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An Army of One
National Review Online ^ | 02 FEB 04 | Jim Geraghty

Posted on 02/02/2004 9:15:36 AM PST by dts32041

An Army of One
Why Wes Clark's coworkers hated him.

It appears that Wesley Clark's political career will be remembered as one of those inexplicable and regrettable momentary fads, like flash mobs, the XFL, or Tickle-Me-Elmo. Or New Coke, although even that syrupy misstep probably could have gotten more than 13 percent in New Hampshire.

So there's less need to understand why Clark was so hated by so many people he worked with in the Army than when he was a potential viable candidate. Nonetheless, Clark is, at press-time, ahead in Oklahoma — he could still add himself to the list of media-hyped Comeback Kids of this interminable primary; so the opinions of those who worked closest with Clark.

Interviews with a wide variety of current and retired military officials reveal that Clark was disliked by only three groups: Those whom ranked above him in the chain of command whom he ignored, his peers at the same rank whom he lied to, and those serving beneath him whom he micromanaged. Other than that, everyone liked him.

The simplest, most likely reason for the scathing, if vague, criticisms of Clark from former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Hugh Shelton and Defense Secretary William Cohen, is this: As NATO commander, Wesley Clark had problems with the Pentagon's chain of command. When Clark's bosses didn't agree with him, he just went around them.

Shelton's and Cohen's views on Kosovo were often diametrically opposed to Clark's. But the Pentagon didn't speak with one voice to the White House, because Clark kept going behind his superiors' backs and proposing ideas to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Today, Clark insists he never went around the chain of command. He argues that his job as NATO commander was a "two-hatted" position, partly a U.S. military role and partly a diplomatic post, leading the 19-nation coalition. He contends the latter role required him to assist the secretary of state and other White House officials.

But most of the Pentagon believed Clark crossed a line.

"He should not have been going to Sandy Berger and Madeline Albright," said retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, who nonetheless agrees the Kosovo military action was the right course. "This chain of command was to the secretary of defense and to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That was the loyalty issue and the integrity issue. His job should have been to convince his U.S. military leaders the value of going into Kosovo... That's where he lost an awful lot of respect."

"He forgot that the national-command authority included the secretary of defense," said one retired defense official who worked with Clark. "He saw himself as having a direct line to the White House. Clark had his own point of view. He knew, in his heart, he was in tune with what Madeline Albright and Bill Clinton and the White House wanted, and he pushed it. The secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn't agree, but he decided he didn't really have to listen to them."

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEERS: LIE

While Clark could charm certain secretaries of defense and chairmen of the joint chiefs, the Army itself evidently didn't think as highly of him. Clark's last three assignments were as head of strategic plans on the Joint Staff; commander in chief of U.S. Southern Command; and the SACEUR post. In none of the three was he the nominee of his own service.

One reason for the distrust came in 1994, when retired Army Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros, competed with Clark for a four-star position heading U.S. Southern Command — leading U.S. forces in South and Central America — and lost.

Cisneros was the Army's top choice for the job, and seemed like an ideal candidate: a Spanish speaker who had taken Manuel Noriega into custody in 1990 when the Panamanian leader surrendered to U.S. troops. Clark, in contrast, speaks Russian and had never held a Latin American post.

Cisneros claims "very high sources in the Army" told him that Clark was angling for the job, and had sought help from his fellow former Little Rock resident, Bill Clinton.

"I said, 'Well, I know Wes Clark, I'll go ask him,'" Cisneros said. "I got in touch with him and said, 'Wes, I heard you're bucking for this position.' He said, 'No, absolutely not. It's yours for the taking.'"

Within weeks, Clinton had nominated Clark. Cisneros concluded that Clark had "lied to [his] face."

Since hitting the campaign trail, Clark has declined to respond directly to Cisneros's charge, but he told Time magazine, "People are entitled to their own opinions. The Army and the armed forces are very competitive institutions."

Anonymous Clark aides have suggested that Cisneros' public criticism is just bitterness over coming in second.

"I'm not worried about that position," Cisneros said. "I've been president of a university [Texas A&M-Kingsville], a CEO. I don't worry about what's gonna happen. I've just never run across a fellow officer who outright lied to me. In the military code of ethics, the way I was raised, one military man does not lie to another. Clark is a snake in the grass. He is a one-eyed jack — you see one eye, but he's got another eye that you don't see. There's a whole side of him you don't see."

"His reputation at Fort Hood was that he was overly ambitious," says one retired army official who worked with Clark more than once. "He would stab anybody around him in the back if they threatened his career.... He didn't relate to most of the men around him. He's got a factor about him that causes him to be distrusted by many of his military peers."

Apparently, Clark's reputation in the military hasn't improved since his retirement. In an article a year ago in The Washington Monthly, Clark recalled how he visited the Pentagon soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, offering suggestions on the war against terrorists.

"We read your book," on Kosovo, Clark wrote that he was told. "And no one is going to tell us where we can or can't bomb."

KOSOVO: HOW NOT TO LEAD A WAR

The most devastating criticism of Clark's Kosovo war management comes from RAND research institute report, "Disjointed War: Military Operations in Kosovo, 1999." The review paints Clark as a leader in nearly-constant conflict with the officers directly under him, the micromanaging boss from hell:
Even in the case of fixed infrastructure targets, Clark reportedly would venture deep into the most minute details of the target list. "Let's turn to target number 311," Clark would say, by this account "opening his binder as other participants flipped to the proper page, as if they were holding hymnals." He would then raise questions about a target's relevance, expostulate on allied sensitivities, or abort attacks already in progress. He would also, by this account, sometimes gainsay his own intelligence experts and targeteers by looking at a particular DMPI [designated mean point of impact] placement and asking "Isn't that an apartment building?" or "Can't we move that DMPI over 100 feet?" At which point Short would be seen "slumping back in his chair, folding his arms in disgust, and mentally checking out." ... By this informed account, it was never clear to participants whether Clark, through such ex cathedra interventions, was genuinely responding to political pressure from above or was engaged in a divide-and-rule game by playing on putative "constraints" to his advantage and gathering diverse inputs and opinions until he heard the one he wanted to hear.
Clark's system of having himself, an army general, managing the air campaign broke dramatically from the American system in other previous conflicts. In the Bosnia campaign in 1995, then-SACEUR Army Gen. George Joulwan left the day-to-day responsibilities for the air campaign to Navy Adm. Leighton Smith in order to focus on diplomatic duties. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, on the eve of Desert Storm, put his faith in the air campaign strategy drawn up in the Air Force's then-Lt. Gen. Charles Horner's.

After weeks of seemingly fruitless bombing, the Clark strategy of focusing on Serbian forces in the field ("tank-plinking") was dropped and the campaign focused on targets in Belgrade important to Milosevic. The RAND report concluded, "The majority of the combat sorties that SACEUR [Clark] insisted be devoted to finding and attacking enemy forces in the [Kosovo Engagement Zone] arguably entailed a waste of munitions and other valuable assets."

Recall, Clark's strongest point as a candidate — perhaps his sole qualification — is the perception that he is a strong leader who knows how to manage a war.

HAVE FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

After being so distrusted by his colleagues, one might wonder how Clark kept getting promoted and having such glowing performance reviews. In 1993, President Clinton asked the Army's chief of staff if he knew "my friend, Wes Clark." In Clark's words, they were more acquaintances, two overachieving young men from Arkansas, two years apart, whose paths crossed every few years.

Now, being perceived as a buddy of President Don't Ask Don't Tell could hurt Clark as much as help him in the Pentagon. But when defense officials needed to fill a slot with a man acceptable to the Clinton White House, they knew who to call.

"It's clear to me he was very much playing to the Clinton administration with an eye to getting that fourth star," says one retired defense official.

"I'm very confident he was selected because of his relationship with Clinton," Cisneros says.

Clinton wasn't Clark's only powerful friend. He also was a rare military media darling. An Esquire article in the late 1970s called him "probably the most brilliant junior officer now on active duty," while a 1981 Washington Post Magazine piece declared the young Clark "the best the Army has to offer. He approaches the ideal, the perfect modern officer." According to the Los Angeles Times, Clark was quoted more in major newspapers and broadcasts than any other military officer between 1998 and 2000. He was mentioned in more than 300 New York Times stories, while Shelton was mentioned in 24.

It is worth recalling that every one of Clark's peers, no matter how much they disdain him, acknowledge that he is a smart guy. And his service to his country is nothing but commendable. But one of Clark's former colleagues summed up his conflicted feelings about Clark thus: "He's got unequaled strengths in intellect, and weaknesses in ambition. The question is, does the ambition get so blinding that it gets in the way of his intellect?"

Jim Geraghty, a reporter with States News Service in Washington, is a frequent contributor to NRO and a commentator on London's ITN News.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Miscellaneous; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS: 2004; clark; enemiseofthestate; fob; weasellyclark; weasellycluck; wesclark; wesleyclark; whataweasel

1 posted on 02/02/2004 9:15:39 AM PST by dts32041
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To: sauropod
read later
2 posted on 02/02/2004 9:18:18 AM PST by sauropod (Better to have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy!)
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To: dts32041
Any professional member of the military who would ally himself with the draft dodger and loather of the military ex-president ought to be suspect.
3 posted on 02/02/2004 9:20:56 AM PST by The Great RJ
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To: dts32041
Today, Clark insists he never went around the chain of command. He argues that his job as NATO commander was a "two-hatted" position, partly a U.S. military role and partly a diplomatic post, leading the 19-nation coalition. He contends the latter role required him to assist the secretary of state and other White House officials.

At best, Clark is being disingenuous here. As the NATO commander, his political guidance comes from the North Atlantic Council. There is a U.S. "Permanent Representative" of Ambassador rank on that organization who represents the official United States position and is the "chain of command" back to the U.S. Secretary of State. And coordinating & maintaining political consensus among the NATO members is the responsibility of the NATO Secretary General, not the SACEUR.

Further, Clark had no business providing his advice to the President and Secretary of State independent of the SecDef & CJCS. And arguably for Kosovo, it was his bad advice on including NATO access to Serbia into the Rambouillet Accord that was a deal-breaker. He also advised Madame Secretary that Slobo would fold when threatened with bombing and that was wrong. And then when he finally got back into his own bailiwick--planning for war--he screwed that up too with a wimpy little couple day operation and no planned sequel.

So he was not only self-serving and conniving, he was incompetent.

4 posted on 02/02/2004 10:01:30 AM PST by mark502inf
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To: dts32041
Another transparent kiss-ass makes his way to the top.

Good officers:

1. Mission
2. Men
3. Their career

Many officers:

1. Their Career
2. Politics
3. Politics
4. Their Career
5. Mission
6. Men
5 posted on 02/02/2004 10:06:37 AM PST by jjm2111
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To: jjm2111
Never served under him in ant way, I was most always westpac. Just looking at his picture causes the hair on the back of my neck to rise. Must be instinctive, same thing happens with Clinton.
Jack
6 posted on 02/02/2004 10:19:49 AM PST by btcusn
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To: mark502inf
At best, Clark is being disingenuous here. As the NATO commander, his political guidance comes from the North Atlantic Council. There is a U.S. "Permanent Representative" of Ambassador rank on that organization who represents the official United States position and is the "chain of command" back to the U.S. Secretary of State. And coordinating & maintaining political consensus among the NATO members is the responsibility of the NATO Secretary General, not the SACEUR.

Further, Clark had no business providing his advice to the President and Secretary of State independent of the SecDef & CJCS. And arguably for Kosovo, it was his bad advice on including NATO access to Serbia into the Rambouillet Accord that was a deal-breaker. He also advised Madame Secretary that Slobo would fold when threatened with bombing and that was wrong. And then when he finally got back into his own bailiwick--planning for war--he screwed that up too with a wimpy little couple day operation and no planned sequel.

So he was not only self-serving and conniving, he was incompetent

You're on the right track. Now keep going, and connect the dots. And don't forget three very important dots.


7 posted on 02/02/2004 10:52:18 AM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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