November 16, 2003

Slate's Fred Kaplan does his best to counter Peter Boyer's overview of Wesley Clark's military career (which is, of course, his entire qualification for higher office) in this week's New Yorker, but part of the defense strikes me as almost as damaging as the attack.

Boyer spends a decent part of the article more or less documenting how pretty much everybody who's worked with Clark thought he was an arrogant, though brilliant, prick. Boyer summarizes the general view of Clark as having "a certainty about the rightness of his views which led to conflicts with his colleagues and, sometimes, his superiors."

Kaplan counters that this arrogance, which led to numerous conflicts, missed promotions, and a final brutal firing, is pretty much a non-issue:
I have met a fair number of generals, and I can't think of a single one who did not have "a certainty about the rightness of his views." There may have been a couple of one-star generals who expressed this certainty in a modest tone, but above that rank—and Clark retired as a four-star general—their confidence easily became belligerent if their opinions were challenged.
Well, wouldn't this, in fact, make it far more damaging, since what it's really saying is that in a culture of self-righteousness Clark was so above and beyond that it managed to piss off all the other self-righteous folks? It's like drill sergeants criticizing a colleague for being too tough on the recruits.
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