(Cross posted at Kos.)
According to the senior American military spokesman in Iraq, the U.S. led crackdown on Baghdad is a bust. But that senior military spokesman is being very Bush administration friendly in the way he couches his terms. Major General William B. Caldwell IV calls the recent surge in violence in Iraq's capital city "disheartening."
That's an interesting choice of words, General. It's "disheartening" when the top college on your wish list turns you down, or you don't get that promotion you thought you were a shoe-in for, or the publishing deal for your first novel falls to pieces in the 11th hour. When the plans of the world's mightiest nation for terminating a war go down the tubes time after time after time after time, it's an unmitigated disaster. And when that mighty nation's senior military officers prevaricate for the sake of protecting their political masters, it's an unforgivable disgrace.
Stars on Their Collars, Tails Between Their Legs
During a recent televised briefing in Baghdad, Caldwell said it was "no coincidence" that the increasing number of deaths in Iraq “coincide with our increased presence on the streets of Baghdad and the run-up to the American midterm elections.”
It's no coincidence that things coincide? That's a brilliant conclusion, General.
Caldwell also said, “The enemy knows that killing innocent people and Americans will garner headlines and create a sense of frustration.”
I have to wonder, General, how "they" knew that our "increased presence" on the streets would result in greater deaths of "innocents" and Americans, and would grab headlines and garner a sense of frustration prior to the midterm elections and "we" didn't.
I can't help but conclude that the increased deaths and frustration prior to the elections weren't expected. I suspect that the much-ballyhooed offensives in Ramadi and Baghdad were calculated to provide major successes in Iraq prior to the midterm elections, and now that they haven't, the likes of Caldwell are helping to reverse the spin in a way that will keep the ball in the GOP's court.
Major General Caldwell commanded elements of the 82nd Airborne Divison in New Orleans during the dysfunctional Hurricane Katrina rescue effort. At the time, he gushed to the American Forces Information Service that his soldiers often told him how proud they were to help the "stricken people of New Orleans."
In his current job as spokesman for Multi-National Forces Iraq, he's trying to generate happy noise about how U.S. troops are helping the stricken people of Iraq. As recently as late September of this year, he wrote that the violence in Iraq belies "the gradual but remarkable transformation this nation is experiencing."
"This nation" is the one that John Warner (R-Virginia), chairman of the Senate House Committee recently said is "drifting sideways" and that former Secretary of State James Baker now describes as a "helluva mess."
Part of me wants to sympathize with the generals and admirals currently on active duty. They're in a hell of a spot, being in charge of troops caught up in a quagmire of bad policies and strategies thrust on them by the neoconservative chicken hawks. But you know what? To hell with the generals and admirals.
Nobody achieves high rank in the military by accident these days. They spend decades taking the right kinds of assignments, making the right kinds of connections, and learning the right kinds of manners. Many of them come from a long line of senior military officers, or marry into one, or both, and entirely too many of them came from the service academies, where they received four years of instruction on how to lie, cheat and steal their way to the top of their profession. They all had a long, long look at the nature of the positions they aspired to, and none of the generals and admirals serving today got where they are by telling Donald Rumsfeld to go eat his hat.
Mad Dogs and Generals
I tend to think we have roughly twice as much military force as we really need. America presently spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, and apocalyptic ambitions of the lunatic right aside, there's no need for America to go to war with the rest of the world. But realistically, America needs to retain a decisive balance of military power to maintain both its own security and a relatively peaceful environment in the global order, which means we'll need to keep a corps of career officers who will eventually become flag and senior staff officers.
The downside to that reality is that career military officers tend to become, well, careerists, and careerists' principle motivation tends to be the advancement of their own careers. It was the 19th British historian Lord John Acton who said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," and, "The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern." It's to Lord Acton's credit that he chose to pursue academia rather than the political power his birthright made available to him, but even his example leaves us with a conundrum.
If people who seek power are inherently corrupt, and virtuous people avoid or shun power, then who winds up in power?
I'm perhaps overly fond of joking that we've arrived at a point in U.S. history where our politicians run wars and our generals play politics, but that's not really a new phenomenon. Keep in mind that George Washington, our first civilian Commander in Chief, was also the first general of our first army.
There's no easy way to undo the Gordian knot we presently find ourselves twisted into, but Americans may be wise to consider what happened when they gave total power to a single, warfare-centric party to hand-pick a cadre of yes-men generals and admirals.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.