Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Answering a reader and coming out of the closet

In a recent post titled Jihad Ain't What It Used To Be a reader left a comment taking issue with a statement by Clark Stooksbury that I quoted,

"Once you get past aircraft carriers, B-52 bombers and Cruise Missiles, our power is rather ordinary and we have racked up numerous failures to prove it."

The reader, commenting as anonymous, left this,

"Stooksbury is either joking or ignorant. The limiting factor on our power for the last 50 years has been political, not military. A lot has changed since you wore a uniform."

I asked him to be more specific and he was kind enough to answer,

"I'll see what I can do. No, I don't think putting Iraq in same class as Carthage is the answer; it's awfully tempting when considering the "Sunni Triangle" but isn't the answer. That is a broad topic beyond the scope of a comment system, so I'll return to my point.

My first issue with Stooksbury's statement is that it's rather farcical. You might as well say, "Apart from his singing career, Sinatra wasn't much of an entertainer." True, but intellectually dishonest. But even excepting the "big sticks" I don't see a strong case for his statement. Is our Army and Marine Corps second-rate? That’s laughable. That muddle of rejects and dopeheads reformed itself quite thoroughly after 1973 and has plenty of successes to show for it.

By way of demonstrating that I occasionally have moments of insight, I'll consider other ways of looking at the statement. Perhaps he meant, "because we are unwilling to sink to the sort of slaughter which our enemies respect" or a similar statement regarding asymmetric warfare. This is true overall, but is a matter of intentions, not capability.

There are other possibilities. Perhaps we're not very good at interfering with the affairs of other nations. I present recent events in Somalia in answer to this point, where the Ethiopians are having a ball. Would that more of our wars were fought in that matter.

But I think his point is that our power-projection is hampered by lack of political will. This returns to the matter of capabilities and intentions, and perhaps there I can find some common ground with the man. Our leadership has failed to engage the national will, but we've also shown that we're inclined to "cut and run" in the way Bin Laden thought we were.

Lastly, when I referred previously to political limits I had Korea and Vietnam in mind. An old campaigner like yourself is no doubt familiar with those cans of worms. For the record I consider Korea less than a failure and ‘Nam a mistake best laid at LBJ’s feet. But they’re not Iraq.”

To say the least, I disagree. I shall take issue first with the term Political Will.

Anonymous states, “But I think his point is that our power-projection is hampered by lack of political will.” I think I read Mr. Stooksbury enough to believe he does not mean that, but I shall address it anyway.

It is bad taste, of course, to quote myself, but I think my feelings on the idea of “Political Will” are recyclable,

"During a rare moment of lucidity while pretending to be a college student, I remember a professor talking about Helmuth von Moltke. This Prussian general had come to the United States to observe the American Civil War. The lecturer mentioned how von Moltke had observed the railroads in America and went home to invest and make a killing in German trains. Von Moltke also had another observation. He contradicted any idea that the spread of democracy would lead to a more peaceful world. Rather, democracy would lead to mass armies as the whole nation needed to be involved in the war effort and the people propagandized for the national crusade."

Thus the elite (or wannabe elite, the neocons) will progagandize the country to get their way. Of course, the people, not proselytized would never say, “Hey, we gotta show them Persians not to screw with us.”

I take issue with the idea that it is only political will we lack and our military is up to the benefial hegemony thing. If that were so, we would be cutting the length of deployments instead of stretching them to fifteen months.

The last part to address is this,

“I present recent events in Somalia in answer to this point, where the Ethiopians are having a ball. Would that more of our wars were fought in that matter.”

I have read that the Ethiops are buying arms from North Korea with our blessing. As Ethiopia is not known for its treasury, I expect that we are in some roundabout way, paying for said arms. We are a country with a bizzare foreign policy.

Whatever regular readers I have probably understand that I am not a fan of current US foreign policy. It is time for me to come out of the closet. No I’m not gay. Well, I like to think I am happy enough to consider myself gay, but you know what I mean, and I digress.

My disagreement with our foreign policy is near absolute. The Wilsonian experiment is a disaster. I am not however an isolationist. I dislike the term as it is more an epithet than a description. I consider myself a neutralist.

I thus invite readers to look at my other blog, The Neutralist. I have been cross posting articles that touch on foreign policy over there as well.

4 comments:

Black Sea said...

In large part, our military (and policy) failures stem from two sources.

Number one: The American people really don't possess the necessary zeal for full-scale imperialism. Yes, yes, we're willing to turn a blind eye to our leaders interventions abroad (so long as we or our children don't have to paqrticipate directly), but we're made a bit queasy by such activities, and we'd rather not know the details of what's actually involved. Ours isn't the sort of poulation that will, with enthusiasm, engage in sustained imperial adventures. We're perfectly comfortable with idea of Walmart spreading globally, but that's capitalsim, not military conquest. Resistance groups say that, with enough time and bloodshed, we'll leave; and they're right. We soon wonder what the point is, we don't have long attention spans anyway, and since we soon forget our own blunders, we assume everyone else will as well.

Number two: Our leaders insist on using military force for purposes which military force cannot achieve, i.e. altering the politcal and social structures of other peoples. Military forces can kill people; they can depose foreign governments, as was demonstrated with great speed in Iraq. They cannot persuade people to accept a political system which is inimical, or simply foreign, to their interests. This folly is compounded by the fact of America's alleged fondness for representative government. We then recoil, more in confusion than in horror, at what representation in other parts of the world produces.

We've no reason to believe that Muqtada Al Sadr (sp?) isn't a genuinely popular politcal figure with a widespread base of support. His miltias my be actively involved in kidnapping, torture, and extortion, but who is to say that this tarnishes his domestic image.

In short, we keep trying to use a chainsaw to conduct brain surgery. It's not going to work.

TheMasterTimekeeper said...

What a pleasant surprise! I had expected you to respond in the comments section, rather than make a post, so I'm happy to have provided you with some posting-fodder.
Naturally I take issue with your observations. First, I discriminate between Wilsonian foreign policy and Jacksonian policy. My understanding of the matter is that Wilsonian policy prefers treaties, agreements, rule of law, honor among gentlemen, and the associated spiderweb of agreements and soft power. Jacksonian is the more isolationist, but also more military variety and in my opinion it is the Jacksonian tradition which has dominated US policy since December of 1941. I suppose this is really just hair splitting, so I'll move on to my second quibble.

I still don't grant that our non-neutralist policies abroad have been a complete failure by any common yardstick. By a neutralist one? Certainly. Perhaps you'd like to outline what your ideal postwar world would look like. If not, I'm willing to let it rest at that, and I still enjoy your posts whether I agree or not.

tvoh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tvoh said...

Thank you for your kind and non-sycophantic comment.

"My understanding of the matter is that Wilsonian policy prefers treaties, agreements, rule of law, honor among gentlemen, and the associated spiderweb of agreements and soft power."

1. Wilson and those who came after him may have preferred that, but they sure shipped out a lot of troops to back it up with actual mayhem or occupation.

2. For it to really work, everyone has to be a gentleman.

"I still don't grant that our non-neutralist policies abroad have been a complete failure by any common yardstick."

For now, I am happy to settle for the admission of imcomplete failure as made by implication:).

As for complete failure by any yardstick, wait.