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From the Generals’ Revolt to the Pentagon?

One of the major turning points of 2006 with regard to the Iraq war was the so-called “Generals’ Revolt,” in which a group of respected and recently retired Army and Marine generals, many of whom had served in Iraq, lambasted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for mismanaging the war. Since retired generals are often presumed to speak for their active-duty colleagues, who can’t speak so openly, the attack on Rumsfeld was a controversial one, as it seemed like a giant military vote of no confidence in the generals’ boss. The Washington Post huffed that it threatened “the essential democratic principle of military subordination to civilian control,” which was overheated — no officer has refused an order from Rumsfeld successor Bob Gates — but nevertheless, it’s not a step taken lightly.

In that light, check out the bottom of this Laura Rozen post on who’s joining Michele Flournoy’s Pentagon policy directorate:

Meantime, sources told The Cable that Major Gen.** Paul Eaton** (ret.) is among those discussing possible assistant secretary level jobs with Flournoy. Eaton was the first head of the U.S. training program for Iraqi troops and wrote a 2006 New York Times op-ed critical of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Eaton declined to comment on his discussions.

Now, clearly civilian control of the military will — somehow! — survive Eaton’s ascension to an assistant secretaryship. More important will be what position Eaton — who helped create the Stryker brigades as a transition to a lighter, more mobile and deployable Army (ironically, an alleged Rumsfeld priority) — would actually get.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to speak with Eaton about Afghanistan. He’s a big supporter of the troop increase there, as well as the rebalanced civilian/military approach to national security that the Obama administration has championed. “We’ve failed to apply, truly, interagency planning in Afghanistan. We’ve got colonels in the press, in major newspapers, saying ‘I need agriculture experts, water engineers, medical support,’” he said. He advocated a “very robust PRT effort,” referring to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams of mixed diplomacy, development and security advisers designed to be rapidly responsive to the human needs of the locals. Should Flournoy tap Eaton to become one of her assistant secretaries, it’ll probably represent a doubling down on that “whole of government” emphasis.

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