We pay the most, field the most in NATO, and that has added to our power…

May 31, 2017

My personal take on NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is that it is a convenient cover for projecting United States power, plain and simple.

It gave us an excuse to install our own military bases in places such as Germany, Spain, and Italy after World War II, allowing us to have forward staging areas in our face-off with our ally (from World War II) turned enemy, the old Soviet Union.

A side benefit was that the Western European democracies got an almost free ride being relieved of the cost of maintaining strong national defenses of their own. In turn they were able to rebuild from the rubble of WWII, with the added help of our monetary assistance through the Marshall Plan.

So why were we willing all this time to let them slide? And yes, the European nations did (do) supply their own troops and equipment and some monetary contribution, but way below that of what the U.S. did. The answer is obvious. Since we paid the biggest bill, we held the most power.

Having those European bases came in handy when we needed to respond to crises in the Middle East, as an example.

But now President Trump has chastised member nations for not paying enough dues and although finally indicating continued U.S. membership in NATO, has previously questioned its relevance in the post Soviet world (of course Russia is still expansionist, particularly in bordering East Europe).

All I am saying is that I always figured NATO was just a convenient method for the U.S. to project or maintain its power.

Even though I am not big on interventionism, I continue to believe it is in the best interests of the United States to maintain its power.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned her European neighbors that they can no longer depend upon the United States alone.

Right now the economic power house in Europe is Germany. Germany is no longer militaristic (over time that could change), but is does take part with us in our Middle Eastern conflicts.

President Trump has criticized Merkel and Germany.

I personally think we ought to stay on Germany’s good side.

And there is an argument for dropping out of NATO, but we ought to consider what we will lose in the form of the strategic staging of our military forces.

As far as pressing other members of NATO to pay their fair share, well that is fine, but it could be done more quietly.

And why are we complaining about being king of the hill?

Sadly, under Trump, the U.S. is losing its status all over the world at this time.

The emperor has no clothes and there is no real method to his madness.

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Why allow one soldier to wear a beard and a turban and not all?

December 15, 2015

I don’t get the logic behind allowing an exemption for a Sikh U.S. Army soldier to wear a beard and a turban while other soldiers are not allowed to wear beards and headgear other than the standard uniform.

This is not the first time such an exemption has been made and it is only on a trial basis.

But again, what is the logic? Out of uniform is out of uniform no matter what your religion. And why should someone with a religion get special treatment? What is the difference if I just want to grow a beard or if my so-called religion dictates I should. And who decides whether one is really following the dictates of a bona fide religion or just wants to have a beard?

When I was in the army there was talk, unofficial perhaps, of allowing black soldiers to wear mustaches, while at the time white soldiers were not allowed to (and as far as I know are not now in most cases). The idea was that it was part of their custom. As if white people never had face hair.

If wearing face hair is not good for looking like a soldier or if it interferes with the use of equipment or creates a safety hazard or all of the above then there should be no exceptions. And in the case of religious requirements, if one religion is given special treatment, what about the others?

And is not the government supposed to be neutral on religion and not favor one over the other?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no personal problem with the Sikh soldier wearing a beard and turban. I just don’t get the need for special treatment.

And why should religious customs have any bearing on military requirements? The military is not civilian life. There are required sacrifices.

I know the Navy at one time (or at various times?) allowed beards and not based on religion, at least not at the time that I recall during the Viet Nam War (or was it just after?) as a morale booster.

Uniformity and uniforms are important for a well-disciplined military and militaries certainly have to be well-disciplined to be effective.

I personally don’t think allowing exemptions is good for discipline or morale.

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For your reference, an article about the case in point:

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/14/3731722/active-duty-sikh-accommodation/


The world wonders if America has lost its nerve, or if the U.S. does not lead, who does?

May 6, 2014

We have not had a major terrorist attack on United States soil since 911.

That may be because the one thing our enemies, be they nation states or more indefinable terror groups, know is that the one thing that will provoke a deadly response from the United States is killing people on its home territory (I just robbed that thought from an article in The Economist).

And only being mildly sarcastic here, but our response might not be on the right subjects. My thought.

But I am reading that the world is wondering if anything else could make us fight after such an amazing backdown in Syria where our president declared that if that nation’s outlaw regime used chemical weapons we would respond and then even said indeed they did and we were (going to respond) but then could not get support from congress, even though he said he did not need it, and backed down. Yeah there is some kind of agreement to rid the nation of its poison gas weapons but the progress on that is unclear and the regime there continues to murder its own people.

Now I’m not sure that moving militarily on the Syrian regime would have been in the best interests of the U.S. or whether doing more to help the rebels would move the situation in our favor. I do feel, though, that it is not a good idea to draw a line in the sand and then step back and draw another one. Don’t make the assertion in the first place, lest you lose credibility and embolden foes around the world.

And speaking of emboldening foes — here we go again in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is ignoring threats to react by the U.S.

No one wants to go to war there, and the Europeans have economic interests that are at stake and don’t feel in any position to go to war, even as they fear the advance of Russia.

And then there is North Korea. That nation is run by a mad man, the son of a late mad man. And it has nuclear weapons capability and is hard at work developing a missile to reach the U.S. But all the U.S. does is threaten.

China is becoming a world power to rival the U.S. and has not had to fire a shot. It let the U.S. waste blood and treasure in Iraq and then grabbed oil supplies there. And I believe I have read it is eyeing mineral deposits in Afghanistan. It supports the Syrian regime. And now I read that Israel has struck some kind of military deals with China. Thanks a lot Israel, you who depend upon the U.S. for survival amidst neighbors who despise you.

Since World War II, the European democracies have lived under the shelter of the U.S. and have spent precious little on defense, as compared to the United States. The same goes for nations in Asia who are otherwise in our corner.

(To be fair, Japan has been constrained militarily by the U.S. since it lost World War II, and by its own internal law.)

Some of this is 20/20 hindsight, but I personally think the U.S. has been played for a sucker both by our friends who let us do most of the heavy lifting and by enemies who have forced our hand and made us weaken ourselves with costly but unfruitful wars in Southeast Asia and then in the Middle East. I mean on some of this, who knew?

(Giving credit where credit is due, other nations have helped us, and long ago in Vietnam South Korea was reported to be a big help, as was Australia.)

There has been some move in the U.S. back toward an almost pre-World War II-style isolationism.

I would almost like that, if it were not the fact that we have been the toughest kid on the block for so long that now we have to remain so for our own survival. A lot of folks out there rightly or wrongly (wrongly for the most part) want to take us down. We really can’t afford to be anything other than number one — but we are losing that position slowly or not so slowly, but surely.

What to do, what to do…

I don’t think cutting back on our military Obama style is the way to go. If anything I would build it up, although anything to make it more efficient is in order. We don’t need more fancy officers’ clubs and exotic weapons systems, although we do need state-of-the-art systems. What we need is a large, very large, well-trained (and well-paid) force, backed up by a continued Selective Service system, and maybe a mandatory draft for all young men (somehow many have developed the attitude that defending the nation is someone else’s job). While the role for women in the military has been greatly expanded, I personally am not ready for the idea of a draft for women.

Making military duty mandatory could serve as a check, using popular opinion in a democracy, against the nation getting into unnecessary wars.

And David Brooks of the New York Times said in a recent column that we need to have alliances around the world to help protect our interests.

I think we need alliances, such as NATO, but we must insist that member nations step up to the plate and do their share, otherwise we might just have to decide not to be there for them when they need it.

Now I am somewhat uncomfortable with military alliances if they ever put American troops under foreign command. I mean that cannot happen. Yes, it might seem unfair that we expect other nations to operate under our military command if there is an attack by hostile forces, but, hey, we’re the biggest kid on the block and have the most to lose. That’s just the way it is.

A big long article in The Economist (out of Great Britain) concluded thusly:

“Some will celebrate the decline of America’s ability to deter. But wherever they live, they may find that whatever replaces the old order is much worse. American power is not half as scary as its absence would be.”

I believe that is a true statement.

P.s.

I’m no war hawk. I think we have to choose our battles wisely (if there are to be any). I like the idea that we are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program and just hope our own intelligence (which seems to be lacking at times) can determine if we are being played for a fool.

As for North Korea, we really need to make a deal with China and rein it in. Even China is uneasy with that rogue regime.

(I’m not so sure but what a CIA hit is in order. But only if we can’t get the Chinese to do something.)

Sadly we are devoid of leadership in this nation.

In my lifetime there has been precious little leadership. I can’t really count Eisenhower because I was too young. JFK was a true leader but his time was cut short. Lyndon Johnson was on the domestic level with his civil rights bill and his war on poverty (which probably went astray or was eventually starved of funds in some instances), but that is about it. Okay, even though I did not care for Ronald Reagan’s politics, I will give him credit for leadership — he helped bring a speedier end to an already dying communist empire that forced so many under the yoke of oppressive regimes and stifled free will and human progress.

Even though it is late in the game, we still don’t know what the final outcome will be for the Obama presidency, but one fears that when it is all said and done it may turn out to have been more show than substance, more talk than action. He is a deliberate and careful man, and that can be good. But sometimes we just need strong leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Let’s cut the contractors before we cut military pay and benefits…

November 19, 2013

If you want a professional fighting force to protect you and to help the United States project its power around the world as the super power it is and must continue to be (for self-preservation) you have to pay for it. Of course you can’t just open up the checkbook and say pay and benefits are unlimited, but an effective all-volunteer military is a costly proposition and yet one we have tied ourselves to.

And so I read with surprise and some skepticism and dismay about plans to curb the future growth of military pay and benefits, and a projection that military families will suffer in the process.

It’s already a disgrace the way we treat soldiers who fight overseas, in some instances refusing to pay for all of their medical care because they may have been part of the National Guard or some such other bureaucratic reason.

And it is already an outrage that we pay them so little and private contractors so much.

And it is unconscionable that now that the defense department is faced with the demands of the sequester to trim its budget that the first thing it does is go after military pay. Certainly an analysis of pay and the growth of future pay outlays are in order, but how about looking for efficiencies in other ways, such as unneeded weapons programs, too many contractors, and too cozy relationships between government procurement officials and the private part of the military-industrial complex.

A decision was made toward the end of the Vietnam War to go to the all-volunteer professional force. No more would young people be forced to serve for dubious causes.

And an argument can be made that we are much better off with the all-professional force. It was dark days indeed during the Carter administration. We were coming off a not-so-long ago major defeat and a wound to the pride of the nation that was Vietnam (and I will add it was a loss due to politicians primarily, not those who fought). And then Iran took our embassy people hostage and we were militarily impotent to do anything. There was  a failed rescue mission. Now one can say that in such an instance there is not much you can do militarily without getting all the hostages killed. Maybe, though, we should have consulted the Israelis. They have been successful in similar circumstances.

While I personally am dubious about our efforts over this past decade in the Middle East I am impressed with what I have seen in documentaries about the caliber of our fighting force. It is not perfect and all of its members are not perfect, but then the bad apples get all the publicity.

The only way we can get by with less might be to have a smaller professional cadre and then depend upon mandatory service of all young people between certain age groups for a limited time, such as three or four-year hitches. But that type of system probably works better in smaller and more homogeneous societies.

Not everyone in the military serves in direct combat. But all have that as their basic duty. No matter what your classification, as part of the military you are a fighting person first, even if your job might be more of a support mission. But we have a large fighting force. And how are we going to continue to recruit and maintain such a force if we do not keep the pay and benefits up? In fact, we probably should be figuring out how we can raise them.

Gone are the days when you just needed brawn and physical fighting ability. Today we need people who are willing and able to put their lives at risk but who are intelligent enough to understand and work with modern technology and who are intelligent enough to understand the more complicated missions we have today in military actions that are so much more complex than the ones of the past. We want people who will do the right thing, not people who will simply get overseas somewhere and go berserk without regard to who is friend or foe, and people who will project the correct image.

It’s a tall order.

We have to pay the piper.

P.s.

The military is not only a force for war, it is a humanitarian force (witness the Philippine situation) that could be used much more effectively both abroad and at home (Katrina).

P.s. P.s.

One general said in justifying holding the line on pay and benefits that we cannot pay people enough for what we ask them to do. That is hard to argue with, but it sounds like a cop-out to me.