Here is an amazing thing about History: For all of recorded history, generals had to win wars. Wild! It didn’t matter if you were fighting for a “good guy” (Chirchill, Caesar) or a “bad guy” – Stalin, Ghenghis Khan. . . if you lost the war, or even if you catastrophically fucked up a battle, you were ASS OUT. Monarchists, fascists, communists, no-ideology-havin’-ass banana-republic dictators all agree on one thing: generals should know how to win.
Fast-forward to America, after WWII. The sole remaining superpower after Russia said “fuck it.” The biggest military in the world, no other super-powers in sight, yet, check our track record:
Grenada: won, but what the fuck. Even getting in a fight with grenada makes us seem weak. It’s like if Jay-Z had to answer-rap every Youtube rapper who dissed him.
Panama: That wasn’t even a war – that was just us setting the Guiness World record for “Largest-scale Drug Deal Gone Wrong.”
Iraq: we actually won that one in the ‘90s, but inexplicably decided on a do-over, (When was the last time that the WINNER demanded a do-over?!? ) Which we proceeded to lose. I mean, if China is getting the oil, we lost, right?
So, to sum up: despite the huge increase in our arms spending, we haven’t unambiguously won a single major war since WWII.
And yet: HOW MANY GENERALS HAVE BEEN FIRED? Sure, if you stick your penis into a reporter, your ass is grass, but FIRED FOR FAILING TO WIN? That’s way too uptight, man. Mellow out!
Not only are we failing to fire generals, we are making more generals! The generals-to-privates ratio today is FIVE TIMES what it was at the end of WWII.
And our pentagon budget has never been bigger.
So, the amazing thing about History: for the first time in ever, we are REWARDING GENERALS FOR FAILURE.
It gets weirder!
The major lesson we seemed to have learned from Vietnam and Korea was not “here is how to win” or even “here is how to not get your ass kicked by people so poor their shoes are made of cut-up car tires”, the major lesson seems to be: HERE IS HOW TO STRUCTURE THE MISSION SO THAT NO ONE INCLUDING THE GENERALS HAS ANY IDEA OF WHAT WINNING OR LOSING MIGHT EVEN LOOK LIKE.
All of our recent, post 9/11 wars have been more and more vague:
Iraq, as I mentioned before, was pretty clearly a loss from Saddam’s perspective. But – unlike our occupations of West Germany and Japan – we left the country in much worse shape, they fucking hate us, and we were so desperate to get out of there that we had Iran pre-approve our puppet leader, just to make sure he’d last more than a week. But was that a failure? Hard to say, but only because THE ARMY NEVER HAD ANY ENDING POINT TO THE MISSION IN THE FIRST PLACE. Because they are dumb? No, because they are SMART: if you don’t have a goal, no one can say you failed!
Afghanistan is like that but worse – it’s not so much that we’re failing, as it is we have no idea what success IS. Ask a dozen civilian or military leaders and receive a dozen different answers! The people sending our kids off to fight are whimsically throwing out random endgames as if they were Willy Wonka: defeating the Taliban? re-making Afghanistan as a democratic country with a new political system? re-making Afghanistan’s culture into some secular, feminist, non-violent, revenge-hating, gay-porn-Disneyland-and-macdonald’s-loving utopia? Killing the bad guys, plus enough innocent civilians to generate an equal amount of new bad guys, forever? Take your pick! The only real common point of these non-answers is: IT DOESN’T MATTER.
And of course the war on Terror is the most vague of all : a world-wide, on-purpose-endless, struggle against a fucking IDEA. A battle where Americans are targets, where even the tactics and weapons are secret.
Now maybe you’re saying “The army doesn’t decide what the goals of a war is, you stupid hippy! The civilian leaders do! Learn basic facts before you start having an opinion!”
Yes, civilians ARE to blame – but not the ones you’re thinking of.
Here’s where I blow your mind: These unprecedented trends (rewarding failure, endless-and-unwinnable-missions) . . .are not IN SPITE OF us having the biggest military in the world, they’re BECAUSE OF that very thing.
I’m talking about the fuckin’ Military-Industrial Complex! How do you THINK we got the biggest army? It’s because we have the biggest, richest, most influential arms-manufacturing companies on the planet : The arms manufacturers, who have generals, senators, and cabinet secretaries all begging for their contributions/ post-retirement lobbying jobs.
Our soldiers definitely want to win (or at least survive), and the enemy definitely wants to win (or at least get us to leave). . . the only fucking people involved in the whole war who can afford to have a “MEH” attitude are . . . the arms manufacturers!
Because they make money whether we’re winning OR losing: if we’re winning, that means that their weapons are The Best, so everyone in the world will want to buy more of those weapons. If we’re losing, that means that Our Boys Are In Trouble, so the army had better order more munitions to help ‘em out!
I think the recent trend in no-end-in-sight vague-ass missions is directly related to the growth of the defense industry’s lobbying power. The defense companies don’t just make the bombs and shit, they are influencing whether and HOW we go to war: the more vague the mission, the longer we can drag it out, the more money we spend.
Ever since Eisenhower gave his famous speech, people have been aware that arms merchants push us to start wars, but for the first time it’s to the point where they push us to on-purpose STALEMATES, where they push for nebulous missions where there is no winning OR losing, just endless fighting! In a perfect war economy, we create exactly one terrorist for each one we kill, resulting in a steady and predictable quarterly earnings report for the share-holders.
Thought experiment: imagine a country in a life-or-death fight for survival. You’d expect them to really punish generals that consistently lose battles, or fight to a draw. But imagine a country run by arms merchants, and you’d expect them to have a much more laid-back, “Meh?” attitude towards military competence. Which scenario better describes modern-day America?
And it’s no coincidence that these new-school, funny-style wars (all 3 of them) had their open-ended, never-ending, and world-record-in-history-setting-ly vague strategies developed by Rumsfeld and Cheney, who both profited from the international arms business prior to working in government. (and after, too, in Cheney’s case)
Rumsfeld never worked in the arms industry but – as secretary of defense, he held enough stock In arms companies that it was a scandal and he had to sell the stock. Also he was chairman of a think-tank called “Rand Corporation”, which according to Wikipedia was founded by Douglas Aircraft, (later becoming Maconnell Douglas), a major major huge defense contractor. So there’s that.
And of course Cheney. The guy who continued to get fucking “deferred compensation” from arms manufacturers even while in office. The guy whose fucking WIFE sold warplanes and bombers (while criticizing rappers for violent lyrics). She also had to quit her arms-dealing when he became VP (to avoid conflict of interest). But luckily, she had ANOTHER job offer in 2002 – being on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, which *surprise!* pushed hard for the Iraq war, which made a shit-ton of money for her former employers. So! Having a JOB at Locheed while your husband decides whether or not to go to war: conflict! Having a job at a THINK TANK which is chock full of OTHER retired defense contractors, where you cheerlead for war, while your husband decides whether or not to go to war: NOT conflict of interest. No corruption at all! And THAT’S why we never went to war in Iraq. Because that would have been a disaster!
Also it’s no coincidence that we get no-end-in-sight wars soon after we lost the Russian threat: I know I’m not the first to say the Russian threat was exaggerated in order to boost profits – I’m saying that the Cold War was profitable in exactly the same WAY that the War on Terror is: it had NO exit strategy, and a HUGE amount of “Just in case” spending, . . . a reliable year-in-year-out source of income. (“Just in case” spending would be like, Star Wars SDI, or all those nukes . . .or in today’s case, all the what-if-terrorists-bomb-a-small-town-in-Nebraska Homeland Security spending. As opposed to, say, old-style wars like WWII or Korea. There was no “just in case” – those were full-on fucking wars , we were struggling just to keep up with demand for materiel).
I’m not going to suggest that there was some Illuminati-style secret meeting with tented fingers and hisses of, “Exxxxxxxcellent!”
I’m just saying that arms manufacturers can INFLUENCE the way we fight wars even if they don’t do it ON PURPOSE. Check it out: a) everyone involved in planning strategy and exit strategies for conflicts – the army generals and civilian leaders – are beholden to these companies, b) this leads to a lot of excess spending, as the corporations use their political/military influence to bribe generals/legislators and c) because of excess military spending, America has the LUXURY of getting in random wars-of-choice for decades on end. That was never an OPTION before, for ANY country.
Picture the civilian leaders giving generals such open-ended vague missions 50 years ago! That would not have even occurred to anybody! because back then it was still like, “if you don’t have an unambiguous victory, your ass is grass.” Even back when we were being imperialists in Latin America, we still demanded clear-cut missions ,and success at those missions. “Overthrow that democratically-elected Presidente so Coca-Cola and United Bananas Inc. can stay in business!” “Yes sir President sir!”
But nowadays, punishing failure is bad for business because it a) requires a clearly-defined strategy with clear goals, and b) if a general wants to succeed, he will want to get the war over as soon as possible, meaning less spending on war materiel.
So, how fucking weird is that? Not just corrupt or violent, but totally history-defying.