The Price Of Conviction

In April of 1951, Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur for publicly opposing his policy decisions on Korea. Whether MacArthur was right or wrong, he had to go.

Our country has always demanded the subordination of the military to its political leaders. And so, it seems, it is that General Wesley Clark must also go. By standing publicly in opposition to Clinton and Cohen on a few important issues, he challenged the superior-subordinate relationship and compromised their leadership of the NATO Coalition.

Because he won the military campaign, it would have been impolitic to fire him outright. Administration denials notwithstanding, it is clear to many in the military that Gen. ClarkÂ's challenge to certain decisions by his bosses resulted in an early dismissal from NATOÂ's helm.

As the military architect of the campaign against Yugoslavia, Clark tugged and pulled at the fetters which bound him to an air campaign conducted by a nineteen-nation coalition operating in a politically charged environment.

CBS News Military Affairs Consultant
Mitch Mitchell
From the start of the campaign, Clark openly expressed his displeasure at the glacial process by which the NATO allies edged toward victory. He was particularly irritated with decision-making methods that required a nineteen-nation consensus on such time sensitive issues as daily target lists.

ClarkÂ's opposition gave him more operational control of the campaign, but he still did not appear pleased with the micro-management of the battle from such remote locations as Washington and other capitals.

Particularly irritating to Clark was the Clinton AdministrationÂ's inflexibility over the issue of ground operations. Clark and many Pentagon officials wanted to plan in earnest for use of ground forces, but the Administration refused to even consider it – until slow progress and expected weather shifts forced the issue.

In calling for ground war drills, Clark by far had more supporters than detractors in the Pentagon. But that didnÂ't matter in the end. Mr. Clinton and Cohen steadfastly opposed ground forces. Their votes counted. ClarkÂ's, apparently, did not. And, the General was making public statements that cast doubt on the wisdom of the AdministrationÂ's air campaign.

From the starting gun, the Joint Chiefs had doubts that an air campaign alone could settle the issue in Kosovo. But all cast their lots with Clinton and Cohen to avoid a ground commitment that would expend precious resources for many years to come and reduce the strategic flexibility they felt they would need for future conflicts.

ClarkÂ's public opposition to the way he was forced to conduct the campaign put him in an untenable position.

Written by Col. Mitch Mitchell, Retired
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