Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Aftermath of the "Global War on Terror"

This past week I have written about our military and linked several sites that provide insight on the current status of our military and the lives of the men and women who serve. Both General Marshall and General Petraus have served with distinction and remained steadfast to serve the best interests of the American people. Recently others, have attempted to politicize the military. Is it a symptom that something is wrong with our direction, or the efforts of the military-industrial complex to continue to build for war as we knew it, not as it will be in the future?

Being Saturday morning, I sat down with a cup of coffee and began to read my favorite blogs. The first stop abu mugqawama made me sit up and take notice. The post, The Iraq Narrative(s) was about several articles that have appeared in the past week about the war and the changes and challenges that will come with a new president, Obama, McCain or Clinton.

The most thought provoking piece is the article by Richard Kohn on the coming crisis in civil-military relations, first posted by Dave at Small Wars Journal. Abu takes the article and mirrors it against narratives written by Fred and Kimberly Kagan, about the battle in Brasra and others who cover the whole spectrum of views right to left. Like the aftermath of Vietnam, where no clear cut victory can be declared the "Stab in the Back" syndrome will be color the dialogue for the next generation.
Abu ends with a disturbing observation that as he notes would sicken anyone who understands and believes in the rule of law places our military under civilian control, where the military stayed out of politics until they retired.

But like Tom Ricks, Abu Muqawama lives in fear of this "stabbed in the back" narrative that the less scrupulous members of the Weekly Standard/National Review crowd will push relentlessly if Obama becomes president and starts moving troops out of Iraq to Afghanistan as he had pledged to do. This is not good for the country, it's not good for the military, and it's a disaster for civil-military relations.While we're on the subject, do you know what else isn't good for the country? The way this organization in particular has egregiously politicized Gen. David Petraeus. Abu Muqawama is glad George Catlett Marshall did not live to see this video. Sickening:

When a new president takes office in early 2009, military leaders and politicians will approach one another with considerable suspicion. Dislike of the Democrats in general and Bill Clinton in particular, and disgust for Donald Rumsfeld, has rendered all politicians suspect in the imaginations of generals and admirals. The indictments make for a long list: a beleaguered military at war while the American public shops at the mall; the absence of elites in military ranks; the bungling of the Iraq occupation; the politicization of General David Petraeus by the White House and Congress; an army and Marine Corps exhausted and overstretched, their people dying, their commitments never-ending.

Kohn asks two questions:

While civil-military relations at the beginning of the Republic involved real fears of a coup, for the last two centuries the concern has revolved around relative influence: can the politicians (often divided among themselves) really “control” the military? Can the generals and admirals secure the necessary resources and autonomy to accomplish the government’s purposes with minimal loss of blood and treasure?

The article is detailed and will require time to digest. It does not have all the answers, it's mission is to provoke thought and engage the public in a debate that as free citizens is their birthright to control.

Soldiers and civilians alike will have momentous decisions to make. Politicians will have to choose whether to lead or to hide, whether in the name of maintaining or establishing their bona fides as “supporters of the military” they will put off decisions that upend the current and unsustainable order of things. Military leaders face their most important choice in more than half a century: whether to cooperate and assist in this effort, or to resist past the point of advice and discussion, to the detriment of their service, national defense, and indeed their professional souls.

If this is not enough to provoke your thoughts then this post by Mark over at will toss another cup of fuel on the fire that our military and the citizens they serve are operating in different worlds. Seeds of a Caste Soldiery. Mark's concern is that:

Throughout history, civilized societies have basically fielded armies with three different orientations: caste, professionals and citizen-soldiers. The United States opted with the switch to the All-Volunteer Force under the Nixon administration to abandon conscription and adopt a professional ethos. The above policy of the U.S. Army is essentially a humane, on-the-spot, accommodation to demographic changes in the force and the exigencies of war in Iraq; but it also highlights an incipient trend toward the emergence of a military caste within American society.

My observation is that both posts and the attendant articles call attention to something that threatens us as a society as gravely as any outside threat. History is full of examples where the society lived large and it's military and government spent the countries treasury to the breaking point. France in the 18th century comes to mind. Louis XIV of France.
His numerous wars and extravagant palaces and châteaux effectively bankrupted the State (though it must also be said that France was able to recover in a matter of years), forcing him to levy higher taxes on the peasants and incurring large State debts from various financiers as the nobility and clergy had exemption from paying these taxes and contributing to public funds. Yet, it must be emphasized that it was the State and not the country which was impoverished.

It might be noted that France never fully recovered. Less than a century later, her army stood aside as the citizens rose against a government that did not serve the best interest of the people.
I would not be so naive or stupid, to suggest that this is the path for the United States. Our system was designed to prevent power from becoming to concentrated at the top.

The bottom line is that we would not be the first great power to bankrupt ourselves trying to play "king of the mountain." Nor, am I suggesting that our military is out of touch with society. As a nation we need to find the strategy that remains flexible and able to innovate and evolve to meet the challenges and the nation's best interests.
In a post that reflects the type of up and coming leaders our military is producing. I turn to Tom Barnett, who this week addressed the cadet corp at West Point, with accompanying pictures Tom's recent pix.
The comment by James Chastian reflects that our future centurions get the message.

Dr. Barnett: Thank you for your lecture. It was the most exciting guest lecture of the year. I am posting a comment from one of our "Firstie" (Senior) high ranking cadets. Again, thank you. Representative cadet comment: My bottom line up front is that Dr. Barnett was by far one of the best academic lecturers I have seen in my time at the Academy. I am almost stunned by how good of a lecture that was. His breadth of knowledge and experience was incredible and the topics he covered were clearly extremely relevant to our future profession. Beyond that, he was a very captivating speaker and was able to use humor and delivery to keep the audience keenly interested. I feel the Academy needs to pursue more speakers like Dr. Barnett whose words force us to think critically about issues of strategic importance. I am grateful to Department of Geography & Environmental Engineering for acquiring such a remarkable speaker in Dr. Barnett and I hope that other departments will choose to do the same.
Posted by James Chastain
April 4, 2008 8:34 AM

Enjoy your Saturday, as you digest this latest brain food.

1 comment:

TM Lutas said...

Thanks for the educational link list but I can't say that I agree with your conclusions. Basra points to an Iraqi army that has made significant progress, one that will allow us to reduce our load to a reasonable and sustainable level and a glidepath down to running the Iraqi's air force needs and serving as boring security overwatch as we do in half of Iraq already.

A stab in the back would be a withdrawal that is so fast that the Iraqis can't adjust, a denial of beans and bullets out of spite, as we did to our S. Vietnamese allies in 1975. This does not need to come to pass even with a Democrat administration and Congress.