There are no longer Vietnam Vets among the nation’s top military brass. Almost none of the nation’s political representatives in the House and Senate have military experience, and most of those few who do served just a brief tour in the National Guard. In fact, today far less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) of the American population actually has credible military service. But anyone listening to all the use of “we” might conclude the number is somewhere north of 80%. American military members come from the top 20% of their age group and serve the American people (without unions) in order to defend the Constitution and their nation to their death if necessary – not to play world cop for anyone’s emotional wants of the moment. That’s why the Constitution reserves to the people’s direct representatives, the US Congress, the power to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way with a high likelihood that they’ll come home in tin cans (today’s body bags). Our politicians should never shame themselves and all Americans with cheap lies to parents, while incredulously handing them folded American flags, about why their children died when in no stretch of the imagination can it be said that they died defending America – the sole purpose for which each and every one of them serves.
With so very few Americans anymore having a vested interest in such things, a lot of very important aspects of the nation’s military forces gets very blurred in the public’s mind. This is also a difficulty among most of our recent immigrants. (See Note #1.) Part of it is due to the absence of a universal draft, and part is due to Hollywood and other popular media nonsense, including the press. Another part is due to the childish belief Americans have in the power of remote-controlled high tech weapons to “antiseptically” decide the fate of human populations.
But Americans should never forget that ours is the Constitution’s army; it is NOT the Queen’s army. Once we lose sight of that, then we cease being Americans and should just hire mercenary thugs to do our biding of the moment. America is NOT Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Gaddafi’s Libya, with conscripted soldiers who can be ordered to do anything under penalty of execution. As a life-long professional American soldier, I will die defending America; I will NOT die for anyone’s self-interested emotionalism. If you can’t explain the direct threat to America with solid unambiguous logic, then find someone else for the job. Just because the US military can does not mean that it should, and invoking the notion of “national principles” has been used by every dictator in history with arrogant ambitions, including imperial King George III from whom Americans wrested their independence.
Furthermore, Americans today who fail to hold their politicians accountable for perverting the honor of their military are irresponsibly shirking their civic duty. When Americans remain shamefully silent after ten years of constant war and a man who once threw his Vietnam medals over the White House fence in contempt is now a US Senator trying to justify the stupid US unprovoked interjection in Libya, you just know that the wheels have come off the cart. Now we even have the United States playing God like Chicken Little with the lives of other humans, trying to justify sissy remote control “warfare” – and will inevitably wail like stuck pigs when someone uses the same methods against us. It seems to me that if the Europeans want to lower themselves to that despicable level, then so be it – but WITHOUT shaming the United States of America and sending the bill to the American taxpayer.
War now seems a matter for “someone else” to prop up “my” self-esteem. Constant war has become such an integral part of our culture that apparently new wars no longer even have to be discussed in Congress; small wonder less than 10% of Americans have a favorable opinion of that body of self-interested cowards. (These jerks are far too busy sex-texting women, buying huge blocks of votes with “someone else’s” money, cheating on spouses, padding their pockets, lying to the public, and setting themselves up for their next careers – all in the halls of Congress while Rome burns and the President sends the nation’s military off to attack another country without debate or approval of the people’s representatives just like any imperial Third World dictator. “Let them eat cake!” Despite the questions on the citizenship test, this is the reality all those millions of new immigrants understand. The rest of Americans are too busy playing with their toys to even care. But then, we DO get the government we deserve, don’t we? “Useful idiots” on Twitter?)
Americans might also consider that the European Union has both a population and an economy larger than the US, and long could be doing much more to live up to its equitable responsibilities in the world, but doesn’t because the Europeans have been able to get the “dumb Americans” to do their heavy lifting, and dying, for the past half century. Not being dumb themselves, they will continue doing so for as long as Americans, led by their self-anointed Eurocentric “elitists”, let them, and fail to hold the Europeans accountable for their complicity through irresponsible inaction in human tragedy unfolding right in front of them. There are few things more hypocritical than hauling people before “human rights” courts long after the “war crimes” mayhem is over, and not charge those who sat and did nothing to stop it for their full complicity in the atrocities – the very European cowards later assuming the right to sit in after-the-fact judgment of others. A century of militarily baby-sitting the self-involved, sanctimonious and hypocritical Europeans is more than enough. It’s long past time to move on to far more worthy endeavors, while also forcing the pampered Europeans to finally live up to their share of the burden.
Afghanistan, Iraq – And Libya
Libya, which had diplomatic relations with the United States and which was cooperating with the United States in the “War On Terrorism”, presented absolutely no threat to the United States, to the US military, to US possession, territories or citizens, or to any other state, and was attacked without provocation with the most inept of military rationale. No sane person could ever rationalize that those actions have anything at all to do with “defending the United States of America”. (What would have happened to the United States if the British aristocracy, whose view of the “sub-human” Irish nurtured the mentality that allowed slavery to flourish in America, in advancing its “national principles” had bought its military might to support the Southern rebels during the American Civil War?) And NATO was “brave” enough to attack Libya by remote-control only after Gaddafi had been tricked into giving up his nuclear weapons so he couldn’t bite back.
The population of Libya (6,500,000) is only a little larger than that of Norway. Well into three months now the combined space age might of the Brits, the French, the Americans and a half dozen others is still trying to wage a remote control video game “war” in a Third World country, and Norway has declared that even that is too much for them so they are pulling out. Or is it more a matter that Norway is astute enough to see the handwriting on the wall? It is inevitable that no matter how things now play out in Libya, that place will eventually require the introduction of ground forces to maintain order plus decades of massive financial aid; one can only hope that America can avoid, once again, getting suckered in for both requirements. What an “alliance” this pathetic charade is; it should have been retired with honors when it’s mission was completed twenty years ago (and an entirely new alliance forged around a US-UK-Russia core designed for the next century). As an American, I am embarrassed to be part of the European nonsense in Libya, while also having to watch the Europeans try to avoid accepting the hundreds of thousands of African refugees their bombing is creating.
We can expect all sorts of ploys on both sides in Libya to affect public opinion in the United States to either (a) support a cessation of the NATO slaughter that will inevitably result in an escalation of the violence on the ground, or (2) justify a further and deeper evolution of the NATO mission in Libya while ignoring similar events transpiring in a half dozen other countries in the region. Once half measures are undertaken militarily by naive outsiders in volatile civil wars, the course of events are guaranteed to take on a life of their own never imagined by those initiating the intervention. Almost always such intervention makes matters far worse than would have played out on their own and will require the introduction of large numbers of foreign military forces to maintain order in an open-ended mission. “You break it; you own it.” – General Powell, who knows that the only people who can own it, and fix it, are ground soldiers. (We went into Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995 and into Kosovo in 1999, in Europe’s front yard, with a couple months of high tech toys on the front end under a “NATO” cover – and ground soldiers were still in both places ten years later; the costs on the back end of both missions dwarfed those on the front end.) With the US military already heavily involved in two Muslim countries, plus standing guard in dozens of other locations around the world, the West simply lacks the resources and the will to adequately referee events in numerous Mid-East countries simultaneously.
The wisest action for the US is to contain emotion and logically remain on the sidelines while Muslims sort out matters on their own – primarily because there definitely are absolute limits to American military power and because Muslims must have a real stake in their own futures. This “Arab Spring” process will play out in many variations over the next ten to twenty years all across the Arab Muslim world, and the best we can really do is to not make matters worse. Doing otherwise could very well result in the undoing of America. China might simply call in its chits to order the financially over-stretched US to stand down. (The Defense Department has identified deficit spending contributing to an ever rising national debt as the greatest threat to the nation’s future national security.) Obviously it would have been preferable to have Congress and the American people debate all these matters before the US military was committed to a NATO mission in Libya. War is an incredibly complex business.
At least President Bush complied with both the Constitution and the War Powers Act and won his case in Congress before sending the US military to attack first Afghanistan and then Iraq. Furthermore, he also crafted far larger international coalitions for those attacks than has President Obama in Libya. Despite all the espoused emphasis of the Obama Administration on cautious “multilateralism”, the current gaggle ineptly attacking Libya bears far more resemblance to a “French Amateur Hour” of boys and their toys than to a professional 21st century military force that knows what it’s doing and where it’s going with its efforts. And still the spineless US Congress has remained silent – in direct violation of both the Constitution and its own War Powers Act.
Consider the main players in the Libyan mess, Great Britain and France:
The Brits have been wrestling with their role in the world ever since President Eisenhower “defeated” the British Empire with a few words – and simply ordered them out of the Suez in 1956. This very dramatically bought home to the Brits the fact that they had long been living on thin air, that they were still a great power only in their own minds far beyond the limits of harsh reality. The financially over-stretched Brits, then very deeply in debt to the United States, eventually overcame their shock and soon opted to fall in behind the Americans – which they could use as their proxy power. (Like much of European aristocracy, the British aristocracy STILL views the Americans as dumb dogs on their leash.) The ever obstinate French were also similarly ordered out of the lucrative Suez, which rankled the French so much that de Gaulle eventually ten years later withdrew from NATO and summarily ordered all NATO forces and its headquarters out of France. (France eventually returned to NATO as a “full member” – 43 years later in 2009, well after the reason for NATO’s existence, the Warsaw Pact, was gone and the stakes were enormously lower.) Despite France’s “unilateralism” during those 43 years, all continental European countries quickly followed the same British strategy with the Americans, mainly because it was so easy and so beneficial to them: they could exert far greater influence in the world simply through adept diplomacy or token support to American efforts they manipulate with greater sophistication.
And that remained the status quo for the next half century, the unchallenged “natural order of things” – mainly because the Americans today lack the ability to think innovatively and with the same independent brilliance of their Greatest Generation fathers. (The US should have re-ordered its entire global strategy during the 1990 period, when the “Cold” War raison d’être for NATO ended, but instead continued to march under the same out-dated “thinking” as if the whole world had not very dramatically changed with the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact. The US, under Eurocentric President Clinton and SecState Albright, went to play in the sandbox – where it mostly remains even today after a decade of war – all a consequence of spoiled American intellectual sclerosis.) The European strategy is to keep the dumb Americans’ nose to the grindstone, while they contribute token efforts to give the appearance of equity. It’s mainly an effort to deceive both the American and European public via tokenism. If a few of their own soldiers die in the process, well that’s still much cheaper than true equity. “Let the Americans rack up the truly staggering numbers of dead and maimed soldiers; we can hide the truth from everyone by insisting that they ALL be labeled “NATO” soldiers.” (See Note #2.) Privileged British and European aristocratic “thinking” hasn’t changed for centuries; they are true masters at manipulating their public’s self-image through tokenism, at home and abroad, through the deliberate sacrifice of the valiant few.
Afghanistan, in Europe’s back yard, was never nearly as important to the greater objective after 9/11 than was Iraq. The problem is the mindset established in the United States and Europe, the visceral liberal hatred of all things conservative (and vice versa), that absolutely refuses to accept that simple truth. You simply cannot defeat such an enemy as we face in Islamic militant extremism without changing its support base, and that is what Iraq accomplished. It was three sets of free elections in Iraq – NOT rebellions in Tunisia or Egypt – that set the “Arab Spring” gradually in motion, a movement, from the very beginning aided by al Jazeera TV, that is gradually but significantly altering the Islamic extremist support base from within. But President Obama won election on propaganda that “Bush took our eye off Afghanistan” from where al Qaeda currently springs, and very many naive Americans readily accepted that simplistic propaganda. I often use the analogy that focusing solely on Afghanistan is akin to the little boy on the beach trying to empty the sea into his hole in the sand. As long as the support base remains, and remains unchanged, the bad guys will just keep coming – forever. How brilliant is that? (See Footnote #2 to “The Constitution And The Military”.) Those who cannot see this simply have so much invested in emotional ideological politics that they can no longer accept even simple inescapable logic.
President Bush did not, of course, take his eye off the ball; he merely focused significant military attention on the greater objective – to significantly alter the landscape throughout the Muslim world, by showing Muslims that they could, in fact, govern themselves once their dictators were removed, that they could achieve their objectives in a way that does not involve killing infidels – infidels such as Americans who have long propped up those dictators. This last part was the very foundation, born long ago in an Egyptian prison cell, of Islamic militant extremism, that Muslims at large would never be able to achieve self-realization as long as the US and Europe propped up the ruthless dictatorships in the interest of oil. And President Bush accomplished that without appearing to be on another religious “crusade”, a characterization that would have been entirely counter-productive. (He also could not articulate that sweeping objective without running into charges of unrealistic grandiosity from domestic and European political rivals.) Instead he focused solely on one dictator who was easy for everyone, on all sides, to hate – a powerful Hitler-worshiping megalomaniac who ruled through terror, torture and human slaughter, who posed a significant threat to all his neighbors as well as to the West’s oil lifeline. What eventually transpires in Iraq over the next ten years will have a thousand times greater importance to the Big Picture throughout the Muslim World than will anything that transpires in Afghanistan for at least the next quarter of a century.
The confused situation now is mainly a matter of self-serving domestic politics inside both the US and Europe – advancing propaganda that always seeks to re-write history to meet short-term internal political objectives. It’s mostly a childishly stupid two-team game of domestic mutual hatred – one that makes the work of the US military far more difficult than it needs to be. No one is able to tell simple truths; everything has to be presented with a certain self-serving “spin”, a “spin” that thoroughly confuses the critical issues in the public’s mind. It’s all very similar to the liberal reaction in both the US and Europe to conservative “cowboy” Reagan’s 1980s efforts to end the “Cold” War; the left has never stopped re-writing history to deny President Reagan credit for that great accomplishment, so the truth will have to wait at least another two or three generations, to get past all the invested domestic political nonsense, on both sides of the Atlantic. Until then the US military is essentially the football. And Libya is an effort to usurp credit for what President Bush set in motion in Iraq for the larger Muslim world – and jump on the bandwagon that “Obama created”, on the cheap in “Tunisia and Egypt” – as though the previous nine years of war counted for nothing (like the previous 35 years of the US military training of the Egyptian military according to American standards).
In Afghanistan we are simply marking time – killing as many fighters who show up on the battlefield as possible, while matters of far greater importance play out elsewhere. It IS far better that those bad guys show up on that remote battlefield than on Main Street in America. As such, our soldiers in Afghanistan, like those in Iraq, are defending America. But the US will never accomplish meaningful “success” with Afghanistan itself, especially with the Europeans shirking their “nation-building” part of the mission and the US military lacking the large numbers of professional soldiers needed for that specific mission since the “Great Peace Dividend” fired almost all of them. Discussion of “winning the war” in Afghanistan is meaningless. If US combat soldiers remain at or near current levels, this war will simply peter out as the number of bad guys who show up on the battlefield dwindle to levels that can be handled in any way the Afghanis wish to handle them – in response to events playing out in the larger Arab Muslim world. (My guess is that the Afghanis will simply integrate most of the bad guys into the larger tribal society, but under loose observation by some semblance of a “national police force” – however corrupt that “police force” may be, in keeping with centuries-long tribal practices.)
Afghanistan “the country” is far more a matter for European responsibility than it is an American responsibility. This is a country of 30,000,000 mostly uneducated people, where the median age is just 18, living in a tribal culture in a land-locked space of 252,000 square miles of mostly desolate desert. So far only China has shown a willingness to come in and help the country mine its vast mineral resources after the US Army used its own studies and those conducted earlier by the Russian military to confirm and locate those valuable deposits. Afghan income from such ventures is certainly preferable to that from foreign aid and opium poppies to assist the nation to move into the 21stcentury, but US and European commercial ventures have still not materialized. We thus have a situation where a country (China) that is not even a member of the “coalition” is doing more to help Afghanistan become an actual country and stand on its own than all of Europe is doing.
And THAT is where Americans at large have a “self-image” problem. The US military is just about the last institution in their society that works the way it’s supposed to work. Americans, rather than focus on their own failures everywhere else at home, incredibly tend to see the whole world as the responsibility of THEIR powerful military, a matter of the imperial “we”, and simply can’t step back and hold “allies” accountable for not living up to their part of that responsibility (or themselves for their own failures). But, despite the need for Americans to focus on something positive in their society, the whole world is NOT solely “America’s Problem”; it is a shared responsibility of ALL civil societies, and one that should be equitable. But those societies, not being stupid, will always shirk that responsibility as long as we insist that our military do it all. At least President Obama is trying to make some headway in altering that mind-set with Libya. (I just object strongly to THAT particular venue for the lesson. And, despite the usual “NATO” cover, the US is still bearing well over half the military missions and 75% of the financial costs of this “limited European effort” in Libya.) As long as things remain on their current track, and the US stands fast in its promise not to introduce ground forces, Libya will be a significant learning process, not for the Muslim World, but for Europeans. And also, hopefully, for Americans. Unless you intend to destroy a country, remote control warfare is just stupid.
American writers have the same tendency to miss (or ignore) the bigger picture, and many relevant factors, either deliberately or through ignorance. David Ignatius is an American novelist and also a foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post. Plugged into the Beltway intelligence and foreign affairs communities, he has published a half dozen novels, the most recent of which is “Bloodmoney” – about CIA’s involvement with Pakistan’s ISI. Time published a brief article by Ignatius in its 23 May 2011 issue titled “The Double Mirror”, with “Pakistan duplicity” its central theme. After noting that ISI’s press cell feeds Pakistani newspapers, Ignatius quotes in that article a CIA source doing precisely the same thing with him. Duplicity is in the eye of the beholder. ALL countries, and ALL intelligence services, place their own interests above all else. They would be criminally negligent if they did not. It would be entirely foolish for anyone to think otherwise, be the focus Great Britain, the US, Germany, France… or Pakistan. It’s a completely defensible “My country first; all else, including allies, second.” You can’t buy a nation’s sovereignty.
For three years prior to 9/11, the FBI had credible reports, including from foreign governments, that Mid-East men were getting flight training inside the US for possible terrorist attacks, the CIA had reports that Arab terrorists were planning to fly a bomb-laden aircraft into the WTC, several members of the terrorist teams were under national security (FBI, NSA and CIA) surveillance at home and abroad, and the NSA had been monitoring all manner of private communications under the enormously powerful Echelon global surveillance system. Despite all of that, several of the hijackers were routinely issued US State Department visas despite being on watch lists; two of the hijackers attended an Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, just miles from Alec Station, the CIA-FBI counter-terrorism unit responsible for tracking terrorists, and for a month immediately preceding the attacks several of the nineteen hijackers lived in motels in Laurel, Maryland, right under the nose of the omniscient NSA. Etc., etc.
And WE somehow find as incredulous Pakistani claims that they didn’t know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad down the road from their military academy? What is more “duplicitous” than the totally absurd National Security Advisor claim about 9/11 that “no one could have imagined” commercial airliners being used as weapons? (In addition to all the later reports, in 1995 a complex plot led by a Pakistani militant extremist to simultaneously blow up a dozen airliners in a highly synchronized plan that involved members changing planes departing the Philippines as many as four times in a day was broken up only by accident when chemicals for a bomb were mixed incorrectly in an apartment sink.) How about the “duplicity” of “It’s a slam dunk!” concerning the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, from the CIA Director himself? Such claims were used to justify a very deadly and costly war, waged by “someone else”. Most Americans view “history” in terms of years if not months, while most Muslims view history in terms of centuries, even millennia, yet both groups have an exaggerated propensity to focus on the prouder moments and to forget or re-write the much less prouder moments. But if you’re not interested in your own glaring blunders of only a few years ago, so that recent failures cannot inform today or the future or even your own children, then the great advantage inevitably goes to those who take the long view, warts and all.
As a military man I know that the lifeline for our army in land-locked Afghanistan running through Pakistan all the way on the ground from Karachi to the Khyber Pass alone is worth much more than the $20 billion we have so far given Pakistan. (The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 115 months have so far cost American taxpayers well over $1.1 Trillion in military costs alone, not to mention the 6,100 US dead soldiers and 43,000 permanently maimed.) Pakistan’s cut is worth less than two months of that money – a pretty good bargain for keeping our forces inside Afghanistan alive and potent.
All the juvenile US chest-thumping about bin Laden’s death and mouthing-off about Pakistani “duplicity” has now cost that military its three key US Army Special Forces bilateral intelligence centers inside Pakistan near the tribal areas and a very important Special Forces training program inside Pakistan close to those tribal areas intended to have Pakistanis fight al Qaeda covertly. (Pakistan has now ordered the SF out.) Of course the bin Laden operation was both correct and superbly executed by members of the Navy, Army and Air Force as well as of the CIA. (See Note #3.) But sometimes I wonder if the greatest hurdle for our military forces is not various and sundry American self-interests; in this case the aftermath of that operation has undone over two years of the toughest and most dangerous work there is. The difference between special operations forces (SOF) (such as the Navy’s SEALs) and the Army’s Special Forces (SF) is that the latter take the Long View by working with the locals in deadly environments over very extended periods to build mutual trust for mutual objectives, without upsetting the whole applecart for short-term interests. I sometimes feel that short term interests also often rule those who come and go in the CIA, much more so than those who remain in place in ISI. After all, it was the CIA who worked with the ISI to covertly undermine the Russians in Afghanistan, and then simply walked away from the mess they had created – until it all blew up. (Ditto with the Kurds in Iraq.)
It’s not possible for the informed rational mind to fault the Pakistanis any more than it is to fault the Americans. After all, would YOU want to set your country up to be dealt with like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after the US military was withdrawn from that war? Especially when this one won’t be over for at least another twenty years? You have to take the Long View, and not render the efforts of so many dead soldiers meaningless.
And don’t forget those Pakistani nukes. We will never again be able to talk anyone out of their nukes now that we have turned so violently against the last sucker (Gaddafi) who allowed himself to be so tricked. Joining the non-nuclear club is obvious suicide when short-sighted Americans with short-term emotional interests are throwing around willy-nilly the power of the US military.
The Pakistanis know us. Almost EVERYONE knows us, better than we know ourselves.
Consider this: The Predator drone campaign being conducted in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere is simply an “antiseptic” version of the infamous Phoenix program conducted in Vietnam, the same systematic “murder” operation to which the judgmental Baby Boomers so strongly objected then is now proudly their very own. Apparently it’s all completely acceptable as long as you conduct it from a very safe distance by remote control – and, of course, as long as “someone else” runs all the risk. It is not possible for the bad guys to retaliate against those deeply hated drone attacks so loved by the Langley CIA crowd – safely ensconced 7,000 miles away. So the drone attacks force the bad guys to retaliate in the only way they can – by employing extremely deadly IEDs (formerly “booby-traps”) targeted against US Army and Marine soldiers they CAN access on the ground in Afghanistan. US soldiers pay dearly for those US drones, for this modern-day Phoenix program. One man’s remote controlled drone missile is another man’s remote-controlled roadside IED. War is never so clear-cut as those on the sidelines often like to imagine it is, and Americans often do an excellent job of working at cross-purposes to their military while marching to their own short-sighted myopic tunes. Truth be told, vastly improved individual body armor is more important to those soldiers than the drones; at least, this time, a LOT more of them are coming home alive, even if they do have critical pieces missing.
Also consider all the nonsense about releasing bin Laden’s death photos. The only man who should have been consulted on this matter was General Petraeus, who was leading our military forces in Afghanistan. If he said, as he did, that public release of such photos would not be helpful to his deployed soldiers in the CENTCOM AO, then there is no need for any further discussion by anyone. Mark the photos “Top Secret” and lock them in a safe for the next fifty years. Soldiers do not risk their lives in war to meet the gruesome interests of twisted sideline sitters. Those with such interest can join our soldiers on the battlefield and witness all the gore they wish, if they can measure up to the standards.
I’ve been doing this stuff for a very long time. Over the years guys like me develop automatic responses to certain questions – not necessarily the “correct” response, but the one that is most “right” given the circumstances of the moment. We always know the difference, and thus that uttered is a deliberate decision. But there is one question for which I have never found the “correct” answer and have always had to settle for just the “right” answer. It’s the question a young soldier whose hand I am holding asks as his life slips away forever: “Was it worth it?” Sometimes the question is not even articulated, just burning there in his eyes. You encounter that question often enough, and you get a little cynical. And really pissed off at American complacency, American indifference, American arrogance….
Which of the following would you choose as the basis for your “correct” response?
“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” – Marcus Aurelius
“Let men see, let them know, a real man, who lived as he was meant to live.” – Marcus Aurelius
(See also “Smiling Faces And Purple Fingers – And Egypt”, “The Constitution And The Military”, and “Only One Label Possible – War”, posted separately.)
Note #1: Veterans Day is on 11 November (which marked the end of WW I), a day when we thank all those living men and women who served the nation in military uniform. But the day for honoring America’s many dead soldiers is Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day), the last Monday in May; this far more solemn day dates all the way back to the military’s ceremonies honoring its own fallen soldiers during the American Civil War almost 150 years ago. Those who died in America’s many wars are America’s True Heroes. We should never forget them. We should never forget that they died for one purpose and one purpose only – “defending America”. Veterans Day is an appropriate time for noisy parades and flag waving; Memorial Day should be an appropriate time for quiet processions and contemplation. And for decorating the graves of our fallen heroes.
Note #2: “NATO” does not identify the nationality of casualties in Afghanistan so the public on both sides of the Atlantic can be easily mislead into thinking that all coalition members are bearing an equitable burden in that war. Despite the fact that the EU has both a population and an economy larger than the US and that Afghanistan is in Europe’s back yard, as in the previous nine years, 64% of casualties in Afghanistan in 2011 have been American and 15% have been British – for a total of 79%. The other 25 countries have sustained a combined total of 21% of fatalities, mostly due to accidents.
At least this is slightly more “equitable” than in Iraq, where the US military has sustained over 93% of deaths, and the UK 4%, while all the other countries combined sustained the remaining 3%, mostly due to accidents.
“Coalitions”, like NATO”, are actually little more than cheap political covers for American war efforts, still overwhelmingly carried by American soldiers and American taxpayers. Everyone else gets to ride very cheaply on their backs. Small wonder that the world always attaches the word “dumb” to “Americans”. Mostly the other players just make the job for US combat commanders enormously more difficult and complex trying to work around all the useless strap-hangers without injuring their “sensitivities”. Even in Libya, characterized as a “European NATO” effort, well over half the air missions and the costs are being borne in secret by Americans, directed by inept Europeans.
Note #3: The SEALs executed their mission without first absolving themselves of potential charges of “war crimes” and without granting themselves “acceptable levels of at least 30% collateral damage”, as do the remote button-pushers. Anyone throwing around accusations of “illegal assassination” would be very hard pressed to come up with a different definition of what the drones do. Such people haven’t even figured out that our government has given operational control of weapons of war to bureaucrats outside the checks and balances of the military chain of command and the UCMJ. (In most cases, the toys are operated by Air Force personnel – under the bureaucrats’ direction.) Of course, it’s only a matter of time before these super high tech toys of terror gravitate to other US bureaucracies – for use against us.
Skirting federal laws limiting government powers in domestic areas like “intelligence”, “counter-intelligence” and “security” is one important reason why so many of such government functions have been farmed out to commercial contractors at top dollar, so it probably doesn’t make much difference if bureaucrats are using war weapons or not. Any objections would probably result in the toys simply being passed to outfits like Blackwater (now “Xe Services LLC”), whose new CEO is a former Air Force officer. Constantly upgrading its image with mega-bucks of taxpayer money, the company also now has a former US Attorney General and a Navy admiral who once headed NSA on its board of
directors. Skirting the Constitution and federal law limiting government on the Peoples’ dime is very good business for the Baby Boomer crowd.
Popular Opinion In Pakistan
We tend to forget that Pakistan is a democracy with an active free press – a really huge country of 170,000,000 people — in which those who lead its institutions must live, and survive. (How many Americans remember what happened to South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – after we left? The rest of the world definitely DOES.)
A Pew poll holds some hard but understandable news about the Pakistani public’s views toward the United States. (Poll results – What do Pakistanis think about bin Laden, Obama, and the U.S.? — http://pewglobal.org/2011/06/21/u-s-image-in-pakistan-falls-no-further-following-bin-laden-killing/ Tuesday, 21 June 2011) Here are some key numbers from the poll, according to Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Bin Laden Raid:
63 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the operation (This is natural; how would we feel about some other country conducting a military raid inside the US to kill someone it was seeking?)
10 percent approve of it
27 percent don’t have an opinion
29 percent believe that the government did not know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad
18 percent believe the Pakistani government knew
53 percent had no opinion
12 percent have a favorable view of America
73 percent have an unfavorable view
68 percent do not have confidence in him
8 percent have confidence in Obama
(In 2008, when the same question was asked about President Bush, 7 percent expressed confidence.)
12 percent have a favorable view of al Qaeda
55 percent have an unfavorable view
33 percent don’t know
(In 2008, those numbers were: 25 percent favorable, 34 percent unfavorable, and 41 percent don’t know. This, as with the popular view of the Taliban, is a very positive sign seen all across the Muslim World as a consequence of the self-initiated “Arab Spring” – which we should just leave alone and allow to find its own course, to play out over the next decade without further aggressive American “pollution”. We need to keep supporting democracy in Iraq and Egypt in the background, and mark time in Afghanistan, but get out of Libya.)
12 percent favorable
63 percent unfavorable
24 percent don’t know
But that displeasure doesn’t translate into support for government action against the groups.
Use Pak Army To Fight Extremism:
37 percent support using the Pakistani army to fight extremists in the country’s restive regions — a figure that is 16 percentage points lower than two years ago, according to Pew. ((The army, Pakistan’s most popular institution, is now seen by many as in danger of becoming an impotent stooge of the US, as ineffective as Pakistan’s political leadership. This would be catastrophic to nuclear-power Pakistan’s future, in view of no other institution capable of holding the country together in the face of potential militant “revolution”. Perhaps it IS best for the Pak army to just maintain its current even-handed mark-time stance, and allow popular opinion to decide the future, for popular support of extremism to continue to erode on its own.))
26 percent oppose using the Pakistani army to fight extremists
38 percent didn’t give an opinion
(The Pakistani military remains the most popular institution in the country, but there is a constant tension between the military and the media, each of which sometimes goes too far with its “prerogatives”.)
79 percent say the military is having a good influence on the country
76 percent feel that way about the media
60 percent feel that way about religious leaders
41 percent — the court system
26 percent — the police
14 percent — for President Asif Ali Zardari
Now we have a President, who considers himself a “Constitutional Scholar”, deciding that neither the Constitution or the 1973 War Powers Act applies to Libya because our military bombing interjection in that civil war doesn’t involve “hostilities” — since our ground forces are not involved, since our military in that ever “evolving” mission is now only in a “supporting” role to the European “NATO” perpetrators even though the US military is flying half the missions and meeting three-fourths of the costs, etc., etc..
So therefore we were unjustified in regarding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which also did not involve Japanese ground forces who “could be fired on meaningfully”, an actual declaration of war. Ditto for the attacks on the United States of 9/11 2001. We should have regarded such incidents like we inexplicably did the 1998 attacks on our embassies in Africa, the 2000 attack on USS Cole, etc. — as just some fools making silly noises on the sidelines rather than as actual “hostilities”, as clear “declarations of war”. And our recent decision to retain the option of regarding a concerted remote cyber attack on our national infrastructure also as a “hostile action, as a “declaration of war”, is totally unwarranted. From such “logic” also follows that those actively participating during the commission of a capital crime cannot be held liable, that countries allied with Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan could not be held accountable, etc..
All of this, of course, is total nonsense. It’s similar to that familiar “argument” advanced ad nauseum that all the rights belong to “me”, and the responsibility parts are solely for “someone else”.
Or maybe it’s just a matter of the biggest bully on the block deciding at any given moment to claim one set of international rules for himself while imposing a different set of rules on everyone else – all while telling the American people that they are too stupid to understand their own Constitution.
The US Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Act clearly address “declaration of war” and “military hostilities”. A deliberate military attack, by ANY aggressive means, including by remote control proxy, on any sovereign country or its military forces has been regarded in the Western world since before Ancient Greece as an unambiguous “declaration of war”, regardless of any “alliance” it uses for convenient cover. It is simply impossible for the sane mind to regard such attacks, attacks that deliberately kill people and destroy things belonging to another state, as anything other than “hostilities”. You can only apply such “logic” if you start with the arrogant presumption that your audience is comprised of total morons – which is apparently the case here. Based on that presumption, one certainly wouldn’t expect anything of substance from our morons in Congress.
In America it’s now only necessary to teach our children what to think, not how to think. Based on the above, we apparently now have a whole nation of moron lemmings. Our King, in all his infinite wisdom, has so decided.
“It depends on what your definition of “is” is.”
Footnote: If our original objective in Libya was to “avert civilian deaths” at the hands of Gaddafi’s forces seeking to restore order to armed insurrection inside their own country, then there is only one way to do that short of a declaration of war. That way involves placing weakly armed token third country military forces on the ground between the civilians and the opposing military forces with the stated intention of regarding an attack on those forces, or on the civilians they protect, as an act of war. You do NOT go in with very potent guns blazing specifically to destroy the opposing military and the nation’s leadership – which itself is inherently an act of war – even if you employ high tech remote control weapons of war that cannot be opposed effectively by any weapons the country possesses. US ground soldiers are backed up and supported by the enormous power and capability of the entire US military; no one is going to fire on those soldiers in such a situation without first carefully considering the consequences. Once the token “peacekeeping” apparatus is in place, the next step would be a cease fire followed by a negotiated settlement of the conflict. (This also enables us to actually learn a few reliable things about the “civilians” we are protecting.) In a sparsely populated country on a desert table top with a long sea coast offering direct access, that tactic would have been very easy to execute – IF our true objective was solely to “avert civilian deaths”. But you would still have the same problem you have now: why Libya and not any of a half dozen other Mid-East countries now in internal turmoil? And the same limitations: the US has very limited ground soldiers available for a third war, so European peacekeeping forces would have to employed. The only possible conclusion concerning the option chosen is that our stated objectives in Libya were and remain entirely bogus.
Addendum: A US Army friend, also a veteran of decades of working on the ground with the full range of global humanity in military matters, told me last week (July 2011) of “NATO’s” sissy campaign in Libya:
“This is the most stupid non-war in the history of warfare, an emotional girly war, being carried out by grown dumb boys playing video games safely in the basement with no intelligent thought to what comes next. It’s all about blowing things up and killing people from a very safe distance and not seeing the blood, the body parts. It’s all about dehumanizing the mass murder of humans. It’s all about “winning the game”, even by sneaky cheating on the side. The fact that four months of the game using the most advanced high tech arsenal in history has accomplished nothing worthwhile against a tiny Third World country on a flat desert table top with 1100 miles of exposed sea border should tell you all you need to know about these brave geniuses and the ignorant nitwits pushing them from the rear. They’ve all got so much invested in their stupid game that they simply can not bring themselves to be adults and call it quits, to let the Libyans sort out the mess they’ve created. Admitting that their “thinking” was deeply flawed from the very beginning is the hardest thing for bully boneheads to do, especially those determined not to get their pristinely manicured hands dirty.”
Is THIS the kind of uni-sex group think they now teach in our high schools, that Americans now explore with all the intellectual depth of 140-character “tweets”? Is anyone familiar with the slow self-involved demise of the Roman Empire?
Response to e-mails:
I actually believe that, among leading American politicians currently on the national scene, Sarah Palin has the best view of American involvements in these wars. She is just very nervous about over-stating those views for fear that the media will once again jump all over her case in another free-for-all “elitist” political feeding frenzy. So she speaks honestly, while very carefully dancing around the edges, never going so far as to state her full case. I think some of her perception and honesty comes from the fact that she has a young son who has actually served as an enlisted man in one of those never-ending unwinnable wars and also partly because she has very good instincts about self-reliant middle America with its hard-working people struggling to pay bills. I certainly don’t agree with all of her positions, but I respect the fact that Palin is a successful gutsy self-made woman who is also a mother of five and has demonstrated her ability to win elections and serve in high office without sacrificing her roles as mother and wife. (And she looks like she was born on that Harley.)
Sarah Palin, for example, has no need to be “macho” with the lives of others, to have “someone else” prop up “my” self-esteem and ulterior objectives by killing foreign people and American soldiers in incessant wars while letting scores of “friends and allies” off the hook for their equitable share of the responsibility. If Palin were to become President, she would inevitably make many of what most would label “mistakes”, but in balance she would actually be good for America in trying to get the nation back on a course much more in tune with its traditional core values and purpose, a course much more in concert with America’s own best interests without trying to arrogantly re-arrange the world as a diversion to avoid focus on our own monumental problems at home. After all, the greatest threat to American national security does not come from any foreign bogyman; it comes from our own burgeoning national debt. And the second greatest threat to our national security is our dismally poor K-12 public schools, and especially how they purposefully fail that half of our population that happened to be born male. (I logically view as highly suspect the absurd notion that American women, who obviously cannot run our K-12 public schools equitably and effectively, can nevertheless somehow accomplish that with the whole country.) We simply can’t keep importing forever 750,000 mostly male foreign-schooled brains every year to make up for the colossal failure of our own schools.
Palin may not be the most sophisticated politician out there, but she is the most honest and has the best instincts, and she is certainly preferable to any of our “special” entitled women who view ascending to the White House “throne” as some sort of preordained “birthright”, as if we were just another cheap monarchy requiring no actually demonstrated leadership capability – for children AND men. As President I think she would surround herself with similar people – people who are ruled not by despicable self-serving political and social dogma, but simply by traditional American core values and common sense that still exist in Middle America but are fading fast, especially on both left coasts. One difficulty she will have in the “foreign affairs” arena is dealing with all those much better educated immigrants who have arrived in recent times to assume positions at the top from the git-go. Most of them are light years ahead of the spoiled natives. While extremely capable in their own fields, very many of these new arrivals see America as a way to address their problems in the larger world, which are not always in America’s best interests, and who don’t begin to understand what it is about America’s military, and especially its ground forces, that is unique in the world – the very reason why it succeeds, even at enormous cost, as opposed to those military forces with which they were familiar back in their native countries. (The US military is the Constitution’s military, intended to be sent into foreign war by the people’s direct representatives – to defend America – not by some dictator for cheap reasons that have nothing to do with that purpose. Any dictator who would violate that principle would not hesitate to try to use that military against its own citizens.)
For me, Michele Bachmann comes in as a close second to Palin. Bachmann, who is also the mother of five (and also a foster mother), is just a bit too slick, too much the polished professional politician for me. Despite the fact that she was raised as a farm girl, she comes off as a calculating political animal, probably a consequence of practice and a more politically attuned staff plugged into the way Washington works (or doesn’t). Palin, the “outsider”, speaks much more from the heart, from her gut. Still, these two women out-shine almost all male candidates. Most importantly, neither is an entitled Clinton-style left “elitist”.
And why is it that all candidates have to have pat answers for everything? Why can’t they ask questions? Often the questions a person asks reveal much more about how they think. Why not answer a question with two or three possible options and ask the audience (or the “reporter”) to let her know which option they would select and why? To me, since both of these women fully pay their own way, the only thing that would be needed to win my firm vote would be the same for any candidate: at least one two-year tour in the US Army or Marine Corps, right before or right after college. (Bachmann spent time before college working on an Israeli kibbutz; Palin was a sportscaster after college.) I believe that at least one two-year tour in the US armed forces should be a requirement for all candidates running for national office in Washington (and a tough and demanding two-year national service job for all voters before age 26), but I’m willing to give both women substitute credit for those five kids each.
Unfortunately I am not your “average” American, having spent most of my life outside the US. In the first place, most Americans are incredibly under-educated. And second, most of what they do know is the product of special interest propaganda and popular entertainment nonsense. (American schools teach what to think; they do not teach how to think. Lobbies and popular media pick up from there with susceptible well-primed audiences.) And, thirdly, American politics today is all about the super-majority of voters who are women. You often hear charges of “sexism” surrounding “outsider” political women like Palin and Bachmann, but the truth is that almost all of it comes from the cackling crowd of other women – women who see a real threat in such women to upset their applecart.
When you look closer at that super-majority, you see that over half (56%) of those women have never even been married, much less had and raised even one child; as such they are simply enormously privileged schmucks in drag who don’t begin to pay their own way in anything, still enjoying all the societal benefits their grandmothers actually earned. They have not even had enough children to replace themselves and their mates, much less to produce nearly enough future taxpaying workers to pay for all their burgeoning birthright entitlements. This requires the nation to constantly import many millions of Third World immigrants to take up their baby-producing slack. Thanks to their many enormously powerful lobbies, these women are the most pampered, the most protected, the most promoted, the most privileged, and the most powerful group to ever walk on Earth, yet the only thing they can do better than any other group on the planet is whine. And, with “thinking” still stuck in 1960, they whine about the same things they’ve been whining about for over a half century, just on ever more childishly unjustified levels – all of which is a result of their own choices. (I know full well that I’ll be dead and long gone before they ever begin to grow up.) Then we have all those many millions of privileged “professional” middle-aged women with their one designer child who needs a vast “village” to raise – one probably born too late in the mother’s life to avoid various and sundry disabilities that also need “someone else” to care for.
These women and their clones certainly don’t give a damn about someone else’s children dying in foreign wars; they’re far more interested in saving some endangered animal in Africa. They exercise their vote to serve their own interests, rather than the nation’s future. This is on stage under glaring floodlights with women like Pelosi. It’s all about “me” and “my group”. (“The children” is just a phony cover for “women” and that vast “village”.) The only things that interest them is making sure “someone else” picks up most of their socialist entitlement tab in things like health care, abortions, education, social security, tax breaks for their countless one-person “small businesses”, etc., while still wallowing in their “eternal victimhood” ad nauseum. (And, of course, they teach all that crap to their designer children.) I’ve been waiting a half century for one of these privileged women with all their education to build a solid world class company out of their own invention, like women of the 1920s and ’30s did. I always hoped the invention would be something like a way to test men for prostate cancer that did not involve the current extremely intrusive 2,000 year old “technology”. But all these women keep doing is whining about the mammograph machine – invented by two men for all the world’s women over a half century ago. (There are at least three billion men in the world who would love such a machine for the prostate, regardless of any “shortcomings”.) It’s not by accident that the only two growth industries in America over the past 15 years have been health care and government – mostly benefiting women and paid for by “someone else”.
Palin and Bachmann are much more likely to take on these self-involved freeloaders than any emasculated American “man” ever will – especially those spoiled Boomer man-child politicians who can’t keep their pants zipped and satisfied with their own legitimate incomes. And Palin and Bachmann don’t whine; they fight – just like the Irish of yesteryear with all their many children who became working taxpayers footing the ever growing bills. These two women know that you can’t buy self-esteem and “relevance” by sacrificing thinking American soldiers in stupid emotional foreign wars that have nothing at all to do with defending America – like some imperial queen or some old man looking for a public substitute for Viagra. Just ask smart Angela Merkel, born and raised in communist East Germany with its enormously oppressive militaristic police state, whose re-united country now has the West’s most solid economy – the old fashioned way, through very adult future planning and a balanced checkbook.
Unfortunately, I think logically, and most American voters anymore don’t. We don’t select the best among very capable leaders; we select the winner of the “reality show” popularity contest who promises to give “us” what “we” want, i.e., follow “our” brilliant leadership and make us feel good about ourselves despite all the contradicting evidence everywhere. Besides, our biggest problem is not who sits in the White House; it’s a spineless petty two-party Congress filled with too many marginal self-serving people who never accomplish anything worthwhile, decade after decade. An “anti-elitist” Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann in the White House certainly can’t hurt; it can only help America, maybe even encourage many of its spoiled citizens to finally grow up. America needs a lot more Reagan-style self-reliant common sense, Greatest Generation common sense, not more spoiled baby Boomer Pelosi-style self-interested elitist dogma. Who knows? Maybe one of these two women will even select second-generation Korean-American Michele Rhee as Secretary of Education, General Petraeus as Secretary of Defense, and General Powell as Secretary of State. How about Arizonaa’s “Blue Dog Democrat” Gabrielle Giffords for Health and Human Services? There are some great people out there; they just aren’t more of the “usual suspects” of the Boomer generation.