Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Admirals, foxes, cabbages and kings

Admiral William Fallon
"A fateful debate is now taking place at the Pentagon that will determine the pace of U.S. military withdrawals for what remains of President Bush's term. Senior Pentagon officials -- including, we hear, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Army Chief of Staff George Casey and Admiral Fallon -- have been urging deeper troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five "surge" combat brigades already scheduled for redeployment this summer.(...) their rationale for troop withdrawals seems to have less to do with conditions in Iraq and more with fear that the war is putting a strain on the military as an institution." Wall Street Journal

'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' Colin Powell told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' Pottery Barn Rule

"In War, victory should be swift, if victory is slow, men tire, morale sags. Sieges exhaust strength; protracted campaigns strain the public treasury.
If men are tired, moral low, strength exhausted, treasure spent; then the feudal lords will exploit the disarray and attack. This even the wisest will be powerless to mend.(...) No nation has ever benefited from a protracted war.(...) The skillful warrior never conscripts troops a second time " Sun Tzu, 500 BC

"It’s probably Fallon’s good sense that made it impossible for him to work for this administration."
Cato Institute

David Seaton's News Links
Admiral Fallon's revelations in Esquire, nearly constitute what in 19th century Spain and Latin America was called a pronunciamiento. In a sense, so was the intelligence report that Iran had dropped its nuclear program. This is probably as close to a coup d'etat as you can get in the United States today. The military and intelligence establishments are defying the President. Fallon has taken early "retirement" in order to publicize his views and throw a monkey wrench into the neocon/Israeli juggernaut to have the United States attack Iran before there is a changing of the guard in the White House.

I have very little to add to the many articles and columns being written about the Fallon affair. I would only underline the concern that I detect among the professional soldiers for the deteriorating state of the armed forces as an institution. This concern goes back before Bush. The Clinton administration was very impatient with the Powell Doctrine, "What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?" asked Madeline Albright. And although Barack Obama wants to "change the mindset that got us into the war", his recently canned adviser, Samantha Power wants to send the US armed forces all over the world to prevent genocide and stabilize failed states and bring democracy to the benighted heathen. Über-neocon Robert Kagan has this to say about Obama's military philosophy:
Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism. He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."
This endless patrolling of the world's sewers is something that the US armed forces desperately don't want to do. I think that it is forgotten that in many ways the armed forces are a community of families, deeply rooted in American life, with a continuity over generations. The recent film "In the Valley of Elah" gives some of the flavor of that.

Probably the only reason I am skeptical that John McCain is eager to follow the Bush/neocon/liberal-interventionist doctrine of endless tilting at windmills all over the globe is that his father and grandfather were US Navy admirals. The Republican candidate spent his entire life until entering politics in the US Navy: it is his home town, his youthful reality and dreams. Politics was a second choice career for him when he saw that his "lost" years as a prisoner of war were a detour from the chain of command that made it practically impossible for him to be an admiral like his father and grandfather.

I just can't imagine anyone with that background using up the lives and families of the men and women he grew up with in fool's errands, which may in fact not even be in America's greater interest. Not even Colin Powell himself could have such deep emotional ties to the military community that McCain must have. I can just imagine the hell he would catch from his Navy wife of a mother.

Nobody campaigning for the presidency is going to say a word that would trouble or concern AIPAC, so I discount all the words that all of them pronounce. I am only looking at their lives and trying to see their deepest motivations. It may be innocent on my part, but I feel that McCain's threats to bomb Iran follow the teachings of the timeless master of strategists, Sun Tzu:
"Strong words combined with an aggressive advance are a sign of impending retreat."
This is the context within which I see Admiral Fallon's "pronunciamiento". DS


Michael Mink said...

Thanks for the post. It's hard to find insightful commentary. I truly hope you keep it up. You have a well reasoned basis for your opinions. I don't agree with you 100% but you make me reconsider new ideas and logic. I thank you, I can't offer you more, but you do impact my thoughts.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...


RC said...

Often, the unusual but necessary moves at the Presidential level in the US come from the unexpected quarter. Clinton destroyed the Welfare State, Nixon went to China, Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex and so on.
As for your understanding of the Navy brass and enlisted mentalities, having spent decades relating to the mindset due to my proximity to Roosevelt Roads, I would have to agree that perhaps McCain would act as you have guessed.
But we do not know that.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

None of these people was ever raised a soldier/sailor, Navy brat. None of these people have ever been to war... Only McCain. I count more on that than anything else.

As to the things he say and even his Senate votes. To get to the White House nobody can say anything that might ever offend or worry the Israel Lobby... or vote either. But, once in the White House... Father Bush, was a Navy pilot, shot down, he knew when to start a war, and most important he knew when to stop.

Oil is at $111, gold is at $1000, the Euro at $1.56. Anyone for war in the Persian Gulf?

The United States cannot continue in the direction it is going, it simply cannot afford it anymore. The Middle East and especially Israel are doing to American power what Flanders did to Spain's Imperial power. I think the professional military understand this. Strangely enough they are the most truly "cosmopolitan" Americans.