Friday, August 12, 2005

Barbecue Republic: The Caissons Go Rolling Along

In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the "disastrous rise of misplaced power" that our military industrial complex would spawn. But as I noted in a post from last May, we can trace the incestuous relationship between the military and private enterprise back to at least the 19th century. Prussian Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke (the elder), who used the transportation revolution of his day to transform the Prussian Army and win the German Wars of Reunification, had significant stock holdings in the Prussian railway system.

In 21st century America, we've honed this type of bedfellowing to a fine art. You can't count the hands of everybody who's knocking off a piece of the defense dollar because they've all got their hands in each other's pockets.

Generals involved in system and doctrine development retire and go to work for the companies who are developing the very same systems and doctrines. The colonels, majors, and sergeant majors who used to work for the generals retire too, and go to work in the civilian sector for their old bosses--the retired generals.

The retired guys work hand in purse with their still on active duty buddies to insert their pet projects into so-called "battle experiments," then rig the games to ensure said projects prove victorious. Everyone publishes after-action reports that hail the projects as having passed "objective" and "empirical" scrutiny. Contracts are drawn up, pork gets distributed through every state in the union, congressional members get their campaign contributions, and the military industrial caisson goes rolling along.

In 19th century Prussia they called this sort of thing die Korruption. In 21st century America, we call it the United States Joint Forces Command.

Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "transformation laboratory," charged by Mister Rumsfeld to develop "future concepts for joint warfighting" like mumbo jumbo mantras such as "network centric warfare," "shock and awe," "effects based operations," and whatever "new and improved" weapons systems happen to be favored by the powers that be.

JFCOM's most infamous battle experiment to date has been Millenium Challenge 2002 (MC02).

Much has been written, pro and con, about MC02. But any way you want to cut it, it was a warm up exercise for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

By any reasonable measure of effectiveness, MCO2 proved the utter inadequacy of Rumsfeld's transformational concepts and platforms. Shortly after the start of the exercise, opposition force commander retired Marine Lieutenant General Paul van Riper, using asymmetric strategies and tactics, had sunk the US fleet with a vastly inferior naval force and had the "coalition" forces on the ropes.

The game-masters stopped the exercise, revived the fleet, put limits on General van Riper's tactics, and continued the game. At the end of the day, US led forces "proved" victorious.

Van Riper resigned as opposition force commander, and later said that the war game had "been rigged" to ensure a US force victory.


But that made no never-mind to Rumsfeld and his four-star yes men, who pushed ahead with the preordained invasion of Iraq using their "vision" of transformational concepts and weapons.

And we've all seen how that went. Too bad they couldn't rig the real thing.


The American brand of militarism costs roughly $500 billion per year. We spend as much on "defense" as the rest of the world combined.

But given the state of current events, we may consider the real cost of militarism to be three fold:

-- A foreign policy that is overly reliant on military power

-- A mistaken belief that the military can effectively and efficiently achieve our aims overseas

-- An overdependence of the domestic economy on federal defense spending


An all volunteer professional force has its upside and downside. The upside is that when you really need it, it's ready to use. The downside is that it's convenient to use, even if you don't really need it.


Next time on Barbecue Republic we'll examine The Invasion of the Theocrats.

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