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Winning a war isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The promotions and contracts stop.



July 14, 2009 – Comments (14) | RELATED TICKERS: HAL , GS , LM

MY COMMENT:  IMO, Fred Reed is one of Americas leading philosophers. I have read every one of his blog posts, and all were worth reading.  He is a former Marine, who lost an eye in Vietnam, wrote for SoF, world traveler and was a DC police reporter. He has been there done that....

For those that think this is outside of stocks.  I might ask what stocks went up after Oil man Bush and Oil Service / Defense Service firm, Halliburton CEO were elected / appointed. One of the best ways to outperform the market is to watch what / follow those appointed to office.  

Is Military Service Honorable?
Sure, says Fred Reed, if the Wehrmacht is landing in North Carolina.

Last night Vi and I watched for the first time a documentary, shot by my friend Jim Coyne, on Joan Baez and the movement against a war no one any longer remembers, far away, on another planet. It was lovely filmwork. Jim is a genius. I may have to stop having friends. I feel inferior to all of them. It gets depressing.

Of no interest to anyone but me, perhaps, it completely changed my understanding of Baez, whom I had regarded for forty years as just another pretty voice. No. Smart, tough, principled in a world that isn’t. I hereby apologize.

In that war—I forget what planet it was on—the freaks and professors and mothers and the simply decent finally managed stop the carnage, though only after the Pentagon had killed 60,000 American kids and a million or so Vietnamese, not to mention devastating Laos and bringing Pol Pot to power. God I’m proud. We’re such a force for democracy.

When the GIs left Asia in ’73, the commie peaceniks thought they had won. And they had, for ten minutes. The grip of the military on the country loosened briefly.

Unfortunately the soldiers learned. Not how to win wars, which they do poorly if at all, but how to keep a war going. Winning a war isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The promotions and contracts stop. When you are paid to do something, it is in your interest not to finish doing it.

The Pentagon’s first lesson learned was to avoid conscription, as the conscripted and their families will take to the streets. By using an army of volunteer suckers about whom nobody of importance cares, the military severs its wars from most of the country, which loses interest. The brass are then free to do as they choose.

The second lesson learned was that while defeating the enemy is not necessary, and perhaps not desirable, controlling the press is everything. And they did it.

So forty or so years after all the love-ins, the marches, the righteous dope (all of which may seem silly, but in my view preferable to watching a Cambodian mother screaming over the opened bleeding guts of her child) the Pentagon is at it again. Once more the jets howl over remote primitive countries, countries that did nothing to the US and couldn’t have, and promotions flow, and contracts, and generals demand more troops and more money to stop communism. Excuse me, terrorism. Soon, the Chinese, a better threat, coming to a theater near you. With the passing of years, one demon fades into another. Switching enemies is much easier now, what with search-and-replace.

But it’s all about democracy and freedom and patriotism and Saving America from…from something. The hoopla changes little, and how well it works. Patriotic friends sometimes say to me of the military ardent things like, “When your country says go, you go!” I seldom point out that no one in their families is in the slightest danger of having to go, nor that “the country” is recruiting hard and they aren’t urging their children to enlist; nor do I ask, “What is your attitude toward having your daughter drafted onto the streets of Baghdad for five tours, perhaps coming back drooling and gurbling for life after having her brains scrambled by a roadside bomb?” Patriotism is important to patriots. They are full of it, and I’m about a quart low. I shut up. I don’t want to lose friends.

Yet…I think I must be a communist. It seems to me that when your country says “go,” you should ask, “Why?” Do you have a reason to kill whoever you are being sent to kill? Then go. Otherwise, don’t. If I told you to go to Ottawa and kill Canadians, you would think me mad, and think it correctly. Why then should you obediently kill them because a politician in Washington tells you to do it? I do not understand.

And of course “your country” doesn’t tell you anything at all. Countries are abstractions. Men tell you to go, and for their own purposes: Dick Cheney or George Bush, Nixon or Nitze, or the men who run the petroleum industry, or people in the Israeli lobby, or men in the military companies who want contracts, or officers who want to give war a try.

Why are these people “my country”? And why isn’t Joan Baez my country instead of David Petraeus? I will choose who is my country, thank you. Ledbelly, Benny Goodman, Carl Perkins and Miss Emily Anne will come before Lemay, McNamara, Lyndon Johnson, and Obama. Long before.

Soldiers talk much of honor. I do not understand how military service can possibly be thought honorable. If the Wehrmacht were landing in North Carolina, yes, but I do not believe that it is. Where is the honor in bombing from the air lightly armed peasants who can’t fight back? It is cowardly, yes, and obscene, but do not talk of honor. Murder for hire is murder for hire.

We now have men who sit at screens, drinking coffee and firing missiles from remote robotic aircraft at people on the ground whom they cannot identify. Brave men, they. I could burst into a kindergarten and kill the children with a ball bat. The one is as honorable as the other.

Recently I saw on television a black sergeant in Afghanistan, probably chosen by his commander for photogenicity, standing in front of a tank or mobile gun, I forget which. He said something scripted like “This is a such-and-such unit, the most powerful fighting force in the world.” This sort of ritual cockiness is carefully ingrained. Near my barracks in Parris Island was a sign, “The most dangerous thing in the world is a Marine rifleman.” If it had said “an ambitious colonel” it would have come closer to truth.

But one may wonder (unless one already knows) how good the Pentagon’s military really is. A pissed-off peasant with an RPG would seem on the evidence more effective than the pricey zoom-kapows arrayed against him.

The conclusion is here:

14 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 14, 2009 at 6:35 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Nice. When I was reading this I was laughing my arse off thinking about the reaction it would draw from the chicken hawks.  I think as a xmas present, I would like to see Sean Hannity read this entire article to his viewers in prime time.

David in Qatar

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#2) On July 14, 2009 at 6:42 AM, abitare (29.84) wrote:

FYI - I hate chicken hawks. This is not the place for them.

Here is a highlight in American history, Sean Hanity getting chased by freedom loving Ron Paul supporters


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#3) On July 14, 2009 at 6:48 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


Have you ever seen the Fox & Friends video where Jesse Ventura threatens to waterboard one of their chicken hawks?  I don't have the clip handy, but I'll search for it.  It's pretty classic.  The weasel walks off the set halfway through the interview.

David in Qatar

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#4) On July 14, 2009 at 8:14 AM, dudemonkey (53.61) wrote:

Excellent article.  Not at all what I was expecting, but that's what I've come to expect from you, abitare.

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#5) On July 14, 2009 at 8:56 AM, ralphmachio (< 20) wrote:

I completely agree.  Particularly liked the part comparing drone warfare to going into the kindergarden with the bat.  Once you sign up to take orders, you relinquish your right to question your own actions.  The decision to behave according to the whim of evil men has already been made!  

In my home, growing up, my whole family had political opinions.  Mine were the strongest, and my parents were unable to defend their moderate (go with the flow) views in the face of constant evidence to the contrary.  I truly feel bad for people who have grown up listening and never questioning.  Those are the types who are usually gung-ho, and looking for an excuse to go kill someone.  They're daddy said it was right.

"Learn to question your parents politics.  That's what got us to this point.", should be the point most clearly made.  

 Another aspect of all this is, maybe a certain percentage of society is inherently violent, and the military gives them a legal avenue from which to kill.  Better turn 'em loose somewhere else.  The 'protecting freedom' thing is incredibly thin, so I have a tough time believing anyone actually believes that.  

  So let me get this straight, your getting a job with the people who take our liberties away from us in order to preserve our liberties?   Is that how the 'military mind' works?   Is that your excuse to kill?   That is BONE stupid.  

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#6) On July 14, 2009 at 9:17 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.92) wrote:

Brilliant piece.  Thanks for sharing.

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#7) On July 14, 2009 at 12:43 PM, Schmacko (91.95) wrote:

"Those are the types who are usually gung-ho, and looking for an excuse to go kill someone."

"Another aspect of all this is, maybe a certain percentage of society is inherently violent, and the military gives them a legal avenue from which to kill. "

The US military is not populated with a bunch of blood thirsty hooligans looking to kill people for no reason.

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#8) On July 14, 2009 at 1:08 PM, Retired31B5M (28.86) wrote:

As a retired soldier (26 years and two wars) I find your article typical of the liberal thought from people who have no idea what the military is and who the people who serve in the military are.

Even more vile is the comment from ralphmachio.  He regards us to people who are 'inherrently violent.'

BTW - I never stopped questioning my own actions.  In every decision I made I knew full well that somebody would bear the consequences of that decision.  In fact one of the hardest times for me was after I was promoted to the point where I was required to order others to take risks that I could not share myself.  To myself, if I screwed up and got myself killed it would be brutally fair.  However, if I made a mistake and somebody else died as a result - that was totally unfair (even when I was working with imperfect information and had to make a guess as to what the 'correct' course of action was). 

I spent 26 years in a position where I was ready to and actually did risk my life on your behalf.

Was I wasting my time protecting people who are not worth it?

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#9) On July 14, 2009 at 1:29 PM, abitare (29.84) wrote:


Fred spent years in Nam as a Marine and as a Soldier of Fortune writer. Look it up and verify it. He has some knowledge on the subject, he speaks about. Your background?

I did not conclude the same generalization as you. Most people in the military, are just trying to draw a paycheck and do the right thing. Just like everyone else on the planet.

But there are plenty of guys in the military looking to fight and for some action. That is what they are trained for.

Get motivated and sign up!


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#10) On July 14, 2009 at 3:22 PM, Schmacko (91.95) wrote:


I was quoting ralph machio's reply and disputing his claims, not commenting on your actual post or drawing conclusions from it.  I probably should have changed the text or actually notated what I was quoting though. 

I was a reservist for 8 years, was activated before the war in Iraq officially started and deployed there for a year shortly after.  I still work in the defense military industrial complex... if you want to call it that.  I've met people from all branches of the service and still work with many current and prior service members.  So that's my military background.  It's apparently not as extensive as Retired31B5M's but I'm willing to bet it's more than most of the CAPS community's. 

As for the actual article- there's probably no point in really commenting on it.  You're mainly going to be preaching to the choir of people here who have similar view points and general anti-military/anti-goverment thinking.  Trying to argue against it would be a waste of my time since it's mostly opinion and catering to opinion.  I find part's of it slightly contradictory - like saying your daughter can be be drafted (no draft anymore) to baghdad where she stands a good chance of getting mangled by an IED and then later implying that soldiers fight their wars safely away from conflict and just conduct aerial bombardments (soldiers don't conduct aerial bombardments).  This tends to imply Iraqistan is both dangerous and safe at the same time for military personnel, and you can't really have it both ways.  It's relatively minor things though.  Again people reading your post are going to have preconcieved notions about the military, and the way it's used, that I don't think this article will really alter in any way.   

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#11) On July 14, 2009 at 5:59 PM, ralphmachio (< 20) wrote:

I expected to ruffle a few feathers there, and for anyone who has served that did so sincerely believing they were protecting me, or others like me, I must ask, what exactly did you think they were getting at when they asked you, "if ordered to do so, would you fire on American citizens?"


 in what context should the military be used against the people?  The constitution doesn't exactly smile upon the notion.  


The problem is, somewhere along the line, a great government for the people by the people turned into a people that exist for the sake of their government.  We don't.  

 The people I've spoken to, who's opinion and experience I base my opinion on are Navy SEALs.  One of them passed the test and couldn't stand the lack of concern for life, went on to become a Coast Guard hero who disobeyed orders and saved four people in a situation where he could have easily died.  The other is still a SEAL, who one day aspires to join Blackwater.  The stories of the SEALs who were there for a while are what really shed light on their true feelings.

I've spoken to several shells of men that have come back from Iraq, and I know that a large number of casualties in the last couple of months, save the latest offensive, were suicide related.

I am sorry for coming off as such an asshole.  Some people should not be f-ed with, they got heavy weight of their own.  Ralph is just a part of my personality that I use to get people thinking, not the entirety of my personality.  There were people in my family who I have great respect for the memory of who were involved in previous wars.  


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#12) On July 14, 2009 at 6:20 PM, ralphmachio (< 20) wrote:

Shmacko- the military is not a bunch of bloodthirsty hooligans-

When all you got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


Ret31b5m- I do respect the fact that you were concerned for the men in your command, but what about the women, children, innocent by-standers that had a life completely separate from any silly war games. They die at a rate of 20 to 1 compared to your men.  

Please, I beg, give me 1 acute instance where you protected me or my freedom.  The military did a real bang up job protecting America on the only occasion I can think of where we were 'attacked' on our own soil since pearl harbor. 

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#13) On July 15, 2009 at 3:57 PM, Retired31B5M (28.86) wrote:


I defended your freedom when I deployed to Los Angeles to put down the riots.  I defended your freedom when I deployed to New Orleans to coordinate rescue efforts.  However the biggest way I protected your freedoms was by making sure that you were never yourself in danger and you never had to ever face the real world.

And I am calling you out about your claim that we killed civilians at a rate of 20 to 1 compared to our own troops.  Every time a civilian was killed or injured in any incident that had any involvement with US troops whatsoever - there was a formal investigation of the incident.  Our ROE and (more importantly) our own values required that we place our own lives at risk rather than endanger a civilian.  (And I watched this happen on several occasions when US troops would literally use their own biodies as 'human shields' for Iraqi civilians.)

And just to let you know - I never regarded what I did in the military as a game. 

And even your 'hammer and nail' comment indicates that you have no clue as to how we won the war in Iraq (despite you).  You see - us professionals have studied war and how military/social/information/civil/economic/etc operations all interact.  While you were sitting at home watching the news on TV and failing to even notice that every 'live' news report was being filmed at the exact same location (an intersection in the 'Green Zone') I was talking to Iraqis; I was asking my friends to send me school supplies to give to the local school; I was stuck mediating the 'who owns that goat' dispute with Iraqi civilians; I was the person who was teaching a newly-elected town council how to do their jobs; and I was the person who was willing to risk my life in order to protect the Iraqi civilians who were my responsibility.

BTW - Ralph.  I suggest that you verfiy that those guys who claimed to be Seals actually were.  Thier stories may have fooled you - but I can smell BS.

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#14) On July 16, 2009 at 11:41 AM, abitare (29.84) wrote:


Good reply, thank you for it and your service

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