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A national strategic narrative
April 14, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

On April 8, the Pentagon released a report entitled: "A National Strategic Narrative" written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a 'personal capacity'.

The report argues that America needs to invest for the long term, not in military technology, but in education and health and social services:

By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans -- the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow -- we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth.
posted by Comrade_robot (44 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Treaty of Westphalia even gets a shout-out. I am not kidding.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I bet a bunch of Republicans read this "Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth" and conclude that the military really just needs more tanks.
posted by oddman at 10:49 AM on April 14, 2011


(On Preview): An awful lot of military brass understand full well the general futility of conflict. When they say, "Yeah, we can blow up X," there's a very, very obvious tone of, "but I'm not saying that'll solve your problem" in the subtext.

Unfortunately, the politicians who make the decisions don't really want to hear the subtext, and it's typically beyond the bounds of duty to be more explicit about it. Kudos to these report writers for having the sense of it.

I have seen more than a few military family cars with the old "bake sale to buy bombers" bumper sticker.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:49 AM on April 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dear neocons, tea-baggers, ditto-heads et-al...
If even the fucking military is telling you to invest in education and social services, perhaps it's time you took the blinders off and paid. fucking. attention.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:49 AM on April 14, 2011 [52 favorites]


Sounds a lot like we did in the postwar era: investing in the futures of Americans themselves and in industry and infrastructure; essentially converting from the wartime command economy into a program for long-term prosperity. The result was the largest and most prosperous middle class that any nation has ever enjoyed, anywhere. Indeed it was so successful that it's taken the one-percenters several decades -- starting roughly in the Reagan era -- to strip-mine it all for cash.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on April 14, 2011 [16 favorites]


> Again, it is important to stress that this narrative was penned by senior military thinkers, not the Sierra Club.

This just proves that Obama's sleeper cell agents have infiltrated ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!!11!!1!

Seriously, though...this is laudable and amazing, but does it have any realistic chance of influencing policy (not a rhetorical question)?
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:51 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, though...this is laudable and amazing, but does it have any realistic chance of influencing policy (not a rhetorical question)?

There's a lot of instant credibility in being a general/admiral, as they are often seen as being largely apolitical professionals. On the downside, that perception isn't always the reality, and even so, people in uniform have to be very careful about how far they push what might be considered a political idea.

This may be as far as they can go, but even so, it's great that they did it.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:53 AM on April 14, 2011


It's like a certain kind of - or it works the way a certain kind of pornography does. The pornography of pure and uninflected sexuality, I know, that sounds obvious but what I mean is it's like that particular kind of porn that manages to depict desire/lust/beauty/sex in a way that is affecting on the most primal level.

And this paper is the same kind of thing. I read it and I thrill - "Oh! Common sense! OOOH! Insight, intelligent unbiased consideration of OH ughn! It's based less on ideas of marketplace than it is on social factors. Uuuuhnnnnnn. An objective, oh jesus, total disregard for status-quo in favor of an objective consideration of the strengths and weakness' of our country... oh... oh... oh... oh

hhhhhhhh
posted by From Bklyn at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nerdgasm of the very best kind.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


why just a narrative, can't we have some national strategic songs and maybe a dance number. That would really send 'declinism' packing.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:55 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bet a bunch of Republicans self-interested pandering whores of every political stripe seeking to bring home more pork to ensure their re-elections read this ...

FTFY.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seriously, though...this is laudable and amazing, but does it have any realistic chance of influencing policy (not a rhetorical question)?

No.

These guys did is cut themselves out of the lucrative post-military career world of government contracting and DoD propoganda work.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


*All these guys did...
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:58 AM on April 14, 2011


COMMUNISTS! COMMUNISTS IN OUR MILITARY! MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


(FWIW, I'm from the great state of Dodd (D), Lieberman (D), GE, UTC Sikorsky, UTC Pratt & Whitney, UTC Hamilton Sundstrand, General Dynamics Electric Boat, Kaman Aerospace, Colt Firearms, etc., etc.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:01 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe you could outsource running the world to China?
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on April 14, 2011


Since when is two dudes "THE MILITARY"?? "The Military" is not telling anyone anything. Two dudes are. TWO DUDES.
posted by spicynuts at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bet a bunch of Republicans read this "Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth" and conclude that the military really just needs more tanks.

Special military schools, possibly teaching only the explofy bits of science and leaving out the unbiblical bits. Service means citizenship!
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not a credible or realistic long-term strategy for America, I mean there's not even one mention of how they're gong to protect our precious bodily fluids.
posted by Hoopo at 11:26 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised Obama's speech yesterday has not gotten much airtime here or in the MSM. It basically outlines a lot of the same we're-all-adults-so-let's-talk-about-this-like-grownup points, with much of the same underlying subtext (that the country can do certain things to get back on track).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:29 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Gave it a glance. Liking what I saw.

Once I get the chance to read the report more thoroughly, I may send paper copies to my representatives.
posted by zennie at 11:33 AM on April 14, 2011


spicynuts: Two senior members of the JCOS are not just "two dudes." You should be fearful of the looming Red Menace and their sinister agents who want to destroy America. Unless.... YOU'RE ONE OF THEM?!!
posted by entropicamericana at 11:33 AM on April 14, 2011


Two senior members of the JCOS are not just "two dudes."

They are also not "THE MILITARY". And, I did major in Russian Language and Literature so....draw you own conclusions, tovarish...I mean..comrade..SHIT...I mean, buddy.
posted by spicynuts at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2011


The report argues that America needs to invest for the long term, not in military technology, but in education and health and social services

Better late than never I suppose, but it's more than ironic to read that this has come from the Pentagon insiders, so let's be honest about a few things:

a) as a structural entity the Pentagon food-chain (otherwise known as the military industrial complex) has generally been part of the problem, not the solution; i.e. it has over the past 30 years or so sucked up a tremendous amount of America's energy, resources, intellectual capital, and psychological well-being and diverted it into both unnecessary and costly wars and into a parasitic elite of private contractors, weapons makers, think tanks, and clandestine webs.

b) the time to have implemented a broad re-structuring of America's priorities was at the end of the Cold War (the early 1990s); it was just at that moment that America as sole world superpower could have chosen to dismantle its vast global military complex and invest in new technologies, education, the middle class, infrastructure, social services, etc. Instead a group of neocon insiders (re: PNAC and AEI blowhards) decided to up the ante and re-justify a new wave of American militarism. These folks literally and explicitly wished for a "New Pearl Harbor" to enter into a new post-Cold War era, and they got exactly what they wanted on 9/11; hence the seamless way "terrorism" replaced communism as new conceptual enemy, and the predictable way in which America found itself bogged down in more wars.

c) Meanwhile, in the wake of the Cold War, the capture of the political class by Wall Street titans and corporate interests, occurred and flourished in a way not seen since the end of the 19th century; the tremendous growth of the financial sector, the deregulation of Depression-era banking rules, the continued death of America's manufacturing base, and an extreme bubble of investor-fueled speculation with exotic new "tools" of Monopoly money (i.e. derivatives and mortgage-backed securities, and the failure of the ratings agencies), all led to the extreme economic erosion of the middle class we are seeing today. (Btw, the Financial Crisis inquiry Commission late yesterday released their report [all 650 pages of it] on the origins of the financial crisis, and you can read more about its conclusions here, here, and somewhat related: see here).

d) America’s undeniable continued and decades-long drift to the right politically, stoked by well-funded think tanks and media conglomerates, has proved disastrous to the body politic as a whole—making otherwise moderate positions seem “far left,” and leaving America increasingly out of touch and isolated politically from the rest of the world on issues like universal health care. More importantly, the aggressive attempts by a re-energized extreme right to capture America's political narrative has proved corrosive to everyday legislation and process.

Can America still move forward in the way it so desperately needs to? Unfortunately history suggests America's military excesses, political stagnation, economic decline, corporate capture, and drift to the right all make such movement highly unlikely.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 11:40 AM on April 14, 2011 [26 favorites]


aren't these the same guys that replaced the 12 cent bullet with the one and a half million dollar bomb? aren't these the same guys whose budget for marching bands was 317 million dollars last year? and you value their opinion?
posted by kitchenrat at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2011


This is an interesting report, but as far as I can tell, it isn't published by the Pentagon (it's published by a liberal-leaning think-tank) and the authors are a Marine Colonel and a Navy Captain (which is roughly equivalent of Colonel rank, I think), so they are not particularly high-ranking officers.
posted by Bwithh at 12:06 PM on April 14, 2011


If it were the Air Force it'd be all JESUS IS LORD!
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on April 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Maybe the results of the recruiting drive for the GWOT have given the military leadership a good look into the future of America's labor pool, eh?

Actually, they are laying the groundwork for a military-run national salvation government.
posted by warbaby at 12:08 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth.


*silence*


HAHAHAHAHAAHAHA you should see your face right now we're just messing with you we'll take 50 more of them F-35s and a baker's dozen in Predator drones. Now could you massage my back with those hundred-dollar-bills from the DoD budget increase?

Ok, this is nice, but
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:09 PM on April 14, 2011


Oops

Ok, this is nice, but I don't see this nice little paper closing the gaping maw of the military-industrial complex any time soon.

posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:11 PM on April 14, 2011


This being floated as a trial balloon. Pentagon knows they have to protect their budget, and having an economically strong, peaceful and stable United States is the best way to go about it. But they can't say it quite like that. So they throw out a "Look what these consultants said" piece, and watch the reaction. They'll play whatever game it takes to sustain themselves.

I don't mean that as cynically as it sounds - I believe most people in the DoD are genuinely concerned with peace and security. But budget politics is a knife fight, not a happy circle of people singing kumbaya and holding hands.
posted by Xoebe at 12:25 PM on April 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap this is a great document: The George Kennan Long Telegraph of 1946, linked in the first link in the FPP.
posted by Xoebe at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember a friend who was stationed over in Korea, talking about how during one of the joint military exercises, that someone with a mobile missile truck went through the process of "warming up" the missile, as per the exercise, but forgot to power it down. Which would have been really bad during the false-launch part of the exercise. Luckily, someone else saw it and was like "OH SHIT TURN THIS SHIT OFF RIGHT NOW".

Longer range and lowered standards: it just means a lot more of us are potential friendly fire!
posted by yeloson at 12:32 PM on April 14, 2011


Someone help me out here: this was written by Navy Captain and Marine Colonel; and the report is issued by the Wilson Center. It is a good read and all, but how does this get characterized as being admirals and generals, or from the OP that "The piece was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a "personal" capacity."

Can anyone clarify for me what a senior member of the Joint Chiefs looks like?
posted by cgk at 12:34 PM on April 14, 2011


Bwithh: This is an interesting report, but as far as I can tell, it isn't published by the Pentagon (it's published by a liberal-leaning think-tank) and the authors are a Marine Colonel and a Navy Captain (which is roughly equivalent of Colonel rank, I think), so they are not particularly high-ranking officers.

Exactly (although, as a Navy type I tend to say that the Marine Colonel is of equivalent rank to the Navy Captain). It's an interesting read but it's not DOD policy.

And to be a bit pedantic, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are defined as the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and the heads of services. These guys are staffers inside the office of the Chairman. With that, however, unless they were both interested in committing career suicide, I'd bet this got briefed to ADM Mullen before it got published. He's on record as saying that the biggest threat to national security is the deficit so I think he's on board with the general overview of the paper. The problem is that the way the budget process works, it's not like the military can just go over to the Department of Education and say "Hey, we decided not to buy that submarine, here's a billion dollars." So unless it gets traction in Congress, it's just spitting in the wind.
posted by macfly at 12:38 PM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I did a bit of googling and the authors are Special Assistants working in The Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If they were really influential, they wouldn't have used the Woodrow Wilson Center to push this out in this way. Supposedly this document uses their expertise in systems thinking and complexity modeling, but I didn't really get much of that from my reading.

btw - Anne-Marie Slaughter, what's with the dig against the UK NHS? hisssss.
posted by Bwithh at 12:43 PM on April 14, 2011


The Joint Chiefs of Staff operation is, to my understanding, basically a giant policy, planning and advisement operation of the Pentagon. It's kind of like the Office of Management and Budget in all other govt. affairs. But the management of troops and military action is carried out by military commanders, not the JCOS as an organizational entity.

It is certainly interesting that the JCOS would be so open (or has been thus far) in allowing these two advisors to be so open with their opinions and considered recommendations, however. It's a big no-no for most people working in government, in policy advisement or anything else, to say a damn thing about public affairs to people outside of the office. Keeping a blog or Tweeting, say, about public affairs while you work for the govt. would be idiotic, unless you're considered by most to be pretty much an untouchable political appointee (and even then, everyone's replaceable, ultimately).
posted by raysmj at 12:49 PM on April 14, 2011


Well, what do you expect?

Those guys are tasked with defending the country while the our political leaders are tasked with defending the ruling class.

Different battlefields requiring different tactics.
posted by notyou at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you don't get the idea that these guys are org theory and systems geeks with all the jargon re open systems and closed systems, well ...
posted by raysmj at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2011


@raysmj what I said was that I didn't see much of it in the paper (and yes, that includes the open and closed systems mentions). I didn't say that they weren't experts. I assume that their expertise goes well beyond the limited mention of basic concepts in the paper. This is also a paper which feels that it should explain to the reader that "A narrative is a story." - my general impression is that the paper is rather low-balled.
posted by Bwithh at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2011


They're writing for a non-expert audience. What's your point?
posted by raysmj at 1:42 PM on April 14, 2011


Somewhat related:

America's Know-Nothing Policymakers: War is the Biggest Power Grab of All

...There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether a few hundred cruise missiles will beget harmony in the Libyan desert. But one of the biggest mistakes would be to assume that U.S. government policymakers understand what they are doing.

The American media have already uncorked “surprises,” such as the facts that the Libyan opposition is a ragtag mob, not an army, and that Qaddafi’s opponents include organizations formally labeled as terrorists by the U.S. government. But this is only the tip of iceberg of official idiocy.

The latest follies are part of a long bipartisan tradition. In the decades since John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, foreign-policy makers have become Washington’s leading con men. Even though Whiz Kids and Dream Teams have dragged America into one debacle after another, the media and politicians still defer to the latest batch of “Best and Brightest” professors and appointees...

posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:38 PM on April 14, 2011


HA[...] you should see your face right now we're just messing with you we'll take 50 more of them F-35s

Yeah, many of those boondoggle purchases are driven by our senators and congressmen, not the military. Fairly often, you'll see headlines where the Pentagon/DoD says "we don't want any more of these super-advanced high maintenance planes, please, really" and then the legislative branch puts in a massive appropriation anyway.
posted by zippy at 5:52 PM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article: Our health care system lags increasingly behind that of other developed nations – even behind British National Health in terms of the respective overall health of the British and American populations.

"even"? Our health service is at least comparable than your health service, and costs about half as much, thank-you very much.
posted by alasdair at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2011


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