Ignorance is bliss. If you’re ignorant, you can make up your own premises and then proceed from there to reach any conclusions you wish. It doesn’t make any difference to you if your conclusions are just ridiculous because your original premise was false. It all makes perfect sense to you. Even if it’s just flat-out wrong.
Recently I received an e-mail from a guy I know who was sending it to a bunch of similar others. They were all very smart government employees in a business that I would have thought had given them a decent understanding of the US military and its global role in today’s world. At least that’s what I had always just assumed. The e-mail showed me just how wrong my assumption had been. It forwarded a couple of pictures along with a few comments that had appeared in a recent Wall Street Journal column written by Peggy Noonan. Knowing that Ms Noonan had served as a speech writer and advisor in President Reagan’s White House, I was just dumfounded at the ignorance of, not only Ms Noonan, but my government friends as well – of THEIR own military. That ignorance, among such people, actually scares me. If these people don’t understand such things, how can anyone else not inside the tiny group of people who now constitute the nation’s professional military ever understand them? Doesn’t anyone care anymore? Is it another of those many important things that are now of no concern because it doesn’t involve “me”? Does everyone now simply fall back on old stereotypes and old prejudices, on video games and Hollywood movies, to reach conclusions about today that are as far from the truth as it’s possible to get? If so, that is a very dangerous situation. When I was growing up, I never met anyone, man or woman, who didn’t know a million times more about their military than Americans today know, probably because, in those days, it could and very often did actually involve them.
With less than a tiny 0.5% of Americans now with any credible military experience, it’s not surprising that what they “know” about their military and its people comes mainly from nonsense routinely promulgated by Hollywood. (That is just 1 of every 200 Americans; in very stark contrast to the past, today, if you know 200 Americans, the chances of any of them having any military experience at all is slim to none. The simple truth is that most Americans, the royal “we”, don’t know anyone who has ever served their nation in military uniform, a “job” now assumed to be for “someone else”. I can usually pick out 2.5 mistakes in every ten minutes of Hollywood “military” depictions; many involve things like wearing headgear and making salutes, but a lot of others are much more grave, and dangerous.) Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don’t read something in newsprint that is based on presumptions about the US military that simply have no basis in fact. Sooner or later that situation is going to prove very costly to the nation. After all, it is these Americans, those NOT in the military, who determine what that military does, or doesn’t, do. This is the most powerful military machine in the history of mankind, and it belongs to the American people. If they don’t understand what they’re doing, how can they give direction to their military that isn’t just incredibly stupid, self-defeating even? (All anyone has to do is contemplate the disastrous results of American military deployments directed by grossly ignorant civilian political leadership during the first 15 years of the 21st century; that military is only as effective as those directing it understand what they are doing.)
And no American should ever assume that politicians know any more about that military than they do. Trust me, they don’t. Even far worse, they think they do. (For a glimpse of how much these people do NOT know, and how very dangerous that can be, just check out my Russia And “NATO” for starters.) These are the people who decreed that, since the global Soviet Communism ideology had been defeated, the nation could safely fire almost a million soldiers who waged unconventional “hearts-and-minds” wars, leaving their military drastically unprepared for more “hearts-and-minds” wars against another global ideology – just one decade later (which “no one could have foreseen”, naturally). (See Footnote #2.) Consider the sickening irony of a man who grew up in Hawaii completely ignoring the importance of Pearl Harbor to American historical righteous indignation (and the London Blitz to British) and, on the advice of four women appointed to high office, actually ordering the unprovoked bombing of a fully cooperative sovereign nation (Libya) that represented zero threat to the United States (or Britain) or its citizens. And “we” bombed that country for eight months only after it had relinquished its WMD – while “we” had been trying for years to get Iran and North Korea, and countries like Iraq and Syria, to do the same. American “foreign policy” no longer even pretends to be based on sound thinking, or even basic logic, much less with any consideration to the military precedent our actions establish for the future world our children will have to navigate.
The 2012 national election campaign was the first in all of American history when not one of the four final candidates for President and Vice President had any military experience at all, and yet they all trumpeted their (cringe-worthy) “expertise” on such matters. So it’s not surprising that, because of her false presumptions, Ms Noonan’s article goes on to reach totally false conclusions. I’ve read and listened to Ms Noonan for years; she’s a smart and knowledgeable woman who usually is correct in her thinking. But here she makes assumptions about something she obviously knows nothing about, and then proceeds with the arrogant presumption that her original assumptions are correct. They are not.
(2015: The Wall Street Journal has moved the article.)
Her article begins with a photograph of General Petraeus next to a photograph of General Eisenhower, both in uniform. The differences in those uniforms are stark indeed. But she, and everyone else, presumed that Eisenhower’s uniform indicates “modesty”, and Petraeus’ uniform displays an “outsized ego”. Not only does Ms Noonan not understand the first thing about military uniforms, she doesn’t understand the first thing about wars, either. God help us all if one such arrogant, ignorant and privileged American woman becomes Commander-in-Chief.
Getty Images David Petraeus and Dwight Eisenhower
Top brass sure is brassier than it used to be. And you have to wonder what that’s about. Where did the old culture of modesty go? – Peggy Noonan.
The US military is probably the most complex entity on Earth, so it would be foolish of me to try to educate anyone about something that I, after a lifetime of direct involvement, am still learning. So here I’ll stick to the rather basic matter of the uniform, or, more specifically, the things that get affixed to a US Army uniform – commonly referred to as “fruit salad” (even by those who have to wear it). I’ll speak from my perspective as a career professional Regular Army officer. (I have no experience with, and only basic knowledge of, either the National Guard or the Reserves, but I understand that uniform regulations for the Regular forces also apply to them.) Most Americans have a tendency to view their military forces only in terms of the National Guard and Reserves, because these are the people “next door”, while overlooking those many others who spend their entire careers as professionals on constant “active duty” and rarely seen “next door”. Below the three- or four-star level, such military professionals don’t get, or seek, much publicity, but, rest assured, they are there, hundreds of thousands of them from sergeant to general, all over the globe, forming the permanent federal structure which the state National Guard and Reserves augment when needed for surge or training purposes. Some use the term “lifer” to refer to these people with some derision, but, given even a modicum of exposure to “lifers”, those using the term in such a manner quickly discover that the derision is quite misplaced, that most of these professionals are extremely good at what they do for a living in a very wide range of specialties.
The first thing to keep in mind about General Petraeus’ uniform is that half of his fruit salad is actually an involuntary price of diplomacy. Modesty, or self-promotion, has nothing at all to do with the subject. The second thing you need to know is that the two generals are wearing different “classes” of US Army uniforms, two classes that do not equate, each designed for a different working environment. The third thing to know is that nothing gets affixed to a US military uniform that is not specifically addressed by detailed US military regulations that apply as directives to everyone wearing the uniform, regardless of rank.
Individually earned fruit salad is worn on the appropriate uniforms by all members of the US military, lowest rank to highest. You won’t get an argument from me on military fruit salads in general. Even worse, when you think about it, fruit salad – a joking reference to its colorful appearance and mainly referring to the rack of ribbons on the left side of the chest – is a practice (for modern American military professionals) made for big guys. Not being especially large myself, my chest is big enough to easily accommodate about half those on Petraeus’ uniform. Too much salad, and it starts going up over the shoulder, where other junk is supposed to go. Military women have a different, but no less practical, problem, of course, with a chest full of such accouterments. So women and smaller guys who’ve been around for a while try to keep things to a minimum, even though it’s not really a matter of personal choice. And then it still seems silly, especially if you don’t have an aide to make sure it’s all done correctly according to the regulations. Since you have to wear those uniforms all the time, they need frequent cleaning, which necessitates a laborious task (for those of us who don’t have aides) each time just deconstructing and reconstructing the things. It’s a real pain in the butt, even with the plastic frame (the “ribbon rack”) to which the ribbons are attached, all in a quite specifically prescribed order. And if you get something wrong, you can bet your last dime that some twit somewhere, usually an insufferable second lieutenant, is going to call you out on it – no matter what your rank is. So I always picked out those baubles that had some meaning and left the rest in the drawer – at my own conscious risk.
And, unfortunately, none of that fruit salad recognizes things like academic achievements, such as Petraeus’ commissioning from West Point, his PhD from Princeton, his fellowship at Georgetown, his role as teacher, diplomat, etc., so most people presume that a person in uniform had difficulty graduating from public high school and therefore “needs” all those baubles to “pump up their self-esteem”. (Just ask any military guy who has had to spend quality time with State Department people. About 80% of young Americans today cannot qualify to serve as a sergeant in the US Regular Army, and some of them are working elsewhere, such as for State. (See Footnote #1.) But you’d never guess such things listening to some of the pompous asses at State.)
Question: Which are the four American universities, in order, that offer their graduates the highest starting salaries during their first five years in the professional world?
Answer: (1) US Naval Academy (Annapolis) , (2) US Army Military Academy (West Point), (3) Harvey Mudd College (California) and (4) MIT (Cambridge). The medium civilian starting salary for midshipmen commissioned at Annapolis was tops in 2014 at $83,000 a year. West Point graduates were close behind.
Of course, there’s a significant difference between what a US military person wears at formal or official events and the uniform worn in casual settings or on the battlefield. US military people serve world-wide 24/7, in a range of environments and situations, so each member has three or four sets of different uniforms (formal “Dress”, “Class A, B or C”), each applicable to the setting. You can view them like “tuxedo” (formal balls), “business suit” (official occasions), “casual” (routine office) or “coveralls” (battlefield), each with a different sets of rules. (Note that a career professional military person cannot escape laws and regulations that govern his life 24 hours a day, every day, that define his roles and responsibilities regardless of the setting or circumstance. Some of us have not known a moment for decades when we were not “American soldier”, when we could ignore the responsibility and accountability of our office, regardless of what we were wearing, or where. There is such a status as “off-duty”, but, in reality, there isn’t.)
The Class-C M-44 combat field jacket uniform design worn by Eisenhower in the above photo ceased being an authorized US Army uniform a half century ago. Except for rank insignia, pin-on decorations, including ribbons, are not worn on Class-C combat uniforms intended for battlefield wear. Popularly referred to as the “Eisenhower jacket” during the World War II era, it was actually originally intended to be worn under the longer M-43 combat field jacket, which was similar to today’s field jacket. But the wool Eisenhower jacket, with its “windbreaker” design, proved so popular that most soldiers, including general officers, preferred to wear it in Class-B or even Class-A settings, and on leave, with or without ribbons. With everything else going on with the massive war effort, it was essentially a case of general practice getting out ahead of the regulations. General Eisenhower actually had a hand in designing that jacket, and, as a full-time operational combat commander in a global war that engaged whole societies, most of the planet, it was entirely appropriate for him to wear it wherever he wished. The whole world was at war, and he was commanding a really huge part of it. (General Petraeus’ wars, however, were “localized”; once outside those designated combat “zones” (specific locations within Central Command – “CENTCOM”), different regulations applied.) Photographs of General Patton, for example, almost always show him wearing the “Eisenhower” jacket, and also wearing with it a combat helmet and his trousers bloused above his shined combat boots. This natural leader knew well the importance of a tidy military appearance; he was always both spiffy and ready for a fight, whether in Sicily, London or Bastogne. The same applied to General Bradley, although slightly less so; there was a certain vague “approachability” to Bradley.
There are also variations of Dress and Class A, B or C depending on geographic location extremes, i.e., tropic, temperate or arctic. Regulations for decorations are most detailed for the first two (Dress and Class A); regulations for survival-critical accessories are most detailed for those engaged in combat situations wearing the last (Class C). The picture above shows General Petraeus wearing the contemporary US Army Class A “business suit” uniform for temperate geographic zones; a formal color photo of him (such as that above) wearing this uniform will be included in his official personnel file that will be examined and considered by his extremely demanding competitive promotion and assignment boards in temperate zone Washington DC. It is possible that a photo of him wearing that uniform in a public setting that is not according to regulations might also be included in that file – to his detriment. (The higher up you go in the very competitive US Regular military, the more difficult it becomes for boards to place one person above another, so the more discerning the examination becomes, especially by promotion “murder boards”, but also by selection boards making key assignments.)
Here I’ll focus on the official Class A “business” uniform and the fruit salad that gets pinned on it. I’ll discuss only the Army uniform; readers should understand that the same principles apply to the uniforms worn just as proudly by professional members of the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.
Some Broad Background
Most people do tend to look at a modern military uniform and assume it’s all about the wearer trumpeting nonsense. This is perhaps understandable when so few now have any real knowledge or understanding of such things and automatically fall back on the old stereotypes and prejudices to assume that anyone in a military uniform is just another knuckle-dragging Neanderthal probably best fit for digging ditches. No one ever considers that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (C-JCS) is the CEO of the largest, most complex, most sophisticated, most technologically advanced, and most expensive global corporation in the history of humanity, surpassing many countries, or that most of our global cutting edge competitiveness today derives from that military.
(The four-star C-JCS position usually, but not always, rotates among the four military services, usually every three or four years. (The set assignment is for two years, but most of those holding the office serve longer; it’s a very major process selecting replacements.) In October 2011, Army General Dempsey replaced Navy Admiral Mullen as Chairman JCS. Prior to Mullen, it was Marine General Pace, and his predecessor was Air Force General Myers, who assumed his office three weeks after the attacks of 9/11/2001. Much of what our politicians and bureaucrats (and appointees), of both political parties, have to say in public on military-foreign (“pol-mil”) affairs just fills me with embarrassment. I have no idea how military men at the JCS level can live with such ignorance day after day. It must be like “death by a thousand cuts.” And what “NATO” politicians have to say on such matters is even worse. Where do these nitwits come up with such utter nonsense, and why does no one ever question even the basic logic involved? Sometimes it seems as if 90% of civilian “thinking” about military matters today comes straight from those silly video war games – most of which seem created in mom’s basement – that never approach even 1,000th of the complexity and broader context, including the “unintended consequences”, involved in the real world. The whole “thought process” seems to involve nothing more than easy answers, short cuts and quick fixes, solely for the here and now, and usually just to buy emotional votes for those “leaders” who follow herd hysteria. Would you place a fifth-grader in charge of a Harvard post-graduate course on international finance law – where the potential for catastrophic consequences is far less? Yet EVERYONE is a military “expert” – in their own mind.)
The Chairman of the JCS, who probably is also fluent in three or four other languages and cultures, earns a very tiny fraction of what the CEO of, say, JP Morgan, or a Donald Trump, earns, and yet the US military dwarfs both JP Morgan and Trump, by every measure. Modesty, humility, etc., often lies in the eye of the beholder. Just look at that global spectacle that attracts billions of fawning worshippers every year when our Hollywood celebrities revel in their self-adulation. For what? Being famous, pretty and rich while reciting lines written by someone with actual brains? (Think about it a moment: These are entirely fake people, who occupy a phony universe, who rarely even know who and what they are. And those who idolize such caricatures are hardly any more real than they are.) Did you ever listen to fans at an NFL or NBA game idolize their multi-million dollar “heroes”?
I’ve often heard in recent times grossly ignorant and bigoted statements from some college students similar to those that were circulated in writing on the campus of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in August 2017. A student newsletter there circulated statements about military veterans that “their socialization into the military culture is that of a white supremacist organization. They have been permanently tainted and are no long fit for a four-year university.” Veterans “usually are associated with extremists right-wing groups such as the tea party and the NRA. In order to provide a safe place for all students, extremist right-wing groups must be suppressed on campus. This would include their followers: veterans. That is not to say that veterans should not be allowed an education. Veterans should be allowed to attend trade schools, or maybe even community college. But, in order to protect our academic institutions we must ban veterans from four-year universities.” (I’d hate to be in the vicinity if such ignorant bigotry was ever uttered in the presence of Irish-American combat veteran President John F. Kennedy. See “Irish In America“. Or Colin Powell or Eric Shinseki.) This is a good example of the fact that a US college degree in 2010 imparts almost the same level of education that a US high school diploma did in 1960, to those who try really hard.
This kind of gross stupidity – on an American college campus – begins in our women-dominated K-12 “education” industry, where the REAL bigotry is planted and nurtured. “I have RIGHTS! I do NOT have responsibilities! Someone else has the responsibility – for ensuring whatever rights I decide to demand!” The key factor here is deliberate gross ignorance, a fervent desire NOT to learn or teach the truth about the target of your bigotry. At its heart is banning as a right “anything that damages my own extremely fragile self-esteem, makes me feel like the consummate loser that I am” and shifts the responsibility for that pathetic state of affairs to “someone else”. These are dimwitted snow flakes whose views are so tenuous and vulnerable that they do not want to be exposed to any views that might undermine or expose them. With blame-shifting “thinking” that is inherently fascist, they fear being required to defend the indefensible. (For a more detailed discussion of this topic, including the concept of “disparate impact” in schools, see “Why Are American Men So Dumb?”) You get this in spades when EVERYONE also has a “right” to any college degree they can manage to buy, regardless of how poorly educated they are when they show up.
For the record, the US military – a competitive meritocracy with high admission and minimum retention standards – has been a fully integrated institution for the past 70 years, with members of virtually every race woven throughout top to bottom in every field. Because of its recruitment standards, it is a mirror image of the top 20% of the larger society. The only period after the American Civil War when it was not integrated was a 35-year period beginning with World War I when “progressive” racist President Wilson segregated both the federal civil and military work forces, through “progressive” President Roosevelt’s World War II, until President Truman, a combat veteran himself, reversed Wilson’s order right before the Korean War. NO ONE is “special” in the US military, and anyone who can’t embrace this should pursue some other path. The minute when some members of the US military feel that other members of that military do not view the lives of other members as of fully equal value to their own is the minute the US military ceases being an effective force, the minute when we should just turn responsibility for defending the nation over to ignorantly bigoted college students obviously already trying to function well beyond their competence level. Service in the US military is NOT another cheap unearned quota “right”, and military people qualify to serve their nation, not the reverse.
We tend to forget that western military “leaders” until World War II were mostly appointed nitwits selected by nobility. We tried hard to get off on the right foot when it was George Washington who was selected from among the American people to lead the American revolutionary army against the British nobility; our very first commanding general led an army of citizen volunteers from the front on the deadly battlefield. But just consider the global genocide such aristocratic twits still rendered a full century and a half later during World War I, when over 16,000,000 people, 7,000,000 of whom were civilians, were senselessly slaughtered as of little or no consequence to their glorious “noble” “leaders”. (Another 20,000,0000 were wounded. And if you look carefully at all the human costs of that war, including disease, diaspora and mass atrocities like those carried out by our “NATO” “ally” Turkey, you would probably come up with a figure of around 65 million. They were all real thinking human beings, with families and hopes and desires to keep on living, aristocrats be damned.)
We also tend to forget that most of those glorious “leaders” in the past were sacrificing conscripted men by the thousands, even by the tens of thousands, in their quest for the history books. One of the largest groups to fight and die during our own Civil War, in fact, was Irish immigrants conscripted by the tens of thousands as soon as they arrived in America – just 80 years after George Washington beat the most powerful super-power on the planet and won the Revolutionary War, with volunteers. If that wasn’t enough, the British crown rounded up another 100,000 Irish – one-tenth of the remaining able-bodied young men in disease-ridden and starving Ireland – and shipped them off to America for use as cannon fodder by American generals. Those generals on both sides frequently observed that the side that lost a particular battle was the side that ran out of Irish soldiers first. (The British aristocracy for 400 years viewed the Irish as their serfs – which is a term for slaves, but without the responsibility of ownership – until they were actually sold as slaves to other monarchies. I’ve been searching my whole life to find something actually noble in “nobility”.) (See Footnote #3.)
(The American Civil War, of course, was an early manifestation of the “self-determination” that the United States eventually came to so strongly support – when it involved parts of certain other countries. And, of course, there was nothing in the US Constitution prohibiting the states from peacefully seceding from the union; this had been a tacit understanding when each state had joined the union while retaining many of their independent state’s rights. Immediately after the Civil War, the North’s Supreme Court, appearing to legalize after-the-fact an illegal act (the North’s going to war to avoid the South’s secession), stated that Texas could not have legally seceded. “When … Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation.” (Chief Justice Chase, from Ohio, appointed by Lincoln.*) But that was definitely not the understanding of Texas, or any other state, when joining over the preceding 80 years, and the ruling can be viewed as one of the “spoils of war” (the winner gets to write the rules). So, in reality, a huge body of US contract law says that 1869 ruling is not really the last word on legal, and peaceful, secession at all.
(Politics can be very easily twisted to “justify” the deaths and maiming of many hundreds of thousands of soldiers – “someone else” – by those royal “we” sitting in the comfortable rear who never have to experience the terrifying horror of human carnage. The Civil War cost the lives of an estimated 750,000 men, about 55,000 of them even after they had become prisoners of war. Another 420,000 men were maimed. One estimate of the death toll is that ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40, died. That’s over a quarter of the able-bodied male population of the nation – at a time when the average life expectancy was about 45. How many of those 2,000,000 men who “survived” those four years of hell without physical damage came out of the experience with what we today refer to as “PTSD”? Would we still similarly judge the politics of the war if those 1,170,000 dead and mutilated casualties had been women, and not just “expendable troops”, “cannon fodder”, men too poor to buy their way out, quickly drafted illiterate Irish immigrants – “someone else”? Politics, like armchair generals, has a way of changing colors the minute the royal “we” becomes “me“. The terrible costs of the American Civil War probably can be rationally justified if it was to end slavery in America, but if it was to avert secession from America, they probably can not. Lincoln, too, paid the price, but for which purpose – to stymie slavery or secession? And if he had known that his death was the price of his decision, would he still have made the same decision? Would you? When you don’t have to consider the costs to “me”, just how difficult and admirable is it to make demands of others? The asinine “entitled” concept of “rights without responsibilities” is inherently a society’s mortal cancer.) (*Lincoln won the election of 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, with less that 40% of the national popular vote and no support from 12 southern states. In the election of 1864, during the Civil War, 9 southern states did not participate and the votes of two more were not counted. Lincoln thus represented the more populous northern states, but he did not represent the whole nation. One Supreme Court Justice resigned to join the South, leaving only two southerners among the Court’s ten members. Lincoln appointed five justices to the Court with no Southern senators voting to confirm those appointments. The Court was thus Lincoln’s, and the North’s, very own stacked Court. Were its decisions during that period really valid for the nation, or just for the “winners” who survived?)
I’ve often heard Americans say that the Vietnam War was “the most divisive war Americans ever fought.” As a combat veteran of that war who was also a university educated social-psychologist, I can attest that the war in Vietnam indeed had a very major impact on American society, an impact which remained a major unhealed wound for at least the next half century, especially among male Americans who were alive at the time, regardless of whether or not they actually served. But as a student of societies and wars, I can also say that there is nothing more divisive to any society than an internal civil war that pits neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, that even women and children can see right outside the window. While the victors of such wars can relatively easily move on, such wars NEVER fully heal and most especially among members of the losing side. The one “mitigating factor” of the American Civil War was the simple fact that a majority of those who were killed or mutilated were very recent immigrants who had not yet had time to even establish an identity in their adopted country, and thus were of little consequence to anyone. The world is full of experts on matters of which they have no experience.
During World War I a widely accepted practice of aristocratic generals was to send wave after wave of men across open fields straight into batteries of machine guns until they were totally decimated – time after time; such “brilliant leadership” belongs more in criminal history than in military history. (The Aussies under British command at Gallipoli have their own example. Over 34,000 British soldiers died at Gallipoli and 78,500 were wounded. Among them were very large numbers of 206,000 volunteers from Ireland, including members of the 10th Irish Division, all of whom were then labeled as traitors by Ireland.) WW I British general Douglas Haig and Italian general Luigi Cadorna would never have fared well in American history. Sadly only the Russian soldiers, on the other front, were smart enough to finally rebel against their senseless slaughter at the hands of their aristocratic “leaders” – and to keep on going until that arrogant entitled aristocracy was relegated to the dustbin of history. (Later, of course, Stalin was even more merciless with his soldiers.) Italian soldiers did finally manage to have the ruthless Cadorna relieved of command.
Even the selection, manufacture and distribution of weapons often were aristocratic political decisions in which actual soldiers played no part. An excellent example of this was forcing soldiers to accept and use the notoriously inferior French-made Chauchat machinegun during WW I because politicians feared that the far superior US-made BAR might fall into enemy hands – an enemy that was already using one of the best machineguns ever fielded, the Spandau MG-08. The American M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was so good that it continued to be used by the US military as its main machinegun for another fifty years, but that was of little solace to WW I soldiers from America, France, Belgium, Russia and Poland, who had to use the “worst machine gun” ever fielded in the history of warfare, and pay the price. Stupid politics can kill you. (See Footnote #4.) British, French and German soldiers were issued high-powered repeating rifles with ranges of over 1200 feet, and yet their masters continued to train and employ them in close order combat using bayonets affixed to those heavy rifles. Such stupidity needlessly cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers on all sides.
Before the end of WW I against Germany, as part of a “multi-national” “expeditionary force” hurriedly thrown together against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, aristocratic jerks even sent 5,000 inadequately prepared US soldiers to Archangel in 1918 for an ill-advised northern invasion of Russia under inept British command – even though Russia was no longer party to the larger war beyond its borders. (The harebrained scheme intended to somehow reverse the Bolshevik Revolution. The British and French decided that after Russia had left WW I and was engaged in its own civil war would be an excellent time to attack Russia on all sides – so in 1918 a multi-pronged force of British, French, American, Italian, Czech, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Australian, Canadian, Estonian and Romanian soldiers did just that. They were withdrawn a year later having accomplished nothing except killing 2,000 Russians and incurring 10,000 of their own losses. Typically of western ignorance of Russia and Russians, the Allies had naively thought that huge numbers of Russians would join their efforts against the Bolsheviks, but none did. This was the second western attack on Russia, following on Napoleon’s 1812 French invasion. Germany would launch a third, and most devastating, attack over just 130 years in 1941. And yet even today, these same western countries inexplicably still regard Russia as a threat to them.)
In 1918 the Americans advanced further than any other contingent, but then found themselves in a very precarious situation with indefensible very narrow supply lines before they were withdrawn – under American command. Thirty of the 235 US soldiers who died in the Russian snow were never recovered. Simultaneously, another 8,000 poorly prepared American soldiers were hurriedly sent to invade Russia from the east in Vladivostok; fortunately these men were under command of an American general who refused to sacrifice his men for stupid adventures with inadequate supply lines; still, 189 of these US soldiers also died in the effort before they, too, were withdrawn in 1920. It was all an extension of “The Great Game”, a century-long rivalry between the British and Russian empires. The cover for both operations was to protect weapons and munitions previously shipped to both ports and keep them from falling into Bolshevik hands, but all they accomplished was to further aggravate and extend the already very bloody civil war. What remained of both very small American forces, committed to an undeclared war-on-the-side in the largest country on Earth, dreamed up on the spur-of-the-moment by “elitist” President Wilson and his “elitist” aristocratic parliamentarian friends in Europe, came home long after WW I had ended. Russian soldiers under their own non-aristocratic Soviet Bolshevik leadership proved far more effective than they had under class-based aristocratic leadership. A good rule of thumb for an American military man is to withhold at least 25% of any trust they are willing to grant to political leaders above them if those leaders have no credible military experience of their own.
World War I was called “The War To End All Wars”. But only the dead have seen the end of wars.
(While two British diplomats in Moscow, trying unsuccessfully to engineer an audacious military coup over the Bolsheviks, subsequently have received considerable praising publicity among the Brits, the story of the stupid and ill-fated military missions, and their 424 dead American soldiers, has been largely lost to history. The British, seeking to entice Democrat President Wilson into a major US conflict with the new Soviet state, committed 40,000 of its own soldiers to the failed adventure, but did ensure that relations between the US and Russia would be poisoned from the start. What Churchill had started with Wilson during World War I – not American and Russian allies, but American and Russian enemies – Churchill finally cemented with Democrat President Truman after World War II. Just how much of American “thinking” is really “American”, and for whose benefit? All of this nonsense is actually part and parcel of “The Great Game” that has been waged between imperial powers Britain and Russia for centuries. Didn’t the Americans wage a very deadly war to gain their independence from the British?) (See Footnote #3, Nobility.)
Another excellent example of supreme aristocratic arrogance involved Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot. During WW I these two diplomats drew a line across the desert on a map of the Mid-east that divided the declining Turkish Ottoman Empire (then deeply involved in a genocidal campaign against the Armenians and others) into British and French spheres of influence. Ignoring the region’s explosive ethnic, tribal and religious divides, and despite the protestations of his best military strategist and leader (Lawrence of Arabia), Sykes, with just lines quickly scratched across a map, carved out the entirely artificial nations of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The secret 1916 deal was based on the premise that the US would continue to pour its military hardware into the war in Europe and eventually introduce millions of American soldiers to the European theater. This would assure victory in Europe and the relatively easy ancillary defeat of the Ottoman Empire, enabling Britain, France and Russia to carve up the spoils. (Tsarist Russia’s portion would be a part of eastern Turkey, including Istanbul and the Bosporus Straits.) In April 1917 the US Congress followed the script with a declaration of war. But as soon as the Bolsheviks overthrew the Tsar in November of that year, they discovered the secret treaty and printed it in full in Moscow newspapers Izvestia and Pravda – resulting in enormous embarrassment to London and Paris. But while Russia did not get its share, Britain and France proceeded undeterred with their plan, betraying their Arab allies. A century later all Mid-east countries remain embroiled in war; the totally screwed Kurds, split across four Arab countries, are still fighting for autonomy in their own thousand-year ancestral homeland; and American soldiers are still dying trying to sort out the mess.
Soldier’s Rule #2: The first and primary objective of any military force committed to war should be to attack and destroy, as soon as possible, by any means possible, the opposing side’s rear area political leadership and communications – its top command and control mechanisms. Frontal attacks are just stupid, intended mainly to protect those orchestrating wars from the far-removed rear at the expense of others. The US military does not operate under the rules of self-serving nobility. It’s always better that a handful of nitwit vainglorious civilian “leaders” bite the dust than a million soldiers and another million innocent bystanders. Of equal secondary importance are the opposing military forces and the ideological, financial and industrial support base that sustains those forces. Continuing to view war in the 21st century like some idealized Hollywood movie of a century or more ago, wherein only ground soldiers become mincemeat, is strictly for morons, for both sides. Screw the bloody dance; go straight for the jugular. The other side should, too. Bring it home fast to the royal “we”, and get it over with. War is not about winning battles; war is about winning the war – with the least loss of life and waste of time and effort as possible. (It’s also about making the royal “we” think harder the next time.) Besides, it’s getting harder and harder to find good combat soldiers (and reliable allies).
The history of warfare is literally full of such asinine WW I examples. Even in Vietnam as late as 1972, it was easy for incompetent American “leaders” to sacrifice men in stupid endeavors when the “grateful nation” of those drafted men felt their lives were worth all of $2.00 for each day they managed to stay alive, and that they would just keep coming as long as that discriminatory male-only draft continued to send them. Casual readers, and assorted armchair generals, forming opinions from a few lines of vague history are rarely the men holding a tiny piece of ground way out front under a few lines of deadly fire. Historians like to focus on one or two guys who come out at the top of wars; it’s a lot easier than focusing on the millions of dead soldiers left behind. Did you ever wonder what it really means to be “missing” in war? (Most Americans never give it a thought.) There are still over 100,000 American soldiers missing in action over just the past century of America’s wars. Missing soldiers are dead soldiers we can’t find, but until we do find them, they can’t be listed as “killed”. The US military relentlessly tries to find as many of them as it can; most they find died inside metal machines. It’s impossible to find infantry soldiers who become pink mist when a 60-pound howitzer round lights up their foxhole. Sailors and airmen who go down at sea are also difficult to find. So “great military leadership” is also in the eye of the beholder.
(Even George Lucas, typical of Baby Boomers hating their Greatest Generation fathers’ example and with his hope of becoming a Vietnam-era military pilot frustrated, thought it would be clever to stereotype ground soldiers as dimwitted cloned robots who make easy inconsequential targets for mass annihilation by sophisticated “Star Wars” flying computers, without even bleeding. Isn’t it nice, and profitable, to be able to wage war and never even see blood, never do harm to non-combatants? When “war” gets that “safe” and “antiseptic”, there’s little difference between humans and the killing computers they operate, so one might consider whether it’s the “fighter” pilot or the ground soldier who’s the dimwitted two-dimensional extension of their machines. Besides, have planes or ships ever freed and secured a city without killing its human inhabitants? Just how brave is it to kill and maim humans from a very safe distance when there’s no risk to you or yours? Such silly fantasy is possible only in romantic fiction dreamed up for Hollywood and video games down in mom’s basement, yet, thanks to nonsense like “Star Wars”, it has become the predominant view of “war” held by most Americans, almost none of whom have ever stood there in the dirt with a half-second to decide “friend or foe” and “fire or die”. There’s never a shortage of ivory tower theorists and other ladies who are eager to weigh in on the morality of a ground soldier’s actions in war, but strangely none willing to do so on the actions of machine operators sitting comfortably far from any danger to themselves. Why is this? Because, like Lucas, a machine operator is how the theorists envision their own very safe role in “antiseptic” warfare, because if they can “theorize” then they must be “too special” for ground soldier work themselves. But while machine operators have killed far more innocents than ground soldiers ever have, none ever get charged with “war crimes”. So, in the final analysis, it’s all just phony bullshit, the usual self-serving rationalization. At the very core of this sanctimonious trip into fantasy world is basic human cowardice, which ground soldiers, fully responsible for their own thinking actions, alone must somehow overcome.)
“The murder of a man is still murder, even in wartime.” — Manfred von Richthofen (1892–1918), also widely known as the Red Baron, a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I and considered the ace-of-aces of that war, officially credited with 80 air combat victories before dying in combat at age 26. Today no “fighter” pilot has fought anyone for over a half century.
You wouldn’t have much of an army at all with that kind of “leadership” when that army is dependent on volunteers, no matter how much you paid them. During the American War of Revolution against the British super-power of the day, George Washington had accepted the Prussian military officer Friedrich von Steuben’s offer to train his quite diverse army, then made up mostly of individual state militias manned by volunteers. And the Prussian, who spoke no English, proved himself up to the task at Valley Forge. (Interpreters took it from German to French, and then from French to English – and taught the US Army the great importance of having its own qualified linguists in uniform readily available.) However, to do so, he first had to appreciate what made American soldiers unique, and it was not just their fighting spirit. It was why they fought the way they did. General von Steuben wrote to friends back home: “In Europe you tell the men what to do, and they do it. Here I am obliged to tell them what to do, and then explain why they should do it.” This has remained the case ever since. American “troops” are not dimwitted expendable morons; they are soldiers, each of whom has potential for leadership and all that leadership requires, including understanding the whys. Their training is built around that American reality. Today you have to lead such people – volunteers who have qualified to serve – the way our greatest leader, George Washington, did – with your brains, with actual concern for their lives, and not just execute the mission “by any means possible no matter what the cost”. The only way to do that is from the front, by your own example. Talk is the cheapest thing there is, and some Americans truly excel at it, and nothing else.
The first test of von Steuben’s training came at the British fortified outpost at Stony Point, commanding the Hudson River (about 35 miles north of Manhattan and 12 miles south of West Point) on 16 July 1779. To ensure the attack would surprise the British Regular defenders, Washington ordered the men to attack at night with unloaded muskets, explaining that this was intended to avoid a common problem of accidental premature discharges while their rigorous training with the 17-inch bayonet would overcome the weapon disadvantage in the dark before the surprised defenders could get organized. The Americans, who sustained 15 killed and 83 wounded, armed only with fixed bayonets, killed 20 British soldiers and left after two days with captured cannons and supplies, plus 546 British prisoners, 74 of whom were wounded. Tossing aside long-held wisdom and taking a big leap of faith, the disciplined and well-led American Ground Soldier had arrived, and he understood and appreciated the whys.
The Army knows about leadership. Sure, there’s an overall civilian-decreed mission and military command structure and authority, but then the effort in the Regular Army is to push responsibility for execution of all the parts as far down the chain as it can be borne. This very frequently places in the hands of an Army captain or major far more responsibility, and accountability, than most civilians ever realize in their lifetimes, and especially if he’s in the combat arms. (And if he doesn’t seem eager to jump in with both feet the way bystanders with only a small piece of the picture want him to, civilians should understand that his first responsibility is to his men, that without them fully behind him, following his lead, working as a team, understanding the whys, he won’t be able to accomplish much at all.) Those who can successfully complete their missions with their own ingenuity and initiative are the proven leaders who will rise to embrace ever greater command responsibility, and accountability. It is not all about screaming orders to idiots.
Today’s American soldiers are volunteers who must actually believe in what they are willing to lay their lives on the line to defend. The standards for an American soldier are much higher than for the society at large. Today, 80% of young Americans can’t meet the minimum physical, mental, moral, educational and psychological requirements to serve as a sergeant in the Regular Army, so the Army must try to recruit the best people it can from among young America’s top 20%. And, once in, they must continually compete with their contemporaries to stay in, a tough competition that starts in basic training even before they become “one of us”. A “special” privileged American woman like Noonan who has never risked anything, much less her very life in defense of an ideal, of someone else, evidences an arrogance that views soldiers (“troops”) as inanimate widgets, trained slaves, munitions that exist solely to be expended for “very special me” sitting royally in the very safe rear. Such asinine notions harken straight back to birthright entitled nobility. Any two-bit twit can stand in the very safe rear and scream orders to expendable morons, but the US Army doesn’t employ such people, and those it does employ all know that there’s only one way to lead people worth leading – from the front, by example. Leadership is all about voluntarily assuming responsibility – for others. And with that responsibility comes full accountability. You want to “accomplish the mission”? Articulate and explain a clear intelligent mission with an honorable purpose and take care of your men; if they’re American, they will succeed. (Even better: If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it.) And make sure that ideal remains an ideal worth defending – for the men who actually do the hard stuff.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” — G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. (In its own self-interests, a nation should always ensure that its soldiers can love what is behind them. Iraq, in the latest of many such examples throughout history, paid a near-fatal price in June 2014 by failing in this responsibility to its soldiers – when the best of them walked off the battlefield, some even to join the other side. A soldier who can’t feed his family because corrupt “leaders” in the rear are stealing his pay is not a reliable asset.)
The simple truth is that ignorant or inept American politicians, trying to operate far beyond their competence levels, have cost the lives of just as many American soldiers as did the enemies they faced on the battlefield. In the first decade of the 21st century, for example, politicians and bureaucrats sent American soldiers off to fight two incredibly expensive wars (in Afghanistan and Iraq), ignorantly mismanaged them both, and then other politicians and bureaucrats pulled them out before the jobs were done. In effect, those “expert” civilian “leaders” simply said to the children, spouses and parents of 7,000 dead soldiers and 55,000 maimed soldiers, “Never mind,” and just walked away. (It’s like everything else in our society now: Take full credit for the successes, and blame “someone else” for the failures. And the easiest target for blame is the US military, the only part of that society that keeps its mouth shut. But don’t ever assume their silence does not hide disgust or a commitment that can’t break; there is nothing in the US Constitution about playing World Cop under an imperial presidency for domestic political gain.)
Many of today’s foreign military leaders are also political appointees who face minimal, if any, accountability. Today’s US military, including its leadership, on the other hand, comes from the people, and they are far less cavalier with human life – which may, at times, in fact, be a factor in any “shortcoming” it may have, especially when engaged with enemies who do not have such standards. We place definite limits on the cost in human suffering and death to our wars; many others do not. Those standards inevitably cost us far more in our own deaths and maiming than they otherwise would were we still operating under different “leadership”, and fruit salads. For a professional with the destructive capabilities of today’s US military at his disposal, it is very often far more difficult to exercise restraint than to use the methods chosen by such military “leaders” of the past. Today US military people try hard to avoid viewing war as some video game, viewing humans as “acceptable collateral damage”, even as they man weapons that can kill hundreds, even tens of thousands. The uniform is an integral part of that accountability. So far at least, there’s no such thing as unearned birthright entitlement in the US military.
Yet even today there are gross incongruities forced by technology to what we do. An Army or Marine infantryman with a half second to decide whether to fire or die can be charged with “war crimes” if innocents are killed as a result, but a guy sitting ten thousand miles away pushing buttons after a committee has taken hours to decide to kill people with “acceptable levels of collateral damage” is just doing his job. Those infantry guys have the toughest and most demanding job there is, and America pays them almost as much in a whole year as an F-35 “fighter” burns in fuel in one single hour – and yet no “fighter” pilot has fought anyone for over a half century.
(No, I’ve never been able to reconcile such things in my own mind. Some things just are, no logic possible. It’s almost always just the usual self-serving rationalization. Because of their negative impact on innocent civilians and US ground soldiers in Afghanistan, General Petraeus favored a more judicious use of remotely controlled armed drone attacks, and after his move to CIA had, in fact, disapproved a number of such attacks proposed by the agency in its safe civilian vacuum. I’ll never understand the “thinking” behind giving weapons of war to a civilian agency, subject to no body of enforceable military law – but whatever those civilians do is rightly assumed by others to be acts of an American military force. The US military is thus tarred with “guilt by association” by the actions of unaccountable civilians. There’s only one way for this enemy to retaliate, to even up the score, against those drones: by using similar remotely controlled bombs, now called IEDs, to kill American soldiers on the battlefield, and they have been extremely effective at that task. So a question that should be integral to that drone committee’s deliberation is how many American soldiers will pay the ultimate price for this drone mission launched from a very safe and comfortable office far away. Those fascinated with rapidly advancing technology need to step out of their small isolated little world to fully comprehend how that technology impacts the greater context, the unintended consequences, the evolution of the philosophy and morality of warfare – and how we will react when such technology is employed against us, for it surely will. It is we who establish the “military” precedents that will be adopted by others. We have become so overly infatuated with high tech toys that we fail to notice that we are using incredibly expensive Air Force and Navy jet “fighters”, which are opposed by nothing and thus don’t actually “fight” anything, as basic Army artillery pieces – and far less effectively when there are no human air controllers on the ground in the target area. Besides, all bombs do is create holes in the landscape – holes that will be filled. The trick is to influence what fills those holes, a job that can be done only by ground soldiers working up close and personal with other humans on the ground where they live.)
As long as the United States does not employ a universal draft that includes all citizens, including women, as long as the nation employs “someone else” to do the really hard stuff, then its citizens must come to grips with the realities of a professional volunteer force. These people are no longer the “troops” of old. There is always an inherent danger that such highly competitive military professionals will drift too far ahead of, and apart from, the average citizens who employ them – if those citizens are not even interested in learning factual things about them, including how to read their uniforms and understand their high standards. Those career Regular professionals of today are very far from the inanimate widget “troops” most delusional civilians like to imagine they are. But, so far, all they do when presented with civilian ignorance is roll their eyes among themselves.
What The Ribbon Rack Says
Most people look at that rack of ribbons over the heart on the left side of the uniform wearer’s chest and assume that they all represent awards for some acts of real or manufactured bravery or achievement. Actually, for a military member who has served for a decade or more, even twenty or thirty or forty years, achievement award ribbons are usually confined to just the top two rows. Most of the ribbons below such achievement award ribbons are service ribbons – ribbons authorized by the wearer’s participation in some major foreign war, mission or action. Such foreign service awards are authorized for everyone who participated in each of those actions. In the past the US military existed to defend the nation and may have engaged in one rather brief such war every generation or so, after which its members went home. Over the past half century – especially after the Draft ended and women became America’s super-majority voting bloc – the US military has “evolved” into emotional vote-buying “World Cop”, a force sent everywhere that emotional voters want them to go to correct some bad activity of the moment on the part of others as seen in the media; it’s mainly a way those voters get to feel good about themselves as Americans and for politicians to win votes for themselves (and for diplomats to pump up their egos) – and, of course, always trumpeted behind the royal “we”. (I personally view most such endeavors as manifestations of National Security Advisor, State Department, CIA and USAID incompetence, especially since I view war, quite properly, as the failure of diplomacy, which often is the result of inferior intelligence, flawed analysis and arrogant presumptions – by marginal people safely insulated from commensurate accountability.) (For an explanation of the “World Cop” nonsense, see Footnote #1 to “Getting Gadhafi”) Most such activities have nothing at all to do with defending the nation, but they still risk and often cost American blood and lives. They also add significantly to the real world experience and knowledge of the participants who survive. Unfortunately, rather than the originally intended brief involvement, the US military usually ends up staying there for years and years trying to maintain some order, long after those who sent them have moved on to other interests and forgotten that they even sent them, or why.
It’s sometimes helpful to consider that Regular US military officers are sworn only to defend the US Constitution, and nowhere in that Constitution does the nation or its citizens get the role of permanent “world cop”. In contemporary America, very major philosophical matters now seem to simply “evolve”, haphazardly, emotionally, often with considerable contradiction, ignorance and hypocrisy, with little or no grand thinking or direction, as long as they directly involve only “someone else” doing the hard stuff and paying the consequences.
On 9/11/2001, the strength of the US Army was at its lowest level in a century, but it was still spread all over the globe, still carrying out missions in over fifty different places that most Americans didn’t even know about. But the US Army, and its members, did. You can read about it on their uniforms. In almost every case politicians originally told Americans that the soldiers would be needed for only very brief periods. Did you know that the US Army maintains a huge force in the mud between North and South Korea? They’ve been there since 1954 – 58 years – on constant wartime alert should the North again decide to attack the South. They were originally sent there by a president who described their mission as a United Nations “police action” and never obtained the approval of Congress. We also have a force in the Sinai Desert between Egypt and Israel ensuring that both countries cannot attack the other without going through American soldiers – for the past 34 years. In Bosnia it’s been 15 years, Afghanistan 11 years; the American people were in both instances told that their soldiers would not be there as long as a year. In West Berlin it was 50 years. Most such deployed US forces have “trip-wire” missions; an attack on them automatically activates the full power of the larger US military behind them. All of these types of assignments are very trying and thankless jobs, and those who do them get a ribbon for their service in that particular mission. A ribbon seems like a small token of appreciation for what are usually extremely difficult jobs, often in very unpleasant places. (And, for the record, American soldiers are paid far less than those ridiculous boy scouts pretending to be soldiers while wearing those cute baby-blue UN helmets.) (In 2015, the US military, after several years of systematic firings, is again at very dangerously low levels, so it will once again be caught short when politicians next decide to send them off somewhere to do something. That crap costs soldier lives.)
How many Americans know, or care, that in just one year – 2014 – US military special operations personnel were deployed to 131 different countries? With the single exception of operational members of our rather small civilian and military clandestine intelligence services, these people know more about the real world out there than any other Americans, including our diplomats and politicians, ever will, and they know it up close and personal.
When Americans make disparaging remarks about the number of ribbons on an Army uniform, they should first take a good long look in their own mirror. They get to feel good about themselves, but “someone else” has to do the hard stuff, usually for years and years afterwards. Sexy fluid operations that last a few hours make great Hollywood movies for teenaged boys, but they vanish behind the really hard static operations that last decades. (It’s one thing to deliver a sucker punch within a few seconds of the first bell, and quite another thing to hang in there for the full fifteen rounds. Just ask ex-Marine Chuck Wepner.) For example, all four military branches have their own special operations forces (SOF) designed for different types of missions, but none receives anywhere near the amount of publicity that is now routinely heaped on the US Navy’s SEALs in the 21st century. Since most special operations missions are quite secret, one has to wonder what is really behind so much publicity for this one group, a group that previously was shrouded in a great deal of appropriate secrecy. I worked with a very different type of SEALs in Vietnam when they were a critical secret part of the “brown water navy”. (Maybe it’s a matter of advertising; it’s well known that the best cars sell themselves and don’t need much advertising. There IS a certain childish aspect to all the modern SEAL hype, and mission details revealed always adversely impact future such US military special missions.) The US Army’s Delta group, originally created during the 1970s to deal with an epidemic of airplane hijackings around the world, is today very comparable to the SEALs but remains appropriately cloaked in secrecy. The same applies to the US Marines Force Recon units and the US Air Force Air Rescue units. This is also true of the US Army’s larger Special Forces (“green berets”), designed for very different types of mission. Whereas SEALs and Delta are normally employed in brief duration “hit and run” missions that move them in and out of target areas rather quickly, the Special Forces go in for the long haul “behind the lines”. Consisting of small teams of people each with different military specialties, they are deployed to live and work with indigenous people “below the radar” as teachers, trainers, builders, and advisors in the full range of military operations – from small unconventional SEAL-type missions to major division-level conventional ground warfare. As such, they have a “force multiplier” capability that is just enormous; one or two 12-man teams can with time raise and deploy a disciplined army of many thousands of local soldiers – as two small SF teams did with 25,000 Kurds during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Fully qualified for any kind of military operation, the Special Forces are publicity-shy in the extreme, but when they go in, their trusted professional reputation precedes them. (I personally view “show boaters” with a certain jaundiced eye, as best avoided; people who need to jump up on stages aren’t concerned about much more than themselves.) The US Army’s Special Forces have now maintained excellent working relationships with the highly competent Kurdish military forces for over thirty years, even though the Kurds still do not rule their own homeland. Kurdish ground forces include very potent women units, including female snipers.
“Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a talented carpenter to build one.” – Sam Rayburn, who served as US Speaker of the House for 18 years between 1940 and 1961.
Those Americans who get upset at the destruction wrought by a storm in their neighborhood might consider that there are members of their professional Army who spend much of their lives working through such human calamity constantly around the globe, while also providing state National Guard units the training, experience and equipment they need for similar tasks at home. Some of that training, experience and equipment (including highly trained and very effective canine soldiers) soon makes its way into every local police and emergency service in the country while also migrating to emergency services around the world.
Of course, military regulations are very different these days, a consequence mainly of maintaining large forces during times of no major conflict, of having large numbers of people in military uniform who never get close to flying bullets, etc.. So some of that stuff has been added to regulations in recent decades to convey some level of appreciation for just hanging in there when no one else was interested. When he was young, Eisenhower spent many years with his wife constantly moving around while stuck endlessly as a Major in one administrative staff officer assignment after another; it’s hard to imagine anything but humility coming out of that experience. There were very long, boring and trying periods between promotions. The guy, even with all those stars, never did get what many others considered essential first-hand experience with the horrors of war; if he had, he may not have given the order for D-Day.
These days, with everyone of the same rank, regardless of function or service, earning the same pay and benefits*, you need to have some way to set apart those who actually earn them. How do you get people to volunteer for a career in infantry, where the physical standards and casualty rates are extremely high, when he or she could earn just as much as a finance clerk, where the biggest problem is controlling their own weight? Ever since my first year in Vietnam, one thing that is guaranteed to get my blood boiling is some admin sergeant (or lieutenant) disrespecting some infantry corporal; I have never known an admin sergeant (or lieutenant) who would last a full day doing what that junior infantryman does for a living. This is what makes that blue-background Infantryman’s badge so very important; the wearer has opted for the toughest job there is – and made a career of it. This is the guy who will knowingly and willingly bear almost all of the risk when America goes to war. This infantryman is the Real “we” with whom “we” pump up our chests with American machismo. Despite all of America’s high tech war toys, today, incredibly, over 98% of US combat casualties are still incurred by Army and Marine ground soldiers, and most of them are infantrymen – who, quite simply, are our most valuable military assets, as they have been for the entire 240 years of our nation’s history, beginning before there was even electricity in our technology tool box. (See Footnote #2.) Without his uniform you probably couldn’t tell the difference between him and the guy next door, but if you have a functioning brain you would know that there is something very different about him. You can’t engineer events on the ground where humans actually live simply by killing them from afar with bombs. After actually engaging in combat, the Expert Infantrymen’s badge is upgraded to the Combat Infantryman’s badge (CIB); although not created until World War II, General Washington would have qualified to wear the CIB, but General Eisenhower did not. (A badge is a separate stand-alone metal pin emblem; the CIB is worn above the ribbon bracket. Another is the infantry airborne parachutist badge, worn below the ribbons.)
You also know that the person wearing that uniform is in a business that is still a highly competitive meritocracy, not some cushy job to which one is “entitled” by quota. And American military ranks are still the same as they were over two centuries ago. Just consider all the ways civilians have learned to give themselves comical titles that make an admin clerk sound like a corporate executive officer. Of course, there is another plus side to it all. If you know how to read a military uniform, you know that it’s actually a complete employment résumé of the person wearing it – right out there in front of God and everyone. Now here’s a worker who shows the world his true name, his approximate age, his entire employment history, his accomplishments, where he’s been, even his drug-free life, etc., out there in the open for everyone to see, knowing that law and regulation make it impossible to pad, inflate or edit his actual story for employers, dates, neighbors, friends, voters, bar buddies, etc.. That uniform says that this is a responsible adult who even proudly displays their surname in bold letters; they are not some flighty flower child bureaucrat who shamefully hides their identity behind some asinine one-word nickname for a “cute” five-year-old. (“Hi. I’m Tami.” “Gee, Tami, did you lose your mommy?”) That uniform is also a great egalitarian. There’s no hiding your true appearance behind thousands of dollars of surgical re-engineering, designer costumes and manufactured masks, no two pounds of $500 make-up and toxic chemicals, no ridiculous high heel shoes than require the wearer to be treated and assisted like a toddler, no running away to hide past stupidity behind the deceptive practice of “reinventing yourself” here; in the US Army you stand for all time on the true and inescapable public record you create from Day One. And you can forget about most of your “rights”; those get exchanged at the entrance gate for a pile of your responsibilities. It’s even against the law for you to join a union, engage in collective bargaining, go on strike, participate in politics, … and (get this, bureaucrats) you can actually go to prison or failing to do your job. Just consider the way the military regards lying: A lie automatically withdraws trust, which makes the assumption of responsibility impossible. No one has a future in the Army if they cannot be trusted with responsibility, and responsibility which automatically presumes full accountability. These days, lying about all manner of such things has become a normal aspect of the larger culture, so you never know what you are really getting when you take on someone for the task at hand. Slick lying often even seems to be the primary talent of our politicians, our political “leaders”, even our Fourth Estate marketing “journalists”, our self-serving “teachers”, our “special interest” lobbies, our social “scientists”. (See Footnote #7.)
It only takes one lie to show the true colors. (I never give anyone a second chance to lie to me.) There’s no cheap “American Hustle” here, baby; it’s all the Real Stuff.
“Honesty is a very expensive gift; don’t ever expect it from cheap people.” – Warren Buffet
Eisenhower In Context
Eisenhower was like most American generals. An excellent staff officer, he was the guy stuck with the job at that particular moment in time. It turned out that he had the right combination of wisdom, knowledge, personality and organizational skills – plus a really huge amount of internal strength – to pull it off and earn his place in history. He was also, and this pains me, a decent politician and diplomat. As always, it definitely was not easy, and there were times when he fervently wished he were back home in Kansas. And those times included his occasional talks with giants like General Patton and Field Marshal Montgomery, men who, unlike himself, had proven themselves on the battlefield. In his day, Eisenhower reminded many Americans of their own fathers – firm but human. (And, yes, I remember him when he was elected President and I was growing up in Washington, years before a junior naval officer in WW II named Kennedy decided, rightly, that he, too, was presidential material.) Today one can’t help wondering how Eisenhower would have fared in a “low intensity” war that ran four times longer than his three years, and a lot closer to the action. (See Footnote #5.)
Although his administrative abilities had certainly been noticed, on the eve of the US entry into World War II “flagpole hugger” Eisenhower had never held an active command, had never experienced combat, had never demonstrated leadership, had only one “foreign” assignment (US Philippines), and was far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations. Today such “qualifications” would have made it nearly impossible for him to get promoted to lieutenant colonel, much less gain command of even one division. But he was smart, confident, knowledgeable, understood military structure and organization, and was very well known by a number of key senior military officers under whom he had learned well how to handle inflated egos. As a wartime commander, Eisenhower was definitely not anxious to trumpet his paucity of combat experience with military subordinates, so extreme understatement was a smart course of action. It wasn’t by accident that he selected an experienced combat soldier’s general, Bradley, to command the actual American invasion forces, and then had his best experienced field army leader, Patton, play the key role in liberating France, blunting the Bulge, and driving all the way through France, southern Germany, Austria and into Czechoslovakia. These two men knew war, and they understood soldiers and leadership. While Caesar, because he could, had filled all these roles himself, Eisenhower, because he could not, knew what essential experience his uniform lacked.
Agreeing to have an American general command the Anglo-American counter-offensive against German forces in Europe was one of the prices Britain was willing to pay to avoid having the Americans concentrate their attention instead in the Pacific against the Japanese forces that had actually attacked America. The Brits have always been masters at manipulating the Americans in service of their own objectives, and Churchill was a true master manipulator; the Americans under Roosevelt devoted 90% of their combat forces to Europe and only after victory in Europe had been achieved was America freed up to shift its full combat attention to the long-suffering Pacific. Eisenhower got the job because both Roosevelt and Churchill respected General Marshall, Marshall strongly vouched for Eisenhower, and, once again, Europe desperately needed America’s millions of combat soldiers.
In preparations for the landings at Normandy, a too-lightly defended sea training exercise authorized by General Eisenhower was intercepted by German U-boats, which sunk three of the exercise ships and sent 700 US soldiers to their deaths. But the calamity wasn’t over. As remaining soldiers landed on the beaches, miscommunications resulted in US Navy fire on their positions, and another 300 men died. One thousand soldiers killed in an exercise exceeded the number who would die later on Utah Beach – under relentless close enemy fire. (Perhaps a case can be made that those soldiers died so that similar errors did not occur during the Real Thing, but it’s a case that can’t be sold to dead soldiers. Would everyone had forgotten about them, simply written them off as “irrelevant”, if they had all been American women?) Eisenhower’s first action as a combat commander was an unmitigated disaster that needlessly cost the lives of a thousand of his own men (which was then kept secret for the next forty years). If today’s standards had been in effect, Eisenhower would have been sidelined while the exercise disaster was investigated – and probably would not have been in the driver’s seat for Normandy.
Even Eisenhower’s famous organizational skills fell a bit short when he underestimated how fast and far a field commander like Patton could drive his army against enemy forces and was unable to keep that charging army fully supplied with such a basic necessity as fuel. Patton, the consummate confident warrior, relied on constant unrelenting offense; pausing to allow too slow and inadequate supply trains to catch up with him forced him to play defense, which Patton felt was not conducive to winning wars. His aggressive tactics, which made him the war’s commanding general with the lowest casualty rate, won him the highest respect among enemy generals, a respect which usually figured as a key component of his battle victories. His low casualty rate is actually counter-intuitive, since normally an attacker of defensive positions will incur greater casualties. But Patton’s relentless multi-pronged forward motion served to deny the enemy time to establish strong defensive positions and to keep them off-balance. His well-known reputation, and the winning lessons his leadership instilled in his subordinate commanders, did the rest – provided his supply trains could keep up. In war, combat experience and leadership count, a lot. That is why the US Army constantly strives to push responsibility and accountability as far down the ranks as it can be reasonably borne; that experience under fire produces proven leaders. War, with its massive death and destruction, is no place for the niceties of rear area politics and diplomacy. Politics and diplomacy is what happens before wars; politics and diplomacy is usually why there are wars. In war, since I am not stupid, I would follow a Patton any day; an Eisenhower would give me pause. And that pause can very well be deadly.
“Do everything you ask of those you command.” – George Patton
Churchill’s supremely arrogant aristocratic attitude toward other lesser mortals was revealed most starkly in his aggressive pressuring of the Polish government-in-exile to accept his “grand gesture” to Stalin by giving up the eastern third of Poland in the east, including cosmopolitan Lvov, in exchange for a portion of Germany confiscated in the west. Behind Roosevelt’s back, Churchill, like Stalin, in 1944 was carving up a map of Europe even before war’s end, just like the aristocrats had done in WW I, even though at that moment Polish soldiers from this very eastern region were fighting with allied forces up through Italy. (At least the aristocrats in that earlier war had waited until the guns feel silent.) While Polish soldiers were dying with British and American soldiers at Monte Cassino, Churchill was giving away their homes. (The British have a long and checkered past of such betrayals. For example, Irish soldiers who were killed or permanently maimed fighting beside British soldiers during WWI naively believed they would be rewarded for such sacrifices with their country finally being granted home rule.) Churchill, of course, was counting on the Americans and British conquering Germany and taking Berlin before the Russians could do so. After all, an over-confident Eisenhower had wagered that the war would be over by Christmas. But the Poles refused Churchill’s scheme, and the Germans had other ideas; they launched the massive Battle of the Bulge, which delayed the American and British advance. During the 11 months from D-Day to war’s end, British and American forces in Europe advanced against the Germans about 500 miles, while Russians soldiers had battled mostly on foot across 1,700 miles of open plains for four long years. (Of course, there was a second very deadly war long underway throughout the Pacific that pitted the Americans and British against the Japanese.) Russian soldiers who were still alive under Marshall Zhukov, who had been drafted out of abject poverty into the army by czarist Russia in 1915, took Berlin in 1945. Behind them lay nothing but two thousand miles of death and destruction. The hugely popular 49-year-old Zhukov rode a spirited white stallion in the June Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square like a young lieutenant, so it was not surprising that a year later Stalin, ever fearful of potential rivals, removed him as Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Ground Forces and sent him to Odessa. This also ended his good and cooperative relationship with Eisenhower.
From 1940 to 1945 around 27 million Russians died as a direct consequence of the war, including 8,700,000 million military personnel and 19,000,000 million civilians. (How do you even bury so many humans?) By comparison, British and American deaths were infinitesimal. Except for an air attack on a military base in Hawaii, the war never really touched the United States, so most Americans cannot even begin to imagine the colossal horrors inflicted on tens of millions of average Russians over quite a long period, or the bloody journey of her surviving ground soldiers forced to step over millions of their fallen brothers against the powerful German military machine. And for fifty years thereafter, as the “Cold” War standoff hardened Western views, it was not likely that they would ever learn of those horrors, those monumental sacrifices. Today it never seems to dawn on Americans that Russian citizens were just as much victims of Hitler and his Nazi regime and Stalin and his communist regime as everyone else in Europe. (Nowhere will you find more “experts” on war than you will find in the one place that hasn’t experienced it for 150 years – the United States – and they all are graduates of the University of Hollywood. This is what makes them the most dangerous people on the planet. But has any of them ever seen a movie of a soldier’s slog through the mud and blood 1,500 miles from Stalingrad to Berlin – one of the very few most epic undertakings in human history? Over a million of those Russian soldiers were women, mostly drafted.) As if Russians had not suffered enough, at war’s end, Churchill, ever the puppet master, even crafted a draft British invasion of Soviet Russia, similar to the invasion of Russia executed at the end of WW I; thankfully his military staff deemed the idea a militarily impossible fantasy. The Americans were not likely to be suckered into this one – which would have been the fourth military invasion of Russia from the West in just 133 years. (And very ignorant people wonder why the Russians are “paranoid” about defending their western borders.)
It is true that Eisenhower was a member of the US Army, but he now had operational command of ALL of America’s various military service forces, PLUS those of all of our allies; as such he was what we call a “purple suit” commander, rising above, transcending, any particular service allegiance. And no one was ever going to call him out on his compliance or noncompliance with military regs. Since he commanded all allied ground, naval and air forces in the European theater, it was best not to accentuate any one element. His body simply would not have been able to accommodate all the foreign “awards” all those currying his favor wanted to bestow, so it was best to display none. (Eisenhower was, in fact, awarded no less than 56 foreign awards, including one from Haiti and another from Guatemala, but only three US military decorations (all usually awarded to senior officers).) Also, a major aspect of his role as Supreme Allied Commander was routinely interfacing with senior civilian political leaders, so it was also smarter to appear not so different from them. (Some people are intimidated by military uniforms, and tend to take “offense” at that “intimidation”. It’s a psychological thing, definitely not intended by the American uniform wearer.)
Shoe salesman President Harry Truman, who actually served in combat on the incredibly stupid killing fields of France during World War I, did the math and reached a far different conclusion when the prospect of another Operation Overlord (Normandy Invasion) rose on his horizon. Truman’s action denied us all, from those few who would have survived an invasion of Japan, a new crop of inflated military leaders who would have secured their place in history with the sacrifice of a million dead soldiers. For Europeans there was only “The War”, and it was “our war”. But for Americans, Europe was only half the problem, and arguably the easier half.
All 183,000 combat ground forces in the 82-day-long battle to invade and secure the Japanese island of Okinawa in June 1945 were American. It was one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific, with over 82,000 direct casualties on both sides; 14,009 American deaths (over 12,500 killed or missing) and 77,166 Japanese soldiers, excluding those who died from their injuries later. A month after Germany’s surrender on the other side of the globe, the US Army and Marine invasion forces also incurred 55,200 wounded on that one island. And this battle came after a whole series of similar bloody island invasions all across the Pacific for the previous 30 months, beginning with Guadalcanal. Over 6,500,000 military personnel died in the Pacific War, over 4,000,000 of whom were US and her allied forces. Over 27,000,000 civilians died as a direct result of Japanese brutality from 1937-45. With all the subsequent attention given to Europe by the West, one could gain the impression that nothing happened in the Pacific or Asia (or Russia) until the dropping of two bombs on “poor” Japan. (Such inexcusable ignorance is just one price of American Eurocentrism.)
After Okinawa in 1945, in which the US invasion force rivaled Normandy’s and sustained even higher losses of one-third, the best US casualty estimates for an invasion of Japan were 10,000,000 Japanese military and civilian, plus 1,700,000 US military. Truman’s use of two bombs resulted in the deaths of approximately 200,000 Japanese people – less than one-fifth the cost of the war to the citizens of just the one city of Leningrad. The number of Japanese killed by those two bombs, despite all the ignorant bleeding hearts much later in the West, was less than half the number of Chinese executed by machine guns like cattle in pens and gassed to death by the Japanese – just in Nanking alone. If China had had The Bomb there would be no Japan today, not even an island in the sea, and a dozen other Asian countries would have cheered its eternal evaporation. A 2016 CBS poll found that the use of atomic bombs on Japanese cities in 1945 was still approved by 56% of American men and 28% of American women. I guess it depends on how much you’ve ever seriously contemplated becoming mincemeat while trying to storm some distant Japanese beach. (It’s always a very safe bet that those doing asinine judgmental Monday-morning-quarterbacking from the very safe sidelines are never those whose lives were, or could be, actually in the balance.) And these are the women who have been the majority voting bloc in America since 1980, as well those who rule America’s female-dominated K-12 “education” industry. A prominent trait of American women is their steadfast refusal to even try viewing the board from the other side’s vantage, to equitably consider their condition in context of the whole.
A key element for the invasion of Normandy, by the way, was Britain’s “Sword” Beach, where the slightly sloping terrain made it possible to rapidly infuse large numbers of tanks needed to lead the Allied attack inland. British Field Marshal Montgomery was supposed to have his forces secure the beach and the nearby small city of Caen in one day. But 30 days later, Caen was still in German hands, British forces were still on the beach, very few tanks had been introduced to the effort, and American infantry forces, having overcome far more challenging terrain, had secured the port of Cherbourg and were proceeding inland with little more than rifles. Montgomery then ordered 2,000 planes to carpet-bomb Caen, which destroyed three-fourths of a city dating back to the Middle Ages. It turned out that most German forces were outside the city, but General Patton was finally able to get his armored army moving. (Carpet bombing of European cities was characteristic of World War II. Just read Kurt Vonnegut, who was a US POW caught in the fire bombing of Dresden, and survived to write “Slaughterhouse-Five”.)
(Army veteran Truman also lost no sleep over another of his decisions – desegregation of the military and civil services. Many “historians” like to invoke the power of the President over the military when it serves their purpose, or to grant unilateral power to the military when that, too, serves their purpose. In truth, under the US Constitution the US military is part of the Executive branch of the federal government, headed by civilian cabinet members for each military service as well as for the Defense Department, and all them, plus the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, are under the direction of the President. The practice of ethnic segregation of military units was a tradition handed down from the British practice with their colonial forces, starting with Scottish and Welsh units and spreading with the growth of the empire over centuries to include Irish, Indian and similar racial or ethnic units. (As with the Romans, the sensible basis of this military tradition was unit cohesiveness, effectiveness, common language and heritage, esprit de corps, etc., rather than some form of perceived discrimination based on superficial factors.) While this practice was occasionally followed in the US military with, for example, Irish and black units, formal racial segregation in the US military was not a decision of the US military, but rather of the President of the United States – Progressive President Woodrow Wilson – who in 1913 also segregated the federal civilian work force. Both services remained segregated for 35 years, through WW I and WW II, until President Truman in 1948 simply reversed Wilson’s executive decision. His executive order proved prescient when Korea exploded shortly thereafter, catching post-WW II units still drastically under-strength and needing to “double-up” fast to survive in a new war.)
(The fact that the US military is made up of people who have given up many of their rights to serve, and can simply be dictated to, is what makes it so inviting to all sorts of social interest groups seeking to impose their will and use the military as a captive social engineering Petri dish. (There’s something “empowering” about imposing a dictate on other groups that you would never tolerate being imposed on your own group.) Such matters should be left strictly to military professionals to decide what makes the most effective fighting force after experimenting with all available possibilities in real world combat situations. Unfortunately this overlooks the fact that the US military is also a principle mechanism for bestowing vicarious self-worth on many millions of Americans who only sit on the sidelines; they all want to imagine that they could do whatever professional soldiers do, without actually doing it. The easiest way to accomplish that is to find a few members of “my” group, such as women, who can do it, and then require the military to dramatically change its institution to make certain that they all may do it– as another elective “right” but not as an expected responsibility. Thus all women “benefit” by forcing an institution to drastically change, even lower its standards, to accommodate a token few – at the expense of the institution and all its other members.)
Though usually overlooked by the Europeans (and many contemporary Americans), General Eisenhower had an American counterpart on the opposite side of the globe, and he was a true giant. In fact, Eisenhower, as a Major, had served six years as this giant’s Chief Aide in the American Commonwealth of the Philippines. During World War II, the most distinctive features of the “uniform” of the US Army commander in the Pacific, General MacArthur, were a beat-up service cap and a corn-cob pipe. MacArthur was an Army combat veteran of Veracruz, World War I, the Philippines, World War II and Korea. During his lifetime, he earned over 100 military decorations from the US and other countries including the Medal of Honor and similar awards from France, Italy, Australia, Japan and Netherlands. Seventeen of his US awards were Silver Stars (7) or higher, plus two Purple Hearts for combat wounds. Both Eisenhower and Petraeus would have disappeared in his shadow, but it was rare for MacArthur, who had a decided preference for utility (Class B or C) tropical uniforms, to display any of his decorations in public. As the American leader most intimately knowledgeable of Asia and the Pacific, he had been brought out of retirement at age 61 to serve in WW II Pacific (and then Korea), so it probably was of no real significance to him what he wore, and no one was ever going to challenge this living legend on the issue. (Truman truly startled the world, and broke many millions of American hearts, when he relieved MacArthur of command in 1951 for communicating with Congress about Korea – a “police action” war that very easily could have engulfed the world in nuclear Armageddon. The American public was not aware that MacArthur had made of couple of major errors earlier – right before and during the Japanese attack on the Philippines.) Still, when the great general flew to Washington with his family to retire again, at age 71, it was his and his wife’s first visit to the continental US in 14 years, since 1937. His 13-year-old son had never been to his homeland.)
It’s easy to blame generals for everything that happens in wars, but in the US, those generals, in accordance with our Constitution, are subordinate to political leadership. And they are world-famous for usually keeping their mouths shut. Generals are human, and just like all of us, their views are shaped by their life experiences. But they are also very smart people within a highly esoteric field of expertise, and when a political leader asks for their views, they will provide the very best advice they can within their particular sphere of interest. But it is always the civilian leadership who retains responsibility for ultimate decisions. Today you always hear, for example, about General MacArthur being fired for “wanting to nuke China” over the war in Korea. But anyone who takes a closer look at the actual history involved will conclude that General MacArthur was fired because he shared his views with members of Congress, and that it was President Truman himself who, in fact, ordered the US military to prepare a target list in China for possible nuclear attack. General MacArthur’s staff complied with that directive, and the target list (with 26 targets) remained in place long after General MacArthur had once again left active service. In our society political leaders always have a way to get off the hook – by allowing military men to take the blame. And those who then write the history always do so in a way that conforms to their own preconceived notions, whether their objective is unvarnished truth or political propaganda. In 2003 it was not the generals who fired the entire Iraqi army, leaving US forces with less than a quarter of the number of soldiers needed to secure the country; it was an incredibly stupid civilian “proconsul” who simply didn’t know what he was doing – right at the most critical moment of the war.
Let’s Get Specific
Almost everyone knows how and why to spot a military person’s rank (if not actually understand it), but this is usually not the most important thing on that uniform.(Confession: I have never been impressed with rank; competence is what earns my respect.) Notice that stack of gold bars on Petraeus’ lower right sleeve. Each one of those bars represents six months served in a combat zone. No one of the 16,000,000 American men who served during World War II earned so many. With all its modern and incredibly expensive high-tech toys and destructive might, the US has now been fighting a war non-stop for almost four times longer than it took to wage WW II – against an enemy that does not possess one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone. In the past, including in Eisenhower’s time, we fought rather brief wars with clear missions until they were won and then went home, but now we have “low intensity” wars waged with enormous restraint that go on and on ad infinitum. Worse, we keep using the same people over and over for the same war. (We have far too many machines, but not nearly enough of the right kinds of soldiers. Most of our professional infantrymen today have more combat time than anyone in WW II did, but we do not have a second follow-on non-combat army to fill the holes they make, so “defeating the enemy” is now a lot like moving around water in the pool.) But that fruit salad on his chest does not include the yellow Vietnam Service Ribbon. During a period after Vietnam that was mostly “peacetime”, it would have taken him 23-27 years to get past full colonel to his first general’s star, which means that the vast majority of those bars was earned as a general officer. So Petraeus, who was commissioned at graduation from West Point in 1974, and thus too young to have served in Southeast Asia, earned most of those bars in today’s wars as a general officer, not as a company captain. For me, that significantly changes their meaning. (I’m sure that he now has more than six years of such combat zone service, so he’s probably opted to stop adding new bars.)
In many of his roles overseas Petraeus has been a part-time American statue standing there in the town square (pigeons and all). Many of our “low intensity” unconventional wars have involved a whole range of strap-hanger “allies”, and those wars constantly “evolve” as a consequence of ignorant or duplicitous domestic politics to the point when no one understands the actual mission anymore. It’s part and parcel of the US military playing World Cop, rather than Defender Of The Nation. Better to criticize Petraeus’ for his uniform than look in the mirror and see a whole people who really don’t care about those wars (or their soldiers) and simply allow their politicians to let them run forever while altering their mission with each shift in the domestic political spin. About half the fruit salad stuff on Petraeus’ uniform was hung there by foreign governments grateful to have him use his soldiers and US taxpayer money to do their hard stuff – while also hoping that he’ll bite his tongue over his true feelings about their “military contributions” to the effort. If he didn’t accept those “awards”, and wear them whenever his picture was taken, it would immediately be a matter of diplomatic slight. State Department people (and ignorant journalists) would suddenly be singing an entirely different tune about fruit salad. (Most of those “allies” contribute token “forces”, which gains their senior officers a seat at the command table, on a nine-to-five “work” schedule, but then never deliver all that was promised and do little more than hide behind the US military to convey the impression of meaningful contribution while actually accomplishing nothing. So another function of US soldiers is to provide self-esteem to other nations and allow their generals and politicians to pontificate with utter nonsense.)
On his right shoulder is the patch of the last unit in which he served during war – the Regular Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry Division (the “Screaming Eagles”), which was one of the principle infantry units assaulting Iraq in 2003. Based solely on what’s on his uniform, and doing some basic arithmetic, Petraeus would have earned his second star by 2003, so he was most likely that unit’s commander (which he was). US Army combat divisions, consisting of 20,000-24,000 people, are commanded by major generals (two stars). The 101st was one of the principle units assaulting Normandy, liberating the Netherlands, surviving the Bulge (General McAuliffe: “Nuts!”), all while suffering colossal casualties – as Eisenhower watched from London. So some of the fruit salad tells an important part of the story. Petraeus had been selected to command one of the very few most storied combat units in American history, and to accept all the extra baggage that goes along with such an honored distinction. The Regular Army’s two major Airborne Infantry units, both veterans of D-Day, are the 82nd (which still primarily uses fixed wing planes and parachutes to reach the combat zone), and the 101st (which is designated an Air Assault unit primarily using helicopters to insert soldiers exactly where they want to go). What advantage the 82nd has in great range the 101st makes up in great precision.
Another thing that’s important today in the US is the uniform itself. While all four military branches are critical to the military’s incredibly complex, sophisticated and technologically advanced global mission, it’s a simple fact of life that the brunt of the really tough stuff is still borne by the guy with a rifle on the ground. Today Army and Marine combat soldiers incur over 98% of casualties in our wars, so, in my book, these guys automatically get a place at the very front of the line despite everyone else disparaging them. A young officer who survives that combat infantry experience with distinction, and continues on afterward intact, has learned a truly enormous amount about responsibility, accountability and leadership. This is the guy who sets the standards of such things, who hopefully will remain and carry those standards as he rises to eventually become a General Colin Powell. Today we have a lot of people in military uniform who can spend their entire careers never hearing a weapon fired in anger, never seeing blood in the mud, never understanding just what leadership is really all about. But they all enjoy the same pay and benefits. So you need a way to cut to the chase, to quickly separate the chaff from the wheat without doing a lot of pounding, and get the person you need for the job at hand, and get past those you don’t. For the infantryman there’s the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) (See Footnote #8.), a pin worn above the ribbon array, and the (Airborne) Parachutist badge, worn below the array, and the further specialized Special Forces and Ranger tabs, worn at the top of the left sleeve at the shoulder. The degree of specialization proceeds upward from Infantryman to Airborne to Ranger to Special Forces (or Delta). (Due to the nature of today’s unconventional wars, and the definite limits to personnel strengths, many people in Armor and Artillery have now mothballed most of their tanks and guns and been re-trained for Infantry duty; they, too, are now rightly authorized to wear the Infantryman’s badge they earned. We just keep using them all over and over, year after year, until they break. And when they do, we can come up with nothing more constructive than throwing snide darts at their leader’s uniform?)
While the US military consists of branches of service (Navy, Army, etc.), the US Army also consists of its own branches (interchangeably called “corps”), which are broad fields of expertise, functional areas within the Army. The US Army corps can be viewed as either “Teeth” or “Tail”; the “teeth” are the combat arms, and the “tail” is everything else that exists to support the “teeth”. When you include the National Guard, the ratio today is about four “tail” to one “teeth”, just within the Army. (If you consider that wars take place where people live – on the ground and not in the air or on the water – it can be argued that the Air Force and Navy are also mostly tail supporting those ground force teeth, for a total ratio of well over ten to one. That’s a lot of people standing behind that infantry soldier.)
(And it’s not just military people who are “tail”; the really huge numbers and costs of the civilian bureaucrats and contractors who thrive while doing mind-numbing administrative functions in the very safe rear for the US military is simply staggering; the Defense Department has almost as many admin people as military people. (See Footnote #2.) When you start delving into this stuff, it’s nearly impossible to avoid mental images of the giant fat tail wagging the tiny trim dog. And when those self-inflated admin people talk about the importance of their jobs, such mental images become very scary reality. There is MUCH about the bloated rear area “US military” that is pure government trough – that derives its self-worth and raison d’être from a quite small few out front on the ground.)
Within the Army, most know about Infantry, Armor and Artillery; these are “combat arms” (the small “teeth”, in which Infantry also includes Airborne, Rangers, Delta and Special Forces). (See Footnote #2.) Fewer know about Intelligence, Aviation, Signal, Military Police, Engineers and Chemical; these are “combat support arms” usually found right with or right behind the combat arms on the battlefield. Fewer still know about Ordnance, Medical, Transportation, Quartermaster, JAG, Acquisitions, Adjutant General, Finance and Chaplin; these are rear area “service support” corps (although some, like Transportation, are often needed to keep the combat arms mobile and supplied). The US Army even has support corps for Electronic Warfare, Air Defense, Psychological Affairs, Civil Affairs, Logistics, IG, Nurse, Dental, Veterinary, Cavalry, Bands and Public Affairs. The Army has all the expertise and functionality, in uniform, that can be found in any large governmental jurisdiction in the country, from the state of Maryland to the city of Peoria (plus all the advantages and disadvantages that accompany such entities). During the brief 1991 Persian Gulf War the US military picked up the equivalent of the entire city of Cleveland and moved it to the Gulf region; then after the war they put most of it back where it had been found. Most Americans never even imagine such things. How do you do that? How do you very rapidly synchronize, transport and assemble all the millions of parts and then disassemble them with similar synchronization – halfway around Earth? There’s only one entity on the planet that can do such things, and yet very few ever see it happening. Each of these branches (or corps) within the Army has its own standards, its own requirements for continuous education, training, study, testing, peer group review, promotion, even publication, not only in the respective fields but in the larger military organization as well. These people are world class experts at what they do – in a huge range of specialties.
And every one of these branches has a whole plethora of divisions of specialized functional expertise within them. (There are at least twenty different functional areas of expertise in the Military Intelligence Corps alone, some way out there in the ether. Medical Corps probably has fifty, most way out in front of the rest of the country; many of the nation’s advanced medical breakthroughs, and highly expert medical specialists, come directly out of the military’s treatment of its wounded soldiers – quickly transferred to the larger civilian community, and especially to hospital emergency wards.) Every one of these people is expected to keep themselves highly conversant, expert and fully qualified on the latest developments in their specific fields, not only in the military, but in the larger civilian specialized community as well. If not, they won’t last long in that uniform; accountability is fundamental to the professional Army.
Most people assume that expertise and technology proceeds from the civilian to the military community; in fact, the flow is equal in both directions, with military needs and civilian applicability driving that flow to the greatest benefit of both. The medical treatment of wounded soldiers, for example, has its origins with similar treatment of wounded Roman gladiators. Two thousand years ago the owners of trained and effective gladiators had considerable money invested in them and thus had considerable interest in keeping them able to fight in the arena earning returns on that investment. This self-interest, in turn, led to the development of professional medical practitioners like Galen of Pergamon and of medicine as a recorded science that could be passed on to similar others. The same remains true today; infantry soldiers are our modern gladiators, requiring very considerable government investment, and the medicine learned from treating their wounds and diseases is quickly passed on to the larger community. Today such young doctors bring very considerable advanced knowledge from medical schools with them to the military. And, of course, those practitioners treating soldiers during wars very quickly gain a great deal of marketable experience serving their own self-interests as well as those of the civilian community later. Some of the other things taken for granted by civilians that came out of the US military include cell phones, energy bars, GPS, night vision, malaria pills, crowd control, air rescue, and the internet.
The US military, as an agent of the federal government, is the only organization in our society that can present highly expert people in uniform who can do literally anything that civilians do, in an almost unlimited range of specialties, from the boringly mundane to the enormously sophisticated, and it can do it anywhere under almost any circumstance with full accountability and no excuses. It can pull in military experts from a wide range of different specialties and in minutes have them working together as an orderly team – on the other side of the globe. You should never assume that the US military can’t do what you do (if it’s legal and worth doing). And, yes, the US Regular military does employ fully qualified and highly experienced case officers (or operations officers) just like those at the CIA and federal law enforcement officials and special agents just like those at the FBI. In fact, both of these civilian agencies originated in the US military, which still maintains its own professionally manned counterpart to many federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, and almost none of them ever become topics of Hollywood movies. And, yes, there is a definite degree of egalitarianism to it all, which places a premium on leadership capabilities, especially when it comes to managing people with expertise and capabilities the leader lacks – and all without unions, politics, “sensitivities”, social niceties or special interest groups.
And yet most civilians assume that everyone in uniform speaks the same language, has the same credentials, and executes the same job. But if you know about such things, you can read the uniform and tell immediately exactly to whom you are talking – and what you can expect of the person wearing the fruit salad. This can be critical in times of great tension, pressure and urgency. The US Army can do, and routinely does, a LOT more than just kill people, and most of it is beneficial to both the nation and mankind. (And if their actions don’t end up in the best place, it’s never wise to assume it’s the fault of the military while giving a pass to the shamefully ignorant politicians and bureaucrats directing the military’s actions. If American voters don’t care how little such people understand about military matters – and these days their ignorance is really huge – that’s not the fault of the military.) The Army’s mission is to deal with humans, where they live, on the ground, up close and personal, and to be fully prepared to handle just about any situation with those humans. And humans, and the groups they form, are the most complex entities on Earth. What those Army people learn, their extensive knowledge and proven hands-on expertise, eventually finds its way into every community in America, and throughout those communities in thousands of different endeavors, too. The US military is one of the very most important sectors of domestic American society. Highly advanced technology developed and applied specifically to assisting ground soldiers fight wars and assist populations, and replacing their mutilated body parts, quickly finds its way to members of the broader society, who risked nothing on their society’s behalf. It is highly likely that very effective cop or medic or fireman or search and rescue helicopter pilot standing next to you learned the most important parts of what he or she knows, and can do, not from civilian police or EMT or fire training, but from their highly demanding service in the US Army or US Marines – from where that civilian training originated in the first place.
(Unfortunately, in stark contrast to the past, when most police officers in America were Irish war veterans, many of the police officers in the US today could not qualify for service in the US Regular Army; you can now find many of these wannabe soldiers playing “combat” on paramilitary SWAT teams employing an enormous array of very potent military hardware against American citizens, and behind the full power of the American justice system. They conduct on average 124 paramilitary-type raids in the US every single day, killing pet dogs, innocent civilians and sometimes even children – in their own homes. The new Department of “Homeland Security” has provided $35 Billion to local police throughout the country to buy such very potent armored weapons to use in the “war on terrorism”, and police have obtained another $4.2 Billion of such equipment free from surplus military supplies. To many Americans, these SWAT teams have become a Gestapo-style terror threat greater than the “terrorists” they are theoretically combating. The teams are very expensive, and will be validly employed perhaps once a year or less; but, to justify the cost, they are ever more frequently employed in routine police tasks that constitute enormous “over-kill” that is enough to scare the hell out of anyone, even real combat soldiers. See Footnote #13.)
So, on an Army uniform, after those gold combat bars on the right sleeve, the things I automatically spot, in descending order, are (1) Combat Infantryman’s Badge, (2) Airborne badge (plus any Ranger and Special Forces tabs), (3) wartime service ribbons, such as for Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, (4) last wartime combat unit patch on right shoulder sleeve, and (5) the highest achievement award decorations on the top one or two ribbon rows. These five items tell me almost everything I need to know about leadership capability and expertise, and it only takes a few seconds. Then I look at (6) the branch (or corps) of Army service functionality, (7) whether Regular Army, Army Reserves, or Army National Guard, (8) ribbons showing specific foreign service (especially places like Sinai, Berlin, Korea).
(Regular military people are full-time professionals; they do not have a civilian career as a fall-back position if they don’t make it in the competitive military. Totally committed to only one career, Regular soldiers also earn only one set of career benefits, not two or more from both military and government or civilian. While NG and most Reserve personnel are mandatorily retired from military service at 20 years, Regular people typically serve 25-35 years, or more – as long as they can still meet all service requirements in competition with contemporaries – until they request to be placed on the Retired List. Those who are placed on the Retired List with, and subsequently incur, no disabilities remain in “Indefinite” status, subject to immediate recall to active service whenever needed; some retain Indefinite status well past age 60, and, in fact, those with special skills, knowledge or foreign relationships are often recalled, and willingly so. There are very major differences among the three groups, and a career pro like me can spot them in seconds. Unfortunately, the similar uniform tends to allow everyone to share equally in the honor of the committed few, and also to force everyone to share equally in the dishonor of the transient losers, regardless of rank.)
Then all I have to do is ask about additional special qualifications, such as foreign languages, of which there are in the Army well over one hundred. Almost everyone has several of these extra qualifications, and all have been competitively tested to qualify and periodically graded at several levels of proficiency. Most additional special qualifications are areas of expertise which constitute job titles for civilians – tasks that employ people in the civilian community full-time. “He’s a combat soldier, but he also teaches helicopter mechanics and hydraulics to others in three languages.” “Sergeant Kelly is a seasoned airborne infantryman who designed, organized, instructed and supervised the construction of this community’s new medical clinic using his Farsi language skills.” Although not a specialized extra qualification, one specialized capability that everyone above sergeant E-5 has is “teacher”; the uniform says that, too. (If you’re Special Forces, you are not just a teacher, you are a teacher of those who don’t even speak your language, and you can do it out in an open field under conditions of extreme privation with zero “infrastructure” for many months on end.) Such soldiers are also America’s most important ambassadors.
Other than rank, I ignore most of the other stuff on a uniform unless I have a specific question about the wearer. (For me personally, rank has never garnered nearly the respect that demonstrated competence does, especially with the millions of affirmative action, favoritism and double standard advancements that have characterized my society over the past half century; sooner or later the competence factor will decide the day, regardless of rank, guaranteed.)
Enlisted people also wear longer slanted gold stripes on their left lower sleeve. (Officers may also wear them, but most don’t anymore.) Each of these stripes signifies three years of military service. If I run into a sergeant E-5 with enough service stripes for 15 years or more, I know I’m talking to a guy who knows a lot more than his rank indicates, that this guy was busted (demoted) in rank, for some infraction, probably more than once. Most often it’s for something like drinking, fighting, etc., which I am usually willing to overlook and just take advantage of what this man knows, based on the rest of his uniform. (Commissioned officers who make such infractions are usually placed on a fast track designed to remove them from service, if they don’t resign first.) If you’re a government bureaucrat or contractor and perform at the standards of your job description, chances are excellent that you’ll get a fat financial “bonus” award every year, above your already very generous salary and benefits. If you perform at that same level as a member of the US military, you are considered “marginal”, likely to be passed over for promotion and therefore eligible for removal from service. The US military may pay bonuses to enlisted people with certain needed specialties who sign up for additional periods of service. It does not, however, pay asinine bonuses for just doing your job. But if you still manage to hang in there for another three years, they’ll let you sew another service stripe on your left sleeve – the $5.00 cost to you, of course. (In 2013 the Government Accountability Office found that federal bureaucrats rated 99% of 1,200,000 other federal bureaucrats as “fully successful” or above in job performance, and less than 1% as “minimally acceptable” or below. Despite a steady stream of jokes and complaints from the public, federal employees are VERY satisfied with themselves, thank you.) (It’s a matter of different standards.)
The top one, two or three rows of the ribbon rack are for any awarded personal decoration ribbons like the Silver Star, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, etc., which may or may not have an affixed “V” device (for valor in combat). (With the exception of the Legion of Merit, which is suspended from a neck riband, I have never worn the actual medals on my own uniform.) Below these personal decoration ribbons come service ribbons.
My own fruit salad includes what is today the very unusual Army Of Occupation service ribbon, authorized for a decade after the end of World War II in Europe and Japan (1945-55). General Eisenhower was its first recipient. No, I’m not that old, but there was one place on the planet where the ribbon remained authorized long after 1955. (As a career Regular officer in a foreign service field that had little utility at home, for decades I spent over 90% of my life serving outside the US, constantly on the move abroad from 1965 to 2015.) For many years during the “Cold” War my home base was West Berlin, and I grew to love the Walled City despite (or perhaps because of) its location 110 miles behind the “Iron Curtain”. (Huge West Berlin remained a military-occupied, and protected, territory in the middle of communist East Germany until the reunification of Germany in 1990.) Last awarded in 1990, this service medal is one of the longest active military awards of both the Second World War and the “Cold” War. I treasure that service ribbon above them all, even above the combat bars, perhaps because I was privileged to also be present when The Wall finally came down – the last great achievement of the Greatest Generation. Ich bin auch Berliner, and proudly so. But another unusual story involves Korea. Even though US military personnel have served along the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas since the armistice (cease fire) was signed in 1954, it was not until 2002 that a medal (ribbon) was created and authorized by President Bush II for all those, mostly combat arms, serving there over the previous half century. (Until 2002 such service members were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal authorized by President Kennedy in 1961 for those serving in designated military campaigns (or “operations”); there have now been over 45 such campaigns for American soldiers over just the past fifty years, so this service medal is becoming quite over-loaded with a very wide range of different history chapters.) The US Congress never declared war on North Korea in accordance with the US Constitution; it was authorized by an imperial President using a United Nations resolution at a time soon after WW II when US military strength had been reduced to bare bottom. So, for the US military, and the 330,000 mostly drafted men who served in Korea 1950-54, it was a “police action”, not a “war”, and thus just one of the many other operations included in the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. (There was a similar problem, of course, with Vietnam – a “conflict” which just “evolved”.)
(Think about that a moment. The last time there was a formal American declaration of war was in 1941, after the Japanese bombing of Hawaii was correctly perceived as an unprovoked act of war – an unprovoked act of war which the US then duplicated in 2011 in Libya without a declaration. The 1941 declaration was the war in which Eisenhower and MacArthur served. For the next 7o years America has sacrificed hundreds of thousands of her best men in wars that her spineless politicians were unwilling to even properly label. Now in 2015 those politicians are even requiring those men to go to war once again in Iraq without even giving the mission a name – needed for a wide range of military purposes, including history. This is the “evolution” of the US military from “Defender Of The Nation” to the “President’s Very Own World Cop” – the last entity in the country that still works being misused and perverted mostly for emotional domestic political purposes, to make certain groups of pathetic Americans feel better about themselves for not actually doing anything themselves. The semantic gymnastics these ignorant and cowardly politicians can conjure up to circumvent the US Constitution simply boggles the rational mind. At least Congress passed “resolutions” approving in advance the “engagements” in both Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Certain despicable politicians, however, after many soldiers had already been killed or maimed, later even voted against the war they had earlier voted for. And one of these jerks is now the US Secretary of State, out there busily ginning up new ways to sacrifice the lives of American soldiers in very vague missions that are bound to change by the month depending on shifting domestic political breezes, and without bothering to consult the American people or their elected representatives. Sometimes I feel like in live in a 17th century monarchy. (They now just issue sandals, rather than “boots”, to those soldiers.) It’s just unfortunate, I guess, that dead soldiers can’t so easily change their minds to suit their domestic political agendas. But it is fortunate, I guess, that dead soldiers don’t vote. And that Americans just can’t seem to feel ashamed of themselves.) (See Footnote #1, Sergeant Donnelly’s Requiem, to “Russia And “NATO”” )
In the end, a lot of that fruit salad looks just silly, but in most cases, there’s a fairly decent reason, or rationale, for it, and that rationale is laid out in very specific detail in lawful military regulations enforced by the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ). (The “Uniform” in the title of this separate body of federal law, refers not to clothing, but to its universal and consistent application to all the armed services.) My own thinking is that the higher a person moves up in rank, the more selective he should be about what he bothers to hang on his uniform. But, then, I’ve never been an especially “military”-type guy, and I know that the regs (and promotion boards) are not all that forgiving. So some second lieutenant is bound to point out, as is both his right and his duty, any shortcomings he finds in my fruit salad. It’s not just embarrassing to have a snot-nosed second lieutenant dress down a senior officer, but it also shows a second lieutenant knowledgeable and brave enough to step up to his or her responsibility to “speak truth to power”. So you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (And my uniform is not a pin-board for foreign governments to hang stuff on, although some have.)
P.S. The very worst thing a military person can do in this area is hang something on that uniform that was not clearly authorized both by regulations and by competent command, backed up by official documentation. So at least the price of deflation is a lot less than the price of inflation. Did you ever know a civilian who left something off his or her résumé that might earn them a better chance of landing the job or promotion they sought? How many civilians “err” in the opposite direction, by adding stuff that never happened?
(Proper Protocol: When the National Anthem is being played or sung, everyone present is supposed to stand, face the flag and remain respectfully silent. In our severely fragmented society, that flag and the nation it represents is almost the last thing that unites us all. Those wearing an official US military uniform are supposed to render a proper US military salute to the flag. Those not wearing an official US military uniform are supposed to place their right hand over their heart (which is considered a “civilian salute” to the flag). Civilians are all those who are not military. (No, police officers and mercenaries are not military.) Also, Memorial Day (last Monday in May) is for honoring dead soldiers (including their graves), while Veterans Day (11 November) is for honoring those who have served or are serving with honor in the US armed forces. And, yes, there is a Big Difference: Memorial Day pays respect to those who sacrificed their lives in wars defending the nation. Veterans Day is for thanking those few who step up for the tough stuff so the rest don’t have to. Responsible adults used to teach this very basic stuff to kids in grade school. “No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.” ― Bryant McGill. But it helps if you first learn a few civil fundamentals so as to avoid putting your ignorance on public display.) Any American junior high or high school that does not require a full year course in American civics for all students has no business calling itself an American school, much less accepting US taxpayer dollars.
I’ll never forget the time I was asked to facilitate a routine meeting between one of our ambassadors in a smaller European country and an Army colonel whose mission (different from mine) required him to engage in some quiet activity in that country for that country’s own defense. Based on past experiences with such things, I told the guy to wear his uniform so as to show nothing was being hidden, civilian rule of the military in our society, etc.. (Military Intelligence senior officer ranks are one grade lower than in other major Army branches (part of an old fear originating in England of the tail wagging the dog, etc.), so technically the guy should have been a one-star general.) Anyway, the ambassador’s dismissive demeanor throughout clearly indicated that he was irritated to be wasting his precious time talking to some lowly colonel, so it was difficult for me to keep my Irish temper in check. The colonel never let on that he even noticed, just went about calmly explaining what he wanted to do and why. The objective was to get the ambassador to sign off on the proposal, which the colonel finally got. But later I had to consider that the ambassador oversaw an office of about thirty people in a cushy European city. The colonel oversaw a unit of 2,500 people – and their families – doing seven different types of highly technical and sensitive functionality in 17 different countries stretching 3,000 miles from Iceland to Turkey, that he routinely visited them all (in civvies), had a PhD in international relations and spoke five languages fluently. The guy had been executing this routine for over 22 years as just his normal day job. He also knew a LOT more about the ambassador’s host country than the ambassador knew. I could tell much of this just by reading his uniform, by getting past his Texas “drawl”. But all the colonel said as we were leaving was a quiet observation: “Toughest part of this job is dealing with inflated egos from my own country.”
Such egos derive mainly from ignorance, but just whose job is it to educate such pompous jerks? A guy like me can easily teach university-level courses that would significantly benefit most of the career employees of the State Department. But why bother? Even the position of Secretary of State and many of State’s senior positions have become nothing more than permanent top-entry affirmative action positions for “entitled” women, just more unearned birthright entitlements for our “special” people, no experience or knowledge or responsibility or demonstrated accomplishment necessary, whose primary purpose is simply to buy votes from their majority “me” sisters through demanded quotas in government “power” positions. All they need are quotas and connections. Over 70% of our ambassadors are nothing but political appointees or rich people who buy their postings with money contributed to election campaigns. There is no requirement for any of them to know anything about the countries to which they are posted, and most can’t even find the country on a map. They just have that link to the White House, and the US military to bail them out if they screw up too royally. No one can teach such people anything; they already know it all. Just ask them. But this is not the only problem. (See Footnote #14.)
Clarifying The Mush
There are many today who seek to fill the air with mighty words, stirring emotion, soaring rhetoric invoking past heroics – all about “our” ideals, “our” principles, “our” destiny” – for political gain. Do you really think that such words spoken by a Barrack Obama or a Hillary Clinton have 1/1,000th of the same weight with a man like me as those of a Jack Kennedy or a Colin Powell – men who led from the very risky front rather than followed the herd from the very safe rear, men who fully understood, and embraced, the fact that with each of their rights came a corresponding responsibility for others? Kennedy and Powell were men who actually knew what they were doing. I know what type of people would vote for each such politician type. Just who is this “we” whom you are so eager to sacrifice for your lofty ideals while risking nothing of your own? Any two-bit twit off the street can scream orders to morons from the very safe rear. And only morons will follow those orders. If you seek to send me into the valley of death to carry out your ideals, to inflate your “power” with my life; you better know what you are doing; you better know all that I know about that valley; you better know where it all will go in the end; and you better be willing to accept your full accountability if it doesn’t end well. You better have proven that you have earned your right to direct men like me by clearly demonstrating your willingness to accept full responsibility, and accountability, for others; your refusal to cheaply shift blame, to others; your declining to garner glory from the accomplishments, of others.
Or all you will see is me walking away. I do NOT exist to bear your responsibility, to inflate your self-image, to bow to your birthright entitlement. I am an American man. George Washington set the standard, and it is that standard that earns my respect, my trust, my life. Not one of my ideals, my principles, my purpose, embraces any hint of birthright entitlement. It is not about “me”; it is solely about “us”. I am a professional American soldier. I offer my expertise, my knowledge, my gifts, my service voluntarily. If you are unwilling to listen to me, do not expect me to listen to you. I am not your damned hired mercenary; what I do, I do not do for money. When you hand that folded flag to my dad and say that his son died defending his nation, you damned well better be speaking the full unvarnished truth. You hand a check to those your hired mercenaries leave behind; you do not hand them a folded flag. Is that clear enough?
Americans are easy suckers for political misuse of their military, and politicians know it. (Citizens must rely on information about distant military events fed to them by their politicians.) In an action reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s naval campaign against the Barbary Coast a century earlier, in 1904 Teddy Roosevelt (who had become President when McKinley was assassinated) was able to secure the nomination at his party’s convention, and the election, by dramatically dispatching the Atlantic Fleet to Morocco. With considerable fanfare, the seven warships with several companies of Marines were used as intimidation to secure the freedom of a single wealthy “American” being held captive for ransom by bandits. Only thirty years later did the public learn that the man was a Greek-American playboy who had renounced his US citizenship to avoid serving in the American Civil War and while captive in Morocco had been held in reasonable comfort for which he later stated that he had no regrets. Helen of Troy he was not. In 1998 President Clinton ordered the US Navy to launch cruise missile attacks against both Afghanistan and Sudan, ostensibly targeting terrorist camps, to divert public attention from his own White House sex scandal. A submarine and several surface warships of the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group launched 75 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea and Arabian Sea; no terrorists were hit in either country, but 6-20 other people were killed. Two years later terrorists nearly sunk a sister US Navy warship (USS Cole) with a single home-made and hand-delivered bomb in the same location from which the 75 missiles had been fired; 17 American sailors were killed and 39 were injured. (“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”) Advantage: Bad Guy.
Almost no human problem on this planet is “unforeseeable”. If it’s important enough to risk human life in military action, than it’s important enough for you to do everything humanly possible, including intelligent forethought, astute leverage and highly professional negotiation, to avert the problem BEFORE military action becomes necessary. Don’t ever forget that when you come to me, it is only after you have failed in your own mission, only after you have neglected to address and solve long known problems while they were still manageable via thorough knowledge and expert diplomacy. Your knowledge, expertise, dedication and professionalism must at least match that which you expect of me. (In February 2014 “everyone” was shocked by Russian soldiers moving into the Crimea. The real shock, and one which now no one will mention, was that those Americans who should have known more than what I did know long in advance did not know, and apparently were caught sleeping at the switch as they blissfully went about trying to manipulate events in the shadows to their advantage. How ignorant, arrogant and incompetent is it possible to get? Anyone with a brain could see it coming at least a decade ago, had to know that their own policies were actually guaranteeing it, and that their engineering a coup d’état in Kiev make it absolutely certain. Hint: You are NOT on the right path when you are so arrogant and stupid as to appoint extreme neophyte political campaign donors or affirmative action celebrities as our nation’s “ambassadors”; all you are saying is that it doesn’t make any difference who these absurd caricatures are since “might makes right”, that the US military will ride in to fix any messes these incompetents create. Do not depend on me to bail you out no matter what you do or don’t do in your job. And you do NOT engender confidence when your “solutions” to the problem you set in motion are simple-minded tactics based on trite theories of economics that only demonstrate your lack of understanding of, for example, both Mother Russia and the Russian people.)
The last thing we should be doing is pushing Russia back 40 years to the “Cold” War; the first thing we should be doing is forging a close working military alliance partnership with Russia to better parry the threat that now faces both of us – Islamic militant extremism.
The worst thing about a single super-power is that it obviates for those who own it the need to think. Just file this inescapable truth away and keep it handy: Whenever you see the US military called into action, you can know full well, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that some civilian “leaders”, stupidly trying to operate far beyond their competence levels, have totally failed at their jobs, and that it’s now time for the US military to try to fix their messes. (You can usually judge the level of incompetence of those “leaders” by the number of generals they fire; generals are the only people in our society who can be held accountable – just for being handy, placing responsibility above rights, and keeping their mouths shut. The Obama Administration has one of the highest rates of firing senior Regular military officers in American history; one of them had even just been appointed to head the CIA shortly before the administration’s spin about the Benghazi event began in the middle of its political campaign narrative of having “defeated al Qaeda”. Politicians using the US military for cheap domestic political purposes is a time-worn American tradition; it’s even a million times more disgusting when in doing so they also simply tell the children, spouses, parents and buddies of thousands of dead and maimed soldiers, “Never mind.” Some American morons even view such cavalier, and cowardly, political acts as denoting “strength”.)
Sometimes it’s helpful to consider the example of large portions of the Iraqi army in 2014. When faced with a rapidly advancing opposing force and their own officers they could not trust, along with corrupt politicians who had been methodically screwing them over for years, they decided to stand down and leave the battlefield. It was not a simple-minded matter of not being brave or proficient or adequately equipped; they used their brains to consciously decide to not sacrifice their lives defending a country they felt was no longer worthy of their lives. The country’s ruler, elected by a majority group, had stupidly purged the government and military of senior people who were not members of his own “entitled” group, i.e., had exercised a “tyranny of the majority” for “affirmative actions” and favoritisms. So soldiers belonging to the minority group – the most professional and best trained – no longer felt they had a stake in their own country, certainly not a stake worth dying for. Such things happen in the real world, even in democracies, when self-serving majority herds focus on “me” at the expense of “us”. There are times today when it’s easy for me to empathize with those Iraqi soldiers. I don’t fault them one bit. Far too many ignorant and comfortable Americans, pontificating safely from the rear without knowing what they’re talking about or doing, have become too accustomed to invoking the royal “we” and telling the parents of dead and maimed soldiers, “Never mind” – after starting elective wars with no strategy and ever-evolving missions that have nothing at all to do with defending the nation. There is no “special” in equal, no aristocracy in meritocracy, no “entitled” in democracy.
“Spare me the grim litany of the realist. Give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.” – General and Secretary of State Colin Powell (quoted in The Irish Times). (Better than most, Powell understood well the US military “can do” spirit, but may have over-estimated its endurance in the face of incompetent and uncaring political “leadership” – which in America declines by the year.)
My best advice is to never be intimidated by, and disparaging of, a US military uniform, but rather try to understand why it looks the way it does, and what it has to say about the person wearing it – be he or she sergeant or general. After that, consider General Colin Powell. (“You break it, you own it.”) That guy had exactly the same demeanor as Chairman of the JCS, with all that fruit salad, as he did as Secretary of State, with absolutely nothing on his suit. He still commanded the same respect, the same respectability, the same trust, the same honor, the same intelligence, as he conveyed to his men for decades after he first led them as a young infantry captain in Vietnam, from the front, by example. He had actually earned all that trust and respect. It’s not the uniform that makes the man or woman; it’s what went into earning it, what went into the story it tells to the careful and knowledgeable reader. Sure, you can always find one or two duds in every bunch, but there is no affirmative action in the US military; those generals do not just pop out of a box for public display at the top, and there is a very wide range of world class expertise, experience and knowledge among them all.
For most of my career I have served in “purple suit” assignments – that is, with members and units of all four US military services (Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force) plus various civilian agencies and departments involved with America’s roles abroad. I don’t much like wearing uniforms, and rarely do, but I do appreciate them. Below is a summary of General Petraeus’ fruit salad. (See Footnote #6.)
Maybe Ms Noonan would have done us all a favor if she had first asked about Petraeus’ uniform BEFORE leaving her snide comment hanging in the air for all the other equally uninformed Americans to accept as fact. Except for all the foreign awards, there is little that is unusual about General Petraeus’ uniform. His uniform is simply a “victim of our times”, as Noonan’s ignorant comment demonstrates. (I’d hazard a guess that Ms Noonan, and everyone else, given the incessant propaganda churned out by women’s many interest groups over the past half-century, would know a lot more about the US military if those millions of dead and maimed soldiers, mostly draftees, throughout America’s history had been women.)
Furthermore, can anyone possibly imagine a General Petraeus screaming with such supreme queenly arrogance to the people’s representatives in Congress, “What difference at this point does it make?!” after four good American women had been killed on his watch? For him, having actually earned his position of leadership, accountability is inherent to responsibility; for actual leaders there is no such thing as unearned birthright entitlement. It is simply not possible to be “responsible” when things go well, but not accountable when things go wrong. Such absurdities are possible only in the perverted minds of the self-anointed “special” people. (See Footnote #11.)
“… but a good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly. If thou would have such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king. And what sayest thou then to my love?”
– Henry V (Act V, Scene 2) of England, to Princess Catherine, the young daughter of Charles VI of France, following Henry’s great victory at the battle of Agincourt (Pas-de-Calais) in 1415 – which he led from the front.
(See “Armed Drones” (footnotes #4 & #5) for a discussion of the role of politics in confusing matters military in the popular mind and why General Petraeus resigned.)
(See “Smiling Faces And Purple Fingers – And Egypt“, posted separately, for some fundamental things about contemporary American wars that few Americans today, including many in that military, understand.)
P.S. You can see a demeanor similar to Powell’s in Jack Keane, who appears often as a defense analyst for the Fox News Channel. You’d never image that Mr. Keane is a retired four-star general with 37 years of infantry service, whose last job in uniform (2003) was Vice Chief of Staff for the US Army. Keane did not come out of West Point, but among his previous commands was also the 101st Airborne Division. General Keane began his military career as an Infantry Airborne platoon leader and company commander in Vietnam, and later served in such hot zones as Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. Watching this guy today you get a sense that he had definitely earned over a very long period in the arena the trust and respect that his personality now simply commands. This
intelligent, knowledgeable, confident and reserved man always led from the front, and he still sets the example. It is who he is. Jack Keane is an American soldier.
* Pay and allowances for members of the US military, by the rank shown to all on their uniforms, is a matter of public law, very easily determined by anyone with an interest in such things. But note that pay and allowances for the military are for a 24/7 job, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and that pay and allowances are not the only things that are matters of public law. For example, those military members with dependent families are paid considerably more allowances than those paid to single service members – for the same job. No one should ever view only a person’s pay, in any position, military or civilian. In the 21st century it is only appropriate and honest to consider compensation – which is the total of basic pay, plus extra financial allowances and benefits, plus the value of non-financial benefits such as housing, medical care, day care, schools, insurance, retirement pension, survivors’ benefits, tax deductions, etc.. How much more is a three bedroom home worth than a bunk bed in a barracks? If the major needs people for a weekend detail, do you think he’s going to draw them from the barracks or from the family housing area? Full compensation for most American jobs today can easily more than double the amount quoted as “pay”. This is also true of government bureaucrat jobs. A key factor in such compensation, including how it’s taxed, is “children”. Focusing solely on “pay” (or “salary”), rather than on “compensation”, is primarily a cheap “feminist” or union propaganda trick. There are no unions in the US military, so “feminists” work a quite ignorant Congress, and that has had truly tremendous impact on military compensation since 1975. (The biggest result, of course, has been to make others responsible for picking up the tab for the choices women make.)
And those who make out like the most shamefully privileged bandits on the planet are those employed by government who play “week-end warrior” (part-time soldier) long enough to qualify for military retired pay and benefits (20 years) – while also collecting bureaucrat retired pensions and benefits, the most generous in the nation.
Footnote #1 Service In The US Military Footnote #2. “Savings” Of The “Peace Dividend”
Footnote #3. “Nobility” Of The British Aristocracy
Footnote #4. World War I And America
Footnote #5. Eisenhower As A Military Officer
Footnote #6. Fruit Salad. General PETRAEUS
Footnote #7. Trust and Information Warfare
Footnote #8. America’s Most Powerful Bigot. Rep Schroeder and the CIB
Footnote #9. Married, With Children. Military Spouses
Footnote #10. The Purple Heart.
Footnote #11. Accountability In The US Military
Footnote #12. The Vietnam Draft.
Footnote #13. Civilian Police SWAT Teams.
Footnote #14. Civilians Floundering Beyond Their Military Depth
Footnote #1. Service In The US Military. In the past, the US drafted or enlisted huge numbers of young able-bodied men to meet wartime requirements built around a relatively small core of career people, and then immediately released those “surge” people back to civilian life once the wars were concluded. But over the past half century the US has maintained a quite large standing force that has increasingly played a rather constant “world cop” role in the world – even though there is no hint of such a role for the nation or its citizens anywhere in the US Constitution.* While the size of this force has lowered the numbers needed for “surge” requirements, this ever evolving role has dramatically increased the need for core professionals (Regular) far more expert in both highly advanced military matters and extremely sophisticated global affairs than at any time in the past. No military force in history has ever approached such levels, and the demands on the capabilities of senior people is significant. But it also places significant demands on all military people from the lowest ranks on up.
In recent times a lot of incorrect impressions about service in the US military has arisen in the popular culture, mainly through false statements made by interest group lobbyists, politicians and people with their own dubious agendas. In recent times many of these statements seem to concern the role of the US military in immigration. Unfortunately even journalists today are not well enough informed about the US military to challenge those false statement, so they become popularly accepted as fact. This becomes more likely as most Americans, no longer required or even expected to contribute anything of themselves to their nation – “all rights and no responsibilities” – now regard military service as strictly for “someone else” and thus of no consequence or interest to “me”. There is a general impression, for example, that military people are from the bottom rungs of American society, are barely educated people of limited mental abilities who couldn’t make it in the broader world. As self-serving as this might be to those holding such opinions, the truth is completely opposite of this nonsense.
Here are some basic facts.
The US military is the world’s largest, most complex, most expensive, and most technologically advanced entity on the planet. It requires very competent people expert in a very wide range of specialties in order to carry out its many global missions on behalf of the American people. There are hundreds of different types of jobs in the US military, and just as in the larger society they fall into various levels of complexity and require various levels of education, training and proficiency. The US military will train people to fill those positions, provided they possess the requisite native abilities and traits at the start that will contribute positively to the team effort.
Due to minimum physical, mental, educational, moral and psychological requirements, more than 80% of young American citizens today cannot qualify to serve in any branch of the US military. So the US military must recruit the people it needs from the remaining 18-19%. This requires a very concerted effort to find willing qualified people wherever it can, including among recent immigrants. However there are also certain legal restrictions that further confine recruitment possibilities.
Broadly speaking, people wishing to join the US military as enlisted personnel must be US citizens possessing at least a high school diploma, be physically fit, have no criminal record or history of illegal drug use or psychological infirmities. Beyond that, they must pass a series of extremely valid testing mechanisms demonstrating an ability to quickly learn new tasks in an intense competitive environment. Those wishing to serve as commissioned officers must meet much higher minimum standards.
The US military is often seen as a quick route to US citizenship, but the facts are not quite so simple. It is also often stated that “undocumented immigrants” are allowed to enlist in a specified branch of the armed services (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard). In fact, this is not allowed by US law, so if it happens, it was a mistake by the recruiter. Once it is determined that the person is “undocumented”, he or she will be discharged from the military.
When a person wants to enlist in the military, his or her name is run through a national immigration database. If the person is determined not to have status as a citizen or “green card holder”, i.e., a lawful permanent resident, he or she will be turned away. (Since it is possible the person could be referred to immigration authorities, possibly to be deported, very few “undocumented” people take this risk.) A “green card holder” is someone who has been granted legal residency status by US immigration officials and issued a green identification card confirming that status. (Do not confuse a residency “green card” with the blue-green military – “United States Uniformed Services” – ID card.)
Non-citizens such as green card holders are somewhat limited in the jobs they can perform in the military, since only US citizens can obtain the national security clearances required for the majority of military positions (at either the Confidential, Secret, Top Secret or Compartmented levels). Those requiring a national security clearance for their positions must first “pass” a federal background investigation tailored to the level of security clearance required; such investigations are repeated periodically throughout a person’s career in such positions. A person who has their security clearance withdrawn due to unsatisfactory information that surfaces in a background investigation must also be removed from their position and either be assigned to a position not requiring a national security clearance or removed from military service.
Each branch of service, however, does have a number of enlisted job occupations that do not require citizenship or security clearances, but all do require a green card. Each year about 8,000 non-citizens do join the US military. A 2011 study found that roughly 4% of enlisted personnel in active-duty military service are non-citizens. In 2017 there were about 60,000 green card holders serving on active duty in the US military – among a 1,280,000 total (0.4%, less that 1%, of the total US population).
A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, allowed the military to recruit non-citizens with special skills, such as health care professionals or those with language and cultural skills (primarily in conflict regions of the world which are not well represented in the US military). The program was created in 2008 by the Secretary of Defense to help the military meet its recruitment goals in these high-need areas and permitted recruitments of people without legal status. The MAVNI program was widely seen as a success, but after six years the Pentagon announced in 2014 that the program had been suspended indefinitely due to security concerns.
In 2012 the Obama administration launched a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that gives limited immigration benefits to individuals who entered the US as children. Although individuals in the DACA program are authorized to work, they cannot join the military. There may be exceptions under the MAVNI program in the future, but not currently.
The Draft. All non-citizen males ages 18 to 25 living in the US must register with the Selective Service. Even male “undocumented immigrants” who can’t enlist in the military are required to register with Selective Service. This includes the 1,000,000-plus people who arrived in comfort from western Europe and then overstayed their visas to also become permanent “undocumented” or illegal aliens in America. (Most applicable people here came to buy an education and/or dodge their native country draft.)
None of these contemporary facts deters all sorts of non-military social interest groups from viewing the US military as their very own captive Petri dish of “brainless idiots” available for whatever social engineering they wish to impose on it, safe in the knowledge that this group alone lacks many of the rights enjoyed by all other American citizens. (They give up those rights as a price of volunteering their lives in service of the nation.) “You don’t have to ‘win hearts and minds’ or ‘win a majority vote’ with the military; all you have to do is dictate to it. And since the majority of its members are just those hated white heterosexual males, why not?” Losers everywhere just love this aspect of the US military, and cheap politicians can even use it to buy the votes of those losers. (It’s almost always a case of lucrative financial benefit to be had via double standards imposed on others which would never be tolerated being imposed on them.) Some of us have been living with this stuff constantly since the Vietnam War and the Draft ended in 1975 and women began pouring into a peacetime military to earn college tuition benefits as long as there was zero chance of another war. The special practices and procedures and regulations and double standards women demanded during the period 1975-85 have now become institutionalized and copied by all other “special interest groups”. It’s just an integral part of the job “with which you WILL learn to live.” So you do. Civilians who go ballistic if anyone tries to tell them what they should wear to work have no problem at all telling others how they must live every aspect of their lives in order to risk those lives defending them from foreign enemies. “It’s all about the rights. Of others. And it makes me feel good imposing them.” To date, however, “undocumented immigrants” have not been one of those groups, and green card holders seem to do quite well without special rules.
*It’s worth noting that federal military personnel are sworn only to defend the United States Constitution.
Footnote #2. “Savings” Of The “Peace Dividend”. At the end of the “Cold” War, around 1990-1994, among those who were fired en masse during the “Great Peace Dividend” rush to shift money from Defense to domestic wants were professional-level language-qualified “people experts” in such fields as interrogation (of the non- enhanced” variety), psychological operations, civil and governmental affairs, linguistics and culture (including interpreters and translators), tactical-level human intelligence operations (of both defensive counter-intelligence and offensive intelligence collection), intelligence analysis, vetting, training and equipping indigenous police and security forces, and a range of similar challenging activities involved with and critical to static “nation-building” (stabilization, counter-insurgency, occupation, etc.) unconventional warfare (or whatever new label you want to assign to it – such as “asymmetric”) – all of which was clearly described in the 1970s Army manuals on such extremely difficult types of war. (Some of these specialties were shifted to the National Guard in order to maintain some bare-bones minimum-level capability.*)
As General McChrystal points out in his book, “My Share Of The Task: A Memoir“, these are the very unconventional warfare people with whom we should have gone into Afghanistan in 2002 and into Iraq in 2003 – just ten years after they were deemed by civilian “experts” (in State, CIA and Congress) as “no longer needed”. The argument was that, since the global ideology of Soviet communism had been defeated, and Europe was safe, there no longer was a need to fight wars to win “hearts and minds” of others; that short-sighted argument never considered the rise of another global ideology long simmering right there in the Muslim world – just one decade later. It’s easy to fire a million people, and you can do it rather quickly. But, once they’re gone, it can take a quarter of a century to re-build them – IF the politicians ever make the decision to do so. (Most politicians today don’t even know about such things.)
As the military was cut in half at the end of the “Cold” War, State, CIA and other agencies like USAID were provided significant additional funding and personnel spaces in order to provide some of this capability in the future, plus funding to hire commercial contractors, but all, and especially State (and “allies”), proved themselves unable to do so when the time came. “You need a ‘secure environment’ for civilians to do those things.” Well, duh. If you had a secure environment, you wouldn’t need to do a lot of that stuff; you do that stuff to get a secure environment. (It’s a logic thing. And the same logic applies to civilian contractors.) It’s incredibly easy to kill people and destroy things, especially for a few minutes from a very safe distance; it’s enormously more difficult to work with living people to build lasting worthwhile things during years of armed conflict. This is the most difficult job there is. Anyone who thought that civilians and European “allies”, or even part-time soldiers or commercial companies, could do it was just nuts. Lesson: If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it! And don’t ask others to do it, either. (Of course, the original mission for Afghanistan was simply to destroy and route al Qaeda and dismantle the Taliban; it was not to build a nation, which no one sane deemed possible at the outset anyway. And then really stupid domestic politics over Iraq thoroughly confused both wars.)
US Army “Teeth”: The Regular (“active”) Army’s primary ground combat “teeth” currently consists of 10 infantry divisions that are now organized into independently deployable subordinate brigades or regiments. A division has around 20-24,000 people, while a brigade has around 3,300 – 3,900 people (depending on the type of equipment it uses). A regiment consists of about 1,000 – 3,000 men. Individual brigades and regiments can be configured for various types of jobs, and they then can be combined into “battle groups” (or task forces) for specific missions. (This type of organization dramatically increases combat flexibility, while also fostering greater unit cohesiveness by keeping people permanently assigned to their “home” regiment – while also retaining the divisional organization for large scale missions.) In addition to these ten large divisions, there are a number of smaller units for specialized infantry missions. (Under current plans, the US Army is once again “down-sizing”, so some divisions will lose some of their subordinate units.) Parts of many of these units are committed to specific “trip-wire” missions like Korea all over the world. (Notice that in many cases mechanized armor is now integral to infantry and that “cavalry” today means helicopters.)
Combat Divisions (10):
infantry: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, plus 25th (Hawaii Pacific)
specialized infantry: 10th Mountain
airborne infantry: 82nd (AF fixed wing), 101st (Army helicopters)
cavalry infantry: 1st
armored infantry: 1st
Additional Independent Combat Brigades or Regiments:
airborne infantry: 173rd Brigade (“NATO” Europe)
cavalry infantry: 2nd, 3rd regiments
armored cavalry: 11th Regiment
Special Operations Forces (SOF):
Special Forces (SF): 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th groups (oriented geographically) (plus 2 NG)
“Delta” or Combat Applications Group (CAG) Ranger: 75th Regiment
Aviation: 160th Regiment (airborne) (Night Stalkers)
Airborne Infantry Direct Mission Support units:
psyops: 4th, 8th groups, 3rd Battalion (airborne)
civil affairs (airborne)
(When deployed, these units require vulnerable supply trains (Transportation) usually escorted by Military Police (MP) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams to provide security; this fundamental reality ensures that these personnel, too, will often be engaged in infantry-type combat. Their most valuable air support is provided by Army Apache gunship and Blackhawk transport helicopter crews, and surveillance drones.)
The men of these units are America’s Regular Army combat soldiers. Almost all, with the exception of the Special Forces and civil affairs units, are fluid offensive conventional warfare units expected to do double-duty as static defensive unconventional warfare units. Except for the 173rd in Italy, each unit has its own rather closed military “home” post at various locations around the US that is constantly maintained by separate caretaker units just like the complete infrastructure of small civilian cities. Almost all of their men have had at least two 12- to 15-month tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere since 2001, many three or four, such tours – more combat time than any World War II soldier. Few are polished guys, but most are good men. Not big fans of publicity, some are camera-shy in the extreme. They constitute just 0.0078% of the US population, so it’s not likely that you’ll encounter one of them. But, if you do, you might shake his hand. You don’t have to say anything more than, “Nice to meet you.”
The US Army could DOUBLE the size of that “teeth” simply by eliminating $125 Billion in perpetual five-year WASTE in Defense Department overhead administrative costs, 70% of which goes to very well-paid civilians and contractors. The Pentagon has almost as many people doing administrative stuff as it has people serving on active military duty, and even a full quarter of THEM are doing administrative stuff, too (mainly providing the data the civilians play with to “justify” their jobs). Although no audit of the Defense Department has been conducted for decades, the average civilian administrative job at the Pentagon costs taxpayers more than $200,000, including salary and benefits. Annual basic pay and benefits for an Army sergeant E-5 infantryman is 1/6th of this, or about $33,000. And, without him, there would be no need for the admin people. Something obviously is very wrong with this picture.
The Pentagon does not fight wars; theoretically, it provides rear area administrative support to the military combat units based elsewhere which are sent out to actually fight wars. This is the largest and most over-staffed bureaucratic kingdom on planet Earth. This monstrosity is so huge that politicians love to use it as a hiding place to put thousands of political campaign workers and donors on the government dole, complete with big salary and benefits, impressive office digs and staffs, and lots of self-inflated power and prestige – all doing nothing actually useful. And still this huge bureaucratic army of pencil-pushers manages to lose track of many billions of the people’s dollars and equipment every year, ten times that amount during overseas wars. They have proven themselves completely incapable of conducting an audit of their own bureaucracy for decades – even when specifically directed to do so by the US Congress. The numbers of their senior members who leave to take even much higher-paying jobs with commercial contractors in return for enabling those companies to land extremely lucrative government contracts is legend. Over half of Defense Department civilian positions could be eliminated tomorrow, and the loss would actually improve what the kingdom is supposed to do by the end of the week. But this is also the most indestructible entity ever invented by mankind; like cockroaches they would still be humming as loud as ever a day after nuclear Armageddon. This kingdom comes with ready-made sacrificial lambs whenever the cost-cutting gods roar: “Just throw a few general officers and their military units to the wolves. That’s WHY we take away their citizen rights when they put on the uniform. And they don’t complain or make a fuss, either.” Whenever America sends forth her military, the first impediment they must overcome is the mountain of bureaucratic ants that feeds ravenously off of them back home – all while vicariously wrapping themselves in the flag carried by that military.
(*There seems to be some vague sense among Americans that their soldiers are now “hired mercenaries” “on contract” who are paid to run around the world doing all sorts of things that have absolutely nothing to do with defending the nation. Part of this nonsense comes from the end of the Draft and the fact that we now have an all-volunteer military force. But actually, the only thing that has really changed with the military in our society, thanks to the whiny Baby Boomers, is that now really huge numbers of Americans don’t have to even consider the possibility that they will ever be required to do anything at all for their nation. The US military was always based around a large volunteer career professional core, which National Guard, Reserves and Draftees augmented when needed. This is still mostly the case, with the exception that the Regular military no longer relies on Draftees for surge augmentation, but instead on Recruitments, and the professional core has grown significantly more professional and sophisticated. (Pay and benefits have also been raised significantly to make it worthwhile for highly qualified members to remain full-time and maintain a large standing professional force.) Furthermore, all Regular military people under federal law are still sworn only to defend the US Constitution, and that Constitution, citing “national defense”, does not say one single word about “World Cop”. Professional members of the US military serve willingly, but they are NOT contract-hire mercenaries.)
(The frequent need for augmented military personnel has also placed a much greater reliance on part-time state National Guard personnel than in the past. These NG personnel, who fill a wide assortment of different types of specialized units throughout all of America’s fifty states under their respective governor’s command, are similar to the part-time military personnel who constitute the vast majority of Europe’s military forces. Similar types of NG units, such as Military Police, are linked by a separate NG command structure that crosses state lines; this ensures that widely dispersed individual units in certain specialties remain fully capable within universal standards. When “called up” for national-level duty, these units and their personnel are removed from individual state control and “federalized” under one national command authority. When released from national-level duty, they revert back to individual state command. This is the way that Europe’s military forces should operate. By contrast, Regular personnel and units remain permanently under national command.)
Military Installations. The following are a few items about military installations (or “reservations”), especially those in the US:
Each of the above units has a “home base”, a large US Army post (or “installation”), where they are considered “tenants”. Most US Army combat divisions consist of from 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers, commanded by a major general (two stars), with a clear chain of command within the division all the way down to the smallest squad or single soldier. The division is responsible for its own training, equipment and readiness. But there is a second, separate, chain of command on post, and the post commander is usually also a general (usually a brigadier general – one-star). Those posts are actually small cities, housing all sorts of military personnel and their families, plus civilian personnel, administering to the needs of well over 60,000 Americans and the full mission requirements of tenant units.
It’s sometimes helpful to view the post commander as a city mayor. Each post has its own caretaker “government” or command structure that runs the installation, and keeps things running even when tenant units are deployed for combat or training missions overseas. The post command consists of all elements (called “permanent party” personnel) that would be necessary for running a small civilian city. Actually the post command has responsibilities and capabilities that considerably exceed an American civilian city government, since it is also responsible for housing, health, education, safety, welfare, recreation, etc., of all assigned personnel and their families. Such post commands always include full-scope medical units and facilities as well as MP units for base policing and installation security. Medical units include fully accredited doctors, and MP units include fully professional (and armed) policemen. On every such large US military post can be found military fire departments, jails, medical clinics (or hospitals), infrastructure engineers, dentists, schools, court rooms, 911 emergency dispatchers, theaters, libraries, gas stations, ambulance service, etc..
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have similar delineation of post (or base) responsibilities and capabilities that are separate from tenant units on post. The Air Force base command is called an “Air Base Wing” – a non-flying element which typically has over 5,000 military personnel plus civilian hires. Such posts or bases are federal government reservations that set them apart from local, municipal or state authority, and they usually rely on working agreements with such other neighboring government entities for a range of contingencies. On-post, military personnel are directly subject to the UCMJ, while civilians are subject to federal law.
Since Congress is constantly playing with military personnel strengths, as if they were just turning on or off a water spigot, most of these post (or base) capabilities experience frequent manning shortfalls, so the tendency in recent times is to rely more and more on civilian contract hire personnel to fill in where and when needed. It’s easy to reduce military personnel, nearly impossible to fire civilians.
On post, there is no more need for military personnel (except for those specifically responsible and trained for safety and security) to be armed than for civilians off-post. The military has its own policemen, including detectives, who are fully conversant in both military and civilian law, and they have full arrest powers on post. (A US military reservation is NOT the same as other federal buildings elsewhere.)
Footnote #3. “Nobility” of the British Aristocracy. Just consider the “nobility” of a British aristocracy using its powerful military to wage one-sided wars against China – to protect its enormous profits from the sale of opium grown and processed cheaply in its occupied colonies in India to many millions of addicted Chinese citizens. British nobility once ran the world’s most powerful, far-reaching and ruthless drug cartel. While the starving Irish were fleeing British oppression in their own homeland by the millions, the British military, manned mostly by Indian soldiers, was also waging “the opium wars” against China to protect the exploitive profits of its entitled aristocracy operating the British East India “trading company” – inside China. The terms imposed from China’s defeat in those two wars ushered in China’s “Century Of Humiliation” under supremely arrogant western powers, a century they are unlikely to ever forget. While Western people have difficulty remembering what happened last year, much of the rest of the world remembers details passed down and taught through millennia. And they do not forget.
There are only 22 small countries scattered around the globe, mostly located far from seas, that were not, at one time or another, often repeatedly, invaded by these “special” people on behalf of their arrogant birthright entitled British nobility – a nobility to whom human death and misery were of little consequence. Invaded countries include Russia, China, India, Egypt, Brazil and America. There is something just inherently corrupt about unearned birthright entitlement. It was the British development of the steam-powered loom during the early 19th century that gave birth to the industrial revolution; such looms quickly became the foundation of the exploding British textile industry. That industry had long been heavily dependent on cotton grown on plantations in the American south – where the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 to supply the raw material for the British textile industry forced an ever growing slave population. With these two inventions, cotton became a tremendously profitable business, creating many fortunes in the Antebellum South on the supply end and among the British aristocracy on the manufacturing end. The number of slaves rose in concert with the increase in American cotton production needed to feed the growth of the British textile industry. By 1860, just before the American Civil War began, the Southern states – the original British colonies – were providing two-thirds of the world’s supply of cotton and up to 80% of the crucial British market. And the foundation of both the supply and manufacturing industries were slaves in the American South needed to grow and pick the plant. By 1860 approximately one in three Southerners was a slave. Not only was the British aristocracy responsible for the introduction of slaves in its original American colonies, it was also a fully complicit partner in the later explosive growth of slavery in those former colonies. Aristocratic “nobility”, indeed, lies in the eye of the beholder. There is nothing at all noble about birthright entitlement; it’s just oppressive greed of the self-anointed “special” people.
Women. America has been very busy building its own birthright entitled nobility. The 17 years from age 18 to age 35 are the ideal ages for military service. Those same 17 years are also the ideal ages for women to give birth and raise children. There are a total of 35,250,000 American women who are between the ages of 18 and 35. Society depends greatly on women between the ages of 18 and 34 to produce at least the two children necessary to replace one man and one women and keep the society barely viable. (It is actually necessary today for women to have at least 3 children each – who will become future taxpayers needed to pay for the entitlement benefits expected of one aging man and one aging woman.) The first obligation of any society is to ensure its own survival.
Yet 31% of American women ages 30 to 34 (3,089,000 women) have never given birth. And this trend, started by the narcissistic Baby Boomer generation, is growing significantly; an incredible 54% of younger American women ages 25 to 29 (5,651,000 women) have never given birth, either. A total of 19,035,000 women 18-34 have simply “out-sourced” their most fundamental role in society to “someone else”. There is absolutely nothing about such women that earns them the “special” status in society they keep claiming for themselves. (The primary solution chosen by society is to import millions of Third World women who WILL have and raise the necessary children; these women actually earn their “special” status.) There is absolutely no justification at all why childless women are not expected or required to meet the same standards as men, including registering for the Draft and dying in America’s ground combat wars in equal numbers as men. Today 19,000,000 is a really huge number of American women claiming unearned birthright entitlement for which they are simply not eligible, who are simply “freeloading”. You can field a pretty large army of cannon fodder if you had 19,000,000 warm body women from whom to choose. (We can send some of the women soldiers off into the jungle to find kidnapped living girls, while we send some of the men soldiers off to track down whoever butchered all those dismembered dead boys.)
Furthermore, there is zero reason to defend a society whose members don’t even care about sustaining it at home. Why should brave soldiers risk their lives in war for self-involved people who can’t even be bothered to have and raise enough children? Just what makes such a society worth defending?
Footnote #4. World War I and America. The privileged patriarch Woodrow Wilson built his political reputation espousing the breaking down of the trappings of class privilege. It was a strange philosophy for a man born to a slave-owning Scots-Irish-American family in Virginia on the eve of the Civil War in 1856. After obtaining his law degree, he taught in no less than four exclusive private colleges – Cornell in New York, Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania, Wesleyan in Connecticut and Princeton in New Jersey – before becoming president of Princeton and running for Governor and then President. He never served in the military or labored with his hands. Surrounded by adoring women in his own family, he paternalistically also of course never thought to apply his political philosophy to the half of the population that was privileged female, or of applying equal responsibilities to those equal opportunities. Some classes and groups obviously were predisposed to certain roles. (This needy guy even married his second wife a year after his first wife died – all during his first term in office.)
So Wilson, an elitist Southern politician who had won re-election on the promise to keep America out of the war, typically had no military experience of his own and three children who were all girls never expected to risk anything, much less their lives in war.* In the early days of the war in Europe, the British had cut the trans-Atlantic telegraph lines between America and the European continent, forcing all information about the war, including press reports that shaped public opinion in America, to thereafter transit British-controlled cables. The British intelligence service also withheld intelligence applicable to the US that it acquired until it would have the greatest impact on undermining the Wilson Administration’s determination to remain “neutral”. For example, despite their lies to the contrary the British knew the Lusitania carried munitions and still allowed it to transit British waters unprotected, and thus easily vulnerable to German submarines. Still, American public opinion, while very anti-German, remained very opposed to getting involved with the non-stop horrors that were consuming the European continent. But England and France already owed the US over $2 Billion – which would never be re-paid if Germany won the war. ($2 Billion in 1917 is today about $35,250,000,000, a really enormous sum even for the US government at that time.) So, after three years of determined effort to remain out of the war, and one month after the Russian government collapsed and withdrew from the war, Wilson went up to the Hill and made a speech in Congress. In April 1917 the American politicians finally saluted the Brits and their French allies and declared war against the Central Powers, and then turned to the Army to figure out how to do it. This was easier said than done. For the previous two years the American defense industry had ramped up to maximum capacity filling orders from the British, French and Russians, and had almost no reserve capacity to suddenly also fill American requirements, too. Even ship-building was maxed out, requiring the US government to place an order for a huge obsolete fleet of 700 wooden, rather than steel, steam cargo ships to ferry US soldiers across the Atlantic. But the first thing the very small US Army needed was millions of men to ferry.
Once the politicians had made the decision, the government immediately made very heavy use of propaganda to change public opinion from 10-1 against getting involved to overwhelmingly pro-war and also to sell the war bonds needed to finance the war. (This was a time when government still felt obligated to pay for its foreign adventures by taxing those engaged in it, and not simply borrow the necessary funds in the shadows from their children and grandchildren without giving those future generations a say in the matter. By 2003 the Baby Boomers would carry this despicable practice to new depths by actually rewarding current voters even further with a whole new entitlement benefit – prescription drugs (also paid for by their children and grandchildren) – when their nation sent “someone else” off to war.) To garner the necessary domestic support the American government picked up where the British government had begun – with tightly edited “news” propaganda under master American propagandist George Creel, a former journalist and politician raised and educated by his mother, and his “Committee on Public Information” – a bureaucracy that rapidly grew to over 100,000 experts trained in public perception manipulation.
And, for good measure, the government also used a new Espionage Act to aggressively stifle dissent, and within a year followed that up with the even far more severe Sedition Act. The propaganda also served to place German-Americans in the cross-hairs of wide-spread bigotry, briefly replacing the Irish-American targets of the previous century. (The next time around it fell to the Japanese to be the targets, probably for no better reason than that there were just too many Germans and Italians for the FBI and the Army to handle; besides, the large numbers of young men in these two groups were needed to fill an enormous infantry. Every major war needs a domestic bogeyman, real or manufactured, to help justify the other draconian measures imposed on everyone.) A 22-year old Justice Department bureaucrat named J. Edgar Hoover was put in charge of registering German-Americans with photographs and signed loyalty oaths, and huge internment camps in Utah, Georgia and North Carolina were constructed to house anyone deemed “disloyal” or a “threat to the nation’s security”. Wilson did nothing to temper the growing anti-German hysteria, or the government’s predilection to imprison anyone even hinting at anything less than devout support of the war. Like Creel, Hoover himself, of course, never served. One of the very first things that bureaucrats, who rule everyone else’s life, do is declare themselves too “vital” (i.e., “special”) to do things like engage in dangerous military stuff along with lesser mortals, and the first function such “public servants” shed in government is the “servant” part. (Hoover, raised by his disciplinarian mother, never left the city where he was born and grew up – the Magic Kingdom populated by privileged politicians and bureaucrats known as Washington, DC. His route from student to government official while bypassing military service was also typical of the “special” people – a law degree.)
But the Regular “standing” Army in 1917 was a mere 120,000 in strength, barely large enough to fight the Mexican bandit Poncho Villa, and the war in Europe needed many millions of infantry soldiers, and needed them last month. (At that time the domestic mercenary force of the Pinkerton Company was larger and better armed than was the US Army.) Despite incessant campaigns to ensure that everyone understood that volunteering for military duty was another of those many masculine responsibilities, few volunteered. So, with little interest among women, the nation went to work drafting young men by the hundreds of thousands, giving them a few weeks of fundamental training, mainly in group discipline and drills using wooden sticks as rifles, and then shipping them off to France, where they got their war-fighting training with the actual weapons they were to use in the war, next month – including deeply flawed French machineguns rather than American versions deemed “too superior to risk falling into enemy hands.” (Think about the level of that bureaucratic stupidity for a moment.) Most of the drafted American soldiers were first- or second-generation immigrants from the same European countries at war, many of whom were now expected to kill their former countrymen – who were not at war with America. The government even came up with another term for the male-only draft – “selective service”. On its very first day, 20 July 1917, a total of 680,000 men were “selected for service” – on one single day. While young men were being drafted like cattle, American women were marching to demand a federal law that would dictate what they had not yet been able to secure via the democratic process in many of their individual home states – the universal right to vote. (They did not demand, however, to be included in the universal responsibility of the draft.) The government even made frequent use of informants and raids to ferret out possible male draft dodgers. One raid in New York, starting at the train station during morning rush hour, rounded up and interrogated almost a half million men over three days, detained 60,000 of them, and, in the end, netted 199 draft dodgers. (Just imagine the colossal martyr’s shrine that would have to be constructed later if 500,000 women had been rounded up and interrogated about their civic responsibilities and obligations to the nation.)
Over 20% of the men sent off to war in Europe were recent legal immigrants who were not yet American citizens – which seemed then to everyone a reasonable price of admittance. (This was before the Baby Boomers decided that defending the nation was something they could simply hire “someone else” to do – which rapidly evolved into having that “someone else” play world cop mainly providing vicarious self-esteem to Americans who do nothing. Of course, if you have nothing more invested in your nation than a few dollars buried in your tax bill, it’s easy to give it away. Today as a professional American soldier there are precious few Americans I would be so stupid to depend on, to trust, when the chips are down. All Americans make grand statements, but talk is the cheapest thing there is. The “special” people actually believe that they pay me to die; none would hesitate to betray me and my nation, and many, including many in the nation’s capital, do so routinely.)
President Wilson placed all of these men pouring into France by the hundreds of thousands under command of General John J. Pershing, and his American forces quickly beefed up the lines facing east – very large numbers of expendable warm-body masculine cannon-fodder. Just eleven months after the war declaration by the US Congress, millions of American “Sammies” began to demonstrate that what they lacked in training and experience, they could make up in mettle, and numbers. Americans called them “doughboys” (for unknown reasons, but probably originating with the British), while the French called them “Sammies” (from “Uncle Sam”). (Later in the next war they would become “G.I.s” for “government issued” masculine warm bodies.) The Americans had to buy most of the equipment they needed, much of which had been manufactured by Americans, from the French and British. Even considering their logistics and technology, arguably the most important thing they bought with them was a very large and well equipped medical corps. When German forces, freed up in the east when Russia withdrew from the war, launched a major offensive in the west in March 1918 that punched through Allied lines and moved to within 50 miles of Paris, Pershing committed huge numbers of these men to combat even though he knew they were not yet ready. Their casualties were huge. The battle of Belleau Wood on the Marne in June, spearheaded by tenacious US Marines, stopped the German advance even as French forces on both of their flanks buckled – at a US cost of 1800 dead and 8000 wounded, in a single battle. But the Central Powers never regained the initiative. A month later the Allies launched their own major counter-offensive that would end the war in four more months of chaotic mayhem and slaughter. Pershing, who wanted only forward movement, in frontal assaults, was highly intolerant of any American reverse motion or stagnation in place, and this intolerance extended to everyone under his command. Unlike other army air forces, for example, American pilots were not issued parachutes so as to discourage “defeatism” during air combat; so, when hit and disabled, the expendable pilots perished with their planes. Ground soldiers could take momentary cover in mud-filled artillery shell craters, but there would be no static trench warfare by the American military. The only thing that made sense of such a brute frontal “strategy” was the huge numbers of men continuously available to Pershing to keep throwing into the meat grinder. At this point in the war Pershing knew that he could out-last his enemy by sheer attrition alone.
Starting at nearly zero, from a total population of 92,000,000, America in less than a year sent 4,750,000 men across the Atlantic into WW I – the equivalent of 16,500,000 today. About 117,000 of them died, and another 204,000 were wounded – in just eight months of combat (March-November 1918). That’s a casualty rate of 13,375 men per week. (American war casualties were dwarfed by those for British, French, German and Russian soldiers who had been senselessly killing each other across stagnant lines far longer.) As their names daily filled the pages of the nation’s newspapers, those military war casualties were to somehow balance the 128 pre-warned American civilians who had died when the Lusitania was sunk. Here the “Gold Star Mothers”, with their black arm bands, were born – women (but not men) who could use their dead sons to attain sainthood, victimization and unassailability – all in one stroke of an enemy’s bullet on some distant muddy battlefield, which also enabled the boy to “buy the farm.” Massive artillery shelling, machineguns, poisonous gas and a deadly flu were the principle agents of death. (And evacuated wounded soldiers bought the flu back to the home front, where most of the deaths were confined to military bases and hospitals, but did take a very heavy toll in mining and construction camps across America where impoverished immigrant hard labor still toiled in tight and deplorably unsanitary conditions.) The “Sammies” could not have done it alone, but they were the critical nearly inexhaustible difference that tipped the balance of the war and bought it finally to an end. The British, French and Germans had nearly exhausted their ability to send more soldiers to the front lines, but the Americans were just getting started, now pouring an incredible 250,000 soldiers into France every month, with an unbroken supply line extending all the way back to Butte Montana. The Germans did the math and soon conveyed a desire to conclude an armistice with the Americans on the basis of Wilson’s earlier “14 Points” proposal. Over Pershing’s objections (favoring first a complete military occupation of Germany), Wilson accepted. The guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Then came the six month process of politicians bargaining the particulars of a formal treaty – 70 delegates from 27 nations on the winning side participating in negotiations among themselves for a treaty that would then simply be imposed on the losers.
The fact that America could continue to pour into the war millions of healthy and strong young men, plus unlimited supplies of war munitions, and depend on them to fight ferociously regardless of their own casualties, was lost on no one. Drafted inexperienced American soldiers had handed President Wilson the world on a silver platter in a quite dominant position at the table. And he blew it, first to the “nameless statesmen” of other nations, especially those from Britain and France who wanted to severely punish Germany while bailing their own countries out of near-total bankruptcy and dividing up the world as if many tens of millions of actual human people and groups and ethnicities were not behind that map rashly redrawn on a piece of paper. And, oh yes, despite quite loud protestations, “we’ll pretend to be unaware of certain inconvenient truths like the Turks’ genocide of 1,500,000 Armenian civilians.” Next Wilson blew it at home when some of the drafted soldiers quartered and trained at bases in the South while awaiting shipment to Europe took up locally fanned hysteria about “dangerously armed” Black Americans and engaged in race riots even in the nation’s capital as Wilson was returning home. Black soldiers who had fought with distinction in Europe (in units segregated on Wilson’s order) were now regarded as threats at home, absurd notions fanned by bigots that often led to deadly mob actions. Again “elitist progressive” Wilson did nothing to quell the bigotry. And finally and most importantly Wilson blew it in the US Senate when he killed his own treaty, which included his dream of a League of Nations, when he would not compromise even slightly with his political opponent, the esteemed Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, on rather minor points. But this last mistake was made even before Wilson left for Europe when he declined to invite Lodge, who was largely in agreement with his world views, to accompany him. Among the American population, those most opposed to the treaty were the Irish-Americans and German-Americans who had contributed the largest numbers of young soldiers to the war effort and strongly objected that the treaty gave far too much to the British. (French greed seemed to be a matter of some ambiguity, especially since a part of selling the war to Americans had been to repay the French for their help in the Revolution against the Brits.) So the treaty that ended history’s most deadly war was concluded without the one country whose soldiers had decided the war’s outcome. (The US signed separate treaties with the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians three years later under President Harding, but did not sign on to the League of Nations.)
“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, no matter how justified, is not a crime.” – Ernest Hemingway (And usually the crime is on so many levels.)
All of this, of course, is the oft-touted “Wilsonian” foreign policy, a grotesque perversion of humanity also very much in the eye of the beholder. Like all foreign policies, its altruistic “brilliance” depends greatly on which end of the gun one finds themselves standing. Wilson, derisive of Lodge’s practicality, thought he could cajole humanity into some idealistic utopia that ignored the natural tendency for all human groups to promote and defend their own self-interests while fiercely resisting being that “someone else” who pays the price. Politicians should first try to sell their schemes to their own combat soldiers to see how it flies and then refine things from there. Those who haven’t mastered the art of viewing the board from the other side’s vantage are inevitably doomed to fail. As written, the “League of Nations” anticipated the US combat soldier and the American taxpayer constantly playing the role of World Cop to “settle” differences among national self-interests, i.e., playing god “for the greater good”. Nowhere in the US Constitution is such a role articulated, and no one has ever placed this proposition before the American voter, but they nevertheless have found themselves in just such a position repeatedly by its “leaders” arrogantly exceeding their constitutional authorities – and almost always at stupendous cost against those who had not threatened their own country. Seldom have the results been favorable. Wilson tried valiantly to sell his plan to the American people, but it was an uphill struggle. Far too many had been directly touched by a war that was not theirs to fight. American voters decided the matter with the overwhelming victory they handed to Warren Harding, who opposed the League, in the 1920 election (76% of electoral vote, 60% of popular vote). Idealists are always eager to sacrifice others for their ideals; this is why Europeans are so very adept at manipulating America. It’s better for Americans to understand, accept and deal with the world as it is, on a case-by-case basis.
Still, in the end, in very short order, America had become a global super-power – that would inexplicably continue to bail out the perpetually bickering Europeans from their own stupid self-made messes repeatedly for the next 100 years, and beyond. (This is primarily because the pathetic Baby Boomers refused to learn how to think and were thus woefully equipped to teach their own offspring how to think. So everything just runs on brainless auto-pilot based on what the Greatest Generation devised for a world that ceased to exist over a quarter of a century ago.) In time, this became an absurdly presumed “way of life”, the “natural order of things”, both for the “dumb Americans” and for the “special people” of Europe, with the costs borne mostly by American taxpayers and their expendable ground soldiers. By the end of the century, with so little available elsewhere, the chief source of American self-esteem (and vicarious machismo used to buy votes) would become her military forces, not defending the nation, but arrogantly playing world cop theoretically on behalf of everyone else (as seen “through my eyes only” of course). And, once the Baby Boomers, no longer encumbered by a draft requiring their own risk to life and limb in service to nation, assumed power over the world’s single super-power handed to them by their Greatest Generation parents in 1992, the evolution to “judge, jury and executioner” directed by an imperial presidency went into overdrive – by people ever less equipped to understand what they were doing. As every bully knows, it is truly amazing how “macho” you can be when there’s zero risk to you. After two and a half centuries of battling the ravages of aristocratic rule in favor of rule by the people, America after the end of the long “Cold” War was busy creating its own “democratic” emperor-in-charge – and determined to fill the job with a privileged American woman who had never in her life accepted responsibility for anything.
By the beginning of the 21st century, however, small cracks began appearing in this construct, especially since the ethnic origins of a majority of Americans began shifting from Europe to other regions of the world, especially to Latin and South America, when narcissistic “special” Boomers had to begin importing millions and millions of Third World babies just to keep the whole house of cards viable with future taxpayers. Now Americans couldn’t even be bothered to produce enough citizens to pay their bills. After well over a century of American focus and sacrifice on wealthy and comfortable Europe, perhaps it was finally time to begin shifting American focus to far more worthy regions of the globe, while demanding that bloviating Europeans finally begin stepping up to their own responsibilities in that world as a just price for continued partnerships.
P.S. If the drafted WW I “Sammies” weren’t before they left, they were certainly “American” when they returned. There’s nothing like seeing human bodies wearing uniforms just like yours torn apart indiscriminately by explosives to demonstrate that we are ALL of the same group after all and that “multi-culturalism” is an asinine construct solely for the narcissistic “special” people who sit smugly on the sidelines contributing nothing to “us”. Either you are a member of a single society worthy of your life, or you are just another freeloader in that society taking far more than you give. A society that fosters assimilation is worth defending, but a society that promotes fragmentation is not worth anyone’s life. “America”, with one identifying culture, is worthy of defending; “Babel” is not. It’s a pretty safe bet that nitwits who come up with idiotic social theories have never been expected to defend their theories with their lives, yet inexplicably expect “someone else” to do so.
Except for Germany’s naturally relentless efforts to impede American supplies and munitions sent to her British and French enemies, the war never really threatened to arrive on America’s doorstep. Wilson had claimed that the aristocratic “war-to-end-all-wars” among European monarchies was to somehow “make the world safe for democracy”, but just twenty years after the deadliest war in world history ended, the same belligerents were again at war. Then the sons of WW I veterans were expected to step up to their “masculine responsibility” in WW II in defense of the democratic capitalist construct. Furthermore, popular disgust with birthright entitled aristocracy and their “progressive elitist” partners was giving rise to a whole new ideology that also threatened the capitalist status quo – socialist communism. By 1935, just 15 years after the Treaty of Versailles, America was tasked with carving out a position in a new epic struggle between nationalist socialism on the extreme right and socialist communism on the extreme left – both of which were violent responses to aristocratic rule. As it played out, America chose to first take on the extreme right, and then turn its attention to the extreme left (with Britain ever the master manipulator serving its own best interests, of course).
America’s participation on the winning side in 1918 enabled all Americans, especially the vast majority who had done nothing or who enjoyed well-paying jobs making war munitions or had grown enormously wealthy selling those munitions, to vicariously cloak themselves in that royal “we” — which planted the self-image seeds that would grow into a sizable portion of the American populace arrogantly ever eager to play global world cop with the lives of others. Worse, by the end of the century America was crippled by a majority of its population that had been acquiring rights like chestnuts without a single responsibility in sight. American women had become the most pampered, the most protected, the most promoted, the most privileged and the most powerful group on the planet, and yet the only thing they did better than any other group on that planet was whine. “I have RIGHTS! I do NOT have responsibilities! It is “someone else” who has the responsibility to ensure whatever rights I decide to demand for very special me.” And their biggest accomplishment was to infect many other “special” people with the same idiotic nonsense.
Americans can be proud that they are fortunate enough to occupy a relatively free and open society, but they should also be wise enough to recognize that social interest groups in America, as well as privileged-class immigrants from all countries who come to America, who quickly gain positions of significant influence in academia, journalism, politics, government and the arts, are quite adept at revising historical fact to show their own group in a more favorable light to a quite naïve and poorly educated American public, especially through pervasive “politically correct” censorship and propaganda. And now after a century of perfecting the process, the Europeans are world-class experts at manipulating the Americans to do their heavy lifting for them. In the age of the internet and advanced computing, extreme diligence must also focus on the ability of intelligence services to manipulate public opinion, in both their own domestic markets as well as in those foreign, via sophisticated cyber tools and weapons, augmented by covert activities. Americans must never shy away from challenging such accounts, never stop forcing those advancing them to fully defend their positions within the context of all relevant factors and capabilities, including the view from the other side. This includes America’s “special” women, too, especially since they now have near total control over “educating” our young, including boys, with their own version of “reality”. Americans must never stop taking full advantage of the freedoms offered by their society in a never-ending quest for The Truth, regardless of the self-serving bullshit promulgated by others. Since no one has ever hesitated to show my group in all its warts, both real and manufactured, then no one should ever hesitate to show any other group in all its warts, too. Rights, whether rights for individuals, groups or nation states, including “human rights”, do NOT come without corresponding and equitable RESPONSIBILITIES. It is simply asinine, and counter-productive, to continually shift blame and responsibility to “someone else”. There is NO “special” in “equal”, and in a democracy leadership is NOT just another damned quota right.
Any twit on any street corner can stand safely and smugly on the sidelines and demand that “someone else” “DO something”, and other useless-human tricks, too.
*The same problem existed in 1941, even after the US Congress declared war on fascist Japan in response to Pearl Harbor. By around 90%, Americans did NOT want to again get involved in Europe’s stupid wars. Like Wilson, “progressive” Roosevelt had won re-election on the promise NOT to go to war. But soon after Pearl Harbor, for no apparent reason, an incredibly stupid Hitler declared war on the US, and thereby solved Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s problem with overcoming American public opinion. The challenge for both men then was to focus over 90% of the American war effort on Europe, with a measly 10% going to the Pacific, until Germany was defeated. This was no mean feat in America inasmuch as it had been Japan, not Germany, that had attacked the US. Hollywood propaganda was a really big help to the politicians in keeping the focus so skewed toward Europe while Asia suffered for years. “Never underestimate the value of a European education” – handed down strategically by an elitist class seeking above all to perpetuate its own wealth and power over the great unwashed masses. Although both Hitler and Stalin were equally evil, communism was never so threatening to Western “progressives” as was Nazism. That’s why today’s Russia, with a conservative leader, is now the Big Bad Bogeyman. Put a commie back in charge of Moscow, and everyone would go back to sleep.
(See “Terrorist Or Freedom-fighter? Irish“.)
Footnote #5. Eisenhower As A Military Officer. Eisenhower was the consummate staff officer who always seemed to have senior military benefactors at every step along his career. Raised in a large family in Kansas, he entered the US Military Academy at West Point in June 1911, and graduated in 1915 ranked 61st in a class of 164. A 1912 football injury to his knee nearly caused his medical discharge, but West Point’s chief medical officer enabled him to obtain a commission. From 1915 to 1918 Lieutenant Eisenhower was assigned to the 19th Infantry at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas; this would be his first and last assignment of any duration with an actual military unit. He was alerted for deployment with a Pennsylvania tank unit in 1918 for combat service in World War I, but the war’s armistice canceled the deployment.
From 1918 to 1920 Captain Eisenhower was shuttled around to a range of brief assignments in PA, NJ, GA and MD. In 1920 he was promoted to Major (a rank he kept for the next 16 years) and served as a staff officer for General Fox Conner at Camp Meade (MD), who became his first chief benefactor. He took the Command and General Staff course at Ft Leavenworth (KS) from 1925-26, and in 1927 landed as a staff officer with the American Battle Monuments Commission in Washington DC under General John Pershing. General Conner had passed Eisenhower up to Pershing. In 1928, after attending the Army War College in Carlisle (PA), he went briefly to Paris with General Pershing and his American Battle Monuments Commission; this was his first venture, after 17 years of military service, outside the US. Back in Washington, 1929-33: XO to General George Moseley, Assistant Sec of War; 1933-35: Chief Aide to General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff, US Army; 1935-39: accompanied General MacArthur to Philippines and served as assistant military advisor to the Philippine government, finally promoted to Lt Colonel in 1936. (I had more foreign and combat experience in my first five years of service than Eisenhower did after 25 years; today I know much more about the world than I do about my own country.)
As events led up to war in Europe and the Pacific, Eisenhower’s promotions and high level staff assignments went into overdrive. 1939: brief staff assignments in Washington DC, California and Texas; 1940: promoted to Colonel, Regimental Chief of Staff 3rd Infantry Div Ft Lewis (WA); 1941: Chief of Staff IX Corps MG Kenyon Joyce; 1941: Chief of Staff Third Army General Walter Krueger Ft Sam Houston (TX); 1941: promoted to Brigadier General. Having served as an O-4 for 16 long years, Eisenhower went from O-4 to O-7 in just five years, what we today would call a “90-day wonder”. In the first days of the war he was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division in DC. He was soon appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of Operations Division in DC under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, and just a year later in 1942 was appointed as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) based in London. From a Lt Colonel general’s aide in 1939 Philippines, three years later in 1942 he was commanding all US military forces in or destined for Europe. Thereafter, his rank would rise to accommodate the size of the forces under his command. Three years later the guns in Europe fell silent, and his part of the war (1942-45) was over.
Thereafter he commanded the second army – the mostly non-combat follow-on occupation army in Europe – as American combat units began standing down for systematic relocation to the still on-going war in the Pacific. Eisenhower’s role was now winning the peace in Europe with transitional military governance and humanitarian assistance. (While both must have the ability to defend and impose themselves, combat armies and occupation armies require vastly different expertise, personnel, training, equipment, logistics, tactics and strategy. The whole emphasis shifts from fluid offense to static defense, from compelling controlled chaos to obliging controlled order. Using two different armies is the correct way to do things. Ever since, however, US politicians have directed their severely under-strength US Regular Army to execute both roles on the cheap with one army. It doesn’t work. And unaccountable war-profiteering commercial companies contracted by Defense, State and USAID to chase big mercenary money – a typically stupid Baby Boomer invention – will NEVER replace trained and disciplined American ground soldiers serving their country.)
Footnote #6: Fruit Salad.
(Once the first is awarded, subsequent awards of the same achievement medal are indicated by adding little metal “oak leave clusters” to the same ribbon. The highest four of Petraeus’ awards are typical of senior officers in staff or command assignments over a 37-year career, not young officers in combat, but their numbers are a little higher than usual. These five ribbons occupy just most of the top two rows of his fruit salad.)
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (4)
Bronze Star (with V Device) (V = Valor in combat)
Foreign Service Ribbons:
(Once the first is awarded, subsequent awards of the same service ribbon are indicated by adding little metal “service stars” to the same ribbon. If the ribbon is for service in a war, the stars represent specific military campaigns.)
Afghanistan Campaign Medal (with 3 Service Stars)
Iraq Campaign Medal (with 4 Service Stars)
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) Medal
NATO Meritorious Service Medal Iraq & Afghanistan with bronze service star
NATO Medal for Yugoslavia, NTM-I, Afghanistan with 2 bronze service stars
(He has also served in Italy, Belgium, Kuwait, and Bosnia and Herzegovina – no specific ribbons.)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (with 2 Service Stars)
National Defense Service Medal (with 2 Service Stars)
Ribbons Awarded By Foreign Countries:
Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, Military Division
Meritorious Service Cross, Military Division (Canada)
Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, 1st Grade
Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
French Military Campaign Medal
Grand Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm
Gold Cross of Merit of the Carabinieri (Italy)
Order of National Security Merit, Tong-il Security Medal (Korea)
Knight Grand Cross with Swords of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
Polish Iraq Star
Polish Army Medal, Gold
Romanian Chief of Defense Honor Emblem
Military Merit Order, First Class (United Arab Emirates)
Expert Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge (United States)
Air Assault Badge
12 Overseas Service Bars (each for six months service in combat zone)
Combat Action Badge
Army Staff Identification Badge
Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
101st Airborne Division Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
101st Airborne Division Distinctive Unit Insignia
Badges Awarded by Foreign Countries:
(Petraeus’ role in NATO and other multi-national missions have often led to his engaging in other participating nations’ training programs, usually as a matter of diplomatic courtesy. It also assists American military officers to understand foreign standards.)
British Army Parachutist Badge (Junior level)
Basic French Parachutist Badge (French: Brevet de Parachutisme militaire)
German Parachutist Badge in bronze (German: Fallschirmspringerabzeichen)
German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency Bronze
Footnote #7. Trust and Information Warfare. The following is an extract from an article about cyber warfare (“The War Of Zeros And Ones“, By Dan Saelinger) that was published in the September 2014 issue of Popular Science magazine:
“… A subtler attacker might instead seek to corrupt information within his targets, sewing erroneous reports that appear to come from inside the organization. The military has traditionally used the term “information warfare” to describe operations that aim to influence an enemy’s decision-making. The objectives might be highly strategic, such as planting false orders that appear to come from top leaders, or more tactical insertions, like when the Israelis co-opted the Syrian air-defense network.
“Such attacks on the data itself, rather than just the flow of it, could have immediate battlefield consequences — but they could have even more impact in the long term. Military communications rely on trust. By corrupting that trust, a hacker compromises not only computer networks but also the faith of those who rely on them. Only a relatively small percentage of attacks would need to succeed in order to plant seeds of doubt about any electronic information. Users would begin to question and double-check everything, slowing decision-making and operations to a creep. In the most extreme scenario, a breach of confidence could lead militaries to abandon networked computers for any critical information, setting their capacity back decades. According to one military planner, “It could take forces back to a pre-electronic age.”
“Such technological abstinence sounds unthinkable, especially when computers have proven so useful in modern war. But imagine if you had a memo you needed to get to your boss at the risk of losing your job. Would you e-mail it if there were a 50 percent risk of it being lost or changed en route? Or would you just hand-deliver it? What if the risk were 10 percent? How about even 1 percent? Now, apply the same risks to a situation in which it’s not your job at stake, but your life. How would your behavior change?”
The author is discussing warfare involving computers and machines, but the exact same principles apply to ground soldiers deployed on that battlefield. And you don’t need someone playing around with networked computers to corrupt the system. Just substitute “liar” for “hacker” in the above. ALL military communications rely on trust. By corrupting that trust, a liar compromises not only military communications, but also the faith of those who rely on them. You don’t need a computer to needlessly cost lives on a battlefield – where mutual trust is the most important thing there is. Trust in a military organization is the difference between life and death. Never EVER trust a liar. And it only takes one lie. A liar in the US military is a cancer that MUST be excised immediately.
Footnote #8. America’s Most Powerful Bigot. Rep Schroeder and the CIB. One of “feminism’s” most ardent supporters in Congress for a very long time was Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo), who made no secret of her visceral hatred of men in the military, but did make a major secret of the fact that she was a closet lesbian. For 22 years, with her kindred sisters in the media and especially in the Washington Post and various powerful women’s lobbies, she ruled over those men from her powerful seat on the US House Armed Services Committee, and was directly responsible for a whole book of regulations ruling the private and professional lives of those men, plus a whole curriculum of forced indoctrination programs, all while repeatedly demonstrating her pride in never bothering to learn even the most basic things about that military, including its 200 years of traditions and rationales for its uniforms and accouterments. She once made a tremendous stink in the media that women in the military should be authorized to wear the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) when they are serving in a country where guns are being fired somewhere. For months as she waged her absurd campaign in the media, she never requested, and no one in the military ever offered, a factual explanation about the CIB. Such abject ignorance was simply astounding and exceedingly embarrassing for a United States Representative, and most especially to men in the US Regular Army for whom she was ostensibly responsible. Career military men were by then quite familiar with this woman’s long history of arrogant misandry. Guys like me who have been engaged directly in very deadly combat operations around the globe for many months, even many years, who carried more than our share of body bags, never once begrudged those men who served as combat infantrymen their badge of honor. When the situation stabilized, we could go back to our day jobs; for combat infantrymen, this was their day job, and it was 24/7 the toughest job there is. We salute those men who wear that badge, and have a great appreciation and respect for what they do for a living. The same applies to Marines.
But to Ms Schroeder it was all just more dumb male nonsense “discriminating against oppressed American women”. Not until long after she left Congress did she reveal her sexual preference to her voting constituents, but it apparently was always well known among her particular sub-community of women man-haters. (American feminism long ago lost any pretense of equity; for the past thirty years it’s been unabashedly all about “special” privilege, all about rights devoid of responsibility, i.e., self-serving propaganda.)
The CIB, created in 1943, is the primary recognition of the combat service and sacrifices of the infantrymen who are likely to be wounded or killed in numbers significantly disproportionate to those of soldiers in the Army’s other service branches. The rifle it shows over the blue background is the Springfield Arsenal Musket, the primary soldier’s weapon during the United States War of Independence (Revolutionary War) under General Washington 235 years ago. Combat medics serving with infantrymen and meeting the criteria are awarded the equivalent Combat Medical Badge. The importance of these two badges takes on even greater significance in an age of an all-volunteer military. US Marines are awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, and US Navy corpsmen (medics) serving with them are also separately distinguished. Over the past eleven years of the “War On Terrorism” Army ground soldiers, including over 130 volunteer women, and US Marines, have sustained over 98% of all American combat deaths. Similar figures apply to all combat wounds and injuries. (Members of the other Army combat arms (Armor and Artillery), combat support corps, and service support corps, who find themselves meeting the criteria, usually in deadly unconventional wars with no established lines, are now awarded the Combat Action Badge, authorized in 2001, demanded by Rep Schroeder – which is comparable to each of the combat zone gold bars worn on the right sleeve if the service was for six months or more.)
Footnote #9. Married, With Children. Military Spouses. One of the phrases we hear a lot these days is “single mothers” – who need tons of pity and admiration and help and money for the consequences of their own decisions. I’ve spent my adult life among rather masculine and stoic men, almost all of whom considered themselves, essentially, “single fathers”. Even if they didn’t have children, their wives were every bit as much hassle and expense and worry as children. Even when these men were deployed there seemed to be no end to the problems and whines and expenses emanating from the home front. For some guys, addressing those things took more energy and concern than the requirements of their jobs, especially since they had to be addressed from great distances, and insufficient money was a constant anxiety. They were expected to keep such problems at home to an absolute unseen minimum so that they did not detract one iota from their ability to perform at peak effectiveness on the job. Often this was required just to remain alive. I often wondered why such men remained married, but the answer really was the same as it’s always been: “It’s what is expected of me, the responsibilities of my choices.”
In fact, at least for military commissioned officers, being married was an important ticket for faster promotion, and how well they addressed those constant “family” problems was a critical factor in those promotions, a very well known invisible box on the score sheet that required the maximum points. How well the wife conducted herself in public was also a critical aspect of her husband’s promotion, an aspect that could just as easily have dire negative consequences as positive. Wives’ gossip always had a guaranteed way of making it to every man’s commander, his rater; it was just another treacherous outside channel to contend with. A man with a “problem wife” (or children) who could not be “contained”, or who did not measure up to the highest standards in public, was a guaranteed pass-over at promotion time. If he got two pass-overs, he was on his way out of service. Some officers tried to apply these same standards to their senior NCOs, who, naturally, had a way of passing them on down the chain, with varying degrees of effectiveness. This promotion aspect began to change around 1980, when women who were streaming into a peacetime military (after the Draft ended and pay and benefits went way up) refused to be held to such standards. So they weren’t.
But, in many ways, men still are. “Single fathers” is still pretty much a universal concept in the US military, probably even more so since their wives now have so many watchdogs in their lobbies and regulations and politicians all eager to listen to their whines and broadcast them to the world. (Women’s lobbies view male soldiers as nothing but barely tolerable tickets necessary for a slew of lucrative financial benefits to wives.) I always advise military men to either leave the service or seek a divorce the minute the first signs of trouble on the home front show up; to do otherwise is simply to invite professional suicide. Thanks to their many powerful lobbies, military women don’t face this choice nearly as starkly as do the men.
“My job gives me purpose as a man; my wife gives me whines that make me a slave. Which do you suppose is going to win?”
For myself, I always fall back on the very loud and stern admonishment I was given by a crusty NCO when I first showed up with a bunch of other young men for basic training long ago: “If the Army had wanted you to have a wife, the Army would have issued you a wife!” Your family is your responsibility; if you can’t handle it without detracting from your job on the $2.00-a-day pay your country thinks you’re worth, get out of the Army fast before you get yourself or any of your buddies killed. An army exists to fight and win deadly wars; it does not exist to play babysitter. But these days, it does. Soldiers, especially male soldiers, are a secondary consideration. And there’s no fruit salad ribbon for any of it. It often seems that the higher pay and benefits has been off-set by the home-front problems facing deployed soldiers via instant internet communications tools like Skype.
Footnote #10. The Purple Heart. Our pathetic society is so screwed up that we now even seek to make heroes out of victims. Victims are not heroes; victims are victims. The US military awards certain decorations to people who willingly and consciously, and with full knowledge of the dangers inherent to their action, go into harm’s way and knowingly face an armed enemy in a known dangerous environment which others would naturally avoid. If one of those people is then wounded as a result of armed enemy action in that arena, that person is usually awarded the Purple Heart. This military award is recognition of wounds received from enemy action during the recipient’s act of premeditated bravery. It is not recognition of wounds suddenly received while having lunch in an inherently safe environment inside the United States, for being hurt while just happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong moment. To bestow the award in the latter case would be to cheapen the meaning of the Purple Heart to all other honorable recipients, past, present and future. But, still, there is a relentless drive in American society to garner inflated self-worth by steadily lowering all standards everywhere, so that the actions of those who went before are steadily diluted and cheapened – to make “me” feel better for doing nothing extraordinary at all. It’s very similar to those who shamefully place athletes who achieve milestones while ingesting highly advanced performance enhancing drugs in the same honored class as those who previously had achieved such milestones solely on their own native talent and developed abilities. Being a victim is not an act of bravery. (Part of the problem with the Purple Heart award is that certain financial and medical benefits also accrue to the recipient, and wherever there is such pecuniary benefit there is always a despicable drive to bend the rules.)
Footnote #11 . Accountability In The US Military. In October 2013 two US Marine Corps general officers were relieved of command for their “negligence” associated with an earlier enemy attack on a base in Afghanistan that resulted in two dead Marines and some destroyed fighter planes – even though their Marines quickly reacted and repelled the attack. The investigative report stated that, among other things, base perimeter guard towers were not even manned. The catch? The Marines were using a BRITISH base, under British command, and the enemy stated that their intended target was the British prince Andrew, who was at the time on the base. The lesson, of course, is that accountability for your own cannot be shifted even when others are clearly responsible. One would think that the British would adequately guard their own base and the personnel and equipment on it, especially when such a high visibility member of their royal family was also at the base, not to mention a LOT of other people and equipment, too. But American military leaders have learned over a very long time to never rely on others to do their own jobs properly, including military “allies” and even US government civilian “leaders”. A US Navy war ship usually has a subordinate, including an enlisted sailor, at the helm driving the ship; if the ship collides with another object, it is the ship’s captain who is relieved of duty, not the person actually at the helm. When a senior US military officer is relieved of duty, it is usually because of an error by a subordinate under his command; the assumption is that the error would not have occurred if the senior had been appropriately exercising his command responsibility. A military man remains responsible for the people and property under his command, no matter what other idiots do or do not do. This is one of the things about the US military that makes it so easy for incompetent US civilians to shift their blame to the US military.
Still, “leadership responsibility” without full accountability is just totally meaningless bullshit, an oxymoron; in such situations “leadership” is just a propaganda term. Such pathetic humans are simply celebrity figureheads screaming orders from the very safe rear to those they regard as morons– which ANY twit can do. President Bush II twice had to refuse to accept the formal resignation of the Silent Generation’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – (1) for accepting CIA assurances that weapons of mass destruction were present in Iraq and (2) for accepting that National Guard MPs serving in Iraq had been properly vetted and trained for their prison jobs by their female “commander”. Dozens of affirmative action women over the past twenty years have exhibited astounding incompetence in their very senior positions, but none has ever accepted accountability and tendered her resignation. Such women set the “new standards” for everyone: always find “someone else” to blame, even if their incompetence results in wars (as in Kuwait), results in natural disaster catastrophes (such as from Hurricane Katrina) or even results in truly devastating attacks on the United States (as on 9/11/2001). This is one of those thousands of “alternate” definitions of “equality” that now exist in American English – all under the heading of “special”. No male politician is ever going to fire such a woman; he’d immediately incur the wrath of 75,000,000 “eternal victim” women voters. (Hell, it’s not even possible to criticize these birthright entitled “special” people in America.) Just find some white guy with a bunch of stars on his shoulder boards and fire him: he’s inherently guilty of everything, has no lobby, is too disgusted to vote, and conveniently keeps his mouth shut. Since there is and never was any “special” in “equal”, despite a half century of propaganda to the contrary by “feminist” lobbies, I judge everyone by one set of very high standards; if anyone, regardless of any artificial labels, doesn’t measure up, they deserve to be so judged, and so informed – just as no one would ever hesitate to so judge me, or ever has. I am an American. I believe in equality; I do NOT believe in “special”. As an Irish-American soldier, I hold “special” entitlement in contempt.
Footnote #12. The Vietnam Draft. Everyone knows that the US military today is an “all-volunteer” (or “all-recruited”) force. In case the nation is ever faced with a sudden requirement for a drastic surge in military personnel strength, however, all American young men are still required to register for the Draft. But no one has actually been drafted into the US military since 1974.
This was not the case during the War in Vietnam – approximately 1964 –72. (The “beginning” of that war is marked by the introduction of large conventional forces; “we” pretend not to notice that the professional US Army Special Forces had gone into that war many years earlier, and finally left it long after all conventional forces had been withdrawn. Vietnam was, of course, an unconventional war – in which conventional forces were never going to prevail.) There has ever since been a great deal of misinformation about that wartime Draft. While all American males between the ages of 18 and 26 were required to register for the Draft, only a minority of those who actually served were Draftees. (Permanent deferments were allowed for certain medical reasons, temporary deferments for student status, etc..) The overwhelming majority of American men who served during that period were, in fact, volunteers. (It can be argued, however, that many young men volunteered in order to “get it over with” on their terms and on their schedule, rather than on the government’s terms and schedule.) Then there was, of course, the large core of career professional Soldiers and Marines, many of whom served multiple tours in Vietnam, who are almost always overlooked.
Despite all the emotional propaganda generated during the Vietnam War period in the US, mostly wrapped up in various rights movements, a careful statistical analysis of those who actually served in the US military, and those who served in Vietnam, and those who were killed and wounded in that war, primarily as always Army and Marine soldiers, during that period reveals that there were no clearly disproportionate “lines of discrimination” among any group of American males (such as race, economic standing, ethnicity, etc.). (Education was a factor in determining which group mostly became officers, but was not the deciding factor. Very many university graduates served as enlisted infantrymen – which required only a two-year service requirement versus three or four for officers. And, yes, some men were able to have “strings pulled” on their behalf to avoid the Draft. But most such “dodges” were similar to that of subsequent President Bill Clinton, who arranged to continue his studies abroad, where he could protest the war and its draft in London and Moscow safe in the knowledge that he was outside the grasp of the law. Even future presidential candidate Mitt Romney sat out the Draft in France’s wine country. But such cases were mostly anecdotal. And, of course, half of America’s very vocal population was comprised of women, who as always faced no requirement of their own for anything.) Generally, all groups studied were in rough accordance with their representation in the larger community; the nation’s overall population was simply too huge compared to the number of men needed by its military forces. The only clearly disproportionate line of discrimination was between males and females. The bottom line is that the “anti-war movement” was FAR more the anti-Draft movement and based primarily on emotional “group think” fanned by propaganda; many super-spoiled Baby Boomers simply didn’t want to go, and their arguments were mostly the usual self-serving rationalizations.
As American history over the subsequent forty years showed so well, war is just fine with the Baby Boomers (and their children) – as long as they can send “someone else” off to do the hard stuff and absolve themselves of accountability when things don’t go the way they had envisioned. (See Footnote #2, Sergeant Donnelly’s Requiem, to Russia And “NATO”, posted separately.) Those who were of Draft age in 1968 are those who are running the show today. A lot of these pathetic people seem to spend most of their waking hours thinking up new ways to have their military run off and do stuff for “very special me”, to make “me” feel better for doing nothing at all. And one thing you will never hear from them is any degree of shame over the subsequent events in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and now in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Has anyone seen any anti-war demonstrations, riots or burnings in America over the past forty years? All the freedoms they demanded, and all the laws they got, they have now trashed. Except for one – the one that ended the Draft. These people now have no problems at all with a government that spies on its own citizens. Now it’s only “someone else” who goes off the war. Now everyone’s vaunted “expertise” is provided by Hollywood and video games. These “military geniuses”, almost none of whom have ever had any military experience of their own, can’t wait to screw up one war so they can get on with screwing up another one waiting in the wings. And most of it is due to nothing more than momentary hysteria fanned by emotional women and their clones.
One of their loudest complaints then was that the War in Vietnam was an “undeclared war”, that is, that it was undertaken without a full debate and a formal declaration by the people’s representatives in Congress as required by the US Constitution, which was true. But today these same twits will use any subterfuge possible to undertake wars without congressional authority, usually wrapped around some nebulous concept of “human rights emergency”, even if the “emergency” has to be manufactured and the effort has absolutely nothing at all to do with defending the United States. Today, it’s all about exceedingly ignorant and incompetent politicians winning votes in the here and now, and then daring Congress not to fund the undertaking after US soldiers have already been committed to combat. Some of these twisted “anti-war” minds have never seen a country they didn’t want to bomb.
The Baby Boomers turned out to be the phoniest and most useless generation in American history. The Boomers truly excel at killing people and destroying things from a very safe distance; it’s with assisting people and building things worthwhile, up close and personal, to make the effort worth the cost in lives and treasure, where they fall flat on their faces.
And the sad thing is that, so poorly educated are Americans today, they just don’t care, don’t care about the wars, and don’t care that their democracy has been hijacked by an inept political class nobility functioning like an imperial 17th century monarchy, but without a clue about what they are doing. Now we even hide from public view the flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of America’s Soldiers and Marines coming home to rest. The self-worth “we” seek must now come without a cost, even to our own pathetic sensitivities.
Footnote #13. Civilian Police SWAT Teams. Only less than 7% of occasions when SWAT teams are now used in the US involve the hostage situations those teams were originally created to tackle. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), at the exact moment that violent crime in America has “hit a 50-year low,” our police departments are behaving as if the country were being invaded, charging around in armored vehicles and storming houses in pursuit of “two-bit dealers and consumers of illicit substances”, often on faulty tips. Their primary duties include: confronting heavily armed criminals; performing hostage rescue and counter-terrorism operations; and entering armored or barricaded buildings. But they are now also used in “high risk arrests” – which can include almost every routine police function, which helps explain why their deployment has risen over ten-fold during the past twenty years. Such units are often equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns, assault rifles, breaching shotguns, sniper rifles, riot control agents, and stun grenades. They have highly specialized equipment including heavy body armor, ballistic shields, entry tools, armored vehicles, advanced night vision optics, and motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages or hostage takers inside enclosed structures. Sometimes they look just like something out of a highly fictionalized military “war” video game. But it isn’t fiction; it’s on America’s streets, in the “land of the free and home of the brave”. No one should be on those SWAT teams who could not qualify for, and then served in, first a US Army or US Marine Corps infantry unit. And the teams should not be used for anything except the specific purposes for their existence. Do not expect me to risk my life in foreign countries to stop oppressive practices that are becoming routine in my own country.
Footnote #14. Civilians Floundering Beyond Their Military Depth. It was, after all, the failure of the civilian National Security Advisor to properly execute her sole responsibilities that led directly to our vulnerability on 9/11/2001 and the creation of a whole new gigantic bureaucracy that only compounds the problem, a colossal failure for which she was, incredibly, subsequently rewarded by becoming Secretary of State. It was civilian “diplomats” who on the fly turned a six month US military mission in Afghanistan into a 15-year self-defeating “NATO” political quagmire. It was US and European civilian intelligence experts who told the US military that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that he would employ chemical and biological weapons against US ground soldiers entering Iraq (requiring them to wear incredibly hot and cumbersome protective gear – in combat). It was a career civilian “expert” who pulled the rug out from under the US military in Iraq by summarily disbanding the entire Iraqi army, leaving the US military suddenly with less than a quarter of the people needed to secure the country and the need to deal with a whole new force of unemployed trained “insurgents”. It was civilian politicians who then decided to pull out all remaining US forces in Iraq at least a year too soon, who believed that an eight-month bombing campaign without forces on the ground would work “democratic magic” in a “secure” Libya that did not present all sorts of new opportunities to the bad guys. It was four civilian affirmative action women who waited until after Gaddafi had given up his nukes and chemical weapons before they completely discounted the significance of Pearl Harbor and engineered the unprovoked bombing of his country into oblivion, thus immediately rendering just stupid our decades of efforts to get countries like Iran and North Korea and other countries to also give up their nukes and other WMD. (“Give us your nukes, so be can safely bomb you back to the Stone Age.” Just brilliant.)
It was civilians who used a doctor in a humanitarian health program in a single-minded effort to locate bin Laden, and then confirmed that deception to the world – effectively undermining the future utility of that and similar altruistic programs while also sealing the fate of the Pakistani doctor who had assisted the US effort, as just more “acceptable collateral damage”. (Recently another eight medical workers, suspected of being more American agents, were predictably killed in Pakistan for the “crime” of vaccinating children against polio, and other such innocent killings have followed. The US used to have sensible adult rules that prohibited the use by intelligence and special operations personnel of certain categories of people – to preclude just this sort of blow-back on innocent and very vulnerable others, and no idiot, civilian or military, ever confirmed in public just who, if anyone, had assisted in those operations — until now, until “we” became defined as “me”, and became crude, unimaginative, limited, ignorant civilians.)(March 2014: Two years later such killings of volunteer medical personnel on humanitarian missions in Pakistan continue unabated, despite the government assigning armed guards to their small medical teams. Most of the guards have become additional targets, just more “collateral damage”. This has had a dramatic impact, for example, on the country’s polio vaccination campaign – part of a global vaccination program that owes its origins to the altruism of America’s Greatest Generation. As a result, childhood polio, nearly eradicated from the rest of the world, is on a steady rise in Pakistan. The cost of using that one doctor, and then publicly admitting it to the world solely for despicable self-aggrandizement, has cost the lives of hundreds more, while also jeopardizing the medical health of a whole generation of Pakistanis, while also risking polio spreading beyond Pakistan. Ignorant American civilians did that.)
It was civilians who were always so fixated on “getting” bin Ladin, but who now pretend not to notice that his death changed absolutely nothing in the “war on terrorism” – a simple fact of life that was always entirely predictable in such a war. The “enemy” is not just this group or that group, this lunatic or that lunatic; the “enemy” is an opposing, and steadily growing, ideology, like Soviet communism, that seeks to destroy our ideology and impose its own. The “enemy” is Islamic militant extremism. It is unaccountable civilians who are waging their own very safe separate war by remote control against which the enemy retaliates by killing and maiming US soldiers – also by cowardly remote control – on the deadly battlefield. It is mostly civilian “experts” who simply can’t get their heads around the fact that it is impossible to defeat militant extremism that uses totally unconventional tactics and strategy with conventional military forces and tactics, who so naively think “war is war”. It was four successive civilian women affirmative action appointees to State as “marketing experts” who for years proved themselves totally inept at selling America to people who were killing American soldiers – which was the function of their positions. I could add to this pathetic list for another five pages, and, yes, it is telling that no one seems ashamed of such things. When you step back and view the whole canvas, “we” look just incredibly stupid. But just who is this “we”?
Pompous asses do far more damage than they’re worth. (I believe it’s essentially a matter of generational incompetence, especially where “untouchable” women are involved, now that standards no longer exist and so very much is hidden behind “politically correct” censorship. It’s comforting for civilians to imagine that there are others out there who are even more stupid or incompetent than themselves, even if it’s just a self-serving delusion. And, besides, military guys are never going to tell them the sad truth about themselves.)
The fact that a sitting US President now manages political assassination hit lists in the Oval Office has changed the rules of western warfare forever, and made his and similar civilian political offices fair and prime military targets; “Commander-in-Chief” is not just a meaningless title that any naïve politician can carry without regard to major lasting consequences, to the “acceptable” precedents they establish – for others. In our society military commanders who criticize such civilian “brilliance”, who don’t, in fact, praise the lunacy, are customarily fired. Wouldn’t it be nice if such civilians accepted responsibility and accountability for their failures as readily as they claim credit for military successes, did not instead always shift blame to “military failures”, to “poor intelligence”, to anyone but “me”? President Obama’s didn’t “kill bin Laden”, and even his approval of the Abbottabad mission pales in comparison to Nixon’s approval of the Son Tay raid. The only senior politician since President Kennedy who actually knew what he was doing in such matters was President Bush Senior, a former member of both the military and the CIA, yet American voters, in all their brilliance, immediately after the entirely successful Persian Gulf War threw him out of office. Who does that?
Just look how those sanctimonious elected “representatives of the people” in Washington routinely use hundreds of millions of dollars of campaign contributions to move their personal lifestyles into those of the rich and famous and lord it over the pauper masses, and military people, as some sort of entitled nobility, how they use pork barrel legislation to set up friends and family and ensure lucrative positions for themselves after they leave office. I cringe every time I hear one of these hypocritical jerks making derisive comments about members of the military, who ARE held accountable for their actions. Baby Boomers have succeeded in turning America government and politics into the most corrupt and lucrative legal criminal enterprise in the world – and the US military their easy patsy.
When you consider Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., you begin to understand that inept civilians truly excel at getting American soldiers into wars; they just have no idea about how to actually resolve the wars successfully and get the soldiers out and home so that the whole effort isn’t a total waste of life and treasure. There ought to be a law that civilian “leaders” have to present a complete plan to the American people in advance, with clear and concise objectives locked in stone, and as soon as that plan takes a month longer than planned to execute, then those same civilian “leaders” must join the soldiers on the battlefield until the job is done. How many of them today could ever fill George Washington’s shoes? (None.) It seems only fair that civilians pay an actual price for their ignorance, arrogance and incompetence – without giving them a chance to re-write “history” to their advantage on the mutilated bodies of dead soldiers.
(I often wonder what a “power trip” it must be to be able to order around the most competent and qualified organization left in American society, professional people who know immensely more about what they’re doing than you do, people who can actually accomplish what needs to be done, and without excuses, too. Knowing what I do, such “power” really scares me, perhaps because I have a decent grasp of the consequences if I screw up and could never even think about passing off my full accountability to “someone else”. So it’s not a “power” after all, and not a “right”, either; it’s just another enormously heavy responsibility, one that may even be too heavy. I have not yet encountered it, but there just may be a point where the responsibility becomes greater than I am willing to assume. For a man like me, there would be no alternative except to resign my office and face UCMJ charges of criminal negligence. In the US military there are still consequences for being wrong. But I am an honorable military professional; I am not a slick politician hiding behind whatever’s handy.)
It’s very hard for a guy like me to find American civilians who know as much about the world over the past half century, through direct participation, as I and some of my military contemporaries do. The last civilian I met who could impress me with their knowledge of the real world was Richard Holbrooke, who died in 2010. Ambassador Holbrooke, who began his diplomatic career in Saigon and gained extensive experience in the trenches of Asia and Europe, was twice passed over by Democratic administrations as Secretary of State in favor of enormously less qualified women (Albright and Clinton) – in order to buy the votes of women who believe in unearned “birthright entitlement”. Holbrooke was born in New York in 1941 to a mother who had fled Hamburg in 1933 and a father who had fled Warsaw in 1939. Like me, Holbrooke answered Jack Kennedy’s call and, after graduating from Brown in 1962, went into foreign service, first with USAID in the Mekong Delta. In addition to his long and very influential career with State Department, based on a solid foundation he had built over six years in Vietnam, he also served in the Peace Corps in Morocco during the early 1970s. It often seemed that wherever humans were trying to find a way out of major conflict, there was Richard Holbrooke at the highest levels. Essentially, though, he ended his 48-year career where he began, trying to find a solution to another stupid war, this one in Afghanistan, after becoming ill during a meeting with Clinton. Not surprisingly, with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the far more knowledgeable and experienced Holbrooke had found himself with a position different from that of Clinton and the White House. So Afghanistan, too, will end as a failure. Like so many other foreign adventures mismanaged by incompetent civilian “leadership” in recent times, “we” will again say to all those dead and maimed soldiers and their families a truly pathetic, “Never mind.”