Skip

Rebels in the Ranks
April 9, 2006 9:40 AM   Subscribe

"I've been silent long enough... My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results." Marine Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's former top operations officer, becomes the latest military insider to raise his voice against the "zealots" who led the US into war in Iraq. He writes in Time magazine: "Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again... After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war." During the Vietnam war, such discontent among soldiers sparked a massive campaign of disobedience and peace activism (as well as, more darkly, fragging) within the ranks, as recounted in a new documentary called Sir! No Sir! Can it happen again? Ask the Soldiers for the Truth.
posted by digaman (60 comments total)

 
Newbold:
Before the antiwar banners start to unfurl, however, let me make clear--I am not opposed to war. I would gladly have traded my general's stars for a captain's bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And while I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq, my view--at the moment--is that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. It would send a signal, heard around the world, that would reinforce the jihadists' message that America can be defeated, and thus increase the chances of future conflicts. If, however, the Iraqis prove unable to govern, and there is open civil war, then I am prepared to change my position.

I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting.

posted by digaman at 9:59 AM on April 9, 2006


We need more heros like this.
posted by rbs at 10:05 AM on April 9, 2006


Why do the troops hate our troops?
posted by papakwanz at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2006


It can't happen again. During the Vietnam war you had a fair mix of both Republican and Democrat supporters as a result of the draft.. Now that it's an all volunteer (heh) force members of the military are for the most part Republican supporters. It will be much harder to spark discontent among the ranks this time, and with the power that the military has, it might be to the Republicans advantage to avoid reinstating the draft in order to keep it's military arm homogenous. (Read this month's cover story in Harper's for supporting documentation).
posted by furtive at 10:11 AM on April 9, 2006


U.S. Study Paints Somber Portrait of Iraqi Discord
"An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces 'serious' and one 'critical.' The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials.

A report on Iraq's stability cited serious concerns in Basra, above, where residents recently gathered to pray and to demand security and services.

The report, 10 pages of briefing points titled 'Provincial Stability Assessment,' underscores the shift in the nature of the Iraq war three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Warnings of sectarian and ethnic frictions are raised in many regions, even in those provinces generally described as nonviolent by American officials."

[New York Times | April 8, 2006]
posted by ericb at 10:14 AM on April 9, 2006


"Baghdad has, on average, eight hours of elecriticy a day, compared with the 16-24 hours it had before the U.S. invasion in 2003. Potable water availability, sewage system coverage, and water treatment capacity are also down from pre-war levels." [source]
posted by ericb at 10:16 AM on April 9, 2006


It will be much harder to spark discontent among the ranks this time

Harder, maybe. "Can't," no. As more news emerges about how the justifications for this war were sexed-up, cooked-up, lied about, bullshitted, and railroaded through, even potential soldiers from GOP families will think twice about heading into the meatgrinder.
posted by digaman at 10:16 AM on April 9, 2006


This bozo clearly hates America. Let's speak no more of him, regardless of his position, experience and ideas. It's pretty obvious that anyone who criticizes the administration's actions is simply disgruntled and/or shilling for their upcoming book, invalidating their opinions entirely and forever.
posted by Aquaman at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2006


digaman posted "as well as, more darkly, fragging"

Huh, so that's where the phrase came from.
posted by Bugbread at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2006


The upside of having a professional military is that the forces themselves are improved, the downside is that the likelihood of our leaders and policy makers, and the public at large, having direct, personal military experience is greatly reduced. But having a draft would definitely hurt the quality of the military in anything but all-out war.

The disconnect between those who "execute these missions--or bury the results," and the policy makers is only likely to grow, I'm suspect.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:19 AM on April 9, 2006


Perhaps the "upside" is actually a downside. When the military can be deployed anwhere in the world, very rapidly and very effectively, with no need for a national consensus about where to deploy them, presidents succumb to the temptation to use them too much and too often, getting them entangled in low-grade long-term conflicts. On the other hand, a conscripted military would, as you say, not hurt the military in terms of defending the country in the event of an "all-out war" but at the same time make it too lumbering and too ideologically fractured to start fighting small wars and getting bogged down in obscure corners of the world. What appears to be a "bug" is actually a feature.

At the same time, I doubt many would be interested in giving up a couple years of their lives to spend in the military. It's not as though I used my youth any more productively, however.
posted by deanc at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2006


Is that a bird or a bloke on the cover?
posted by cillit bang at 10:42 AM on April 9, 2006


The upside of having a professional military is that the forces themselves are improved

And that's becoming a problem, Murtha has already talked about a lowering of the standards.
posted by gsb at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2006


I wonder whether the Joint Chiefs will really smack Bush down over Iran?
posted by amberglow at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2006


We have a rather odd mix when the military guys speak up. On the one hand, top Pentagon people often push for war--it is their trained way of addressing issue--but they are to mind their manners and follow civilian orders. When, though, the president and congress decide on aggressive moves, the military feels compelled at some point sometimes to suggest that incompetence has forced them into bad positions. However, the generals and other top military figures usually do not issue statement condemning civilians leaders till they first retire, afraid of consequences they would be subjected to. Yet, even as they sense a dumb move, they are to follow orders...or else (ie, MacCarther's removal from office)...so we end up with guys doing that which they later tell us is the wrong thing to have done but they tell us after having done it and after making sure they do not suffer for speaking out.
posted by Postroad at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2006


Bird, Bang.
posted by fullerine at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2006



Why do the troops hate our troops?


self-hating troops?
posted by matteo at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2006


Now that it's an all volunteer (heh) force members of the military are for the most part Republican supporters.

I wouldn't say this is a monolithic truth. Soldiers come from a variety of backgrounds; they may perhaps skew toward the more socially conservative, slightly, but politically I suspect most enlisted and even many officers could more easily be described as apolitical than as Republican. Also, a soldier's polotical affiliations upon entering service may be quite a bit different from their allegiances and views once they've experienced service, particularly in combat. My own father, for example, found that his political views evolved rapidly and drastically during his service in the Viet Nam war. The end result was that he became much more pacifist (and, incidentally, anti-racist).

In addition, as any government worker will tell you, a person develops a deep and intimate skepticism of all government systems when Uncle Sam signs your paycheck. Yes, soldiers are often proud to be serving. But you'll also never hear a group of individuals more critical of a beaurocratic clusterfuck, or more suspicious of the motivations behind the orders. (And just wait until they try to use VA services).

So in situations like what Iraq has become, it's no surprise the rats are jumping ship. Anyone can see what a mess it is -- particularly if you're stepping in it every day.

Anyway, that film looks very interesting.
posted by Miko at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2006


U.S. Troops in Iraq: 72% Say End War in 2006

Damn volunteers.

During the Vietnam war you had a fair mix of both Republican and Democrat supporters as a result of the draft.. Now that it's an all volunteer (heh) force members of the military are for the most part Republican supporters.

Over time, that's apparently true. A 2004 poll found 59% identify as Republicans, but only 13% as Democrats. I've said before that an all-volunteer force has the risk of creating an elite security class that sees itself the way that Jack Nicholson's Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men did: "The truth? You can't handle the truth! You want me on that wall. You need me on that wall."

For all the alarmism posted here about various Selective Service micro-actions, it's the Democrats who should want a drafted military again. (A draft bill has been introduced -- by Rep. Charles Rangel.)

I don't think that soldiers fragging officers is an exact analogue of Pentagon careerists asserting their independence. The one was violent revolution by people forced to become soldiers; the latter is educated and dedicated professionals unable to get their views heard. Qualitatively different, largely because officers are taught to think independently and problem-solve, whereas troops are taught to follow orders.
posted by dhartung at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2006


Excellent point, dhartung. I wasn't meaning to suggest an equivalence.
posted by digaman at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2006


officers are taught to think independently and problem-solve, whereas troops are taught to follow orders.

That's not quite as true in the modern military as it was pre-Viet Nam. Reporting structures have been significantly reconfigured to place greater decision-making ability at the level of small group leadership.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on April 9, 2006


I echo what Postroad said- I'm sick of these cowards who come out now, and tell us "Boy, I had some real reservations about this... it sure seemed like it was going to go badly..." You know, assholes, if you'd same something earlier this might have been avoided, but since the media could easily paint the anti-war types as crunchy granola weirdos, we marched happily into a disaster. Maybe if a few high ranked generals had said way back then what they're so freely saying now... oh, but the self-promoting weasels just wanted to protect their jobs first and foremost, until it was safe to speak out.

Goddamn fucking boot-licking cowards get no respect from me.
posted by hincandenza at 1:48 PM on April 9, 2006


From the FPP:

"After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq—an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat—al-Qaeda."

Doesn't sound like a "goddamn fucking boot-licking coward" to me -- then or now.
posted by digaman at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2006


Not sure that I'm all that comfortable with the idea of military leadership speaking out against civilian leadership. It's not their job. It's unfortunate that the civilian leadership is so horrible that they feel compelled to. This is how coups happen.
posted by empath at 2:48 PM on April 9, 2006


It amuses me to no end to see the left stumbling over itself in the rush to cozy up to the military, just because of a recent and temporary confluence of interests. Some days I get the feeling that a military coup would be applauded by the likes of the Nation. Do you people have no memory at all? Whatever happened to protesting the military-industrial complex? When did it stop being OK to call a baby-killer a baby-killer? (I won't even get into the knee-slapping entertainment derived from watching the left's self-righteous outrage that someone blew a CIA agent's cover. The CIA!) And then there's the states'-rights thing. We live in interesting times.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2006


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage.

Tell it to the CIA, a group of highly-trained, highly-intelligent, dedicated Americans who took most of the brunt for the "complete intelligence disaster" we call 9/11, or the "complete intelligence disaster" we call Iraq.

This administration loves to take great giant shits all over the globe, then hold their nose and point and blame the stinky on the true patriots.

If someone does assassinate anyone in a position of authority, don't be surprised if the trigger is pulled by one of these "disgruntled employees."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:10 PM on April 9, 2006


Er, took most of the blame, not brunt.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:13 PM on April 9, 2006


IshmaelGraves, when you repeat the "baby-killer" canard, you are breathing new life into a myth that should be killed dead by now. The whole "they spat on me when I came home" shibboleth is a confection of the right-wing noise machine, whipped up around a very very few documented real-life incidents.

Despite the sad and undeniable prevalence of protestors silly enough to wave the NLF flag at an antiwar march - for which there is indeed documentary evidence - there *never was* any broadbased leftist backlash against troops returning from Southeast Asia. It's a piece of nonhistory no more valid than the Swift Boat nonsense, and just as damaging.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:40 PM on April 9, 2006


Ishmael: You have a point. However, it cuts both ways. The right in the US used to be in favour of not running a huge deficit, it used to be in favour of letting professionals in the CIA do their job and it used to be in favour of states rights. Also, if you listen to people like Pat Buchanan it used to be against fighting wars in far off countries for dubious reasons.

Both sides have changed.
posted by sien at 3:54 PM on April 9, 2006


Excellent point, Adam.
posted by digaman at 4:29 PM on April 9, 2006


Wait, so the Phoenix Program was a "canard"? Fascinating.
posted by dopeypanda at 4:53 PM on April 9, 2006


the truth about Iraq can be summed up in three simple letters: O-I-L.
posted by wakko at 5:07 PM on April 9, 2006


Could somebody please reboot the IshmaelGraves bot already? It's spouting random strings of meaningless text again.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:13 PM on April 9, 2006


wakko, I respectfully disagree. The money isn't in the oil, the money is in the enormous defense contracts, "rebuilding" contracts, etc. It's also great misdirection. In 2001 everyone was all Enron-this and WorldCom-that. Anyone still remember the name of the largest corporate campaign contributor to the Republican party in 2000?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2006


It will be much harder to spark discontent among the ranks this time

Yup. A local man I know who:
1) Consideres himself a progressive
2) Went on an on about 'the oath'
3) Was claiming the 'war in Iraq' is unconstitutional and illegal

Has been called up to Iraq after he re-enlisted in the national guard.

And he's going.

So much for 'not following orders that are "illegal"' eh?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:07 PM on April 9, 2006


C_D: I agree about the contracts; there's billions upon billions to be made rebuilding a country the size of Iraq. But it's not the main reason we're there.
posted by wakko at 6:35 PM on April 9, 2006


dopeypanda, you didn't read what I wrote very carefully.

*Of course* US personnel were responsible for the deaths of infants in Vietnam, and of course this was part of what cemented the turn in general domestic sentiment against the war - witness the famous poster, based on a photograph of the My Lai massacre by Ronald Haeberle, over which the words "...and babies?"/"Yes, and babies." (from the testimony of Paul Meadlo) were superimposed.

The "canard" that I refer to is that US soldiers returning home were routinely spat on, abused, or harrassed (including verbally, whether by being called "baby-killer" or anything else). While I'm sure this kind of thing did occur here and there, it simply did not happen on the scale the right claims it does.

Part of the Reaganite "Morning in America" noise, remember, was that we were "finally" restoring the military to the place of honor in daily life it had enjoyed previous to Korea and Vietnam. This sly piece of reframing PSYOP, and the "baby-killer" shibboleth to which I refer, has been so successful that it is now virtually impossible for a credible candidate for higher office in the United States to refer to the military without bracketing their comments with a reminder that they "support the troops."
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:37 PM on April 9, 2006


adamgreenfield, I wasn't referring specifically to the public treatment of individual soldiers — I've read sources claiming, as you do, that a few incidents were overplayed, and I'm certainly not qualified to argue the point — but that the left, in general, was less ideologically sympathetic toward military personnel. The impressions I've gotten from reading [a small, and perhaps not representative, sample of] Vietnam-era leftist literature is that the "war is fine, but this one is stupid" viewpoint was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, and that the left generally didn't have much respect for the entire military mind-set — "being responsible" and taking orders was considered reactionary, and consequently the idea that an individual engaged in an unjust war couldn't be held accountable for it because he was just a grunt was given less credence. Certainly among the aging fellow travelers who populate the neighborhood where I currently live there is a more scornful attitude toward the military than I see among younger liberals. Then again, not having lived through Vietnam it's certainly possible that I'm comparing a more radical segment of the left with a more moderate segment today.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:48 PM on April 9, 2006


Personally I think there should be a lot more talk about baby killing, not less. Granted it should be directed more where it belongs, at the intuitional instruments of death and destruction (hi Rummy!) But let's face it, we all (US citizens and soldiers) have a great deal of blood on our hands. I think we need to puncture the notion of "honor" and show what our tax dollars are actually doing. Maybe then our "representatives" would be less willing to loose the dogs of war.
posted by dopeypanda at 10:39 PM on April 9, 2006


My mother and late father were New Left Commie organizers against the Vietnam war, and their attitude toward soldiers -- which was common among their "fellow traveler" crowd -- was that GIs were workers, victims of late-stage military-industrial capitalism, and not to be scorned, but organized.
posted by digaman at 10:40 PM on April 9, 2006


Personally I think there should be a lot more talk about baby killing, not less.

I, on the other hand, think there should be more actual killing of babies, and pictures of their little corpses on Joe Shiftworker's evening TV news. Talk accomplishes very little. Actual dead babies, marginally more, maybe.

Am I suggesting killing children in order to stop the killing? Yes, yes I am. And even I don't know if I'm serious any more.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:50 PM on April 9, 2006


oops: institutional

Believe me there is plenty of killing (baby and otherwise) going on. It just isn't making it onto the TV's. They certainly learned that lesson from Vietnam.
posted by dopeypanda at 11:01 PM on April 9, 2006


Am I suggesting killing children in order to stop the killing? Yes, yes I am. And even I don't know if I'm serious any more.

I take this as a sign that you've not had a "ripped to the tits on drink & drugs" night out in quite a while.
posted by gsb at 4:31 AM on April 10, 2006


Maybe if a few high ranked generals had said way back then what they're so freely saying now...

For those with selectively spotty memories and/or who weren't paying attention because they were too busy waving tiny (made in China) American flags while they listened to how it was going to be a "
cakewalk
" with "no casualties", reservations about the "Iraqi Escapade" were voiced numerous high ranking military types, including one former Commander-in-Chief:

We should not march into Baghdad. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero. Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war, it could only plunge that part of the world into ever greater instability.-George H.W. Bush,1998

I mean, if a guy won't even listen to his own Dad...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:59 AM on April 10, 2006


"You know he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to," Bush said.
And his higher father told him to invade Iraq.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:22 AM on April 10, 2006


"the truth about Iraq can be summed up in three simple letters: O-I-L"

I'm starting to wonder if the three simple letters aren't G-O-D. The Kevin Phillips book will keep you up at night.
posted by mania at 6:34 AM on April 10, 2006


On preview... Amen kirkaracha.
posted by mania at 6:35 AM on April 10, 2006


The rest of the troops may rebel against Dear Leader but at least the 101st Fighting Keyboarders will remain loyal to the end!
So there you troops hating troops!

If, however, the Iraqis prove unable to govern, and there is open civil war, then I am prepared to change my position.

I wonder how old this statement is? If we were to ask today would he have changed his position? What does it take for civil war to be accepted as such? A rebel flag and a bearded president?
posted by nofundy at 7:20 AM on April 10, 2006


Ok, let me get this straight - so the thing is this guy opposes the Iraq war based on his personal experiance and professionalism, but he’s still a scumbag because he didn’t do it while he was in, and he’s also a babykiller in general because he put on a uniform - whatever his views are now.

I’m missing the difference between the 101st Fighting Keyboarders who knee jerk support the war and deride anyone opposed to it and the bizarro world hippies who knee jerk oppose war of any kind and deride anyone connected to it in any way ever.
Same sort of unthinking seems to be going on.
/Not in the accountablity argument that IshmaelGraves mentions, but more in the scornful attitude.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:28 AM on April 10, 2006


Smedleyman, the difference is that the "bizarro world hippies" are little more than a figment of the right's imagination.

OK, yeah, you might be able to scrape up a few dozen folks who "knee jerk oppose war of any kind and deride anyone connected to it in any way ever," if you troll Telegraph Ave and similar environs long enough.

But, as I'm quite sure you know, they pale in magnitude compared to the institutionally-backed, widely prevalent, and at times all but hegemonic promilitary sentiment abroad in the country.

Or is there some nationwide phenomenon, some tide of SUVs bedecked with purple "Fuck The Troops" ribbons I remain unaware of?
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:53 AM on April 10, 2006


“Or is there some nationwide phenomenon, some tide of SUVs bedecked with purple "Fuck The Troops" ribbons I remain unaware of?”

I was addressing IshmaelGraves “babykiller” point and to some degree hincandenza’s “boot-licking cowards” comment.


But I will say I don’t equate the “support the troops” ribbons with a pro-military sentiment at all.

Not to delve into the “real scotsman” fallacy territory, but I think there are a lot of folks who self-identify as ‘conservatives’ or ‘liberals’ or ‘Republicans’ or whatever and couldn’t tell you the first thing about the Republican party platform or conservative values or tell you about Edmund Burke or John Locke or Dirk Verhofstadt, etc.

Same thing with the ribbons. If I’m taking you at your word “sentiment” I’d agree. But that is all it is. Just a shallow affectation at best. Something to wannabe.

I think there are folks on the other side that have the same general depth of commitment and feel it makes them rebels or morally superior, etc.

I do respect those who sacrifice for their principles however (with obvious reasonable moral considerations as to principles).
Quakers for example.

I used the term “bizzaro world hippies” to counterpoint to actual hippies. The difference is the commitment. I give the hippies more credit, many of them marched for peace, et. al. and got their heads busted in or at the very least gave of their time.

Much like the 101st fighting keyboarders, there are some folks who don’t do even that. I’ve seen ample evidence of them online.

I do agree there seems to be more of the former, but I suspect that’s a function of leadership. Many folks simply mimic whatever the order of things among the current ruling class is.

Which of course makes decent leadership all the more crucial.
And the “support the troops” stickers that much more of an institutionally backed big lie.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2006


Institutionally backed big lies are the new truth.
posted by nofundy at 12:33 PM on April 10, 2006


Well, OK, sure: there's a big difference between slapping a sticker on your car and going out to sign on yourself. I think we can stipulate that.

But when something is as hegemonic as "Support The Troops," I'd wager that a large part of its effect is negative - is all about placing constraints on what is permissible speech.

It's not so much that there's a close correlation between people who have that sticker and people who go on to enlist in the Marines (or who would be willing to pay higher taxes to support a larger standing army), as that the existence of ten or twenty-five or a hundred such stickers on one's block makes it practically difficult to utter a countervailing opinion.

But part of hegemony is also the genius stroke of framing. As digaman and others here have pointed out, the authentic left tradition was to recognize enlisted military folks as working people whose interests were at cross purposes with those of their nominal "superiors." The "Support The Troops" framing channels all sympathy for soldiers as human beings (or as fellow-members of one's class) into a generalized support for the war. (I suppose I should say The War, as it was, is and shall be.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:46 PM on April 10, 2006


Institutionally backed big lies are the new truth.
posted by nofundy at 12:33 PM PST on April 10 [!]


New truth? Bah, been 'the truth' for some time.


there's a big difference between slapping a sticker on your car and going out to sign on yourself.

Bah, you can't get the 'support the troops' people to agree on being charged MORE taxes to PAY for the "war" they "support".

But buy a Chinese made magnetic ribbon, they are all over that action.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:07 PM on April 10, 2006


“...is all about placing constraints on what is permissible speech.”

I agree. It does seem to have that effect. Since I was deriding the shallowness of the dialogue and lack of depth in thinking about the subject in general, I can’t but agree. Different perspectives, similar conclusions.

“the authentic left tradition was to recognize enlisted military folks as working people whose interests were at cross purposes with those of their nominal "superiors."”

That’s a much more nuanced argument then. I’m not sure where that change occured. The movie “The Deer Hunter” comes to mind.

I’m not sure that Democrats could still be considered the “working class” party. I wouldn’t argue whether “the left” is or isn’t. Certainly there was a shift in the right as well.

Perhaps it does have to do with the draft as furtive and dhartung mentioned. I’d have to agree with Miko though that far more is expected from enlisted men today than in the past. Particularly in special operations.

I think it is crucial however to separate the use of violence and aptitude in it, from the desire or willingness to use it in the pursuit of goals that do not serve national defense.

I will agree that there was working class identification with enlisted military personnel, and to a great extent, there still is.
Who best represents/identifies with the troops (or appears to) is certainly part of the struggle. There are political agendas to exploit the troops in many ways on many fronts however - war, anti-war, this policy or that policy. Indeed, what Fred Phelps does is exploitive of the troops.

None of that invalidates your point, but I think what the ‘cross purposes’ are has become the contentious issue. Appearances aside, it is blue collar folks who do most of the heavy lifting in the military. I don’t see that changing.
So even if it appears that other folks are taking ownership of “the troops” it’s analogous to the situation where whitebread people go overboard to show how not-prejudiced they are (speech patterns change to ‘street’ lingo, etc. etc.). The remedy is the same. Just ask them if they know anyone in, or in the other case- if they know anyone black (I enjoy Steven Colbert’s picture with his “black friend”).

Sorry to be so long winded here, but I want to winnow away what I’m trying not to say.

The situation in the past no longer applies in that it is no longer the military “superiors” that have interests different than the men they lead. There is a greater separation between political power and achievement from within the ranks. A successful military career has not guaranteed political success for quite some time.
Indeed part of Kerry’s weakness as a candidate was that his answer to everything was “war hero” (and “anti-war hero.”) The swift boat crap and the purple heart band-aids were appaling and disgusted me. But he did seem like a single issue candidate (not that I wouldn’t have liked Bush out of office). With Ike, maybe that was enough, not anymore.

So I would argue that what has changed is that the military is, excepting some high ranking generals, of a piece.
Which makes the argument over what the interests are that much more in need of serious consideration.

...which I suppose is why that reframing took place - you have to associate empathy for the troops with generalized support for the war in order mask the fact that the professionals don’t think it’s a good idea either.

Huh. I suppose the woman’s rights thing is similar, putting them on a pedistal to marginalize what they say/think/ etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:04 PM on April 10, 2006


I am an American citizen that used to "support our troops" in the sense of respecting the efforts of individual soldiers and units trying to accomplish a difficult national mission, at a cost that included significant and sometimes tragic personal sacrifice. But I don't "support the troops" any more.

The American Army in Iraq is doing, as far as a civilian in the U.S. can judge from news reports, an abominable job as an army, a police force, or a reconstruction authority. Militarily, it "controls" very little territory in Iraq, despite having unchallenged air superiority. In three years of occupation, it has failed to even secure the road from the Baghdad airport to the city, and even today, it can not stop terrorist attacks in any one city of its choosing, including Baghdad. It routinely loses troops to what it regards, itself, as ill equipped, unarmored jihadists. It doesn't control Iraq's borders. It has not been effective in training the new Iraq army, or at least, the Iraqi army units it has trained and equipped to date have yet to be any more decisively effective than the American Army itself has been. As summarized by GlobalSecurity.org:
"The first Iraqi Army infantry battalions finished basic training in early 2004 and were immediately required in combat without complete equipment. They had inadequate time to develop unit cohesiveness, staff proficiency, and a leadership chain of command that is fundamental to a military unit. Ministry of Defense forces did not perform well in Fallujah—several battalions collapsed. Absent-without-leave (AWOL) rates among regular army units were in double digits and remained so for the rest of the year.

Although, as of 2005, such problems had not been entirely solved, they had been addressed in large measure because of the ability to put to good use the security sector funding from the Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Fund (IRRF) as provided for by Public Law 108-106. Furthermore, although there was variance in the rate of absenteeism, AWOL, attrition, and desertion among the Iraqi Army, rates had diminished significantly and were around one percent for some divisions. Still, units that were conducting operations and units that relocated elsewhere in Iraq experienced a surge in absenteeism."
Failures in its own chain of command have embarrassed the United States of America internationally, and continue to call into question the competence of the officer corps charged with leadership and command.

Professional armies that lose don't get paid. They don't get support. They do get fired.

How do we fire this one?
posted by paulsc at 10:21 PM on April 10, 2006


The American Army in Iraq is doing, as far as a civilian in the U.S. can judge from news reports, an abominable job as an army, a police force, or a reconstruction authority. Militarily, it "controls" very little territory in Iraq, despite having unchallenged air superiority. In three years of occupation, it has failed to even secure the road from the Baghdad airport to the city, ...

Amen to that. I blame Rumsfeld and his political appointees, but wish sitting Generals would speak up publicly while still in uniform and not only after they retire. (are they allowed to? lower people aren't, i don't think)
posted by amberglow at 10:54 PM on April 10, 2006


I disagree with the premise that it is the fault of the military for the poor situation in Iraq, paulsc.
I agree with your points, but I would argue that it is the fault of leadership and inappropriate use of the new military model in an old WWII take and hold ground mission.

There did not exist the logistical chains, the supply reserves, the structural necessities to do the job the way the administration wanted the job done.
The military as it was set up at the beginning of Bush’s term was not the appropriate tool to use for that kind of engagement - and most importantly - there was not the political will to change it into one.

But there is a history of using the wrong tool for the job (nifty package comes to mind, bay of pigs) in the Bush family.

Not to mention there is no real military mission to be accomplished in Iraq. The objective seems to be ‘mill around’.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:44 AM on April 11, 2006


Retired US Iraq general demands Rumsfeld resign
"A recently retired two-star general who just a year ago commanded a U.S. Army division in Iraq on Wednesday joined a small but growing list of former senior officers to call on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

'I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands teamwork, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,' Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said in an interview on CNN."

[Reuters | April 12, 2006]
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on April 12, 2006


The Washington Post : Retired generals step up pressure on Rumsfeld.
posted by ericb at 9:35 PM on April 12, 2006


« Older Goat on a Pole   |   Sex for nerds, things that shiver. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post