Blue-collar worker, reader, and writer Daniel N. White shares some painful straight talk with those willing to listen.
The article originally appeared in Contrary Perspective, though I came across in via David Stockman's Contra Corner.
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James Fallows, a noted journalist and author of National Defense (1981), is tits on a boar useless these days.
That’s my conclusion after reading his Atlantic Monthly cover story, The Tragedy of the American Military, in which he asks, "Why do the best soldiers in the world keep losing?"
It is a truly terrible article...
Right off the bat, I’m going to have to say that the U.S. Army doesn’t produce “the world’s best soldiers” — and it never has. We Americans don’t do infantry as well as others do. This is reasonably well known. Anyone who wants to dispute the point has to dispute not me but General George Patton, who in 1944 said: “According to Napoleon, the weaker the infantry the stronger the artillery must be. Thank God we’ve got the world’s best artillery.”
Operational analysis of us by the German Wehrmacht and the PLA (China) said the same thing, and everyone militarily knowledgeable has seen and read them. We should know that about ourselves by now and we don’t, and the fact that we don’t, particularly after a chain of military defeats by lesser powers, says a good deal bad about us as a people and society.
The Atlantic and James Fallows are both professionally derelict to continue printing these canards about our infantry prowess. “The world’s best” — there is no excuse for such hyperbolic boasting.
Why the U.S. keeps losing its wars, and why James Fallows has no clue as to why, is revealing of the American moment.
It’s painfully obvious the U.S. has lost its most recent wars because it has lacked coherent and achievable objectives for them. (Or no objectives that our ruling elites were willing to share with us.)
Just what, exactly, was the end result supposed to be from invading Iraq in 2003?
If the Taliban were willing as they stated to hand over Osama Bin Laden to us, why did we invade Afghanistan?
Why did we then start a new war in Afghanistan once we overthrew the Taliban?
* FOLKS... POST-ACTUAL-TOPPLING OF THE TALIBAN... WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED IN AFGHANISTAN FOR ALL OUR TREASURE AND BLOOD EXPANDED? SAME WITH REGARD TO IRAQ? LIBYA...?!?!
* FOLKS... BUSH FUCKED UP... BUT... OBAMA DOUBLED DOWN! AFGHANISTAN BECAME A DISASTER AFTER OBAMA BECAME PRESIDENT! LIBYA WAS OBAMA AND HILLARY'S "BABY!" INDEED, THE "ARAB SPRING" THAT HAS LAID WASTE THE OLD RELATIVE STABILITY OF THE REGION WAS ALL OBAMA AND HILLARY!
Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent history that the U.S. has fought wars with no coherent rationale. Vietnam had the same problem. The Pentagon Papers showed that insofar as we had a rationale it was to continue the war for sufficiently long enough to show the rest of the world we weren’t to be trifled with, even if we didn’t actually win it.
Dick Nixon was quite upfront in private about this too; that’s documented in the latest Nixon Tapes book.
Not having clear and achievable political objectives in a war or major military campaign is a guarantee of military failure. Here’s what arguably the best Allied general in WW-II had to say about this, William Slim, from his superlative memoirs, "Defeat into Victory," writing of the Allied defeat in Burma, 1942:
"Of these causes of the defeat, one affected all our efforts and contributed much to turning our defeat into disaster — the failure, after the fall of Rangoon, to give the forces in the field a clear strategic object for the campaign…. Yet a realistic assessment of possibilities there and a firm, clear directive would have made a great deal of difference to us and to the way we fought. Burma was not the first nor was it to be the last campaign that had been launched on no very clear realization of its political or military objects. A study of such campaigns points emphatically to the almost inevitable disaster that must follow. Commanders in the field, in fairness to them and their troops, must be clear and definitely told what is the object they are locally to attain.”
Anyone who wishes to dispute the lack of clear and achievable objectives for America’s wars should try to answer the question of what a U.S. victory in Iraq or Afghanistan would look like. What would be different in the two countries from a U.S. victory? How would the application of force by the U.S. military have yielded these desired results, whatever they were?
I invite anyone to answer these questions!
They should have been asked, and answered, a long time ago.
All the parties concerned — the American political class, our intelligentsia, our moral leadership, and our military’s senior officer corps —have failed, stupendously, by not doing so.
Indeed, the lack of coherent objectives for these wars stems from the fraudulence of our pretenses for starting them. Even senior U.S. and UK leaders have acknowledged the stage-management of falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction for a rationale for war with Iraq. When wars are started on falsehoods, it isn’t reasonable to expect them to have honest (or moral) objectives.
* IT'S NOT AS SIMPLE AND CLEAR CUT AS THAT... I DO BELIEVE THEY BELIEVED SADDAM EITHER HAD OR WAS CREDIBLY CLOSE TO PRODUCING DANGEROUS WMDs... HOWEVER... WERE INSANE DICTATORSHIPS POSSESSING WMDs A JUSTIFICATION FOR PREEMPTIVE WAR... SHOULDN'T WE HAVE LONG AGO INVADED NORTH KOREA?
The question then arises: What were the real objectives of these wars?
Economic determinists/Marxists look to oil as the underlying reason, but this can’t be it.
* NOPE. (NOT PER SE!)
None of the economic determinist explanations for the Vietnam War made a lick of sense then or now, and any arguments about war for oil make an assumption, admittedly a remotely possible one, about the ruling elites in the U.S. and UK not being able to read a financial balance sheet. The most cursory run of the financials under the best possible assumptions of the promoters of the wars showed Iraq as a giant money loser, world’s third largest oil reserves or not. Economic reasons for a war in Afghanistan? Nobody could ever be that dumb, not even broadcast journalists.
Judging from the results, the real intent of our political leadership was to create a state of permanent war, for narrow, behind the scenes, domestic political reasons.
* YES! THE "SECURITY STATE!"
The wars were/are stage-managed domestic political theater for current political ruling elites. The main domestic objective sought was a Cold-War like freezing of political power and authority in current form by both locking up large areas of political debate as off-limits and increasing the current distribution of societal resources toward economic elites.
* MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX...
This was the real objective of both sides in the Cold War, Americans and Russians both, once things settled out after 1953, and most historians just lack the ability and perspective to see it.
* DWIGHT... DAVID... EISENHOWER...
A related factor Americans aren’t supposed to discuss is how much of the drive to war was neo-con war promotion manipulated by Israel.
There’s no getting around the high percentage of Jewish neo-cons inside the Beltway.
* NOPE. (AND NON-JEWISH!)
There’s a seven decade-long history of American country-cousin Jews being manipulated by their Israeli city-slicker relations, too, but I’d call this a contributing factor and not a causative one. But the willingness of American neo-cons to do Israel’s bidding and launch a war against Iraq is most disturbing and does require more research. (They all seem to be willing to do it again in Iran; was there ever a neo-con ever against an Iran war - ever?) Just look at the current situation vis-à-vis Iran, and the direct intervention by the Israeli Prime Minister into American foreign policy.
There is one other possibility: that America’s leaders actually believed their own PR about spreading democracy.
* YEP. THAT IDIOT BUSH DID. HE ACTUALLY DID. AND IN HIS OWN WAY... SO DOES THAT IDIOT MCCAIN - ONLY UNDER GOOD OL' FASHIONED AMERICAN-ALLIED STRONG MEN!
* OOPS! ONE MORE! (NAKED GREED!)
Cui Bono - "To whose benefit" - is always the question we need to ask, and with 13 years of war the beneficiaries should be obvious enough. Just follow the money, and follow those whose powers get increased. James Fallows, and everyone else in the mainstream news media, hasn’t.
But the most pressing issue isn’t any of the above. The most pressing issue is moral, and most importantly of all our society’s unwillingness to face the hard moral questions of war.
Above all else war is a moral issue; undoubtedly the most profound one a society has to face. Wars are the acme of moral obscenity. Terrible moral bills inevitably accrue from the vile actions that warfare entails. It has always been so. As long as there has been civilization there has always been great debate as to what political or social wrongs warrant the commission of the crimes and horrors of war. About the only definitively conceded moral rationale for war is self-defense against external attack. Domestic political theater is nothing new as a reason for war, but it has been universally condemned as grotesquely immoral throughout recorded history.
* THIS IS NOT PACIFISM, THIS IS MORALITY!
Our country is ostrich-like in its refusal to acknowledge the moral obscenity of war and its moral costs.
* OR EVEN FINANCIAL COSTS!
Insofar as your average American is willing to engage with these moral issues, it is at the level of “I support our troops” to each other, combined with the “Thank you for your service” to anyone in uniform.
Moral engagement on the biggest moral issue there is - war - with these tiresome tropes is profoundly infantile. It isn’t moral engagement; it is a (partially subconscious) willful evasion.
* MANY OF THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST PEOPLE I KNOW FALL INTO THIS TRAP... THEY REFUSE TO DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN "VITAL" NATIONAL INTEREST AND "NATIONAL INTEREST." THEY REFUSE TO PERSONALIZE IT. I MYSELF START WITH THE QUESTION "WOULD I SACRIFICE MY LIFE OR THE LIFE OF A LOVED ONE FOR "THIS"... WHATEVER "THIS" IS?"
The Hollywood sugarcoated picture of what war is hasn’t helped here; blindness due to American Exceptionalism hasn’t helped either. Our intellectual and moral leadership — churches in particular — have been entirely AWOL on the moral failings of our wars and the moral debts and bills from them we have accrued and continue to accrue. And these bills will come due some day, with terrible interest accrued. Anyone paying attention to how the rest of the world thinks knows that we currently incur the world’s contumely for our failings here on this issue.
Mr. Fallows and the Atlantic are both equally blind and AWOL on the moral issues of our wars. The moral issues, and failings, of the wars are paramount and are completely undiscussed in the article, and the magazine, and always have been since before the wars began. Mr. Fallows, and the Atlantic, by framing the war issue in terms of “why the best soldiers in the world keep losing our wars” are avoiding them in a somewhat more sophisticated way than the “Thank you for your service” simpletons are.
* THAT SAID...
They should know better...
...and they don’t.
They lack the situational- and self-awareness to understand that they are doing this. They deserve our contempt for it. They certainly have mine.
The issue isn’t why the world’s best soldiers keep losing our wars. The issue is why we start and fight wars this stupid and wrong and show every sign of continuing to do so in the future. Why do we learn nothing from our military defeats? How can we remain so willfully and morally blind?
Well, types like James Fallows and The Atlantic Monthly are a large part of why.
Missing the biggest political and moral question in our lifetimes, for this many years, well, hell, The Atlantic Monthly and James Fallows are just tits on a boar useless these days.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR...