Last time, we discussed two kinds of modern armed conflict -- a bona fide crisis that can be likened to an “emergency room operation” vs. the “elective surgery” of an intervention that is meant to enforce policy. Sure, this dichotomy oversimplifies terribly. But it does clarify some important tradeoffs concerning how best to apply force. Like whether a particular overseas endeavor should be allowed to affect our economy, our honor, our laws, our reputation, our social cohesion... (or return to Part 1 of this series.)
...and especially our overall military readiness. Of all my “j’accuse” points, the one that angers me most is the Bushite betrayal of the National Guard and Reserves, using them up and stripping us bare, in an endeavor that is - at best - an attempt at utopian nation-building.
In response, a commenter posted his own powerful observation:
“The evisceration of the Reserves and Guard ought to enrage states' rights conservatives. Not only has disaster relief in the near term been compromised, but future recruitment is virtually doomed. People once joined up expecting to help their communities, fight fires or conduct disaster relief, and only deploy abroad in case of an urgent, temporary emergency or major conflict. Now they've got to take into account the probability that they’ll be thrown in the line in endless, grueling missions, as if they were full time soldiers.
“We haven't begun to experience the fallout from this particular insanity.”
* Excuses Abound!
Any Boy Scout will tell you that it’s best to “be prepared.” So what do neocons say, when you point out that our military readiness has -- inarguably -- plummeted during the GOP’s watch?
Their first line of defense is to reply that none of the rules for “elective policy wars” apply, since this really is an emergency! Indeed, a State of Emergency has been declared and re declared by George W. Bush, so often that the word loses resonance. Its primarily effect is to let administration cronies bypass stringent rules for competitive bidding of military and associated contracts, allowing billion dollar deals to be assigned, at whim, to whatever friends the administration chooses.
Again, if it were a real emergency, all of us -- rich and poor -- would be asked to sacrifice. And we would sacrifice! In order to act decisively and put the emergency behind us. (Though the last thing we would surrender is our civil liberties.)
Anyway, if the world is so dangerous, shouldn’t readiness be out top military priority?
A second excuse for abandoning high levels of military readiness goes like this: “Exactly what is the point, any more, of the US Army being trained to fight major unit conventional warfare, as if going "toe-to-toe with the Russkies" in the Fulda Gap? No one fights that way any more!”
Consider how bizarre this is. The "no one will fight that way anymore" argument is put forward by defenders of the Bush family.... who in 1991 and 2003 chose precisely to fight Saddam Hussein in the old, brute force way. Both Bushes hurled large field armies into frontal assaults against entrenched enemy forces, ignoring reasonable alternatives that might have removed Iraq’s mad tyrant far more cheaply. Now, that Army the Bushes fielded is essentially gone. Can anyone explain why this weird flip is greeted with shrugs?
Which president did work closely and respectfully with the scholar generals, to implement a “revolution in military affairs”... while maintaining high levels of conventional readiness? Bill Clinton’s campaign in the Balkans -- blatantly the most successful war in U.S. history -- applied overwhelming but surgical force toward the achievement of crystal-clear goals in rapid time. (Losing not a single American serviceman or woman along the way.)
Likewise, our post-9/11 retaliation against the Taliban regime, in Afghanistan, utilized similar procedures and doctrines, following detailed plans that were laid down during Clinton’s tenure. (Bush only had time to say “Go!” to blueprints already on the shelf and local alliances that were already in place, a fact that is clear in the timing, and yet never gets mentioned.)
.* Crux time.
“Nobody fights that way anymore" is a rationalization of stunning hypocrisy. It could as easily have been said about the way we waged war in Vietnam, allowing our forces to get embroiled in a futile, mindless, draining, alienating, counter-insurgency war of attrition on the continent of Asia. We swore that would never happen again. Yet, it did.
They offer that lame excuse in order to distract from the core point, one that needs to be hammered again and again. George W. Bush and his allies are demolishing the United States Army and Marines.
We can argue whether this vile effect is due to massive incompetence, or deliberate planning.
Whether to fix the problem by mobilizing society to greater martial commitment, or else by pulling out of a senseless quagmire and letting the pros get back to training.
We can either see this in the larger context of a neocon “war against professionalism”...
...or else focus only on the men and women of the military, who are the Bushites’ paramount victims. All of these secondary issues, reasonable people might ponder and dispute honestly.
But not the bald fact of this crime against America. That George W. Bush and his allies are demolishing the United States Army and Marines.
Only then, alas, Babylon, it gets even worse.
--continue to Part 6 of this series...