The Logic of General Sanchez

BY Herschel Smith
7 years ago

Lt. Gen. Sanchez, the erstwhile commander of forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, has come out swinging at just about everyone concerning the campaign in Iraq.

Continuing changes to military strategy alone will not achieve victory, rather it will only “stave off defeat,? he said.

“The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable.?

Even now, the U.S. government has yet to launch a concerted effort to come up with a strategy to win in Iraq, Sanchez said. Such a strategy should involve political reconciliation among Iraqis, building up the Iraqi security forces and getting Iraq’s regional partners.

Sanchez acknowledged that U.S. officials have adopted that idea, but added that they do not have the necessary nonmilitary resources to carry it out.

“And it is not synchronized, and there is no enforcement of the strategy,? he said.

Sanchez said he realized there were serious challenges to the U.S. military’s strategy in Iraq as soon as he became the top military commander in Iraq.

Asked why he did not speak out about his concerns, Sanchez said general officers take an oath to carry out the orders of the president while in uniform.

“The last thing that America wants, the last thing that you want, is for currently serving general officers to stand up against our political leadership,? he said.

However, general officers do have the option of stepping down if they disagree with the country’s leaders.

Sanchez said he felt he could not resign and go public with his reservations while he was in Iraq, because he feared that move could further jeopardize troops serving there.

“I think once you are retired, you have a responsibility to the nation, to your oath, to the country, to state your opinion,? he said.

Perhaps the General is conveniently ignoring the advances in Iraq of late, but rather than engage him on this level, let’s turn our attention to the logic of Sanchez.  As soon as he became top military commander, he says, he recognized that there were “serious challenges” to the strategy.  Regarding his having stayed quiet to stateside command or the civilian authorities about this, the “last thing” we want is for general officers to “stand up against” political leadership.

But if he felt so strongly about these issues, could he not have at least spoken with leadership about strategy?  Don’t officers write doctrine and develop strategy?  If not, then what do officers do in a war?  He sounds more like a private than a Lieutenant General.  But Sanchez knows that  he could have said more than he did concerning strategy, and even resigned his commission.  Why, then, did he not?

Because “he feared that move could further jeopardize troops serving there.”  But wait.  If he believed that such a move would jeopardize troops, what about a Lt. Gen. who cannot discuss doctrine or strategy and who even now has no original recommendations, believed the war to be a lost cause, and waited until he had retired to say to the remaining 160,000 troops in theater (and who are preparing to deploy) that they could die in vain for a lost cause?

Are his actions now placing the troops in any less jeopardy than bringing attention to what he believed to be a failed strategy? If he had taken the actions he said he was so reluctant to take, would the possibility not have existed in his calculus to effect a change for the better, thus ensuring the greatest possible likelihood of success in Iraq?

His own words appear to indict him for caring more about the success of his career and the exoneration of him from his own failures than about either the campaign or the men under his charge.  Sanchez, for whatever he was during his tenure, appears to have become a bitter curmudgeon rather than a statesman and warrior in the twilight of a career.

Totally aside from past or current strategy or chances of victory in Iraq, his words are a sad testimony about him rather than one about Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Also at the Small Wars Journal Blog: Custer Blames Grant.




You are currently reading "The Logic of General Sanchez", entry #649 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Leadership and was published October 13th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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