Thursday, May 19, 2011
IS GENERAL JAMES E. CARTWRIGHT REALLY QUALIFIED TO BE THE NEXT CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF?
Other than being the most hated and liberal general officer in the entire US Military along with being President Obama’s BFF and consummate “yes man,” I’m not sure Marine Corps General Cartwright has the requisite experience, judgment or qualification to lead our Military. In addition to having the incredibly bad (or good) luck of not being able to squeeze in even one day of combat experience during his 40 years in uniform, he recently underwent a rather ugly Inspector General investigation and is in the midst of what is expected to be a messy divorce that could make the Schwarzenegger separation look like a love fest.
Commissioned in 1971, the General has been on active duty during the Vietnam War; the invasions of Grenada, Panama and Haiti; interventions all over the Balkans; OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD/STORM/1st Gulf War; and 10+ years of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (Afghanistan), yet he has never heard a shot fire in anger. An incredible achievement equaled by few others with even a quarter of his active service.
Not withstanding his obvious talent for avoiding armed conflicts, I believe in these trying times it would be best that our Wartime Chairman have at least a little first hand experience in the art of War. Hence, maybe this is not the right time to OJT a neophyte when we have so many outstanding war tested candidates to choose from already serving in the Four Star ranks. In addition to the Obvious General Petraeus, we have Ray Odierno, Lloyd Austin, Carter Ham, Martin Dempsey, Jim Thurman and several others; all of whom have between 5 and 7 years in Combat. Why not select someone that has paid his dues and already knows a little something about War?
Complicating a Cartwright selection is that pesky IG Report. Despite the New York Times 23 Feb 11 headline declaring: “General Is Cleared of Sex Accusations,” Cartwright, who the Times calls “President Obama’s favorite General,” wasn’t quite “cleared” by the IG. The IG actually recommended disciplinary action only to be overruled by the Secretary of the Navy.
Seems what happened was the General was accused of having an improper physical relationship with a female military aide during a 2009 overseas trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, when the aide, drunk and visibly upset, visited the General’s hotel room alone and either passed out or fell asleep on a bench at the foot of his bed. The Inspector General (IG) investigated the incident and issued a report in March 2010, clearing the General of the most serious allegations but did find he mishandled the incident and questioned his judgment. The IG faulted Cartwright for not insisting the aide leave or be removed and said the Aide felt “licensed” to enter the general’s room late at night and drunk, despite being advised by a security agent not to do so. The IG report also faulted Cartwright for failing to act on an earlier incident in which the woman also apparently drunk had a disagreement with a Secret Service agent guarding President Obama at an elite Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington.
“Gen. Cartwright witnessed questionable conduct in both Tbilisi and at the Alfalfa dinner, but chose not to directly confront or correct [the] behavior,” the report states. “We conclude that Gen. Cartwright did not fulfill his responsibility to impress upon [the subordinate officer] the importance of sobriety and sound judgment.” Hence, the IG questioned General Cartwright’s judgment and command style in dealing with the aide and recommended administrative action for two lesser infractions: failure to discipline a subordinate and fostering an unduly familiar relationship, but Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary, overruled the IG’s recommendations and took no action.
Every officer should learn early in his (or her) career that every time they condone unacceptable behavior they have lowered the standard for discipline. Obviously the General was absent the day the Marine Corps taught that at his Basic Course.
Given the circumstances, maybe it would be best this time for the Nation and all Servicemembers if the President were to let competence and experience trump personal friendship and he were to select someone that was actually qualified. Of course the President would run the risk of having to listen to solid military advice rather then getting what he wanted to hear but that would be a small price to pay for providing the Nation’s Military with superior competent leadership.