Make no mistake: politics does not escape the military. There is a forced changing of the guard for the United States. General Peter Pace is out as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He is out not because he a lost critical battle or sent America’s troops down the river, so to speak. No, he is out because politics today dictate that he be out.
The Administration must send Congress a nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Pace has held the job for two years, and been vice chairman for the previous four; obviously, Pace has been involved in all of the key decisions leading to the 2002 invasion of Iraq and the planning for the post-Saddam Hussein era. He could be re-nominated but that would invite disaster. In short he is the other Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and it is time for new blood. It is no secret that Secretary Gates will benefit by having a Chairman who arrives on his watch. But it is also true that General Pace could easily become the target of the Congress as a re-nominated Joint Chiefs Chairman.
The Congress is spoiling for a fight and General Pace would be attacked on all sides, the Administration feels. As the A.P.’s Lolita Baldor reported:
“It would be a backward looking and very contentious process," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a Pentagon news conference. Thus are the fortunes of politics in Washington and the military is no exception to the rule.
Peter Pace served his nation very well and the American people are the better for his leadership. He kept the dignity of the military fully in line during the days when it was often being attacked in the halls of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, and in the press.
“President Bush appreciates Gen. Pace’s long and distinguished service to the country and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "He is an example for all our men and women in uniform and has been an integral part of the president’s national security team."
Gates also gave praise to Pace, noting that as a Marine of more than 40 years, "he has served our country with great distinction and deserves the deepest thanks of the American people for a lifetime of service to our country and for his leadership. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him, trust him completely and value his candor and his willingness to speak his mind," he said.
Giving in to pressure is not something that the Pentagon or the administration does lightly. All one has to do to verify that is look at the Office of Attorney General or Presidential Counselor.
“I am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them," Secretary Gates said.
"However, I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and Gen. Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal. …"
The new chairman to be is Admiral Mike Mullen. Mullen is the chief of naval operations, so he is hardly one that will have to be educated to the US. military command and Gates said he had the "vision, strategic insight and integrity to lead America’s armed forces."
It is the strength of our country that we have many able officers who can assume command from one another without the nation suffering for lack of men of character. No doubt the comments General; Pace made awhile back about homosexuality being inappropriate in the military will be scrutinized. Was this another seed in his destruction? Not really, I would think. There simply comes a time when it is better for the country to avoid another contentious battle about the military in the halls of Congress. The military has enough battles to fight for real.
Admiral Mullen is an admirable replacement. By having a new team of Gates and Mullen, the Administration can approach Congress on new terms and not face the rancor that might be present with any holdovers from the recent war years. Sadly, General Pace has now been thrown on his sword, but he can take heart that the cause is noble and in Washington, for the civilian and for the military, that’s politics.