Posted by: Bill | December 10, 2008

Eric Shinseki for Veteran Affairs

James Fallows writes that this appointment is karmic justice for the retired general. I had not planned to blog about this until I read Fallows’ account of Shineski’s behavior when things were going poorly in post-invasion Iraq.

To summarize, Shineski had publicly stated that he thought an occupying force should be large (on the order of several hundred thousand troops). He was publicly rebuked (some would say ridiculed) by the Bush Administration. We know now that he was right (generally speaking). After his retirement, he had every opportunity to have multiple “I told you so” moments. As Fallows notes:

Despite being unfairly treated, despite being 100% vindicated by subsequent events, Shinseki kept his grievances entirely to himself. Although my book contains accounts of Shinseki’s inside arguents with Rumsfeld et al, and his discussions with his own staff, zero of that information came from Shinseki.

I have a lot of respect for that type of character. Few things are easier or feel better than a public “I told you so moment”, especially when one can profit from it. I try very hard to refrain from these, but am not always successful. They happen professionally on occasion, but mostly my wife hears about them (no doubt to her chagrin). I don’t know much more than what you have just read about Shineski, but I wish him luck. Fallows’ readers have offered their opinions as well.

As an aside, Fallows Blind Into Baghdad (article, not the book) was the first Atlantic publication I ever read. Please excuse me now while I enjoy this moment of nerdy nostalgia.



  1. I will never forgive GEN (Ret) Shinseki for a glaring breach of professionalism while he was Chief of Staff of the Army. Here’s the backstory:

    – As a young Armor officer, Shinseki wore a black beret, which was a tradition borrowed from the Europeans. Tankers wore black berets.

    – In 1974, General Creighton Abrams stood up the 1st Ranger Battalion and were officially granted black berets in 1975 . . . the black beret was away from the tankers in 1979.

    – Fast forward to 2000/2001. Shinseki thought it would be a great idea to reward every marginal and/or mediocre performer in the Army with a black beret, as if giving the black beret that had become such a part of the Ranger mythos would somehow impart their tradition of elite performance upon the run-of-the-mill GI Bill-seeking posers in the rest of the Army.

    Suffice it to say, giving elite headgear to everyone makes the headgear no longer elite, and doesn’t make anyone do their job any better.

    Not everyone gets to be an astronaut . . .

  2. Andy, you are definitely not the only one who feels that way (as you probably know). I have read this in several places and the writer I linked to also heard the same from his readers:

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