A lot of people in America these days can reach the top, or right behind the top, via fast tracks. Some arrive as immigrants with a lot of impressive educational, intellectual or talent tickets and others with similar tickets do it also by-passing the really hard roads via “affirmative action”. Such rapid upward mobility is part of what makes America special. The problem is that at some places at or near the top is really great power – in a world where major things can happen with lightning speed.
From up there, well-educated smart immigrants have a natural tendency to see the world in their own foreign-born eyes. And, in such a situation, they also have a natural tendency to view the American might as their tool to fix things overseas that they want fixed, fast. Lacking any real experience with global leadership, or its possible consequences, they can shape their plan of action from a purely theoretical platform, and a platform that may very well be more myopic than would come from someone at the same level whose ancestors grew up in America for generations, who died in its wars, built the nation, suffered American misery. It’s easy for them to see possibilities that aren’t there, especially since a significant portion of America’s might is actually fiction in the mind of the beholder. (It’s mostly about size and noise.)
There is nothing inherently “wrong” with any of this, and for such immigrants it’s not really “affirmative action”. But when native-born Americans are not nearly as well schooled or globally knowledgeable or intellectually equipped as these immigrants are, or as those who did ascend via “affirmative action” may be, Americans are very susceptible to being used for things and in ways they don’t even understand – mainly because those at or near the top don’t fully understand them, either. This is especially true when the tool is America’s military, so ingrained with always yielding to civilian authority, and so ignorant of that military as now are most others.
This is especially true when that military simply does not know how to say, “It can’t be done.” That professional military has truly staggering conventional power and capability, and the greatest talent of both its leaders and members is knowing when and how and why to exercise extreme restraint, even in the face of suffering harm itself. This requires considerable trust, discipline and intelligence firmly grounded in solid morality and ethics in all of its members, bottom to top. But there is a whole world of difference between conventional warfare and unconventional warfare. Yes, it usually can be done, but more often than not it’s a question of how much damage that military is willing to suffer while still maintaining that restraint. Unless it’s employed against the credible conventional military forces of an opposing nation state, the overwhelming majority of that damage will be suffered by American ground soldiers. If you don’t understand such basic fundamentals, you have no business ordering that military to do anything.
Most Americans today are interested only in easy answers, short cuts and quick fixes – all of which eventually turn out to be illusions. As such, they are sitting ducks for clever manipulation. Under such circumstances, America is very vulnerable to making major mistakes, and at an extremely fast pace. The Irish grew up in America for centuries before the US was free enough of internal bigotry and strong enough to take an official stand that what the British were doing in Ireland was reprehensible, and that atrocity was gradually, but not completely, corrected before America ever decided to take such a stand. If the Famine Irish were flooding into America today, Ireland would be occupied by the US Army in a matter of days, Great Britain would be our enemy rather than our closest ally, there would be no “NATO”, and America’s military would be very severely over-extended – providing an inviting opening to other competitor states.
Try this: When there is only one conventional super-power in the world, the only way to challenge it is unconventionally. Thus, the mere existence of a single conventional super-power is a guarantee that any war in which it engages will be unconventional – and this will render useless over 90% of its conventional toys. The more nifty machines we have, the greater the probability that ground soldiers will have to bear most of the burden. It’s a logic thing. Real life, real war, is NOT like the movies. Our enemies are NOT stupid; they know that the US military since 1990 has over twice the number of nifty toys and less than half the number of professional soldiers needed. This is a major reason why over 98% of American combat casualties today are incurred by Army and Marine ground soldiers using little more than rifles – even though they constitute less than 10% of the American military.
There are huge consequences to acting with emotional impatience, even in the most altruistic of circumstances. This is especially true in a world where, momentarily, there is no opposing force capable of restraining impetuous American ambitions. A mighty power must always act with great caution and very careful deliberation, and then with precision execution. War is, after all, the failure of diplomacy. But increasingly, the opposite is becoming the case. War is becoming an integral aspect of “diplomacy” – for limited minds a quick fix easy answer to very difficult diplomatic challenges, challenges which, in the final analysis, are of no real consequence to American national security. “My way or the highway.” The overwhelming majority of our “strategy” in the world today was actually written for us by our parents and grandparents – for an entirely different world. It all comes out of old text books, but text books written during a time when significant opposing power served to put the brakes on American impetuosity and force far more intellectual deliberation. The main thing that a single super-power does for its citizens is obviate the need for them to think.
The first sign of REAL danger to our society is “elitism” that views the peoples’ military as their dumb mercenary force of no consequence to their own existence – to use, not for defending the nation and its critically important interests, but as they see fit at any advantageous moment to impose their imperial will on others. That is the definition of demagoguery, and ultimately of despotism, the first Major Chink in a democracy. “Elitists”so tempted, including those who populate the chattering class forever pontificating from the sidelines, safe in the knowledge that they will never be held accountable, should draw valuable lessons from the past while looking to the future, especially to the consequences of the precedent they set by their actions today – precedents which simply may not be possible to repeat in similar circumstances elsewhere, leading to legitimate accusations of duplicity and favoritism. As an Irish-American soldier, I know that this “elitism” is what most Americans came here to escape.
I also know that the US military, despite its manning flaws, is just about the last thing in our society that works the way it’s supposed to work. It’s even a meritocracy that holds its members accountable! And this includes its leaders, who are held to standards that are the highest in the nation. Yes, it is saddled with a bloated civilian bureaucracy and often succumbs to waste, incorrect emphasis and special interests in Congress, but it is also the most complex global entity on the planet, staffed by very many of America’s best and brightest with a reservoir of knowledge and expertise in almost every profession that counts in the human arena. Its uniformed career professionals compete in a very demanding “up or out” meritocracy where leadership capability reigns supreme. Truly outstanding leaders like General Petraeus and General Powell do NOT rise to the top of the world’s largest, most complex, most expensive and most powerful global organization by accident. The best way to screw that up is for people with no real understanding of it to try to use it for missions for which it was not intended, for which its people do not understand or support. Despite the fact that its leaders can be summarily dismissed in order to take the blame for inept civilian direction, the professionalism of the US Regular military is not approximated in any other country on Earth. (How many politicians find it convenient indeed that such men mostly keep their mouths shut, carry their disgust like bile all the way to their graves?)
This military is NOT “the queen’s own”; it is the Constitution’s own. Or it’s supposed to be.
“The primary purpose of the US military is to bestow vicarious self esteem on comfortable Americans while buying votes for ignorant American politicians – by periodically sacrificing thousands of American ground soldiers in ill-conceived wars with inadequate forces ineptly directed for zero positive results. Then, when someone decides to blow the whistle, they fire the survivors and tell the children, spouses and parents of those who died, “Never mind”.”
But it does not know how to tell American civilian officials, “No,” or “We can’t.” This places a great burden on those civilian officials to know exactly what they are directing. Civilians who make misjudgments when employing the military can simply state, “Never mind” when things don’t go the way they had imagined and simply walk away from it, leaving the military out there with one really big mess.
Czech-born and London-raised Secretary of State Madeline Albright used to walk into foreign negotiations and immediately slam a huge club down on the table. That club was the US military, and she was using it as a threat to force compliance with what she wanted “negotiations” to accomplish. The US military is still living with many consequences of her “diplomacy”. With absolutely no experience with the military or any understanding at all of what it had required for him to get where he was, she once even accused General Colin Powell, in front of his subordinates when he was Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, of lacking “balls” – because the general was counseling greater caution than Ms Albright wanted him to exercise militarily in a foreign country. It’s safe to say that this exceedingly arrogant woman had never in her life heard a shot fired in anger, much less proven herself in any dangerous situation. It’s also safe to say that she knew full well that her public sexist insult could not be returned. (This is probably what made her little tirade such a “power trip” for her.) She had already repeatedly demonstrated her incompetence as a diplomat and negotiator by failing to get the Europeans to step up to their own blatant responsibility in the former Yugoslavia. It’s offensive “birthright entitled” women like her who greatly embarrass, and anger, me as an American. Someday an affirmative action “leader” like her is going to get my nation and its military forces into a very costly fix far beyond her comprehension – a fix for which others will have to pay the price, naturally. This self-proclaimed “leader” obviously isn’t qualified to lead school children; all she can do is issue queenly orders from the very safe rear, which any twit off the streets can do. (The same, of course, applies to all the affirmative action women running American “foreign policy” for the Obama White House. It’s difficult to imagine a gaggle more ignorant of military and warfare matters, but nevertheless more arrogant on those matters.)
Despite all the various and confusing “marketing” surrounding our current involvement in Libya, under close dispassionate, objective, rational and logical scrutiny by an intelligent, experienced and knowledgeable native-born American, it simply does not stand up under American standards. I personally am shamed by it. The United States is now at war in three separate countries, while standing guard in dozens of others, and no one even knows who is the President’s National Security Advisor. (He’s a Baby Boomer with a career as a lawyer, a lobbyist, a bureaucrat (at Fanny Mae) and a political advisor, but no foreign or military experience. National security is now a matter of domestic politics and mortgages?) Even an experienced combat sergeant knows that you don’t start anything that you don’t know how to finish, with absolutely minimum losses, and without creating a situation worse than you had to begin with. Under the strong advice and urging of four grossly inexperienced women “elitists” surrounding the President (the closest of whom was actually born in Dublin! and another in Prague), in Libya we have embarked on a scary new path in the world, a new path that happened so quickly and inexplicably that the vast majority of Americans, myself included, does not really understand it. (See “Conversation With A Young Lady“.)
I strongly suspect that Libya has much more to do with finally forcing a long-overdue dramatic change in the US-Europe dynamic, to strongly entice the Europeans to step up to a just role in global responsibility that has long been theirs to avoid. In my estimation, it’s a fool’s errand. But that end is not the problem; the means, however, is. (See Footnote #1.) Intelligent people executing orders prefer that those ordering them around would pick their leverage issues with really great care that minimizes blow-back risk, that they really know and understand just as much as those they are ordering around, can explain it to those people in a way that makes sense without all the slick “marketing” and subterfuge, and have a truly brilliant plan that sees the strategy all the way through the end without unnecessary loss of life – to anyone. When you set out to destroy a regime, you must know full well what you will replace it with, and that it will not create even greater problems than you had before. Then there is the matter of establishing precedent in warfare that we definitely do not want applied to our children sometime in the future by an equally great conventional power, or even by unconventional fighters. All of this is even more important when we have a Congress just as lacking in sound knowledge, and just as ready to use the military for ulterior purposes, as anyone else.
Since Libya represented absolutely no threat to the US, her citizens, or its critical interests, we completely disregarded our own Pearl Harbor and attacked a sovereign nation without warning – AFTER it had given up its nuclear and chemical weapons – all while we are trying to get other nations to also give up their nuclear and chemical weapons and ambitions. And in so doing we handed the bad guys a whole mother lode of conventional weapons and a brand new lawless playground, right at the underbelly of western Europe – which is definitely NOT interested in putting the required “boots on the ground”. Years after the bombs stopped falling, the country still lacks a functioning government. And all on the basis of some emotional fear of what might possibly happen if we did nothing. Our “antiseptic” bombing campaign of Libya will go down as one of the dumbest mistakes in American history, an emotional mistake with which future generations of Americans will somehow have to live. And, as was always entirely predictable, it has not created anything better than was before. On the contrary.
Liberal presidents invoking emotion to go to war usually do so without deference to the Constitution’s requirement for Congress to declare war and often with a motive of having the US assume responsibilities that belong more appropriately to their liberal masters in Europe. But conservative presidents invoking logic to go to war usually do defer to Congress first, but often have a profit motive for defense contractors in mind. Even when liberal presidents use the trick of committing forces and then daring Congress not to support those forces, the result is usually the same, primarily because political party is immaterial when presidents, ignorant of the military, don’t know how to give their military a clear mission with a clear milestone for determining when that mission has been achieved, i.e., an ending. and hopefully one that is positive. Nor do they adequately communicate it all clearly to the American citizens who provide both the people and the money for those wars. The more nebulous they make it all now, the easier it is later to have that mission “evolve”, to blame the military when things don’t go as imagined, or simply to leave them in place forgotten for decades. In the end, American wars over the past half century, all begun under the hubris of the royal “we”, are more about cheap domestic politics than anything else. It’s very easy to do all this in a society trained from birth onward to always seek “someone else” to take the blame, pay the bills, and do the hard stuff, for “special me”.
The US Constitution clearly reserves to Congress the authority to declare war. This authority was slightly eroded during the “Cold” War when it became clear that the United States could be under instantaneous threat of imminent and very grave nuclear missile attack. The rapidity with which an enemy could do very real catastrophic harm to America and its citizens necessitated an ability for a President to act quickly on behalf of the nation without Congressional authority, provided he seeks such authority as soon as possible after the fact. That ability derives from the fact that the Constitution reserved for the President the role of “commander-in-chief” of the nation’s armed forces, i.e., to wage or direct wars. The people, through their representatives, may declare wars, and the President, as “commander-in-chief”, exercises civilian direction of the overall prosecution of that war. If the people become dissatisfied with the war, they can change both their representatives and their President, and end it through their vote. But they can’t return life to dead soldiers or body parts to the maimed.
However, once that presidential ability to act quickly was conceded, the lines continued to erode further. Once the President was granted authority to act as “commander-in-chief” to order the US military forces into action on behalf of the nation’s defense, it gradually sunk in to the American consciousness that the President could order the military to do whatever he wanted it to do, whenever he chose to do so. The critical aspect of defensive action became blurred as applying to both provoked defensive and unprovoked offensive actions. It became even further blurred when presidents started unilaterally ordering the military into actions that had nothing at all to do with defending the nation, its citizens or its interests. This is drastically different from what the framers intended with the wording of the US Constitution; that basic law never intended to grant to one person, the President, the unchecked power to both start and wage wars, something akin to the power of 17th century monarchs. It was just such unchecked power, which risked the lives of subjects without their consent, against which the Americans revolted to create a very different kind of society, one in which the power of the state derives from the people, not from a nobility. The French Revolution resulted from a monarchy more concerned about using the nation’s confiscated wealth to wage foreign wars than meeting the needs of its own citizens.
“What makes that office “the most powerful on Earth”? The “unilateral ability to order the military to destroy humanity.” Now that is certainly NOT something that was ever intended by our perfectly sane Founding Fathers, is it? But there it is.”
The fact that presidents have declared wars without challenge by the Congress has been interpreted by many to mean that the Constitution grants the President such authority; this is definitely not the case, more a matter of unprincipled (or ignorant) politicians in Congress playing politics rather than applying very important principle. The will of the people is exercised in a democracy through the other people they elect to represent them and their interests in Congress. But best representing the interests of the people is becoming increasingly difficult given the type of people who now run for and win elections in America. Members of the professional US military are sworn only to defend the US Constitution, but is their understanding of the Constitution the same as that of such politicians? Things can get extremely muddled up in a society ruled by self-serving emotion. American soldiers should not be expected to die unless they truly are “defending the nation” and its people. The US military as “The President’s Very Own World Cop” just doesn’t cut it.
Presidents have increasingly pushed such imagined authority to both declare and wage war beyond reasonable limits, by ordering the US military to attack targets without congressional approval which represent zero threat, either in the present on somewhere down the road, to the United States, its citizens or its critical national interests. Thus, President Clinton, frustrated as were most Americans by western Europe’s cowardly failure to act, twice unilaterally ordered the military into action against Serbia over their atrocious actions in other parts of the former Yugoslavia. In recent times, President Obama even waged an eight-month bombing campaign against Libya, resulting in the death of that country’s leader and the total destruction of his government. (Anyone who thinks that an eight-month bombing campaign is not war because there were no “boots on the ground” is a bona fide idiot. And, of course, quite obviously “boots on the ground” were definitely required after the bombs stopped falling and Libya and its institutions were in rubble.) Such instances could in no way be construed as representing any prior threat to the United States. The predilection to undertake such offensive presidential action seems far more characteristic of liberal presidents. Conservative presidents, adhering far more to the original intent of the Constitution, are far more prone to seek congressional approval before launching the US military into offensive action – such as President Bush Senior did with the Persian Gulf and President Bush Junior did each time for the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. (And even then he had idiotic politicians declaring that they voted for the war before they voted against tit, as if dead soldiers can so cavalierly change their minds for cheap political expediency.)
The critical factor is one of emotion. The US military exists to defend the nation from foreign threat of attack. Logic would dictate that the US military be able to act very quickly to defend the nation, but it is emotion that elects to employ that military in situations that do not represent an imminent threat to the United States. The logical rationale holds that, “if you are about to attack us, we will act to prevent that – even if our act results in your destruction.” In this case, the US is acting defensively, and thus incurs no responsibility for the consequences to the attacking party. The emotional rationale holds that, since the US military has the capability, then that capability should be employed also for purely “humanitarian” purposes in situations representing no danger to the United States. But that emotional rationale overlooks the fact that employing the military first requires picking one side to favor over another. It also places enormous responsibility of the United States for the consequences of its actions, including unintended, or unimagined, consequences to the parties directly affected by our elective actions. If you destroy the party whom you have decided to oppose, with whom do you replace that party? Can that party govern the country in an equitable manner without further assistance, continued pressure? That responsibility can get very heavy very fast, especially in situations where our actions actually lead to far greater wrongs than those we originally intended to deter. Once you start using the US military electively, on the basis of emotional “thinking”, you have assumed the role of World Cop, even of god. And you have placed American ground soldiers in far greater danger. Anyone who uses such thinking had better be able to consider all possible outcomes at each step along the way and always be thinking dozens of moves ahead; each one of those moves can lead further and further into self-destruction. While defending the nation is quite straight-forward, this latter elective “mission” is enormously complex and largely unpredictable stuff.
And it sets precedent that can very easily lead you into traps of hypocrisy and duplicity. Why did we attack Libya after it had given up its nuclear weapons, but we do not attack a far greater pariah in North Korea that still does possess nuclear weapons – a half century after a mere “cease fire” stopped a deadly war in the exact same place it exists still today? All this nonsense leaves an impression of the big bully USA only picking on weaker others, while bowing to those who might just bite back, hard. In the former case we will attack electively, but in the latter case we will attack only when we have no other choice left. It’s all emotional mush – which both liberals and conservatives are increasingly likely to muddy even further. Everyone these days seems to believe that the fact that the US is briefly the world’s only military super-power obviates the need to do any serious thinking, and that the military can simply be thrown around for purely vicarious machismo reasons – “because we can”, “because we are the biggest damned bully on the block” and will alone decide the fate of the world and all its lesser mortals while rearranging its various parts according to “me”. To what end? According to whose standards? In compliance with what overarching long-range strategy? Do we consciously avoid articulating a comprehensive strategy just so we can employ the US military in an emotionally reactive role in response to whatever happens to pop up in front of us rather than in an intelligently proactive role to anticipate and avoid problems down the road? Is what we want actually what the people we seek to “help” want? It this action really best for everyone, for the future? No one really knows. In this realm, both conservatives and liberals can easily sicken me as a professional American soldier. I often feel that NO ONE shooting off their big mouths these days actually knows what they are talking about. It’s all brainless bluster or emotional nonsense – wrapped up tightly in domestic politics. No one is able to rise above the mud.
And I fear for our children when the next super-power comes along and uses our own playbook against our children’s nation. We set the precedents for those who will follow us.
Today when I listen to American politicians and congressmen speak of the military and of employing it in foreign affairs, I am astounded at the degree of ignorant arrogance, at all the pontificating about things they obviously do not understand, and yet can they speak with such “authority” because most Americans are no better equipped with knowledge and understanding to know that it’s all just nonsense. They definitely would get a much better knowledge and understanding of things if such a military force were being considered for use against them.
It’s best for everyone to stick to the wording of the US Constitution and, except in those instances of unforeseen imminent attack, always seek the approval of the people through their elective representatives in Congress before electing to wage emotion-based war. At least then, the process would force a far wider consideration of the possible consequences. At least then, both the people and their representatives would support the efforts of the military ordered into action and maybe even have some degree of vested interest in the outcome. At least then, perhaps a considerable amount of stupid domestic politics, cheap propaganda and historical revisionism would be removed from America’s many wars. At least then, there would be a greater chance that someone will actually articulate a clear concise mission with an end game. Besides, those men and women in US military uniforms believe they are serving their nation and its citizens by defending them against foreign aggression; they do not believe they are hired hands available to play attack dog whenever emotion so elects to sway its figurehead “leaders””.
It is highly probable that this latest war in Libya violates our very own Constitution – all because of fleeting emotion, rather than intelligent analysis from a basis of solid understanding. “Damn the rules! The rules are whatever I say they are! Americans are too stupid and uneducated to know what’s best! And if they do complain, we’ll just sell it with “marketing”, with “spin”. Responsibility is for “someone else”.” (See Footnote #2.)
“It depends on what your definition of is is.”
Even Caesar had enormous military and foreign affairs leadership experience before being proclaimed dictator, had actually demonstrated important competence in the arena before being bestowed the wreath in Rome.
“Let’s really change the rules! Let’s just chuck the whole stupid Constitution! Legal is whatever I say is legal. All we need is the weak and duplicitous UN to rubber stamp our foreign plans! Quick! Order a million silly UN blue helmets for our dumb soldiers! We’ll re-arrange the whole world! We’ll hide our direction and involvement behind that silly “NATO” cover. Who’s going to stop us? Certainly not all those dumb Americans playing with their little toys.”
Baby Boomers and their phony self-serving “anti-war” fervor.. It was ALL about the Draft.
The most dangerous word in a democracy is the imperial “we” spoken by “special” people who do not mean “we” at all, but rather “someone else”, some lowly dumb working dogs “we” use, not to defend the nation, but to manufacture “our” own self-worth, knowing full well that “we” ourselves will never be held accountable for “our” arrogance OR “our” ignorance. When a people’s self-worth is so low that they need to run around the world throwing its over-stretched military at any emotional target that pops up, to have their “dumb dogs” kill people and destroy things under almost any pretext, “we” have fallen to the lowest level possible for a once great nation to get.
The most disgusting aspect of all is when those speaking of “we” are literally buried under a mountain of truly colossal domestic problems they have proven totally incapable of addressing for the past forty years. “I got nothing. Let’s make our military go kill some foreign people! Let’s go throw away another hundred billion dollars! That way “we” can pretend that “we” still can do something. They’re only inanimate “troops” anyway. The next four or five generations can pay the bills “we” pile up today! No one is talking on Twitter about the other wars those “troops” are dying in anymore. We need something new! Who cares what results? THAT will be interesting to watch, too! Something else to TALK about!”
How incredibly stupid is it for the two parties in Congress to argue endlessly like spoiled little children over peanuts while the Executive is throwing away more than ten times that amount and naively wading into very expensive commitments for the next ten years.
Such was the pathetic state of Rome in its final days.
Anyone can stand in the safe rear screaming orders to idiots. But the US military does not employ idiots, and leadership is an earned responsibility, for others, demonstrated by setting an example and convincing others to follow that lead for the greater good. And once that leader and the followers are in, the leader must know how to get them all out, be fully prepared to remain with them as long as it takes, or pay a full accountability price commensurate with that of the followers, if not the dead soldiers.
Let me make one thing very clear: I am no one’s dumb expendable tool. I will sacrifice my life for America and her Constitution; I will NOT die for some ignorant and arrogant “elitist” operating on emotion. Come join me on the line, and learn what I have learned. THEN tell me what your next move is.
“Why do you like them so much?!”
“Because they stand on a wall and say, ‘no one’s going to hurt you tonight.’ ” ‘Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway, US Navy’ (Demi Moore), “A Few Good Men” (1992).
(See also “Human Rights, The Moral Imperative, and Just Wars“, “Does Congress Understand The Military?” , “Only One Label Possible – War” and “Conversation With A Young Lady“, posted separately, for more on this subject.)
Footnote #1. Much has been said in foreign policy circles of President Obama’s “multilateralism”. But is that accurate? The Cable ( http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/ ) compiled a list of the countries that contributed at least some military assets to the five major military operations in which the United States participated in a coalition during the past 20 years:
- the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and Iraq, Persian Gulf War (32 countries),
- the 1995 attack on Serbia, Bosnia mission (24 countries),
- the 1999 attack on Serbia, Kosovo mission (19 countries),
- the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (48 countries)
- the 2003 invasion of Iraq (40 countries) — at the height of the size of each coalition.
So far, only 15 countries, including the United States, have committed to a military contribution in the attack on Libya leading directly to war. (And half of those are token contributions like Qatar’s three planes.) The US will probably bear over 80% of the load.
In the past, with the exception of Great Britain, other countries actually contributed very little of the hard work, blood and money that is required in these very difficult and long endeavors, leaving the US bearing the far greatest burden (and, of course, the blame). (Note that Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya are much more in Europe’s neighborhood than they are in the US “neighborhood”, and the US military is still in both Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Afghanistan.) Now the US with Libya is trying to push the Europeans into taking a greater role at the front, but so far only Great Britain and France have really accepted an appreciable responsibility-sharing challenge, and the US is still pretty much in the driver’s seat via “NATO”. Germany, under nobody’s fool Merkel, has opted to sit this one out, thank you.
Real multilateralism should be the objective, as other parts of the world are easily able to share in the burden of global responsibility, but don’t, knowing that the US military and US taxpayers will always pick up most of the tab – a reality that cumulatively is taking too heavy a toll on American capability. Besides, American soldiers need real allies who will stand with them at the fluid front, willing to accept just as much of the constant deadly danger and under the same high standards of professionalism, or at least show some appreciable progress with non-combat “nation-building” in the static rear. Marking time and “monitoring the situation” while holding a self-inflating seat at the command table, while putting up a very few token “forces”, just doesn’t cut it. Talk is the cheapest thing there is.
“NATO” currently has 28 member states under US command. The following “NATO” countries are “contributing” planes to the Libya “no-fly mission” under UN mandate:
- US (90)
- France (33) and UK (17), Italy (16), Canada (11) – total 77
- Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania are contributing only token planes.
- Germany, Poland and Czech Republic are not participating (as are Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Slovenia).
So the multi-lateral adventure in Libya consists of just five countries. No country intends to offer ground soldiers, citing the limited UN mandate (which they engineered in advance). Ground forces will be absolutely necessary to maintain some semblance of governance after the dictatorship regime has been destroyed – or we are just handing the bad guys a whole new playground, with a mother lode of weapons.
Footnote #2: IRAQ WAR
Despite the asinine rhetoric of the 2004 and 2008 US political campaigns and all their incessant “marketing” re-writing the history of the US-led invasion of Iraq designed to seek domestic political election advantage with a naive public, the truth is entirely something else. While a megalomaniac dictator threatening the world with WMD was a proper and just pretext, the greater objective of invading Iraq, the birthplace of civilization in the heart of the Mid-east, was to remove a ruthless dictator and begin a process to significantly alter the support base for Islamic militant extremism throughout the Muslim world. Without altering that support base, the West faced an endless war which it could never win and a world in constant turmoil which would significantly disrupt, if not destroy, the global economy.
Timeline for the six months prior to initiation of hostilities with Iraq following years of impotent warnings from the UN:
24 September 2002 – British 50-page report detailing burgeoning weapons program in Iraq.
7 October – President Bush speech outlines case for war with Iraq. October – CIA report on Iraq’s WMD, heavily supported by allied, especially European, intelligence services.
16 October – US Congress adopts the Iraq War Resolution, a joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War. The resolution passed in the House by a 70% vote of 297-133 (with 82 [39%] of Democrats voting “yea”), and in the Senate by a 77% vote of 77-23 (with 29 [58%] of Democrats voting “yea”).
8 November – United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1441 offering Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”. (A series of previous UN resolution threatening “all necessary means” had been ignored by Iraq, and UN weapons inspectors denied access.)
November – UN weapons inspections resume inside Iraq, where deceptive tactics
continue, and reach no definitive conclusions.
2 January 2003 – US military begins two-month build-up in Persian Gulf and Kuwait of forces needed for invasion of Iraq – a constant warning to Saddam. January – President Bush’s State Of The Union speech outlines case for war with Iraq. January – About 60% of Americans supported, if necessary, the use of military action to remove Saddam from power.
February – Secretary of State General Powell addresses the United Nations with evidence of Iraq’s militaristic ambitions.
February – Only 27% of Americans oppose military action, the smallest percentage since the polls began in April 2002.
8 February – President Bush speech cites Iraq for throwing away a chance to avoid war.
March – Polls showed a 62% support for the war, lower than the 79% in favor at the beginning of the very clearly defined and limited mission of the Persian Gulf War.
17 March – President Bush speech addresses nation on probability of war. March – Saddam continues to refuse to heed unambiguous warnings and avert disaster while taunting the West.
March – UN weapons inspectors evacuate Iraq just a day before the US-led coalition invades Iraq.
19 March – Invasion under 40-nation coalition begins (see note below), with US combat forces leading the way in cumbersome nuclear, biological and chemical protective gear in a hot desert because western intelligence services had warned that such weapons would probably be employed by Iraq.
May 2003 – 79% of Americans thought the Iraq War was justified, with or without conclusive evidence of illegal weapons. 19% thought weapons were needed to justify the war. But the 2004 election campaigns had not yet begun.
Note: The Multi-National Force – Iraq was a military command, led by the United States, which was responsible for executing “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The Force was significantly reinforced by US forces during the Iraq War “troop surge” of 2007 to a peak of 165,000 US forces – who sustained 93% of total coalition casualties throughout the war. Operation Iraqi Freedom saw military forces from 40 member states, the largest from Great Britain (46,000).
Other major contributors included: S. Korea – 3600 (w/d Dec 08), Italy – 3200 (w/d Nov 06), Poland – 2500 (w/d Oct 08), Australia – 2000 (w/d Jul 09), Georgia – 2000 (w/d Aug 08) The rest were largely token forces, and only the Brits, Aussies and Canadians were effective combat partners.
France and Germany, two of our major “NATO” partners, both of whom provided pre-war “intelligence” on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, parts for which had long been provided to Iraq by their own commercial interests, did not participatein the Multi-National Force – Iraq.
As of May 2011 all non-US coalition members had withdrawn from Iraq, freeing them up for missions like Libya; however, most remained, as usual, on the sidelines.
Public comments by key US politicians: (Politicians and their handlers count heavily on American voters not remembering correctly what happened yesterday and to be easily swayed by incessant propaganda designed to re-write history.)
“One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.” — President Clinton, 4 Feb 98.
“Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons, and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade, and much of his nation’s wealth, not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.” — President Clinton, 27 Jan 98.
“Fateful decisions will be made in the days and weeks ahead. At issue is nothing less than the fundamental question of whether or not we can keep the most lethal weapons known to mankind out of the hands of an unreconstructed tyrant and aggressor who is in the same league as the most brutal dictators of this century.” — Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE), 12 Feb 98.
“It is essential that a dictator like Saddam not be allowed to evade international strictures and wield frightening weapons of mass destruction. As long as UNSCOM is prevented from carrying out its mission, the effort to monitor Iraqi compliance with Resolution 687 becomes a dangerous shell game. Neither the United States nor the global community can afford to allow Saddam Hussein to continue on this path.” — Sen. Tom Daschle (D, SD), 12 Feb 98.
“Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” — Madeleine Albright, 18 Feb 98.
“He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.” — Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, 18 Feb 98.
“We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.” — Letter to President Clinton, signed by Dem Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others 9 Oct 98.
(October 1998 – The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is a US Congressional statement of policy calling for regime change in Iraq. It stated: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” The House of Representatives passed the bill 360 – 38 on 5 October, and the Senate passed it with unanimous consent two days later. President Clinton signed the Act into law on 31 October 1998. While the Act did not grant the President specific authority to use US military force to achieve its stated goals and purposes, on 16 December 1998 President Clinton mandated Operation Desert Fox, a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets.)
“As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.” — Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), 16 Dec 98.
“Hussein has … chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.” — Madeleine Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, 10 Nov 99.
(The year 2000 was an election year, full of the usual marketing campaigns. President Bush assumed office on 20 January 2001. His very close election remained under legal maneuvering for a month past the 6 November election date – until 9 December. This, along with significant juvenile acrimony among the previous White House staff, delayed putting in place a fully briefed and vetted administration. Al Qaeda struck 7 ½ months later – on 11 September 2001.)
“This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that … Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.” — Letter to President Bush, Signed by: — Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), and others, 5 Dec 2001.
“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” — Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), 19 Sep 2002.
“We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” — Al Gore, 23 Sep 2002.
“Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.” — Al Gore, 23 Sep 2002.
“We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.” — Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), 27 Sep 2002.
“The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons…” — Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), 3 Oct 2002.
“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.” — Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), 9 Oct 2002.
“There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years … We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.” — Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), 10 Oct 2002.
“He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do” — Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), 10 Oct 2002.
“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members … It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.” — Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), 10 Oct 2002.
(16 October 2002 – Both houses of the US Congress passed the Iraq War Resolution by large majorities.)
“We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.” — Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), 8 Dec 2002.
“Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime … He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation … And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction … So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real…” — Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), 23 Jan 2003.
(For additional non-political information on this important subject, please consult the source of these quotes: http://www.reasons-for-war-with-iraq.info/ )
The “Anti-War” Crowd Has Made War An Integral Part Of Our Culture
Remember the very aggressive young “anti-war” Baby Boomer generation of the 1960s and ‘70s? They’ve long been running the show, and it turns out that they actually like war – as long as it’s “someone else” doing it. Just consider their incredibly stupid current interjection in Libya (but not in a half dozen more worthy countries) … from a very healthy distance, of course.
Do they ever listen to what they are actually saying with their convoluted rationalizations? Only self-anointed “special” morons who have never had to contemplate themselves following lawful military orders on a deadly battlefield would ever consider that the best way to avert a “possible massacre” is to engage in a far greater massacre of your own – all in the interest of “humanitarian” principles.
Such asinine “thinking” now derives from the antiseptic image of “war” that arises from an entirely childish video game culture – a twisted, privileged, cowardly culture that arrogantly views soldiers as “someone else”, as lowly inanimate widgets on a screen suitable only for inhumane remote-control annihilation from the supreme safety of the comfy living room. Obviously, soldiers are not even human in such perverted minds, which still love to throw around the imperial “we” when actually meaning “them”.
Furthermore, when humans are being routinely killed by weapons against which they have absolutely no defense, the natural human tendency is to retaliate in any way possible against any target possible, on ever escalating levels. In Libya, with no disciplined opposing forces on the ground, surrender under Geneva Conventions is not an option. Thus, the violence and mayhem escalates. Now isn’t that so .. “humanitarian”? Why don’t we just do a “Saddam Hussein” – and gas them all? Or is torturing rats in a cage just more “fun”?
Where are the principled “anti-war” Baby Boomer cowards today?
What this sick country needs is a truly universal draft – equitably for both for males AND females, for every self-anointed “special” twit in the nation.
And ban those dehumanizing video games!
How would WE regard the “accomplishment” of the American revolutionaries if France had used such totally invincible “NATO” remote control weapons against the British – not because they liked us, but because they just hated the British? What kind of Constitution and government would have followed on THAT easy slaughter? Would we have elected the sterling George Washington as Father Of The Country? Or some French button-pushing weasel bureaucrat with corrupt connections? Heard anyone demanding a South-African-style “Truth And Reconciliation Commission” to hold the British accountable for 400 years of atrocities committed against the Irish? Or the American “anti-war” crowd accountable for what happened in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after the US military was pulled out? How about the Europeans for years of simply watching the atrocities next door in the former Yugoslavia, or in former colonies like Rwanda? Almost all the places where American soldiers have died in conflict over the past half century had their roots in European, and especially French, colonialism, including Libya. Etc., etc.
Few things in life are more despicable than watching such sanctimonious jerks wag their “humanitarian” fingers at others. And this includes us, following such excesses as our eventual prosecution of the war in Vietnam. And now with Libya.
In most cases, such arrogant people would serve themselves far better if they just stood aside and let others sort out their own problems – until one side is capable of requesting our measured, deliberate and cautious support, and then using that support in an equally measured, deliberate and cautious manner for the greater good. War is, after all, the least “humanitarian” of all options. It is also never the quick fix, easy answer or short cut that living room video gamers believe it is.
Can’t anyone THINK anymore? Naïve emotionalism gets other people killed. It doesn’t make any difference if the ulterior objective for Britain and France was once again to sucker the US into doing all the military heavy lifting for them. At least East Germany-born Angela Merkel, not buying any of the stupidity, is smarter, and wiser, than the “macho” Boomer men.
By the way, the most deadly weapon killing our soldiers in Afghanistan is the “Improvised Explosive Device” (Vietnam: “Booby-trap”) – which is the enemy’s ONLY possible response to our sneaky drone-launched missiles. Either way, it’s the same cowardly death-by-remote-control of people themselves far removed from danger. Call it “tit-for-tat”, or “fair is fair”. An armed enemy will always respond in kind, any way it can, against any target accessible. So American soldiers on the ground pay the price of the far-removed button-pushers’ video game warfare.
P.S. Those who need a very quick course in military fundamentals can consult:
“The Limits of Military Force”, by Christopher M. Schnaubelt, Colonel, US Army (ret), currently Transformation Chair at the NATO Defense College in Rome.
International Herald Tribune/New York Times Op-Ed Contributor, May 18, 2011:
Responding to lucius accius, 2011/05/16: I concur. Funny that you should mention MacNamera. Listening to “60 Minutes” Couric “interview” “nice guy” SecDef Gates about Afghanistan (on Sunday, 15 May 2011), I, too, was struck with the inescapable sensation that it was exactly 40 years ago and the subject was Vietnam. Pakistan and Iran were Laos and Cambodia, etc.. (Gates had managed to avoid Vietnam service via Stateside Air Force and CIA analyst assignments, and Couric was as usual ignorant of such matters. Lara Logan is far more astute, perceptive, knowledgeable.) Today the CIA and military special operations along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan mirror precisely those along the borders of Vietnam; the only noticeable differences are the terrain and that Predators have replaced B-52s. Déjà vu sometimes can be downright scary. (Are we going to try engineering a coup in Pakistan, à la Cambodia? What happens to those nukes? Etc.)
The situation in Afghanistan today is made far worse by European militaries and US and European civilian agencies that have failed to live up to their non-combat “nation-building” parts of the mission for the past nine years, while the country has steadily devolved into a narco state. Nation-building, including securing and holding territory, etc., is an enormously personnel-intensive mission, requiring a LOT of direct specialized face time; the Europeans have anted up less than a third of the personnel required, and then done everything possible to keep them from harm far removed from actual indigenous humans. The US, on the other hand, has more than adequately contributed the forces required for combat counter-insurgency, while also trying to do rudimentary “nation building” (such as training indigenous forces) as a secondary mission. European forces are far better designed for backward-leaning static defensive missions, while US forces are designed primarily for forward-leaning fluid offensive missions, but the apparently sensible division of missions in Afghanistan simply hasn’t worked.
(By the way, my kudos. You are correct, which on this subject is unusual for younger Americans: In Europe, after WW II, the Americans and British did, in fact, move in a second army behind as the frontline combat forces advanced. The second follow-on army was an army of occupation that had been built and trained for years for that specific mission – by drawing heavily via the draft or careful personnel selection on specific American and British civilian specialties required for such “nation-building” (who were also capable as military men of defending themselves). This was not exactly the case with Japan, where things ended not quite as had been anticipated, but similar thinking and planning was, in fact, in place for Japan, too. An under-strength army of occupation was introduced there, but then Korea caused a second change of plans. Today we place far too much reliance on high tech for short cuts, easy answers and quick fixes – plus trainloads of US taxpayer money.)
Further, anyone who is not a military novice knows that the tactical advantage in a land-locked country ALWAYS shifts to an unconventional enemy who has off-site safe-havens of support and refuge – such as those which naturally exist in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. We have known all this since 2001 – when the war was expected to take no more than six months. Of course, back then, the objective, recognizing the military realities of Afghanistan, was sold to American citizens as a sensible mission solely to destroy the Taliban and decimate al Qaeda so “the terrorists”, those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, would pay the price and could no longer use Afghanistan as a base of operations against the West. This was the intent of the Congressional joint resolution approving the war. That mission, with useless European allies, has evolved without Congressional scrutiny over the subsequent years, but the situation remains pretty much where it was at the beginning, after the Taliban was routed. (Thank God for that vastly improved body armor.) Afghanistan never offered the inherent advantages of pre-war Iraq, and wouldn’t for at least another three decades of really hard work.
The Russians laughed at the Americans for their gross mistakes in Vietnam. Then the Americans laughed at the Russians for similar errors in Afghanistan. Now it’s Russia’s turn again. Aren’t we, and our European “allies”, just brilliant?
(For younger Americans: The US military under Kennedy initially approached an unconventional enemy in Vietnam with small numbers of unconventional Special Forces and then mistakenly under Johnson built up a huge conventional force to fight an unconventional war – while short-changing the “nation-building” until the end. The Russians started with a huge conventional force in an unconventional war and then finally started switching to unconventional forces after it was already too late. In both cases, time ran out; the military logically lost the support of their own people and had also lost the local populace. The “hearts and minds” thing in Vietnam was mostly verbal nonsense despite the availability of personnel. In a gross error in strategy, what little we did in the “hearts and minds” area was always undercut by almost indiscriminate destruction and killing; we arrogantly thought we could do it all – with massive power and brute force. We then failed to adequately help the South Vietnamese to do the job after we left; this should have been central to our mission from the very beginning. Today, due in no small part to the absence of the draft, we don’t have the large numbers of specialized personnel for that part of such missions. Furthermore, civilian agencies and contractors have not been able to do the job, either, because they first require “secure” environments in which to work.)
The Pakistanis view the Americans as an impetuous people who will eventually see how stupid and futile their mission is given the existing conditions and then leave. No wonder the Pakistanis continue to hedge their bets. Would YOU want your country to be set up as the 21st century equivalent of post-Vietnam Laos and Cambodia?
People keep viewing the $20 billion in aid we have sent to Pakistan as sufficient to buy their full cooperation, etc., but that is only about two months’ worth of what the US has been spending on the “War On Terrorism” in the 115 months since 2001 – for a total of $1.15 Trillion (plus 6,100 dead American soldiers and 43,000 permanently maimed soldiers). The absolutely critical lifeline supply train for our 110,000 Americans soldiers, plus 80,000 Europeans, in Afghanistan runs on the ground all the way through Pakistan from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. Maintaining the security of that lifeline alone is worth far more than $20 billion.
Afghanistan is now a criminal state fueled by drugs going to Europe. I say turn it over to European cops and coffers, and bring American soldiers home. We’ve lost enough of our best already, while the Europeans have done almost nothing. Thanks to our special operations people in all services working together in a very complex operation, the head of the cancer is dead. If “the terrorists” pose a further threat to us, we can deal with them exactly like President Clinton did – and lob in a few well-placed missiles just like the Europeans do in Libya.
Sometimes I think American complacency about Afghanistan (and Libya) today derives solely from the fact that we no longer have a Draft.
I didn’t intend to ramble on so long; perhaps I should have posted this as a separate article. Thank you for your comments, sir.
(My “Conversation With A Young Lady” concerns Libya, and “Purple Fingers And Smiling Faces – And Egypt” concerns Iraq.)
A very thoughtful article. I kept thinking about Robert MacNamara as SECDEF while reading it. The failure to appreciate past military lessons, such as the British response to the Malasian insurgency, vrs the “hearts and minds” approach in Viet Nam. Of course civilian hubris continues, as with the incredible decision to discharge the Iraqui army after the invasion. War fighting and occupation of conqured territory are different skills. Examples include the U.S. Army Constabulary in Germany after WW II and the Japanese occupation. These are not perfect analogies, but useful guides to a civilian leadership knowledgable about the U.S. Military, its strengths and weaknesses. What we have had for a long time is policy making elites that are functionally illiterate about our military and its role in a constitutional republic. Unless thse problems are addressed soon, I fear for our country. lucius accius Regular U.S. Air Force (resigned).