Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lt. Gen. William G. ("Jerry") Boykin: unpromotable and unmovable

* arkin:
"Appointed Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Warfighting Support on July 23, 2003, Lt. Gen. William G. ("Jerry") Boykin has surely got to be the longest serving military officer in any posting anywhere.

Boykin's three and a half years on the job as putative no. 2 to Under Secretary Stephen A. Cambone is highly unusual for a military that moves general officers from assignment to assignment every 18 months or less.

But ever since Boykin was outed as a fundamentalist Christian by yours truly in the Los Angeles Times in October, 2003, he has been stuck in his current job, unpromotable and unmovable.

Now there is speculation that with Boykin's protector leaving the Pentagon, the new Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will clean house, focusing on defense intelligence and the Rumsfeldian encroachment into the territory of the civilian agencies.

Boykin should go, but I'm not so sure that the conventional wisdom on military intelligence is on the mark.
In Washington, the Boykin scandal went away, but out there in the world, Boykin continues to symbolize the war against Islam that the propagandists of the other extreme claim the United States is waging.

Jerry Boykin continued on as the top defense policy-maker in charge of the global war on terrorism, specifically the hunt for high value targets. Yet despite the fact that the Pentagon defended Boykin's right to preach and hold whatever personals views he wanted, Boykin also went silent. Since 2003, Boykin has appeared very seldom in public, has given few speeches and has granted fewer interviews. He has become invisible.

Now General Boykin will likely become the public face of any purge, and if and when he leaves, the act will be seen as "reigning in" defense intelligence.

When Boykin leaves though, if he leaves, it should just be seen as the end of an assignment for a Rumsfeld guy and not the end of some era of defense intelligence. Bob Gates no doubt will want to have his own people and set his own agenda, but much of the criticism of what the defense department is up to is more in the category of not playing well with others.

Another element of the Rumsfeld era is that the Rumsfeld stiff-arm has led to polarization and massive misunderstanding. Thank goodness that's over. But I'm mighty uncomfortable with the impulse some have to advance and promote the CIA as some liberal alternative to the big bad Pentagon. The post-September 11, 2001, crime, not just perpetuated by Rumsfeld, has been a level of messianic pursuit of mission and hyper-secrecy that is at the root of overreach.

It will be interesting to see whether the American holy war is indeed over. I wish Jerry Boykin the best in his next career."

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