Review: The Fourth Star–Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army

3 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Insurgency & Revolution
Amazon Page
Amazon Page
3.0 out of 5 stars Been There, Done That, Shinseki & LISTENING
October 26, 2009

Greg Jaffe

This is unquestionably a great book but it is so narrow, and so oblivious to the larger context within which the U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki GOT IT RIGHT and knew exactly what was needed, and the impeachable offenses of Chenez, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith, that I have to respectfully limit it to three stars in order to make the points that no one seems to want to acknowledge:

1) General Powell let us all down when he failed to resign on principle and challenge Cheney who committed 23+ documented impeachable offenses, including letting 9-11 happen and taking us to war against Iraq for the oil, on a platform of 935 documented lies. ALL of our generals, but Colin Powell especially, should be shamed for not protecting America against domestic enemies bent on bankrupting the country morally and financially

2) General Shinseki, and General Schoomaker, and General Garner all got it right, but did not go the distance in challenging a corrupt civilian leadership. I have often fantacized about what would have happened if Shinseki had thrown his stars on the table, resigned, and thrown Wolfowitz down the steps of Capitol Hill as he so richly deserved.

3) George “Slam Dunk” Tenet prostituted his office and went along with the nonsense that the neocons took from Chalabi, a known agent of influence for Iran, at the same time that the FBI was asleep at the switch (as were Army and defense counterintelligence) and failed to challenge the access Chalabi enjoyed while serving Iran and helping lead the US into a bear trap.

I’ve read and reviewed so many books on Iraq that I have a special category for them at my new front end, Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog, where you can exploit my reviews across 98 different categories including strategy, leadership, Iraq, force structure, and so on–I finally gave up on Amazon ever listening to its reviewers and readers on needed improvements.

Here are just a few to communicate my sense of the context that this book, in over-hyping Petraeus and Nagle, appears to lack.
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Bush Tragedy
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies
War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare
Firepower In Limited War
Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam

I am sick and tired of generals getting elevated to sainthood for being wrong and bright boys reinventing the wheel, with and without the Australian accents. Everything the US Army needed to know to get the future right was discussed at the 1998 Army Strategy Conference and published in multiple Strategic Studies Institute books and monographs. The problem with the services is that they are still driven by budget share games and their contractors. I now lean toward revising Title 10 to make the CINCs inter-agency regional planning, programming, and budgeting elements, forcing the services to respond to the integrated needs of the CINCs as umpired by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who should NOT be the Service chiefs). Our entire system is hosed, and nothing now planned for the QDR is going to make it better–someone else said this, I’m in an airport lounge in Geneva and cannot look it up: if you do not get the truth on the table, however ugly it might be, you will never, ever, get a grip on reality. DoD is severely lacking in truth-tellers and ranking listeners, and has too many politically-correct over-cautious flag officers lacking the integrity to pick the best and the brightest and break the bureaucracy, We did not need to review history to re-learn the lessons that this book recounts–most of us learned that in Command and Staff and then the War College. In my view, if you have to go over that historical ground anew, you learned nothing, remembered nothing, from your taxpayer funded education, shame on all of you.

Rule 1: Integrity matters more than loyalty

Rule 2: Do not obey illegal orders based on intelligence known to be false

Rule 3: Repeat Rule 1

NOTE:  Sunday Book Review, “The Army You Have,” By Dexter Filkins (New York Times October 25, 2009 Pg. BR16) is the review I would recommend if you just want to compare generals, but it is still severely flawed.  On Iraq, Zinni, Shinseki, and Abizaid stood head-an-shoulders above all others, they were trashed by a government that has been stupid and consequently dysfunctional.

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