Recently in a crowded room I caught pieces of a televised speech given by some American politician to a rather large audience. He began with a proud statement about his son, a US Marine lieutenant, who was leaving on deployment “to defend the people of Europe”. He proceeded from there to other matters as if such facts and sentiments were all foregone conclusions, universal truths, that filled Americans with pride (and, of course, ingratiated such politicians to patriotic Americans everywhere). I remember wondering why it didn’t occur to this politician (or to some actually sentient reporter) to ask why the boy wasn’t going off to defend the people of central Africa, or South America, or southeast Asia, or even of the Mexican narco-state with its corrupt ruling class. Obviously, the American privileged, chattering and government classes – self-anointed “special” people – don’t run off to play in those other places nearly enough to warrant incredibly wasted taxpayer “investments” like “NATO” to provide their power entrée on someone else’s dime with the locals. Why could those other people defend themselves, but the people of Europe could not? Why was it in 2016, after an incredible 100 years in the same role, still the job of Americans to defend limp-wristed Europeans? What was it that made the Europeans so utterly feeble and helpless, so very “special”, so in need of defending by brave foreigners, as to warrant such missions by the best of young Americans? Is defending themselves now too far beneath the station of Europeans that they can just import people to do this hard stuff for them, too? Just what threat, exactly, do they need defending against? If countries are unwilling to make adequate investments in their own defense, just what makes them worthy of defending? If “friends and allies” want the US military to play World Cop on a leash, just how much are they willing to pay for it?
Why are the lives of Americans of any less value than those of Europeans?
It was obvious that the speaker had never considered such questions, that he is just like perhaps 90% of Americans today. His whole thought processes on such matters are frozen in 1975, when the male-only Draft ended, when he was required to memorize the correct answers for a ninth grade test, forty years ago. And, as long as military service involved only “someone else”, he had not bothered to re-examine the programmed premises since then. Today, thanks to such asinine Eurocentrism, even WW II was all about Normandy and France; the other four-fifths of the war in the rest of the world involved nothing but two “evil” bombs dropped on “poor Japan”. And even “Europe” has its definite geographic limits; just try to get one of these sanctimonious jerks to tell you how many people died in Leningrad during the same war. When I asked, I was told that the politician is a major candidate for Vice President of the United States. Yes, Virginia, we are in deep trouble. No one ever taught American kids how to think. And this makes their herd the world’s biggest, and easiest, suckers. Not wishing to burden the wealthy Europeans, they even pick up the lieutenant’s tab; the Marshall Plan was the next question on the old test.
A rational person would have to ask, if we can plant a big wet juicy kiss on the ass of communist Cuba and on the ass of communist Vietnam, against whom we lost a very deadly war, all in the interest of making money, why couldn’t we do the same with Russia? The US has been trying for decades to do the same with communist China, especially in view of its really huge population of potential consumers. Is the answer just as banal as because the communists are no longer running Russia? Do we love communists far more than we love conservatives? Have American Baby Boomer politicians and bureaucrats gone over to the communist side? What was that 45-year-long “Cold” War all about? Was it just another “Never mind” to our many dead soldiers? Just what kind of political dementia leads us to kiss up to a thug like Recep Erdogan while viewing Vladimir Putin as some sort of global pariah? Is it because Erdogan gets automatic immunity with Turkey’s “NATO” membership, while Putin does not?
America sent millions of her soldiers to Europe’s WW I a full century ago. WW II ended 70 years ago. The “Cold” War, with all of its regional “undeclared” wars, ended a quarter of a century ago. And the West is still running on auto-pilot as if nothing has changed since 1945. The EU today has both a population and an economy that are larger than those of the US, but the US is still carrying over 80% of Europe’s defense burden, as if the whole continent is still undergoing post-war reconstruction. Furthermore, 100% of “NATO” costs are all sitting right there in Europe contributing to local economies, while the US has to project and maintain its 80% share across a huge ocean so that it’s all an even greater drain on the US economy. How many of the US tax dollars paid to that lieutenant and his tens of thousands of buddies will be spent in Europe? How much of the food and fuel and other supplies required to sustain those American soldiers and their equipment will be purchased right there in Europe? “NATO” has simply become a permanent and extremely costly American welfare program for wealthy European slackers. Without the US, Europe is economically 8 times stronger than Russia and definitely has the capability to defend itself without the US. The US PLUS Europe is 15 times stronger than Russia, but politicians speak as if the Russians are all just stupid. Russia didn’t do anything in Crimea that couldn’t have been done by the Netherlands, or Canada, yet because of all the asinine political fear-mongering (and newstainment and security services fanning fear for profit) most of us still imagine a Soviet Russia-led Warsaw Pact tsunami of tanks rolling over everything in sight. Sometimes there’s an element of “the mouse that roared” in all the silly political rhetoric screeching from the chair perch. And all of this Euro-nonsense serves to pull American attention and resources away from far more worthy and vulnerable portions of the globe.
Much has been made of “NATO” invoking Article V of its charter – that an attack on one is an attack on all that must be responded to by all – immediately after the terrorist attacks in America of 9/11/2001. But the truth is that the European response was almost exclusively limited to planes flying North Atlantic patrols under a “NATO” flag using US planes and fuel and with no clear command instructions of how to respond to further hijacked civilian airliners. The “NATO” planes showed up well after the attacks were over, could have done almost nothing to avert such attacks, engaged in routine activity representing zero risk to European pilots, and did not include all European members of “NATO”. It was mostly a low-cost political symbol of support, on the US taxpayer’s dime, that provided free extra flight time for pilot records. Furthermore, that once-in-history operation completely ignored the fact that Europe (and much of the rest of the world) views New York as their own city, where they maintain their “world capital” at the United Nations in an international “special zone” called New York that “belongs to everyone.” Psychologically Europeans assume ownership of New York, even though they contribute nothing to it. “NATO” was not responding to an attack on the US as much as it was responding to an attack on their capital city, where they come and go at will, where they get to give the finger to the US at the UN whenever they feel like doing so, and where their establishment politicians and diplomats also benefit so well from the disproportionate largesse of the US taxpayer. The “NATO” response would have been entirely different, or entirely non-existent, if the focus had been, say, St Louis or Dallas.
Just check out the new Billion-dollar-plus “NATO” office palace these pompous European politicians and bureaucrats just constructed for themselves in Brussels. If you’re going to play political charades on the people’s dime, then you may as well play those charades in extreme comfort with a level of ostentatiousness that is as far removed from actual “military” as it’s possible to get. That colossal monument to a very dangerous permanent alliance is just more self-inflated civilian waste piled high on the American soldier’s back, compliments of the sucker taxpayer. Wasn’t George Washington’s gravest farewell warning to Americans the great danger always posed by permanent alliances? There are many valid reasons why Washington remains even today America’s best thinker and greatest leader – who actually put his own life on the line for his lofty ideals for America, who never demanded that “someone else” do the hard stuff which he was too “special” to do himself. Permanent institutionalized alliances were no more dangerous in Washington’s time than they are today, and, as has been the case throughout human history, for the same reasons. Humans being human, things change. Conditions, circumstances, self-interests of people and their nations change over time, and no country worth existing should ever discover such basic human realities too late.
Why do we call “allies” those who remain as permanent American welfare-dependent states, a constant drag on the United States decade after decade? A military alliance is a group of states that perceive an external military threat equally and are committed to equitably defeating that threat with military means. Absent such a threat, absent a justification for the alliance. What do these “allies” actually bring to the table that is actually useful to that end? Why do they in 2016 still need the same level of welfare that they needed in 1956? Still running on auto-pilot with thinking done by their Greatest Generation parents for a world that ceased to exist a quarter of a century ago, the only original thought that the Baby Boomers ever had was in service of their own rampant narcissism. “Our ‘leadership’ requires that we keep doing what we’ve always done, despite everyone now living in a completely different world.” That’s “Baby Boomer Brilliance”.
Wanted: A Credible Threat
With ignorant European politicians, behind the American super-power, pushing “NATO” tanks and missiles right up to the Kremlin gates, Russia’s President Putin would be entirely negligent in his responsibilities to his nation if he did NOT do all he could to improve his nation’s defensive posture, especially in view of the long history of devastating attacks from the West. For twenty years after the “Cold” War, Russian military spending never exceeded 10% of US military spending. Now, thanks to stupid “NATO expansion”, Russian military spending has dramatically ballooned, along with significant improvements in the training and equipping of key elements of their ground, air and naval forces and increased challenging of encroaching “NATO” spy planes and spying ships. It’s not politics; it’s just logic. The US would not hesitate to do the same. (How did we react when the Soviet Union began placing missiles in Cuba?) As long as the dumb Americans are willing to do all the heavy lifting, there’s zero incentive for the Europeans to work together with the Russians on their own mutual self-defense issues. “NATO” is a strategy devised by the Greatest Generation for a world that ceased to exist a quarter of a century ago, now advanced by their pathetic Baby Boomer children simply because they had no better idea of their own for the actual world that exists today. They even reneged on an agreement with the Russians not to expand it. (See Footnote #3; “NATO” Expansion to “Russia And “NATO””.)
While the US criticizes countries that live beyond their means, America’s national debt is now over 100% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the highest in the world. Russia’s national debt is still a healthy 12% of its GDP. Russia paid off all outstanding debts owed to the US-backed International Monetary Fund (IMF) by all the former Soviet republics, including $16 Billion owed by Ukraine. The country currently has no debt to the IMF but does adhere to IMF policies and recommendations for its economy in order to remain in very good international fiscal standing and to support its 17-year effort to gain membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US does not. In 2015 Russia spent $40 Billion on defense, while the US spent $460 Billion. Total “NATO” defense spending in 2015 was 20 times greater than Russia’s. In 2016 the US raised its defense budget to $600 Billion – more than is spent on defense by all the other countries in the world. Russia raised its defense budget to $66 Billion, a figure significantly exceeded by Saudi Arabia’s $88 Billion. By comparison, defense spending of just three of the 28 smaller “NATO” countries – France $56 Bil, UK $48 Bil and Germany $41 Bil – alone totals $145 Bil, more than twice as large as Russia’s. While the US spends over 5% of its humongous GDP on “defense”, Russia, due to strict budgetary constraints, keeps its defense spending under 3% of GDP. So Russian armed forces must be compact but very modern and efficient with minimum waste and corruption. Not party to any multi-national defense industry consortium or military alliance, Russia must get maximum “bank for the buck” in its defense procurements. The US easily fields twice as much machinery as was needed to fight the last three wars, and yet many Americans inexplicably view Russia as some sort of threatening “enemy” even though both countries are equally threatened by the same Islamic militant extremism. Do such Americans ever wonder what their lives would be like if Mexico led an unfriendly Latin American military alliance with a power twenty times greater than their own?
Now we have the hysteria over Crimea and eastern Ukraine. “No one could have predicted” is a pathetic lie used to make everyone else share in the abject failures of those the American people employ to predict such things, to use their “vast expertise” to think them through before-the-fact, to bring known history into the equation, to understand and appreciate the board from the other side’s vantage — failures either because they’re ignorant, inept or, hiding behind a single military super-power, too arrogant to care – and thus to avoid accountability. If they were actually doing their jobs, and understood what they were doing, they would have made the predictions and be fully prepared to address them three, four or more moves ahead, to ensure in advance that the outcome was favorable – without military action. Based on what took place on the west side of the board in Europe, actions that took place on the east side were basic reactionary military imperatives. The Russians learned that lesson in October 1962 (missiles in Cuba), but in the years leading up to August 2014 (missiles in Ukraine), the West, because it could, simply refused to even hear what the Russians were saying. When the US State Department and the CIA eventually engineered a coup in Kiev, arrogantly right in front of the closely watching Russian SVR and GRU, while it was still underway I wrote that Russia would now have no choice except to ensure its continued access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean as a military imperative before the Black Sea became a “NATO” lake. If I knew it, then so should others in Washington (and Europe) have known it – and considered in advance how their asinine expansion actions would be perceived.
It seems as if no one in Washington knows how to view the board from the other side’s vantage – which makes positive outcomes nearly impossible. When you rely on crude brute force alone, there’s no need to play smart checkers, much less brilliant chess. These days few understand that the best solutions are always those that work to the advantage of both sides equitably; now it’s all about “imposing what I want for very special ‘me’ on everyone else.”
NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – is an America-European military alliance forged in 1949 to counter Soviet communist aggressive moves after World War II during what became known as the long “Cold” War. It led to the creation of the Soviet Union-led Warsaw Pact military alliance on the other side in 1955. The purpose for the NATO alliance was realized in 1991 when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist. However, rather than retire NATO with honors when its mission was accomplished, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic began searching immediately for a new purpose, something that could justify keeping the political bureaucracy alive while pretending that it was still a military alliance. A quarter of a century later, they are still searching.
Over the past two decades, in response to repeated American grumbling, all “NATO” countries agreed to devote 2% of their own gross domestic product to their own defense, but only four countries have ever met that meager level. (America devotes almost twice that amount of its GDP to defense spending, which dwarfs total European expenditures.) Europe’s largest economy – Germany – spends less than 1.2%. One of the biggest “NATO” freeloaders is Canada, safe in the knowledge that Canada automatically benefits from America’s own self-defense measures due to living comfortably right next door under America’s wing. This allows cheapskate Canada to ante up only half of what it has committed to – a third of what it could – while incessantly assuming an insufferable air of superiority over the Americans. They all presume that the dumb Americans will make up any of their own shortfalls, which frees up huge amounts of money they can devote to their own internal socialized welfare programs to buy votes. Except for Britain, the members of “NATO” have become world-class experts at publicly promising to deliver far more than they ever actually deliver quietly later, whether it be equitable commitments for major international alliances, humanitarian disaster relief programs, or individual military operations. The presumption is always that America will pick up the slack. It ends up being mostly phony tokenism, exceeded by private American charity alone. The tokenism is usually just enough to get their vainglorious generals a seat at the command table, on a nine-to-five “work” schedule, exerting control and direction of American military forces. When the Europeans make promises, it’s a safe rule of thumb to simply divide those promises by one-half, double the time required, and then apply all sorts of extra restrictions on the use of what little is finally delivered. It’s a form of permanently institutionalized American welfare for the wealthy and comfy “special” people of Europe. (Europeans rely on the well known childish American 30-second attention span, how easy it is divert their attention with shiny objects, and the long established American practice of not criticizing shyster “friends” in public. “NATO” thus contributes immeasurably to keeping such shyster European establishment politicians in power.)
Sometimes the French are even better at manipulating the “dumb” Americans than are the British. For 43 years the French benefitted from NATO by not being a member, 23 of those years while Europe was under very real threat from the Warsaw Pact. Then in 2009, after the Bush Administration’s muscle-flexing in the Mid-east, the French saw greater utility in controlling the world’s only super-power from within “NATO” (at minimum cost, of course), especially since there was no longer a credible military threat to Europe. And the Obama Administration quickly took the bait. Two years later French politicians had suddenly stabbed an ally in the back and “brave” French pilots, with zero risk to themselves, were shooting fish in a barrel in Libya using US weapons and tax money – in an undeclared eight-month “NATO” bombing war. And all “NATO” (and American women appointees) had to do was lie to the Russians in the UN about its true “regime change” intentions in order to get a UN “humanitarian” resolution approved without a Russian veto. So “NATO”, behind a US super-power, also bestows an ability for its civilians to lie with impunity. (Ludicrously mimicking Julius Caesar’s “Veni, vidi, vici” after he had achieved a quick victory with his 11,000 ground soldiers at the Battle of Zela against a professional ground force almost twice as large, Queen Clinton cackled that “We came, we saw, he’s dead.” Caesar, of course, who always led from the front, never lowered himself to cheap lies or shamefully commandeering the achievements of others. Clinton and her French cohorts would be better suited to the role of Brutus.)
Today “NATO” is a very powerful conventional military organization – which proved completely ineffective for fifteen years in Afghanistan against an unconventional enemy armed with just hand weapons. Fast and fluid conventional warfare is very heavily dependent on machines; slow and static unconventional warfare is very heavily dependent on ground soldiers willing to risk life and limb for others. Afghanistan proved that “NATO” is completely inept at soldier-intensive unconventional warfare “nation-building“, but Libya showed they were just great at machine-intensive conventional warfare nation-destruction. Building stuff requires brave and expert soldiers to get down there in the dirt with locals, but destroying stuff can be done by pushing buttons from a very safe distance. Europe has far more than enough machines, but with mostly drafted nine-to-five weekend warriors almost no such soldiers. So, for “NATO” to have a purpose, a reason for existing, it needs a conventional enemy threat. And none of these basic realities, and more, are lost in Russian thinking and reactions.
Recently the leftist Norwegian politician now serving as “president” of “NATO” * wrote a piece for the New York Times wherein he begrudgingly conceded that Europeans should spend more on their defense. But he made clear that the money would go to toys, that European “NATO” members had no intention to commit ground forces anywhere, either in peacekeeping or combat roles. Europeans are far too “special” to risk life and limb in actual dangerous situations; such roles are strictly for the dumb Americans. “We’ll bomb ally Libya to oblivion to effect “regime change”, but we will NOT help put the pieces back together again so that a functioning state rises from the ashes.” So there you have it: The greatest asset that America brings to “NATO” is NOT all those whiz-bang toys, but her expendable Army and Marine ground soldiers with rifles who Americans are always willing to sacrifice for others. In fact, after a whole century of this crap, comfortably wealthy Europeans have developed an exceedingly irritating sense of entitlement to those soldiers, as if it is something that America MUST do – as their proper and expected role in life on behalf of the “special” Europeans, as obedient servants to the far superior nobility of Europe. Serving as “NATO’s Secretary General”, this European “elitist’s” sole purpose in life is to stake out and maintain a controlling interest in the US military and the American taxpayer, while investing absolutely nothing in either. There are times when I, as a professional American soldier, just want to approach the closest European politician and render a good solid punch in the mouth. If Americans only knew just how smugly arrogant those self-inflated European establishment jerks really are, they’d begin to grasp just how much they are being played for fools. (And if Americans knew just how valuable their professional ground soldiers today really are, they’d be paying them at least five times more than they do.)
Of course, if any people in western civilization incurred an obligation to enforce the “moral imperative” on behalf of others, it is the people of those countries who were freed from the yoke of Nazi oppression by colossal Allied sacrifices during and after World War II, i.e., the European member states of “NATO”. What would have been the consequences to Europeans if Americans had sat on their hands as Europeans do today in the face of similar atrocities elsewhere? Just when do those who have benefitted most from a full century of continuous American sacrifice finally incur a similar obligation to pass it on equitably to others? We used to kick the kids out of the house at age 18; now it’s somewhere after 30 (unless they’re 18-year-old US ground soldiers), but eventually we do expect them to stand on their own and assume really hard adult responsibilities in the broader world. Perpetual dependency is just crippling, and there is no “special” in equal. It is asinine to presume that certain groups of humans are relegated to certain perpetual subservient roles serving the “special” people. Such views engender only contempt. (Trust me: Sometimes it gets visceral.) It reminds me of that tin-horn megalomaniac dictator of Turkey chastising an American four-star general to “Know your place.” Serial liar and brute thug Erdogan, of course, isn’t qualified to shine that general’s shoes; he’s just used to having brainless subservient goons at his constant beck and call. (The US military doesn’t employ such people, and they have to actually believe that what they’re doing is just, proper, and worth their lives; if it isn’t, all bets are off.)
Whenever you hear someone talk about simply spending “more money on defense”, you know you are listening to someone who doesn’t really know what they’re talking about, someone primarily considering profits from making machines. (The other possibility is that they’re playing ignorant taxpayers for born suckers.) “More money!” is the knee-jerk demand of the simple-minded who never learned how to think.
(* Jens Stoltenberg, the son of wealthy Norwegian establishment parents and strongly influenced by his older Marxist-Leninist sister, was a fervent anti-American leftist activist while in college during the 1970s and participated in a number of damaging attacks against the US Embassy in Oslo while I was serving in Berlin. During the 1980s Stoltenberg was a journalist for the socialist Arbeiderbladet and also the leader of the socialist Workers’ Youth League – during which he was in regular contact with a Soviet Russian KGB agent. After communist Russia ceased to exist in 1990, he went into Norwegian government as minister of Trade and then Finance and served two stints as Norwegian prime minister during the early 2000s. His only military experience was his obligatory enlisted infantry service in Norway between high school and college around 1980 while I was serving in Helsinki. Still, the well-placed leftist politician Stoltenberg became Secretary General of “NATO” in 2014. Of course, being “well-placed” in Norway is not as difficult as it would be in the US, which has a population 45 times larger. Just like most of the entitled ladies appointed for their own self-serving socialist objectives to the “NATO” bureaucracy as European politicians and bureaucrats, he’s a military expert in his own mind. Since aristocratic entitlement remains alive and well in Old Europe, a guy like me would be a fool to follow self-inflated Stoltenberg’s “leadership” across the street.)
Really BIG Business
“NATO” members Britain, France and Germany are among the world’s leaders in major advanced weapons systems design, production and sales, and the American taxpayer is one of their most important customers. But they certainly are not alone in that distinction. The very versatile high-tech US Navy patrol boat (CB-90) recently seized by Iran, for example, was designed and made in Sweden. With revenues of about $1 TRILLION per year, and directly employing about 400,000 well-paid people and indirectly supporting another 960,000 jobs, the western European defense industry makes a major contribution to the growth of the wider economy. Top-of-the-line warships, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, armored vehicles, tanks, submarines, drones, missiles, satellites and launch vehicles are all designed and manufactured in western Europe. So are long range bombers and nuclear submarines armed with nuclear bomb tipped missiles. (The United States is not the only significant military threat faced by Russia.) If the Europeans want to defend themselves from incoming missiles, they can certainly field their own defense system. Principle producers of all this military hardware are among the world’s biggest corporations, including BAE Systems, EADS-Airbus and Thales, plus several dozen other smaller companies scattered throughout all western European countries from Spain to Finland to Turkey. German submarine maker Thyssen Krupp Marine Systems, currently building a new fleet of state-of-the-art submarines for Israel, just announced that it will partner with Norway to build six new submarines, four for Norway and two for Germany.
Most of Europe’s national governments are major or majority shareholders in many of their defense industries, so their sales are not just beneficial for taxes but state profits as well, i.e., the governments have a vested interest in selling their weapons systems to other governments and keeping their own citizen voters employed in good-paying jobs. With US taxpayer purchases dropping off following major withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, that huge industry is currently laboring with overcapacity, so it’s useful to keep fanning fear of conventional “threats” that can be addressed by such systems. When a gigantic weapons industry has a capability to produce far more advanced weapons systems than it has customers willing to buy them, ways must be found to keep the factories churning, and one sure-fire way is to manufacture an urgent “need” for the product. Baby Boomers would do everyone a big favor by familiarizing themselves with President Eisenhower’s farewell address of January 1961, especially now that his warning about political and economic forces driving military “strategy” also applies to a whole second continent playing American citizens for deep-pocket emotional fools.
Any country that can design and construct a modern cruise mega-ship – and at least a half dozen Europeans countries from tiny Finland to strapped Italy routinely do – can also design and build an aircraft super-carrier. People who can design and build the Airbus A380 airliner can also design and build a C-5M Super Galaxy transport or even a B2 stealth bomber. (People in England, Germany, France and Spain routinely make sections of the behemoth A380 passenger plane and others assemble the pieces in France.) Any country that can put tens of thousands of “special” politicians and bureaucrats into mind-numbing government agencies of the EU, the UN, the “NATO” and the state – as all European countries routinely do – can put half of them in military uniforms and send them off to growl at bad guys for the next twenty or thirty years.
The European defense industry, of course, is mirrored in the United States, just on an even larger scale. Both industries are heavily oriented to producing very advanced high tech machines, mostly big-ticket ships and planes that require thousands of employees to produce. Like their European counterparts, the US industry also generates vehicles for ground forces, such as M1-A2 Abrams tanks, M2 Bradley fighting vehicles and M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles (Armored Personnel Carriers), but it’s often a problem finding enough US military people to operate all those machines, much less an enemy force for which such machines are appropriate. In fact, the US fills up whole square miles of American desert with brand-new tanks that are in excess of US Army needs. They include highly advanced technology that can’t be given or sold to other countries. The US Army, which doesn’t have the personnel or units to use so many tanks, has tried in vain for years to turn off the supply of Abrams battle tanks that keep rolling off US production lines in Ohio and Michigan as long as Congress keeps funding them. The Europeans are not so cavalier with their own taxpayer money; they push sales to any country with the money to buy, including the US. (Most Americans don’t know that the Bradleys are made in the US by the British BAE Systems or that the Strykers are made by the American General Dynamics in Ontario, Canada.) The US-European military hardware industry is an incredibly huge loose conglomerate in which 30 countries participate. From a Russian military perspective, the quick-release capabilities of that behemoth European industry alone represent a very significant threat indeed. When you add the American defense industry to that, the total is simply mindboggling. It’s a wonder the Russians are not completely paranoid.
As an indication of the scale of European industry in general, in September 2016 the German global pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer purchased the American global agribusiness giant Monsanto for $66 Billion, cash on the barrel. It was the largest foreign acquisition by a German company in history. Bayer now sells a range of drugs other than aspirin, and last year alone had revenues of $46.3 Billion, yet among German companies huge Bayer ranks only 14th in revenue. (Like all pharmaceutical companies, Bayer makes its greatest profits through sales in the US – where, unlike in 90% of the rest of the world, including throughout Europe, drug prices are not regulated by government. This means that the American consumer significantly subsidizes the cost of medicine to all Europeans; without such enormous profits in the US the ability of those companies to conduct R&D for new products would be severely limited.) Such tremendous financial prowess clearly indicates a national self-defense capability enormously greater than Germany, like all other European countries, is currently fielding, but which the American taxpayer continues to subsidize at monumental cost year after year. A full 70 years after the end of WW II, the US is still engaged in post-war “nation-building”, but only selectively, only among very wealthy European “friends”.
Then there is the matter of US military aid to friendly countries like Turkey, Egypt, Israel, etc., that always come with strings attached. Every year Israel, for example, receives about $3 Billion in military “assistance” from the US – with the caveat that 75% of those funds must be spent in the US. So the US money ends up being subsidies for the US defense industry, a circuitous form of “corporate welfare”. Israel’s economy is fully capable of meeting its own military hardware needs, but as long as the Americans want to make themselves feel good by wasting taxpayer money, why not take it – even if it results in weakening Israel’s own defense industry? It is, after all, “free money”. The greater problem is that it hurts those parts of a military force that cannot be manufactured in plants that employ voting civilian workers while also paying handsome dividends to shareholders. Those defense parts that suffer, of course, are ground forces. When such countries go shopping for military stuff in the US with US money, they don’t buy soldiers. Over time this skewed emphasis on fancy toys affects “thinking” about overall strategy and force structure. The toys end up shaping the military that uses them – by placing great over-reliance on “fighter” jets, missiles, destroyers, aircraft carriers, etc.. No one except ground soldiers notices that for the past 15 years of 21st century wars, over 80% of all that fancy hardware has sat idle, not appropriate to the types of wars actually being fought, while the Army and Marines piled up dead and maimed ground soldiers by the thousands (something the Europeans, of course, are simply unwilling to do). No one except ground soldiers notices that a US military fully capable of defeating a massive Warsaw Pact conventional threat (“the last war”) has been held to a standstill for 16 years by an unconventional enemy that does not possess one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone (“the current war”). You can’t defeat such an enemy with those toys unless you are also willing to kill entire civilian populations – which is precluded by 21st century global values. How many Special Forces ground soldiers can you field with the $100 million that a single F-35 “fighter” jet costs – even if you tripled their basic pay?
The single most important thing that both the US and European political establishments need is a credible conventional military threat to justify such enormous investments in military toys. But when it comes to fighting actual wars, the thing that everyone needs and wants most are professional American ground soldiers willing to risk life and limb for others. Yet this is the one thing that American politicians are least willing to buy with other people’s money, because ground soldiers don’t bring in that many votes. Has anyone ever seen a ship or a plane or a tank stop a terrorist from blowing up a market full of shoppers? Thanks to popular western “thinkers”, it’s become easy to find girly amoral sociopaths who can rationalize the joy of killing humans from a very safe distance – whether they use Apache gunships, F-35 “fighters”, guided missile destroyers or armed CIA drones – as long as there’s zero risk to them. (It’s the George Lucas Theory Of Warfare: Sixteen-year-old princesses get to ride around safely in flying super-computers pushing buttons that kill thousands of brainless ground soldiers – who (now get this) – don’t – even – BLEED! It doesn’t get better than that – IF you’re not a brain-dead bloodless ground soldier.)
Just to be clear: There are very few things that the US military does in the world today, very few US military capabilities, that could not be readily duplicated by Europe, given the will to do so. The notion that Europe needs the United States to defend it against the Russians is simply ludicrous. Furthermore, the most valuable resources that the US military has available to fight today’s wars are not its advanced weapons systems but its professional ground soldiers, including its special operations forces – something which any country in Europe could also field, given the will to do so. It just wouldn’t bring in that many votes, especially since most of Europe is still dependent on a male-only draft to fill its military units with part-time personnel.
In this sense, European governments are not so different from the US government in that they greatly prefer to put their money in machines made by civilians rather than in ground soldiers wearing uniforms. The difference is that the US government, unlike European governments, is much more willing to have its ground soldiers pay the ultimate price of such perversely skewed emphasis in actual wars. In the final analysis, Americans and Europeans are much more willing to sacrifice American ground soldiers in order to keep their civilians making toys that have limited utility in the real world.
Here is just one of many similar examples. Other countries have aircraft carriers, but the United States these days deals only in gigantic super-carriers, which when deployed include other ships, such as guided missile destroyers, forming formidable battle groups. The US Navy just launched a brand new super-carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and will launch a new USS John F. Kennedy super-carrier in four years, followed by another USS Enterprise in 9 years – for a total of 13 operational super-carriers manned by 50,000 people, plus their large associated air and Marine components. The US Navy also has 63 nuclear submarines, with 12 more under construction. (Of those 63, 45 are attack subs, and the remaining 18 are missile subs – all manned by 60,000 people. Such juggernauts literally dwarf the Russian navy, with its one normal-sized carrier, into near insignificance. (This is why the US is the only country in the world that has never signed the Treaty Of The Seas. When you can do whatever you want to do, you don’t have to sign treaties.) Some people might think that, with that much terrifying military power constantly roaming around the globe, any enemy would be finished in a matter of hours. Yet the only enemy that has steadily cost American lives in this century is one that has actually grown over 16 years of war, and it possess none of the American toys. So why do the toys exist?
Just to heighten Russian suspicions, the Americans years ago refused Russia’s offer to allow the US to deploy the desired “European missile shield” in the Black Sea aboard US Navy ships, which made perfect sense. The system is ostensibly supposed to defend Europe against missiles coming from “rogue states like Iran” to the south, not against those coming from Russia to the east. No one ever explained why the Europeans couldn’t deploy their own missile system to defend themselves from missiles coming from anywhere. (The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System was developed years ago as part of the US national missile defense strategy to provide (“Star Wars”) missile defense against short– to intermediate-range ballistic missiles. “Future versions may allow limited long-range ICBM intercept capability,” but this is not likely. Aegis BMD (also known as Sea-Based Mid-course) is designed to intercept ballistic missiles during post-boost phase and prior to re-entry.) Now the Americans have just finished deploying the Aegis missile system as an integral part of Europe’s “missile defense shield”. The Americans deployed it well inland in Romania and plan to place a duplicate in Poland. It can defend against intermediate-range missiles launched from Russia to the east, but not long-range ICBMs launched from Iran to the south. The system will be manned by US Navy personnel, and, just so these people feel comfortable and do not lose their familiarity with the US Navy, the command center in Romania is an exact copy of the missile command center found aboard US Navy guided missile destroyers. Somehow we couldn’t use a ship at sea, but we could put a ship on land – where it can be better positioned. But positioned for what? Despite what “NATO” politicians say, the Russians, quite naturally, believe that the system is, and always has been, intended solely for Russia, since ICBMs would not be needed by Russia for close European targets, but would be needed by Iran for distant European targets. The Russians believe that the West never stopped viewing Russia as the “Soviet enemy”, “the evil empire” – simply because they NEEDED that “evil empire” to justify all those incredibly expensive toys.
Both the Americans and the Europeans know full well that such enormous imbalances in West-versus-Russia conventional military machine power inevitably force the Russians into a reactionary military build-up mode, but a mode that can never achieve parity, especially with the West also imposing crippling economic sanctions on Russia. This fact then forces the Russians into a strategy that places significant reliance on unconventional warfare, including the use of special operations ground soldiers (and cyber warfare) and a fallback defense that relies on tactical nuclear weapons – both of which are “the great equalizers”. This is the apparent intent of American and European “strategy” – to recreate the “Cold” War needed to justify all those toys, but with a greatly weaker Russia that presents little real threat to either the United States or Europe. (Yes, it’s just flat-out stupid, evidencing all the brilliance of people who have difficulty figuring out how to button their own shirts.)
So, with more than enough of their own ships, planes, tanks, missiles and drones, and a capability to churn out many more, more than anything else Europe needs professional American ground soldiers to do the really hard stuff for those “too special” to do it themselves. In the Real World, those ground soldiers are quite simply America’s most valuable resource. The whole world saw how eager the Europeans were to avoid placing the necessary soldiers on the ground after eight months of the “NATO” bombing war had left Libya dysfunctional in rubble. Even though most of the unopposed zero-risk bombing runs against Libya were conducted by British and French warplanes after the US had quickly eliminated Libya’s air defenses, the American taxpayer still picked up over 80% of the war’s costs, but endangering European ground soldiers was just not an option their governments would even consider. (They all assumed that the dumb Americans would send in their soldiers; not this time.) As usual, no one had considered what comes next. A thoroughly dysfunctional Libya, ruled by dozens of competing groups with their own militia forces, with its mother lode of weapons for every gang throughout the region, was now CIA’s mess, 25 years in the making. And the CIA, as always expected, has now, five years later, finally engineered bringing in American ground soldiers to fix the mess, while the Europeans in “NATO”, as always expected, still sit and watch safely from the sidelines. (No doubt these US ground soldiers, too, are “defending America”.) Conventional toys are just great at creating messes, but totally incapable of fixing the messes they create. The 80% figure (as America’s “share”) has become the customary (institutionalized) level of American support of European “allies” ever since the US underwrote French forces in Indochina until their defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 (while American forces were engaged in the UN “police action” in Korea), and then immediately picked up where French forces left off in Vietnam – 65 years ago. That’s a very long time for Baby Boomers to run on mental auto-pilot with thinking done for them by their Greatest Generation parents for an entirely different world; it stupidly assumes that Europe is today just as devastated as it was in 1945 immediately after WW II. (All it really does is ensure, guarantee, that the eternally bickering Europeans never get their act together as one unified federation.)
Has anyone seen European soldiers rushing into the bloodbath that is Syria over the past five years? On the contrary, even as western Europe has wrestled with huge numbers of refugees from the Mid-east and northern Africa, most “NATO” countries in Europe have actually decreased military spending and ground force personnel strengths over the past five years, placing an ever greater burden on the US. Syria is 6,000 miles from the US, but only 1,500 miles from Europe. If Europe isn’t concerned about stopping the killing in Syria, or the resultant refugee flow, why should the US be concerned? (And why should American soldiers go to fight wars in places like Syria when so many young Syrians are fleeing their own country for more comfortable lives elsewhere?) The Europeans couldn’t even be moved to provide ground soldier security for UN food shipments waiting to travel just 30 miles from the Turkish border to starving Aleppo after the Americans and Russians had negotiated an historic temporary cease fire to the Syrian civil war, and the UN wouldn’t send in their very highly paid blue-helmet “soldiers”, either. (And “NATO’s” Turks, with their very powerful military forces sitting right there watching, had their own duplicitous reasons for not protecting the aid convoy.) Are any of these countries worth defending?
What’s wrong with this picture? Quite obviously, George Washington’s farewell address warnings about permanent alliances are even more germane today than they were in 1796. The Europeans NEED a credible conventional threat to keep the dumb Americans on their short leash and their own civilian voters employed churning out all those military toys. So do American politicians. You can do that if you keep poking and prodding the bear next door with sticks until the bear finally stands up and roars. An alliance is a group of nations that perceive an external threat equally and are committed to facing that threat equitably under a single military command. But “NATO”, whose mission ended a full quarter of a century ago, is now nothing but another staid European political bureaucracy pretending to be a military organization, and led by politicians who don’t know anything about military matters. That is VERY dangerous. It’s also incredibly expensive. Worse, all American chest-thumpers talk only about “we”. If “we” is solely the US military, why are US taxpayers and American soldiers still fooling around with that European political anachronism after a full century of babysitting the eternally bickering Europeans through World War I, World War II, and the long “Cold” War, too? How much longer will American political “thinking” cling to its Eurocentrism, when over half the American population will soon be of Latin American heritage and those of European origins become ever more statistically insignificant in America’s self-identity? It would be very smart for the Europeans to begin standing on their own two feet sooner rather than later.
By-passing The US Constitution
The West keeps claiming that “NATO” is purely a defensive organization, but in the last two decades under Madeline Albright’s “human rights” philosophy, “NATO” was used in an aggressive attacking mode twice in the former Yugoslavia, once in Afghanistan and once also in Libya. That’s four elective wars that were not at all “defensive”. The March 2011 UN resolution for Libya (#1973), as crafted by American women (Clinton, Rice, Power, Nuland and Albright), authorized a “humanitarian” mission to establish a “no-fly zone” – to avoid civilian casualties that “might” happen. This deception was designed to avoid a Russian veto of that UN resolution. But the actual American (“NATO”) intent was always “regime change” – which became clear within a few days; the no-fly zone was quickly established, but the “NATO” bombing of Libya’s security forces continued. Within a few days the Russians knew they had been deceived, played for fools, and Putin decided he could not afford to wait for Medvedev to finish a second term as president. After the eight month “NATO” bombing of Libya until its leader was dead in a sewer, how could the Russians NOT fear that they were next? And, once a coup d’état had been engineered in Kiev (Ukraine), what options were left for Russia to shore up a dangerously exposed western flank? Smart political and military leaders have a tendency to improve on basic physics – “For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction” – by upping the ante to discourage further such actions. It’s just asinine to put all the blame on Russia, when western military actions completely belie their political rhetoric. With military stuff, it’s never what you say that counts; it’s always how your actions are perceived. If I don’t believe anything those “NATO” politicians say, why should the Russians? “NATO” politicians would never even answer Russia’s oft-repeated question about their war against Libya: “What comes next?” Ditto for Syria. (No one knew, or cared.) And these were the same Americans who had inexplicably thrown so much support behind the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – which nearly led to civil war, averted only by a reluctant take-over by military officers trained in America. Western “foreign policy” seems to defy even basic logic.
All current “crises” with Russia, including Syria, lead straight back to the deliberate American lies in the UN about Libya in March 2011, quickly followed by Secretary of State Clinton aggressively trying to discredit the recently completed parliamentary elections in Russia. The Russians simply do not trust anything the Americans, or their political allies in “NATO”, say. (A lie automatically withdraws trust; that’s why it’s a chargeable offense under US military law (UCMJ), not just a very serious character flaw. Where trust is absent, people die. As a military man, I never give anyone a second chance to lie to me. One and done.) (What was the real purpose of the meeting at the Paris Westin between Clinton and Bernard-Henri Lévy in March 2011, and what did it have to do with President Sarkozy’s earlier re-election campaign, under investigation by French police? Is this why Sarkozy suddenly did a complete reversal on Libya and pursued Gadhafi to his grave with Clinton’s full support? Or was it just as banal as an American neophyte appointee hitching a “free” ride on the naïve “Arab Spring” bandwagon for self-aggrandizement and women’s votes? Just why DO people lie?) Libya presented zero threat to the US or Europe; on the contrary, the country was fully cooperating in the West’s “war on terrorism” as well as in nuclear and other WMD nonproliferation. (See “Getting Gadhafi“.) How hypocritical (and revealing) is it that neither American political party wants to even mention Libya today, that it might only be about a subsequent incident in Benghazi. The British did a full-scale investigation on the whole stupid war, but in the US it “never happened”. At any rate, Clinton later even flaunted the deceit of the Russians by admitting in public that their intention had always been, not “humanitarian”, but “regime change”.
(“Regime change” by military means is, of course, “war”. It’s one of dozens of relabeling tricks that Baby Boomer policy wonks came up with after 9/11/2001 – like “improvised explosive device” for “booby-trap” and “asymmetric” for “unconventional” – to convince people that they were dealing with something new, rather than something that’s been around since the dawn of civilization, and especially to divorce it in the public’s mind from the experiences of Vietnam. The West, and especially the Americans, always soundly condemned Soviet communist leaders for ordering the murder of opponents abroad; now the Americans do the same on a grand scale from the Oval Office via remote-controlled drones on the other side of the world. Since in both cases there is no imminent threat to those ordering the killings, apparently it’s ok if the execution of humans is from a very safe distance rather than dangerously up close and personal. They refer to such relabeling tricks and mental gymnastics as “marketing”, not propaganda. The new labels also facilitate circumventing existing rules, as when you label “kidnapping” as “rendition” or “torture” as “enhanced interrogation” or “war” as “regime change”, knowing that no one has yet written any laws or conventions or military manuals on something called “rendition” or “enhanced interrogation” or “regime change”. “We didn’t wage war against Libya or arrange a coup d’état in Ukraine; we just engineered “regime change”.” You don’t need the US Constitution when you’re engaging in “regime change”. People actually believe this utter nonsense. The only things truly new are “execution-by-drone” and “cyber-warfare”. It’s truly amazing how easily the term “regime change” now rolls off every Washington tongue, the same tongues that get apoplectic over the prospect of someone else “interfering in American elections”. Why bother with elections when you can just assassinate leaders by remote control or effect coups d’état by manipulating mobs in the street?)
Americans still call their President the “Leader Of The Free World” – as if the world still faced the very real threat of global communist enslavement behind an enormously powerful Soviet Russia-led Warsaw Pact. Extraordinary measures put in place to enable a President to execute his RESPONSIBILITY to DEFEND the nation against a hail of nuclear bomb missiles raining down on every American city in the next 30 minutes is now used as a RIGHT to play World Cop by commencing ELECTIVE wars wherever the domestic politics align. Americans don’t even stop long enough to examine the premises underpinning all their asinine political-military “thinking”, much less to hold their Congress accountable for its continuing failure to re-claim its constitutional authority after circumstances so warranted. There is nothing on planet Earth today that can even remotely compare to the threat to the US (or Europe) that was presented by the Warsaw Pact, and US military ability to counter such threats with non-nuclear means is now enormously greater, so even the need for the “nuclear codes” is only infinitesimally above zero. There hasn’t been an original thought out of “the establishment” in Washington in the last forty years. Things simply “evolve”, without reason much less wisdom. No single US official should be able to start, change or end elective wars without a full debate and formal vote in Congress and a clear concise mission statement for its armed forces.
(Perhaps it would be helpful to the reader at this point to know that among the many places all over the world where I have served as a professional American soldier since the 1960s was West Berlin – the free walled city in the middle of communist East Germany during the dark “Cold” War days of the 1970s. In fact, Berlin was for many years my “home of record”, my home base.)
As a very long-serving professional ground soldier, I once believed in all the soaring rhetoric coming out of our political leaders. Men like Kennedy could inspire me. Back then that “we” actually meant a really huge portion of us, including even our presidents. But far too much of it now is just ignorant nonsense, with very little basis in fact or rational analysis, very little concern for the lives of her soldiers – now expected NOT to defend the nation but to go off and do someone else’s hard stuff for them. Americans have even developed a truly sickening ability to simply ignore and write off lost wars and dead soldiers as of zero consequences and simply move on to other more immediate interests of the moment. Just who is this “we”? It certainly isn’t our politicians, almost none of whom have ever served in the military themselves. It also isn’t our diplomats or our vast chattering class ever eager to sacrifice American soldiers in schemes that have absolutely nothing to do with defending the nation. The “press” loves to invoke the royal “we” when posing questions “in the name of the people”, but has almost zero in common with that “we”; it’s mostly just phony bullshit designed by marginal girly twits to sucker-punch and embarrass politicians they don’t like while accomplishing nothing actually constructive. The 2008 election was the first in all of American history when not one of the four candidates for president or vice president had any military experience at all, and this set the precedent for the future; American commanders-in-chief are now winners of superficial popularity contests who promise to dole out enough of other people’s money to buy the most votes. These are people who learned all they need to know about military stuff and wars from Hollywood and video games in the comfort of their cozy homes.
Which other country is so arrogant that it feels it can safely have political appointees as over 70% of its ambassadors, i.e., people who purchased the job and its vaunted title with the single qualification that they gave money to a winning politician’s election campaign or who happen to be born as members of quota interest groups? Many of these anointed “American nobility” come out of nowhere with zero knowledge of the country to which they are to represent the American people, all of them, in their best interests, and even less understanding of the professional American military that provides their principle bona fides. On average US military special operations personnel are deployed to well over 100 different countries every year; any one of these soldiers often knows more about the country than does the American ambassador. You’d think there were many tens of thousands of these multi-talented ground soldiers, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I feel that Americans now view their military as hired mercenaries (derisively labeled inanimate widget “troops” by the “special” people, or “little green men” by their ignorant politicians), something that literally fills me with heated shame. I long ago lost count of the number of times throughout the world that I found myself asking myself, “Why the hell is this problem MY problem?” Sometimes I feel there is far more a need to vicariously pump up American self-esteem with the sacrifices of a very tiny few others than there is any real logic to the “global strategy” espoused by all of our many millions of sideline sitters. Does “leadership” really mean that you’re the only country willing to sacrifice her “expendable” ground soldiers in missions on behalf of others while telling those soldiers that they are “defending America”? Are they saying that, “It makes me feel better about myself when American soldiers die in some endeavor of zero consequence to American national security?” And, after “we” get bored with their efforts, we just call it quits and “fire and forget” the soldiers who survived.
Just to be clear: I happen to believe that I DO have an obligation to use my gifts and resources for a greater good, and that sometimes it IS necessary for me and my buddies to do dangerous stuff on behalf of others rather than solely to defend our own. But these days I have almost zero trust that my political “leaders” know what they are doing, that many of them even know how to think with appreciable intellect and knowledge much less wisdom – to direct and manage my efforts in ways that will succeed, to know going in that they have my back for as long as it takes, that the end result will be worth the sacrifice. As a career soldier you begin to feel that way after a political losing streak from Vietnam through Iraq to Afghanistan and Libya. Such efforts simply can’t all be as “neat and tidy” as Kuwait in 1991, and President Bush Senior was the last of the Greatest Generation men who knew what they were doing. Furthermore, it is just asinine to presume that only America and guys like me have such a responsibility for others; such views simply engender my contempt for those slackers in the US and Europe who only sit on the sidelines throwing their silly sanctimonious stones or ante up cheap tokenism. I am the guy always left holding the bag and standing alone. And American politicians have too much a tendency to use their military as a cheap domestic political football.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it!
Today’s Military Is Not Your Parents’ Military
Americans, including most of those who subsequently came into the military services, never came to grips with the enormous military cuts (almost 50%) that came with the 1990-era “Cold” War “Peace Dividend”. At that time it was determined by Congress, supported by “brilliant” bureaucratic minds at State and CIA, that “the US military is no longer in the nation-building business” and eviscerated its ground force capability to do so, while shifting the “saved” funds to domestic wants and to State/USAID for any future contractor work. The political rationale at that time was that, “since Soviet communism was dead and Europe was free, there no longer is a need to counter an opposing globally oppressive ideology”. (Underpinning this conclusion was the myopic Baby Boomer belief that nothing else in the world mattered once Europe was free and safe.) Translation: The US military would henceforth be essentially a FLUID conventional force (destruction) necessary to defend the nation; it would not be concerned with all the many variations of STATIC unconventional warfare (construction) necessary to win hearts and minds. (A LOT of Americans, including political appointees, never got that memo. They just grabbed the money and ran.) Only one decade later the US was attacked by just such an opposing globally oppressive ideology – a different ideology using solely unconventional methods – but the US military’s counter-capability was mostly gone and could not be rebuilt in fewer than another twenty years, if such a decision was made. (It was not.) That was just one more monumental failure of the government Americans employ to anticipate the inevitable. So much for the brilliant minds at State and CIA, and Congress.
So, for the US military in 2001, Afghanistan as authorized by Congress was at most a six-month small-scale mission to destroy the Taliban and kill or capture as many members of al Qaeda – those who had attacked us on 9/11/2001 – as possible, and then leave. But then State/USAID saw an opportunity for the Europeans in “NATO” to make a “contribution” in “nation-building”, something for which the US military was no longer equipped to handle. Unfortunately non-US-military personnel need a safe and secure environment in which to do their “nation-building”, but you DO “nation-building” to GET a safe and secure environment. The civilian bureaucrats and contractors and European military “nation-builders” in Afghanistan remained mostly hunkered down in fortified “Little America” bunkers. Most of the American taxpayer’s $131 Billion doled out for “nation-building” by State and USAID and DoD bureaucrats to commercial contractors did little more than feed endemic corruption that worked directly against US military objectives. Once again, a mission-creep scheme failed, this time because of faulty civilian “thinking” and because the Europeans steadfastly refused to commit what was necessary on their end. So the US military had to keep increasing its ground combat force levels in Afghanistan while also trying to deal with another civilian-made disaster in Iraq. With “experts” and allies like these, who needs enemies? I wouldn’t trust any of them to have my back.
“You go to war with the army you have” – and the size of that professional infantry army today is indeed finite. Few Americans know that the US military is still operating under that original 2001 Congressional authorization to go after those in Afghanistan who had attacked us on 9/11/2001 – even though they are all long gone. Fifteen years later, my buddies are STILL at war in the region. So are the CIA drone people – in a country (Pakistan) with which “we are not at war”, where more people have died than in Afghanistan, where we ARE at war. (Is the main reason why US ground soldiers are in Afghanistan to ensure secure bases from which the CIA people at Langley can launch their “undeclared” drone war against the sovereign state of Pakistan? The Air Force maintained throughout the 1990s that such missions – security guards for the “special” people in Air Force uniforms – would be the sole usefulness of the Army in the 21st century. (It’s an old story. Why did 6,821 Marines die on tiny Iwo Jima (plus 18,000 wounded)? So long-range Air Force B-29 bomber crews fire-bombing Japan to no effect could be protected by fighter escorts with shorter ranges.) Some Americans seem to like the notion that there’s a role in war for “special” people, too. “Why, I can do that, and still pretend that it’s even more difficult than what ground soldiers do.” But no one ever demands that the theories be proven with actual results. Despite 15 years of failure, some of those nitwits still believe the nonsense that it’s possible to help people by bombing them to death from a very safe distance, as they did in Vietnam. These are the type of people who proclaimed, “Mission Accomplished”, exactly six weeks after the beginning of the war in Iraq; the last “official” American ground forces were withdrawn from Iraq 446 weeks later, and the war was STILL not over. 446 weeks of dead and maimed soldiers is more than twice as long as it takes to get a college degree, 134 weeks longer than it took to fight World War II.)
The vast majority of non-British European “NATO” casualties in Afghanistan have been due to self-inflicted accidents. In 2016, with 20% of Afghanistan still in the hands of a Taliban able to operate freely throughout the country, “NATO” still has about 12,000 military people in-country. As usual, 82% of those forces (9,800) are American, 4% are British (500), and the other 25 “NATO” member countries provide the remaining 14% (1,700) of mainly headquarters personnel hugging the flagpole. The US is also providing 80% of the financial support to the Afghan security forces, while the Europeans have pledged the remaining 20%. (Our “allies” never fully deliver on their promises.)
This is how an over-reliance on whiz-bang military toys can affect “thinking” about military power and strategy, even among those we employ to be experts on such matters. It is very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security – until some enemy who thinks differently comes along and upsets the whole applecart, with a completely different strategy of their own. That is the whole purpose of unconventional warfare.
In response to the steadily deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, some American politicians have again in 2017 suggested that it’s time to increase the numbers of US soldiers on the ground, but absolutely no one is suggesting that any member of “NATO” do the same. Anyone in the US would think that “NATO” is not even a relevant aspect of Afghanistan, which is 7,000 ocean miles from the US but only 2,700 land miles from western Europe. It’s all about “winning”. No one mentions what is to be won, or why, or even how the thing “evolved”. No one even bothers to articulate what it has to do with American national security. And why any of this? Because the strategy of the past 16 years has proven so successful? Because American and “NATO” military might, with all its whiz-bang toys, is so omnipotent? Just how long does incessant failure take before political “leaders” begin to notice all those dead American soldiers and suspect that there might be something amiss with their own “brilliant thinking”? (Perhaps the US Army should start conscripting politicians.) Twenty years after the start of the latest war against Islamic militant extremism, “NATO” still has almost zero capability to realistically counter it – even though all of its efforts to date have been lessons in failure. Conventional military toys have almost no capability to defeat terrorist tactics employed unconventionally among large civilian populations; such machines are largely irrelevant to that equation, and yet most people view those toys as “power”. Power that can’t be used is a very dangerous delusion, just as are military alliances that really aren’t.
Even though there were many negatives about the Draft, including the fact that its highly discriminatory nature absolved well over half of us – our “special” people – at least it did serve to impart a greater sense of actual “we” into that royal “we”. You tend to view the world differently when it’s actually YOUR life and limb that’s on the line. (Most of Europe’s military people are drafted National Guard types.) There is no “special” in equal. The United States must find a way to require a significant period of drafted national service, military or civil, of ALL citizens in order to become eligible for any entitlement benefits. This might just result in more Americans paying attention to what their government is doing, and why, and function as a more effective brake on ignorant political stupidity. The greatest mistake made in the history of American warfare was made by an ignorant civilian diplomat with zero military experience who summarily fired the entire Iraqi army and left his own soldiers suddenly with less than a quarter of the numbers needed to secure the country – while simultaneously presenting them with the world’s fourth largest army of unemployed trained insurgents. Who manufactures such “military geniuses” in the 21st century? Ignorant American hubris. People who didn’t pay attention, who just grabbed the Great Peace Dividend and ran. People who don’t care, as long as it’s only “someone else” who has to pay the price. The main thing that a single super-power status does is obviate the need for its owners to think. That idiot in Iraq was using the same deeply flawed rationale about “the Iraqi people” that proved so disastrously wrong for the CIA in the Bay Of Pigs – a romantic delusion which naïve Americans like to resurrect wherever possible, despite the very long string of failures. The Irish learned all about “the people” in April 1916. Staging large protest demonstrations is one thing; taking up arms against an organized force that will shoot back is quite something else, and most especially when the population is already deeply divided into various interest groups. Very few throughout history have risen to the heights of the American revolutionaries in 1775 or were blessed with the genuine leadership of a man like George Washington.
The above takes a meandering stroll back over a quarter of a century from Syria, to Ukraine, to Libya, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to the 9/11/2001 attacks, to Kosovo, to Bosnia, to major decisions made by the United States at the end of the “Cold” War. While a dozen other major events have been omitted, they are all connected, constitute a progression which to anyone thinking shows a nation unprepared and jerking from one event to the next in isolation without a clear and consistent overarching strategy to properly manage its place in the contemporary world. Like children, “we” focus on whatever pops up in front of our faces at any moment in time – and then seek nothing but immediate domestic political advantage. No one seems bright enough to examine the premises upon which whole mountains of utter nonsense are supposed to be based. And all the while the toys-people march to their own Big Bucks tunes, seemingly oblivious to the realities, and dead ground soldiers, around them. It shows a lot of people in American government’s vast “foreign affairs” arena trying to operate well beyond their competence levels. How many of them saw the October 2000 attack on the warship USS Cole – in nearly the exact same place from where similar US warships had launched the August 1998 missile attacks against al Qaeda – as a formal declaration of war that had been unambiguous in western civilization for a millennium? “Terrorists” without one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone had nearly succeeded in sinking an almost invincible, and incredibly expensive, American guided-missile destroyer right there on a global stage. The US didn’t get the message then, just as it didn’t get the message with the two attacks on American embassies in Africa or a half dozen other loud attempts following the end of the “Cold” War. We simply refused to hear what the other side was saying. Some in the West may view such events as matters of law enforcement, but the people executing them regard them all as acts of war. And they have a plan, and an alliance, in their entirely unconventional open-ended war. We, obviously, do not. We haven’t even figured out how to wage this war without destroying who and what we are, without undermining all that we stand for, without becoming our own worst enemy.
The main reason that Russia is the Big Bad Bogeyman is that politicians on both sides, left and right, American and European, for very different self-serving reasons, are playing voters for stupid emotional fools. In really big chunks of people on both sides of the Atlantic, Vladimir Putin is viscerally hated today as much as was Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, and usually by the same people. Liberal Europeans would greatly prefer to have a Russia run by a communist rather than a “right-winger”, but their chief objective is to keep the dumb Americans carrying their huge portion of Europe’s defense bill to fend off a “wolf at the door” – under their more “enlightened” direction, of course. Conservative politicians are more concerned with business, and nothing is better for business (and political campaign contributions) than a gigantic defense industry churning out all those whiz-bank trillion dollar toys to fend off a “wolf at the door”. A brilliant professional diplomat like Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov understands it better than anyone; Western rhetoric and actions serve perfectly to fuel the same defensive forces inside Russia. Together, it is accomplishing exactly what President Putin has been trying to accomplish, with little success, at home since he first took office in 2000 – regenerating a sense of national pride among Russians and rebuilding Mother Russia as a major military power with a role on the global stage befitting the largest nation on Earth – after a quarter of a century of relentless western humiliations. The West, not Putin, is re-creating the Russian Bear. And, as usual, those left holding the bag are the suckers, in both Russia and the US, who have to foot the bills and do the hard stuff.
The winners are, as usual, the Europeans. The greatest immediate “benefit” to the continued extensive American involvement in European affairs is to employ many tens of thousands of very highly paid European and American bureaucrats and political appointees and “weekend warriors” in a half dozen different self-perpetuating political institutions in very comfortable European locations who do little more than sit around talking utter nonsense and producing brain-dead “studies” while conducting themselves as a separate entitled privileged class on the taxpayers’ dole. Based on their rather contemptible performance over the past twenty years in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya, it’s obvious that another major benefit that accrues from perpetual dependence on the American taxpayers and their military forces is European avoidance of their just responsibility in the world. These are the slick jerks who rail against “nationalism” while deftly doing all they can to retain their own independent nations and thus avoid a true European Union that would enable their elitists to use the great unwashed European masses (“someone else”) to do the hard stuff for the European “special” people. (This is similar to the way the privileged elitists on the two American coasts use Middle America’s strong spine for the hard stuff that keeps their phony egos inflated.) With “NATO”, not only do the Europeans get the dumb Americans to foot a huge portion of their own defense responsibilities, but member states are ensured that they can do whatever they wish inside their own borders, or in non-member states beyond their borders, without fear of other member states, and especially the United States, intervening. And all while hiding behind their presumed perpetual ownership of the subservient American military super-power.
In America’s “other” war, Russia would be a far better ally than enemy, and Russia fully recognizes the importance of well trained and equipped ground soldiers in unconventional warfare working in a good plan. Without the Americans providing almost all of Europe’s credible defense, it wouldn’t take long for the Europeans to find dozens of ways to work WITH the Russians to their mutual self-interests.
Not surprisingly, given the very long across-the-board record of the Baby Boomers coasting effortlessly on the monumental accomplishments of their Greatest Generation parents, the United States is already twenty-five years late in forging a new alliance actually designed for the challenges of THIS century. If the Baby Boomers had half the brains of their parents, they would have forged a meaningful partnership based on mutual respect with the Russians beginning in the 1990s, just as the Greatest Generation had done with both the Germans and the Japanese a half century earlier. Why they did not speaks huge volumes. During the 1990s, it would have been far smarter to pour American money into Russia than into “NATO”, and in such a way that would have maintained some Russian societal structure while restraining the rise of oligarchs and the wholesale looting of the country’s resources. (Maybe this is why the Bill Clinton State Department, under Madeline Albright, was so adamantly opposed to US and Russian military personnel forming natural working relationships after the fall of Soviet Russia and the Warsaw Pact; it was obvious even then that there was another agenda at play.)
Political elitists prefer to think that guys like me are ignorant fools, but, to me, most of them barely make it to fifth grade as far as their knowledge of what’s really going on out there. Even without our degrees, military professionals today are America’s premier experts on the Real World, as it exists, not as naïve others like to imagine it or wish to re-engineer it. Ukraine, for example, has since the end of the “Cold” War been one of the world’s foremost suppliers of man-portable weapons and provided a huge shipment to Gadhafi less than a year before “NATO” decided to go to war against his country; most of those weapons, stolen in Russia, thanks to “NATO” ended up in the hands of America’s and Russia’s enemies throughout the Mid-east and northern Africa. So much for “arming the Ukrainians”. Almost every home in that country has hidden military weapons, often used as lucrative barter. The only thing more weapons would do is provide more fodder for the black market. We send US military personnel to train Ukrainian forces to defend themselves against the Russians – even as many young Ukrainian men avoid the draft or desert the military by moving across the border to Russia (and Poland). It’s sort of like the young Baby Boomers running away to North Korea to avoid the US Draft for the war in South Vietnam against North Vietnam. How crazy is that?
Guys like me frequently serve in very dangerous places all over the world, usually for lengthy periods training indigenous people to defend themselves but often also in extended covert missions on behalf of the American people. They’ve been doing such stuff since World War II, and especially after President Kennedy institutionalized the “green berets”, the US Army Special Forces, in 1961. (Even with the Special Forces well-known aversion to publicity, it’s actually harder these days finding and hearing about Kennedy’s other great gift to foreign affairs – the completely overt and civil Peace Corps.) Obviously, certain European politicians prefer to ridicule Russian “little green men”, but American “little green men” are somehow highly desirable. (For the record, their Russian counterparts are very competent professional soldiers, too.) The greatest risk is that US military personnel sent to places like Ukraine will be suckered into a confrontation engineered, as almost happened in Georgia, by the host country – to get the US super-power to fight their wars rather than working things out locally like responsible adults. Poland wants to play a similar game over the Suwalki Gap.
Today, thousands of man-portable infantry weapons such as AK-47 assault rifles, mortar shells, rocket launchers, anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns are being routinely routed through a new arms pipeline from the Balkans to the Arabian peninsula, countries bordering Syria, and others throughout the Mid-east. Main countries shipping the weapons, most of which are now also produced in those countries, include Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Croatia – all close neighbors of Ukraine. Latvia and Poland are principle originating manufacturers of these weapons. It seems that wherever I go in the world these days bad guys are trying to kill me and my buddies with weapons made in eastern Europe – the same eastern Europe that wants me and my buddies to come defend them from other bad guys. If there’s one thing that eastern Europe does not need, it’s more weapons. Eastern Europe also has a problem filling skilled positions in their military forces. Countries like Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Lithuania are experiencing severe labor shortages because so many citizens with skills have gone elsewhere in the European Union for better paying jobs, and thus are not available to fill low-paying positions in their defense forces at home. Are US soldiers supposed to compensate for such voluntary local labor shortages, too? Twenty-six years after the end of Soviet communism, just what makes such failing countries worthy of defending?
If the US wasn’t so easily manipulated by emotionalism and propaganda, or didn’t exist, most of eastern Europe’s problems would be worked out among the parties involved or in an international court. A major aspect of the problems, however, is the despicable way these counties have treated ethnic Russians who suddenly found themselves unwelcome immigrants in foreign lands when the Warsaw Pact imploded, so there’s a certain justifiable guilt to the faux panic. Thanks to the Soviet Union, suddenly in one night 25,000,000 Russians found themselves unwanted immigrants in foreign lands through no fault of their own. The way to overcome past injustices is NOT to repeat the injustices when the roles are reversed. Americans would never tolerate such behavior in America, and western Europeans don’t tolerate it with recent Muslim immigrants, but they all conveniently pretend not to see such matters of “human rights” in eastern Europe. So there’s a certain degree of hypocrisy in the paranoia. Either you stand for something, or you don’t. It’s rare for guys like me to see stuff in the US press that even begins to scratch the true surface and then does not wander off in the wrong direction, I think because US desk-bound pontificators depend too much on their own political herds. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t talk. Spend some time checking out the full story, not just the parts that seem to agree with your preconceived political notions. If you can’t be bothered to get off your rear end, original sources like AP and Reuters are decent places to start.
At least in the arena of international relations, anyone with a brain would think that the United States has become a nation of willful nitwits. Yet there’s a very disturbing characteristic of Americans that has developed over the past twenty years or so of implied supremacy, of insufferable arrogance, that since Americans can hide behind a single military super-power and mountains of other people’s money, they can simply dictate rules to everyone else, but those rules don’t apply to them. Whenever I see it, and I now see it often among a wide range of pontificators with megaphones and manipulators in the shadows, I am ashamed to be an American. Most such Americans would do everyone a very big favor, before shooting off their mouths about others, even about others engaging in undesirable activity, by first asking what example America is already setting for those others. Trust me: NO ONE likes a bully – who does whatever she wants, because she can. (I know we’re in trouble when I find it harder and harder to get others to work with me as an American for a greater good. American behavior no longer sells America.)
“To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the captain, and a positive crime in the statesman.” — George Santayana (1863-1952) Spain-born Harvard philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.
Responding To 9/11
The attacks of 9/11/2001 came as a great shock to Americans and also to much of the rest of the world. The first question asked was, “Who did this?” The very next question was, “Why do these people hate us so?” And the answer, from every expert in the Western World, was, “Because the West props up dictators who oppress these people throughout the Muslim World.” And, by objective analysis throughout the long “Cold” War, when other things were more important to the West, there was a very healthy degree of expedient validity to this charge. If more such terrorist attacks were to be avoided or at least reduced in the future, it was a charge that had to be dramatically undermined – by changing Western behavior, now that the “Cold” War was over, from one of support of such dictators to one unquestionably opposed to them.
This was the unified mandate from all the academic, diplomatic, political and religious experts who weighed in on the subject. So the US military was given the task of beginning that change process – but WITHOUT appearing to be another iteration of the Crusades (which would have been self-defeating). It is impossible to kill an ideology with bombs; the only effective approach is to undermine its foundations. The US military had to somehow topple dictators, turn the reigns over to “the people”, and leave quickly – so that “the people” could then sort things out for themselves without the dictators OR the “crusaders” in deciding which, if any, ideology they wished to support. This was the counsel of ALL the “western wise men”.
Everyone agreed that Saddam Hussein – a ruthless and powerful dictator who modeled his regime after Hitler’s, who had already engaged in genocide against Kurds within his borders, and was a proven clear and present threat to the entire region – was an excellent target for removal, perhaps the very best possible candidate. There were no dissenters. (Most of the rest of it today is just the usual self-serving after-the-fact revisionist political nonsense. Even a whole new entitlement benefit in the form of prescription drugs – actually rewarding Americans, the royal “we”, when their soldiers went off to war – wasn’t enough to buy off the after-the-fact dissenters.) All of the American and European intelligence agencies, especially CIA’s “liaison” partners in Britain and Germany, who had cooperated so well throughout the “Cold” War, came up with the necessary pretext – NOT religion, but WMD.
The US military, world famous for bowing to civilian direction, stood up and saluted, knowing very well that it was an extremely risky endeavor. Fully experienced and knowledgeable ground soldiers like Chairman JCS/SecState General Colin Powell and Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki voiced very strong caution that the US Army was no longer manned with sufficient professional strength to occupy the country, and were derisively dismissed. (Occupation is one form of static unconventional warfare.) Civilian commercial contractors and other war-profiteering mercenaries, gobbling up plane-loads of taxpayer money, would do the job better than the military could ever do – or so it was proclaimed. With the approval of 64% of the American people and behind a US Joint Congressional Resolution, the US provided 75% of military forces, the UK another 22%, while 37 other countries provided the usual token “forces” for the remaining 3%. (The Brits always punch above their weight, while the continental Europeans always offer at most empty promises and tokenism, in both money and people – just barely enough at the start to secure their pompous “military” brass a seat at the American command table – and then never deliver.)
Notably, in this case our Western European and other “NATO” allies Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Turkey and Greece, plus Russia, remained on the sidelines and did not participate at all. It would have been very different, of course, if a liberal had been in the White House. The European establishment always wants to have “its man in Washington” directing the US military according to its demands. Just look how easy it was for France to get Obama’s appointed women diplomats to have the US military wage an eight-month “regime-change” war against Libya after lying to the Russians in the UN about their true intentions. The European establishment has two different approaches to gaining influence over the US military – either carrot or stick – at the start of each new US administration. Liberals get the carrot; conservatives get the stick. Carrots include rewards, ceremonies, parades and fawning crowds, fancy dinners in king’s palaces and maybe a lollipop, too – all intended to ingratiate. The extremely inexperienced and naïve liberal President Obama, who had never risked anything on behalf of anyone, was allowed to cloak himself in Kennedy aura before huge commemoration crowds in Berlin even before he took office – embarrassingly the first time he had ever stepped outside the US much less gained any real understanding of Berlin. And the Norwegians, incredibly, even followed that up with nothing less than the Nobel Peace Prize after only a few months in office and well before Obama had done anything.* Conservatives like Reagan, on the other hand, get huge anti-American demonstrations in the streets, screaming headlines about another “dumb American cowboy Hitler”, plus vicious insults and slights and jokes in international organizations, all designed to intimidate the new President into line according to the rules laid down by the far superior and “tolerant” Europeans. (With leftists, “tolerant” means everyone must agree with “very special me”.) It turned out that many of these countries profited handsomely through trade with Saddam in the years leading up to the invasion, including with elements required for the manufacture of WMD and vast underground bunker construction used for such things as weapons depots, prisons, execution rooms and torture chambers, compliments of western European “expert know-how”.
*In fairness to President Obama, in his acceptance speech he discussed the tensions between war and peace and the idea of a “just war”, astutely observing, “Perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.” He did not note that the Europeans greatly prefer to have Americans dying in wars, “just” or otherwise, rather than Europeans, and sincerely want to keep it that way, that “peace” had nothing to do with his “peace prize”, that it was really all about keeping the US military on Europe’s short leash. (All politicians, with no military experience of their own, presume that US military people are brainless morons who could never understand what’s really going on. Most such arrogant politicians, of course, couldn’t qualify to serve in the professional US military. And, of course, they all conveniently overlook the roles of the US Constitution, the US Congress and the American people in placing constraints on any American Commander-in-Chief in warfare, that the United States is not an 18th century monarchy, that there is now no deadly urgency to defend the US or Europe against a blizzard of nuclear missiles in the next 30 minutes, that elective wars are just that – optional – and NOT in defense of the nation, that in such circumstances presidential powers in war are highly debatable, regardless of any silly political “alliances”, that in such circumstances it IS possible to win the favor of a President while really pissing off the extremely knowledgeable professionals who serve and defend their own nation in the Regular US military. Europeans would serve themselves well if they started very soon building their own professional military force like Americans enjoy.)
How Strong Is The US Military?
I often hear Americans make statements about “two and a half wars” or “simultaneous wars” which they read somewhere about American military capabilities. Such statements exist in a vacuum, divorced from all the far more important external issues surrounding military capabilities, including politics, popular opinion, budgetary funding, commercial interests, civilian leadership and foreign support. Statements like “the USA is strong enough to fight one country” should always have a subsequent string of caveats. “Strong” is a very subjective term when it comes to things as enormously complex as war among humans. In the final analysis, the US military is only as effective (“strong”) as those American politicians funding and directing it know what they are doing.
Here are some fundamental basics about American military capabilities in a vacuum: (1) Logic dictates that the mere existence of a SINGLE conventional super-power guarantees that any credible challenge it faces will be unconventional. This has been the US military case since 1990, when the US became the world’s only military super-power. (2) The US military is mostly a conventional military force; its unconventional capability was largely eviscerated at the end of the “Cold” War. (3) It is not possible to win an unconventional war by conventional means. (4) Terrorism is one of many different methods of waging unconventional warfare; it cannot be defeated with conventional military power. (5) Conventional warfare is very heavily dependent on machines; unconventional warfare (and all its many aspects and variations such as occupation, stability, counter-insurgency, governance, humanitarian protection, “nation-building”, guerrilla warfare, etc.) is almost completely dependent on ground soldiers. (6) Most of our niftiest machines exist on the water or in the air, but wars take place and are decided on the ground where people live, and there are many types of people and many types of war. (7) All bombs do is create holes in the landscape, holes that WILL be filled; you need people on the ground to referee what fills those holes. It’s possible to write a book on each of such fundamental basics, but they all rest on foundations, premises, of logic.
The US military is strong enough to defend the US against the most concerted foreign conventional military aggression out there. (And it, like “NATO”, NEEDS a credible CONVENTIONAL threat to justify all those machines – like $100 million F-35 flying super-computer “fighter” jets, even though no western “fighter pilot” has fought anyone for over a half century. In lieu of a credible appropriate enemy, they use them as bombers, incredibly expensive artillery pieces, against people armed with rifles.) It is also strong enough to wage conventional war against a number of average enemy states at once. Its unconventional capability, however, is potent but rather limited. Furthermore, because it is a responsible force that operates according to high ethical standards, the US military possesses enormously greater power than it can ever realistically employ in 95% of real world circumstances. When using conventional power in most unconventional missions, the US military is faced with the very difficult problem of exercising appropriate restraint with that power – which, in turn, inherently raises both the importance and the vulnerability of its absolutely critical ground forces.
But there are two aspects to war, and Americans have a tendency to stop after the first part – as if it was all a video game where you rack up “kills”, check your score, and then go have a cappuccino.
Those two parts of war in the simplest terms possible are ‘destroying’ and ‘building’. Destroying is the easy part; building is really really hard. The US military can destroy stuff with very potent machines and few people quite quickly. Putting all the pieces back together so that something worthwhile rises from the rubble, however, takes a very long time and lots and lots of very brave ground soldiers. But unless you are willing to do the second part (or have some capable force waiting in the wings to do it), the first part will in most cases just be wasted. If you are going to send the US military to wage war against a country at staggering cost in life and money, then you also have an obligation to ensure that those who die and are maimed in the effort will not have been sacrificed in vain. You do NOT leave a country you have invaded and conquered at stupendous cost until YOU are ready to leave, until you are certain that the outcome will be positive, that the effort was worth it. This requires an enormous amount of brilliant prior planning that addresses a wide range of contingencies, under a clear and concise mission statement. And once you are in charge – take charge! War is NOT about dainty political niceties, about asking permissions. If you think otherwise, then you have no business engaging in war in the first place; you are ridiculously trying to operate far beyond your competence level. War is the consequence of failed diplomacy and politics. If failed diplomacy and politics is the reason for the war, it’s just incredibly stupid to undermine that war with more of the same inept and ignorant diplomacy and politics while the war is still underway.
If you’re going to do this stuff, then you have a monumental obligation to know what you are doing. I’d start with credible experience, on the ground, up close and personal, ducking bullets. That experience will have dramatic effect on one’s subsequent world view. Note that machines mean gigantic US and European corporations, while ground soldiers are just brave guys. So the practice is that you sacrifice the ground soldiers to justify the machines – which then exist in their own worlds – which results in the sacrifice of more ground soldiers. (Baby Boomer Brilliance.) The US Air Force, for example, has only one single plane designed to provide close air support to ground combat forces – the A-10 Warthog, first fielded 45 years ago. (And the Air Force keeps trying to kill the plane and shift the money to machines that better serve Air Force wants.) The safest place to be in war so far this century is in a US Air Force uniform, safer even than for civilian contractors, while Army and Marine ground soldiers now incur over 98% of combat casualties. (This is up from 92% for Vietnam. Thank God for that new body armor.) What’s worse is the sad fact that (due to physical, mental, educational, moral and psychological minimum standards) 80% of young Americans today can’t qualify to serve as an infantry sergeant in the US Regular Army. Simply stated, the US military is enormously short of the numbers and quality of ground soldiers needed for the types of wars people want it to wage in the 21st century, and the greatest asset the Air Force offers ground soldiers is not bombs but transport. (The incredibly valuable C-130 Hercules cargo plane was first fielded 60 years ago.) Unconventional warfare will remain our greatest weakness as long as we remain the world’s single conventional super-power and the “military-industrial complex” keeps pushing nifty machines.
Civilians often get confused by the numbers necessary. When a US Army general says he needs what seems a really huge number of soldiers, it’s usually a factor of time, not of enemy strength. If your objective is simply to topple a dictator and leave, you can go in with the full power of the US military with a rather small number of ground soldiers in a fast fluid operation. But if you intend to tarry for any length of time in a static situation, the numbers of ground soldiers needed climb exponentially. And in urban environments even those numbers climb dramatically further, in most cases well above current total US ground force strength. Here’s a simple analogy: Two police officers can usually arrest a single criminal rather quickly and easily with no further assistance. But it will require four or five or even six times that number to keep that same single criminal under 24-hour surreptitious surveillance for a week, even more in Manhattan. Soldiers are not machines. They eventually need to be relieved, swapped out, repaired, rested, replenished, re-tuned. They also need to have their casualty losses replaced.
And for the record, special operations soldiers – “little green men” – are grown out of the infantry; all US Army Special Forces, Delta and Rangers, for example, are infantrymen (“boots”, “troops”) with additional qualifications gained through very tough competition. In fact, Special Forces people are primarily teachers, who can fight with the best. Starting from zero three years ago, the Pentagon has admitted in 2016 to having around 5,000 professional soldiers currently on the ground in Iraq and another 500 in Syria, numbers that have grown slowly over the past couple of years, most in training and advisory roles with local ground forces. The Pentagon says these numbers do not include those in-country on temporary duty – a distinction which effectively excludes American special operations soldiers. (US Army Special Forces, for example, always serve on deployment in six-month TDY blocks. This facilitates greater flexibility for managing these finite resources who can be moved around the world, or extended in place, as individuals or small teams, depending on regional and global operational requirements.)
(Note that the American soldiers on the ground in Syria are NOT there at the invitation of the Syrian government and thus have zero legal standing, while the invited Russians do. And, of course, it can be argued that the Russians are playing in Syria the same role that the US is playing in Iraq – assisting the sitting government with military stabilization operations against disruptive elements within its borders, so it’s pretty difficult logically to condemn Russia while giving the US a pass. The fact that the West regards Syria’s Assad today in the same manner that it regarded Iraq’s Saddam 15 years earlier does not change the argument, except that Assad’s Syria has never posed a threat beyond its borders as did Saddam’s Iraq. Naïve and ignorant people who think war is a theoretical exercise or a nifty video game criticize Russian actions today just as they criticized American actions a decade earlier. (It depends on which side of the board you sit, and on your ability to view the board from the other side’s vantage. Those who don’t know what they’re talking about should just shut up, preferably before they demand that “someone else” DO something. America’s own Civil War was far more violent, brutal and bloody than any American today can even imagine; such is usually the case when only “someone else” does the hard stuff. And that war, not so long ago, took a (now revered) President comfortable with such monumental inhumanity to prosecute such an immensely ruthless and costly war to victory, and then able to have his actions validated after-the-fact by a one-sided Supreme Court he had already stacked. Despite his reputation today, it’s doubtful that Lincoln would have been successful in a world ruled by “human rights”, “self-determination”, “rules of warfare”, Geneva Conventions, “war crimes”, “rule of law”, impartial courts, etc.. Shaping the “history” is one of those “spoils of war” – for the victors.)
The ostensible reason why the US military was completely withdrawn from Iraq in 2011 before the job was done was that inept US diplomats had been unable to negotiate a standard Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government needed to protect US military personnel. Since, of course, none of these re-inserted US military personnel in either Iraq or Syria today are protected by a SOFA, either, a rational person might ask why such a situation is acceptable in these two cases but not in the earlier case. Is this just another case of political bullshit or of professional American ground soldiers being “expendable” while everyone else is “special”? Have you ever seen the gigantic US embassy compound in Baghdad, the “Taj Mahal” of embassy palaces, now sitting 90% empty? Who does our thinking for us?
So it’s fairly safe to say that the 5,500 number represents mostly people in various support roles for around 1500 operational soldiers who are not counted. (Some of these 1500 special operations men have also worked well with their counterpart professionals in the Russian army.) To maintain such numbers deployed in place over long periods requires much greater numbers to be available in reserve. Since the total number of such specialized unconventional warfare ground soldiers available to the US Army is quite small, such numbers deployed in Iraq and Syria place heavy strains on these men and their units (and families), as well as degrade their mission capabilities elsewhere. (By comparison, a US Regular Army combat infantry division consists on average of about 22,000 soldiers (six brigades of 3,500 each).) The US Army does not have enough Special Forces soldiers to man one division. (They are organized in smaller “groups”.)
Note also that in Syria, which has been embroiled in a very deadly internal civil war for years, US Army Special Forces personnel are working with Syrian groups often opposed to other Syrians groups being supported by hired CIA mercenaries and other US Army special operations personnel, mainly Delta. Inexplicably, the US Army Special Forces are appropriately fighting against ISIS extremists as authorized by Congress, while the CIA guys are fighting against the government of Syria and its allied partners. It’s pretty difficult to get crazier than this. (See Footnote #2. The World’s Premier Intelligence Agency.) Did the US Congress declare war on Syria while no one was looking, like it did on Libya? (Of course not, on neither Syria or Libya.) Overshadowing all this is “NATO”-member Turkey and oil-rich Saudi Arabia constantly interfering for their own purposes to overthrow the Syrian government, and Russia and Iran steadfastly supporting their Syrian government ally – all while Turkey hides behind its “NATO” membership to constantly pound the US Army Special Forces’ best and most effective ally, the Kurds, in both Iraq and Syria, with impunity. (Turkey is essentially allowing Kurdish infantry soldiers to do the really hard stuff of defeating ISIS areas in northern Syria and then cowardly killing the Kurds with tanks and air strikes in those areas – knowing that, under “NATO rules”, the Americans must accept such despicable behavior in silence.) Does anyone in Washington know what they are doing? No matter what you think of the confused madness in Syria, it’s worth noting that at least Russia and Iran have not broken previous agreements and stabbed their Syrian ally in the back, as the United States and Europe did with their Libyan ally. It’s just irrational to wag fingers at others while ignoring our own actions.
Force Structure Thinking
The allies went into World War II with two huge fully manned and appropriately trained and equipped armies in rapid succession – one combat force to destroy the enemy and one follow-on force to build something better. These are two vastly different missions, each requiring very different personnel, training, equipment and doctrine. Trying to do it on the cheap is just stupid. For the simple-minded it’s always a choice between “arm the rebels” and “bomb the bad guys”. Neither is correct – for the simple reason that humans and the groups they form are incredibly complex entities, requiring enormous knowledge, understanding, patience and wisdom. The patience factor alone tells you why the Americans will always fail in all but the most simple of such endeavors. Any major US military undertaking that lasts longer than a year is bound to run into ignorant American election campaigning, if it isn’t screwed up before then by ignorant and pretentious bureaucrats, policy wonks, political appointees, diplomats and TV talking heads. In warfare, there are no short cuts, easy answers, or quick fixes. Humans are more complicated than that. Destroying stuff is easy; building worthwhile replacements is really hard.
The US Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki, a highly respected and decorated third-generation Japanese-American ground soldier since Vietnam and who KNEW what was needed for Iraq, retired from service within a month of the firing of the Iraqi army. This is NOT simple-minded video game stuff. The US Army does not have a uniformed and armed “Peace Corps” equal in strength to its combat arms even though both fields of expertise are critical but very different aspects of war missions in the 21st century. So it’s easy to win the battles and still lose the war.
All of these things, by the way, were “lessons of Vietnam”, definitely not anything new. Just what have our schools been teaching? (On the other hand, all of those lessons were contained in a great series of manuals researched, written and published by the US Army during the 1970s – manuals, based on contributions from the best of American military, diplomatic, scientific, intelligence and academic experts, which were then mostly discarded when Congress, in a stroke of soon-forgotten “genius”, altered the whole purpose of the US military at the end of the “Cold” War and re-directed the Great Peace Dividend to other purposes.)
Ancillary thinking for decisions about the US military made at the end of the “Cold” War included considerations of the US National Guard and European “NATO” defense forces. Every American state has a contingent of National Guard forces under the command of the state governor. Their primary purpose is static and defensive in nature, to address major emergencies inside the state as deemed by the governor to be of sufficient gravity to require military forces, under state civilian direction. The Regular US military is responsible for training and equipping these volunteer state forces, as well as for ensuring that their combined elements maintain a rudimentary expertise in those capabilities that had been mostly eviscerated from the Regular forces, such as Military Police and Transportation. This becomes important when various elements of these state forces are “federalized” to meet foreign war requirements no longer integral to the Regular forces. (Part of the rationale here was that Americans, when seeing their local policemen, firemen, mechanics, teachers, etc., too long gone at war as “weekend warriors”, would not allow their congressmen to let those wars drag on indefinitely. But when the time came it turned out that this, too, was just more flawed “thinking”, that Americans just didn’t really care that much, as long as the hard stuff involved only “someone else”.)
European national military forces are similar to the US National Guard. That is, they exist as static defensive forces and manned mostly by non-professional drafted personnel, i.e., “weekend warriors”. The professional US military seeks to influence their training and equipping through such partnerships as “NATO”, an objective which is usually intended to accentuate those capabilities in which the US professional forces are deficient. These and similar factors make both the US National Guard and European defense forces better suited to static defensive missions characterized as (“constructive”, “backward leaning”) “unconventional” (such as holding and securing geography, “nation-building”, humanitarian protection, etc.), but only if they are committed in large enough numbers and for a sufficient length of time to accomplish the task at hand (which is never the case).
The Regular (professional) US military is equipped, trained and configured far more for fast, fluid, offensive (“destructive”, “forward leaning”) military operations, but its ground forces are now also stupidly expected to do both “destroying” and “building” at the same time with the same soldiers. Imagine requiring soldiers to wage war while simultaneously maintaining two completely different mind-sets about their proper role in that war – one to kill and one to protect. Anyone who thinks that’s easy for someone also trying to remain alive while their buddies become casualties is just stupid. In today’s world, an American infantryman’s job is the toughest human job there is.
Emotional Americans seem to like their military to play “World Cop”. But just who are WE to police anyone, when we are the ones who set all the wrong precedents? We even proudly espouse a “leadership” mind-set that greatly prefers “antiseptically” killing people abroad by remote control from a very safe distance rather than deal with the “messiness” of taking them prisoner – all while condemning those domestic police officers who evidence a similar mind-set at considerable personal risk up close and personal. Small minds focusing solely on topics in isolation frees them of recognizing and considering cause-and-effect relationships with associated topics and bigger pictures. Everyone is an expert – on a grain of sand in the Sahara, seemingly unaware that there is a Sahara. The most important thing that single super-power status offers is to obviate the need for the politicians and bureaucrats running it to think. Apparently they can be as ignorant and as inept and as duplicitous as they want, and never pay a price, never be held accountable. The prices are always paid by “someone else”. Still, repeating the same stupid lies over and over until whole huge herds actually believe them might work in the US, but it doesn’t go over so well in other countries with schools that teach their kids how to think.
It might be helpful to remember from time to time that there are guys like me out there. We don’t need a stage, or a megaphone. So as not to give our enemies a propaganda advantage, we even try to keep our casualty losses to ourselves, in “the family”. We are honorable men, bow to no one, and know b.s. when we see it. One of our greatest talents is biting our tongues, keeping our mouths shut, in the face of gross civilian stupidity. You will never hear a single whine or a personal request from any of us. From my own perspective, the best new high-tech military equipment fielded in the last 25 years is that really great body armor, followed by those small portable surveillance drones. Neither are very expensive. Having all those other fancy resources available is nice, but we don’t really need any of it; we are what we need most. Please try to measure up. Ignore the political stupidity. Be worthy of being American. Be worthy of the lives of your ground soldiers. They are less than .02% of you, but they make all the difference.
(The best friends I and my buddies have had on the battlefield since 2001 have been the Kurds. Speaking solely for myself, you mess with these people, hiding behind protected membership in “NATO” or not, you make an enemy of me. I am NOT a fan of Erdrogan. The guy strikes me as an unpredictable schizophrenic megalomaniac willing to reverse any decision and blame anyone else in an instant if it furthers his own power in both Turkey and the region. He and his political spokesmen routinely lie about using the Turkish military to bomb civilians and falsely attribute attacks against Turkish security forces, and have done so for a generation. Philosophy or not, after a thousand years, the Kurdish people have fully earned the right to rule their own home. Despite my government’s official stance, and its well-known duplicity over the altruistic concept of “self-determination”, I personally do not consider the Turkish military as an ally of America; on the contrary, it is shameful that such despicable behavior is allowed by a “NATO” member state – which effectively prohibits American intervention on behalf of justice for a worthy people.)
P.S. If you think that I don’t have an interest in who can waltz into the United States and claim all rights of citizenship while assuming none of the responsibilities, you’d be dead wrong. Every year, for example, over 100,000 people from western Europe enter the US via comfy airliners and then over-stay their visas, disappearing into America to become “illegal aliens” milking the system built and defended by others. One place you will never see these million-plus privileged people is in the US armed forces. They didn’t carry their weight in Europe, and they don’t carry their weight in the US, either. But they sure do like to pontificate to the ignorant natives. At least the Mexicans driven out of their own country by a thoroughly corrupt and exploitive ruling class for the most part carry their own weight in America with hard work, lots of future taxpayers, and good values. On the other hand, if you believe in “open borders” for all comers, then why do you need a military to defend what’s inside those borders? It’s an asinine notion born in Marxist socialist communism, not in American democratic capitalism. If you don’t value your nation enough to defend its borders, why do you need me?
So, are you an American or a communist? Either you need me, or you don’t. Your call. Just keep in mind that guys like me have to believe in what we’re defending to keep doing what we do.
I’m a political independent, not a Trump supporter. But it’s not that difficult to understand where Trump gets his support. In the Real World. Surely we can do better than “leaders” and “thinkers” and “academics” and “diplomats” and “intelligence” gurus determined to take the whole world BACKWARDS forty whole years to the darkest days of the “Cold” War. Been there; done that. Now that takes a really “special” kind of bankrupt “brilliance” on the part of America’s Baby Boomer “leaders”. You can bet the farm that these “experts” would come up with some actually sensible approaches if THEIR lives hung in the balance, or if they just placed highest priority on the world our children will inherit no longer owning the world’s single super-power. Anyone who thinks that status is now permanent is a fool. As a professional American soldier straddling both centuries, I would much rather stand today WITH my Russian counterpart than against him. He’s not stupid, either, and he WILL fight. Besides, one enemy at a time is more than enough – for those who have to actually do the hard stuff.
Here are two very serious questions I’ve been waiting for the past three or four decades to ask all Americans: Do the deaths of young soldiers to accomplish nothing really make you proud to be an American? Just what kind of incompetent political “leaders” view such atrocity as an acceptable route to vicarious national self-worth? How easy it has become in our society to get “someone else” to pay the bills, take the blame, and do the hard stuff for “very special me”, and yet the most glaring American contribution to the world has become the truly sickening, nauseating, never-ending whine. Maybe if more Americans got off their asses and did something actually constructive, they’d be too busy to whine. Why not try to join those soldiers, and then work down from that effort?
“NATO’s” mission ended a quarter of a century ago. The Baby Boomers have had 25 years to design a new alliance, one actually intended to address the realities of THIS century, one that includes Russia as a core member. But instead all they’ve done is to retreat into the past, probably because they know how the past ended, and it’s a lot safer to know that, at the end of the past, we won. Just how pathetic is it possible to get? It is nearly impossible for political “leaders” to get more intellectually bankrupt than this level of gross stupidity. These are marginal nitwits whose sole talent is buying whiny dependent votes with other people’s money. None of them could wade through and grasp just the first six paragraphs of this simple article.
Footnote #1. Promoting Democracy
With all the glaring flaws in America that have burst forth on the global stage over the past thirty years, we are simply no longer the best example for other countries to emulate, in just about anything. With massive surveillance of citizens, manipulated elections, a politicized press, politically correct censorship, historically low participation in the labor market, unaccountable government, incredibly huge debts (including those irresponsibly assumed to buy useless college degrees), both political parties prohibiting the rise of other parties while buying many millions of votes with other people’s money, a burgeoning privileged bureaucrat class ever more separate and apart from the taxpayers who employ their “service”, opposed stampeding “social media” political herds, a simply deplorable K-12 school system illegally favoring girls (all despicably hidden behind some asinine self-serving “uni-sex” dogma), really huge herds in one of only two political camps who only hear the “truth” they want to hear, incessant interest group propaganda, a military now presumed to be hired mercenaries, etc., we are steadily eroding our own freedoms, our own values, our own truth, not out of fear of nuclear Armageddon but of a possible few crazies with home-made bombs – all while singing with great emotion of the “land of the free, home of the brave“. The national religion has become “good versus evil” in brainless mutually canceling two-party politics taking us nowhere but backwards. Even concepts like “gender equality” have become much more “special privilege” in constant pursuit of the super-majority women’s vote. Even the term “family”, in the modern political sense, is deceptively devoid of adult males, who are useful only for forking over the money to ever-needy and demanding women, who aren’t even responsible for their own choices, their own elective behavior. I personally don’t like how people such as Erdogan or Putin or the ayatollahs run their countries, but in most cases, their tactics are supported by a majority of their citizens, and often are no worse than the “quasi-legal” methods employed in the US.
America’s greatest flaw is its deplorable female-dominated K-12 “education” industry – busily teaching everyone what to think, but not how to think. (This bigoted K-12 industry has been illegally sending more than twice as many American women through college as men for decades, mainly in the navel-contemplating social “sciences” and humanities. (It’s primarily a celebration of whines and whiners.) Eventually women will have to answer the charge that they “advanced” by crippling the “opposition” while they were still children.) Its next greatest flaw is a Fourth Estate press that has become so politically partisan that it can no longer be trusted to execute its proper role in American democracy – which, in turn, places the whole house of cards in jeopardy. (If you can’t trust the American press, whom can you trust?) It’s third greatest flaw is its race to surpass in 21st century America what communist “security forces” imposed on their own citizens in eastern Europe and Russia throughout the 20th century. (Why exactly did the Greatest Generation wage that long “Cold” War anyway? Just so their pathetic Baby Boomer children could imprison our own people better? Americans were never so self-destructively paranoid for 45 years when “a communist saboteur with Soviet-provided WMD was hiding behind every tree” as they are of a possible crazy or two with a home-made bomb – because as Americans they simply refused to sacrifice to fear the ideals for which they stood. Worse, a rational person has to wonder why today’s bureaucrats need such an enormous amount of high tech help and extralegal short-cuts that weren’t needed by their more effective, and accountable, predecessors. Could it be related to the fact that all the biggest and most powerful unions in America today all protect various types of civilian government employees, another huge self-interested voting bloc, screwing over the people they are supposed to be serving?)
Then there’s that totally asinine construct that goes, “I have RIGHTS! I do NOT have responsibilities! Someone else has the responsibility for ensuring whatever rights I decide to demand for very special me!” No one seems to notice that that “someone else” is nearly gone, that we have become a nation running on the fading scent of Greatest Generation platitudes, mindlessly reciting utter nonsense, refusing to examine the rotted premises. No one seems to realize that, behind all the stupid bluster, the emperor has no clothes.
“It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory.” — Thomas Mann (1875-1955), German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.
A corresponding responsibility is tethered to each and every claimed right. Inconvenient truth: The more rights you claim, the greater are your responsibilities – for others. Those who fail to embrace their societal responsibilities are simply useless dead weight.
From such an emotion-based “education” comes the world of “human rights”, wherein the “special” people decide what is “proper” for everyone else and then set about engaging in any activity that will achieve that end. Using taxpayer money to interfere in the internal affairs of foreign countries – to covertly support opposition candidates and political parties, disseminate propaganda and opposition views, publish “news” about “human rights”, fund social action groups, stack governmental positions, recruit and educate future internal political allies (“sleeper agents”), strategically release embarrassing information to affect election outcomes, etc., even to promote revolution and coups – has long been a primary function of US State/USAID through its many contractor groups and companies and a range of “non-governmental” organizations. No other country interferes in the internal political affairs of other countries nearly to the extent that the US does, and for no apparent reason other than vague notions of “socialist democracy”, “human rights” and “because we can”. (The largest portion of the CIA “black budget” – estimated to range from $50 to $70 Billion annually – goes to such covert programs. According to 2014 documents published on Wikileaks, about 92% of those efforts goes to offense against other countries, with only a measly 8% going to defense, a level of arrogance that is simply breathless in its stupidity.) Russia was a primary target of such efforts until its legislature passed financial disclosure laws requiring such groups to register as agents of foreign governments – just like the US does. Other target countries that have come to public attention in recent years include Egypt, Ukraine, Nigeria, Cuba, Georgia, – anywhere where the US, for some reason, does not like the current leadership, such as Russia’s current “right-wing” regime. The American programs always use terms like “promoting democracy” and “self-determination” and “human rights” for their rationale, but they never support free elections or “self-determination” or “human rights” that go in a direction that US bureaucrats do not want. Mommy America: “Do as I say, not as I do!” (Do the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, in Crimea, in Lithuania, in Latvia have a “right of self-determination”? How about the Irish Catholics in “northern” Ireland? The Basques in Spain? The Kurds in Turkey? Who decides? Someone playing god? On what basis? Brute power? “Human rights”, obviously, is in the eye of the political beholder.)
An objective observer would think that the US is still waging the “Cold” War – a full quarter of a century after it ended. (As an American, I find it just embarrassing.) But the fact that the President of Russia, for example, enjoys incredibly high popularity ratings in his own country has been a bitter pill for State/USAID, and, of course, the CIA. Often it’s the very American interference that fuels domestic popularity and anti-Americanism. A study commissioned by the US Army for Eurasia concluded that it would probably be more effective if the US just stuck to “selling America” as an example for all other countries to emulate – which was the main tactic used throughout the “Cold” War – but that gets harder and harder every day given contemporary American realities. Just about the only thing America has to offer these days is a free ride on the backs of that steadily dwindling few who pay the bills, take the blame, and do the hard stuff.
A thinking man has to ask: If politicians have proven themselves totally incapable of solving any of the dozens of monumental problems at home inside America for the past forty years, what makes them or anyone else think that they can use the US military to solve the world’s problems? Such “rationale” is just lunacy. The only thing that inept American Baby Boomer politicians have accomplished since the 1970s is to make all small problems incredibly larger – mainly by borrowing staggering sums of money from our children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren – and doling it out to buy votes and campaign funds to serve “me” in the here and now. All of western civilization benefitted enormously from the millions of really great true stories of human achievement that came out of America’s and Europe’s Greatest Generation; sadly our children and grandchildren will be lucky to find a dozen such stories that will come out of the perpetually whining Baby Boomer generation, despite its most prominent talent – talk.
Footnote #2. The World’s Premier Intelligence Agency
If you’re the “world’s premier intelligence agency”, handed more funding and resources than many countries, the least you can do is come up with a war pretext that will have some validity after America’s soldiers have been sacrificed in war to find out. WMD: “It’s a slam dunk!” Maybe we should have sent those “experts” in with the first wave of soldiers wearing all that extra protective gear while in combat in the hot desert. This is the genius bunch that simply walked away from Afghanistan in the 1990s and then fumbled among other major matters the collapse of the Soviet economy, the rise of Islamic militant extremism, the attacks of 9/11, and Russia’s actions in Crimea while going wholesale into kidnapping and torture and remote control assassination and paramilitary activities with hired mercenaries and mountains of other people’s money and NSA “defense” information.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, philologist, Latin and Greek scholar.
The CIA, a civilian agency not subject to military law, was handed weapons of war and allowed to wage wars in its own little world, free of accountability, transparency and oversight, free of universally accepted international conventions and rules of warfare, using commercial contractors to circumvent US law restricting US government activities, and incessantly recruiting the US military “knuckle-draggers” needed to do the hard stuff for the “special” people. What are they REALLY doing out there in the name of America, and what’s the blow-back on everyone else? We never had this much lunacy even during the “Cold” War. Just who took “intelligence” out of Central Intelligence? What is an “intelligence agency” doing handing out carefully crafted “talking points” that politicians can use as cover when repeatedly deceiving the American public on the eve of a presidential election (in 2012)? Do these people have any idea what they’re doing? Their loudest mouthpieces sound more like silly wannabe four-star generals than expert clandestine intelligence specialists. While the US military was telling the world that a cyber attack on the US would be regarded as an unambiguous act of war, was it not the CIA that was the first in history to launch a cyber attack against another country (Iran) and then allowed the secret weapon to freely migrate around the globe? Libya was participating in the CIA’s “black site” (“rendition” and “enhanced interrogation”) program; so, was the CIA station in Benghazi later working this problem, or looking for the tens of thousands of very potent weapons that went missing during “NATO’s” bombing campaign – and which task invited the attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans?
These people have become so used to committing the cardinal sin of acting on their own “intelligence” that one wonders why we need a US military at all. Did Gadhafi really do Lockerbie, or was it just easier and more beneficial to finger Libyans than the more likely Iranians? Gladio or not, the colossally inept three-ring-circus kidnapping of “terrorist” Abu Omar in Milan in 2003 bore absolutely none of the precision expertise of the kidnapping of Aldo Moro in Rome in 1978. Even the approach to “taking out” Osama bin Laden, after ten long years of flailing effort had finally revealed his probable location, showed all the creativity, imagination and vision of a short-sighted sewing circle and passed up a golden opportunity via false-flag proxy agents to foster suspicion, fragmentation and self-destruction within the al Qaeda ranks far beyond the immediate here and now. All the subsequent juvenile political crowing pointed the finger directly at the “crusader infidel”. Even the irresponsible use, and public confirmation of that use, of a previously “off-limits” indigenous doctor stained a whole medical corps in a country still struggling to stamp out childhood polio and cost many of their lives. It all seemed akin to elementary school boys jumping up on stage shouting, “Look at me, Mommy! Look what I did!” (Most of the Baby Boomer politicians crowing about Abbottabad were the same who had ridiculed the far more complex, dangerous and risky Son Tay raid when they were young.) After a decade in hiding, killing bin Laden was satisfying as public American retribution and also produced some historical intelligence, of course, but it changed almost nothing in the war. It was far more about serving “very special me” in the here and now.
When you hear the director of CIA in 2016 reciting in public the pathetically lame bureaucratic excuse that “none of us could have predicted” when referring to how the very confused carnage in Syria has unfolded, you know that America is in Big Trouble. Even the “little green man” writing this article could have predicted it. Predicting such things is why the CIA exists! It’s their JOB to predict such things! That’s why the nation employs intelligence specialists, why it pours such humongous taxpayer dollars into the CIA. If the CIA spent more time on intelligence collection and analysis and less time hiring ex-military guys to engage in all sorts of paramilitary activities best left to the military, then perhaps they would be better at the tasks for which the American people employ them to do. If they had spent less time trying to regenerate the Russian “Cold” War bogeyman, who made a far more civilized target for diplomatically protected officers than do crazed terrorists chopping off people’s heads in the desert, they might have realized all the way back in 2001 that the Western key to Islamic militant extremism has always been Russia, and that the old England-Russia “Great Game” belongs solely in the imperialist past. Thank god the US military did not rely on CIA “intelligence” before being sent into Syria; Iraq and Libya were more than enough of THAT nonsense.
Just how is such pathetic behavior supposed to engender faith and trust in our politicians and bureaucrats, much less in the “world’s premier intelligence agency”? Maybe we should put the CIA back under the Department of Defense – where it can be watched more closely and kept from doing too much damage to others. The most important thing America has lost since 2001 is the moral high ground, followed by any illusion that we know what we’re doing. To someone who’s actually been around the block a time or two, it’s all just incredibly embarrassing.
Footnote #3. Second Guesses
The US military has been living with all the western world’s “expert” second-quessers ever since the decision to go into Iraq, and paying the price. “I voted for the invasion of Iraq before I voted against it.” Hindsight brilliance is a defining trait of many millions of sideline sitters, especially of the political variety, who risk nothing. It would, of course, be nice if dead or maimed soldiers could so cavalierly change THEIR minds after-the-fact. Tell it to their surviving children, spouses, parents. 7,000 dead, 55,000 maimed, 100,000 scarred … is a hefty price to pay for a “mistake”. Just how critical to US national security is it – ANY of it – when you can just flippantly say, “Never mind”, to all these people – the few who had enough spine to actually stand up – and just move on to the next “social media” herd stampede? It’s amazing how macho “expert” you can be when you never have to risk anything yourself, but just what does such callous disregard for your own say about us as Americans others should admire? (I’ve always suspected a certain measure of the usual misandry contained in such lunacy. Maybe we should just require all ground soldiers to be women.) How far would you get viewing the 3,000 victims of 9/11/2001 and their survivors as similarly inconsequential? Sometimes it’s really easy to understand why soldiers occasionally opt to simply walk off the battlefield, while giving the royal finger to their self-serving politicians and the ignorant nit-wits who sold their votes to put them in office. (And fake “men” who are too cowardly to even stand up for their own sons’ right to equitable educational results in America’s female-dominated schools are hardly worth the blood of their soldiers anyway. These girly wusses will run away from their own shadows.)
There ought to be a law for all elective wars – that the applicable member of the US Senate must accompany every family notification or casket escort detail, and prohibiting any government official from lying to survivors that the death was “in defense of the grateful nation.” In the absence of competence and integrity, the lives and money of OTHER Americans is the price that American politicians and diplomats pay to buy their American “leadership” in the world – to accomplish little more than their own self-aggrandizement. Never having risked anything of their own, they remain oblivious of just how empty their trite rhetoric, stolen from the towering Greatest Generation for an entirely different world, sounds. (Every time I hear the term “American leadership” I cringe, because I know it probably means America’s ground soldiers will be sent where everyone else is too “special” to go, compliments of the American taxpayer. You don’t need “leadership” to push buttons from the very safe rear. Has anyone ever seen a ship or a plane secure a city block under siege by dedicated insurgents or interdict a “suicide bomber” trying to reach a school or market?)
And none of these “leaders”, trying to operate far beyond their competence levels with very dangerous elective wars, incessantly invoking the royal “we”, ever pays a price for their delusional arrogance.
Still, people in the Muslim world freeing themselves from dictators – “The Arab Spring” – did begin in Iraq, with three successive “purple finger” elections broadcast everywhere throughout the region by millions of cellphones and al Jazeera TV. Revolutionary ideas need time to marinate. (Just look how incredibly long it’s taken the “advanced” European “Union” to get its “united” act together – and that idea has been marinating for a half century!) The same underlying revolutionary rationale remained firmly in place ten years later, right up to “NATO’s” war against Libya engineered by Clinton, Rice, Power and Albright. (In the US you can quickly gain a lot of support for such stupid adventures simply by tossing some red meat over the kennel fence: “Let’s go bomb someone!” – (“but only if there’s zero chance that they’ll bomb us back.”))
(I suppose what disgusts me more than anything about America is the number of “men” in this country who are so eager to shoot off their big mouths on all manner of things, but who don’t even have enough spine to stand up for their own sons’ civil right to an equitable education in America’s schools. (Hint: It is NOT about process; it’s ALL about results.) That tells me all I need to know about such disgusting cowards, including all those “educated experts” pontificating while sitting on their rear ends in the vast chattering class. It is NOT “manly” to champion women while throwing America’s boys under the bus; “men” who do so have simply relinquished that title to play impotent lap dog. And THAT explains their silly big mouths more than anything else. How can such cowards even bear to look at their reflection in the mirror? The easiest target for bigotry in America is the one minority group without a voice, or even a champion – boys. All those dumb male losers do NOT “create themselves”; women create them, from birth onward, because American “men” are cowards who don’t know how to think. If you want to send soldiers to die on battlefields protecting others from bad guys abroad, let’s see you go to court to protect boys from institutional sexism at home. The law demands balance in the results, no matter what process that requires. Enforce it. Women certainly won’t.)
In our thoroughly corrupt “system”, the guilty marginal players running the show get to write the self-serving “history”, and never pay a price; all they have to do is wrap themselves in their particular political herd or interest group and watch truth vanish in the partisan ether. Pity those who have no such refuge. Sometimes even reason just gets tossed in the ash can along with legality. “We” can now arrest and throw in prison people, not for anything they actually did, but who “intend” to travel to places where they could join the bad guys for training as bad guys. So why can’t “we” arrest and throw in prison people who “intend” to travel to places where they will be vulnerable to kidnapping for ransom by the bad guys? Both cases have an equal chance of costing the lives of American soldiers, so why is the same intention legal for one person, but illegal for another person? “Constitutional is whatever we say it is!” – repeated by every “entitled” dictator from ancient Greece to a recent female Speaker of the US House. Some people, it seems, are not equal after all; some people are “special”, in America.
Each of our two behemoth political parties can throw enormous resources, expertise, psychology, outright lies, propaganda and skullduggery into getting really huge portions of our “advanced society” voter population to accept utter nonsense. Given such realities, one has to wonder why neither of these political juggernauts throws such capabilities into countering an ideology that seeks nothing short of our destruction. Why is it acceptable to use such sophisticated propaganda against our own, but unacceptable to use it against our enemies? (This was one of those capabilities that was removed from the military and transferred to the State Department at the end of the “Cold” War.) The fact that our bipolar political establishment has been so completely inept at such obviously needed endeavors leads one to wonder if perhaps there isn’t some ulterior motives at play, that perhaps that opposing ideology is simply being used to achieve ulterior domestic objectives.
Even though she wisely makes no pretense about any military expertise, the world’s best leader over the past dozen years has been Germany’s Angela Merkel. But she may now have exceeded her nation’s ability to follow her lead by insisting that Germany can accommodate such huge numbers of refugees so rapidly. Human populations are very complex things, and they tend to value their culture. Still, I wouldn’t count this brilliant unassuming scientist out. Based on her demonstrated record, I’m willing to give her the benefit of doubt. Having grown up as the daughter of a Christian minister in the bleak tightly controlled atheist society of communist East Germany, she knows very well what’s at stake and what her responsibilities are. Besides, spoiled German citizens, like those throughout the western world, are not producing and growing nearly enough of their own future taxpayers to keep their nation viable, so obviously they don’t value their culture that much after all. If you’re not willing to do the hard stuff yourself, you have to import those who will – and then stand aside while they re-shape it any way they want. It’s what happens when it’s all rights, zero responsibility.
Whenever I return to the States, I’m struck with how much the societal complaints resemble those of 1960, just more infantile, despite all the enormous changes everywhere over the subsequent half century. How did we ever get trapped in such a macabre mental loop? Who teaches our kids all that whiny stuff? It all seems a case of interest group lobbies perpetuating interest group lobbies while enabling whole populations to deftly avoid their just share of the responsibility. Has anyone with a brain ever considered what’s left when you remove perpetual “women and minority victims” from the equation to determine who has the responsibility? What’s left is actually just another small minority! Am I supposed to be “defending” a whole people stuck in the past just because dealing with it was easier? There are huge swaths of the world where such complaints are fully valid; in the US most are just embarrassing. You have to wonder why, in the age of computing, where logic is king, so very much of our societal decision-making is based on emotion – which has much less than a 50% chance of being correct. I chalk it up to the power of women in American “education” and government, serving themselves (but, as a man, I could, of course, be wrong). Still, the five most valuable companies in the world – Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook – were all created and built by American men working in computer logic who had fled American “education”, assumed great risk, and forged new paths on their own. By comparison, the greatest failure in that world is government, including “education”. Logic, like computers, will never hand us infallible truth applicable to human populations, but clearly we can do a much better job of teaching our kids how to think – so that they and we as a society can make better decisions. Integral to that process is a periodic re-examination of the premises forming the foundations of so many of our popular beliefs (or myths).
Footnote #4. Philosophic Rationale
This discussion so far is from the perspective of a ground soldier. It does not address weightier issues contained in western philosophy and values going all the way back to St. Augustine in present-day Algeria as the Roman Empire began to decline in the 4th century AD (and further advanced eight centuries later by the Italian Thomas Aquinas). As Margaret Thatcher observed, “The United States was founded in ideas.” This makes us rather unique in world history – and a nation that should therefore always strive to rise to a higher, if not the highest, standard. I, like Jack Kennedy, happen to be a direct descendent of 19th century Famine-Irish-Americans very well versed in his own (mostly unknown) oppressed heritage. (To 17th century Irish, the Brits were ISIS, and things barely improved for the next 250 years, and weren’t much better for them after they came to America during the 19th century, either, up until around WW II.) But I draw most heavily on the writings of ethical soldier-philosopher Marcus Aurelius, whose reign as Roman emperor ended on the battlefield 220 years before St Augustine. There are germane matters here involving such fundamental issues in western civilization as “the moral imperative”, “human rights”, and “just wars”, but this is not the right moment to delve into such matters, especially since they exceed the interest of most average Americans.
However, it is worth noting that Czech-born and London-raised former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who has a rather large following especially among highly-appointed American women (including Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, et al), draws heavily on such philosophy for her views on contemporary “human rights” and the role of the US military in today’s world. It is such thinking that has guided the use of the US military since the end of the “Cold” War, albeit selectively. The renowned University of Chicago ethicist Jean Elshtain, who died in 2013, wrote about such things in her treatise “The War Against Terror” (2003), in which she argued that a global war against Islamic terrorism, including the invasion of Iraq, was a moral imperative “to go into battle against forces of unambiguous evil.” Such views are perfectly in line with “The Albright Doctrine” (used to attack Serbia and Kosovo, destroy Libya, nearly attack Syria), but because the matter involved Iraq, too, Elshtain was vilified and ostracized by her fellow women “philosophers” in government. I guess your “philosophy” also depends greatly on just who, or which political party, occupies the White House at the time it’s invoked. (Also note that there is the usual “elitist” element of arguing for “someone else” to go forth and do battle with the evil forces out there, to go die for your cause.) Of course, if we really believed in this stuff, we would help the Kurds finally establish their own state in their own homeland; these people have long been a thousand times more deserving of such support than anyone else. Political expediency aside, I remain just a soldier, but I also do embrace some of those ideas in my own philosophical views.
In the contemporary world, the “Albright Doctrine” is also the type of thing that wins votes of emotion-based people, who risk nothing themselves. If you actually believe in this altruistic stuff, then you, as an individual or a nation or an alliance, should be willing to put your own money where your mouth is, your own life where you want mine, and not just sit there on your superior throne smugly expecting “someone else” to do the hard stuff for you. Notice that the most vocal proponents of this “responsibility to protect” doctrine are all highly placed members of a group that has never been required, or even expected, by their society to do anything – American women. Talk is the cheapest thing there is. (See? Even a “troop” can do it.) Any two-bit twit on any street corner can stand in the very safe rear screaming orders to others, and only morons would follow such “leadership from the rear”. Leadership is a responsible ability earned through demonstrated successful action on behalf of others, from the front; it is NOT another quota “right” to order people around. These things apply equally to soap-box experts, talk show hosts, government officials, and European nations. Otherwise all you are doing is filling the air with irritating noise that will just get other people killed to serve your ego, pump up your own self-esteem. (And, of course, if any people in western civilization incurred an obligation to enforce the “moral imperative” on behalf of others, it is the people of those countries who were freed from the yoke of Nazi oppression by colossal Allied sacrifices during and after World War II, i.e., the European member states of “NATO”. What would have been the consequences to Europeans if Americans had sat on their hands as Europeans do today in the face of similar atrocities elsewhere? “I have RIGHTS! I do NOT have responsibilities! Someone else has responsibility for ensuring my rights!” Bullshit.)
Footnote #5. Humanitarian Emergency
Note that the application of “human rights” to a particular situation enables a certain “humanitarian emergency” justification – the “urgency” of which is then used to justify by-passing the US Constitution’s requirement that American wars be first debated and declared by the US Congress, and with a specific mission statement. It’s usually much easier and faster to line up your ducks in the rather small UN Security Council and get a UN resolution passed (usually with a couple of familiar abstentions) – which becomes the sole authority for military action, which a US president, acting imperially, then directs – like an 18th century monarch who then dares parliament not to fund “our deployed troops”. It’s a nifty trick that has been routinely used to pervert the constitutional separation of powers in the United States, the reason why there was an American Revolution, and the European Establishment is well aware of it. It’s a perversion of the “Cold” War “Truman Doctrine”, when a US president as a counter to communist aggression committed the US military without a constitutional declaration by Congress to an extremely deadly war in Korea he labeled a UN “police action” – a war that very easily could have resulted in all-out nuclear Armageddon, and a war that still exists today, a full 65 years later, a full 44 years after Truman died, a full 25 years after the Soviet communist threat vanished. (Huge numbers of American ground soldiers still stationed on guard in South Korea is one of those familiar “unintended consequences”.)
What gets lost in all the emotional nonsense today is the fact that such military endeavors are elective – and NOT executed as a responsibility in defense of the nation or within any greater strategic interests. It’s the way the US military gets transformed from Defender Of The Nation to become World Cop – without a clear mission statement. The scam plays Americans for emotional suckers. The subsequent course of things simply “evolve”, politically. And which other political member of the UN Security Council (or “NATO”) would NOT want a critical role in directing the US military super-power with minimal risk and cost to themselves or their own nation? It’s how the slick tail wags the dumb dog, the way the US military gets owned and directed by all sorts of others who invest absolutely nothing in it. (The European establishment ALWAYS wants someone in the White House who completely agrees with them, who can be expected to toe the European “party line”, who will do what the European establishment wants, and most especially with the US military. They get VERY upset, even panicky, when someone who does not fill that bill looks like they might, or actually does, end up in the White House. Having “Our Man In The White House” still invoking the “Truman Doctrine” or the “Albright Doctrine” is very reassuring to the European establishment; it means they can continue to coast comfortably on the backs of the American taxpayers and their military, while deftly dodging their own responsibilities in the world.) Almost every one of the “macho” American male politicians and diplomats now playing this game were fervent “anti-war” Baby Boomers who did everything possible to evade the Draft for Vietnam when they were young; the rest are mostly appointed women who never had to even think about such things.
As an American of Famine-Irish descent I cannot avoid, of course, fully embracing the concept of “self-determination”. I can even accept the American Civil War, in which so many thousands of illiterate Irish-American soldiers died, only as a war to end slavery, not as a war to preclude peaceful secession. I am ashamed that America did not lend her might in support of Irish struggles against their British oppressors at least a century earlier. Furthermore, as an Irish-American I have zero tolerance for the asinine notion of unearned “birthright entitlement”, by ANY artificial label from blood to class to gender, and am willing to offer my assistance only to those who are willing to risk the same as they want me to risk in their fight for freedom under representative governance. Others shouldn’t demand that America’s military “do something” until after they’ve already stepped up to the plate for a just cause and need help completing a doable plan. It is not my role in life to fight wars for those unwilling to do the same for themselves. Nor is it my role in life to defend those who fail to practice the same level of tolerance they expect of me, either at home or abroad – whether in Latvia or in Turkey or in India or anywhere else, including on America’s college campuses.