Generals over the White House: 3: BEHIND CARTER'S 'RESCUE' PLAN


On the morning of April 25, 1980, President Carter, in his televised address to the nation explaining the so-called rescue operation in Iran, said, "It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation; it was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own."

As the reader can see, Carter's assumption of responsibility is modeled after President Kennedy who also took full responsibility at the time of the Bay of Pigs fiasco.


Why was it necessary for President Carter and earlier Kennedy to make these apparently wholly gratuitous assumptions of responsibility? Has it not always been generally understood that the head of state, be he or she a monarch, a prime minister, or a president is in full charge and has the general responsibility in peace and war over such developments as the Bay of Pigs or the so-called rescue operation? And has it not always been understood that the military's responsibility is to carry out the general directives of the President?

It is rare, if one looks at the historical record, to find precedents for these extraordinary self-flagellating assumptions of responsibility made by both Kennedy and Carter. Certainly Churchill didn't make one after the Dunkirk disaster.

The media explain it more or less as a brave and gratuitous admission of a probable error or mistake by the President. It is also understood to be a defense mechanism or ploy to ward off partisan attacks by Carter's capitalist rivals for the presidency.

There may be a grain of truth in all this, but it conceals the essence of the matter The purpose of the assumption of responsibility by Kennedy as well as by Carter was to shield themselves from an increasingly aggressive military and an effort to absolve the military from any civilian attack by liberal elements in the capitalist establishment.


This is regarded as essential in order to perpetuate the mythology concerning the military's non-partisanship and aloofness from the political struggle that is constantly wracking the capitalist government. It is to be assumed that the military, in both Kennedy's Bay of Pigs fiasco and in Carter's more recent disaster, was merely executing orders given to them by the Commander-in-Chief. This, however, is altogether untrue. In Kennedy's case, it was the Joint Chiefs of Staff who conceived, originated, and pressured Kennedy into accepting the Bay of Pigs operation with an ill-disguised CIA cover.

It would seem this is too well known to be debatable at this late date in history. No less than Senator Henry Jackson, a long-time hawk who could scarcely be regarded as a foe of the military, said on the early morning CBS news of April 29, 1980, that "the Bay of Pigs was the Joint Chiefs of Staff's idea."

In Carter's case, the media and press have focused the entire responsibility on him, notwithstanding his anticipatory defense mechanism in taking full responsibility beforehand. Here, too, Carter's self-assumption of responsibility is not done out of tender concern for his former colleagues in the military, but out of fear of invoking their wrath.


Of the many news stories and analyses that are saturating both the media and press, only bare references are made here and there to the role of the military. The April 27 [1980] Washington Post, in an article by Martin Schram, does, however, slightly touch on it: "The most far-reaching of questions should be directed not at the President, but at the military establishment that he nominally heads."

Schram, however, addresses himself not to the military's political role in the capitalist establishment but to the competency and skill of the military He says, "The professionals of the American military have compiled a modern record replete with failure and catastrophe."

This is true enough, especially if one takes into account the experience of the last two decades. It is, however, beside the point. Schram's attack on the military is a sorry bourgeois method of defending civilian dominance of the capitalist establishment. It does not go to the heart of the matter which is the military's growing tendency to expand its political role in the decision-making process of the capitalist establishment and to subordinate, if not subvert, the civilian role regarding war and peace.

A great deal is bound to come out regarding the failure of the so-called rescue operation, but there are at least two tendencies in the military establishment which pressed their respective positions on Carter in dealing with the Iranian situation following the taking of the U.S. Embassy personnel last November 4.


The first tendency, in our view, is the one which probably appealed to Carter most of all. It is a tendency whose view has considerable attraction to elements of the military and is probably very widespread under the circumstances of the Iranian situation, especially as regards the hostages. It is a tendency which is so pervasive that President Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961, took special pains to warn against it:

"Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all the current difficulties."

The rescue operation, as presented by the Pentagon grouping in what we would call the first tendency is precisely the "recurring temptation" to launch that "spectacular and costly action" which could become the miraculous solution to all of Carter's current difficulties.

It is scarcely possible to conceive a plan that is more fitting to the needs of the President at this particular moment -- especially if one considers what a tremendous diversion it would be from the truly enormous economic problems that are facing the millions as a result of the deepening of the economic crisis.

It should not be thought, however, that the only objective of this first tendency was the rescue of the hostages. On the contrary, every military plan of such a nature is also a political maneuver to cover the wider and broader issue of the prosecution of a war in the Gulf area. The forced resignation of Secretary of State Vance confirms the double and apparently ambiguous character of the rescue operation.


There is a second tendency which is not at all mesmerized by spectacular actions aimed at miraculous solutions, above all for the current difficulties of President Carter. This tendency in the military is composed of many faceless, silent generals and admirals whose entire orientation has long been geared to an overall military struggle and who regard the politicians with contempt.

With many of them the only question is: In which theater should the war be fought or commenced? Like the rest of the professionals in the military, they're intensely political and their every military plan in reality reflects their overall politics.

Any plan that they present, whether it be for a rescue operation or something else, also carries the imprint of their overall political strategy. Therefore, their input into the rescue operation would necessarily be one which would in reality be a disguised alternative to the first tendency's plan.

It should, therefore, not be at all surprising that the rescue plan as presented to Carter would be of an ambiguous character, that is, could be interpreted either as a genuine rescue operation or as a first step in the launching of a general war against the Iranian people, thereby igniting the entire region in a military conflagration.

The general public would, of course, have no way of knowing this, were it not for the complete failure and collapse of the mission.

So far as Carter himself is concerned, his position or his vacillation from one plan to another, whichever it may be, is in reality irrelevant. The fundamental fact to emerge from the launching of this military operation is that it constituted a flagrant intervention, an undisguised invasion by military force into Iranian territory. It was the failure of the mission that made it possible to detect the inner conflict in the military for dominance in the White House.


This was made plain when the second tendency trotted out one of a considerable number of so-called military intellectuals from the stable of the Pentagon to speak its mind, at least in part. This happened on national public television. Channel 13 in New York, on April 25, 1980, interviewed Edward Luttwak, who attacked the so-called rescue operation on the ground that the original plan "was whittled down by the White House," meaning the first tendency in the military, and was subsequently changed so much that, according to Luttwak, more time was spent on how the operation could be cancelled than how it could be successful. It was, he said, "like planning for divorce while talking about marriage."

Who is Luttwak? He was a close aide and associate to former Secretary of Defense Schlesinger and completely shared Schlesinger's theory on preemptive nuclear war against the USSR for which, according to a New York Times editorial of November 7, 1975, Schlesinger was ousted. 1975, Schlesinger was ousted.

Which of the two tendencies has the ascendancy in the White House may change from day to day. But that they have set the general course for imperialist war is certain.


The proof of this is the elimination of Secretary of State Vance. His elimination signifies the dominance of the military faction of the ruling class in the councils of the capitalist state's hierarchy. The moderating, more restrained, less adventurous section of the ruling class has been on a steady decline for many years. The ouster of Vance indicates that it has lost, in effect, a significant role, at least insofar as foreign policy is concerned. The tidal wave of fear and even protest that swept the world imperialist capitals, not to speak of the capitals of other countries, has forced the Carter administration to quickly nominate Edmund Muskie to fill the vacancy created by Vance's forced resignation. This is hardly calculated to undo what has already been done or even slow down the process of militarization and preparation for war which the rescue operation signified.


As far as Muskie himself goes, his elevation to the post of Secretary of State, should that happen, would merely mean that he has become the public relations counsel for the Pentagon. His flabbiness in the struggle against the ultra-right was dramatically illustrated at the time he tried to get the nomination for the President on the Democratic ticket in 1972. Under minor attack from the ultra-right publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader involving a vicious personal slander against him, Muskie wilted. To the astonishment of his supporters, instead of launching a sharp political counter-attack, he literally burst out crying.

Carter's motivation for appointing him, in addition to mollifying domestic and world public opinion, was the same as Lyndon Johnson's when he coopted Senator Humphrey to run as his Vice President -- get a well-established liberal to sell a reactionary war.

The capitalist press has depicted the struggle that arose as a result of the failure of the operation and the forced resignation of Vance as one between the moderate, restrained, experienced imperialist professional diplomats and what Leslie Gelb in the New York Times of April 29 calls a "street-fighter" Brzezinski. In reality the struggle far transcends the rivalries inherent in the two factions as represented by these two different personalities.

The ouster of Vance means that the more moderate, less adventurist, and more restrained element of the ruling class has lost its traditional influence in the higher councils of the capitalist establishment, at least as far as foreign policy is concerned.


Brzezinski himself has no independent class grouping behind him nor any roots in one. He owes his rise to the influence of such Rockefeller-controlled instrumentalities as the Trilateral Commission, among many others, where his abilities have been put to serve their sordid needs.

It is to be noted that in his capacity as National Security Advisor, his office is staffed almost completely with Pentagon personnel. It is a measure of the growing strength of the military in the White House. These in turn are representatives of the steady and consistent growth of the military-industrial complex and its ascendancy over the more moderate elements of the bourgeoisie in general.

As an independent figure, Brzezinski would have no standing at all. But in his capacity as a representative of the military-industrial complex, and more particularly the professional militarists at the helm in the Pentagon, he wields considerable power and exercises a preponderant influence in shaping foreign policy -- until such time as the Pentagon may regard him as surplus baggage.

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