The Corner

Carl von Blumenthal

A wag once observed that Clausewitz’s On War is little read but often quoted. Over at Salon, Sidney von Blumenthal confirms this observation as he tries his hand at military affairs. The title is:

George Bush Sr. asked retired general to replace Rumsfeld

The former president’s secret campaign to oust the secretary of defense was rebuffed by President Bush, a source says.

But the piece is much broader than that. Did you know that von Blumenthal is an expert on counterinsurgency? Neither did I, but apparently he is. His article oozes with CI jargon. Anyone can criticize the administration for its approach to Iraq, but it takes a real expert to assure us that our approach in Iraq is too “kinetic,” i.e. we focus too much on trying to kill the terrorists. Of course, no criticism can stray too far from Bush. According to von Blumenthal, Bush knew that all of the bad things that have happened in Iraq were gong to occur, but went ahead anyway because he lives in a parallel universe. Indeed, Hadithah stemmed from Bush’s inability to transcend that parallel reality. Blah, blah, blah. What we have here is von Blumenthal’s first effort to use a new vocabulary with some really cool words like “kinetic” to convince the average reader that he actually knows something about this issue.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is senior national security fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, editing its journal Orbis from 2008 to 2020. A Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, he was a professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College from 1987 to 2015. He is the author of US Civil–Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain.

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