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October 18, 2008

Five-Star Generals

By: Bernard Chazelle

It is often said that a good general is someone who would rather risk his men's lives than his own career. That's why Colin Powell is such an excellent general. You don't get 4 stars out of ordinary cowardice. You get 4 stars by pulling stunts like waiting for a presidential candidate to be 7 points ahead in the polls 3 weeks before the election and then declaring your support.

But there's still a certain brashness in Powell's behavior that might explain why he is not a 5-star general. If he were truly 5-star material, he would have waited until Nov 5 to give the winner a retroactive endorsement. Why speak too soon? As Powell found out after his UN speech, loose lips sink ships.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at October 18, 2008 11:15 AM

With all of the reasons to fault Powell, I can't lay this one on him. It was fairly obvious during the end of the primaries that the Obama campaign was "banking" endorsements and releasing them at strategic times. It's entirely possible that Powell may have wanted to endorse earlier, but the Obama campaign was holding him in reserve for a rainy day or for when the race began to tighten again (as it looks like it will).

It's also possible Powell wanted to stay neutral, but found the recent tone of the McCain campaign was just too much to bear.

Posted by: David Grenier at October 18, 2008 12:53 PM

Obama doesn't need endorsements now. His whole campaign is based on organization at the ground level. That's what got him to this point.

One wonders, though, if the Good General should ask permission from Cheney before he gives his nod to Obama.

Posted by: dapajoe at October 18, 2008 01:41 PM

Psh, not rocking the boat = success in a bureaucracy. Film at 11.

And I would say the Obama campaign is based in being the lesser of two evils, if anything.

Posted by: tim at October 18, 2008 06:57 PM

Nearby winds have nothing to fear from Colin Powell's caution.

Posted by: Glenn Condell at October 18, 2008 08:08 PM

Powell's endorsement, if it arrives, won't have much impact. People who aren't already on the Obama train will see it as "those people" sticking together. They'll paint Powell as a traitor. Come to think of it, that was my attitude when he made that ridiculous presentation to the UN.

Posted by: Maezeppa at October 18, 2008 11:06 PM

Prof Chazelle, your post is PERFECT and any comment would be redundant except, even though he is not a five star general, he WILL RECEIVE a "Medal of Freedom" ( like Bremer, Franks and Tenet) for covering up the My Lai massacre
and for having the COURAGE of a REAL SOLDIER and not resigning from his position but obeying his boss's orders!!!!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 19, 2008 12:24 AM

It's very possible that Obama asked Powell to hold off on his endorsement so that it has maximum impact and so that it dominates the news cycles for a few days. You've all been watching the same Obama campaign that I have. Obama and company have thought out their moves weeks and months in advance. Don't underestimate this campaign on the timing of when a four star general gives his recommendation.

Posted by: Teknocore at October 19, 2008 03:13 AM

I was wavering on this election but now that Obama's received the coveted lying scumbag war criminal endorsement, I'm on board.

Posted by: ran at October 19, 2008 10:48 AM

Maezeppa has it right. This endorsement on its own doesn't have much value now. Maybe if Condi comes out, eh?

There is a kind of value to it what with C. Buckley and a few other non-rabid Republicans coming out a few weeks before the big day. The morons at the Klan rallies won't be influenced but some of the people in the permanent government might not worry so much about the (hopefully) inevitable.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at October 19, 2008 11:27 AM

Still, I like how he made the argument that it wouldn't be a bad thing even if Obama was a Muslim, because little Muslims can grow up, join the Army, and then die in useless imperial wars just like the rest of us.

Posted by: SteveB at October 19, 2008 11:41 AM

Time for a new rank in the army, right above Brigadier General: "Bandwagoner General."

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at October 19, 2008 01:34 PM

Pot calling the Kettle black!!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 21, 2008 11:11 AM