Defending Clark

I try to avoid blogging on things from HuffPo or similar blogs, but this is from a retired Lt. General and re-enforces my first reaction to the Clark-McCain bruhaha:

As a retired military officer and a soldier who served his country for over thirty years, I can tell you that there’s nothing in what Wes Clark said with which I disagree. He has not only stated the facts, he knows something about them. John McCain was a prisoner of war, an officer who served as a squadron commander, and has been and is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. John McCain can put his service to country up against anyone’s. But General Clark has served also — and with great courage: he was wounded four times in Vietnam — and like John McCain, he has met and seen the enemy.

Is what Wesley Clark said true? Let’s check some other facts: John McCain made claims about progress in security by walking through the streets of Baghdad. But as I recall, he was protected by at least a platoon of American soldiers and helicopters lying overhead. In matters of national security, as General Clark pointed out, “it’s a matter of understanding risk,” and it’s “gauging your opponents;” and it’s also a “matter of being held accountable.”

So I too honor John McCain. And, like General Clark, I acknowledge his sacrifice for his country. But being a prisoner of the Vietnamese and serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee does not automatically qualify one for the position of Commander-in-Chief — understanding risks, gauging your opponents and being held accountable does. We must end this glib obeisance to sacrifice and ask deeper questions: is a man who sings “bomb, bomb, bomb … bomb, bomb Iran” a man who understands risks?

Outside of the usual matters of media coverage and scandal manufacturing, what strikes me as being the fundamental problem here is that America has, on the whole, entirely too much of a reflexive deference to military service. Which is not to say that service shouldn’t be respected, but it most certainly should not immunize one from criticism over policy positions, especially when they’re a United States Sentaor who wants to be Presidnt. John McCain routinely conflates Sunnis with Shia Muslims, doesn’t seem to understand the differing groups, factions, and ways of thinking in the Islamist community, and makes absurd, flippant statements about foreign policy, like saying offhand that we should kick Russia out of the G8 (which isn’t even possible to do in so much as such decisions have to be agreed upon by all members unanimously, including Russia). “He served his country and suffered for it,” no matter how true and/or noble it is, is not a defense against that basic reality. It doesn’t change the fact that McCain is ignorant about fundamental facts governing the world today or that he has no concept whatsoever of geopolitical relations.

And it’s obviously absurd to gin up such outrage over remarks when the one doing the criticizing has at least as distinguished a record of service as the person being criticized.