25 September 2008

Gen. Jack Keane, American Hero

Last week's WSJ Weekend Interview was with Gen. Jack Keane--one of the early backers and architects of The Surge. Add him to the list with John McCain, George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman and Gen. David Petraeus who believed in The Surge and backed it and supported it and implemented it when it was unpopular to do so.

Gen. Keane is one of the less-known, but integral contributors. Despite his key role, he is the humble soldier to the end--deflecting attention and credit.

From the interview:
The surge turned things around on another difficult front, Washington. "Despite the fact that President Bush did preside over a strategy that was failing for three plus years, and he has been criticized for that," says Gen. Keane, "he also deserves a significant amount of credit because all around him people were advocating a failed strategy, particularly key leaders around him, and he had the wherewithal to make a tough decision that flew certainly in the face of political opposition even in his own party."

Gen. Keane says he understands why there was resentment among the Joint Chiefs at seeing the president change course against their wishes and follow a retired general's recommendations on strategy and staffing in a war zone. But he considers his role perfectly appropriate. "In my mind, I think a president has a right to seek advice and counsel any place he chooses," he says. "I certainly wasn't forcing myself on them."

The U.S. came "within weeks or months" of defeat in Iraq in 2006, he says. The consequences of that were "unacceptable" for the region, "not to speak of an institution that I loved." And what about the military chiefs who thought the extra battalions and extended service tours would be too much of a strain on American forces? "When people talk about stress and strain on a force, the stress and strain that would come from having to live with a humiliating defeat would be quite staggering."

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