In today’s letters column longtime reader A.C. Santore suggests I ignored the facts on General MacArthur. Specifically, Mr. Santore says:
MacArthur was sacked because, first, he publicly denigrated the decision of his Commander in Chief and the government of the United States of America, and, second, publicly insisted on his plan to invade Communist China and to use nuclear weapons in the process.
Mr. Lord does not mention either of these facts, which should put MacArthur into proper perspective, and clearly would delineate the difference between his “sin” and McChrystal’s.
In fact, while trying to summarize a lengthy history in brief, I did indeed point out that MacArthur had little respect for Truman, that Truman was “fed up over the increasingly public nature of MacArthur’s comments,” and the General’s habit of condescending to the man who held the presidency — what Santore refers to as MacArthur’s having “publicly denigrated” Truman. I also say that Truman was fed up as well with “the general’s tendency to freelance diplomacy that went against White House policy.” This includes the obvious — what Santore specifically cites as MacArthur’s disagreements on invading China and using nuclear weapons. Mr. Santore likes the detail. Under the circumstances I simply used a broader brush to cover what is in fact a highly detailed and quite famous episode of history.
The point here is not that MacArthur and McChrystal committed the same “sin,” much less that one equals the other. The point is that their respective sins against their respective presidents cost them their job — which in turn brightly illustrated the much larger macro-political arguments of the day: the respective positions of the Left and Right in defeating Communism (the Truman-MacArthur spat) and Islamic fascism (the Obama-McChrystal dust-up).
Truman was no dove, as stated. But next to MacArthur he wound up appearing that way. In fact, there was a growing chasm within the Democratic Party of the day on this, with the “hawks” (Truman, JFK, LBJ) at first seeming to win the day over the “doves.” (Henry Wallace, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern etc.) In time, Vietnam — but one long battle in the Cold War — handed the Democratic Party to the doves.”
The issue so vividly publicized by the MacArthur-Truman spat lives today. Otherwise there would be no July, 2011 Obama-Biden deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. There would be instead some version of FDR’s vow on December 8, 1941 when he closed his famous “Day of Infamy” speech this way:
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.
The American Left is long since hell and gone from any position in this war against Islamic fascism that even comes close to resembling that sentiment of FDR’s. A startling recognition of the Left’s approach to national security that was already beginning to come clear in the new Cold War by the day Truman fired MacArthur.
And yes…Ridgeway first, then Clark. A pair of Petraeus’s, as it were. Good men and good generals. But neither of them having the profile or stature in the American mind of the day as MacArthur.