Military Function

October 25, 2010

A Pentagon spokesman blubbered out on Saturday the WikiLeaks doco-dump was “shameful” and does “an extraordinary disservice to America’s men and women in uniform.”

What is the real service and role of the US military service, Geoff?
Dude, shameful is the military in its current condition and form.

(Illustration found here).

Right now, I’m about three-quarters way through historian John Toland’s “The Last 100 Days” (1966),recounting the last three months of World War II in Europe — Hitler in the bunker and the gutting of Germany — told in a kind of intimate, “non-fiction novel” kind of way.
Toland — also writer of the extremely most-interesting, “The Rising Sun,” a chronicle of WWII in the Pacific told from a Japanese perspective (See Toland’s 2004 NYT obit here) — was apparently given access to US and German after-action reports, staff journals and top-secret messages and personal documents previously unavailable to historians.
And he personally interviewed a shitload of people, too, and the book does carry a good-reading novel’s plot-line with all its accommodating characters — Himmler is portrayed as one piece of fine work, as shitty a human being as one can get, I guess.

Anyway, during a background section on Eisenhower’s politically-inclined decision to allow the Russians to take Berlin instead of the US, Toland describes the shift in the function of the US military before, during and after WWII.
First time I read the passage, it nearly knocked me out of bed.
Explained a lot — (this from the 1985 Bantam Trade edition, page 316):

Eisenhower’s action had been conditioned by the unique evolution of the American military establishment.
Before the war, it had been a small, highly professional group which was solely concerned with military threats to the United States regardless of political alliances or friendships.
Consciously separating themselves from civilian thinking, the military had only one goal — the military security of the nation.
And their job was to prepare defenses against future enemies as well as present ones.
Their attitude toward foreign policy was based on one principle: Does it help or hurt the military security?
Indeed, the military was performing their classic, proper function without regard for public opinion or politics.

In the midst of war in Europe and before Pearl Harbor, the US military warned against upsetting the balance of power in Europe and Asia.

They strongly advised the president (FDR) to proceed cautiously and avoid any break with Japan or Germany.

And despite just about all of FDR’s advisers advocating going to the aid of England:

Again and again the military opposed embargoes or any other aggressive move that might lead to a two-front war.
But Roosevelt was finally convinced that the world could only be saved by intervention and even though the military urged an abstention from the “precipitance of military action” in the fall of 1941, America was precipitated into war with Japan.
All at once the generals and admirals gained undreamed-of powers as the civilian leaders willingly turned over unprecedented responsibility to them.
Secretary of State Cordell Hull told (Secretary of War Henry) Stimson, “I have washed my hands of it, and it is now in the hands of you and (Secretary of the Navy Frank) Knox — the Army and the Navy.
And Stimson asserted that his duty now was “to support, protect, and defend his generals.”

As the war progressed, the (newly-formed) Joint Chiefs became more and more political-minded because of their close personal relationships with Roosevelt.

Oddly, and more-than-just-a-little ironic, the military adviser to the president was in 1947 renamed the Secretary of Defense, and the entire US war machine was melted into the ‘Defense Department.’
And the US military has gained more and more power as the years progressed, leading the initial move by FDR to morph into a philosophy that the US military can do anything, settle any disputes, make foreign policy if need be, leading to the ruinous situation today.

In a current stance and in a similar view, Robert Dallek has a new piece at Foreign Policy describing the myth of the powerful, righteous US military or what’s termed ‘military containment.’
Dallek puts history into perspective in relation to the dumb-ass horror of US ‘containment’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A couple of snips (h/t: The Daily Dish):

Most of the evidence, however, points to an unpredictable future for both countries, where political instability, anti-Americanism, and military coups seem unlikely to disappear.
It may be that 10 or 20 or 30 years of U.S. stewardship will bring freedom and prosperity to Iraq and Afghanistan, but Americans have limited patience with nation-building that costs them unacceptable amounts of blood and treasure — and often have a better collective sense of what American power can realistically achieve than the government’s best and brightest.
They have not forgotten the Vietnam War, even if, at times, their leaders seem to have.

From the start, however, containment was a contested doctrine.
In his famous “Long Telegram” of February 1946 and “X” article in Foreign Affairs the next year, George F. Kennan, who headed the State Department’s new policy planning staff, counseled the White House to contain Soviet Russia’s “expansionist,” “messianic” drive for world control.
Kennan later regretted having stated his views in such evangelistic language; it encouraged anti-communists to take his advice as a call for military as well as political and diplomatic action.

Kennan was a prophet without a following — at least within the U.S. government.
Secretary of State Dean Acheson told him to take his Quaker views to a more hospitable setting than he could possibly find in Washington.
Kennan found a home in Princeton, N.J., at the Institute for Advanced Study, but vindication would not become fully evident until the close of the Cold War.
As his life ended in 2005 at the age of 101, he was convinced more than ever that the tyranny of military containment had done little, if anything, to assure America’s victory in that struggle.
He saw the invasion of Iraq as another example of misplaced faith in a military solution to a political problem. In a September 2002 interview, a 98-year-old Kennan described Bush’s talk of a pre-emptive war against Iraq as “a great mistake.”

Enter the present mess in Afghanistan — a situation so convoluted it’s hard to believe US GIs are dying and getting maimed for a needless, useless operation.
And with the WikiLeaks disclosure the US military has not only gone way, way further than Eisenhower would even grasp — despite his futile warning 50 years ago — into the realm of apparently not knowing right from wrong and might means right into the horror of war crimes.
Ah, the good old days of Hitler.

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