Posts Tagged ‘Military’

The passing scene – October 14, 2015

October 14, 2015

On Building Armies (and Watching Them Fail) by Andrew Bacevich for TomDispatch.

Andrew Bacevich is a West Point graduate, a Vietnam veteran and a retired career Army officer who now teaches political science.  He said the goal of the neo-conservative faction in the U.S. government is military domination.

Since most Americans are unwilling to fight except against actual threats to the nation, the neo-conservatives try to use foreign fighters as proxies.  But foreigners also are unwilling to fight for American neo-conservative goals.

Those who are willing to fight have their own agendas, which is not the same as the U.S. agenda.  The latest example is the attempt to train “moderate” Syrian rebels.   Where, asks Bacevich, did Americans ever get the idea that they are especially good at training foreign armies?

I would be interested to hear from anybody who could make a case that the American people are better off for any of the U.S. military interventions during the past 15 years, or that the people of the target countries are better off, or that the world is better off.

Aerospace Trade: Trump’s Winning Card by Eamonn Fingleton for the Unz Review.

Eamonn Fingleton, a former editor of Forbes and the Financial Times, says Boeing is a prime example of the failure of U.S. trade policy, which is based on obsolete ideas about free trade.

As a condition for doing business, Japan, China and other countries insist that U.S. companies such as Boeing shift not only manufacturing operations to their countries, but share vital technological know-how.  The short-term benefit is a boost in profit for the U.S. company.  The long-term cost is a hollowing out of American industry.

He thinks it would take an outsider such as Donald Trump to change this.  I agree it would take someone not beholden to the American business establishment.

How to Protect Your Personal Data—and Your Humanity—From the Government by Walter Kirn for The Atlantic.

Electronics, the Internet and computer algorithms give governments and businesses the means to monitor your every move and draw conclusions—not necessarily accurate ones.

I’m reminded of the old definition of a paranoid:  Someone who lacks the normal person’s ability to diminish awareness of reality.

A History of Secret Torture at Guantanamo Bay by Bonnie Tamres-Moore for the Washington Spectator.

For Murdoch and Fox, the chickens may be coming home to roost by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Svetlana Alexievich: The Truth in Many Voices by Timothy Snyder for the New York Review of Books.

Is the U.S. instigating an arms race with China?

June 17, 2015
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

There’s a school of thought that says the Reagan administration brought down the Soviet Union by conducting an arms race that the USSR couldn’t sustain.

A smart writer named Mike Whitney thinks Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter plans to use the same strategy against China.

China is on track to become the world’s largest economy in less than 10 years.  But the thinking is that this could change if China is forced to devote significant resources to defending its position in the South China Sea.

This is a perverse idea—that a peaceful China is a greater threat to American global supremacy than a militaristic China would be.   It shows the wrongheadedness of world military supremacy as a goal.

And there’s a question as to whether it would even work.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that the USA’s military budget for 2014 was $581 billion, while China’s was $129 billion.

American military spending was estimated at 3.3 percent of the total US economy (gross domestic product) while China’s was 1.2 percent.  Russia’s military spending was an estimated 3.7 percent of GDP.

The Chinese might well be capable of quadrupling their military spending while sustaining economic growth.

They have other options.  They could embargo vital electronic components that we Americans no longer produce.  They could stop buying U.S. Treasury bonds, which would add to cost of financing the U.S. budget deficit.

And while the burden of the Cold War may have brought the Soviet Union to the brink of collapse, it was an endurance contest that also sapped the strength of the United States.

We Americans would do well to follow the example of the Chinese and build up our own nation rather than dissipating our strength in undermining others.


Seven Days in May? Carter Takes Over by Mike Whitney on the Unz Review.

Rank has its privileges

May 17, 2013

The U.S. armed forces are downsizing the number of troops, yet the number of generals and admirals remains the same.  WTKR, a broadcasting station serving Hampton Roads, Va., and northeastern North Carolina, reported that the Navy has more admirals than ships.

These four-star officers come with high maintenance costs.  They typically have their own chefs, chauffeurs and private secretaries, with private jets at the ready.

High rank does and should have its privileges.  People exercising command responsibilities shouldn’t have to shine their own boots.  But Virginia’s Senator John Warner and former Senator James Webb rightly wonder whether this is getting out of hand.

Click on Enlisted sailors forced out while Navy has more admirals than ships for the full WTKR report.

Petraeus for President?

January 3, 2011

While President  Obama sinks in the polls, he still appears to be more popular than Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin or any other prospective Republican presidential candidates.  But there is one potential Republican candidate with greater prestige than any candidate now in the field – General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

General David Petraeus

General Petraeus has disclaimed any President ambition, as did General Dwight Eisenhower right up until the time he did run.  I have no reason to believe he is insincere, any more than Eisenhower was; I have no way of knowing that.  I do think it is possible he may change his mind.

His prestige rests on his achievement of enabling U.S. forces to exit Iraq without the U.S. government losing face.  Maybe he will duplicate this achievement in Afghanistan.  He is an astute and capable commander, but he is not a miracle worker.  If avoidance of defeat in Afghanistan is not humanly possible, a Petraeus candidacy in 2012 would be more viable than in 2016.

From the standpoint of the Republican leadership, he would be the candidate most certain to defeat Sarah Palin in the primaries and most likely to defeat Barack Obama in the general election.

What kind of a President would Petraeus make?  The best case would be that he would be another General Eisenhower, who was able to tame the military and the lunatic right-wing fringe in the Republican party.  The worst case would be that he would have the attitude of a General MacArthur concerning civilian control of the military.  I think he is too politically sophisticated to be another General Grant, to be manipulated by Washington insiders.

We live in interesting times.


Obama’s patience pays off with DADT repeal

December 23, 2010

Gravestone of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich

President Obama’s reasonableness and patience paid off when Congress repealed the legislative ban on gay men and women serving openly in the U.S. military.  He held back until after the 2010 elections, then released the Department of Defense report and put the question before the lame-duck session of Congress, the time of minimum political risk.  As a result he was able to sign the bill into law yesterday.

He did not of course accomplish this all by himself.  A lot of people deserve credit, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, who was the floor leader for the bill in the Senate.  We should remember all the people, starting with Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, the first gay serviceman to come out of the closet, whose tireless and courageous advocacy changed public opinion.

Anthony Trollope described this process of change in his political novel Phineas Finn (1867-1868)

“Many who before regarded legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible, then among the things probable;–and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made.”

“It is no loss of time,” said Phineas, “to have taken the first great step in making it.”

“The first great step was taken long ago,” said Mr. Monk, – “taken by men who were looked upon as revolutionary demagogues, almost as traitors, because they took it. But it is a great thing to take any step that leads us onwards.”

via FrumForum.

It is obvious to me, now, that it is wrong to deny patriotic gay people the right to openly serve their country in uniform, or to discharge people who’ve served honorably in the armed services on the basis of their sexual orientation.  Nor, if we re-institute the draft, should people be exempt from military service, as they were in the Vietnam era, on the basis of being gay.

The change seems much less momentous than the integration of women into combat forces.  That is something I never thought would work, but the evidence shows I was wrong.  Letting gay servicemen and women serve openly instead of covertly is much less of a change.


King Dick’s Opinion

June 27, 2010

The best army officers are intelligent and lazy.
The second best are intelligent and industrious.
The less good are thick-witted and lazy.
The most dangerous are thick-witted and industrious


Loose lips sink careers

June 24, 2010

General Douglas MacArthur was fired for trying to undermine President Truman’s policy.  General George B. McClellan was fired for lack of aggressiveness against the enemy. General Stanley McChrystal was guilty of neither of these things. He supported President Obama’s announced goals and was unstinting in his effort to carry them out.

He was fired for a different offense – his inability to hold his tongue and make his staff hold their tongues in the presence of a reporter.  If you read the Rolling Stone article, you’ll see that almost all the controversial remarks were made by unnamed aides of General McChrystal, almost were about McChrystal’s political foes and bureaucratic rivals within the government rather than Obama and almost all were off-the-cuff and not in the context of a formal interview.  Nor did McChrystal or any of his staff write the sub-headline about “the wimps in the White House.”

If there is a justification for firing McChrystal, it is that the newspaper article has made him a political embarrassment and also made it impossible for him to work with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and National Security Adviser Jim Jones.

Why didn’t General McChrystal tell his staff to curb their tongues?  Probably Michael Hastings, like many good reporters, had the knack of blending in so that people forgot he was around, and spoke as if he weren’t there.  More importantly, McChrystal and his staff were probably used to dealing with beat reporters who dealt with them on a continuing basis and didn’t want to burn their bridges.