Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts on "Drift" towards Bloated Military

I promised to post about Rachel Maddow's "Drift," in which she says the military has come uncoupled from the citizenry, and that is one reason the USA has become "at peace with being at perpetual war." This peace with war is against the Founding Fathers' intentions, Maddow says, because they wanted it to be hard to declare war.

Maddow writes this peace with war began with an uncoupling of citizenry from military, starting during LBJ's Vietnam draft--that she portrays as an end run around Congress to avoid having to seek Congressional approval to call up the Reserves. (Well, we certainly weren't at peace about THAT war). Except for a brief time under the Abrams doctrine, that wove civilian and military back together for a while, the US continued towards the present bloated military operations, which include all these billions for civilian contractors. She doesn't like CIA-operated drones either, as they promote "secret war" and are ridiculous because some manipulators of the drone controls dress up in flight suits.

In the olden days, Maddow says, the military used to build its own buildings and cook its own food; and that in between wars they worked on the infrastructure of the nation. In the olden days, it was painful for everyone to start a war and to pay for it.

But now that the USA owns "one hell of a killing machine" and therefore wants to use it and also has to maintain it or it will degrade into junk. It's all too big, too out of touch, too expensive, too easy to corrupt, and too easy to deploy.

Maddow's solution is to

--fund wars by taxes or war bonds. Can't argue with pay as you go.

--Do away with secret military instead of having CIA running the drones. The Air Force should run the drones. OK.

--Stop expecting too much of military and also stop "deferring to military commanders."

--Back off the dependence on contractors (which started, she explained, because they weren't owed pensions and veterans' benefits but now we can't afford them!). "Our troops need to peel their own potatoes again, drive their own supply trucks...."

--Shrink nukes.

--Finally, she calls for voting people into Congress who will "stop with the chickenshittery..."


Then I started thinking, though. When was it so hard to go to war, as the Founding Parents wanted it to be? In the French and Indian War, where officers trained for the Revolutionary War? In the War of 1812, which involved Europe's power plays and also our own, as we ran off in different directions trying to annex Mexico and Canada both? Or the Civil War, of course, when military and citizenry were so woven together; where ladies in buggies drove out to view the early battles, and where emancipated slaves tagged after Sherman's army? Oh, then there was the Spanish-American war, the Mexican War (where officers trained for the Civil War), some dustup over the Philippines, perhaps Panama? And of course the ongoing conflicts with the American Indians, which we now berate ourselves about because we won them. All financed by war bonds? Declared by Congress?

Please, I don't want to write a 10-page paper on the topic.

WWI, WWII*  and Korea (a "police action" by the UN); all these wars I mentioned took place in the olden days before Vietnam. With much scut work done by Negroes and Filipinos because the armed forces were segregated until Truman did away with that.

Vietnam was a horror show; and then we had problems in Lebanon, in Somalia not to mention Iran. And I almost forgot the Nicaragua El Salvadore adventures of Ronald Reagan. But the Balkans mission is considered a success, and so is even Desert Storm. The latest fiascoes in Iraq and Afghanistan--there were plenty of Reserves called up for those.

I don't know! Some of Maddow's suggestions sound good; I'm just questioning whether the US was all that cautious and fiscally responsible about going to war in every case in the olden days. Plus, you know it's a different world and so forth.

The good news could be that even though Maddow published this year, her premise that we are "at peace with perpetual war" may not be quite correct. It seems we are a war-weary nation, perhaps ready for some reforms in defense.  We have a president who is getting us out of wars instead of into them, and that is a good start.  As for voting out the "chicken-shittery," I am not so sanguine--so to speak.

Worth thinking about, and it is an easy read (261 pp. including notes).

*When it was TOO hard to declare war due to isolationism in Congress.


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