Holding Military Boots to the Fire

Petraeus with Broadwell

Petraeus: Lots of ribbon candy crowded on that uniform

W.J. Astore

I write a lot about the U.S. military, partly because I served in it for 20 years, partly because I’ve been reading about it since I could read, and partly because I have a lot of affection for colleagues, young and old, who still serve.  My articles tend to be critical because there’s much to criticize about our military.  I get interesting responses, like the one from a military man who said I wrote well and had a few interesting things to say, but why couldn’t I write more positive articles about the military?  Why couldn’t I just focus on “good news”?  I explained to him that the military has a small legion of public affairs officers and that sharing good news is their job, not mine.  He didn’t write back.

I have a few critical things to say in my latest article at TomDispatch: “Seventy Years of Military Mediocrity.”  You can read the entire article here; what follows is an excerpt on America’s most senior officers and some of their faults and failings.  As ever, I welcome your comments.

America’s Senior Officers: Lots of Ribbon Candy, No Sweetness of Victory

In my first article for TomDispatch back in 2007, I wrote about America’s senior military leaders, men like the celebrated David Petraeus. No matter how impressive, even kingly, they looked in their uniforms festooned with ribbons, badges, and medals of all sorts, colors, and sizes, their performance on the battlefield didn’t exactly bring to mind rainstorms of ribbon candy. So why, I wondered then, and wonder still, are America’s senior military officers so generally lauded and applauded? What have they done to deserve those chests full of honors and the endless praise in Washington and elsewhere in this country?

By giving our commanders so many pats on the back (and thanking the troops so effusively and repeatedly), it’s possible that we’ve prevented the development of an American-style stab-in-the-back theory — that hoary yet dangerous myth that a military only loses wars when the troops are betrayed by the homefront. In the process, however, we’ve written them what is essentially a blank check. We’ve given them authority without accountability. They wage “our” wars (remarkably unsuccessfully), but never have to take the blame for defeats.  Unlike President Harry Truman, famous for keeping a sign on his desk that read “the buck stops here,” the buck never stops with them.

Think about two of America’s most celebrated generals of the twenty-first century, Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and how they fell publicly from grace.  Both were West Point grads, both were celebrated as “heroes,” despite the fact that their military “surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan proved fragile and reversible.  They fell only because Petraeus was caught with his pants down (in an extramarital affair with a fawning biographer), while McChrystal ran afoul of the president by tolerating an atmosphere that undermined his civilian chain of command.

And here, perhaps, is the strangest thing of all: even as America’s wars continue to go poorly by any reasonable measure, no prominent high-ranking officer has yet stepped forward either to take responsibility or in protest.  You have to look to the lower ranks, to lieutenant colonels and captains and specialists (and, in the case of Chelsea Manning, to lowly privates), for straight talk and the courage to buck the system.  Name one prominent general or admiral, fed up with the lamentable results of America’s wars, who has either taken responsibility for them or resigned for cause.  Yup — I can’t either.  (This is not to suggest that the military lacks senior officers of integrity.  Recall the way General Eric Shinseki broke ranks with the Bush administration in testimony before Congress about the size of a post-invasion force needed to secure Iraq, or General Antonio Taguba’s integrity in overseeing a thorough investigation of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.  Their good deeds did not go unpunished.)

Authority without accountability means no one is responsible.  And if no one is responsible, the system can keep chugging along, course largely unaltered, no matter what happens.  This is exactly what it’s been doing for years now in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Can we connect this behavior to the faults of the service academies?  Careerism.  Parochialism.  Technocratic tendencies.  Elitism.  A focus on image rather than on substance.  Lots of busywork and far too much praise for our ascetic warrior-heroes, results be damned.  A tendency to close ranks rather than take responsibility.  Buck-passing, not bucking the system.  The urge to get those golden slots on graduation and the desire for golden parachutes into a lucrative world of corporate boards and consultancies after “retirement,” not to speak of those glowing appearances as military experts on major TV and cable networks.

By failing to hold military boots to the fire, we’ve largely avoided unpleasantness between the military and its civilian leadership, not to speak of the American public. But — and here’s the rub — 70 years of mediocrity since World War II and 14 years of failure since 9/11 should have resulted in anti-war protests, Congressional hearings, and public controversy. It should have created public discord, as it did during the Vietnam War, when dissent was a sign of a healthy democracy and an engaged citizenry. Nowadays, in place of protest, we hear the praise, the applause, the thank-yous followed by yet another bombastic rendition of “God Bless America.” Let’s face it. Our military has failed us, but haven’t we failed it, too?

27 thoughts on “Holding Military Boots to the Fire

  1. I got a thoughtful response from a reader who thought I was too hard on the academies and not hard enough on our civilian politicians. And that I was wrong in thinking that the military should seek to avoid wars. Here’s my response:

    My criticisms of the academies are not meant to suggest there is no value to them. They produce many fine officers. But they do have some flaws, as I tried to point out.

    Yes, our politicians are a flawed crew. But so too is our military. And we must recognize these flaws. American society today is loath to criticize the military. Such criticism is even seen as un-American. But no organization improves when it’s constantly patted on the back and told it’s “the best ever.”

    I do think our most senior officers need to speak up more. General Harold K. Johnson regretted his decision not to resign in protest during the Vietnam War. Too many of our generals “go along to get along,” then retire with comfortable pensions even as they join corporate boards, often with defense contractors. This “revolving door” is the very thing Ike warned us about in 1961.

    Sun Tzu essentially said that the best way to win a war is by not having to fight it, i.e. can you achieve your aims without fighting? By outmaneuvering or out-thinking your enemy? In other words, I don’t expect our military to become pacifists or peaceniks, but I do expect them to use military power wisely and sparingly, for the reasons indicated by Thomas Jefferson in my article.

  2. Good points. As I have noticed in my military history research, it seems the US military has coasted for 70 years on winning World War II. I don’t think most of the successful World War II officers, from 2nd Lts and Ensigns to Generals and Admirals, would have much chance of success in today’s Action Military. In my experience in the military and in writing about it since, intelligence seems to stop being generally found above the O-5 level, with rare and notable exception.

    • I think historically, our World War II force can be favorably compared to the Roman legions that won the Second Punic War (which set Rome on the road to Empire), and can also be compared (sadly) to the forces who followed their generals in destroying the old Republic afterwards.

  3. The first half of my article at TomDispatch details some of the flaws (as I see it) with America’s military academies. I don’t think the answer is to make a few, largely cosmetic, changes or reforms. In corresponding with a colleague, I had the following ideas about a new path for America’s military academies. Here it is:

    The academies try to do too much. For example, the engineering programs have to meet ABET requirements. So you have a tremendous amount of info crammed in, together with all the military stuff, the leadership, athletics, and the chickenshit that’s supposed to make “men” out of them. Must suffer!

    Nowadays, with so many top-flight colleges and universities, you don’t need the academies to produce English or History or engineering majors.

    So I think the academies should take students who already have BA/BS degrees and give them 12-18 months of intensive military training, focusing on preventing or fighting America’s wars. With a special emphasis on their Constitutional oath and their obligations as citizen-soldiers, -sailors, and -airmen.

    So I suppose I’m no longer in favor of reforms. I think we need an entirely new system or paradigm — to use a fancier word.

    I also added that cadets/new officers must be introduced to the importance of NCOs; NCOs are the backbone of any military worth its salt. And that the academies should provide more slots to NCOs seeking to become officers (“Mustangs,” in military parlance). (NCOs are non-commissioned officers, like sergeants.)

    How better to serve and to defend America must be the focus of America’s military education. The Air Force actually has strong core values with “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” Integrity to our Constitutional oaths and to our fellow troops of all ranks, service to the people as citizen-soldiers, -sailors, and -airmen, and excellence — always striving to be the best, while rejecting empty applause that we’re already “the best military ever.” We can build from that foundation.

  4. Did anyone lose their Job or even offer to resign after 9-11 weren’t Admiral Kimmel and General Short removed from command after Pearl Harbour for being unprepared .I am asking because i don’t know but after Mathias Rust landed in Red Square the Russian’s had the largest purges since Stalin.
    I would have said a similar attitude has been fostered here in the United Kingdom

  5. Col. Astore–As Editor in Chief of TCP, shouldn’t that be your motivation for criticizing the US Military Establishment? Yes, the Pentagon has plenty of PR ammo and the mainstream media now fawn over the troops at the least opportunity. But to criticize the US military for “mediocre performance” since the end of World War II implies that the world would be a dandy place if they had succeeded in crushing every nation aspiring for independence. A little place called Vietnam pops immediately into my head. This is a pro-Empire position. Where is the CONTRARY slant in it? You obviously can’t shake out of your system the fact that you served as a Commissioned Officer for 20 years. I, on the other hand, am “marked for life” by my resistance from within the active-duty Enlisted ranks to the criminal War Against Vietnam (and Cambodia and Laos). One of these days I will submit another excerpt from my memoir to this site and the readers can get a better feel for life within the military for those not willing to wait until after discharge (hello, John Kerry) to express dissent.

    • Greg: A smarter and more ethical U.S. military would have resisted and/or avoided the Vietnam quagmire altogether. That’s my point. Not that the U.S. military should be better at hegemonic and aggressive activities.

      I’m advocating for a return to a citizen-soldier military dedicated to defense and true to its oath.

  6. I am starting to think the generals were the same recipients of social promotion as the kids in elementary school. If they could not perform RRR, pass them to the next grade. The general below is a good example of social promotion. He married the bosses daughter who was the Commandant of WP. Then the Commanding General of NATO. This young lieutenant was fast tracked. He was placed in charge of the War in Iraq and we saw no victory there. Then he was placed in charge of the war in Afghanistan. We saw no victory there. Then he was placed in charge of both wars which was very perplexing to make sense of this move. Why would you keep on promoting a non-victorious general? Then once ISIS started to become a problem Sen. McCain and others said we should bring this general back to take charge of the ISIS problem. During the Korean War, Gen. Ridgeway saved use from total defeat. During Vietnam Gen. Abrams was above average. Since then it has been downhill. Most of the generals and admirals today are concerned with protecting their promotional opportunities (get along, play along) and to be offered lucrative positions in the private sector or as consultants once they retire. You would have thought some of the generals would put patriotism above opportunism. To straighten the president out on these issues. Social promotion is not only a problem in inner-city elementary schools, but with Flag Officers playing the system to their benefit.

    • I once read somewhere that this young American general — riding nonchalantly into Iraq like Custer into the Little Big Horn Valley — asked an “embedded” reporter along for the ride: “Tell me how this ends.” It always amazed me that the reporter never asked of this general: “You mean you don’t know?” Quite obviously he didn’t know then, doesn’t know now, and won’t know in the future, simply because he — and those fuck-up-and-move-up career officers just like him — long ago discovered that ignorance and ineptitude pose no obstacle to rapid promotion all the way up the military food chain and on into lucrative “retirement.” In a word: Corruption. In a few more words, written some eight years ago:

      Custer’s Next Stand

      Fort Apache, Baghdad
      Custer “going in”
      Whack-a-Mole on steroids
      Virtue cured by sin

      Doin’ dumb to dawdle
      Stupid acting smart
      In the trap for good now
      Military art

      Mini-skirted booty
      Cheerleaders in thrall
      “Block that kick!” the girls yell
      When we’ve got the ball

      Burger King on bases
      Pizza Hut in tow
      Mercenary merchants’
      Dog-and-pony show

      One-trick gag a let-down
      Victory not near
      Running out the clock now
      Marching to the rear

      Let’s “fan out” and “get ’em”
      Let’s “go long” on fourth
      Strategy by jargon
      Going South through North

      Making sense to no one
      Maybe that’s the point
      Mystifying madmen
      Let us now anoint

      Custer’s got a plan, though
      Always letter “A”
      Alphabet so simple
      Any one can play

      Next time we’ll do better
      What we’ve botched before
      Southeast Asia, redux
      Vietnam once more

      Colonize the Muslims!
      Crusade in Levant!
      Rounding up “dead-enders”
      Taking what we want

      Israel and us now
      Just the two in chains
      One the other’s patron
      One the patron’s pains

      As in any marriage
      Two have plighted troth
      Master, slave, and inmates
      Adding up to both

      Others see a shack-up
      Lust outside the law
      Married man and mistress
      Fighting to a draw

      Custer says he “can do”
      What he’s never done:
      Occupy the Muslims
      Armed with but a gun

      Inconclusive carnage
      Wages paid to greed
      Custer’s followed order
      Troops from life has freed

      Custer doesn’t like it
      Now that “it” means death
      Still, he says he’ll “win” soon
      With his dying breath

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007

  7. ‘ll give a somewhat contrary view about how wars are won in the hope to generate debate.
    Let’s start with a quote: “… I understand from what has been said that we can lick China. What I don’t understand is what we would do with China after we got them licked.” (Charles Wilson, Secretary of Defense 1953.)
    I’m arguing, as implied by Wilson, that War has two phases to be ‘won’ or ‘lost’. The first is the traditional military actions, with the aim to destroy the adversary’s ability and/or will to resist. The US has a pretty good record in this respect. Korea and Vietnam are obvious failures, but MILITARILY both Iraq wars resulted in victory.
    The second, ‘after we got them licked’ phase is more important, to turn adversaries to allies. Take WWI as an example, Germany and her allies were beaten, militarily and economically, but the allies dictated a peace that sowed the seeds of a second world war and many of the conflicts raging in today’s world. Iraq, Israel/Palestine and much of the middle east is an example. To win a war the victors in the military phase must craft peace that will not generate further conflict, current of future. The Marshall Plan and Doug MacArthur’s reconstruction of Japan look like winning the peace (Doug’s Dad may have won the peace in the Philippines). It seems clear that the US has failed to in the second phase in the Middle East and Afghanistan (and perhaps by extension the wars of its’ proxies).
    It seems to follow that our military officers should study the art of peace as well as the art of war.
    Expand, critique, etc. etc. I would like to hear your views …

  8. “… but MILITARILY both Iraq wars resulted in victory.”

    In what world? The continued, desultory, aimless, counter-productive fighting by the U.S. military in Iraq — as well as Afghanistan — AFTER its supposed two “victories” refutes the absurd claim above. “Victory” marks the END of the military role, not its CONTINUANCE. You can always tell when the U.S. military has lost another war the minute they start calling it long. To continue fighting an already lost war while simultaneously and repetitiously claiming to have already “won” — any number of times already — constitutes nothing but empty, self-serving hyperbole, about the only thing in which the U.S. military any longer excels. Sorry to say, but I quit reading the minute I read such a ludicrous comment. Anyway, I covered all this in verse nine years ago with:

    The Tipping Point Turns the Corner

    Around the next corner the tipping point turns
    As the good ship capsizes and sinks
    While the mad metaphors and flawed figures of speech
    Guarantee that no one really thinks

    So the dots get connected with crayon lines drawn
    By the journalists flogging clichés
    Like astrologers linking the stars into shapes
    Telling fortunes as long as it pays

    At the end of the tunnel the dominoes fall
    As the oil spots to flypaper stick
    With his boots on, George Custer fights to the last man
    Making even the strong stomach sick

    As they stood up, we stood down — just not right away
    With our shoulders to shoulders we marched
    When the morning came corpses piled up in the morgues
    Like some laundry loads unwashed and starched

    Like the city that shines on the top of a hill
    With a thousand or more points of light
    Now the current flows only an hour a day
    So in sweltering blackness they fight

    They’ve a government, now, freely chosen at last
    By the parties that somehow had won
    Our ambassador, though, had to choose their PM
    When we didn’t like what they had done

    Sure, they can’t leave the Green Zone without getting killed
    Our officials, too, travel by plane
    Sneaking into and out of the country unseen
    By the people who think us insane

    But he won’t cut and run says the man who ain’t there
    From his purpose he swears he won’t swerve
    “Bring ’em on!” taunts the juvenile joker in jeans
    Clearing brush on his Texas preserve

    As the world watched in horror, he drove off a cliff
    Then he stumbled around in a daze
    Now he says – after three years of chaos and death –
    That he might have misused a trite phrase

    “It’s as easy as shootin’ a bird in a cage,”
    Says the Texas stud hamster of quail
    When the rodents ride roughshod the feathered will flee
    From the drunken dudes gone off the trail

    And we’ve got us some mantras from Vietnam days
    Like “we’re there ’cause we’re there ’cause we’re there”
    So when once we go somewhere, that means we can’t leave
    Like that German boot-planting affair

    And the logic swirls faster in circles that swim
    Like our friends won’t respect a retreat
    See, they’d rather we kept acting stupid and blind
    Till we wind up a pile of dead meat

    And our foes will not fear us if we should act smart
    Which assumes that they fear us when dumb
    An American innocence, surely, that comes
    From a depth that you simply can’t plumb

    The octopus fascist sings swan songs sedate
    Reinventing the same words and tune
    So the president babbles of going to Mars
    When we can’t even get to the Moon

    Like the light of an oncoming train in the dark
    We see hopefulness ever draw near
    We’re on track, can’t you see, to a glorious dawn
    So we’ll stay the curse, never you fear

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006

    • Thanks for the response…
      The US military won only phase 1, and failed miserably in phase 2 and “asymmetric warfare” was the result. Screw up in phase 2 and things get unspeakably worse, and will continue to get worse. Loosing phase 2 often results in a new phase 1, but the ‘adversary’ tends to resort to strategy and tactics that purely military capabilities can’t handle. Given torture, killing of civilians and destruction of a working society turns the war into a ‘blood feud’.

    • I had a friend in the military who taught me the saying: “You study long — you study wrong.”

      It applies to war as well: You wage war long — you wage it wrong. Especially in a democracy.

      Even in a case of “victory,” the end result isn’t worth the expense. Hence the term Pyrrhic victory, acquired at a price so dear as to be indistinguishable from defeat.

      It seems to me that our military’s “victories” are of this variety.

      • Had it not been for the existence of the USSR Hitler would soon have commanded, what, maybe 15 time zones? (More if the Chinese people had caved to German forces, exhausted by the Japanese assault from the east.) Fortress Britain might have been sunk to the bottom of the sea had the inferno raging on Germany’s eastern front not drained the latter’s energies. Above all, Nazism despised and feared pathologically Bolshevism. I guess I’ll be forced to bring this up any time someone goes overboard praising the US for having “won World War II”!!

      • My writing in military history is all about World War II (well, I did just write a book about the complete, total, and absolute fuckup that was the first year of the war in Korea, outside of the Marines). I love being around those guys. They really were all “citizen soldiers”, and the reason we won so quickly was they all uniformly hated the bullshit of the military and figured out the only way they could get it over with was to Get It Over With. I just did a chapter in my new book about a guy who navigated his B-25 13,000 miles, over ocean, jungle, more ocean, more jungle, and finally the Sahara desert, to get to his war. Done with eight charts, a protractor, a ruler, three pencils, a clipboard, and a watch. And along the way, he turned 21. And then he flew 70 missions that actually ended up winning the war in Italy. And came home six weeks before he turned 22.

        My good friend Phil Caputo wrote in “A Rumor of War” that when he and his fellow Marines heard they were being sent to Vietnam (as the first American troops committed to the war) that they were happy. “I would be able to finally look my Tarawa veteran father in the face.” I really related to that when I read the book the first time. I was of that generation of Vietnam vets, and when I heard we were going, I thought I would finally be able to look my father, the Kamikaze survivor, in the face. Except Phil got the bullshit of learning the VC were better, and I got the mind-altering experience of being an “informed observer” of the (alleged) Tonkin Gulf (non) Incident. Which led to my father the Kamikaze survivor and me not talking for seven years (though he finally admitted I was right, way after the fact).

        I totally agree with Colonel Astore on this. You do not ask people to pay the price my generation paid in Vietnam, that the younger generation has paid in Iraq and Afghanistan, without good goddamn reason. World War II was Good Goddamn Reason. Nothing since has come close.

      • “tcinla”–As for US forces “winning” WW II “quickly,” I must vehemently disagree. As you must be aware, the campaign in the Pacific was prolonged and horrific in carnage. And (or so we’re told) only terminated by the use of atomic weapons against Imperial Japan. On the European Theatre of War, the US lent materiel/financial support to its allies but didn’t commit massive US troops until D Day, eh? Meanwhile the mighty Red Army was exhausting Germany’s lifeblood. Hitler’s legs had already buckled by the time Americans hit those French beaches and Gen. Patton aimed his tank toward Berlin. All of which is not to belittle those US troops in the least. I’m just bringing some, ahem, inconvenient truths.

      • Thanks, tcinla. WWII was a war of necessity. Our wars since have been wars of choice. There’s a BIG difference between the two.

        Greg: You’re right, of course, that the Soviets bore the brunt of the German military in WWII. Even after D-Day in 1944, I think roughly 75% of the German Army was deployed on the Eastern Front against the Soviets.

        The US lost roughly 400K in WWII; the Soviets in the neighborhood of 25 million. Staggering.

      • Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state. (Thomas Jefferson)
        Do you think that if this was the case the country would have fewer wars?

      • “equote”–I read Plato’s THE REPUBLIC not that long ago. If memory serves, he prescribed that the state should practically raise its warriors from infancy, segregating them from society at large, to preserve their pure dedication to the Greek Nation (ultimately Empire), unpolluted by factional disputes within the ruling elite. In the histories of the Roman Empire we find military figures frequently leading the toppling of this or that Emperor. As Carl Sagan pointed out in COSMOS, despite the scientific knowledge they accumulated to advance civilization in general, both these empires were firm adherents of slavery. A requirement of military service for “all” citizens (women too?) does not by any means insure against misuse of the military. (I would be amenable to some kind of universal service mandate, provided 1.) exemptions were made for conscientious objectors; and 2.) the military was actually to be used to defend us, rather than in wars of choice to please the oil industry.) I believe those of us who resisted the Vietnam War from within the ranks helped shorten that war, and I am proud of that; however, the great majority of the troops carried out their orders more or less obediently. America’s Founding Fathers largely wanted to avoid the expense and political risk (to our internal liberty) of a standing army. Thus was born the concept of the citizen militia and the right to bear arms in that context, perverted today by gun freaks and the NRA with the (shameful, in my eyes) blessing of the Supreme Court.

  9. What did you think of Joseph Epstein’s take on this in The Atlantic? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/01/how-i-learned-to-love-the-draft/383500/
    My dad served in the National Guard for 11 years and he raised us with respect for those who served, but certain cynicism (i.e. his favorite example of an oxymoron was ‘military intelligence’.) Epstein says that as fewer and fewer serve, there is a kind of knee-jerk admiration and reverence for anyone in uniform. (But also great relief in knowing that it won’t be my kid!)

    The older of my two sons is in the National Guard and he cringes at the thought of going anywhere in his uniform because people make their children come up to him and thank him for his service. He refuels planes and it pays for college– his motives are pretty simple and not especially patriotic. As a teacher and a parent, I see how lopsided this all is. If you teach in a poor rural school in Maine, NH or VT, the recruiters are a constant presence. If you live in an affluent district, they may show up occasionally, but they don’t waste their time.

    As much as I honestly wish that I would not see another of my children in uniform, I really think Epstein has a point. I just don’t think we would be involved in so many places if the middle and upper classes had their children as pawns in the game.

    • Katie:

      One percent of the population of America supports 100 percent of the military pain. The vultures come to rural communities because there’s no future there and the kids think like I did 50+ years ago – i.e., it’s the only way for a poor boy to get away from what he never wants to be aroune again – and because the kids have been brought up on “values” instead of looking at their “interests.” It’s why the Confederacy was supported by people who had absolutely no reason at all to support the Confederacy – the slave economy meant they as non-slaveowning working class whites could never get ahead given the economic competition they faced. But they went to support “their way of life”. Because of all that “values” bullshit. America could never support a single one of our imperial wars without the southern and non-southern rural morons stupid enough to believe that being cannonfodder is a good thing.

      I speak from experience.

      • “tcinla”–You are very much on the money here, pardon the expression (speaking of “interests”). But please show a little more compassion for the “morons” (your choice of description) duped into believing they’re in uniform to preserve “Truth, Justice and The American Way.” [Others have noted that Superman’s imperative implies that “The American Way,” therefore, must somehow be separate from “Truth and Justice”! Get me Rewrite!!] We recently suffered 8 years of having “a high-functioning moron” (the actual words of Democratic bigwig Jeff Begala) pretending he was our president while the real Decider hid in a secret bunker. For my own part, I can say very firmly: If what politicians these days proclaim to be “American values” are something worthy of respect, let alone going to war over, then surely two plus two equal five.

      • Greg:

        Back in the day, a lot of us ‘got it” about what Vietnam was all about, while we were in the military. However, when I go to the VA nowadays, I still run across idiots who carry on about having never lost a fight, and how it was “honorable” to go there, and I am sorry, but the only word that comes to mind to describe stupidity that stupid is “moron.” A fact is a fact, unfortunately.

      • Self-correction: In mentally fumbling around for Mr. Begala’s first name, I suffered a brain fart. It’s Paul, not Jeffrey, Begala.

      • When they were empires, both Greece and Rome departed from their earlier civilizational “ideals”, such as when the Greek citizen-soldiers defeated the Persians at Salamis, and when the Romans raised eleven citizen armies over eleven years during the Second Punic War to fight Hannibal in Italy – ten were destroyed by Hanibal and the eleventh destroyed Hannibal. As have we departed from our earlier republican rectitude as exemplified in World War II, and gone down the shoddy road of Empire as did the Romans and the Greeks, to the likely similar end.

  10. Albert Einstein thought the only way to peace on Earth was what he termed “supra-national security” or a world military / police force.

    He said (last written words – 1955, Quoted by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden in “Einstein On Peace”):
    “Not one statesman in a position of responsibility has dared to pursue the only course that holds out any promise of peace, the courage of supra-national security, since for a statesman to follow such a course would be tantamount to political suicide”.

    Einstein was correct, because “us versus them” is no longer, only “us”. The top brass’ actions referenced in this writing would have been entirely different without “them”.

    • Once upon a time there was something called The League of Nations. To ensure peace and harmony on the planet, you see. Later was a-born The United Nations. Miserable failure at preventing/thwarting military aggression, and provided a fig leaf for US war against the people of Korea. I am criticizing these organizations’ performance, understand, not the underlying notion/desire. But if you want to push the Red Alert! Red Alert! button on a Republican, try uttering the phrase “one world government”!! Stand way back, an eruption will ensue. The idea doesn’t have a ghost of a chance of going anywhere. (Notwithstanding that the US Empire wishes desperately to be that one government ruling the globe.) Popular attitudes are molded by the Ruling Class. Imagine how Einstein, poor benighted Humanist, would be roughed-up by modern Republicans! “Lousy Pinko!” (Under their breaths, or among themselves behind closed doors, they might even comment on his being a Jew!)

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