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The Joint Staff

- Abstract

To the Editor:

Edward N. Luttwak’s article, “Washington’s Biggest Scandal” [May], is confusing. He sets up his thesis by claiming that the biggest scandal in town is “nothing less than the collapse of civilian control over the military policies and military strategies of the United States.” The culprit in his piece is the multiservice Joint Staff, accountable to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) for developing policy positions on military matters. Throughout his article, Mr. Luttwak blames the Joint Staff for everything from the Clinton administration’s confused Balkan policy to its flawed and increasingly irrelevant “Bottom-Up Review” of America’s defense needs. After thus laying the blame for America’s post-cold-war strategic drift at the doorstep of the Joint Staff, he rather surprisingly concludes that “the only true remedy” to the problem is “to keep a very strong Joint Staff” balanced with competent civilian leadership.

As I have been able to piece it together, then, the logic of Mr. Luttwak’s argument is: we need a strong Joint Staff. We have a strong Joint Staff. That strong Joint Staff cannot come up with satisfactory answers to America’s strategic imperatives without equally strong civilian leadership. We do not have strong civilian leadership. Therefore, the Joint Staff is responsible for the collapse of civilian leadership over the military. And it is a scandal, to boot.

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