Monday, July 07, 2003

KNOW WHEN TO HOLD, KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM. Tommy Franks -- gooood career move. Leave as liberator, and let some other poor schmuck do the mopping up. "Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered Franks the post of Army chief of staff -- the highest job in the Army. But Franks turned it down," reports ABC. Well, of course. It's not going to be like '91, when Colin Powell won hearts and minds with the first Iraq dust-up -- this one's going to smolder and smell, and Franks is well out of it. 57's a nice age, and the man has plenty of options. Got his MBA (W's degree!) summa cum laude (not W's standing!), yet keeps the common touch, as shown by this bit from SCLM outlet PBS:

Tommy Franks, the general who will command American troops should the U.S. go to war with Iraq, speaks with a west Texas vernacular very familiar to his commander in chief.

"Mr. President, I'm finer than the hair on a frog's back," the 57-year-old Texan once responded when Mr. Bush inquired about his welfare.

As we are now in an age of endless war, might our Presidential election cycles to come feature at least some military contenders? During and after the Civil War we had McClellan and Grant. Eisenhower had two terms, and MacArthur had some traction after Korea. Wesley Clark has already been mentioned for 2004, and we all know Powell's only biding his time. Franks is telegenic, bright, and now has secured perhaps the greatest treasure a Presidential contender could have: plausible deniability.

At present, Franks lacks a McClellan letter of the sort the late candidate wrote to his Commander-in-Chief (whom he called "your Excellency") in 1862. Which is all to the good: that letter was a problem for McClellan -- it telegraphed his political ambitions, both implicitly and explicitly ("In carrying out any system of policy which you may form, you will require a Commander in Chief of the Army;  one who possesses your confidence... I do not ask that place for myself...."), and staked out a distressingly soft position on slavery. We are an even more politically opaque people than once we were. We have no way to know what Franks feels about anything, and that in itself has to have potential political masterminds salivating.

Of course all this ignores the possibility that the United States will itself be placed one day under military command, but at present it's hard to see why they would bother.

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