On Thursday, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno made an appearance on TBS’s “Conan” to promote the Army’s Soldier for Life program, which is program determined to reintegrate soldiers, veterans and their families back into civilian life.
However, host Conan O’Brien asked Odierno other questions pertaining to the military, including his feeling on the deteriorating conditions in Iraq with the losses of Fallujah and Ramadi to al Qaeda.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,” Odierno said. “All of us felt when we left it was really, really in good shape. You know, we felt really good where Iraq was. You know, the one thing I’ve learned in all of my years is there’s limits to what you can do with military power. The political piece plays a large role and since we’ve left, there’s a real political divide inside Iraq, which is driving this violence. So it’s disappointing. We’ve had lots of young men who obviously were killed and injured over there. There’s still hope. We hope they’ll be able to get it together because Iraq is a very important country. It’s right in the middle of the Middle East. We want it to be one that is a partner of ours, not one that’s going to be mired in violence.”
O’Brien also asked Odierno if he considered modern president not having served in the military was some sort hindrance to their ability to be commander-in-chief and send U.S. troops into harm’s way.
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “You know how our system works – what makes our country so different from any other is civilian oversight of the military and so our responsibility – I mean, I’m a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, so as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my responsibility is to provide advice to the Secretary of Defense and the president of the United States. So he has us to give him that advice. What we need is a president who takes that advice, understands the political considerations, any other considerations and then makes the decision. That’s how our system is set up. So in my mind it doesn’t make a difference.”