Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently released a list of several hundred retired generals and admirals who have joined the "Romney for President Military Advisory Council." There is nothing unusual about such a list. Many presidential candidates roll out endorsements from high-profile former officers to demonstrate that as commander-in-chief, they would have the support of the military's senior leaders.
What did raise some eyebrows was the inclusion on Romney's list of retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks. Writing for Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein said, "If you're a presidential candidate looking to establish your national security cred with a war-weary American public, who might be the worst frontman you could choose for your cause? How about the guy who oversaw the campaign that lost Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, then bungled planning for war in Iraq?"
Putting aside the partisan politics angle, Weinstein's essay indirectly raises a very important question. As the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Franks was considered an elite military leader, one who had been selected for the position over thousands of other officers. If Franks did not have the appropriate skill set for the command he was given, what does that say about the system by which America selects its senior military leaders? What skills, precisely, should America's senior military leaders have? Most Americans don't give this question much thought. But they should.