America Needs to Stop Sucking Up to Generals
A former army man reflects on generals who misbehave and the media that loves them anyway.
By William Astore | Thu Nov. 29, 2012 10:05 AM PST

This story [1] first appeared on the TomDispatch [2] website.

Few things have characterized the post-9/11 American world more than our worshipful embrace of our generals. They’ve become our heroes, our sports stars, and our celebrities all rolled into one. We can’t stop gushing about them [3]. Even after his recent fall from grace [4], General David Petraeus was still being celebrated by CNN as the best American general since Dwight D. Eisenhower [5] (and let’s not forget that Ike commanded the largest amphibious invasion in history and held a fractious coalition together in a total war against Nazi Germany). Before his fall from grace, Afghan War Commander General Stanley McChrystal was similarly lauded as one tough customer [6], a sort of superman-saint [7].

Petraeus and McChrystal crashed and burned for the same underlying reason: hubris. McChrystal became cocky and his staff contemptuous [8] of civilian authority; Petraeus came to think he really could have it all, the super-secret job and the super-sexy mistress. An ideal of selfless service devolved into self-indulgent preening in a wider American culture all-too-eager to raise its star generals into the pantheon of Caesars and Napoleons, and its troops into the halls of Valhalla.

[9]The English used to say of American troops in World War II that they were “overpaid, over-sexed, and over here.” Now we’re overhyped, oversold, and over there, wherever “there” might happen to be in a constantly shifting, perpetual war on terror.

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