Too Easy to Make War

Since I am on the subject today of topics my thinking has changed on over the last 30 years, I will link this post from Kevin Drum arguing that we need to make war hard again.  I have not read Rachel Maddow's book and am unlikely to, if for no other reason than style issues, but I must say that I have come around to the point Drum derives from it

If you can get past that, though, there's a deadly serious argument here that deserves way more attention than it gets. The book is, basically, a series of potted histories that explain how we drifted away from our post-Vietnam promise to make sure we never again went to war without the full backing and buy-in of the American public. Maddow's premise is that, just as the founders intended, our aim was to make war hard. Presidents would need Congress on their side. The Abrams Doctrine ensured that reserves would have to be called up. Wars would no longer unfold almost accidentally, as Vietnam did.

And for a while that was the case. ...

Maddow's argument is that we need to start rolling back these changes of the past two decades. When we go to war, we should raise taxes to pay for it. We should get rid of the secret military. The reserves should go back to being reserves. We should cut way back on the contractors and let troops peel their own potatoes. And above all, Congress should start throwing its weight around again. It's fine to criticize presidents for accreting ever more power to themselves, but what do you expect when Congress just sits back and allows it happen? Our real problem is congressional cowardice: they don't want the responsibility of declaring war, but they also don't want the responsibility of stopping it. So they punt, and war becomes ever more a purely executive function.

I am mostly in agreement with this (though I am not sure why soldiers rather than contractors should peel potatoes).  War has become way too easy -- though I would argue that Drum needs to look in a mirror a bit here.  He has been a huge supporter of Obama using executive powers to end-around Congressional opposition on things like the budget.  It's hard for him to credibly turn around and say that this same executive end-around Congress is bad in war-making.   I will be consistent and say it's bad for both.

I have not read the book, so perhaps this is covered, but I would argue that there are external factors driving this change in addition to internal factors.

The current Presidential ability to fight small wars without much Congressional backing is not entirely unprecedented.  Teddy Roosevelt did much the same thing with his gunboat diplomacy.  There were two external conditions that allowed TR to get away with this that are similar to conditions that obtain today.  One, we had a decisive economic and technological advantage over the countries we were pushing around (e.g. Columbia).  And two, there was no superpower willing to challenge us when we meddled in small countries, particularly in Latin America where the major European powers were willing to let us do whatever we wanted.

I would argue that these conditions again obtain since the fall of the Soviet Union, and allow the US to lob around cruise missiles (the gunboat diplomacy of the 21st century) with relative impunity.


  1. sean2829:

    As far as making it hard to go to war, you also need to look at staffing in an administration. The most dangerous hawk is often someone who meticulously avoiding military service. The best (worst?) example is Dick Cheney. If a president has on his staff former military people who have seen combat, intimately know its horrors, and lost friends in fighting, they are typically extremely reluctant to beat the war drum.

  2. Brandon Berg:

    I strongly suspect that what Drum means about raising taxes to pay for it is that we should raise taxes on an electorally insignificant portion of the population. Which, of course, doesn't do much at all to make war hard. I suppose I could be wrong, but in my experience, when Democrats talk about raising taxes, they pretty much always mean on the rich, and only on the rich.

  3. Xmas:

    Colombia...not Columbia.

    -x(geography nazi)mas

  4. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    Sean, you're an ignorant moron. Cheney was one of the people BEHIND the adoption of the eventual plan used in the Gulf War that saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. The tactics used were much more Pattonesque, and largely derived from warfighting concepts that Col. John Boyd developed during the 60s, 70s, and 80s -- the concepts emphasized maneuver and speed over direct confrontation, and owe more to Sun Tzu and Patton and Sherman than they do to Grant and Lee and their more modern ilk.

    Schwartkopf's original plan was a direct assault, power-vs-power which he knew the USA would win. Cheney was one of the people supporting Boyd against the Pentagon establishment in general (Boyd was also behind one of the few "downsizing" plane developments that have ever occurred, in which the cost and capability of a successor plane was actually lower/higher, respectively, than the predecessor) which pushed for a much more elegant solution which "Stormin' Norman" got all the credit for, and made the eventual fight almost a laughable non-fight.

    I quote the wiki entry:
    In a letter to the editor of Inside the Pentagon, former Commandant of the Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak is quoted as saying "The Iraqi army collapsed morally and intellectually under the onslaught of American and Coalition forces. John Boyd was an architect of that victory as surely as if he'd commanded a fighter wing or a maneuver division in the desert."

    And as far as Cheney's part in it (emphasis mine):
    In 1981 Boyd had presented his briefing, Patterns of Conflict, to Richard Cheney, then a member of the United States House of Representatives.[1]:355 By 1990 Boyd had moved to Florida because of declining health, but Cheney (then the Secretary of Defense in the George H. W. Bush administration) called him back to work on the plans for Operation Desert Storm.[1]:422-4 [3]:23-4 Boyd had substantial influence on the ultimate "left hook" design of the plan.[4]

    Cheney, by bringing Boyd on board, saved countless lives, both American and Iraqi. The idea that he was -- or is -- a "hawk" with no care for the lives of American soldiers is an ignorant and stupid claim to make. He was one of the primary architects of a war that was defacto won (in the sense that it reduced opposition to partisan guerilla activity) and which cost, even including those as a result of the guerilla activity, fewer lives than many BATTLES around the world since the Civil War era.

    Imbecilic jerkoffs like yourself who claim you know JACK about war are far more dangerous than the hawks you rail against -- instead of allowing the Iraq war to end as it should have, you
    a) constantly railed agaisnt its obvious successes in the light of what was, in reality, minor opposition by guerilla forces
    b) Gave by that railing, support and encouragement to the very forces in question, by giving them the hope that the American people would just pack up and go home, abandoning the Iraqis as shamefully as we had the Vietnamese.
    c) Encouraged shameful, evil behavior on the part of the USA, to wit: to go in and remove a government for our own legitimate reasons, and then abandon the people of that nation to the kind of deadly, totalitarian-inspiring chaos that would follow. In other words, you WANTED to create another Vietnam. How much more SICK can you be? How much?

    The Iraq War was the first time in literally DECADES that the USA did something they seriously could be proud of -- we liberated millions of people, spent time and money and blood assisting them in restoring order from the resulting chaos, gave them at least a HOPE of having and keeping some kind of representative government in place of the thugocracies so common around the world -- the kind usually supported whole-hearted by "caring and considerate" leftist ASSHOLES like yourself.

    Will it last? Maybe not. Maybe the Iraqis aren't yet ready for it. But what we HAVE done is given an ENTIRE generation of Iraqis a decade or more of relative freedom. Even if they lose that, they will REMEMBER, and their children will yearn for it -- and perhaps, the next time, should it fail, then the next time they get it they WILL be ready for it.

    And you, you pusillanimous WORM, are probably one of the jerkwads running around trying to cast it as a "War for Oil" --- yeah, dumbshit, had it been that, why would we have spent the time and trouble of attempting "nation building" at all? Why would we not have done the EASY, almost zero-cost thing, of setting up another pro-America strong man? That's certainly the EASY route. That's certainly the CHEAPER route. That's certainly the TYPICAL route, the one taken by most nations throughout history.

    No, we did it the HARD way because it was the RIGHT way. And that's why America is so unlike every other nation in history. While we don't always live up to our ideals -- we are, after all, human -- for the most part, we risk our soldiers' lives trying to limit collateral damage to civilians and their property -- and expend our own money and lives doing that, far above and beyond that of any other nations in the same position. We would generally much rather do the RIGHT thing than the expedient or cheap thing.

    So, in summary -- sit down and STFU. You're scum, pure and simple. You don't give a DAMN about people in the least. You're a two-bit hypocrite and a prevaricating charlatan. All you care about is cheap political points and "your side wins".


  5. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:


    Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War

    Boyd was an amazing, vastly under-appreciated and under-accoladed guy. There have been few Americans who are "more" American than him in terms of the ideal vs. the real man.

  6. DoctorT:

    Excessive presidential power is not the main reason why it is so easy for the USA to make war. The primary reason is that we have a standing federal army (and navy and air force). Originally, the federal government did not have the power to raise armies. That power was left to the states. If war was declared by Congress, the President could ask the states to temporarily transfer their militia to the federal government. That process ended with the Civil War when Lincoln unconstitutionally established both a federal army and a military draft (both of which exist to this day). A standing federal army lets presidents make wars without Congressional approval.

  7. Brad Warbiany:


    I recommend Cult of the Presidency by Gene Healy, if you haven't read it already:

    He covers a lot of the change in executive power, and a *HUGE* portion of this change over the last century is the executive's ability to make war without Congress's approval.

    Given that the books is currently free from Cato in electronic form (incl. Kindle), there's no reason not to download it.

  8. Rich Ridenour:

    I agree with you entirely but I seriously doubt that we will be able to make war harder anytime soon. I think the real solution here lies much deeper. If we can answer the question of "Why do presidents decide to go to war?" then perhaps we can get to the real problem that needs fixing.

  9. Anonzmous:

    What Nobel Peace Prize winner needs potato-peeling soldiers when he has flying robots of death?

    Can't make war much easier than making it a first-person shooter video game.

  10. Vilmos:

    I am not so sure that it is a bad thing that the US can easily make wars. I prefer to have many small wars than a few big ones. I would prefer to have small war with 10k deaths in every 5-10 years to a big one in every 50 years with 20m ones.

    I am sure that it would have been great if Hitler had been taken out in the process of a smaller war before he was ready for his big war. AFAIK, the problem was that nobody in power had the stomach to do it. And those (Churchill) who said that Hitler is not a typical garden-variety dictator, but the Devil himself, were condemned as warmongers. I think it was a mistake to take out Gaddafi. I also think that Assad shouldn't be taken out (but remove Syria from the Iranian orbit). But I do think that the Iranian leadership is pure evil and should be taken out. As soon as possible before they are ready.

    Saddam, while he was not an evil man with an ideology (he was just a primitive brute with tribal mentality) was unhinged and posed a danger to the whole area. This is why he had to be taken out.

    About Dick Cheney. I highly recommend this piece by EFF Co-Founder John Perry Barlow:


  11. Ted Rado:


    The Germans invented modern maneuver warfare. Manstein, Guderian, Rommel, Kleist, etc. put on a spectacular demonstration during the early years of WWII. Patton and others copied them. Schwartzkopf's attack in Iraq was a copy of one of Rommels offensives in North Africa. Many military history books cover all this in detail.

    In the old days, who we were fighting was well defined. Today it is not. Another problem is that our goals are misguided. We believe we can establish a US-style democracy in these backward countries who have no idea what an honest politician or policeman looks like. All they know is graft and corruption. Many years ago, I read a book about the first Afghan war (1839). The Afghans were a bunch of thieves and cutthroats who had no sense of national unity. Apparently nothing has changed. The idea that we can set up a sane government there is wishful thinking. I will be accused of being a defeatist, but I believe we have only a choice between a friendly dictatorship that can keep order or utter chaos in those countries. If we overthrow the dictator, we have chaos. Does anyone really think that we will be successful in setting up a legitimate democratic government in Egypt, Lybia, Iraq, Iran, or anywhere else in the region? This leaves the question: what should we do? I see no hope of success for our policy in the region. How bad we are willing to let things get, and how much of a threat to the US we are prepared to suffer, will determine when to intervene militarily. The result, when we do, will be another Iraq or Afghanistan. Bottom line: we are stuck in an impossible military and diplomatic situation. Maybe we can persuade someone else to play world's policeman?

  12. Anonymous Mike:

    I haven't read Maddow's book but I will comment on Drum's post which while I'm not sure is valid is certainly not reliable in that it doesn't cohere.

    Two points in particular.

    First there have been several types of war over the past 30 years - small interventionist wars such as Grenada, proxy wars such as Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Contras, and major ground wars such as the 2 wars against Iraq. We can talk about how George H.W. Bush didn't feel he needed congressional approval for the first Persian Gulf war but in the end he did and his son went through a long debate in Congress for the second. I also seem to remember a congressional vote in 2001 about the the Taliban/Al-Qaeda

    The proxy wars were tied into the Congressional appropriations process which is what the whole Boland Amendment/Ira-Contra was about so what's Drum talking about there? So we're left with sudden actions like the firing of cruise missiles in 1998, Panama which was more than 20 years ago and Grenada which was almost 30.

    The second part is wars like Grenada, Serbia, and Panama were fought out of stockpile with standing armed forces and so were outside of the congressional appropriations process. Placing logistical tails into reserve and all of that is not going to impair those types of wars/operations.

    Last point, the whole whole Drum argument about Meese and all of that - we're talking about co-equal branches of government so what do you expect him to say? Democracy and limited government exists in part in the separation of powers and the space battled between

    So for such short choppy thoughts but I need to get to work

  13. DWPittelli:

    I think it should be pointed out that the exception to the easy, Executive war theme was George Bush. Unlike Obama (or Reagan or Clinton), he obtained Congressional votes to authorize military force, which passed overwhelmingly. Bush took the U.S constitution seriously, unlike Obama, who apparently thinks that support from NATO allies plus (vague) support from the UN gave him carte blanche to ignore the U.S. constitution and wage war on Libya without such a vote.

  14. neil:

    There is an essential problem with "moving the military closer" to the people, and it has been much discussed regarding our unpreparedness in Korea, and alluded to in popular culture in, for instance, "A Few Good Men". The military is, and should be, an illiberal institution, because of the need for it to be effective at the most illiberal thing; war. Moving the society closer to the military means an illiberal society, and moving the military closer to society means an ineffective military.

  15. Brian Dunbar:

    (though I am not sure why soldiers rather than contractors should peel potatoes).

    One reason is that a potato-peeling soldier can be re-purposed when he's done peeling potatoes. Instantly.

    You can't do that with a contractor.

    Take the example of .. me.

    The Marines hired me [1] as a computer programmer. Trained me for a specific language. Then sent me to a unit where I was, yes, a programmer. For a few months. In a language I'd never seen before. In my 19 months with that unit I was also

    MOS Trainer.
    NBC Team Member.
    Micro-computer repair.
    LAN Administrator.
    Duty truck driver.
    Duty non-commissioned officer, barracks, battallion, group.
    Mess attendant. Potato peeler.[2]

    Some of them at the same time. Except for the mess attendant job (30 days, sun-up to past dark with four hours off each Sunday) it was the best professional time of my life.

    You could not get that flexibility out of a contractor.

    [1] It's more complicated than that: When I was a rifleman (MOS 0311) I re-enlisted for a contractual gauruntee of a lateral job transfer to the Data Processing field, programmer MOS (4063).

  16. Brian Dunbar:

    There is an essential problem with “moving the military closer” to the people, and it has been much discussed regarding our unpreparedness in Korea, and alluded to in popular culture in, for instance, “A Few Good Men”.

    An okay movie, about a fictional outfit with the same name as the actual Marine Corps.

    For a better argument see Fehrenbach's 'Proud Legions'. Fair-use copy here

  17. Brian Dunbar:

    But all the above aside ... when the president of a republic can send his air force to bomb the snot out of a country that ain't done nothing to us (Libya, 2011) ... then something is out of whack.

  18. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> Schwarzkopf's attack in Iraq was a copy of one of Rommel's offensives in North Africa. Many military history books cover all this in detail.

    1) Doesn't change the fact that his original plan was a pure brute-force slug-it-out face off until pushed to use more subtlety.
    2) I'll trust the statement of one of the commanders involved as to the provenance of the planning. There's no argument the answer probably lies between the two somewhere -- Boyd may well have based his plan off of Rommel's offensive, for example.
    3) All of this comes back to Sun Tzu, who detailed the foolishness of grind-it-out warfare tactics centuries before the Roman Legions.
    4) Maneuver warfare predates the Germans a lot, they only updated it to utilize mechanized troop transport, tanks and the functional significance of modern air support, not trivial, but even Sherman's march was a substantial example of it.
    5) Patton no doubt built on what the Germans initially developed, but in every confrontation in which he had the resources he needed, he beat the crap out of them. Had Patton gotten the fuel he needed in August, 1944 (which Bradley, et al, denied him for largely political reasons), he might have been, hell, likely would have been, in Berlin before winter settled in, and the war ended six months sooner -- not only saving the lives of millions of Jews who went to the gas chambers, and hundreds of thousands of soldiers, but also substantially changing the face of the subsequent Cold War, with Russia still largely not in control of Eastern Europe.

    Vilmos: Nice piece.

  19. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> You could not get that flexibility out of a contractor.

    Sure you can. You put it into the contract. Soldiers should be for fighting, training to fight, and prevention of fights. That's a pretty wide swathe of disciplines in and of itself, in modern warfare.

    The best argument you can make against contract services is they fuzz the line between the military and the mercenary. Once a nation has to pay mercenaries instead of having its own people to defend, that nation is doomed.

  20. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    From This Kind Of War

    Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life – but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud.

  21. Brian Dunbar:

    Sure you can. You put it into the contract.

    In one month I was an MOS trainer, a truck driver, and my primary job of 'programmer'. I then was assigned on 1-day notice to the mess hall.

    No civilian in their right mind would put up with that kind of treatment. "You hired me to program and you want me to make jello salad? I quit."

    Soldiers should be for fighting, training to fight, and prevention of fights.

    The job of 'potato peeler' does apply to modern warfare. Food is not just prepared and served in mess halls far behind the lines - it's also run in field messes - portable restaurants under canvas.

    These places must plan to be shot at: the ones I've eaten at were under green canvas and had liberal applications of camo netting.

    Acquiring potato peelers from subscribing units on TAD is not just a good idea, it's the only way to staff a field kitchen.

  22. regularjoeski:

    I listened to Maddow on the radio. She had no idea that Ron Paul and libertarians had been making her argument for years. She had no idea that Thomas Jefferson and Wilson had fought undeclared wars. Her comment was that she had no interest and didn't know any history before LBJ. She (and Drum) are just making a "Regan/Bush" bad argument. She would not condemn Clinton for Bosnia or Obama for Libya. The constitution makes it had to declare war, now if we just followed it. BTW, the Marine Corps was known as the State department's policemen prior to WW2.

  23. W. C. Taqiyya:

    Jeepers. This post has me thinking. And, if I may say, I am a bit taken aback by IGotBupkis's strident comments. Not used to so much heat here at coyote. But, it's all good and the other comments are, as usual, excellent. Hi IGB.

    There seems to be a consensus that the executive power has been unduly expanded and that Congress / American voters are to blame. This, and other factors like a standing professional military, the sheer power of America and minor impact on our lifestyle at home makes war too attractive and easy to engage in. We been doing butter and guns for a good bit now. I agree.

    But, lemme come at this from a different angle. After WW2, which seems to be our line of demarcation on this topic, war became too easy. But, wasn't WW2 the last conflict we called, WAR? Don't we have a language and definition issue here? What was Korea? It was a 'POLICE ACTION' and was fought to a standstill, an uneasy, unstable, and damned expensive ceasefire. But it was a police action so stopping the criminal activity was good enough. Vietnam was what? It was a garbage detail designed to 'CONTAIN' the stinky, unpleasant commies. Or, I suppose you could say it was a game of dominoes interrupted. Just not as fun. As Ive posted elsewhere, we never had any intention or strategy to win that thing. We were never going to invade the north or bomb them effectively.

    Moving on to the much ballyhooed first gulf 'war'. What was it's purpose and how was it described and defined? It was a coalition to liberate Kuwait. Nobody wanted to defeat Iraq, we just wanted to push him back a little. So again, not a war, not really. And as a quick note for IGB, the marines pushed directly into Kuwait per the plan, the army pushed directly into Iraq all across the front and that left hook you love so much landed where? It landed in the open desert, trapping nothing, cutting off nothing and accomplishing nothing. Sure, if permitted, they could have encircled the retreating enemy and they could have taken Baghdad. But they didn't, cause they weren't. So, with that much power at his disposal, Schwartzkopf just steamrolled in behind the apaches and A-10's. It was not fancy, impressive or creative. So, please don't compare Schwartzkopf with Rommel or any other good maneuver commander. OK, we all know how that conflict ended and what came after, no sense beating this horse further.

    The Abrams policy mentioned above sounds similar to the so-called Powell doctrine which was briefly endorsed far and wide after the first gulf war. But, like the Abrams policy, it was soon forgotten.

    I would not willingly deprive America of her power, so that's not much of a solution. Plus, our standing, professional military is probably the least degraded of any of our institutions. So, although not a fan of conscription, I can support it if it is a serious undertaking. By which I mean real training with high standards. I would also link voting rights and the privilege of holding public office to military service. For objectors, I think at least six months in jail would suffice to qualify as a citizen. Or perhaps 3 years as a volunteer EMT, firefighter. I can only hope for a more responsible Congress, but that's just hope. As for taxes being raised for every brushfire war in the western hemisphere, no. America is going to have these little corrective wars in our back yard. That's just our burden and duty as Americans. Or, would you rather have the Chinese come over and fix Panama, Grenada and Haiti every few years? I would restrict our military involvement far away to conflicts we fully intend to win, in the old fashioned and only meaningful way, for which the losers and beneficiaries would reimburse us, at least part of the costs. Mostly, I would not get directly involved, militarily, in the ME, Asia or Europe at all. I support an amendment requiring two thirds majority of the house and senate to approve any armed conflict, however described, outside the western hemisphere. Incidentally, why the heck is Castro still in power? It's high time we went down there and told them Cubans they are free. What's Castro gonna do about it? I think 500 high school cheerleaders would be enough to tackle that problem child. With maybe some marines sitting offshore? Just in case some of those old commies are senile and think they have a choice.

    Where was I? OK, yeah the other problem with these easy wars is they aren't called wars. That alone makes them more attractive to politicians and easier for them to sell to a gullible public. I don't know how to fix this deceitful approach to armed conflicts. Maybe pointing it out might help a bit? You smarter fellas and gals are gonna have to help out with this. The amendment idea is nice, eh?

    P.S. Col. John Boyd was a great fighter pilot, commander and American. And I'm sure if an encirclement maneuver was employed effectively in Iraq, it would have saved many lives. Iraqi lives primarily, but lives all the same. There, maybe now I get less hate mail?

  24. W. C. Taqiyya:

    Sorry, forgot about the mercenary issue. I do not approve of using mercenaries at all, unless they are the only force employed. If it can't be done without em, it just ain't gonna get done. Mercenary forces, as employed in Iraq especially, confound the command structure, foul up communications, logistics and confuse the mission and the message. It's bad enough to have dozens of allied forces in the battle space, mercs just make all of those already complicated issues more complicated. And that's all I have to say about that.

  25. Brian Dunbar:

    And I’m sure if an encirclement maneuver was employed effectively in Iraq, it would have saved many lives. Iraqi lives primarily, but lives all the same. There, maybe now I get less hate mail?

    A literal encirclement makes no sense in the context of the OIF Part 1 and the terrain.

    If by encirclement you mean maneuver warfare that was exactly what was done. The Army swung left, the Marines ran up the center right. The two columns met in Baghdad.

    A cheesy map:

    It was quick, and by and large we avoided fighting in towns and hence did not create masses of dead civilians.

    In terms of OODA we were operating so quickly that the war was over before what was left of the Iraqi army was able to update their maps.

    I'm snarking, but not much. You will recall the Iraqi spokes-dummy was talking about stopping the Americans in a bloodbath outside Baghdad while American tanks were running down the street behind him ...

    Where it all fell apart was after that, when we tried to run the place.

    A good idea after we'd captured Baghdad would be to snarl 'This is what happens when you f*ck with America' and go home. Or at the latest after we'd captured Hussein.

  26. Ted Rado:


    You seem to be a great admirer of Patton. I suggest you read up on the invasion of Sicily.

    Maneuver warfare has been around for thousands of years. It fell into disrepute in WWI and was believed to be impossible due to huge armies and modern firepower. The Germans thought otherwise, while the French stuck with static warfare ideas. Suggested reading is the 1940 campaign from the French side. Their command structure was based on static warfare and the Germans ran right by them. The Germans lost the war because Hitler took on the whole world. History teaches that this usually happens eith dictators who are fascinated by their own powerful army's capabilities. See Napoleon.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have no program to deal with the Near East.

  27. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> "No civilian in their right mind would put up with that kind of treatment. “You hired me to program and you want me to make jello salad? I quit.”"

    LOLZ, you put that in THEIR contract. "You're paid to do what we decide you should do." With suitable codicils regarding the physical labor capacity (i.e., if you have a bad back, for instance) and that it won't be less than industry standard for the level of expertise involved (i.e., you won't get paid $30k a year to do a $50k a year job).

    Someone wants to pay me 50k a year to peel potatoes, that's their dime to spend. I'd suspect that any company that stays in business will aim to optimize their ROI effectively and not assign anyone to jobs below their technical capacity unless it would cost more to hire and ship in someone else to do the job.

    >>> Acquiring potato peelers from subscribing units on TAD is not just a good idea, it’s the only way to staff a field kitchen.

    Not entirely in disagreement with you on this point, but the miltary has a vast array of bureaucrats and mid-level functionaries who never get shot at or wind up inside any kind of battlefield situation. THESE are the jobs which ought to be contracted out for the most part.

    >>> And, if I may say, I am a bit taken aback by IGotBupkis’s strident comments.

    Sorry about that, the anti-war people just really, really tick me off. It's not the fact that they are anti-war, they are anti-AMERICA in all too many instances. They basically argue from the position that anything America does anywhere in the world is inherently wrong, and then make sure that anything that America DOES do anywhere else IS a total cluster-eph as a consequence.

    They did their absolute damnedest to turn Iraq into Vietnam Deux. Even IF you are of the position that we had no reason to go after Saddam at the start, it became clear after the fact (the rape rooms, the gassing of Kurds, and so forth) that it was still A Real Good Thing that he was removed from power. That made no difference to them -- it was still a "War for Oil" (dealt with in the original missive), and America was eeeeeevil for protecting itself without first getting struck by ABC weapons by a saber rattling idiot who thought we were too weak to actually respond.

    Despite these provocations and subsequent revelations, they gleefully pushed the death toll into the face of the American people with strident calls for an end at all costs, in total indifference of the obvious fact that this encouraged suicide bombers and continued resistance to the effort to stabilize the region -- the vast majority of these bombers were non-Iraqis, and who committed obvious atrocities (ex: kidnapping someone, killing him, gutting him, filling his body with explosives, then dumping the body in a very prominent public place, then setting off the bomb when people crowded around the body to see if they could do anything). That's just reprehensible, yet the media never expressed the slightest outrage, barely mentioned it. And that's a key distinction between pre-Vietnam media coverage and Vietnam-and-subsequent coverage. Prior to Vietnam, this sort of thing would have been publicized at least as much as the body count, and been allowed to do what it so clearly would do -- foment American ire at the groups and organizations who were doing such blatantly evil things. But that would go against the media's anti-American agenda so it barely made a blip on the radar screen. Contrast to the months of coverage that the military got for making a bunch of captured terrorists wear underwear on their heads.

    Moreover, now that it's substantially in the past, the media is busy doing a makeover of all that, preying on the tendency of people to forget the facts of the case and not use anything to research their revisionist CRAP. Sean is one of their "useful idiots" in this regard, since he is clearly the type to parrot the party line he's been sold.

    As far as the executive power expansion thing, I'm not entirely in disagreement with it, but
    a) The libtards don't give a rodent's patootie about it, as long as it's their guy doing it --- they had almost nothing whatsoever to say about Clinton or President Downgrade's use of missiles. It's only a point of criticism if the GOP does anything with it.

    b) I tend to lean in the direction of Vilmos' comment above about a few small wars doing a much better job than ignoring things until we get a great big honkin' war. Moreover, see "c" below.

    c) Like it or not, the whole isolationist thing can't work for America any more -- we ARE top dog, and, frankly, I prefer that to any other random group as Top Dog (yeah, it wasn't so bad when the UK was top dog, but can we be sure that the next "top dog" is going to be mutually beneficial to us?), so yeah, we should be Top Dog as long as we reasonably can be.

    ..i) As top dog, we don't have to do ANYTHING wrong to have people strike at us -- there is a great deal of international prestige in "counting coup". Al Qaeda scored a LOT of prestige with 911 -- as little as it truly hurt us (by contrast, our economy replaced the 10-odd billion dollars it cost within a day, and the 3000 people lost were replaced within the same time frame -- so, in truth, it was a pin prick at best). If we had ignored it, then it would only have encouraged bolder actions, bolder strikes, until we DID react.
    ..ii) "Schadenfreude" is a universal behavior, even more so when directed at anyone in an elite position.
    ..iii) The moats have shrunk. They don't protect us as they did when isolationism worked.
    ..iv) Likewise, there are a lot more people interested in ripping us off and otherwise taking advantage of us now that we are rich, which we weren't for most of our isolationist history. There's a lot more booty to be won.

    d) We have and need a standing military for much the same reason that Bill Gates needs a substantial standing personal security force. It is a lot less useful to hire a PI firm AFTER Melinda gets kidnapped than to have a force of men ready to prevent the kidnapping in the first place.

    >>> But they didn’t, cause they weren’t.

    The fact that the political objectives were satisfied so quickly and so cheaply that it was decided to take the money and run doesn't change the brilliance of the whole scheme (I believe that was a major error by Bush I but that's a different argument thread).

    The Iraqi army -- not some pushover, patsy force but one that was identified as the fourth best in the world -- was absolutely routed at almost ZERO cost to the Coalition forces. The capabilities offered by the M1 Abrahms alone was nothing less than phenomenal -- they could be barreling along across the desert at SIXTY mph and fire accurately at targets, while the Iraqi tanks had to stop and obtain a fire control solution while being sitting ducks. In the words of an Iraqi tank man, "It just wasn't fair."

    As you said, the A-10s -- also a direct result of Cheney and Boyd, by the way -- they were developed by one of Boyd's "Fighter Mafia" -- were also particularly effective, and that's pretty much a serious understatement.

    And, if you actually READ what I said, I wasn't touting Stormin' Norman as anything but an over-lauded bullet-brain who was pushed into doing something far more elegantly than he was capable of but was given full credit for. The real architects were Boyd and, indirectly, Cheney.

    >>> I would also link voting rights and the privilege of holding public office to military service.

    A Heinlein fan... me too. But do keep in mind that ST was not about military service, it was about serving the greater good. That simply included military service. And it wasn't conscript, it was totally voluntary. Moreover, you weren't allowed to hold or vote until you LEFT the service, whatever form it took.

    BTW, at no point has anyone openly noted at all the peacetime activities of our standing military, which would be utterly impossible with the kind of civilian, reduced military being discussed. The utility of a modern nuclear carrier in a disaster area like Haiti(2010) or Indonesia(2004) is not to be pshawed. No other nation had a fraction of the capacity to respond as did the USA, even more so as quickly as we did, with massive assistance in the area within DAYS. The USA's "marketing machine" does a woeful job of keeping this kind of thing in the international eye, and the international media don't help in the least.

    Also unmentioned is the number of countries who benefit by being under the umbrella of our protection -- how many nations would have to substantially step up their own military and concomitant expenditures if they did not have the USA to depend on? Canada, Mexico, much of South America -- Japan and Taiwan. Australia, India. Eastern Europe.

    You likely would INCREASE the chances of brushfire wars starting when you have larger militaries and long-standing grievances facing off, and, as Serbia, 1914 showed, that can easily blow vastly out of proportion all too quickly. In the absence of Pax Americana, the chances of another World War probably go up substantially. Speculation, I grant, but not without well-considered basis.

  28. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    Ah, Brian, the subject here was actually the Gulf war -- 1991 -- where we sort of had neutralized all opposition then just decided to call it a game and went home rather than finishing the job. Since his army had already been routed we really could have taken him out even easier and quicker than we did in 2003-4.

    I kinda wonder how different the world might be if Bush I had said "eph it" and gone ahead and taken out Saddam THEN, or at least used the situation to force him to abdicate. A lot of that would depend on the subsequent behavior in Iraq, of course, on both sides. Who knows, he and his sons might even still be alive living the life of Riley on his ill-gotten gains.

  29. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> You seem to be a great admirer of Patton. I suggest you read up on the invasion of Sicily.

    LOL, Patton was ridiculously constrained to a lesser role in that for political reasons. Pay attention instead to what he did in Africa, and, even more critically, in Europe post-Normandy -- with a random assemblage of misfits that no other Army wanted. He was the only Allied general, on either front, that the Germans feared. They all KNEW he could best any one of them in an even vaguely "fair" fight.

    The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny

    Patton was an interesting contrast of apparent opposites. Regarded as a dangerous hawk by many, he did more to end WWII at a cost of fewer lives than many generals regarded as much, much less "hawkish", such as Bradley and Eisenhower. Raised as one of the gentry, he was better suited to fit in among the enlisted men than he was in the hoi-polloi. His personal interests belied the kind of brute-force personality one would project onto him as a top-flight war maker.

  30. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >> Where it all fell apart was after that, when we tried to run the place.

    It really didn't even do THAT, Brian, that's a lot more the media "take" on the whole thing than the reality.

    No, the post-war plan was ill-suited to the situation, but that was because they substantially underestimated the determination of their enemy -- not the Iraqi people but Al-Qaeda and other peripheral terrorist organizations -- to resist.

    And, as I noted, the MSM did everything possible to turn it into Vietnam Deux and get the American people utterly against the war. Luckily, this time, the media wasn't the only voice -- their opposition included Fox, Talk Radio, and a wide swath of the internet as voices of reason and clarity (no, not always that, either -- but if you wanted to know the truth, if you wanted to know the arguments FOR continued action, they were there to be found, unlike the Vietnam era -- There was no way for an American success like the Tet Offensive to be turned into a propaganda loss).

    It is strange to me how obvious it is that the media has done everything possible to destroy America in the last 50-odd years, yet a large percentage of people remain blissfully clueless about this really, really blatant fact.

    I bumped into this recently, and I believe it shows a critical thing --
    Why Americans Hate the Media
    -- namely, how poorly considered the ethical issues of journalism are by journalists. They may take an ethics class and be required to pass a test in it, but they spend very little time considering the ramifications of what they do as journalists, at the very best. Because you aren't getting very far along the philosophical line if all you do is spend 20-30 classroom hours in your entire career parroting what an Ethics professor tells you to say. And, though the article is now 16 years old, and at least one significant war has occurred in the interim, I see very little evidence that it's changed.

  31. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    "Il nous faut de l'audace, et encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace"

    Patton seemed to take this Georges Danton quote very much to heart in his maneuvers, and was literally brilliant in his timing and execution of it.

  32. markm:

    >>> “No civilian in their right mind would put up with that kind of treatment. “You hired me to program and you want me to make jello salad? I quit.””

    I'd be quite willing to make jello - or any other job that didn't involve being shot at - for programmer's pay. But for a temporary job (nearly *all* defense contracting jobs should be considered as temporary; I've seen entire corporate divisions created and closed out depending on each years' contract negotiations), overseas and outside of civilization, I wouldn't even consider any offer for under $120K, plus subsistence. (That's nearly double my normal pay.) And for $120K, I don't mind if the work is programming, potato peeling, or porta-potty cleaning.

    But they could get two or three soldiers in theater for what I would cost. I might be able to out-program all of them, but I have no special talent for cooking and cleaning. And unlike me, the soldiers can be required to do their jobs under fire, and add to the combat strength of the unit.

    A contrary point is that there are companies specializing in meal service, cleaning, etc., that are far more efficient at it than any casual detail of troops could be, and more effective at their particular jobs than any government agency ever has been. So in theory, there are savings in contracting with them instead of using military personnel. But, as a veteran and a former contractor, I think it's a false savings - you starve the services of the extra bodies needed to handle emergencies (and war is just a long series of emergencies), while I really wouldn't expect a career floor-polisher (e.g.) to snap to other jobs as needed.

    And finally, when things are toughest, civilians can walk out, and are likely to do that even if the job is exactly what they signed up for. (I'm remembering a fellow dishwasher, long, long ago, who at the height of the Saturday night rush took a bag of garbage out and never returned.) You can write the contract so direct pay is low and the bonus is high, and walkouts lose the bonus, but some people will still walk out when they are most needed. OTOH, the military isn't bound by the 13th Amendment; a soldier can't legally quit and can go to Leavenworth for refusing an order. It's possible that a soldier will crack physically or mentally and become useless in a crisis, but it's unusual unless the troops have been pushed far past the point where any civilian would have quit. Boot camp is both good training in keeping yourself going past what you thought were your limits, and fairly effective at quickly exposing true weaknesses.

  33. W. C. Taqiyya:

    This is awesome and you guys are all making excellent points. I agree with most of it. But, lemme get in the weeds a bit. Brian, I was talking about the first gulf war when we liberated Kuwait. 'Stormin Norman', et al. Your references to Baghdad and Saddam's spokesman belong to Bush Jr's invasion of Iraq. Which is a whole nuther thing.

    Patton has been well covered by others, notably Ted and IGB. Patton was almost certainly the Allie's best attacking and moving general. Very aggressive and a risk taker. Good stuff. Ike should have given him the fuel and let Monty do what the Brits were good at, probing and air and artillery strikes on the defense. The Brits were slow on offense and Patton was not. Had Patton been given the fuel and a few more divisions, the bulge probably would have been preempted. Because at that time, after Metz, not much was blocking Patton's push east to Berlin. Of course, the Russians lost approx. 600,000 in the battles around and including Berlin, so maybe we were better off. Speculation...

    Just for additional clarity, in the first gulf war, we (U.S. Army)performed a fast and deep penetration to the left of the main thrust using many helicopters and fast armored columns. This force was going to penetrate, swing right and cut off the enemy lines of supply, communication and retreat. The French Foreign Legion was ALL the way left, guarding the hook's flank, God love em. To have been effective in trapping and disarming Saddam's best troops, the republican guard, and cutting off all hope for the others, the hook needed time to fully develop. It was not given that time because the front collapsed quickly under Stormin Norman's steamroller express and the republican guard beat a hasty retreat. It failed, partly because of the unexpected speed and success of everyone else. Plus, the 'war' aims were limited and a knock out blow was denied to our valiant and intrepid soldiers. We know how that played out later on don't we? But that's another story.

  34. Ted Rado:

    One of the interesting things about rating the performance of military commanders is that in many cases, the odds were overwhelming and even Aunt Tillie would have won. In the American Civil War, Grant won at Richmond, but had twice as many men as Lee and endless supplies. Yet history rates Lee as the outstanding general of the war, as he did wonders with what he had.
    An interesting question re the US military: we have almost always had overwhelming superiority in numbers, money, fuel, and recently, technology. This makes rating the performance of generals difficult. For example, it would have been almost impossible to lose the first Iraq war. This does not mean that Schwatzkopf was not a fine leader. It merely makes it impossible to judge because he had such overwhelming power. There are numerous cases in history where a general with inferior resources won spectacular victories. These are the people that go down in history as great commanders.

  35. Brian Dunbar:

    >>> “No civilian in their right mind would put up with that kind of treatment. “You hired me to program and you want me to make jello salad? I quit.””

    LOLZ, you put that in THEIR contract. “You’re paid to do what we decide you should do.” With suitable codicils regarding the physical labor capacity (i.e., if you have a bad back, for instance) and that it won’t be less than industry standard for the level of expertise involved (i.e., you won’t get paid $30k a year to do a $50k a year job).

    No one worth hiring is going to agree to a contract like that.

    But you know who does sign contracts like that? Soldiers. And they're a lot cheaper to hire.

    And so we circle back to where it's cheaper in all respect to get soldiers to peel potatoes / drive trucks / write programs than to hire it done.

    Not entirely in disagreement with you on this point, but the miltary has a vast array of bureaucrats and mid-level functionaries who never get shot at or wind up inside any kind of battlefield situation. THESE are the jobs which ought to be contracted out for the most part.

    My point - sorry I was not clear - is that these guys _can_ be put wherever the service needs. In 1944 - 45 the Army found they had lots of guys staring at the sky waiting for the mostly non-existant German airplanes. Five minutes after they realized this, most of those guys were re-assigned to the infantry.

    You don't get this flexibility with contract labor.

    As MarkM has pointed out above.