‘THE TRAGEDY OF THE AMERICAN MILITARY’
JIM FALLOWS OF THE ATLANTIC HAS JUST WRITTEN A TRULY DEVASTATING INDICTMENT OF THE U.S ARMY’S SENIOR LEADERSHIP, THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL CONGRESSIONAL COMPLEX, THE LACK OF ACOUNTABILITY, AND THE WAY WE,THE PUBLIC, REMAIN INDIFFERENT AND UNINFORMED BECAUSE WE ARE NOT DIRECTLY AFFECTED
IT SIZZLES—IT IS ACCURATE—IT IS TRAGIC—AND IT IS WORTH READING IN FULL
Check out The Atlantic Declaration of interest—I know, like, and admire Jim. I have been interviewed by him on defense matters—and have flown in his aircraft. He is a thoughtful, measured journalist. For those reasons the concern he expresses in this piece really deserves to be both listened to—and acted upon.
There are no signs that either this administration or Congress will pay the slightest bit of attention. In fact, Congress is seriously complicit.
The following is a brief extract.
The Tragedy of the American Military
The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.
James Fallows JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015
I. Chickenhawk Nation
If I were writing such a history now, I would call it Chickenhawk Nation, based on the derisive term for those eager to go to war, as long as someone else is going. It would be the story of a country willing to do anything for its military except take it seriously. As a result, what happens to all institutions that escape serious external scrutiny and engagement has happened to our military. Outsiders treat it both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.
Americans admire the military as they do no other institution. Through the past two decades, respect for the courts, the schools, the press, Congress, organized religion, Big Business, and virtually every other institution in modern life has plummeted. The one exception is the military. Confidence in the military shot up after 9/11 and has stayed very high. In a Gallup poll last summer, three-quarters of the public expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military. About one-third had comparable confidence in the medical system, and only 7 percent in Congress.
Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton enlisted after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”
Of course, we are directly affected by wars—if only through the financial cost. That doesn’t impact immediately because of our disastrous habit of relying solely on borrowings to fund wars. However, the figures are so large that we’re going to feel the effects for a very long time.
According to a December 19 2014 Bloomberg report, Neta Crawford of Boston University puts the total costs of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at $4.4 trillion including interest and veteran’s care through 2054.
That is trillion with a ‘T.’ And since nothing is being done—and we are still actively engaged—that $4.4 trillion figure is likely to go only one way—up.
VOR words c.50.