Main | 2010 July »

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We Hire People for that. But We Don't Elect Them.

With the state of American politics today, it takes a lot to shock me but today I am again completely shocked.  Sen. Max Baucus, a democrat from Montana, explained his failure to read the Obamacare bill prior to voting on it.

"I don't think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill.  You know why?  It's statutory language," Baucus said.  "We hire experts."

I'm sorry.  I thought we voted for you because you were to be the expert.  Your office defines your expertise.  If you don't understand it, how the heck are your constituents supposed to understand it?

The level of logical and ethical perversity to make this statement boggles my mind.  

What's next?  Do we outsource our experts from India or equatorial Africa?  I met a lot of Ghanaians who were quite intelligent and well educated in English.  I bet they could get a low bid on statutory expertise.  

Next time you call your democrat senator or other elected officials, will you get a calling center in New Dehli?

What's even more amazing is that this quote is not a head line on the big newspapers.  Some people think well of the New York Times, I certainly don't.  Their failure to run this on their front page for a week is part of why I feel that way.  Instead, it's buried near the bottom of a newspaper called the Flathead Beacon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

War, Inc., a Subsidiary of the Department of Defense Conglomerate

I've long observed that the only morally justifiable way to fight a war is through total war.  If a war must be fought, then it must be done with no holds barred and ended as quickly and as decisively as possible.   Germany was not decisively defeated in 1918 and their military never believed that they had lost except through politics.  They came back with a vengeance in 1939.  Japan and Germany have both been good allies and peaceful since 1945 because we ended any pretense that they weren't soundly defeated and without any hope of furthering their cause.  This was a lesson we learned in the Civil War when the Confederacy was almost burned to the ground.  Southern states still have no stomach to fight again despite the political gulf between most northern and most southern states.

But since 1945 we have yet to act like we need to actually win wars, let alone fight them with a total, or even strenuous effort.  In Korea our generals were told to bomb southern halves of bridges, enemies fleeing into China were allowed to escape.  In Viet Nam we never confronted the North Viet Namese in their own country.  The Korean war never ended, the Viet Namese war was lost.  It's high time we return to the policy of total war.  

Our pussy footing, mamby-pamby war in Iraq and Afghanistan is stretching into its ninth year.  That is longer than the Civil War and WWII combined.  We'd lost more people in single days in each of those wars than in almost a decade of this war.  When we began this war, the president used tough talk and mostly backed up his talk with action.  Even the collateral war in Iraq was met with stunned reactions from Iran for the first year or so.  They feared that the Eagle was awake and they were next.  

Then, we caved.  Iran became more and more blatant in sponsoring a Shiite murder regime and we became more studious in pretending that they weren't.  Iran is now extremely bold.  They've taken Brits captive, they've developed nuclear generators and made no apology for trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Today they announced a drone aircraft.  

And how have we fought this war?  It's been as far from a maximum effort as you could imagine.  We initially invaded Afghanistan with a battalion of Marines.  Then we paid Afghan mercenaries to fight our war for us, with the predictable result that Obama bin Laden escaped to Pakistan.

Instead of a total effort, we have institutionalized the war.  Just as in Viet Nam we've been dominated by people who think fighting a war is similar to managing a large corporation, but the managers have never run corporations and show little ingenuity or intelligence.  From Rumsfeld on down, the aim of our leaders was to win with minimum effort, under the belief that special forces with limited strikes will be more effective.  The problem with this idea is that the effect of war is not from the person killed or the bridge destroyed, it is from the will being broken.  Soldiers and politicians can be replaced easily.  Buildings and bridges are repaired or replaced.  People can live under ground and put up with any amount of hardship or death -- so long as they believe that their suffering is worthwhile.

Small raids here and there do not break the will of the enemy.  Limiting our attacks only teaches them to limit their actions, not their aims.

We have institutionalized war so that soldiers and Marines are on a time clock.  They do work ups, train, deploy, remain in theater for a limited time, and then leave to go home.  The investment of time for each war fighter is of a known and limited duration.  Generals need only do as well as they wish to do until they gets home.  There have been good leaders, such as General Patraeus, and bad ones.  The bad ones are too numerous to list. 

In any war, some units will be on the front lines, or in combat, and others will be resting.  We've taken this to an extreme.  How many more battalions could we have in Afghanistan right now if we didn't bring them home every 7 to 14 months?  How much more motivated would those battalions be to decisively end the war?  How much creativity and personal interactions would be in play to make crucial differences?  How many times have we read about a battalion that has had tremendous progress with a local tribe, only to have that battalion leave and the personal interactions end?  How many times have battalions had to relearn the same lessons because they are cycling in and out of the war zone?

My battalion is heading overseas shortly.  I've known this for two years.  A lot of money is being spent training us up, re-equipping us, recruiting us, etc.  We know about when we're leaving.  We know how long we will stay.  Mobilizing has become a routine event, planned and executed as though we were erecting a bridge.  It's good to be organized but not good to be institutionalized.

In the Civil War, Gen. McClellan was widely regarded as a good general and well loved by his soldiers.  He knew how to train them and he knew how to equip them.  What he didn't know was how to use them to win the war.  Gen. Grant probably knew nothing about building armies from an administrative and political perspective, but he knew how to win wars.  Some unkindly called him a butcher, but that is too facile, even for him.  It's true that his strategy was based on having little regard for how many soldiers were killed, but he didn't waste them either.  He knew that the enemy had fewer resources and less ability to lose men than he did, and every minute that he wasn't attacking and out flanking, they were able to recover better.  

Our army is made up almost entirely of McClellans.  This is either by design within the army or by design from our political overseers.  It's probably both.  Gen. Petraeus appears to be somewhat of an exception to the rule, at least judging by his successes, but even he has not seen fit to clamor for a greater effort.

This war is on automated control now.  We have a half-hearted effort, with vague ideas on what it would mean to win or even end it.  It's pretty discouraging to be going overseas knowing of this mindset, knowing that our military nation is capable of orders of magnitude of greater results but that we are limiting ourselves by choice.  We're letting primitive people have their way with us and we're barely trying to stop them.  Eisenhower feared the development of a defense industrial complex that would control our military.  We saw it in Viet Nam.  We see it again.  

We could do so much more to end the killing sooner and establish peace in the region if we only dared to try.