Gen. McClellan graduated from West Point, second in his class. Also a trained engineer, he was decorated for his “zeal, gallantry, and ability” in constructing roads and bridges over routes for the marching army during the Mexican War. McClellan had much charisma. He was considered a great administrator who reorganized the Union army into a mighty fighting machine.
But, you say, McClellan was an indecisive general who feared using his forces. As NATO chief, Gen. Clark, on the other hand, urged his Pentagon bosses to let him introduce ground troops into the war against Serbia, and he even was willing to use military force to stop the Russians from occupying an airport at Pristina, Kosovo.
But Gen. Clark was badly wrong on both counts. If he had not been overruled by his superior, there would have been unnecessary casualties resulting from the deployment of ground troops. And if his subordinate, British Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, had not refused Gen. Clark’s order to confront the Russian troops–who wound up cooperating with NATO peacekeeping efforts–the outcome could have been disastrous.
And Gen. Clark is, in fact, indecisive. As a CNN commentator, he was a harsh critic of the war against Iraq. More recently, he has joined the chorus of liberals accusing the president of misleading America about Iraq’s “imminent” use of weapons of mass destruction–even though the president never said such a thing. Yet in response to a question last week, Gen. Clark said he likely would have voted for the October 2002 joint congressional resolution authorizing military force against Iraq. In another twist, the next day he said he would have voted against it.
Gen. Clark also can’t decide if ending genocide is a legitimate basis for U.S. military intervention. In 1994, while nearly one million Rwandans were being slaughtered, Gen. Clark advised President Clinton against America’s intervention, despite the U.N.’s unwillingness to stop the holocaust. But Gen. Clark speaks glowingly of NATO’s success in stopping Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing, for which Mr. Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And now, he dismisses the liberation of nearly 25 million Iraqis from Saddam Hussein’s murderous rule as a Bush foreign-policy failure.
Even on seemingly simple matters, Gen. Clark is of two minds. One day he said he would not participate in a debate with his fellow Democrat presidential contenders, only to accept the offer soon thereafter.
McClellan’s big ego won him the nickname “The Young Napoleon.” After he was relieved of duty, he decided to run for president. In 1864, he was the Democrat nominee against Abraham Lincoln. Gen. Clark also does not suffer from low self-esteem. Newsweek reports that when his entreaties to Bush presidential adviser Karl Rove went unanswered, Gen. Clark decided to become both a Democrat and a presidential aspirant.
McClellan was also spiteful of his military and civilian leaders. He actively worked to undermine the Union’s top general, Winfield Scott, eventually replacing him. He also was disrespectful of civilian leadership. In some ways, Gen. Clark was no different. He reportedly circumvented both Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry Shelton on numerous occasions in speaking directly to the media and the president. In fact, the situation got so bad that Gen. Clark was relieved of his NATO position several months before his term ended, and in a major snub, neither Mr. Cohen nor Gen. Shelton attended his retirement ceremony.
There was also a peculiar side to McClellan. Without provocation, from time to time he would announce that he had no intention of becoming a dictator. And, to be honest, there’s something odd about Gen. Clark’s personality.
In June on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gen. Clark charged that the White House had hyped intelligence about Iraq. When asked to back up his claim, Gen. Clark said he had received a call at home pleading with him to connect the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Saddam Hussein. Later, on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes,” when pressed to reveal the source, he said it was “a fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank.” There never was a White House call or pressure.
None of this seems to bother the antiwar Democrats, who believe they’ve found their great military hope. They cite a recent Newsweek poll showing Gen. Clark leading among Democrats, with 14% of support, followed by Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman with 12%. But their hope is unfounded. The poll has a 3% margin of error, making the results unremarkable. And about 40% of Democrats don’t even recognize Gen. Clark’s name.
Just as Gen. McClellan lost to Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Clark will lose to George W. Bush, should the Democrats nominate him.