"Sending reinforcements to McClellan is like shoveling flies across a barn." So said Abraham Lincoln in exasperation over Gen. George McClellan's insistence his Union forces were never quite at full fighting readiness, whether at Bull Run or in the Peninsula campaign or before Antietam. It is a syndrome not limited to the Civil War's "little Napoleon." There's a saying in the military that no Army general ever thinks he has enough.
Yet whatever the circumstances, whatever his mind-set, Lt. Gen. Calvin A. H. Waller, deputy commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf, was off the reservation in stating publicly that he would advise President Bush, if asked, that his forces would not be "ready to do the job" by Jan. 15. That's the deadline set by the United Nations for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Of course, three-star generals don't often talk to presidents; four-star generals do. And, of course, General Waller, a seasoned veteran, didn't get that third star for shirking orders. His comments were only different in degree from Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's remarks during his latest flight to the Middle East that not all of the planned 430,000-strong expeditionary force would be combat ready, married up with equipment and acclimated to the Arabian desert by Jan. 15.