RIYADH – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey blasted a common refrain heard on the GOP presidential campaign trail – that as president candidates would listen to the generals – as "offensive."
Demspey returns to Washington soon from an extensive trip to the region and will have to sell his belief that the U.S. will need some type of military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Asked if he thinks his advice will be heard in Washington next year, when the phrase "listen to the generals" is a hot political talking point, Dempsey gave a sharp response.
"I'll probably make news with this but I find some of those articles about divergence or control of the generals to be kind of offensive to me," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
"And here's why. One of the things that makes us as a military profession in a democracy is civilian rule. Our civilian leaders are under no obligation to accept our advice; and that's what it is. Its advice. It's military judgments, it's alternatives, it's options. And at the end of the day, our system is built on the fact that it will be our civilian leaders who make that decision and I don't find that in any way to challenge my manhood, nor my position. In fact, if it were the opposite, I think we should all be concerned."
Demspey echoed comments by Gen. John Allen made one day earlier that an agreement on a U.S. military presence past 2014 was likely needed and was important to state now, in part to show Pakistan and the Taliban that the U.S. would not abandon Afghanistan. But, he said, he doesn't think selling that idea will be "a fight" with senior leaders in Congress, despite diverging opinions about the state of the war today.