Honest Harry

The New Republic

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THE SPINE OCTOBER 8, 2007

Honest Harry

I've been thinking about my last Spine taking on Tony Judt's silly comparison of David Petraeus with Douglas MacArthur. I've just started reading David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter whose dramatis personae includes -- even centers around- - MacArthur. MacArthur was a fantasist. He had ideas about the Asian mind, set opinions about what the Chinese would and would not do, illusions about American destiny and his role in it. He did not respect the commander-in-chief, Harry Truman, but HST took no guff from anyone. Truman fired him, plain and simple, and MacArthur went on a triumphant tour of America which landed him in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, nothing grander than that.

Truman let go of Henry Wallace as secretary of commerce for insubordination and he let go of MacArthur for insubordination in the Korean theatre as well. In the case of MacArthur, it was a matter of constitutional imperative, not of this policy or that. He was disobeying orders. Not a chance for the man who said he would "fade away" but really thought otherwise.

Petraeus is a stickler for the rules. His commander-in-chief is the Commander-in-Chief, and if you hate the Iraq war your grievance is not with Petraeus but with Bush.

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posted in: the spine, human interest, person career, david petraeus, douglas macarthur, harry truman

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