by Andrew J. Bacevich
In late March, General Kenneth McKenzie became the twenty-fourth commander of CENTCOM (more formally known as United States Central Command). On May 8, at an event sponsored by the Institute for the Perpetuation of War and the Promotion of Regime Change, more formally known as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), he outlined his plans for building on the legacy of his 23 predecessors. None of those predecessors, it should be acknowledged, succeeded in accomplishing his assigned mission. Nor, I’m willing to bet, will he.
The essence of that mission, according to General McKenzie himself, is to promote stability. “A stable Middle East underpins a stable world,” he announced, and “our steady commitment to our allies and partners provides a force for stability.” As to how the region became unstable in the first place, he offers no opinion, leaving listeners with the impression that previous exertions by CENTCOM forces in invading, occupying, bombing, and otherwise spilling blood throughout his Area of Responsibility (AOR) had nothing to do with the absence of stability existing there today.
At any rate, General McKenzie is not inclined to bother with the past. His focus is on the future. “I’ve always tried to have a bias for action,” he told his listeners.
Now let me say for the record that this is exactly the attitude the United States wants to have in its battalion commanders and perhaps in its fighter pilots as well. Yet, given the events that have occurred over the past several decades as a direct or indirect result of U.S. military interventions across much of the Greater Middle East, mark me down as preferring senior commanders with a bias for careful reflection and perhaps even for critically examining how the United States got where it is.
The new CENTCOM commander exhibits no such inclinations. Indeed, one of the reasons he admires the FDD is that it doesn’t consist of “a group of luminaries just sitting around admiring the problem set.” No, FDD attracts “people that make things happen.” Those are his kind of people.
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