Is Obama Sparking a Second “Revolt of the Admirals”?


22 September 2009

“Revolt of the Admirals” is a name given to an episode that took place in the late 1940s in which several US Navy admirals and high-ranking civilian officials publicly disagreed with the president and the Secretary of Defense’s plans to disband the US Marine Corps and most of the US Navy and give their missions to the new US Air Force, which proposed preserving the peace strictly with its new strategic international bomber force of B-36 bombers carrying nuclear weapons (which were still huge, the average fission bomb weighing 10,000 pounds). This decision climaxed in 1949 when many officers, including the Chief of Naval Operations Louis E. Denfeld and Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan, were forced to resign. In April, 1949, the newly laid USS United States (CVA-58) was hurriedly cut into pieces by workers sent from the Air Force so it could never be completed and thus compete with the Air Force for aviation assets. The United States was to have been the lead ship in a new class of “super carriers” (which subsequently became the Forrestal Class).

Upon the cancelation of USS United States and its quick destruction by Air Force proponents, Sullivan and a number of high-ranking admirals resigned in protest. A few days later, Johnson announced that the aviation assets of the US Marine Corps would be transferred to the Air Force, a plan quickly dropped after Congress had a fit at the news. The Navy struck back with a study claiming the B-36 only program was seriously flawed and was a white elephant pushed by unscrupulous contractors and politicians with financial interests in the builder, Convair. As things continued to heat up, Congressional hearings were held. In the end, several admirals were exonerated of various charges and the Navy and Marine Corps continued as before.

Now, sixty years later, we come to the current administration. In Afghanistan, we are losing and the generals on the ground are being plain in their request for more troops. General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding general, has requested more troops to fight the war. In response, President Obama has basically voted “present,” saying that he’ll hold off deciding whether to add more U.S. troops to the war in Afghanistan, even as top Congressional Democrats try to force Obama to simply surrender and flee Afghanistan as they and their supporters demanded during the 2008 presidential election.

“You have to get the strategy right and then make the determinations about resources,” Obama said at the White House following a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “I am going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions” he said. The needed number of additional troops runs from 10,000 to 45,000. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs ADM Mike Mullen is, for the moment, playing it safe. He spoke approvingly of the administration’s “deliberative, intellectually honest” process of determining the next steps in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, public support for what Obama last year called “the real war against terrorism” is fading. Senator John Kerry chimed in, saying, “No amount of money, no rise in troop levels, and no clever metrics will matter if the mission is ill-conceived.” Kerry met with the enemy in France during the Vietnam War while he was still an officer in the US Naval Reserve. (His original 1972 Navy discharge – reported to be Under other than Honorable Conditions – has never been made public. In 1978, Jimmy Carter had him issued an Honorable Discharge under Carter’s policy of giving blanket amnesty to those who committed crimes while in government service during the Vietnam War.)

Today we learn that, on the heels of GEN McChrystal being ordered not to submit a request for as many as 45,000 additional troops, he may resign if his request is not honored. In Kabul, some of McChrystal's staff say they don't understand why Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" but still hasn't given them the resources they need. High-ranking officers have reportedly said that McChrystal will resign before he'd let the administration fail to support him with the troops he needs.

The entire process followed by the military in implementing a change of course in Afghanistan is far different, and bizarrely so, from the process it followed in changing strategy in Iraq.

In March, 2009, GEN David McKiernan was fired and replaced by GEN McChrystal, who took command in June. General McChrystal's report was delivered to Obama at the end of August, almost three months after he took command. And yet now in the last half of September, the decision on additional forces has been ordered not delivered to the administration. That the Obama Administration is hostile to the military – with Obama promising to create a competing Civilian National Defense Organiziation “just as well-funded, well-supported, and well-armed as the military” – is no secret. That he’d betray our military and the country as part of a plan to “transform” the country is dawning on a lot of people who thought otherwise. That our flag officers have the guts to stage another “revolt” against the intolerable gives one hope at a time when it is sorely needed.