Top billing goes to a very tough post by Pundita:
Through it all — throughout all the deceptions, denials, evasions, rationalizations and insultingly useless advice given over the years by Americans in civilian government, the military and academia — there is one question relating to U.S. tolerance for Pakistan’s proxy war against NATO and Afghanistan that towers above all others. And yet it’s the one question that has never been asked of a public figure. So in the title of this post I’ve put the question to the public.
I’d say the answer to the question is “Very unlikely.”
By this I don’t mean to shift blame to Americans at large, nor am I arguing to restore conscription. I’m simply pointing out that if service in the U.S. military was compulsory, there would have been such a large number of Americans personally involved in the outcome of the Afghan War that there would have been no ‘dark’ or ‘lost’ years in the war while the U.S. was fighting in Iraq.
Combine this with the instant era in global communications, and I think the outcome would have been that factions in Washington that managed for the better part of a decade to hide Pakistan’s proxy war from the American public would have found their machinations quickly overwhelmed by the volume of complaints from conscripted Americans and their parents — many of those parents veterans of the Vietnam War, I might add.
This would have forced the U.S. news media to dig deeper and faster into the conditions that kept Pakistanis pouring across the Afghan-Pakistan border to kill Afghans and Americans and troops from other NATO countries. This would have quickly destroyed the rationalizations voiced by factions in Washington and Brussels that wanted to hand off Afghanistan to Pakistan’s junta, or which preferred to see American troops die as a tradeoff for what they term “geostrategic” reasons; e.g., keeping Russia off balance, placating Saudi Arabia, etc.
Again, I’m not arguing for conscription but I am asking whether it’s possible for the United States to field an all-volunteer fighting force that’s not treated as a mercenary army. The question needs to be answered. Unless you want to subscribe to the thesis I floated several weeks ago, which is that card-carrying fiends attached themselves to the U.S.-NATO prosecution of the Afghan War. By the way, my thesis does carry some weight. Let’s face it: even history’s most sadistic tyrants wouldn’t have paid a military to murder and maim the tyrant’s own troops. Even Vlad the Impaler wouldn’t have thought of that one. ….
Militaries come in several forms, historically speaking. There are military castes like the Samurai, Spartans or the Janissaries; there are armies of citizen volunteers as with ancient Athens, ancient Rome or Washington’s Continental Army; there are armies built by conscription and finally there are professional mercenaries. Each kind of military has a different relationship with the political community from which it emerged and when a political community changes it’s form of military, this signals a change in the political community.
The Roman legions annihilated at Cannae by Hannibal were of a different character than the Roman legions lost by Emperor Valens under the hooves of Gothic heavy cavalry at Adrianople ( note which set of Romans had the systemic capability to recover and win). Richard Nixon is the father of our AVF and he initiated the transformation at the time for shrewd, self-interested, political reasons. One of those reasons was that a republican (small “r”) military composed of conscripts representing the broad population of American citizens was a politically difficult army to employ ruthlessly for reasons of state compared to a military with the ethos of professional soldiers.
Herein lies the root of the much remarked distance between the American public and the small fraction who are soldiers, sailors airmen and marines fighting wars on our behalf.
Milpub (seydlitz89) – The Death of COIN, or the Death of Strategic (“C”) Thought?
….First, tactics has become the sole focus for the simple fact that the government has been loath to define what the actual political purposes/policy goals of the wars conducted were/are. This was particularly true for Iraq. The military was essentially given a list of propaganda themes (WMDs, overthrow a terrible dictator, inflict punishment for 9/11, ensure our security) and told that they were the political goals, when in reality the actual goals were the overthrow of the Iraqi government and the establishment of a US client state, bases for US force projection throughout the area, domination of Iraq’s national resources and economy. That US economic interests/corporate players botched the last two goals should come as no surprise. They were too busy chasing the no-risk war $$$ .
….Second and very much related to this was/is the assumption by US policy makers that force and violence were/are the preferred means of attaining their strategic (political) goals, and with the level of force and violence the US was/is able to wield, there was/is no question of failure. I include the present tense here to indicate that this dubious assumption is still very strong in spite of the obvious reality to the contrary. It is in fact driving our current policy in regards to Iran…..
Lexington Green –Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011
The Cold War didn’t have to end the way it did. The Communists could have won. Or it could have ended with a lot of big explosions. Instead it ended when a lot of people who had lived under Communist lies, oppression, stupidity, waste, pollution, hypocrisy, squalor and corruption stood up, risked getting their heads kicked in by the cops, and pushed the whole stinking pile of junk onto the ash heap of history.
Vaclav Havel was one of the guys who did the pushing.
A Velvet Revolution, where as few people get killed as possible, is a great achievement.
Havel is one of the guys who made that happen.
1989 and the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe already seems like something from ancient history to many people.
To me it seems like last week.
An entire disgraceful and brutal episode in our past is being sanitized and tossed down the memory hole.
Please do not forget the Soviet Union, do not forget the Cold War, do not forget Communism, do not forget the people who suffered under it, do not forget the people who opposed it, do not forget the people who wanted to give in to it, and who lied about it, do not forget the people who brought it all to an end.
Vaclav Havel, rest in peace.
Ribbonfarm– How the World Works: Part II
….Let’s tackle World 3.0 next.
Ghemawat’s book is a tour de force of quantitative synthesis. Let’s start with an annotated version of the 2×2 that anchors World 3.0 (cleverly rotated by 45 degrees; I don’t know why other 2×2 inventors don’t do this).
This 2×2 is almost the only major piece of conceptual scaffolding in a book that is otherwise an empiricist’s delight. Everything is argued with numbers, and what cannot be argued with numbers is mostly not argued at all. It makes for a book with a lot of narrative potholes wherever the data gods to not smile, but where there is data, the book is extremely solid. It’s a refreshing change for me to read something that stays away from data-free speculation.