing I have really written here is not in them (or the Internet -- the Hunt Report and the 500 page history of the occupation of Germany are on the Army War College site on the net) -- people are simply not using available information to counter BushCo. Remember back in the run up to Iraq when Candi was floating "Germany Occupation -- big success" along with her Mushroom Cloud, she mentioned Wherewolves and the murder of the Mayor of Aachen. Now how much trouble was that to look up in any standard WWII history. Condi lied. It was Himmler who ordered the Mayor killed, and it was someone from the SS who did the job. We've known that since 1945. If no one picked that up from all the standard histories, the problem is with reading comprehension. Why did no one among our WWII Historians or amature historians call Condi on that little fib???? Why be culturally polite? In fact since Condi is in the line from George Marshall as Secretary of State -- can she stand in his shoes?

I agree that Eisenhower should be disrespected for standing with Joe McCarthy and allowing him to trash George Marshall. It was unforgivable. It was also unnecessary because he eventually had to deal with McCarthy in the Army McCarthy hearings and all. It is one of the great back-stabbings in American History. Should not be forgotten. On the other hand the fact that the Republican Party was forced to provide the votes for McCarthy's censure in 1954 -- that is profound. (Robert Caro covers this in "Master of the Senate"). The censure took place after the election in 1954 when the Republicans lost the Senate -- but Lyndon Johnson would not allow any Democratic votes till the Republicans upped with a majority of their caucus for censure. He made the Republicans condemn their own.

But this takes us away from the contrast/comparison between Marshall and the current crop. That is what I think needs emphasis.

It would've been hilarious to see Stilwell try to "manage" Montgomery. But I wasn't thinking of Stilwell in Eisenhower's slot, more in Omar Bradley's slot. Bradley was unimaginative and unwilling to take risks operationally. Stilwell was the exact opposite. Compare Bradley's management of Hurtgen Forest with Stilwell's operations in Burma.

But you're right, discussion of Eisenhower and Stilwell does take away from the contrast between Marshall and the current crop of military leaders. Perhaps a more focused comparison would help. As a thought experiment, let's contrast Richard B. Myers with George C. Marshall. Both were wartime chiefs of staff. What can you say? I guess the kindest thing you can say is that they served different presidents.

Great stuff, Sara (and all). thanks.

FAscinating posst. I came away further convinced that we have seen asready decline in the intellectual level of our political and economic eleites since WWII. The architectures of the Marshall Plan understood that the private and public sector both have important and complememtary roles to play in the development of liberal democratic societies. But since the 80s, we've been fed propaganda about laissez-faire capitalism and the evils of government. Those policies have not benenfited Latin and South America since the World Band et al have been rtrying to impose them. And perhaps Eastern Europe would be in better shape if we had tried "Shock-treatment," i.e. laissez-faire capitalism with no effort to support the public sector and the development of civil society.

the free university of the world wide web.

thanks for all i've learned here.

Thanks Sara. I have to wonder whether the imperatives of sustaining empire induce and support intellectual myopia.

Many thanks for such an interesting article. I had never realized that the Marshall plan had been conceived so early and in such detail.

Always nice to get reviews that point inquiry to thoughful analyses.

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