Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More Greeks, More Strategies

Doctor Andrew Krepinevich's credentials as a military scholar are impressive. So impressive that New York Times columnist David Brooks gushed over them like a schoolgirl. Which was my first clue that maybe Krepinevich's proposed solution for the Iraq situation might prove something less than what Brooks cracked it up to be.

In his modestly titled Foreign Affairs article "How to Win in Iraq," Krepinevich goes to significant lengths to detail the hows and whys of the Bush administration's Iraq strategy failures. While I agree with his assessment on this score, I hardly think his conclusions come as a surprise to anyone--inside our outside of military circles--who has been paying attention to this war. (It doesn't take a Clausewitz to figure out how badly things have gone.)

And I find fault with several of Krepinevich's assertions.

First among them is his identification of the Iraqi people, the American people, and the American soldier as "centers of gravity" in this war of insurgency. Keep in mind that few military "experts" agree on much of anything, including terminology. I'm guessing that where centers of gravity are concerned, Dr. Krepinevich and I come from significantly different schools of thought.

Mine dictates that centers of gravity are directly related to the objectives of conflict. At the strategic level of war--the level where political aims are gained or lost--the entity that determines and pursues those aims is not the population or the soldier. It is political leadership. Strategically, the population is normally be a critical factor--a strength, weakness, or critical vulnerability--though to what degree the population factors in varies by the nature of the political entity involved. As a rule, in war as in peace, populations play a larger factor in liberal societies and a lesser factor in totalitarian ones.

Rank and file soldiers do not set policy or strategy, and have little or say in determining operational and tactical objectives. Those objectives are determined, often in concert with political leadership, in the military staffs of the general officers who command the force.

Many argue that such distinctions in terminology are hair splitting, but I insist that these semantic distinctions are vital to understanding the nature of armed conflicts and to successfully winning them. Political and military leadership are responsible for the reason and conduct of war. Lack of popular support or poor soldier morale may constitute critical vulnerabilities, but the burden of promoting support and morale lies squarely on the shoulders of leadership.


This business of elevating the population and the soldier to center of gravity status is a leading symptom of the Pavlov's Dog of War Syndrome--a dangerous meme that lingers from the Vietnam era that says, "We lost the war because the public failed to support it."

It's a dangerous mindset because it shifts blame away from the real culprits--the politicians and generals who shaped and persisted in bad policy and strategy.

Tomorrow: The Oil Spot Fallacy.

From a Different Voice...

This from frequent P&S contributor "Lurch," republished on the front page with his permission.


Jeff, even though I admire GEN Clark deeply, as a soldier, leader, and American, I agree with you that he is looking at this the wrong way around. We broke it, we bought it, we have to fix it, and sadly, the way we've been going about it is all wrong. While partnering US and native (used in its literal sense and not as an ethnic slur) may seem like a wise idea, the fact is that the Iraqi patriots (because that's what they are) just want us OUT of there. There has to be a level of trust established before we can undo what we've done.

We had no business going in there to begin with. That's been pretty well established, right, class?

Now we need to find the best way out. We're not going to beat them using standard military methods. We haven't the required forces, the funds, or time. We need three or four times the troops on the ground that we have now to **attempt** to pacify the country enough to begin to rebuild the economy we destroyed. The Marshall Plan worked after WWII because the German Army had been defeated, the populace's spirit and will to resist had finally collapsed and the populace was unarmed, and unable to maintain effective communications for coordination of resistance. These circumstances do not exist in Iraq.

We haven't the funds because we've squandered it all on Halliburton, KBR, Bechtel, unrecorded cash distributions to anyone who held out his hand, and God! It must have been heady days for bankers in Beirut, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas!

Having actually had some basic experience in trying to pacify an unwilling populace during the late unpleasantness in SE Asia I claim some slight degree of expertise. We can't accomplish our task without the cooperation of the populace.

I looked up Dr. Krepinevich's cv. It's all theory - school studies, monographs and lectures, and I always remember the difference between theory and practice, so I don't think he's got it right.

As a nation we need to "get right with the Lord" by which I mean we have to face the UN, admit we fucked up, ask for help and military assistance while we pour - pour - money into rebuilding the infrastructure. The military assistance is needed to keep 'em from blowing up the electrical plants as fast as we rebuild them. This will take years. Electricity is needed for any reasonable semblance of civilization in that country. That will enable us to power small businesses, industry, schools, hospitals - the list is endless.

Until Iraqis can see us honestly try to rebuild the civilization we destroyed they are not going to let up. Anything less will just create more agony for us, and in the long run, we WILL suffer for it in the US home cities.

How to pay for all this?

Well, there are those billions and billions in tax cuts up for renewal...

Oh, and let's stop babbling on about the "death tax", m'kay? I mean, really.... less that than 1 percent of the nation's citizens are affected. They get the benefits of livng in the US. They need to pay their own way. If they don't like it, I hear Australia is always looking for immigrants.

(Jeff's note: I'm not a big supporter of so-called "wealth distribution" aka "socialism," but I think Lurch makes a good point about the "death tax." That 1 percent of the nation's citizens possess something like 40 percent of the nation's wealth, which equates to almost complete control of the nation's body politic. So, yeah, if they want to have that much control over policy, let them pay for a little of it.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pots and Kettles

I don't want to get down and dirty on Wes Clark just yet.

But I'm here to warn you:

Don't get all wet and gushy over him.

Even Norman Schwartzkov came out and called the guy a total asshole during the Democratic primaries. And coming from a total asshole like Schwartzkov, that's saying something.


Greeks Bearing Strategies

A number of proposed models for a new Iraq strategy have emerged recently, most notably from retired Army General Wes Clark and military scholar Andrew F. Krepinevich.

Decades of hard experience taught me to be wary of the "military wisdom" espoused by generals and academics. Any two "experts" in the field seldom agree, and their "vision" is always clearest in hindsight.

Having served under him during the Kosovo War, I'm automatically leery of anything General Clark has to say about armed conflict. But, by golly, a lot of what he has to say in "Before It's Too Late in Iraq" is spot on.
Now, more than half the American people believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They're right.

We need a strategy to create a stable democratizing and peaceful state in Iraq – a strategy the Administration has failed to develop and articulate.

We needed to engage Iraq's neighbors to insure that a stable, democratizing Iraq was not a threat to them, to isolate Iraq from outside supplies, leadership, and manpower, and to gain from them resources and support to alleviate the burdens on the US.

The US was far too slow in mobilizing Iraqi political action.

Why, in June, 2005, over two year into the mission of training Iraqi forces, was the President announcing such "new steps" as partnering with Iraqi units, establishing "transition teams" to work with Iraqi units, or training Iraqi Ministries to conduct anti-terrorist operations?

A wasted first year encouraged a rise in sectarian militias and the emergence of strong fractionating forces.

With each passing month other intervening factors compound the difficulties and probably reduce the chances for the mission in Iraq to succeed.

President Bush and his team are repeating the failure of Vietnam – failing to craft a realistic and effective policy, and in its place, simply demanding that the American people show resolve.

Unfortunately, Mister Clark's observations are less about the Iraq situation than they are about his next run for the presidency.

Yes, Mister Bush and the neo-conspirators have done everything wrong for all the wrong reasons. And yes, as Clark suggests, we must employ other-than-military tools of power like diplomacy to bring about a stable Middle East. But the kinds of things Clark talks about are basic tenets of sound foreign policy--stuff generally taught at the college freshman level.

Then again, a "sound" foreign policy would be vastly preferable to the kind we've gotten from the Bush administration.

However, comma...

Don't get reeled in by strategic soothsayers who try to give you the notion that there's a magic formula for creating a fairy tale ending in Iraq.

It's already too late for that.


Tomorrow: A Total Crock of Krepinevich.

More Neo-connect the Dots...

Ariadne gets the neo-connection between the cuts in Pell Grants and the Army's recruiting woes.

(Neo-factiod: Bush cronies don't need Pell Grants to put their kids through Harvard and Yale.)

They'll Never Put Humpty Together Again...

This post from Daniel at All the King's Men got to me.

Don't be sorry, Daniel. You did the best you could do under bad leadership.

Keep our chin up (and your head down).

Monday, August 29, 2005

Support the Troops (Again)

No political party member I, but I can't resist pointing the way to an outstanding anecdote posted by Terry over at Nitpicker.

Monday Morning Sidewalk

Guess what.

A senior Army civilian contracting official who was critical of the no-bid $10 billion contract awarded to a subsidiary of Halliburton for oil work in Iraq has been demoted.

Can you believe it?

Bunnatine H. Greenhouse has worked in military procurement for 20 years. For the past several years, she has been chief overseer of contracting for the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for much of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

A spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers says that Ms. Greehouse's demotion was "...based on her performance and not in retaliation for any disclosures of alleged improprieties that she may have made."

Ms. Greenhouse's attorney asserts that his client received glowing job performance ratings until she began questioning the no-bid contract award to the Halliburton subsidiary, Kellog Brown and Root.


In other news, Geoffrey "Camp Gitmo" Miller is still a major general, former CIA director George Tenet still has his Medal of Freedom, Donald Rumsfeld is still Secretary of Defense, and George W. Bush is still president of the United States.

Vice President Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, remains in an undisclosed location.


We have no reason to believe any statement from any source in the military establishment. The Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman fabrications were merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the extent that the entire department of defense has been transformed into the armed branch of the neoconservative movement. The senior generals who stood up to Rumsfeld from the beginning are gone. No one's left but the yes men, and they're committed to going along with the entire neocon game plan, a key ingredient of which is its misinformation/propaganda campaign.


The shame of it all is that the troops in the trenches are doing brave, honorable work. It's too bad they don't have brave, honorable civilian and military leaders.


The Bush White House has created a neo-conundrum in civilian-military relationships. In theory, civilian authority over the military guarantees the country will not become a militaristic oligarchy. In practice, under this administration, the civilian authorities are the militaristic oligarchs.

The politicians run our wars, and our generals--if they want to keep their jobs--are forced to play politics.


Recommended reading:

Military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks' novel A Soldier's Duty is one of the best fictional examinations of the internal struggles that ensue when military personnel are forced to choose between their sworn duty and their personal values. Set in a "Clinton-like" era, Ricks' observations are even more relevant in today's environment.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Bad...

I noted earlier that Janet Karpinski has been the only officer punished over Torturegate (she was demoted from brigadier general to colonel). That's not correct. Other officers have been "administratively" punished. Karpinski, however, is the only general officer among them.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Second Drive By...

Once again, Ann Coulter demonstrates how far a pretty girl can ride on a Harvard education, a third grade sense of humor, and a broomstick.

Weekend Drive By: Pavlov's Fall Dogs

From Truthout (with a hand salute to Suburban Guerilla):

Former Brigadier General Janet Karpinski spills the beans on Rummy's and Major General Miller's role in the Abu Ghraib fiasco.
[Karpinski said], "The most pronounced difference was when Miller came to visit. He came right after Rumsfeld's visit ... And he said that he was going to use a template from Guantánamo Bay to 'Gitmo-ize' the operations out at Abu Ghraib."

These torture techniques were being implemented and used down at Guantánamo Bay and, of course, now we have lots of statements that say they were used in Afghanistan as well," Karpinski said. Although Miller has sworn he was just an "advisor," Miller told Karpinski he wanted Abu Ghraib. Karpinski replied, "Abu Ghraib is not mine to give to you. It belongs to Ambassador Bremer. It is going to be turned over to the Iraqis." Miller replied, "No it is not. I want that facility and Rick Sanchez [subsequently given his fourth star and placed in charge of Southern Command] said I can have any facility I want." Karpinski said, "Miller obviously had the full authority of somebody, you know, likely Cambone or Rumsfeld in Washington, DC."

...The first [Karpinski] heard about the torture was on January 12, 2004. She was never allowed to speak to the people who had worked on the night shift. She "was told by Colonel Warren, the JAG officer for General Sanchez, that they weren't assigned to me, that they were not under my control, and I really had no right to see them."

...When Karpinski inquired, "What's this about photographs?" the sergeant replied, "Ma'am, we've heard something about photographs, but I have no idea. Nobody has any details, and Ma'am, if anybody knows, nobody is talking." When Karpinski asked to see the log books, the sergeant told her that the Criminal Investigation Division had taken everything except for something on a pole outside the little office they were using.

"It was a memorandum signed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, authorizing a short list, maybe 6 or 8 techniques: use of dogs; stress positions; loud music; deprivation of food; keeping the lights on, those kinds of things," Karpinski said. "And then a handwritten message over to the side that appeared to be the same handwriting as the signature, and that signature was Secretary Rumsfeld's. And it said, 'Make sure this happens' with two exclamation points. And that was the only thing they had. Everything else had been confiscated."

Karpinski tried to get information, but "nobody knew anything, nobody - at least, that's what they were claiming. The Company Commander, Captain Reese, was tearful in my office and repeatedly told me he knew nothing about it, knew nothing about it," Karpinski said. But in a later plea bargain he entered into after the Taguba Report came out, "Captain Reese said that not only did he know about it, but he was told not to report it to his chain of command, and he was told that by Colonel Pappas. And he claimed that he saw General Sanchez out there on several occasions witnessing the torture of some of the security detainees."

To date, Karpinski is the only officer to have been punished over Torturegate, having been administratively demoted to Colonel.

The only folks convicted on criminal charges have been enlisted personnel.

My keyboard gently weeps.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Beat the Press

On February 27, 1968, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite kick started the movement to end the Vietnam War. From his Nightly News broadcast:
...Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I'm not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw...

...On the political front, past performance gives no confidence that the Vietnamese government can cope with its problems, now compounded by the attack on the cities. It may not fall, it may hold on, but it probably won't show the dynamic qualities demanded of this young nation...

...We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds...

...To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past...

...To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.

...It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.

Nearly four decades later, Cronkite's words sound tragically relevant.


I know any number of Vietnam vets who readily admit that their war was launched on a false pretext, that it was pathetically run by politicians and the generals who rolled over for them, and that they were pawns in a sinister game of power play.

But almost to a man, they don't blame the politicians and generals for the defeat in Vietnam. They blame the news media for turning the public against the war.


Summer of '91.

Naval aviators gather at the Las Vegas Hilton for their annual bacchanalian celebration of the "warrior spirit." Late Saturday night, things get out of hand on the hotel's third floor when women are forced to walk through "the gauntlet." A female lieutenant presses sexual harassment charges.

Naval aviation is never the same again.

The media spotlight turns on Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego: "Fightertown USA" and home of the Top Gun fighter tactics school. The Navy and the Pentagon both launch investigations designed to lay blame at the lowest possible pay grades. A local reporter cites "inside sources" to describe the lewd conduct in Vegas and the subsequent attempts to cover up. The reporter rises to national prominence and wins the Pulitzer Prize.

Careers end and Naval aviation tumbles into disarray. Congress throws the Navy out of Miramar and gives the base to the Marines.


I wasn't at Tailhook in '91, but was stationed at Miramar at the time and witnessed the aftermath. It was insane. From the behavior at the Hilton to the witch hunts that followed, Tailhook exposed the malignant underside of naval aviation, and of the military in general.

I wasn't particularly thrilled with how the media handled the story, or the reporter who made his career by ruining the lives of more than a few good people who didn't deserve to get dragged through the slime. But at the end of the day, the media didn't create naval aviation's decadent ethos, or start the drunken brawl on the third floor of the Hilton, or conduct two phony investigations of the incident.

But, by golly, you talk to folks who lived through that nightmare, and who do they blame for it?



Around the mid 90's, Navy brass decided we were "losing the public affairs war," and established The Navy Office of Information to improve the service's media image.

Things went overboard.

I was operations officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt when it fought in the 1999 Kosovo War. One of my responsibilities was to supervise flying members of the international press corps on and off the ship, a duty that came to occupy most of my time. Over the course of two months, we hosted more than three thousand reporters--a number that exceeded the amount of combat sorties we flew over Kosovo.

Fortunately for us, Bad Guy's navy was such a collection of rust buckets it couldn't sortie ten yards from the pier. We would have been tripping over reporters while we scrambled to get to our battle stations.


I couldn't say whether our public affairs war improved the image of the Navy, or of the military in general. But whatever gains we might have made pretty much went down the toilet when Rummy and the Yes Men rolled into town.


Monday: Rummy lowers the boom.

Support the Troops (Again)

This piece from Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran about yet another grieving family.

Reminds me how thankful I am not to be part of this wobegone misadventure.

They Couldn't Put Humpty Together Again...

Superb post by Daniel at All the King's Men on the "good news" from Iraq.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Wag the Pavlov's Dog

Josh White of The Washington Post reports today that Americans are losing confidence in military news.
The U.S. public's confidence that the military and the media keep them informed about national security issues has eroded significantly over the past six years, according to a new poll that shows 60 percent of Americans believe they do not get enough information about military matters to make educated decisions.

That's hardly news to anyone who remembers the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman fiascos, both of which were manufactured by the hapless Pentagon spin machine, or how "senior military officers" tell us we've "turned the corner" one minute and are "in danger of losing" the next. I genuinely lament the military's loss of credibility with the American population. That may be one of the most profound casualties in this War on Terror (or World Wide Enterprise Against Evil, or whatever we're calling it today). But even more lamentable is the pervasive atmosphere of denial in military circles as to why America is losing trust in just about anything the Pentagon tells them. From White:
Retired Maj. Gen. David L. Grange, executive vice president of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, said he believes the round-the-clock news cycle and perceived biases within media organizations have hurt public confidence in their information.

"The mass media gets negative points from the people because they think that the big media is taking a position and shaping stories to fit their agenda," said Grange, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division.

The McCormick Tribune Foundation is a media group dedicated to supporting the free press. Among the issues it focuses on is the military/media relationship. I don't know how they're doing with that free press thing, but they need to get on the stick in the military/media area, because General Grange's remarks are pure bunker mentality bunk.

Any time the military senses a droop in its perceived image, it blames the news media. The way they'd like you to understand things, the media drafted the Iraq policy behind closed doors, and cooked the intelligence on Iraq's WMD and ties to al Qaeda. The media drafted the Justice Department memos that told the DOD it could disregard the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention on Torture. The media failed to plan for the "post hostilities" phase of the Iraq War, and let Afghanistan turn into the world's leading narco-state, and failed to find Osama bin Laden, and on and on and on.


If anything, the mainstream media is guilty of aiding and abetting the five-sided echo chamber's information manipulation strategy. It's pretty clear now that Judith Miller and others were feeding us the administration's war propaganda and couching it as factual information, and it's evident that the "liberal" media are now scared snotless of stepping on too many uniformed toes lest they lose their inside sources and/or their audience share to Fox News and the rest of the Big Brother Broadcasting Conglomerate.


The military's mistrust of the media took root in the Vietnam War, and despite efforts over the years to improve the relationship, military types almost universally regard the press as ignorant, inept, untrustworthy, and adversarial. In other words, the media are the enemy.


Next on Wag the Pavlov's Dog: Vietnam, Tailhook, and Winning the Public Affairs War.

Speaking of Pavlov's Dog...

Have you seen David Brooks' column today? "Babbling" has been one of the biggest megaphones in the echo chamber for some time now, but he's really outdone himself this time.

Gushing with praise for the draft Iraqi constitution, he writes:
"The U.S. has orchestrated a document that is organically Iraqi."

H? U? H?

Is that anything like "virgin organic polyester?"


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Irony: Dead and Loving It

Yesterday, Mister Bush equated the war in Iraq with World War II. Shortly afterward, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld denied (once again) any similarity between Iraq and Vietnam.

Our leaders tell us we're fighting a war against religious extremists. On Monday, one of America's leading religious extremists called for the assassination of a South American president.

A CBS affiliate in Idaho refused to air Cindy Sheehan's ad because there is no "proof" that Mister Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. To date, the administration has yet to provide a shred of evidence that Mister Bush told the truth--and I'm quite confident that the CBS affiliate in question had no qualms about running the Swift Boat ads during the '04 campaign.

The "best trained, best equipped" military in history is fighting a desperate "generational" war against an enemy that possesses no helmets, no body armor, no humvees, no fighters, no bombers, no nuclear submarines, no aircraft carriers; heck, they don't even have a country.

Mister Bush and his echo chamber maids maintain we must "stay the course" military even though they admit there is no military solution to the War on Terror.

As our national debt and trade deficit spurt through the roof, we continue to spend as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. Secretary Rumsfeld tells us this spending is necessary, and American can afford it.

Bush supporters honor our war dead by destroying a memorial dedicated to them. Mister Bush asks us to honor our war dead by adding to their number.

Americans sacrifice for the War on Terror by paying record prices at the gas pumps. Record profits go to Iran and Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporters and funders of Islamic terrorism.

Record profits also go to Messrs Bush and Cheney's cronies in the U.S. oil companies who helped Dick and Dubya formulate the energy policy behind closed doors.

Mister Bush claims that anti-war protestors who call for withdrawal from Iraq are "advocating a policy that would weaken the United States. Mister Bush's policies--especially his Iraq policy--have left the United States weaker and more vulnerable than at any time since the Berlin Wall came down.

We're fighting them "over there" so we don't have to fight them "over here," yet...

--The Homeland Security threat level remains at "elevated."

--We have given state and local governments over $81 billion to protect the homeland.

--We've made homeland security the FBI's number one priority and increased its funding by sixty percent.

--We established a four-star military combatant command to fight terrorism in the continental United States.

--We formed a National Counterterrorism Center, a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, and a Terrorist Screening Center.

--We suspended portions of the Bill of Rights without so much as a whisper about amending the Constitution for the sake of being better "protected."

But in spite of all that and more...

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, has told us repeatedly that it's just a matter of time before we have another 9-11 style terrorist attack on American soil.

Mister Bush and the Rovewellian chorus insist that the terrorists keep fighting because they're losing, and that the harder they fight, the worse they're losing.

So the faster they beat the hell out of us, the sooner we'll win?


Call me paranoid, but if I didn't know any better, I'd think maybe somebody in our government is pulling a number on us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Draft Beer, Not Constitutions

Sounds to me like all those teetotaling Muslim constitution drafters in Iraq need to put their feet up and knock back a few Rolling Rocks.

Drink secularly!

Holy Frijole!

So my fellow Virginian Pat Robertson thinks we should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

I say that if Chavez gets to be too big a thorn in our side, we do to him what Pat Roberts does with US politicians--buy him!

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.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Body Language

If you hadn't already noticed, the Pentagon PR machine has slipped into a Vietnam mindset. More and more, we're hearing "body count" used as a measure of success.

As the Associated Press reports:
U. S. Marines and Afghan forces killed more than 40 suspected militants in an operation against insurgents who had inflicted the deadliest blow to American forces since the Taliban's ouster, a military spokesman said Monday.

"It was successful," Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara told The Associated Press. "We had over 29 separate engagements with enemy forces that resulted in more than 40 enemy killed in action and many others wounded." O'Hara also announced that a separate three-day battle from Aug. 7-10 in southern Zabul province's Daychopan district left a total of 65 suspected militants dead. The military had previously reported that 16 rebels had been killed.

News of the casualties comes after a deadly period for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with 13 American troops killed this month.

So that leaves us with an August scorecard of 105 to 13. Boy, we're winning big time!

I'm sorry to see the military pushing attrition ratios as a bragging point, especially in a war of this nature. In a conflict where every bad guy killed or captured creates two more bad guys, you can never kill them all.

But expect to see more of this kind of "success story." Bragging rights are hard for the military to come by these days.

Once again, don't take my comments as derisive of the rank and file folks out there trying to "get the job done." They're serving to the utmost of their abilities. Lamentably, they're fighting a war that even Pentagon and administration officials admit has no military solution.

And that's a sad state of affairs.


Retired Army colonel and MSNBC analyst Jack Jacobs makes a good point about the Army's plan to keep the troop strength in Iraq at around 100,000 for another four years. This is not a policy statement, or a policy commitment. It's a contingency plan, one that the Department of the Army would frankly be remiss if they weren't examining now.

So don't get too excited about it just yet.

Pavlov's Dogs of War (Continued)

Noted military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks asserts that while the US military officer class has always been "conservative," it has not always been politically active. He cites sources that estimate fewer than one in 500 officer who served in the Civil War ever cast a ballot. For many decades, in fact, it was considered unprofessional for a military officer to take a serious interest in politics at all.
When did the officer class begin leaning toward active support of the Republican Party? My Vietnam vet friend thinks the phenomenon started during the Johnson administration, when officers began to resent the micromanagement of the war by LBJ and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. This makes a certain amount of sense, and coincides with another major shift in the American political scene. Many blame LBJ and his aggressive civil rights policies for losing the south to the GOP; and, not so coincidentally, the southern "red states" are and have traditionally been the primary source of military officer recruitment.

I joined the Navy and reported to Aviation Officer Candidate School in late 1980, two months before Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in the presidential election. The military had been under funded during the Carter years. Junior enlisted personnel were so poorly paid that Carter told them to go ahead and apply for food stamps, something officers and troops alike thought was a shameful state of affairs. (As an aside, naval aviators disliked that Carter had ended the practice of issuing traditional Navy leather flight jackets to them, which gives you an idea of where naval aviators' priorities lie.)

Carter's failed Iran hostage rescue attempt was also felt as an extreme embarrassment. In all, throughout the services, morale was horrible.

Reagan was hailed as a virtual messiah, and his increase of military funding seemed to cement the GOP as the "G.I. friendly" party in the military conscience. The overwhelming victory in Desert Storm under Bush Senior reinforced the notion, even though the post-Cold War downsizing took place on the elder Bush's watch.

And then came Clinton. His administration's apparent disdain for the military became a "perceived reality," and Clinton himself was never popular as a commander in chief. The Balkans and Kosovo conflicts did little to improve Clinton's image with the rank and file. Many believed that the Kosovo commitment was a "Wag the Dog" attempt at taking the public's mind off of the president's Oral Office Escapades.

I also sensed during that time resentment among the officer corps toward the four-star officers who served under Clinton, as if they were somehow betraying the uniform by taking high-level positions under an other-than-honorable administration.


Ironically, we're seeing something of a reversal of the trend in our present situation, largely due to a) the Iraq situation and b) Donald Rumsfeld.

Senior Army officers, both on active duty and retired, bristled at Rumsfeld's "my way or the highway" insistence on remaking the senior service into a lighter, faster force. These objecting voices became louder as the invasion of Iraq loomed. Such an excursion was unnecessary, these officers argued, and would constitute a diversion from the real goals of the War on Terror.

When the decision to invade had become seemingly irreversible, many of these officers--including then Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki--warned that Rumsfeld was planning to do so with too small a force. These active and retires officers were brushed out of office or worse.


My purely subjective observation is that the political view of the retired officer community is evenly split. One group believes (as I do) that the administration took the country into an ill-advised war, and is resentful that civilian leadership ignored the sound advice of senior military professionals who turned out to be right. This group also tends to consider that the generals who have remained on active duty are only there because they rolled over for Rummy.

The other camp, regardless of how it perceives the march to war and the way it was conducted, is of the opinion that what's past is past. We're at war now, and by golly we need to rally around the president and his advisers and see this thing through.

In this latter group is a core cell that "knew" Bush and his team went into Iraq with the intention of establishing bases to control the entire Middle East region and its oil. While they'll sometimes attempt to "defend" charges of the administration's cooking of WMD intelligence, they really don't care if it was cooked or not, nor does it particularly bother them that the administration misled the American pubic into a war it otherwise would not have bought off on.


One retired officer I know continues, even to this day, to deny that the insurgency is anything we need to take seriously. "It's no different than being in downtown Chicago," he once told me.

I asked him how many rocket attacks had been made on the Sears Tower in the past two years, or if over a thousand Chicago Policemen had been killed in the line of duty during that period.

He shrugged and ordered another beer.


My friend is typical of what I call Pavlov's Dogs of War. Once we're engaged in armed conflict (under a Republican administration), all other considerations go out window, and the only acceptable course of action is to "fight till we win," although, like Mister Bush, few of them can define what conditions might constitute "winning."

Unless you want to bring up that business about establishing permanent bases in Iraq and controlling the Middle East oil supply.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

This is Rich...

Frank Rich nails it again. Among my favorite passages:
When the Bush mob attacks critics like Ms. Sheehan, its highest priority is to change the subject. If we talk about Richard Clarke's character, then we stop talking about the administration's pre-9/11 inattentiveness to terrorism. If Thomas Wilson is trashed as an insubordinate plant of the "liberal media," we forget the Pentagon's abysmal failure to give our troops adequate armor (a failure that persists today, eight months after he spoke up). If we focus on Joseph Wilson's wife, we lose the big picture of how the administration twisted intelligence to gin up the threat of Saddam's nonexistent W.M.D.'s.

Oh, yeah.

Sunday Drive By...

Pray for peace!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Pavlovs Dogs of War (Continued)

Don't let me give you the impression that all military officers come from the same cookie cutter mold. An Air Force fighter pilot and a Navy supply officer, for example, are two different breeds of the beast--almost like the difference between a pit bull and a poodle. But at the end of the day, they both belong to the same species.
I can't find a reference for this, but a few years ago, the Army Chief of Staff (the service's senior general) was asked on a radio interview why and how the Army had become so dominated with soldiers who identified themselves as evangelical Christians and conservative Republicans.

The old general cleared his throat and replied that he didn't see any evidence of those religious and political leanings in the Army at all, and that the makeup of Army personnel reflected "everyday America." The general's remarks suggested to me that:

-- He was bullshitting the interviewer for reasons we can only guess at or...

-- He was so senior and so long immersed in the Washington culture that he'd completely lost touch with the Army's rank and file reality or...

-- He considered his service's extreme religious and political leanings to reflect "everyday" America because he'd lived in his cloistered society for so long that that he didn't know any better or...

-- He was on heavy medication or in the early stages of Alzheimer's or...

-- Some combination of any or all of the above.


Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post correspondent Thomas E. Rick--author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty--has done significant research and writing on how America's military has become a society separate from American society at large.

In 1996, while working as a fellow at Harvard University's John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Ricks wrote a monograph titled "On American Soil: The Widening Gap between the U.S. Military and U.S. Society." He quotes Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who is executive director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University who describes what Tom calls the "Vietnam Hangover":

"There is a deep-seated suspicion in the U.S. military of society. It is part of the Vietnam hangover--`You guys betrayed us once, and you could do it again,'" This suspicion, [Bacevich] added, "isn't going away, it's being transmitted" to a new generation of officers.

Transmitted by the old generation of officers like Bacevich, who are still trying to come to terms with the sacrifices they made in a bad war started and run badly by bad men. The Bacevich's of this world don't want to blame the bad men they were sworn to obey--the politicians and the generals who kowtowed to them--so they direct their anger at the "pussy public."

A retired pal of mine who served two tours in Vietnam, if you get enough beers in him, subscribes to this philosophy. "We only needed another eighteen months," he says, "but the population left us high and dry."

And I'll ask him, "After ten years, you only needed another eighteen months?"

He'll mumble and change the subject.

Ricks also quotes William S. Lind, a military analyst who thinks the "American culture is collapsing."
Starting in the mid-1960's, we have thrown away the values, morals, and standards that define traditional Western culture. In part, this has been driven by cultural radicals, people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture. Dominant in the elite, especially in the universities, the media and the entertainment industries (now the most powerful force in our culture and a source of endless degradation), the cultural radicals have successfully pushed an agenda of moral relativism, militant secularism, and sexual and social `liberation.' This agenda has slowly codified into a new ideology, usually known as `multiculturalism' or `political correctness,' that is in essence Marxism translated from economic into social and cultural terms.

In other words, "tolerance" equals "communism."

Ricks sites several surveys taken in the mid-90s that indicate a majority of officers identified themselves as "conservative," and considered that a gap existed between the military and civilian cultures.


Keep in mind that Ricks' research was done during the Clinton White House years, a time in which the administration was not considered "military friendly." Nonetheless, the controversy over the influence of the religious right at the US Air Force Academy illustrates that the conservative trend continues in contemporary times.


Don't walk away with the idea that military officers, as a "subclass," are a grim bunch of ultra-conservative bastards. I genuinely enjoyed working with most of my comrades in arms.

Still, looking back, I can see a conservative slant I didn't realize existed at the time. I considered myself a centrist. I was actually a moderate conservative. But I seemed like a centrist relative to my peer group.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pavlovs Dogs of War: the Career Officers

One can't begin to understand the rise of militarism in America without examining the mindset of the career military officer.

To begin with, military officers, regardless of how they earned their commissions (service academy, ROTC, officer candidate school, etc.) comprise a "ruling class" within a specialized--and often isolated--world. Not every officer is alike in this regard. Fourth and fifth generation academy graduates, often sons of admirals and generals, often take to this privileged status more readily than do "ninety day wonders" who get through college on their own (or on their parents' bankroll) before deciding on pursuing military service.

A ninety day wonder myself, I thought I was one of the most "egalitarian" officers I knew. We're all the same under the rank insignia, I believed, even when I rose to command of a carrier aircraft squadron (which was the extent of my ambitions and expectations.) Only years after retiring from the Navy did I realize how much I'd come to take my "class" status for granted. I had entered a two-tiered societal structure, been placed--by virtue of possessing a bachelor's degree--in the top tier, and grown used to it over time. It might be more accurate to say that I had become addicted to it.

This is part of the reason so many senior officers retire to second careers in the defense-contracting sector. They step into a hierarchy, and a place in that hierarchy, that they've grown accustomed to (colonels and majors go back to work for their old boss, the retired general).


Taking a "lateral transfer" to the defense industry also keeps retired officers in the same cloistered society they've grown used to. Their colleagues are, by and large, registered Republicans, most of who identify themselves as "staunches" conservatives." National defense (i.e. "militarism") is a prized virtue. So called "liberal" or "progressive" values are regarded with mistrust, and often with disdain. Folks outside the military industrial sphere fall into a variety of scornful categories: fruits, tree-huggers, whale savers, peace-niks, pinkos, hand wringers, girls, and so on.

Working in the defense industry also tends to keep retired officers in the same sorts of communities they lived in while on active duty--military towns. For the most part, military towns have grown economically reliant on the military facilities they host. This economic dependence is not limited to industry that directly supports military weapons and infrastructure. Hardly a store, restaurant, nightclub, contractor, or real estate market could continue to thrive without the disposable incomes of the GI Joes and Janes who live in the community. AS a result, the civilian population becomes as supportive and appreciative of military values as their neighbors (and customers) who wear uniforms.

Moreover, living in a military town affords retired officers the privileges and amenities available on the local military installations. Food is cheaper at the commissary. Most clothing and household needs can be bought for discount prices (and exempt from state sales taxes) at the exchange. Gyms, swimming pools, picnic facilities, and other amenities can be enjoyed free of charge.

And one more thing. Retired lieutenant colonels and above receive a snappy salute from the guard as they drive through the front gate--even the ones who've grown their hair long and look like old hippies (like me).

And even I, the self-styled counter-culture iconoclast who likes to think he's shed his shell of martial superiority, can't deny that I still like getting a snappy salute from a young soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.


Tomorrow we'll delve into the professional mentality of military officers, and how their training as junior officers often hinders their effectiveness when they achieve high rank.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Power to Make War

Bob Herbert once again bemoans the relative few in this country who are actually sacrificing for Mister Bush's woebegone war in Iraq. This time, Bob calls for the children of the privileged to serve along with their less fortunate "warrior class" contemporaries.

I appreciate your sentiments, Bob, but it won't happen. Even if we were to reestablish the draft, we'd have the same thing we had in Vietnam. Poor kids would slog rifles; rich kids would get deferments or serve in safe, cushy billets. The Bush twins would serve as flight attendants with the Texas Air National Guard.

This war should serve as a wake up call to American on several fronts, among them the reality of the inverted pyramid of wealth and privilege. The neoconservative cabal that concocted the war in Iraq was able, due to their positions in life, to evade serving during Vietnam. They grew up to assume vital positions in government (largely during the Nixon administration) and industry (specifically energy and defense contracting.) Their children, raised to take their places in positions of power, have no intention of serving in this war.

The private energy and defense sectors have become one and the same with government (as witnessed by Mister Bush's recent appoint of a Northrup Grumman executive to Secretary of the Navy). The governing elites continue to borrow money for this war--that they pay, in essence, to themselves--leaving a suffocating debt for succeeding generations of the working classes to make good.


I heartily support the efforts of Cindy Sheehan and others in demanding immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. I especially appreciate Ms. Sheehan's debunking of Mister Bush's "stay the course to honor the dead" mantra. We don't honor the dead by adding to their number for no real purpose, and it's quite clear that Iraq will most likely not become the friendly, cooperative federal republic the neocons envisioned when they lured us into this excursion. We may in fact, find ourselves in any of a number of scenarios far less favorable than the one we had when Saddam Hussein was in power. (One of the most likely is a pan-Shiite coalition between Iraq and Iran that is friendly to China.)

I don't think, however, that an "immediate" withdrawal is entirely practical. We need to see Iraq through it's next election (which needs to happen on schedule) and then we need to start packing.


But I also think the "out now" groups need to keep up the pressure on the administration, which I'm afraid will cling to its vision of military domination of the Middle East (and control of the region's oil) through a base of operations in Iraq. That's what they had in mind since before they chose Mister Bush as their presidential candidate, and the dreams of power mongers don't die easily.


We need to figure out how to keep another disaster like Iraq from happening again. That will require a change of some kind in our electoral process. I'm not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination, but we have a political problem with the way wealth is distributed in this country. As things are, one percent of the population has the fiscal clout to determine the outcomes of elections (and subsequently control the elected officials).

The first thing we should change is the Electoral College process that selects the president. At present, the power brokers play red state blue state strategies, and are able to target big campaign bucks at a handful of key states. We could break up this paradigm by eliminating the state-by-state winner take all bloc votes. We'd keep the current distribution of electors (i.e., Rhode Island keeps a 3 to 1 per capita advantage over California), but the electors' votes would reflect the distribution of votes within their respective states. This would bring several immediate benefits.

-- Every vote really counts. If you live in a red state but vote blue, your vote will be reflected in the Electoral College.

-- Emergence of the center (swing) vote. When every vote counts, more people will be motivated to vote. The more people who vote, the less impact the polar fringes will have on election outcomes

-- Big money influence wanes. When every vote counts, campaign money has to be spread throughout all 50 states, diminishing its effect to such an extent that at some point, it has little to no effect at all.

-- Diminishes/eliminates ballot fraud. Party machines can't focus battalions of lawyers in an Ohio or a Florida.

Changing the character of presidential elections will have a trickle down effect on other elections as well. Federal congress races won't be tied so closely to partisan support of party presidential candidates. Senators and representatives will need to focus on local issues.


Of course, there's a major problem with this scheme. The people who need to decide to make the change are the very people who benefit from maintaining the status quo.


Nonetheless, I firmly believe a change like this is vital to reversing the militaristic trend the neoconservatives have foisted on contemporary America. Only by breaking up the big money paradigm can the citizens who actually fight and pay for war become empowered to decide which wars to fight and how long to fight them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Neo-connect the Dots...

A pretty good site--stop sleeping--provides text and links that illustrate the nature and breadth of the neo-constellation.

Pass it around to your neo-patriotic friends.


More Dubya Talk

Some weeks ago, at a press conference, Mister Bush stated, "I think [the terrorists] are losing. That's why they're still fighting.

Courtesy of Rising Hegemon, this exchange from last night's Bill O'Reilly Rant between Bill and retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney:
Bill: Insurgent attacks on a daily basis have almost doubled from 2004 to 2005. What does that say?

The General: It says that the terrorists, the insurgents, are fighting even harder because they know they are losing.

So it looks like that's the official Rovewellian position on things; as long as the insurgents keep fighting, they're losing, and the harder they fight, the worse they're losing.

Let's hope they never stop fighting, huh?

McInerny, by the way, was co-author of a 2004 campaign monograph titled "How We Won in Afghanistan."

Yes, Virginia, irony is still dead.

Military Industial Complexity Continues

The New York Times and other sources report Mister Bush has appointed new service secretaries for the Navy and the Air Force.

Navy nominee Donald C. Winter is a vice president of Northrup Grumman and president of its missile system division. As Secretary of the Navy, Mister Winter will be key in deciding the fate of the DDX destroyer. Northrup Grumman plays a leading role in the development of this platform. Northrup Grumman also owns Newport News Shipyard in Virginia, the only facility currently capable of building a nuclear aircraft carrier.

Air Force Secretary nominee Michael Wynn is presently a deputy secretary to that service for acquisition. In June, the Pentagon inspector general identified Wynn as one of a half-dozen top Pentagon and Air Force officials responsible for a failed $23.5 billion deal to lease refueling aircraft from The Boeing Company--a deal considered by some to be the most "significant defense contract abuse in decades." The Boeing scandal led to convictions and jail time for a top Air Force official and a former Boeing chief financial officer. Like Wilson, Wynne also has extensive private sector defense contracting experience.


On this morning's Imus program, Tom Friedman describes us at "the beginning of the end" of our presence in Iraq. Tom describes the Rumsfeld strategy in Iraq as "just enough troops to lose," and thinks its probably too late for more troops to make any difference, even if we had more troops to send to that country.

I suspect that by this point, putting more troops in Iraq--assuming we had more troops to put there--would be like throwing more cowboys at a cat stampede.

Iraq's interim parliament is stuck at a constitutional impasse. They can't decide on the role of federalism and Islamic law--which is like saying they can't decide whether or not they really want to be a country.


America spends roughly $500 billion annually on defense, which is as much as the rest of the world combined. Yet our "best trained best equipped" force did not deter the 9-11 attacks, it is bogged down in a quagmire by a rag-tag insurgency for which most senior military officials now say "there is no military solution."

But with "captains" of the defense industry at the helm of the Pentagon weapons acquisition process, don't expect the defense budget to shrink any time soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Barbecue Republic: the Oligarchs

From Merriam Webster Online :

Oligarchy: a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

From an AlterNet article by Jim Lobe:
Many neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz are disciples of a philosopher who believed that the elite should use deception, religious fervor and perpetual war to control the ignorant masses.

The philosopher Lobe refers to is the late Leo Strauss, a professor who taught at several leading universities, including Wolfowitz's alma mater Chicago University.
Strauss [had] few qualms about using deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity. While professing deep respect for American democracy, Strauss believed that societies should be hierarchical – divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses who should follow. But unlike fellow elitists like Plato, he was less concerned with the moral character of these leaders. According to Shadia Drury, who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior."

Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control... At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud."

Strauss believed that the inherently aggressive nature of human beings could only be restrained by a powerful nationalistic state. "Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed," he once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united – and they can only be united against other people."

Not surprisingly, Strauss' attitude toward foreign policy was distinctly Machiavellian. "Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book. "Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured."

"Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in," says Drury. The idea easily translates into, in her words, an "aggressive, belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been advocated by neocon groups like PNAC and AEI scholars – not to mention Wolfowitz and other administration hawks who have called for a world order dominated by U.S. military power.


And so it has come to pass--a ruling elite backed by religious conservatives and an ever expanding "Axis of Evil."

It's time for a new kind of American politics, a kind that isn't the private possession of the one percent of the population that owns 40 percent of the country's wealth.

I liked Mark Twain's concept of a Mugwump Party, a "company made up of the unenslaved of both parties." Twain's Mugwumps ran no candidates and had no party platform. They were in fact, a non-party voting bloc intended to affect the behavior of the major parties and to abolish the practice of partisan politics.

What do you think? Let's start a new party--call ourselves the "neo-Mugwumps."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Barbecue Republic: Invasion of the Theocrats

Has America become a theocracy?

From Merriam Webster Online:
Theocracy: government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.

When asked if he had consulted with Bush Senior regarding the Iraq invasion, Bush Junior replied, "You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

It's impossible to know if sonny really believes he's being divinely guided, but he's certainly gone out of his way to indicate that he does, and he's been fairly successful convincing a sizable portion of the adult American population that he is.

This phenomenon would be of little consequence if we could dismiss it as a vanity of devout extremists, but it's much more than that.

Some time back, I wrote a satire piece for the now defunct BlueEar titled "Vote for Bush or Burn in Hell." The piece described the rise of the "neo-bully pulpit," and predicted that ministers and priests throughout America would threaten their parishioners with eternal damnation if they failed to vote to re-elect Mister Bush.

Little did I know; reality is stranger than satire--and not nearly as funny.


The concurrent rise of the religious right and the neoconservative movement is no coincidence. Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol--respectively the philosophical basis and "godfather" of the neoconservative movement--firmly believed that religion was necessary to "impose moral law on the masses."

Little wonder then that religious right icons like Gary Bauer and Bill Bennett found their way into the Project for the New American Century, Bill (son of Irving) Kristol's neoconservative think tank.


Irving Kristol considered that America's founding fathers made a major mistake when they insisted on separation of church and state, ignoring the best tool available to them for controlling the population. But Kristol also regarded religion as a thing for the masses, not for the leadership. Leadership needs only to pay sufficient lip service to religion to make the masses believe in the leadership's belief.

So it really doesn't matter if Mister Bush really believes that God is really telling him what to do. All that matters is that "enough of the people" believe it "enough of the time."


Theocracy Update:

Fellow Virginian Jerry Falwell is exhorting his followers to "Vote Christian in '08."

Pat Roberston, another fellow Virginian, has scored $10.8 billion in the newly passed transportation bill to have an exit installed on I-64 to a road that does not yet exist, but will one day soon run through a $300 million 700 Club complex of shops and restaurants. Sponsors of the transportation pork appendix were Virginia Senators George Allen and John Warner, and Congress persons Thelma Drake and Randy Forbes.

Justice Sunday II just took place down Nashville, Tennessee way. Tom Delay, Zell Miller, and other neo-bully pulpit notables castigated the "activist" supreme court for making decisions that apparently force Americans of faith to kill unborn babies and enter into homosexual marriages.

Justice Sunday II took place in a "mega-church" just across the highway from The Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is a "corporate team member" of America Supports You, the "grass roots" pro-war organization sponsored by the Department of Defense that's throwing the Clint Black America Supports You march this coming September 11th.

Does anybody else sense a neo-connection in all this?

Support the Troops (Again)

From the The Washington Post:
For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents.

The ceramic plates in vests worn by most personnel cannot withstand certain munitions the insurgents use. But more than a year after military officials initiated an effort to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates, tens of thousands of soldiers are still without the stronger protection because of a string of delays in the Pentagon's procurement system.

Check out the excuses:
Among the problems contributing to the delays in getting the stronger body armor, the Pentagon is relying on a cottage industry of small armor makers with limited production capacity.

An important material that strengthens the ceramic plates also remains in short supply despite a federal initiative aimed at prodding private industry into meeting the growing demand, military officials said.

"Nobody is happy we haven't been able to do it faster," Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command, said Wednesday in the interview.

Hey, really, General? Nobody's happy about it? Well, I guess it's okay then. No need to hold anybody responsible, as long as they're not happy about it.

The estimated cost for updating vests for the troops is $160 million. I'm guessing that will require an emergency appropriation from Congress, as the half trillion budgeted for defense is already spoken for.

Hey, I know what. They can just cancel the DOD sponsored America Supports You Freedom Walk and pay for the armor with that money, huh?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cindy and the Barbecue Republicans

According to The Washington Post, Cindy's still on watch in Crawford, Texas.
The rising profile of Sheehan's vigil has proved awkward for the president's staff, which has been reluctant to publicly refute the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, even as they do not wish to be seen as bowing to what they view as an orchestrated publicity campaign. On Friday, as Bush's motorcade whizzed by Sheehan's camp on the way to a nearby barbecue expected to raise $2 million for the Republican National Committee, Sheehan held up a sign saying "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

Bush has been publicly respectful, responding to Sheehan's case with reporters on Thursday and saying he has thought "long and hard about her position," even though he disagrees with her about the war.

The administration's proxies aren't being so polite. In a piece titled "Crocodile Tears," The American Spectator blasts her with a barrage of Coulter-class schoolyard insults:
Every day more aging hippies, professional grievance-mongers, and underemployed liberal arts majors show up with their backpacks and banjos to join [Sheehan]. Squatting in ditches, sleeping in pup tents, and sitting around a campfire at night yodeling "This Land Is Your Land" is after all the anti-war protesters idea of nirvana...

... Sheehan now demands that, "if George is not ready to send the [Bush] twins [to Iraq], he should bring our troops home immediately." Didn't Clausewitz say something similar in his chapter on war and hot-looking twins? Oh, yes, here it is: "Only if the leader is willing to send his young twin daughters to the front may a nation go to war. Otherwise he must hoist the white flag and surrender his sword."

Christopher Ortlet, author of the piece, runs the right wing blog Existential Journalist. This Ortlet guy is a piece of work. His front page features a story about how he's refusing to pay a fine for a ticket he got for not wearing his seatbelt. So you get a good idea of his notion of activism. He cries about getting a ticket for violating a misdemeanor law he thinks is stupid, but thinks it's cool to ridicule a mother who cries about losing a son in a stupid war. And oh, his front page also carries a link to the (Shock! Awe!) Ann Coulter site. His profile page is blank. I've left him a note, asking if that's because he doesn't want to mention that he's another young chicken hawk who never served in the military.



Cindy's Barbecue Republican in-laws are in on the act too. They've released a statement saying they support "the troops, the war, and the president." I just bet they do.


Go, Cindy! Don't let the bastards get you down. This military veteran is four square behind you.

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Traitorgate Dog Pile Gets Higher and Deeper

With a hat tip to Capitola:

You should read this piece from Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story.

Senator Pat Roberts, it appears, is a very bad man indeed. No wonder he wants to block special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation.

More from Rovewell...

I hadn't noticed this before. America Supports You, a site spotlighting what "Americans are doing to support the military," appears to be funded by a private outfit (as in ".com")--until you look at the bottom of the page and find that it's an official Department of Defense website.

The Ministry of Truth strikes again!

The site also features a page of "Corporate Team Members." Among the scumbags exploiting the troops and the war to sell their crap are Anheuser Busch, The Grand Old Opry, The Indianapolis 500, MacDonands, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Lowe's.

I Have No Idea How Much Credence to Give This Story...

But given what we've seen of this administration so far, I don't discount anything.

Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones of Prison Planet offer an alternate version of why General Kevin P. Byrnes got canned.

It's a wild and wooly account which includes speculation that Byrnes tried to stop a plot to turn a Northern Command exercise into a staged terrorist attack and that he was also part of a cabal within the military to stop the neocons from conducting war against Iran.

Take a salt tablet and read the story. And look to see if the mainstream media covers it.

Barbecue Republic: The Military Industrial Hoe Down

"Barbecue Republic" may serve as a catchy way to describe America under the Bush regime. But as Doug Hoffman of Shatter points out, it doesn't completely portray "the hypocrisy of the system."

Hence the more specific and formal description of contemporary America as a "militaristic, theocratic oligarchy." Each of the terms in this phrase deserves scrutiny.

From Merriam Webster Online:
Main Entry: mil·i·ta·rism
Pronunciation: 'mi-l&-t&-"ri-z&m
Function: noun
1 a : predominance of the military class or its ideals b : exaltation of military virtues and ideals
2 : a policy of aggressive military preparedness
- mil·i·ta·rist /-rist/ noun or adjective
- mil·i·ta·ris·tic /"mi-l&-t&-'ris-tik/ adjective
- mil·i·ta·ris·ti·cal·ly /-ti-k(&-)lE/ adverb

Fortunately, the military class does not predominate in this country. And while many Americans respect military virtues and ideas, they hardly "exalt" them (and they shouldn't). But we have had a policy of aggressive military preparedness for a long time. America has, in essence, been on a wartime footing since World War II. This from President Dwight Eisenhower's 1962 farewell speech (italics are mine):
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...

...we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions... We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Ike's dire prediction about the "disastrous rise of misplaced power" has come to pass. Regional economies and political careers are wholly dependent on the military industrial complex; it dominates every aspect of US foreign and domestic policy.

We'll explore the influence of the military industrial complex on US policy tomorrow. Till then...



With a Capital "Q"

Bob Herbert calls it again on Iraq.

No end in sight. No plan to win. Lots of stories on why we went there in the first place.

No urgency from the administration. "Stay the course." "Stay till the job's done."

And no real description of what getting the "job done" consists of.

From Ellen Knickmeyer of The Washington Post:
Iraq's leaders and military will be unable to lead the fight against insurgents until next summer at the earliest, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday, trying to temper any hopes that a full-scale American troop withdrawal was imminent as Iraq moves toward elections scheduled for December.

Both Americans and Iraqis need "to start thinking about and talking about what it's really going to be like in Iraq after elections," said the military official, who spoke in an interview on the condition he not be named.

We're hearing from a lot of those "not be named" military guys, aren't we? This not to be named guy went on to say that:
...a significant spring withdrawal was "still possible." But while primary military responsibility for some parts of Iraq could likely be handed over even before the elections, the official said, U.S. forces would have to play a lead role in fighting the insurgency for at least a year.

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Myers are still in their jobs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Barbecue Republic

In yesterday's post, I referred to contemporary America as a "Barbecue Republic" and a "militaristic, theocratic oligarchy." Since it's not my intention to toss out terms like this loosely, it may be worth spending a column or so discussing why I chose to use these terms.

"Barbecue Republic" is obviously derivative of "Banana Republic." I don't think "Banana Republic" accurately describes America because in a Banana Republic, the oppression of dissent is fairly obvious--armed troops marching in the streets, enemies of the state lined up against the wall and shot, propaganda that no one would mistake for entertainment or educational information.

A "Barbecue Republic" as I define the term, is one in which a civil veneer of equality and normalcy is maintained. It evokes a vision of Americans of all social and economic strata enjoying summer fun out on the back porch or the back forty, mutually sharing the benefits of living in a "free" country.

A Barbecue Republic denies or camouflages underlying realities. Enemies of the state aren't tied to a post and shot. They're smeared, their careers are ruined, their personalities are destroyed.

Giant posters of the Barbecue Republic's fearless leader don't hang in public squares, and nationalistic harangues don't blare from loudspeakers. Barbecue propaganda slips into the regular news and entertainment media, dressed up as...well, news and entertainment.

In a Banana Republic, citizens fear their own government. In a Barbecue Republic, citizens fear external enemies, and the government ensures that the citizens always have plenty of enemies to fear--axes of them, in fact. When one enemy bites the dust, two or three more are already on deck to take its place.

Banana Republics have one-party systems. Barbecue Republics have two or more parties, but it's a) difficult to tell the difference between them or b) one party has control of so much of the government that the other party doesn't constitute a true opposition.

In Banana Republics, the head of state has no constitutional checks and balances on his powers. Barbecue Republics have constitutional checks and balances, but the head of state ignores them and gets away with it.

Banana Republic governments are corrupt, but the corruption is legal. In a Barbecue Republic, committees tasked to investigate corruption find it at the lowest possible levels.

I could go on, but I reckon you get the idea. Please feel free to post a comment and add Barbecue-isms of your own.

Tomorrow, I'll delve into the "militaristic, theocratic oligarchy" thing.



Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pavlov's Dogs of War Revisited

Posted by pete in response to "Gutsy, Gutless, Gutter"...

Cindy Sheehan had the exact opposite story last year. SHe praised the President about their conversation. Now she changed her story entirely?

For being retired Navy I am disappointed in your views in your writing. I served in the US Army, and even if I didn't agree with what the President was doing, I would support him either way, and keep any liberal thoughts to myself...



Despite the right wing smear campaign aimed at Cindy Sheehan, I've read nothing that indicates her position on the war has changed in the past year. But that doesn't really matter. Her present position, as far as I am concerned, is a legitimate one.

As to my views: I am no longer a naval officer, I am a private citizen. Mister Bush is not my commander in chief. He is commander in chief of my military, and I vehemently disapprove of what he has done with it. He has, in essence, transformed it into a mercenary force, one he has used to carry out the private political agenda of his rich, neoconservative cronies. This administration is turning (has turned?) the United States of America into a Barbecue Republic--a militaristic, theocratic oligarchy masked by a thin veneer of representation. I would think myself a coward to sit back and say nothing about the most heinous abuse of power by an American president in my lifetime for fear of being labeled "unpatriotic" or disloyal to my former service.

I'm consistently curious how you and others label my views as "liberal." I don't know you, but a quick scan of your blog site suggests that you spend so much time differentiating right from left that you can't differentiate right from wrong.

I see no virtue in supporting a group of bad men who started a bad war and ran it badly, and consider it my duty as a citizen to oppose them to the best of my ability.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Gutsy, the Gutless, the Gutter

Cindy Sheehan has parked herself outside Mister Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. National security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin went out to hear what she had to say.

Hagin told her that Mister Bush "really does care."

"If he does care," Sheehan said, "why doesn't he come out and talk to me?"

Well, heck, Mrs. Sheehan, the guy's on a working vacation, you know what I mean? And being a president on vacation is hard work, especially when you're trying to work and vacation at the same time. Mister Bush is on a very tight schedule, Mrs. Sheehan. He can't make time to talk to every mother of a soldier killed in action who camps out in front of the ranch. Shoot, if he did that, he wouldn't have time to care about the soldiers killed in Iraq, would he?

I'd like to have been a fly on the wall when Hadley and Hagin went back in and debriefed Mister Bush on their conversation

Dubya: Did y'all tell her I cared?

H&H: Yes, Mister President.

Dubya: Well good.


I'm proud of Mrs. Sheehan. She's showing a lot of guts. A lot more than, say, Theodore C. Nicholas II, former senior intelligence officer at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan where two prisoners were beaten to death.

Last year, Nichols told investigators that interrogators were restricted to using methods outlined in an Army Field Manual 34-52. He said he did not recall seeing detainees shackled with their arms over their heads to derive them of sleep, but he did recall seeing shackles hanging from an overhead bar in a holding cell, and he recalled saying the guards better make sure the prisoners' feet could touch the floor.

Apparently, that line of gibberish made the investigators happy, because Nichols was later promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

Captain Carolyn Wood, leader of the interrogation group, didn't fare so well. The investigators recommended that she be charged with dereliction of duty.

I reckon that's what Captain Wood gets for not being a Skull and Crossbones classmate of George W. Bush.

At Fort Bliss, Texas, prosecutors are "moving swiftly" to dispense with cases filed regarding the deaths at Bagram. Nine soldiers have been prosecuted so far. None of the nine are officers.

I saw plenty of shameful things in the course of my military career, but this takes the cake.


Speaking of shameful...

Last I heard, the Pentagon is still stonewalling a federal court order to release pictures and tapes of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Along those lines, the White House refuses to turn over any information to the 9/11 commission.
Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who led the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission, said he was surprised and disappointed that the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several other executive branch agencies had failed to respond to requests made two months ago for updated information on the government's antiterrorism programs.

The White House is still blowing off the Senate's request for information regarding Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, and we'll never see the info the Senate wanted to see on John Bolton.


And from the "Irony is Dead" files, this from a 2004 speech given by Mister Bush:
In a free society, we will find out the truth, and everybody will see the truth. In a society that is a free society, there will be transparency in the process. People will testify; there will be fair trials, if there are trials; the truth will be known. In societies run by tyrants, you never see the truth. You never find out the truth. This country honors every individual. We believe in human rights and human dignity. And the example we will set for the world will confirm that.

Who is left to hold the executive branch of our government accountable for its actions? At this point, it seems to boil down to two people: a special prosecutor and a dead soldier's mom.

And the Rovewell machine is launching a smear campaign on both of them.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Will Anybody Listen?

A guy I never dreamt I'd agree with...

Over at HuffPo, Tom Hayden outlines an Iraq exit plan that sounds better than anything else I've seen--and a whole lot better than anything I've seen from the Bush administration.

"It is clear that the costs of our continued war and occupation are greater than any benefits," he writes. "We are all prisoners of this war."

Decide for yourself what you think of Tom's ten steps for resolving the conflict. Let me just note (once again) that what we're doing now isn't working, and the longer we stay on this course, the worse things will get, and the longer the "struggle" will last.

And whether you like Tom Hayden or not, good ideas are good ideas, regardless of where they originate.

More Known Unknowns

This caught my eye in today's New York Times.

Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.

Some Middle East specialists discount any involvement by the Iranian government or Hezbollah, saying it would be counter to their interests to support Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents, who have stepped up their attacks against Iraqi Shiites. These specialists suggest that the arms shipments are more likely the work of criminals, arms traffickers or splinter insurgent groups.

"Iran's protégés are in control in Iraq right now, yet these weapons are going to people fighting Iran's protégés," said Kenneth Katzman, a Persian Gulf expert at the Congressional Research Service and a former Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. "That makes little sense to me."

In other words, we don't really know anything. (Ops normal.)


Yesterday, MSNBC analyst Ken Allard, speaking about our reaction to the insurgency, said, "We basically lost a year. We sat on our hands."



Gold Star Families for Peace intends to confront Mister Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas today. I hope they ask him why we sat on our hands for a year.