Atlantic article "The tragedy of the American Military"

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by bruno, Dec 29, 2014.

  1. bruno

    bruno 5-Year Member Retired Staff Member

    Feb 2, 2008
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    James Fallows has written a thoughtful article that should be read and discussed. I don't necessarily ascribe to all of it, though I do believe that there is a significant disconnect between the American population, the Governing class and the US Military that leads to unrealistic expectations of the military when it is committed. Far too often we have people who hugely over estimate the effectiveness of our technologies, underestimate the length of time to execute a mission, and hugely underestimate the cost in terms of casualties that a war- even a war against vastly overmatched opponent- will inevitably lead to. I can think of no better example of this type of thinking than Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (and Tommy Franks), who stunningly believed that unleashing "Shock and Awe" was in fact the same as having a deep and thoughtful long term strategy for what we would do, how we would accomplish it and what were the ramifications if things did not go optimally in Iraq. We have confused the tools used to prosecute a war with strategic thought. And the American population has little skin in the game- and the higher the income level- the less they have vested in it. The Soldiers and Marines who fight our wars are by and large not upper middle class college students- the War Memorial in McAllen Texas (South Texas in the Rio Grande Valley) is far, far larger than the one in Cambridge Mass.

    This should be a thoughtful read and discussion- let's try and keep it free of the cheap campaign slogans and mud slinging.
  2. cb7893

    cb7893 5-Year Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    We have confused the tools used to prosecute a war with strategic thought. x 1000.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 5-Year Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    Wow, that was long. Admittedly, I had to skim at the end.

    I think we live in a 9-1-1 America (not 9/11). We expect, when there's a fire or a car accident or a cat in a tree, that when we dial 9-1-1, there will be a response (because there is a response). And because we know there will be a response, we're even willing to time it. "Come on... that took 10 minutes!"

    We, (baby boomers, Gen. X and Millenials), are conditioned to assume that that support will always be there. And when it's not... it scares us.

    Katrina... despite being warned days in advance, people stayed. Why? Because 1. We've seen this before and 2. someone will always be there to help us out. But then the response wasn't initially there. The police left. FEMA's role was largely misunderstood. That 10 minute 9-1-1 response was gone.

    We think of everything this way. I miss a train, another one is coming. My internet goes offline, Comcast will fix it.

    The world does not work in 9-1-1 format. We're spoiled (I like it.... but I know we are). Mom and Pop go out on a boat.... drift 100 miles off then another 100 miles, don't tell anyone, take on water.... they're probably going to die. They don't realize it. They've use to that 10 minute response.... they're use to being bailed out for their poor decisions.... until no bail out comes.

    The military is no different. We assume the military will be there to bail us out. We assume G.I. Joe and Transformers and every other futuristic military movie is real. We assume CSI and NCIS are real..... that there's always DNA evidence. We assume the good guys win.

    They don't. Not always.

    No one really complehends DOD's budget. You get get your arms around the real cost of an F-35 or F-22 or B-2. The budget process in the federal government is too far removed. The gears move too quickly... and to slow them down brings the government to a grinding hault.

    You don't like how much we spend on the F-22? Screw you! What are you going to do about it? Elect a single Congressman... a Freshman Congressman who needs to get something done to justify his time in Washington to you and your community. You think he gets that done by beating heads? "Stop spending that...." to the folks who are having all of that funding supporting industry in their district or state? Fat chance. So they go, and they compromise. The big ideals you sent them to D.C. to uphold.... well, they have to be sacrificed, in little bits, to get things done. And the big change you were waiting for.... if it comes at all, it comes in little bits. And you.... the general working public, have no time to monitor those little bits....

    Is the military's position any different? If you don't know about the local base... tough. It's closed to you... for security reasons. Don't like F-18s flying over your house? Tough.... it's the "sound of freedom" (hint: the sound of freedom is NEVER military jets over U.S. soil). The military is too BIG to be "loved" by the general population. So you love the individuals. You thank a relative or a buddy.

    What did the generations in WWI and WWII have that we don't? The understanding that the United States is not the automatic top dog. They lived through economic collapses, suprise military attacks, drafts, poor leadership, the A-Bomb and all the scariness that came with it.

    And after WWII, they returned to a country that was largely untouched. Europe was in ashes. Asia was beaten. And there was the U.S..... universities standing, chocolate, women, electricity, roads, etc.

    The United States led because everyone else was crippled. And the U.S. sprinted ahead.

    Today we fear the U.S. is losing it's position. Well, that's going to happen. It's bound to happen. Other countries, other markets, immitate the U.S. They learn what we've done right and what we've done wrong and they close the gap.

    And while we ignore all of this, we assume 9-1-1 will be there... no matter how untrue that may be.
  4. Wilco

    Wilco Member

    Nov 24, 2014
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    Fallows on Military

    I have read much of James Fallows writings, he knows his history and his positions are well thought out. That does not equate that I agree with all he says or has said. He raises the issue that has been around since Vietnam, the growing disconnect between the general public and the men and women who serve. My family can be considered upper middle class, Catholic, 4 children. I was in the Corps but in our oldest son’s senior high school class of 150 students there are but a handful of parents who served. Growing up I was coached and taught by WWII, Korean, and Vietnam Veterans. My children not so much. Last night two of our son’s friends who graduated this year stopped in to see him. One is in Air Force, other the Corps, they are 2 out of 3 that went into service: none in the academies or ROTC. With those kind of low numbers it is too easy (and disingenuous) for people to say “I support the troops but not the mission.” But when a someone does not have any personal stake or interest in the “mission” then there is nothing to involve truly involve them, or put pressure on their elected leaders to not foolishly waste our most precious gifts-its children, the country’s future.

    We keep pushing our military defense and obligations upon a very small percentage of our citizens, our professional military. The extreme view of that policy is akin to ancient Rome where eventually they relied upon professional military from outside their own country-which lead to even less concern by the citizens about the extended military missions. Summary is I am not sure cutting our troop strength is the way to keep us strong, increase our military readiness, develop sold strategic plans, and develop stronger connection between the general public and the military. Seems to be over reliance on technology. Oldest is trying hard to gain AROTC. He has (in my biased opinion) all the attributes to be a good officer, yet with the current cutbacks and future cuts, he is on the bubble. The increased focus on STEM means focus more cuts to the liberal arts Colleges and majors, which cuts out another section of the populace. CULP was incredibly attractive to him, but that is being trimmed and cut. Again, not sure isolating ourselves even more from foreign interaction is the best idea. Without a scholarship his chances of eventually going AD are even slimmer-plus may lose chance to attend host college.

    The bases and forts provide not just jobs to local population, they give them that connection to the service. They know personally the troops who protect and serve. I have seen that firsthand as we had a major SAC air base decommissioned years ago, and the recruitment of local young men and women plummeted and is still low. Most on this forum are current or former military so you are as they say “preaching to the choir.” But the dialogue is helpful, thanks for starting it.

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