Someone asked me if I was incensed when I saw that Trump had ordered the Academy to hold graduation so he could speak. Actually, I kind of shrugged when I saw the news. BTW– there’s Ronald Reagan at my graduation, which was his first public appearance after he’d been shot.
I’ve been reflecting on the military and recent events a lot lately and it’s not good. People say “Thank you for your service” and the reply is “Thank you for paying taxes”. Except a lot of rich people don’t pay taxes. They also don’t serve. And a lot of them make a lot of many off the military and war.
I know it’s sincere from most people but I remember the Vietnam and post-Vietnam military. I’d thank anyone who was drafted for their service. But no one in the military today was drafted. Everyone is a volunteer. Every West Pointer going back for graduation chose to be part of it. They need to get used to it. Because they could easily end up in Afghanistan where for almost two decades, I’ve been trying to find our mission statement and given up: there isn’t one. Remember, we have senior officers who’ve never really won a war and actually lost several. The ‘win’ in Iraq was a loss because the ‘peace’ never came and the spin-offs which we helped create were worse than the problem. Plus, it was, in essence an illegal invasion and technically not a war. We haven’t really declared war since 1942. (free slideshow on that if interested) I think that’s a huge problem.
After the Afghanistan Papers came out there was a collective shrug. Like Vietnam, the people involved knew there was no chance of ‘winning’ especially when there was no clear definition of what winning was. I look at the rows of ribbons on senior officer’s chests and shake my head, especially as they don WWII era greens. Not a single general who took over in Afghanistan had the guts to stand up and say: “Hey, I can’t WIN here, because there is no goal. Can we nail that down please?” They just went in and did a variation of what the previous guy did, retired, got their big paying job in the defense industry and wrote a book about what a great leader they had been. In losing.
I’ve got a classmate who is Army Chief of Staff and another who is up for and just got a top job in the Pentagon—it seems his job interview as a consultant on Fox News and calling a former head of the CIA, out of favor with the current administration, a communist, went well.
We have for profit healthcare and we’re learning what a disaster that is as people lose their jobs and learn what it’s like (and how much it costs) to get their own healthcare, if they can at all. We have a for profit defense industry which Eisenhower warned against. And we most definitely have for profit war. Why are we in our longest conflict? Because people are making money off it. It’s extremely lucrative. And those getting maimed and killed? They’re volunteers. We thank them but most of us aren’t them. And most of us, let’s be very honest, really don’t care. I guarantee the president has no clue how many countries our troops are deployed in. I’d say many in the Pentagon would be hard pressed to easily cite a number.
Clausewitz said (see that makes me an expert, quoting Von) that:
War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.
But war is really an extension of much more, especially economics. Even, I dare say, of ethics. I believe one of our greatest military achievements was the Berlin Airlift. Until we reshape our nation’s defense to accept a larger reality we’re clueless. Our Department of Defense can’t even defend itself from a virus. Which makes me wonder what the military’s biological warfare defensive plans were. Because it doesn’t seem like they had any.
I remember during the Cold War being briefed on a classified mission to jump into Poland and put surveillance on a rail line from Russia to East Germany if the balloon went up on WWIII. We knew, without being told, if we saw, let’s say, a Russian tank corps railloading past us (BTW, rail gauge changes at the Russian border—they’re a little paranoid about making it easy for invaders) that a nuke would likely be popped on it and we’d be ashes. Also, my concern was if I were the bad guys and knew we’d be around looking, I’d simply go down both sides of the tracks dropping chemical or biological agents to wipe us out—how would we prepare for that? A CIA briefer actually told me I was too junior to worry about such things. But I digress.
One maxim which I was taught and absolutely believe in is that the leader is responsible for ALL. Straight from the top down to the fire-team leader. There needs to be accountability.
Our top “leaders” are players, not leaders. We saw what played out with the commander of the Roosevelt. We used to wargame that mission versus the men, which comes first scenario at West Point and other military schools. My answer was always the men (women). Why? Because you can’t do the mission without them. But the school answer is the mission. But the true answer is: the profit.
Stay safe. Stay positive. Be like Cool Gus. Or even Scout.
The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide. Also now in Kindle Unlimited.
The Green Beret Pocket-Sized Survival Guide (same as above, minus the preparation part in order to be smaller in print)