A PROFILE OF WESLEY CLARK….Elizabeth Drew has a meandering but interesting profile of Wesley Clark in the New York Review of Books this week. Among other things, I was interested in her counterpoint to the common meme about Clark being unpopular with his fellow military officers, which usually takes the form of the rather odd charge that he was viewed as too ambitious and too willing to promote himself ? characteristics that I suspect are pretty common among both four-star generals and presidential candidates. Here’s what Drew says:
Several people who are well informed about military politics or who worked with Clark during the Kosovo war believe that his enemies were largely motivated by professional jealousy of a US general who rose so quickly and also got international attention for a war unpopular with many of his colleagues.
….Clark’s conduct of the Kosovo war, and his earlier participation as the US military negotiator in the meetings in Dayton following the war in Bosnia, earned him the admiration of several of the civilians he had worked with. Strobe Talbott, then the deputy secretary of state, reminded me recently that Clark is, after all, the only Supreme Allied Commander of NATO who actually had to fight a war, “and it ended in victory.” Talbott told me that he found Clark to be “extraordinarily determined and able, and open to working with diplomats and civilians, US and foreign.” Talbott pointed out that Clark, in commanding the Kosovo war, had had to deal daily with nineteen nations.
[Sandy] Berger, who has not endorsed any of the presidential candidates, also speaks highly of Clark. Richard Holbrooke, under whom Clark served at the Dayton negotiations, is a friend of Clark’s and supports his candidacy. Michael Gordon, the Times’s able military reporter, who covered the Kosovo war, wrote of Clark in early October that “while NATO’s military campaign was not perfect by any means…the general’s judgment of… critical issues seems pretty solid when viewed in perspective; a humanitarian wrong was righted and NATO won its first and only war.”
She also quotes retired General Walter Kross, a former four-star Air Force general who worked with Clark in the mid-90s:
He’s not the army general officer from central casting. He’s the extra-ordinary senior officer who can do extra-ordinary work on the entire range of challenges senior officers have to face?including Kosovo and the Dayton Accords, on which he worked himself into exhaustion. No army officer from central casting can do that work, but Wes did.
Ron Klain, one of Clark’s advisors, says that when he briefs Clark “it’s much more a conversation you’d have with Clinton than with Gore.” To be honest, I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?