Monday, July 04, 2011

Don't Let the Door Hit You, Uncle Bob

5 July 2011

by Jeff Huber

Leave it to the Washington Post, perhaps the most fetid carcass in the tomb of our once vibrant fourth estate, to lead the pandering applause for recently recycled defense secretary Bob Gates.  In a recent fawning fluff piece on the Gates legacy, Pentagon correspondent Greg Jaffe, a journalistic progeny of David Petraeus myth fabricator Thomas E. Ricks, gushes like a bobbysoxer about how Gates established a reputation for “straight talk.”  There’s plenty of media shame to go around on this story, though; Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor writes a similar love letter, cooing about the how Gates spoke “truth to power.”    

Great.  Caesar’s.  Ghost.  If Uncle Bob established anything, it’s that his mouth has more sides to it that the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.  In a city desperately overpopulated with nude emperors, Gates was especially notable for his ability to maneuver around the naked truth like a master danseur.  The guy had more positions than the Kama Sutra. 

Possibly the best example of Gates’ mendacity is his smoke-and-mirror bombast on reductions in defense spending.  Gates conspicuously championed the cause of reduced military spending.  But his idea of slicing $100 billion from the defense budget over five years was “saving” it so the Pentagon could spend it on modernizing and recapitalizing military equipment and sustaining troops.  That’s like forcing your kids to "save" their allowance so they can blow it in a candy store.  And when you get right down to it, the military’s major expenditures come in two basic categories: equipment and troops.  The only other military expense is war, and where the federal budget is concerned, war is like Jell-O: there’s always room for it.
In June, Gates’ number necromancers announced plans to “freeze” the Pentagon’s budget, by which they actually meant that they could stop asking for annual increases—excepting for adjustments for inflation, of course—by 2015.  But a lot can happen between now and then, and even Gates sheepishly (or wolfishly?) confessed that predictions that far into the future have a “troubled track record” and that "any number of these decisions could be reversed."  By “any number,” one can safely assume that Gates meant “all.” 

"The defense budget
is not the cause
of this country's
fiscal woes."
In a speech to his war mongrel pals at the American Enterprise Institute (parent organization of Bill Kristol’s malignant Project for the New American Century), Gates allowed that defense budget cuts needed to be “part of the solution” to the country’s economic woes, but in the same breath he added “I have long believed – and still do – that the defense budget, however large it may be, is not the cause of this country’s fiscal woes.”  That’s a remarkable remark, considering that the official defense budget accounts for over 50 percent of discretionary federal spending and that the real tab for defense outlay, when you chalk up defense related spending not included in the DoD budget—non-DoD agencies defense-related spending, veterans benefits, interest on debt incurred by military spending and so on—may, according to some credible arguments, run to over half of all federal outlays

But the defense budget largely trickles into the pockets of military industrialists like the folks who belong to the American Enterprise Institute, and they are perfectly willing to hear that defense spending had nothing to do with ruining the economy.  They want to believe, or rather they want the rest of us to believe, that the economy was shipwrecked by all those black and brown people who got up one morning and forfeited on $700,000 billion worth of mortgages that the liberals made the banks lend them because of some law Jimmy Carter passed in the ‘70s.  

Feckless Jaffe writes of how much Gates cared about the troops he commanded, and about his concern for their welfare in combat:  "Gates helicoptered into a hardscrabble U.S. base near the Pakistan border," Jaffe writes.  "Many of the soldiers had just been through a withering, weeklong battle that took the lives of six of their colleagues. 'I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you since I sent you here,' Gates told them. 'I just want to tell you how much I love you.'"
Jesus, Mary and Shemp.  I love you, man, in your hardscrabble base after your withering battle, dude.  It’s lucky for Uncle Bob that I wasn’t among the soldiers at that hardscrabble firebase, because he wouldn’t have gotten back into that helicopter under his own power.  Jaffe doesn’t say how he came by this Bunyon-esque narrative; he likely heard it from the same unnamed “senior military official” who feeds him the most of the propaganda he channels into his paper and calls “news.”

Despite how much Gates loves his hardscrabble, withered, battle hardened, desert tanned, crew cut, musky odor emitting troops, he is perfectly willing to screw them out of pay and benefits in order to meet his phony-baloney budget reduction strategy.  He’s also pushing a plan to poke veterans (those hardscrabblers of yesteryear) out of pay and benefits. 

He doesn’t like doing that, mind you.  It breaks his little heart, I'm sure.  But he’s already cut important weapon programs to the bone, and he’s only preserving must-have initiatives that will allow America to fight its future wars, high-dollar gizmos like flying submarines, and a killer drone that can fly halfway across the world from the deck of an aircraft carrier that’s already halfway across the world, and global strike rockets that can whack distant terrorists with a fraction of the wallop that could be delivered at a fraction of the cost by overpriced bombers we’ve already bought, and stealth fighters that may or may not be able to defeat air defense systems that may or may not ever exist*, and robot soldiers who don’t need any pay or benefits at all, and whose moms and dads and wives and kids won’t whine about it when they accidentally get killed by their fellow robot soldiers.  The shameful list of pricey gee-wizardry still on the defense dole goes on indefinitely.

Gates likely reckons we’ll need all these gizmos in future, because despite saying that he’s become “cautious on wars of choice,” he is singularly responsible for extending our wars of choice in Iraq and the Bananastans; he was the tool of choice to usher in the Iraq surge under young Mr. Bush and he backed Petraeus and the rest his velvet coup generals when they pulpit bullied young Mr. Obama into surging in the Bananastans.  I highly doubt whether baby boomers or Xers will see the end of those two conflicts.  

Candid, straight-talking, truth-to-power-telling Bob Gates was so full of crap I could smell him clear down here in Virginia Beach.  Lamentably, his successor, Leon Panetta, is likely to make Gates seem downright Washingtonian vis-à-vis the truth.  And the guy on deck for the SecDef job, new CIA chief David Petraeus, will make the Gates tenure look like the good old days. 

*Don’t be fooled by tales of Gates’ opposition to stealth aircraft programs.  They’re still alive and well and consuming more tax dollars than any ten federal infrastructure programs.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.


  1. I used to process travel expenses for General Dynamics. A bigger chunk of the Defense budget than anyone wants to admit goes to Hooters. And not for any soldier's benefit, it was always the same bunch of ad men. I swear, wherever they went on "business" they would go out of their way to fnd a Hooters and charge it to the company Amex.

  2. LOL. Ah, yes, the Hooters rider, cause of many a DoD contract overrun.

  3. Thank you for another excellent commentary sir.
    I will keep the one comment in mind forever, the one where you mention that Bobby gates has "more positions than the Kama Sutra". THAT is outstanding, and it describes the majority of the US political types and most government employees of "high" rank such as the ones lil' Bobby has held during his long career of "gummint service".
    As to his supposed comments on how he loves his troops, when I was in Vietnam Gen. Walt came over there just before he retired. He was known as the "grunts general" yet he never made such a damn fool comment. Yes, if you or I had heard Gates make such a comment he'd have to be carried to his ride out of that base for sure. Ridiculous does not even begin to describe such total BS.
    As to the boomers seeing the end of this line of wars of choice, no way. Remember, us boomers are now the newest "class" of senior citizens and are on the downhill side of life. No, we will not live to see these damn fool, useless wars of choice end. We don't have enough of this life left for that. I doubt our grandchildren have that long. Endless damn fool wars of choice for endless profits for the war industries.

  4. I'm not sure which aspect of the "love you man" story is most disgusting: that he might have actually done it, that his PAO told Jaffe about it, or that Jaffe printed it.


  5. Dude. Did I miss your Petraeus CIA post? Should be hilarious.

  6. I will get to KD's CIA gig in coming weeks.

  7. I hope the door did hit him, hard. I was listening to an environmental podcast about the Fukushima disaster, and the host asked what I thought was a very good question. When the U.S. government evacuated American civilians from Japan, why did they not also mandate the closure of U.S. military bases and the evacuation of their personnel? (The show cited a figure of 47,000 military personnel possibly being affected).

    Hmm, that might have been a very good question for Uncle Bob on his way out. They might also have asked him about this:

    Chinese ‘Carrier Killer’ Based on US Technology

    If it's true, that story puts some new perspective on the Bradley Manning case. Poor guy is in jail for embarrassing the bureaucrats, while for years they've been giving away the store.

  8. My initial cut, JP, is that that story, and those like it, are a might hysterical. I've written before that I don't think that system will work anywhere near as well as the Chicken Littles say it will.

    And I'm pretty sure I've seen that illustration before, and that it didn't come from China.

    Still, yeah, people commit horrible security breaches all the time and the Manning kid just thumbed his nose at the brass.