Chickenhawk nation
December 29, 2014 2:38 PM   Subscribe

The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.
James Fallows on the Tragedy of the American Military: "honoured" but not taken seriously.
posted by MartinWisse (71 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Military Times [Gannett] recently ran a series of longer articles under the heading America's Military:
A Force Adrift
Readiness On A Shoestring
The Crushing Deployment Tempo
Were The Wars Worth The Cost?
A Conservative Institution's Cultural Evolution
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


As long as the military relies disproportionately on labor from various disadvantaged populations: minorities, urban and rural poor, etc. there is going to be a tendency to treat them with a certain degree of remote disdain. Yeah we might support the troops with flags and bumper stickers and buying them meals and I don't doubt that in many communities there is a very real support of the military but I think the collective we of the US and in particular the decision-makers in charge of deciding how that military gets used tend to view the military as a faceless tool that is to be used to meet US foreign policy objectives.

I'm not saying that I'm by some means more enlightened in regards to the military than the average person but that I think we need to begin to really put a "face" to the military that really brings into focus the human cost of military action but also understands how the military uses a sense of Honored patriotism of don't question the military to maintain structures that might've been useful during a cold war era US but increasingly seem completely outdated in an era where "threats" are increasingly not state related and require perhaps a more law-enforcement and less military oriented solution.

Also I very much wonder if the current volunteer nature of the military rather and mandatory conscription allows too many of us the freedom to act cavalier in regards to the military.
posted by vuron at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


wonder if the current volunteer nature of the military rather [than] mandatory conscription

ooh, now there's a constitutional amendment I can get behind: a new requirement for eligibility to serve as POTUS, senator or rep that you must have served in the military, or all of your service-age children / grandchildren must serve during your time in office.
posted by spacewrench at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


David Masciotra wrote about this in Salon in November:

You Don't Protect My Freedom

Follow-up to the above article: My week in the right-wing lie machine
posted by MrVisible at 3:37 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


ooh, now there's a constitutional amendment I can get behind: a new requirement for eligibility to serve as POTUS, senator or rep that you must have served in the military, or all of your service-age children / grandchildren must serve during your time in office.

Starship Trooper? I guess you probably mean that having served or having your family serve will deter you from trivially sending the military on some fool's errand, but really?

It seems foolish, and really anti democratic.
posted by coust at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2014 [34 favorites]


a new requirement for eligibility to serve as POTUS, senator or rep that you must have served in the military

Granted that this was by and large the case anyway pre-1992, but on the face of it that's a terrible idea.
posted by Bromius at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


now there's a constitutional amendment I can get behind

Jesus what the fuck? No! Political office should be kept as far away from the millitary as possible in any democracy under civillian control. And why privilege millitaru experience as a prerequisite for office? Why don't we also demand political leaders spent time as teachers? Doctors? Farmers? Factory workers? Privileging the millitary over all else is part of the fucking problem.
posted by Jimbob at 3:41 PM on December 29, 2014 [89 favorites]


ooh, now there's a constitutional amendment I can get behind: a new requirement for eligibility to serve as POTUS, senator or rep that you must have served in the military, or all of your service-age children / grandchildren must serve during your time in office.

Not just no but hell ass no. That sets up a military society. And let's be real, your service-age descendants will have nice cushy desk jobs where there's no real danger. Same as it ever was, Prince Harry notwithstanding.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:47 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well it's just another form of descendant-ism, no? Must have been a pioneer, must be a Mayflower family, must be from Yale/Harvard...
posted by rhizome at 3:49 PM on December 29, 2014


Excellent essay, thanks for sharing.

I was vaguely aware that the F-35 was a complete boondoggle, but didn't really have a sense of the extent of the problem. It's absolutely insane, and Fallows raises a very good point about how little attention it receives.

But then again, Bush's trillion-dollar tax cut adventure seems to be largely forgotten.
posted by graphnerd at 3:52 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Like most follies, this one isn't particularly American. It is only the magnitude that really makes it made in the USA.

Most of the so called G8 nations have the exact same problem. We've all burned up our post-war "peace keeper" capital and shifted into military as globalism police force so gradually it was almost impossible to see exactly when it fully changed.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, OK, I guess I was wrong. I take it you're all happy with the way our military is being staffed and used under the current system, then? I kinda figured that people who had been shot at (or who had been subjected to enhanced interrogation procedures) might be a little more reticent to send their countrymen (or their own issue) off on similar adventures, but maybe there's another way to achieve that goal? Or at least to get a more nuanced view of what a military force can (and can't) do into the heads of the people sending those forces off to do "our" bidding.
posted by spacewrench at 4:02 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Political office should be kept as far away from the millitary as possible in any democracy under civillian control.

Absolutely. This is why it was such an embarrassment when George W. Bush donned a Top Gun style flight suit prior to his Mission Accomplished speech. And, on a bi-partisan note, why it was so cringe-worthy when John Kerry began his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a salute followed sheepishly by the lame-ass opening line "John Kerry, reporting for duty".

If an Eisenhower aide had suggested such theatrically bellicose antics to his boss, Ike would have belted him one.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:06 PM on December 29, 2014 [14 favorites]


Actual service members aside, it's not about honor or service. It's not about mom, the flag or apple pie. It's not about protecting the homeland or the American way. It's simply about profits. And that's exactly why it's immune to reform or change. Like much of the federal apparatus, the military is a profit center vigorously defended with lobbying, polemics and campaign contributions. And it pays off handsomely...
posted by jim in austin at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Well, OK, I guess I was wrong. I take it you're all happy with the way our military is being staffed and used under the current system, then?


We can still have problems with the current state of affairs without your proposition being in any way a good idea.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:12 PM on December 29, 2014 [36 favorites]


Metafilter: We can still have problems with the current state of affairs without your proposition being in any way a good idea.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2014 [45 favorites]


Well, OK, I guess I was wrong. I take it you're all happy with the way our military is being staffed and used under the current system, then?

Of course not, but the answer isn't to limit political office to those who have served in the military, but to ensure that the military is more integrated with civilian society, and vice versa. Fallows' point is that the military is taken for granted by civilians while simultaneously told they are beyond criticism, and simultaneously members of the armed forces consider themselves superior to civilians.
posted by suelac at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


OK, that was a bit harsh- perhaps some sort of national service (civilian or military) should be a prerequisite for political office at a certain level, and in that case, perhaps that service should be well-compensated for people without family means.

But the idea that political office should be dependent on military service (particularly combat experience) has already excluded disabled people, and until very recently, women and LGBT people.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:16 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Actually I like the old idea of a king personally leading troops into battle. Perhaps if a declaration of war meant you yourself had to be in the first wave of the attack...
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Political office should be kept as far away from the millitary as possible in any democracy under civillian control.

Last I checked, serving four years in the military doesn't make you somehow unable to exercise your rights as a citizen in private life, up to and including running for office.
posted by corb at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2014


perhaps some sort of national service (civilian or military) should be a prerequisite for political office at a certain level

That's perhaps a better way of putting it -- national service, not only military. But I think a lot of our problems are due to the lack of Venn-overlap between the ruling class and the ruled.
posted by spacewrench at 4:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


OK, that was a bit harsh- perhaps some sort of national service (civilian or military) should be a prerequisite for political office at a certain level, and in that case, perhaps that service should be well-compensated for people without family means.

I get the same Starship Troopers heebie-jeebies as everyone else, but I wonder if a rule that half of each Armed Services Committee in Congress would have to be veterans (and half not) would have any effect. Probably not, since I don't really believe that individual consciences are all that important here, but it's an interesting thought.
posted by graphnerd at 4:22 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I kinda figured that people who had been shot at (or who had been subjected to enhanced interrogation procedures) might be a little more reticent to send their countrymen (or their own issue) off on similar adventures

Someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but I remember reading that the actual percentage of active military members doing "being shot at" kind of work is south of ten percent. If you're gunning for higher office, chances are you would be like a lot of the folks I work with - Ivy League educated, enrolled in ROTC (Air Force would be your safest bet), and working stateside doing acquisitions or logistics or otherwise pushing paper around. You'd serve your four years in what is essentially an office park behind a fence, get out, and then be able to satisfy that military service requirement without any need to get shot at unless the MPs were feeling particularly frisky one day.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:23 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


The trouble is the best sentiments don't fit on a bumper sticker.
I Support The Troops
By spending hundreds of billions on private defense contractors so they can afford to throw away valuable war materiel that our troops can scrounge in for improvised armor
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:24 PM on December 29, 2014 [14 favorites]


This has become the way we assume the American military will be discussed by politicians and in the press: Overblown, limitless praise, absent the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money.

Right on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:27 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Foreign Policy: "[The Torture Report] dealt yet another blow to the United States’ moral authority and its credibility as a defender of human rights around the globe. It also begs the question: How much damage must the United States suffer before it learns to take soft power more seriously and, finally, learn to use it more proactively?'"
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:30 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps if a declaration of war meant you yourself had to be in the first wave of the attack...

If you're talking about seriously commanding from the vanguard and engaging in an active "Omaha Beach"-esque attack, then it would only mean like young able bodied people would apply for office, wouldn't it?
posted by FJT at 4:30 PM on December 29, 2014


I propose an amendment that only politicians who have served abroad in the military, or who have children in the military, can vote for war.

If you're a chickenhawk, then, you can only fume or rally others to the idea, rather than sending them off to buff your own warlike image.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, and George "pulled strings to serve in Texas rather than Vietnam" Bush, I'm looking at you.
posted by zippy at 4:33 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can amphibious mobility scooters really be beyond the generation that created stuffed crust pizza?
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's how you do it. If you vote for war, you are automatically added to the draft pool, which consists only of the people who vote for war. If you are mobility impaired, we will find you a desk job in a combat zone. Enjoy.
posted by corb at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


amphibious mobility scooters

First it's a scooter. Then it's like a humvee. And then it's like a tank. And then pretty soon, we're gonna have world leaders climbing into 35 foot bipedal robots painted red, white, blue and all sorts of garish colors armed with missile racks and unleashing the secret weapon of the "green laser" on the enemy.
posted by FJT at 4:41 PM on December 29, 2014


[Comment removed; please don't post gigantic pull quotes into threads. Link to it if you want to share it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:50 PM on December 29, 2014


Here's how you do it. If you vote for war, you are automatically added to the draft pool, which consists only of the people who vote for war.

I don't know if I trust the decision of declaring war to public opinion. Even being able to only "fool some of the people, some of the time" is enough to probably get us into a war with either China, Russia, or Iran.

And, of course, these days, it's never formal declaration of war, it's a military action.
posted by FJT at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2014


perhaps some sort of national service (civilian or military) should be a prerequisite for political office at a certain level, and in that case, perhaps that service should be well-compensated for people without family means.

Now this would be a fantastic idea in any country. Mandatory service to the country, armed forces or paramedics or bridge-builders or researchers or whatever before you can try to boss the country around. Could even integrate with universities or create service academies (bet you could get a LOT of support for creating a nationally-funded academy for training first responders, for example) that feed into needed positions nationwide. Teachers, farmers, whatever. And like the armed forces, there'd be need for accountants and truck drivers and cooks and dentists. Someone build my Socialist paradise please.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:58 PM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


"As soon as that was over, they went back to their smartphones and their laptops and their Cinnabons as the president droned on."
Droned, you say?
posted by wam at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Weird. I take the American military seriously. But I don't honor it.
posted by samizdat at 5:13 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone correct me if I'm mistaken, but I remember reading that the actual percentage of active military members doing "being shot at" kind of work is south of ten percent.

I'm pretty sure that you're right. For that matter, even what qualifies as a front-line troop may involve very little actual danger. An uncle of mine who served in Vietnam was close enough to hear gunfire, but the only deaths in his unit were some guys who got stoned off their tits, went swimming in the canals, and drowned. Another relative was on a Los Angeles-class submarine that fired some Tomahawks into Iraq. More recently, I read a Reddit AMA that described the soldier's experience as exchanging fire from hundreds of yards away with little chance of someone catching a round.

Now: OBVIOUSLY THIS IS NOT EVERYONE'S EXPERIENCE, and in fact, when I went looking for the above AMA, I found other AMAs from people who were well and truly in the shit. The point being, just being in the infantry or even having a combat badge doesn't necessarily mean you had the Full Metal Jacket experience.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:16 PM on December 29, 2014


Or you could amend the constitution to say that Congress Shall Declare No Wars That Aren't About Blowing Shit Up. We Really Suck at the Subtle Stuff.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:17 PM on December 29, 2014


This Is What Winning Looks Like a fairly depressing and stunning documentary of what international troops dealt with in Afghanistan. "We are leaving behind a corrupt and feared government that in some areas is worse than the Taliban. The goal is to look good as we pull out."

Elder Afghan official: "When they came here to Afghanistan they had a purpose. They couldn't fulfull that purpose and now they are trying to release themselves. We know this very well. They have spent millions and millions and lost thousands of soldiers. American, Britain and other countries have lost soldiers. How can we stand against Taliban on our own? We will survive, but they [Taliban] will be taking the war back to America."

Afghan commander: "If they [my Police officers] don't fuck the asses of those [pre-teen enslaved] boys what should they fuck?" (NSFW) As one person said "Try finding an [Afghan] police commander who doesn't fuck young boys."

"Policemen at the checkpoint were smoking weed which was kind of normal. But two of them filling sandbags now are out of the brains on something else opium or heroin.

Taliban press release today: "America, its invading allies... along with all international arrogant organizations have been handed a clear-cut defeat in this lopsided war,” the statement read. The group warned that it would continue its fight against foreign invaders.
posted by stbalbach at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


So Fallows writes:
In theory, the F-35 would show common purpose among the military services, since the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine Corps would all get their own custom-tailored versions of the plane. In fact, a plane designed to do many contradictory things—to be strong enough to survive Navy aircraft-carrier landings, yet light and maneuverable enough to excel as an Air Force dogfighter, and meanwhile able to take off and land straight up and down, like a helicopter, to reach marines in tight combat circumstances—has unsurprisingly done none of them as well as promised.
But in the piece he links to another article by a different author about our military's outdated infantry rifles. He writes:
What should a next-generation, all-purpose infantry rifle look like? It should be modular. Multiple weapons can now be assembled from a single chassis. A squad member can customize his weapon by attaching different barrels, buttstocks, forearms, feed systems, and accessories to make, say, a light machine gun, a carbine, a rifle, or an infantry automatic rifle.
And he goes on three more paragraphs proposing that we depend on unproven technology to make everything work better than it is now (and hopefully be assembled of parts made in 47 different states). Which is a wonderful illustration of exactly the problem in contractor-driven military acquisition system on which Fallows blames the F-35 cock-up.
posted by peeedro at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's how you do it. If you vote for war, you are automatically added to the draft pool, which consists only of the people who vote for war.

Draft pool? No, no, no, mandatory front line duty, day one, just like aristocracy in feudal days. All senators and congressmen lead from in front. Be part of the ten percent. You want to play Teddy Roosevelt, you march up San Juan Hill.

If it's worth killing for, it's worth risking life for.

Your life.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know if I trust the decision of declaring war to public opinion. Even being able to only "fool some of the people, some of the time" is enough to probably get us into a war with either China, Russia, or Iran.


Remember the Maine!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2014


Draft pool? No, no, no, mandatory front line duty, day one, just like aristocracy in feudal days. All senators and congressmen lead from in front.


Jesus. The way this is going, we're going to have to start three more wars just to have a viable political class.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


National service should automatically grant citizenship, no matter what.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:41 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Would you like to know more?
posted by Pinback at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2014 [17 favorites]


"Incompetency" is empire's Big Lie. In a country where poor people have to pee in a cup for employment, there is no detail too small and no humiliation too degrading for the purpose of funneling wealth upward. The military does not commit strategic folly if their purpose is to expedite this process and annihilate the remaining parts of the earth not yet privatized.
posted by gorbweaver at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Can amphibious mobility scooters really be beyond the generation that created stuffed crust pizza?

Tee-hee. I spent my time in the fleet on gator freighters which included an inordinate amount of time as the phone-talker at Blue 5/6. I can see it now--platoons of rabid elders storming the beach in their mobile scooters. If Senior Citizen Day at the grocery store is any indicator, then woe be upon the defenders.

I really like Fallows; he a superb journalist.
posted by CincyBlues at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2014


Draft pool? No, no, no, mandatory front line duty, day one, just like aristocracy in feudal days. All senators and congressmen lead from in front.

The Athenian Empire and Roman Republic both literally did this. It did not turn out well. I've commented on this before.
posted by Ndwright at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


a new requirement for eligibility to serve as POTUS, senator or rep that you must have served in the military

What if you're disabled? The military would not have accepted FDR but he made a good president.

posted by foobaz at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


...The way this is going, we're going to have to start three more wars just to have a viable political class.
Pretty sure that won't take long, as things stand.
posted by dg at 6:15 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


National service should automatically grant citizenship, no matter what.

Which is why I enlisted in the 151st Social Media Engagement Division.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


The military does not commit strategic folly if their purpose is to expedite this process and annihilate the remaining parts of the earth not yet privatized.

This - the goal of these wars isn't to "win" in any conventional sense, but to further the economic and political interests of the tiny caste of spectacularly wealthy Americans.

The elite that is meaningfully involved in decision-making in the US has contempt for the working-class soldiers ground up in the process and, I'd wager, for the concept of national loyalty itself. The disconnect between the average American and the military is nothing compared to the disconnect between the 1% and the rest of us, and that's the real story here.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:25 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think we're probably in the same position with this issue as with campaign finance reform. We'd need a constitutional amendment to effect any real change. For my part, I'd like to see a clarification of presidential war powers that explicitly limits the ability of the executive branch to order the armed forces into combat to cases of immediate self-defense or where war has been declared by Congress per Article 1.

I think the idea of a service prerequisite offends the enlightenment sensibility of egalitarianism, but at the same time, if there was some sort of modern-day PWA/WPA/CCC sort of thing, I think I could be convinced to support it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:30 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Fallows' article is excellent. I liked the one on the infantry rifles even better.

Gun Trouble by Robert Scales
posted by bukvich at 6:41 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think any system of universal service would by necessity incorporate some civil service options. For one reason you would need to offer options to individuals that by choice or nature would be excluded from military service. For another reason we are a very populous nation and would never have a need for that large of a standing army. Plus 24 months of civil service could build a ton of infrastructure.
posted by vuron at 6:41 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


...cases of immediate self-defense...

Don't forget, they control the language. That word does not mean what you think it means:
Certain aspects of this legal framework require additional explication. First, the condition that an operational leader present an "imminent" threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:46 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


See also: the grand clusterfuck of the Universal Camouflage Pattern.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:47 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


About a year ago, maybe more, I came home after drinking with some friends, and re-read an old and fairly flattering (I would have said drinking-the-cool-aid) James Fallows article on the F-35 ("Uncle Sam Builds an Airplane," 2002) . I'm not sure why I re-read it that night ... but I can say that I'd really grown to hate what the F-35 program had become. Anyway, I wrote him a really scathing (I am not at all proud of this) email, asking him why he hasn't revisited the program and the way things had turned out. In the morning, I remembered what I had done - so embarrassed - and discovered, mortified, that he had replied to me. In a VERY gracious, thoughtful and courteous way. I profusely apologized - he really is, as I told him, one of my favorite journalists. Anyway, when I read the essay I was delighted that he incorporated just the kind of critique of the F-35 I was hoping for.
posted by Auden at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Serve in the military and get a ticket to the middle class" is being sold just as cynically as "go to college and get a ticket the the middle class", just to an even more disadvantaged constituency. It's made even shittier because upon mustering out, many who chose the military will be told "hey, not quite there yet...but you can take those GI Bill education dollars and go to a for-profit diploma mill and *then* you can have a ticket to the middle class". And those diploma mills will deliver precisely nothing in the way of employability for the vast majority.
posted by kjs3 at 8:49 PM on December 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


The previous thread on camo produced this delightful picture.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


If the manufacturers of the "Bunny" camo had only possessed the business sense to spread their subcontractors out across the 50 states
posted by Auden at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


"As soon as that was over, they went back to their smartphones and their laptops and their Cinnabons as the president droned on."

James Fallows has a knack for the ole 123.

"Because apart from the normal spectacle of a great big well lubricated banquet, you have people in the press who allegedly are telling us, in the public how to think about public affairs. Kissing up, number one, to the news source that they are reporting on. Because there is a great game ritual where you try to bag the biggest trophy, whether it is George Stephanopolous or some Supreme Court Justice, to sit at your table."

That was 96' what does that have to with the current post? Style for one. I take Fallows to word. I liked his defintion of "chicken hawk", as if circling drones watch the solder, razor knife tied to their leg, flail to their AO, make it "thereinz, etc.
Woman and men cackle, gap and blush at their wars live. Never the honey guess what I watched today guilt, no.
None of the regret.
posted by clavdivs at 12:30 AM on December 30, 2014


National service should automatically grant citizenship, no matter what.
Service ensures citizenship.

As an aside...
I was at a Christmas gathering with my in-laws, several of whom are big Fox News/talk radio junkies. One of the younger junkies (early 20's?) started talking with one of the elder junkies about how Obama was preparing to go to war against ISIL/ISIS, and that the draft was going to be activated very soon. So, apparently, somewhere out in the right-wing echo chamber, that little bit of war-mongering is currently making the rounds.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 AM on December 30, 2014


The long term trend will be the effective elimination of the military as a governmental function. As progressively more military functions are privatized you should expect the uniformed military to become a token presence whose only real core competency will be outsourcing. All the actual work, including combat, will be left up to corporations.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:33 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


People don't have a good grasp on the combat arms demographics.

Combat officers are typically college-educated men from educated, middle class families. They have lots of career options and are picking the military because they want to be there.

Enlisted men in the combat arms are the cream of the blue collar crop, and have a not insignificant share of guys with higher educational and professional credentials or potential who want the adventure. They are screened for IQ (via the ASVAB), highly physically fit, high school graduates, etc. They are there because they want to be, as well, and have plenty of alternatives in the civilian workforce outside of severe recessionary times, if not as relatively good as the opportunities of the officer corps. There are plenty of combat-support and non-combat jobs for those who are just looking for a paycheck and GI Bill eligibility.
posted by MattD at 6:56 AM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Mike Mullen thinks that one way to reengage Americans with the military is to shrink the active-duty force, a process already under way. “The next time we go to war,” he said, “the American people should have to say yes. And that would mean that half a million people who weren’t planning to do this would have to be involved in some way. They would have to be inconvenienced. That would bring America in. America hasn’t been in these previous wars. And we are paying dearly for that.”

[...]

Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general who now teaches at Duke law school, has thought about civic-military relations through much of his professional life. When he was studying at the National Defense University as a young Air Force officer in the early 1990s, just after the first Gulf War, he was a co-winner of the prize for best student essay with an imagined-future work called “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012.” His essay’s premise was cautionary, and was based on the tension between rising adulation for the military and declining trust in most other aspects of government.


re: mullen and the NDU, i've been reading edward luce's time to start thinking; here are some relevant passages:
The [NDU] group’s premise was that the US still had enough power to help shape the kind of world it wanted to see. By 2021 that moment would have passed. The country needed to act very fast and very pragmatically. “The window on America’s hegemony is closing,” said the ­officer selected to provide the briefing. “We are at a point right now where we still have choices. A decade from now, we won’t.” The US, he continued, was way too dependent on its military. The country should sharply reduce its “global footprint” by winding up all wars, notably in Afghanistan, and by closing peacetime military bases in Germany, South Korea, the UK and elsewhere.

It should not to go to war with Iran. “We have to be able to learn to live with a ­nuclear-armed Iran,” the briefer said. “The alternative [war] would impose far too high a cost on America.” In Asia, the US should recognise the inevitable and offer the green light to China’s military domination of the Taiwan Straits. In exchange for the US agreeing to stand down over Taiwan, China would push North Korea to unite with South Korea. Finally, the US should stop spending so much time and resources on the war against al-Qaeda (the exercise took place about three weeks before Osama Bin Laden was killed).

All this was a means to an end, which was to restore the US’s economic vitality. It would not be easy. It may not even be possible, they conceded. But it should be the priority. “The number one threat facing America is its rising debt burden,” said the briefing officer. “Our number one goal should be to restore American prosperity.” Intrigued by the boldness of their vision, I was unprepared for what followed. The briefer said they had all agreed on the need to shrink the Pentagon budget by at least a fifth, partly by closing overseas bases, partly by reducing the number of those in uniform by 100,000, but also by cutting the number of “battle groups” – aircraft carriers – below its current level of 11.

Most of the savings would be spent on civilian priorities such as infrastructure, education and foreign aid. None of this would be possible were the US at war, or even under threat of war, they said. It could be pulled off only if the country were, in effect, to cede – or “share” – its domination over large parts of the world. “We would need to persuade our friends on the Republican side that America has to share power if we want to free up resources to invest at home,” the briefer said. “We tried really hard to come up with alternatives. But we couldn’t find a better way to do this.”

Led by my two “co-judges”, we probed the 15 men and one woman for signs of hesitation. Expecting some kind of a reaction, I suggested that their plan would be seen as dangerous. Pull out of Europe? Accept nuclear parity with China? Embark on a Marshall-style plan to revive the US economy? The chances of anything like this happening were zero. “Nobody here thinks the politics in this town is going to change overnight,” said an army colonel from Tennessee with a classic military buzz cut. “All we are saying is that we’re in trouble if they don’t.” I heard his words and saw the person from whom they were issued. It was still a struggle to match them up.

Later it occurred to me that what the group had laid out was within the mainstream of Republican tradition. In the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln unleashed a series of investments that were to unify the continent into one national economy – from the railroads to the public universities. In the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican, broke up the oil mono­polies, introduced regulation of workplace conditions and set up the first national parks
to preserve the wilderness. Dwight Eisenhower, their fellow alumnus, responded to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 with massive investments in public education, science and road-building. In a classic of unintended con­sequences, he also created the research agency that went on to develop the internet.

Even Ronald Reagan, the undisputed icon of today’s conservative movement, shepherded through an amnesty for illegal immigrants, closed down thousands of income-tax loopholes and set up a public-private partnership to defend the US’s embattled computer chip ­industry. Reagan once said: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” Given the Republican Party’s instinct to equate virtually any taxes with socialism nowadays, it looks like Lincoln’s party has left the US military – or at least its upper reaches.

Even with my grasp of polling methodology, I knew a group of 16 officers was too small a sample from which to draw any big ­conclusions. So it was with particular interest, a few weeks after the session, that I came across an article in Foreign Policy on a report issued by the Pentagon, by the mysterious “Y”, entitled “A National Strategic Narrative”. The report made much the same arguments. It paid homage to the famous “long telegram” from Mos­cow by George Kennan, published under the byline “X” in Foreign Affairs in 1947, which argued for a strategy of “containment” of the Soviet Union. In an attempt to get more attention, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and therefore the head of all the US armed services, agreed to allow the names of the two “Y” authors to be revealed. These were Captain Wayne Porter of the US Navy and Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby of the US Marine Corps. Both were on loan to Admiral Mullen’s office when they wrote it.
previously...
posted by kliuless at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


The Athenian Empire and Roman Republic both literally did this. It did not turn out well.

The Athenian Empire was quite jingoistic, but it had an equal threat to the south (the Spartans) and an immeasurably bigger power to the east (the Persian Empire). It's a rather dissimilar situation.
posted by ersatz at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2014


People don't have a good grasp on the combat arms demographics.

This is true, but on both sides.

Combat arms soldiers are not as stupid as a lot of people assume. They are not pure knuckledraggers. They are at least not in the bottom quarter of the population. They can find their fourth point of contact with both hands. They do not need to be pitied.

At the same time, I wish we could put to rest this stereotype that in every infantry platoon there exist a host of examples of thoughtful, well-read, intelligent young men, that would never even think of getting ridiculously drunk and shitting on the tables in someone else's DFAC. Or that a 31 on the ASVAB means very much at all.

There are some bright, idealistic infantry soldiers who probably scored a 90 general score on the ASVAB while blind drunk, that read military theory and just dream of leading a charge in battle. God bless those guys. They are indeed the cream of the crop, and I love them. But there are also the guys that are like "but sergeant, I don't know why I glued two cats together, I just thought it was a good idea."
posted by corb at 4:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]






Heh, the caption on the photo in that last link - 'An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in its natural habitat: the ground'.
posted by dg at 9:14 PM on January 10, 2015


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