The Other McCain

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Open Letter To Mike Church, aka @TheKingDude On The Military

Posted on | February 20, 2014 | 32 Comments

by Smitty

Dear Mike Church,

I enjoyed your remarks earlier this week on the U.S. military. I’m a retired Navy Reservist, and find your ideas in keeping with the main strain of historical American thought, at least up to the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. While Teddy Roosevelt’s early 20th-century Great White Fleet is an exception, the U.S. pretty much never maintained substantial standing forces between wars, until WWII. I’d like to offer some feedback from someone who drank the Kool-Aid, and is coming down off of it.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Uncle Joe and the Godless Soviet Commies WERE a no-kidding existential threat. Some might look at academia today and contend they remain such. I grew up a Navy brat in the days of Reagan’s 600-ship Navy buildup, and enlisted at the end of his second term. We knew who the enemy was, in those simpler times. I fall short of agreeing with you that America is an “empire” in any historical sense of overtly raping the natural resources of conquered territory. However, there has been a Pax Americana since WWII. For example, the Japanese don’t like the Koreans, don’t like the Chinese, and thus they buy our debt, to keep the gaijin around for police purposes. And everyone wants oil tankers to transit the Straits of Hormuz.

This is the economic principle of Division of Labor. The U.S. has provided the world reserve currency, and guaranteed world security, especially since the U.S.S.R went kerblooey (how much credit you want to give Reagan is up to you). And we’ve had a good run. However, as I’m sure you’re painfully aware, transferring information from one generation to the next is a tricky beast: modern America remembers a fraction of the history needed to understand and carry forward any of our traditions. Thanks to Al Gore’s internet (if not his global warming) we’re starting to get some traction on buffing up the kids to protect the future.

As the Economist Herbert Stein noted, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” I submit that, a century on this Progressive course, we’re shuddering to a halt. Paul Ryan’s budget punctured the sacred cow of military retirements. It’ll be on to the butcher shop in subsequent years, if I don’t miss my guess.

Now, I’m deeply grateful for the privilege to have supported and defended the Constitution of the United States. It was a reasonable tradeoff. Join the Navy, see the world. Got paid; got some edumacation. I’ll be due a retirement in 15 years or so. But I’m blessed moral, mental, and physical health. The actual veterans needing protecting are those less fortunate, who gave more, leaving parts of their bodies and souls on foreign soil. I’ll take whatever retirement money is legally due, but only a fool would rely on this foolish Congress to behave any less foolishly than the Continental Congress did when George Washington was freezing his extremities off in Valley Forge. Politics is a “what have you done for me lately; please be specific” endeavor, and heroism on the part of wounded veterans won’t alter that. If my retirement is worth a cuppa down at the coffee shop when it arrives, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Having said all this, I have two challenges for your erudition, sir, domestic and international:
Domestically, where do we locate the leadership that can confess to citizens that this Progressive train is done?
We all need to admit that these entitlement mirages were exactly that, take our haircuts, protect the hairless, and chart a more sustainable capitalistic course (call the Progressive policies ‘unsustainable’: they love that). I don’t hat Paul Ryan for broaching the thought of trimming military retirements as such. We were all volunteers, notionally or literally willing to give life and limb for this country, and yet stand by for military lobbies to turn it up to 11 to protect a few scraps of inflated currency. No, I’ll rip Paul Ryan for having lousy motives. The idea of getting thrown overboard to buoy the sinking ship of Entitlements is what steams me. My retirement is on the table, but only in the context of blowing away that river of lies called ObamaCare and telling me how were going to offer future generations liberty instead of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, &c.

Internationally, and let me take a swipe at you, Mike: if not the Pax Americana, then what? While we can agree that “Team America: World Police” has played itself out, the sticky wicket is arguing an alternative. The United Nations? People don’t scale up. The League of Nations flopped outright. The U.N., I contend, is slightly better than no U.N. But talk radio hasn’t really offered a whole lot of constructive criticism or alternatives. My suggestion is to take the slightly less glaring failure that is NATO and work to replicate that more regionally elsewhere. But it’s a bit of a challenge in all the billowing smoke clouding places like Venezuela, Ukraine, and Thailand right now.

At any rate, that’s my rant. Thanks for doing the Lord’s work, Mike.

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Comments

  • RS

    . . . [I]f not the Pax Americana, then what? While we can agree that “Team America: World Police” has played itself out, the sticky wicket is arguing an alternative.

    That is the question. I think only Ronald Reagan (and perhaps Maggie Thatcher) actually believed we could and would win the Cold War. Thus, no one was prepared for what happened when the Iron Curtain disintegrated. As P.J. O’Rourke put it, the first Bush Administration acted as if the fall of the Berlin Wall was some sort of new European dance craze. Since then, we’ve tried to take a foreign policy geared to protecting our way of life from an existential threat and refashion it to some sort of evangelical democracy. The problem is, such evangelism doesn’t work unless one of two things are true:

    1) The intended converts want to be converted; or

    2) We’re prepared to hang around for decades to prevent “backsliding.”

    As we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, item 1 is dubious at best while Americans are not keen on item 2. See, also any of the countries where we’ve spent treasure and lives since 1989.

    The older I get, the more inclined I am to take a 19th Century approach to foreigners who vex us and/or our friends. Max Boot described it as “butcher and bolt.” Positive reinforcement has been a mixed success to be charitable. I would suggest that it’s not been successful at all. It seems that revamping our foreign policy to be more punitive would have better results long term. Of course, that would require an acknowledgment that the international community as a whole (and I include the new NATO) is completely impotent to deal with the issues which face the world today.

    Excellent rant, BTW.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    I concur. The only viable form of ‘policing’ other countries (as hsitorically proven) is not Empire but rather isolationism and when needed, butcher and bolt. When a foreign nation becomes such a nuisence as to require military action, conscript the needed man power and attack ruthlessly, applying superior firepower to utterly destroy that nations ability to further wage war or engage in military adventurism against us. Then leave. Do not engage in rebuilding or in nation-building. That is not our concern. Our only extra-national or foreign policy activities are properly involving trade. How another nation acts or it’s form of government is not our affair.

  • RS

    Of course, people say, “We cannot disengage from the international community!” Such a question presupposes that an unwillingness to spend money “nation building” equates with disengagement. I think that a Nixonian-Kissinger Real Politik focused solely on what’s good for us, is the way to go. And assuming our leadership consists of men and women with principles, the world will be better off, as well.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    :) Thanks for the acknowledgement of my policies!

  • Quartermaster

    Butcher and bolt is the policy I advocated in 2003. We would have been better off to stay out of Iraq, I think, but go into the ‘Stan, make a desert and call it peace.

  • Quartermaster

    I didn’t care for Kissinger’s treaty ending the Vietnam war. It actually betrayed South Vietnam by allowing the NVA to remain in place. That’s the equivalent of signing a treaty with Hitler in 1944 allowing the Wehrmacht to remain in Paris.

  • Mm

    I’m guessing that Smitty wrote this? If so, authorship is not showing up.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    I believe you are comparing apples to oranges. WWII and Vietnam are not a correlation. In WWII there was a national will to destroy Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo that simply did not exist in Vietnam. Vietnam is the marked beginning of our political malaise and ennui regarding military actions. As I stated above: “When a foreign nation becomes such a nuisance as to require military action, conscript the needed man power and attack ruthlessly, applying superior firepower to utterly destroy that nation’s ability to further wage war or engage in military adventurism against us. Then leave. That is the tactic we used in WWII to the extent of actual military actions. The part we haven’t performed is the leaving part (much to our chagrin and negative impact on our national debt and political standing in the world).

  • rustypaladin

    Actually, after WWII we used the Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe. Of course this was not out of altuism but out of the knowledge that if we did not the Soviets would. Same with Japan. That being said, both of those countries were sufficiently sophisticated as to be able to recognize corruption. The countries we have been fighting in, recently, culturally do not understand that nepotism and graft hold back prosperity. Colonazation similar to the British in India is the only cure for this and the USA does not have the will to do that. We have historically sucked at being Imperial.

  • RS

    I was never convinced that “Son of Iraq” was necessary or advisable. I would have preferred that Bush The Elder had done the job correctly in 1991. I also had/have the same thoughts as you with regard to Afghanistan.

    The problem is, any long term “nation building” project–which anything in the Middle East is bound to be, given that those countries are philosophically stuck in the 7th Century–necessitates a strong will across several executive administrations to do the job correctly. That is very difficult to achieve, as we have seen.

  • Gospace

    Bush the Elder could not have gone on to Baghdad and toppled Hussein without getting impeached, with the Republican establishment joining with Dems and media in demanding his head. The UN resolutions and congressional resolutions called for the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Once that was done- there was no legal justification for Bush the Elder to move further. He was hamstrung by legalities.

    Which, by the way, only apply to Republican presidents. As seen by Clinton and our current SCOAMF, Democrat presidents are free to perjure, lie to the American people deliberately, and make up laws and ignore written law as they please.

  • Quartermaster

    Yeppers! The Admiral is the author.

  • Quartermaster

    The analogy does apply, alas. It applies precisely because we did not use overwhelming force against the North as we should have. You can’t allow the enemy to leave forces in place without getting what we got in Vietnam.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    I agree with you. Precisely because we did not use overwhelming force in Vietnam as we did in WWII makes them apples to oranges. Different in the lack of will or to be more precise, lack of political will (ennui) prevented the use of overwhelming force. We won in WWII because of that will, we ‘negotiated’ an end to Vietnam because of the cited ennui and antipathy of the American people regarding military action.
    My cited comment above gives the policy as it should be, the debacle of Vietnam shows why it must be followed for success to occur.

  • RS

    Your point regarding Bush I is well-taken and emphasizes the folly of “Wilsonian” foreign policy which subordinates our interests so some nebulous international consensus. It’s true we could not have deposed Hussein in 1991; the choices were not good given our deference to international opinion.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    Yep. That’s why my policy, in full not piecemeal, will work. It also will result in more respect for America, less cost to our nation and a shrinking of the standing army to a central training cadre and an active, similar sized as Reagan had, Navy.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Is this in response to anything Church wrote? It would help to understand the points to which Smitty responds.

    As far as being the World’s Policeman, nobody ever wants that, until they wish we were.

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  • Kirby McCain

    Actually, we had the war in hand after the Tet offensive but were betrayed by Walter Cronkite and his communist sympathizer buddies in the media. These are the same communist sympathizers who have colluded with our enemies to addict our population to the societal poison these entitlements are. We must take back our schools and discredit the media liars until this dangerous ideology has been wiped from the consciousness of man.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    On the money Kirby …

  • http://www.frombearcreek.com/wordpress Animal

    First, full disclosure: I’m an old Cold War guy myself, U.S. Army/Army Reserves, a little over 12 years all combined, 1st Gulf War vet. Also the son of a WW2 vet and grandson of a WW1 vet. So, while it’s been a while since I wore Uncle Sam’s colors, I do have a nodding acquaintance with these matters.

    I like the main part of this proposal; when a foreign power takes some action that requires us to intervene militarily, we should land on them like a thousand of brick, then depart and leave a smoldering ruin behind. That’s what we should have done in Afghanistan and Iraq – the message being “this is what happens when you fuck with us.” We should scare the living shit out of everybody on the other side from the moment the first private steps off the first airplane. When the Blackhawk Down incident happened in Somalia, for example: I’m of the opinion that the proper U.S. NCA response would have been to give one order: “I want that town leveled and every living thing killed.”

    “Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant,” eh?

    Now, with that said: I can’t agree with the tiny standing army/conscript the needed manpower part. We can probably do with a fairly small standing army now, but the U.S. military is a rapier, not a club; the high-tech weapons systems we use requires too much training to rapidly scale up conscript soldiers, many (if not most) of whom don’t want to be there and will therefore be poorly motivated.

    A small, professional military, highly trained and lavishly equipped – that’s the ticket. High-tech is a great force multiplier; we’ve seen that time and again.

    One thing I would change in the Defense Department (aside from going back to calling it the War Department – that is, after all, their purpose) is to put more of the force structure decisions back in the hands of the people with notches cut in their gun grips. Thin out the tail, build up and sharpen the teeth. Our armed forces should be lean, mean and smart.

    Summary: I agree with your goals, just not completely with how we get there.

  • http://theothermccain.com smitty

    Thanks for the prompt. Forgot that this morning.

  • http://theothermccain.com smitty

    It is in response to remarks on Monday or Tuesday on his show.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    We have a great amount of agreement. I also agree that our technology is as a rapier, and will get even more finely ground to a rapier’s point as we move forward. This technology requires fewer personnel to operate and maintain, thus a smaller force because the technology becomes an even freater force multiplier. I believe that the Air Force (disclosure: I am an honorably discharged veteran of the USAF) should merge back into the Army. There would be great financial savings in that move. The Navy, as intended by our founders, rightly should be our largest service, projecting power forward. I dislike conscript troops, especially in the methodology used post Korean War. My ideal is a National Service corps al a Switzerland wherein all serve a training tour of 2 years after graduation from High School (for those that drop out, GED instruction then 2 years of training … mandatory!). No one exempt except for the profoundly physically handicapped. Weed out the mentally ill and enforce respect. BTW, that’s 2 years of honorable training service. Get thrown in the brig for 30 for mouthing off to your instructor (after being released from the hospital that is), serve the lost honorable time (including hospital stay) at the back end …
    These are those who would be called to be the Goliath when boots on the ground are called for (after a refresher at the hands of the professional cadre).
    We are not far apart in our thinking I would guess …

  • http://www.frombearcreek.com/wordpress Animal

    Not so far apart at all – and our end goal, I’m sure, is the same.

  • DaveO

    “World Policeman” was a planned role. As our economy globalized, America took on the protective role under the concept of capitalism = liberty = American security. Whenever an economic partner was threatened, America jumped all over the competition. The American quality of life went up in proportion to our involvement as World Policeman.
    Many Americans became very rich by America being the Policeman. Even our poorest citizens are richer, and live better, than their peers across the globe. That role as World Policeman should be relinquished now, because our poorest and politicians have combined to create rotten boroughs paid for by the wealth of America; and, Obama and his team are too incompetent in the realm of foreign policy and international trade and laws to make America a credible policeman.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    Precisely. Love of Country demands we wrack our brains for solutions and be willing to sacrifice to make them work.
    Thank you Animal for your oath and the willingness to honor it.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Thanks! I wonder how findable that is. Hmmmm.

  • Quartermaster

    I think folding what used to Tactical Air Command back into the Army makes a ton of sense. The Bomber Generals of WW2, however, wanted even the old TACs to go and that left the Army bereft and having to beg the USAF for close air support and because the Bomber Generals reigned supreme, the Army often went begging. It happened in Vietnam as well.
    I’d take the Tactical Transports and the majority of what is TacAir now from the AF, and fold it into Army Aviation and changed the name back the AAF and leave what amounts to SAC, ADC and the Strategic transports in a separate Strategic AF. You’ll still save a ton of money and leave the Bomber Generals Fief alone so they can play the games they want to play and let the rest actually do their job without having to beg AF to support them.
    AF actually had the gall to steal the C-27 project from the Army, then steal all the air craft and give them to the Air National Guard while the Army has had to try to keep the Sherpas going since the AF stole the replacement.
    I’d also give the Navy (which includes the Marines) a squadron of C-17s and two squadrons of C-130Js. They’ve had to go hat in hand to the AF time and again for their needs and the AF often does not come through for them either.

  • Quartermaster

    There were a number of people that stood up and sad that Cronkite had committed treason, and he had. The insane left, as usual, also stood up and defended the traitor and the accusation went nowhere.
    Problem is, Cronkite did commit treason and made every death to that point of no use. We had the commies on the ropes and if we had increased the pressure could have won.
    But then the traitors in Congress, Mansfield, Kennedy, McGovern, et.al., chimed in got blood on their hands.

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    Exactly right. In WWII, the Generals ran the war, not FDR and crony’s from the WH (Theybtried but not to the extent LBJ and Senators and Congress-critters did in Vietnam). FDR was CinC and did map out a general plan but execution and battle plans was the purview of the Generals, professional soldiers the majority of them (in 1936 he was a LtCol serving as an aide and advisor to Doug MacArthur in the Phillipines. That was 21 years after graduating 61st in his class at West Point in 1915. He jumped from 0-5 in 1936 to 0-10 {5 Star General of the Army} in 8 years, an unthinkable achievement in the peacetime Army between the wars where Captains with 25 years service where not uncommon).

  • http://deadrepublicanparty.wordpress.com/ rmnixondeceased

    Many of the things you cite are what needs to be done. The actual nuts and bolts will take some time to figure out. I think the Bomber Generals have faded to nothingness, replaced by the Drone Generals …