“When it became clear to the Chiefs that they were to have little influence on the policy-making process, they failed to confront the president with their objections to McNamara’s approach to the war,” McMaster wrote. “Instead, they attempted to work within that strategy in order to remove over time the limitations to further action. Unable to develop a strategic alternative to graduated pressure, the Chiefs became fixated on means by which the war could be conducted and pressed for escalation of the war by degrees. They hoped that graduated pressure would evolve over time into a fundamentally different strategy, more in keeping with their belief in the necessity of greater force and its more resolute application.” (p. 328)
In other words, the Joint Chiefs, loathe to rebuke their civilian leadership, and distracted by efforts to protect and promote their respective branches, accepted the status quo and tried turn it into something viable. They abdicated their responsibility.
What emerges from Dereliction of Duty is a direct contradiction to Jon Huntsman’s irresponsible, off-handed reinforcement of the media narrative about the war.
Had Johnson actually listened to the advice of his generals — essentially that war is war and must be fought to win — the outcome would certainly have changed, likely in ways that did “serve our interests.” Instead, the commander in chief dawdled, prevaricated, and forced thousands of young men to lay down their lives for his domestic political objectives.
Huntsman’s ignorance, or distortion, of history, should disqualify him from consideration for the Republican nomination. His failure to gain traction after months of campaigning is a tribute to the good sense of the American people. Perhaps the triviality of his continued presence in the field explains why the moderator and the other candidates allowed his remark to pass without a probing question, or a much-deserved rebuke.
But if Republicans hope to reverse the decades-long leftist narrative about this, and so many other topics, they can no longer allow such moments to pass.
When we draw such erroneous lessons from history, we don’t merely diminish the service of fallen heroes, we put at greater risk those who wear the uniform today, and those whom they protect.