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28 May 2011

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Bill H.

I have never quite figured out why everyone is so enamored of Gates. I have long regarded him as pretty typical of the breed, albeit a bit more smooth of speech.

frank

You speak for me!

YT

http://chuckspinney.blogspot.com/p/domestic-roots-of-perpetual-war.html

Fitzhugh

I read recently on Danger Room, that the Army, tired of waiting for imperfect robotic mules, has taken to using actual grass and oat munching pack animals. A small item of good news.
If only the Pentagon would restore horse cavalry to the Army to counter the Chinese threat. We need parity in this arena.
http://military.globaltimes.cn/china/2009-11/486750.html

bth

Gates did a good job focusing DOD on the force protection issues of this war. He also reoriented a lot of the bureaucracy away from the fantasy wars of future combat systems. Now unfortunately he is leaving as Afghanistan heads toward an end game which is unlikely to be satisfactory and it is almost certain that we will be fully out of Iraq this year leaving little to show for our efforts.

This debate about military draw downs and reorientation of resources usually follows a major conflict. Perhaps the time has come for us to refocus on rehabilitating Cleveland and Detroit vs. Kabul and Basra. Our political leadership offers little inspiration in this regard which is regrettable.

Lysander

"Accustomed to unquestioned military dominance..." That is how the Post sees the American people.

There is some truth to that. For the general public, war has been very easy for the last 40 years. They don't have to go fight it or send their kids to fight, and they don't even have to pay for it (at least not yet,) since the government has an endless capacity for borrowing now and paying back later (or maybe never.)

Also, for the past 40 years, America's opponents were 3rd world countries with very limited capability to fight back. The WaPo is not clamoring for a war against China (confrontation, maybe, but not war)

So yes. The American public, I think is much more at ease with the prospect of war than are the Europeans or Japanese. I would not say they are "warlike" but they are more readily persuaded or at least more passive about it.

RLKirtley

I'm afraid that the dying words of George V "How goes the empire?" will still be those of TPTB in America for a very long time.

mbrenner

Isn't this yet another example of how disconnected the country's political elite is from the concerns and interests of (most) American people? It is so pronounced a phenomenon that it is hard to think of a major sphere of public affairs where this is not the case. Reining in the financial buccaneers; establishing a viable, just system for providing our citizens with health care; securing the integrity of our natural and man-ravaged environment; having food to eat and water to drink that is not corrupted; curbing the excesses of moneyed lobbyists; distributing national wealth equitably so as to restore the conditions that brought us prosperity and social harmony in the post-war decades; and restraining the obsessive impulse to rid the earth of every last person who bears us ill-will. Who among our politicians, our pundits, our editors truly care about these matters other than as the subject of an off-beat story for those weeks when the celebrity news is meager? I do recall that this was what Barack Obama pledged to fight for with every fiber of his being. At the moment, the fibers of Mr. Obama’s being do not appear to be overtaxed.

Farmer Don

Well said Col. Lang!

At some point America will have to choose between guns and butter.

While credit is cheap both can be had.

Cal

I believe war is sometimes necessary but only as a last resort.
And the people who have the most to lose should pay the most for it, not visa versa.
Unfortunately in war the best have always ended up dying for the rest.

markfromireland

Well it's not as if the civilian militarists who make policy, their sycophants in the Washington Post and similar organisations have to do or pay anything for this "dominance".

The soldiers do and pay rather and lot, and the citizenry at large pay enormous opportunity costs, but soldiers and citizenry are only "little people" and so don't count.

markfromireland

@ bth | 28 May 2011 at 03:14 PM

"it is almost certain that we will be fully out of Iraq this year leaving little to show for our efforts."

Would you not say that transforming the politics of the country so that it will be closely linked to Iran for generations and with a populace united in their hatred of American (also for generations) counts as rather a lot to show for your efforts?

LeaNder

to renege on promises of retirement benefits that lured people into service and medical benefits that PL: "keep old soldiers alive betond the time of their usefulness."

How does this work? If they were "lured into services" with these promises, isn't this the equivalent of a contract that according to German law can never be broken: "pacta sunt servanda."

Neil Richardson

"I read recently on Danger Room, that the Army, tired of waiting for imperfect robotic mules, has taken to using actual grass and oat munching pack animals. A small item of good news.
If only the Pentagon would restore horse cavalry to the Army to counter the Chinese threat. We need parity in this arena.
Posted by: Fitzhugh | 28 May 2011 at 03:11 PM"


Cavalry is a state of mind - MG Robert Grow

steve

Lysander:

"So yes. The American public, I think is much more at ease with the prospect of war than are the Europeans or Japanese. I would not say they are "warlike" but they are more readily persuaded or at least more passive about it."

Perhaps the US public is more at ease with war than Europeans, but the statement by Gates that a determining factor in the future of our military will be the role that the American people want their military to play is a lie.

The American people are sick and tired of our leaders' unlimited offensive wars and nation-building. I believe that the public overwhelmingly wants, as the Colonel put it, a strong defensive military operating close to home. Period.

But that desire will play no role in decisions made in Washington. Hence, Gates is lying.

Patrick Lang

LeaNder

US military personnel are not "employees" of the US. The armed forces have civilian employees, but they are not members of the armed forces. The mutual obligations between service members and the government are not contractual. Service members have unlimited obligations toward the government and the government has what obligation it desires towards service members. The Congress provides what it does in pay and benefits by enacting law that creates these things. the congress can equally cancel or change these benefits as it wishes. It has done so in the past. In the 1870s after the former Confederate States were re-admittied to the Union and a general amnesty proclaimed, the Southern states blocked the appropriation of money to pay the officers of the Regula Army. This was done two years in a row as "punishment" for Army participation in the occupation and Reconstruction. Banks gave officers no interest loans in the amout of their pay to keep the service in existence. pl

steve

Leander:

On second thought and for some clarification, perhaps the Europeans and Japanese aren't so much anti-war as they are more comfortable with war as long as the US does most of the fighting and spending.

Patrick Lang

NR

I don't want to see any animals in the US armed forces. I saw too many dogs killed or euthanized in combat because they had become an "inconvenience." In VN,scout dogs were destroyed after their second handler rotated. The dogs did not have a DEROS. But, some people in the states might have thought that rule should be expanded. pl

Fred

"... his speech to the American Enterprise Institute..."

Given the venue I am not surprised by anything in this, especially

" ...spending on military health care is unsustainable;.. and that military salaries should be looked at in light of the fact that all of the armed services have consistently exceeded their recruiting and retention goals at current pay levels."

Yes, our soldiers make too much, our billionaires not enough. The former can 'sacrifice' for America, the latter never will. But as he said:
“America does have a special position and set of responsibilities on this planet.”

Apparently protecting Bush's tax cuts and his wallstreet welfare projects for a few more years.

Bill H.

LeaNder:

In addition to the comments of Patrick Lang, the whole concept of a long term contractual contract for a standing army is a violation of the constitutional authority of Congress, which specifies that Congress has the power,

"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;"

LeaNder

thanks, Pat & Bill Hefner. I didn't know. But that doesn't feel the way it should be.

steve, I am assuming that was a rhetorical question. If not, I spare you an answer, since it could be really cynical.

optimax

Col.

I agree about animals in combat--they have no choice. I read about ant-tank dogs Malaparte's "Kaputt." During WWII the Russians strapped explosives on dogs trained to run underneath Germans tanks where the explosives were detonated. That is why the Germans would shoot every dog in a Ukrainian village they entered. Dead and wounded animals were important images in his book. Reading the following wiki article, made me realize how large the abuse of dogs is in other wars too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_dog

The Twisted Genius

"Accustomed to unquestioned military dominance..." My feelings for Gates run hot and cold. He's the ultimate "company man," but he's done some good things at the Pentagon. I am put off by his disdainful dismissal of the Libyan rebels. However, I am truly insulted by this recent comment of his. I don't want to dominate the world militarily. I think of the rows and rows of marble stones in military cemeteries around the world. I seriously doubt there is a cry for world domination echoing from beneath the sod. Colonel Lang's choice of a Civil War surgeons kit to illustrate this post is especially appropriate. It's a fitting symbol of the cost of unquestioned military dominance. I'm all for being capable of maintaining effective local suppressive fire, but unquestioned military dominance... count me out.

YT

TTG,

"I don't want to dominate the world militarily. I think of the rows and rows of marble stones in military cemeteries around the world."

Contrary to your wishes as well as numerous souls elsewhere, it is probably nigh impossible for various powers to come to terms with one another since 0-sum game is their gospel.

http://www.china-defense-mashup.com/a-rising-chinese-general-promotes-war.html

[General Liu Yuan displays sympathy for osama bin laden, says war is a natural extension of economics and politics and claims that "man cannot survive without killing".]

[His essay, written as a preface to a friend's book, says "history is written by blood and slaughter" and describes the nation-state as "a power machine made of violence".]

I have no love for some raghead S.O.B. who was in glee for the deaths of several thousand American lives, but I'm curious as to whether there was somethin' lost in translation...

On the other hand, there have always been more hawks than doves in the history of all nation-states & powers.

Just as the nation illustrated below once learned to its eventual regret a long time ago...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_nationalism

YT

A page from a military novel I've read back in '07 (I've forgotten the title & the gentleman who wrote this, so y'all out there, pls. help me out).

"Colonel Liu Hsun: A Western philosopher, Kant, I believe, first had the idea that peace was the normal state of world affairs. Since he wrote in the eighteenth century the Western world has pretended that war was an aberration, an interruption of peace. The history of the last century, and all the signs for this century, should have convinced the world that Kant was in error. Perhaps a hundred million people died in the wars of the twentieth century. The most violent century - in the West - since the Thirty Years War. Of course, Kant's misconception was never accepted in the Asia, so reality has never disappointed us. Any analysis of the future must begin, in my opinion, with correcting this mistaken assumption. Struggle is normal. Peace is not. The world must reconcile itself to this reality."

Simply prescient.

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