I have several important extracts to share with you, across the next few postings (which are coming to you amid a big kitchen remodel and various other major distractions.)
I am linking theme in a series because they illustrate... in a kind of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly sort of way... the range of inspiration and leadership that we can find, if we only look around and open our eyes.
The first of these excerpts is cogent, brilliant, concise and brave. The second could serve as a perfect type-exemplar of utter hypocrisy, simultaneously laughable and terrifying. The final passage is taken from a recent work of scholastic erudition that aims to rationalize and justify today’s real war. Not the “war” on terrorism or in Iraq, but the ruthless offensive that is being waged against the Enlightenment and the rule of law, by a new class of would-be feudal lords.
Let’s start at the high end with a courageous fellow who is clearly a friend of civilization. I have already cited a recent article, published in the Armed Forces Journal: http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2635198 “A failure in generalship” by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, a young officer who had been considered a sure bet to make general himself, someday, until taking the bold (some would say suicidal) step of publicly criticizing the Army’s entire upper echelon.
Indeed, Yingling appears to typify everything I have said about today’s U. S. Officer Corps. (Indeed, he even uses that term in his article (see below), proving that I have not made it up during the last three years I bandied it around.) Committed, professional and self-disciplined, this corps of commissioned public servants is -- among other sterling traits -- the third best-educated clade in modern American life - just after college professors and medical doctors.
That, alone, does not guarantee courage or sagacity, of course. (As we will see in our third and last extract.) Indeed, it has taken far too long for members of the officer corps to overcome their emotional fealty to superficial emblems of crewcut conservatism and come around to realizing how thoroughly they - and the nation - have been had. Betrayed by the spiraling and accelerating madness on America’s far-right.
(As I have pointed out frequently, the insulting behavior of the far-left shares some of the blame. refusing to reach out and embrace our nation’s protectors, or at least talk to them. Is it possible to even calculate the stupidity of a movement that would hand its neoconservative foes whole swathes of influential and important American citizenry, gratis, without even trying to engage and persuade? Or to create a Big Tent that welcomes, instead of helping Karl Rove maintain his?
(Still the betrayal of the far-right is far worse. Professionalism is treated like dirt, careers spoiled and wasted, and the Constitution that these men and women have sworn to defend is trampled. There are no greater victims than our service personnel.)
I stand by what I have said since 2004. Though they have been slow to wake up, these volunteer soldiers are what they have always been -- the thin blue line that stands between the rest of us and a very cold wind. They are the guarantors of our Great Experiment. Even when we criticize the Officer Corps, it should be in tones of respect and perhaps a little awe toward men and women who grasp the word “dedication” better than you and I ever will.
But enough of my own quirky ranting. Here’s an excerpt from Yingling’s document.
”For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.
“These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.”
If Yingling is any kind of example, the corps may at last be waking up. To the fact that our national leadership has stupidly (or perhaps deliberately?) plunged America into a checklist repetition of every horrid mistake we made in Vietnam.
A few commentators have suggested that Yingling’s article be read NOT as an indictment of generals, but as a slightly disguised attack upon the Bush Administration. Read it yourself and ponder: when he faults generals for failing to successfully advise policy makers in the probabilities of successful outcome, could that not also be taken to mean that policy makers ought to take the dogma plugs out of their ears and actually listen?
Likewise, when he speaks of Von Clauswitz’s famed advice that a nation should have “passion” commensurate with the sacrifices needed in a war, could he not only be criticizing contemporary America in general, for spending is soldiers without sacrificing at home?
”Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.”
When he speaks of insufficient commitment of resources, might Lt. Colonel Yingling be referring obliquely to the greed exhibited by our top 1%? An American aristocracy who, for all their past faults, always used to step forward to help pay for emergencies in bygone days. But who now - while beating drums of “war” - seem to care above all for their lavish tax cuts. Some crisis.
You have to read between the lines, of course. Superficially, Yingling has done something that might blight a young officer’s career - criticizing the entire class of general officers. And yet, this may not be quite as suicidal as it seems, if in this case he had a nod and a wink from several top commanders. If they are true heirs of George Marshall, they would know that the Colonel’s bullets are actually aimed PAST them, at higher targets.
Wherever he accuses generals of failing to “give good advice,” you can easily infer the reverse side of the coin that Lt. Col Yingling cannot legally mention aloud. That good advice is useless if the policy makers are deaf, dumb, blind, obstinate and/or cosmically stupid.
Read the article yourself. It is important. Especially for “ostrich conservatives” who are still floundering about, grabbing at every possible rationalization and excuse to stay loyal to a GOP that has long ago mutated into something quite unworthy to command.
*(Uncivilized, for sure. Unsapient, perhaps. Indeed, judging by its owners' vampiric qualities... undead.)
==Continue to Part 2