April 09, 2009
Déjà Vu?

Two blogs that I find myself regularly reading these days are Scott Horton’s No Comment blog at Harper’s Magazine and James Fallows’ blog at the The Atlantic, direct from China.

Fallows primarily covers many interesting aspects of the ups and downs of living in China (as well as timely comments on aviation technology, computer technology and home and business computer productivity programs). He, along with a New York Times contributor, have also published what looks to be an invaluable series of DVDs for those who speak English seeking to do business in China as well as for others who have an interest in world business. He has also published some some books some of our readers might find interesting that are listed on the sidebar on his blog.

Fallows also regularly delves into a variety of domestic American matters and quoted Robert Gates a couple of days ago:

It is important to remember that every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk — or, in effect, to “run up the score” in a capability where the United States is already dominant — is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable. That is a risk I will not take.

Gates’ comment reminded me so much of Eisenhower’s farewell address that I think it bears repeating here and so I’ve posted a Youtube recording of it below. Eisenhower’s famous speech is still relevant today, perhaps more than ever and goes much farther in its implications than Gates’ limited comment (although it was an easy farewell speech for Eisenhower at the time since he was on the way out; the fact that it can be said that he paid scant attention to his own beliefs during his eight years in office should be taken into account when judging the man).

Some Eisenhower biographies, however, indicate if someone like George Bush or Richard Nixon had been in office during those years, General LeMay and some others may have had their way in starting more unnecessary wars which would have involved the use of nuclear weapons. According to those biographies, Eisenhower prevented several wars.

If Gates can live up to the words in the quote from Fallows’ piece, we might see significant reductions in military spending if we remove our troops from where they are not welcome. My fear is that we may be doing much more harm to ourselves than any benefit our current military adventures may bring, particularly in Afghanistan. President Obama must learn to seriously discount the advice of the leadership of much of the military establishment.

After all, these are the same people were also involved in the decision to go into the Big Quicksand of Iraq. (Pardon my changing the name from The Big Muddy to The Big Quicksand — when I think of Iraq I don’t think of Mud except in a rhetorical sense). Many of these leaders are just grownup boys who like military toys. That kind of leadership is not acceptable in this economy or under this administration.

However Gates’ comment makes sense unless he just wants to shift the same amount of money to Afghanistan, refit the army to the same level prior to the Iraq war trashing so much equipment, and without making the military cuts that are needed if we are to reduce our bloated military and intelligence budgets so as to put the nation on a more sane military path. I am unsure what he means by “take care of our people.” Let's hope he is talking about all Americans and not just those in the military. We simply must find a way to reduce military spending. The Big Russian Bear, assuming it ever existed, is gone and there exists no reason to have a military budget as large as it was during those years.

Putting pressure on doctors to misdiagnose wounded warriors and thereby reduce benefits to soldiers suffering from PTSD is probably the most inhumane method of reducing the military budget imaginable. Let’s hope Gates will stop this practice, either voluntarily or by pressure from the public or the current Administration.

We must keep in mind that Eisenhower’s farewell speech didn’t do much good. Only a few years later we were mired in the Deep Muddy of Vietnam. I know I’m not the only one critical of Obama’s pursuits in Afghanistan. That he is getting involved deeper there makes me wonder if he’s just using the adventure for political cover in case we have another major terrorist attack by actors from other nations. If that is true, I see this “insurance policy” as creating the conditions for ensuring that we do.


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Posted by Buck Batard at April 09, 2009 07:54 AM
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Putting pressure on doctors to misdiagnose wounded warrirors and thereby reduce benefits to soldiers suffering from PTSD is probably the most inhumane method of reducing the military budget imaginable. Let’s hope Gates will stop this practice, either voluntarily or by pressure from the public or the current Administration.

This has been SOP since the Vietnam war at least.

The VA is under (tacit) instructions to minimize any possible injury which might have long-term implications for treatment and care. There'll be the same treatment Traumatic Brain Injury, too: gay-ron-fuukin-TEED, chers...

Posted by: Woody on April 9, 2009 12:37 PM

"makes me wonder if he’s just using the adventure for political cover"

isn't that how johnson first began in vietnam? it's my understanding that he first sent troops there to thwart republican campaign attacks that as a democrat he was "soft on defense."

i don't think obama is as foolish as johnson seems to have been but he is still prey, as you point out, to setting policy based not on reality but on something else.

that human beings have survived this long is something of a miracle.

Posted by: karen marie on April 9, 2009 7:40 PM

Thanks for a sane, thought provoking post. Newspapers can't understand why they are losing readership when it's clear that articles such as this out on the web boast superior writing
and content. Sez me, anyway.

Posted by: beth on April 15, 2009 2:54 PM
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