Alexander Haig’s legacy is sometimes clouded by his little gaffe after the 1981 President Reagan failed assassination attempt and Haig famously said “I am in control here.” But his service to America goes way beyond that.
His military service earned him a Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam as White House Chief of Staff for Nixon and Ford he not only helped persuade President Nixon to resign when it was clear he could not ride out the Watergate scandal but he was invaluable to President Ford during the transition. He was the Chief Allied Commander of NATO and during the Reagan Administration he served as Secretary of State until he fell out of favor with Mrs. Reagan (for many people falling out of favor with Mrs. Reagan earns him more brownie points than anything else). Today’s WSJ runs a commentary from General Haig about America’s progress in the War on Terror..MAN this guy get it. Too bad he is not in control today.
Our Own Worst Enemy By ALEXANDER M. HAIG, JR. July 10, 2007; Page A21 Let us not delude ourselves. The recent Hamas conquest of Gaza is a signal defeat for the United States that goes well beyond the particulars of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have sought to deny the Islamic terrorists a territorial base in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere. Now they have won one on the Mediterranean. Gaza is partly a consequence of three bad habits bedeviling the war on terror:
- Electing the anti-democrats. In the Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi elections, we allowed parties (Hamas, Hezbollah, Sadr) with standing armed militias to run, even though their platforms negated the very legitimacy of the democratic vote. In each case we got escalating conflict and ineffective government as the result. Some neoconservatives believe that if only unshackled from their current dictators, people everywhere would simply vote for democracy as we know it. We should have learned by now that a policy of elections at all costs and hope for the best, a by-product of neoconnery, is a good way to discredit democracy and risks replacing bad with worse. This may well result, as George Kennan warned, in situations where “neither dollars nor bayonets could secure success.”
- Speak fast, act slow. In January, President Bush announced the “surge” but only in June did sufficient troops arrive for the plan to take full effect. We telegraphed the punch, then took six months to deliver it. This gave the enemy ample time to adjust. And that includes the Iranians, initially impressed by the President’s political courage but now much less impressed by the follow-through. So our enemy’s countersurge began before we could even implement our strategy.
- The Secretary of Defense should explain to the commander in chief why it took six months to assemble 30,000 troops. And if the answer is that the Army and Marines are still too small, then let the commander in chief tell us why we haven’t enlarged them. The real military test for this Congress and president is not deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq, but how quickly we can relieve the global overstretch of our forces. Given the challenge, the five-year goal of 95,000 more soldiers and Marines is little short of ludicrous.
- Too many generals. Donald Rumsfeld’s departure and the decision to pursue counterinsurgency in Iraq required fresh commanders. But the administration overlooked a new source of military talent in, of all places, the U.S. Senate. The Senate Majority Leader, for example, asserts that the war is lost and that Gen. Petraeus is detached from reality in Baghdad. He and other equally qualified lay military experts are busily setting dates certain for troop withdrawal, oblivious of the consequences. Some have questioned the constitutionality of such Congressional resolutions. I question their wisdom. We need a debate on how to win, not how to lose. That would be a good topic for the presidential candidates. It’s certainly not what they’re talking about now.
- John Quincy Adams warned us against going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy,” and some argue that the war on terror is just such a case. I disagree. On 9/11, the monster found us asleep at home and will continue to find us inadequately prepared unless we muster more strength and more wisdom. Unless we break with illusionary democracy mongering, inept handling of our military resources and self-defeating domestic political debates, we are in danger of becoming our own worst enemy.
Gen. Haig (U.S. Army, ret.) was the 59th U.S. Secretary of State.