Two cases of which this author is aware provide illuminating evidence of the leadership qualities, as referenced by Lyndon LaRouche during Tuesday's candidates' discussion, of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. In the first case, Dempsey demonstrated that he could take and hold the moral high ground against an administration that otherwise opened the door to criminal behavior in its detainee policies after 9/11. In the second case, he demonstrated the intellectual understanding of the dangers that certain assumptions about the future can hold.
In the first case, Dempsey, then a brigadier general in command of the 1st Armored Division in Iraq, resisted the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques, better known as torture. The door to the use of such techniques had actually been opened by the G.W. Bush administration and its Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, when they decided, shortly after 9/11, that Geneva Convention principles regarding the treatment of prisoners of war didn't apply to anyone captured in the so-called war on terrorism. In Iraq, this guidance was translated into approval by U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of specific interrogation techniques which were supposedly justified by the need to rapidly gain battlefield intelligence on the growing insurgency against the U.S. occupation.
In this permissive environment, mistreatment and torture of Iraqis in U.S. custody quickly ballooned into the Abu Ghraib scandal, as well as torture scandals in other U.S.-run detention facilities, and led to a strategic defeat for the U.S. occupation. But there were no major cases of abuse of Iraqis in facilities run by the 1st Armored Division. This is attributable, as described in an article in the September 2010 issue of Military Review, to the rejection of such techniques by the intelligence officers assigned to that division. They not only had the moral cognizance to reject such techniques as worse than useless; they were aided by a general order issued by Dempsey a few days after he took command of the division in July of 2003, that criminalized the mistreatment of Iraqis. "We must remember who we are," Dempsey wrote in an October 2003 email to his brigade commanders. "Our example is what will cause us to prevail in this environment, not our weapons."
The second case came in June 2010, at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At that time, Dempsey, having since been elevated to four-star rank and put in command of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, was participating in a series of seminars on the future of the Army. During one seminar with senior leaders, including retired former U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid sitting next to him, Dempsey made reference to the Thirty Years War. During a private lunch with reporters, afterwards Dempsey explained what he meant by the reference. He noted all of the talk in the Defense Department about this being "an era of persistent conflict," so the question is, "What does 'persistent' mean?" He went on to explain, "Typically, in conflicts that are kind of bounded... they're based in politics or they're based in economics, those kind of conflicts, as we've seen through our history tend to terminate more quickly. Wars that are based in ideology tend to be protracted, and I think we would agree that that's the kind of conflict in which we find ourselves. We're in an ideological struggle, and so, that's why I use the metaphor on occasion... I use the analogy of the Thirty Years War, because I think it helps kind of intellectually bound, put boundaries around the challenge." And then he concluded, "And, I hope I'm wrong."