Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pavlov's Dogs' Commander-in-Chief

There he was, yesterday afternoon:

Mister Bush, standing at the podium, preparing to address a chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars on the need to "stay the course" in Iraq. I couldn't resist. I turned the TV off.


But I heard and read plenty about his speech this morning. Long on abstract platitudes like "honor the sacrifices," "stay on the offensive," and "finish the task." Short on specifics like what exactly the "task" is or by what measures we might consider it "finished." And certainly no revelations on why we started it in the first place.

And, of course, comparisons of the War on Terror (including the tar pit in Iraq) with the two world wars. Which is like equating a nuclear submarine with a Labrador retriever. (They both go in the water. The similarity ends there.)

Mister Bush, of course, would like us to regard him as a Wilson or Roosevelt, even though he was a way to go to catch up with, say, a Millard Fillmore.

Both world wars were fought against sovereign states that fielded conventional, uniformed forces. Unlike the Global War on Terror (or whatever we're calling it today), the world wars had a military solution.

When we defeated our enemies' military forces in the world wars, our enemies' governments actually formally surrendered. (Versus the Iraq fiasco, where we worked it so there was no sovereign authority to surrender to us.)

In both world wars, Congress actually declared war authorizing the commander-in-chief to wage conflict against specific enemies. (Versus the GWOT, where Congress wrote the commander-in-chief a blank check to go out and whomp up on whoever he wanted wherever he wanted and for as long as he wanted to.)


Something Mister Bush failed to mention to his VFW audience: both world wars led to counterproductive end states. Termination of "the war to end all wars" laid the groundwork for World War II. "The Good War" produced the rise of the Soviet Union, The Cold War, and the nasty third world proxy wars that accompanied it.

In that regard, I suppose you could draw a parallel between the world wars and the woebegone business in Iraq.


Interesting choice of audience, that VFW chapter in Utah (that's a red state, right?). Looks like Mister Bush got tired of facing a roomful of icy stares from active duty military types.

I don't know for a fact that every veteran in the audience had to be a registered Republican and sign an oath of loyalty to Mister Bush, but given this administration's track record, I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case.

I don't especially like to project group mentality attributes on individuals, and certainly respect the contributions all US veterans have made, but...

Folks in groups like the VFW tend to suffer from a form of Pavlov's Dogs of War Syndrome. They still tend to think of a president--especially a "wartime" president--as their commander-in-chief, even though they're no longer in his chain of command. And folks who have been operantly conditioned to think that way will usually obey rather than question.

Which is just the kind of audience Mister Bush is used to addressing.


  1. Yup. Nice post. "Mister Bush"...I like that; just how you'd address an itinerant J.O., which is exactly what he is...

    Jeff - how long would it have been before you had 1st Lt Bush in for a "private discussion" for not making that annual trip to the Doc? Certainly a top 50%-er in fitrepland, eh?

  2. Let's just say he would have become Captain Bush over my dead body.

    I've heard some pretty good third hand stories about the TANG business. An airline pilot buddy of an airline pilot buddy of mine was in that unit at the time in question. They recently had a reunion--half the guys showed up wearing Dubya masks.

    None of them remembered ever seeing the guy.

    Guess it pays to be a rich, powerful man's son. Think Dubya would have made it through flight training otherwise?


  3. Brian1:40 PM

    Great to find your website, Jeff.

    As a veteran of the first Gulf War it is very reassuring to me to know that there are other former members of the military that don't follow the strict republican line -many I knew in the military did and still do...

    Exceptional site, informed opinion.
    Thank you.


  4. Glad you like the place, Brian. Thanks for stopping by and posting.


  5. Jeff-
    Nah, two downs, six ETs and a refly and out to the fleet.

    Sayonara, sucka...where he'd have been a below-average blackshoe.

    BTW, glad to see folks are coming over to visit from my place and Susie's. Hope they come back early and often!

  6. Jeff,

    Nice site. Given our current state of affairs, I think we need you to do a little more (ahem) consulting though. See ya' at the local VFW ;)

  7. Thanks loads for the referrals, Jo. BTW, re Lt. W., there's no way in hell he'd have the discipline to make it as a SWO.

  8. Anonymous3:39 PM

    I stopped by based upon recommendations fro Jo Fish (a fine blogger, even if he was a sailor-man) and Susie Madrak who is/was a super blonde. It's great blog, Jeff, and I wish you all the best.

    Thanks for your efforts to raise the right issues in a forthright professional manner.


  9. CJ and Lurch:

    Thanks much for stopping by and posting. Don't be srangers!


  10. badgervan3:55 PM

    Greetings from an ex-CT-R, 1968-72. Found you through Dem Veteran, and will be a regular reader. Agree with you 100% on mess-o-potamia. This is a cooked up war for oil and a permanent presence in the middle east. Anyone who does not see this is just fooling themselves.
    I believe that most officers and lifers are/become republicans, as they are more gung-ho military than the rank and file. Enlisted pukes, on the other hand, see the truth through their day to day work. They seem to become dems by a large margin.
    By the way, most of us despised nixon - but did our duty to the best of our abilities regardless of our hated president/commander-in-chief.
    I look forward to reading your blog - Anchors Away, sir.

  11. Badger, thanks for stopping by and posting, and welcome.

    For what it's worth, the specific reason I'm focusing on the "officer class" is because I was never enlisted, and don't care to presume to understand something I never experienced.

    I was, however (in my mind at least), a big trooper kind of guy. IMO, while officers quickly get caught up in the politics of the military, what made one as a troop was carrying one's weight in the shop/office/squad and being a good shipmate. Other considerations--race, religion, etc.--faded into insignificance.

    It's for that reason that I often consider the enlisted GI to be the real representation of what's best about America.


  12. Anonymous9:20 PM

    glad to find your blog jeff, with the way MSM reports it there's only conservative military officers....I was USAF SSgt 71-75.....I would offer that enlisted men are much more weary bunch and often very skeptical of the higher command...keep up the good postings

  13. Are former enlisted men allowed to post here? I was a mere snipe. But great blog.

  14. LOL, Gus. Former enlisted men are welcome and encouraged to post here whenever they like. Thanks for the nice words, and for stopping by.