We used to worry about a military coup against civilian authority. Now we worry about a civilian coup against military authority.
It’s the reverse of the classic movie ”Seven Days in May,” about gung-ho generals trying to wrest power from an ”appeasing” president. In ”Thirty-One Days in August,” gung-ho presidential advisers try to wrest power away from ”appeasing” generals.
In the 1964 movie, the generals’ code for their military coup was a bet on the Preakness. In the 2002 version, W. signaled his civilian coup by telling an A.P. reporter his vacation reading was ”Supreme Command,” a new book by Eliot A. Cohen, a conservative who favors ousting Saddam. In his book, Mr. Cohen attacks the Powell Doctrine and argues that civilian leaders should not defer to ”the fundamental caution” of whiny generals on grand strategy or use of force.
Tired of the inhibitions of the retired generals — Mr. Powell, Brent Scowcroft and Wesley Clark — and unretired generals in the Joint Chiefs; tired of the whisper campaigns in the hallways of the Pentagon and State Department that a rush to war in Iraq will weaken America’s war on terror; tired of Republican resistance on the Hill — the hawks flew to Texas to strut their hawkishness.