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.