Flutterby™! : Veteran's Day

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Veteran's Day

2009-11-11 15:41:27.371995+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Seems like a good day to thank a veteran. Also seems like a good day to take a little effort to make sure that politically we stop using our military quite as much.

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 16:13:57.826017+00 by: ebradway

I'm a little torn right now over the position Bush43 left us in. Iraq seems to be settling into a quagmire again. It's pretty clear that we haven't really achieved anything worthwhile there. Seeing how there was no real justification to go in there in the first place, we should just pull out.

But Afghanistan is another issue entirely. We did have justification there. We did have early successes. But the redirection of our resources towards Iraq have allowed the place to fester. That festering has since spread to Pakistan - a nation with a nuclear arsenal and a great deal of animosity towards a significant trading partner to the east. What may end up being Bush's real legacy is a nuclear strike on India.

To make matters worse, we really don't have the resources to blow on these operations of marginal concern. We're dealing with an economic crisis in the States. Investing the war dollars in new technology seems to be a smarter approach.

So the question is: should we pull out of Iraq and re-double our in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) or should we just bring everyone home and get on with our lives?

P.S. I know this was a Veterans' Day post - I apologize for the politics. I will say that Bush's greatest crime against humanity didn't have to do with waterboarding or invading countries illegally. The worst thing he did was not provide for our troops returning from war. There should never, ever be any question about the quality of care being provided to our veterans. The fact that Walter Reed Hospital was so decrepit is indicative of the problem. You want to scare a kid out of enlisting? Don't bother with the gruesome war pictures. Show him where he gets sent if he manages to survive...

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 16:41:40.104594+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think I started with the politics, so it seems fine to continue it...

I don't often recommend video, and I think there's a lot about this particular one that's manipulative and could be more honest, but if you've got a spare 45 minutes, may I recommend War Made Easy? Even though it doesn't address Afghanistan directly, it makes a really really good case that the war there is "unwinnable".

There are all sorts of arguments to be made about conscripts and draftees and such like that, but one of the numbers it throws around is that in WWI, 10% of the casualties were civilian. In modern conflicts, that's closer to 90%.

In Afghanistan, we've tied our fortunes to a corrupt drug dealer who won't allow open elections. We've been killing the people whose favor we need to gain. We've treated it like a country when it isn't. I'm not convinced that we should just willy nilly pull out, but I'm pretty sure we need an entirely different look at how we deal with Afghanistan, and that probably starts with looking at how we deal with Pakistan.

And another disconnected thought, I recently heard an NPR squib where there was a meeting between some U.S. military commander and a local mullah, and the military commander was, through a translator, saying "no, really, we're on your side, we want to help keep you safe", and it sounded so disconnected from reality and utterly absurdly naive and condescending that I thought "no wonder we're not getting anywhere". If the guy says "all the men in my village are afraid of going outside because they'll get shot by U.S. forces", the proper response isn't "we're on your side", the proper response is "how can we communicate with them so that we know who's who and what's suspicious activity?"

It's not that commander's fault, he's been taught how to take an objective through military means. But somewhere up in the hierarchy, and that extends up through Congress and the Senate, we've been outfitting a military to play a role that isn't based on real needs.

Speaking of outfitting people to play roles that aren't based on real needs, I'm reading Shop Class as Soulcraft[Wiki], and boy is that bringing up some issues in conjunction with thoughts about Taylor-ian management styles, Demming, and John Gatto[Wiki]'s notes on the function of public schools... But that's a further digression and will get its own post.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 17:09:51.069366+00 by: ebradway

I'll have to add Soulcraft to my reading list...

At the International Semantic Web Conference last week I had an interesting conversation with a guy from Raytheon who specializes in ontologies and knowledge representation. He mentioned that Raytheon is actively pursuing the application of post-modern concepts to their "contractual efforts". He went on at length about the problem with West Point graduates from the 50s being in charge of the military when the basic model of warfare has changed drastically from what they were taught. He was mostly speaking about technology but the same applies to social intelligence. The situation you mention from NPR is exactly the problem the Raytheon guy was alluding to.

I think the first thing that needs to be re-evaluated is "what does it mean to 'win' a war?" We're dealing with the same issue state-side with the "war on drugs" and the "war on poverty". The paradigm of a winnable war has been stretched way beyond meaning. It just happens to be a paradigm that's well- understood by the generation that lived through WWII. I'm not an historian, but I bet WWII was an anomaly in the history of war. Both Japan and Germany were clearly beaten by the Allied Forces. Except for revolutions, I don't think wars are typically so clearly resolved. And with the current imbalance in force, any "war" the US enters would have arisen from forces that cannot be clearly defeated.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 17:49:49.660601+00 by: Dan Lyke

On "what does it mean to 'win' a war?", I'd note that WWI wasn't really "won": reducing the Germans to an agricultural society just laid the groundwork for WWII. And WWII wasn't won militarily, although the military action was a big portion of the process, it was won via the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japan.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 19:51:58.842221+00 by: ebradway

Well, if one looks at the state of our automobile industry, I'd say we lost via the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of Japan ;)

#Comment Re: made: 2009-11-11 21:53:20.29709+00 by: m

Our auto industry committed suicide the same way the buggywhip industry did. This was of course after laughing at the buggywhip industry for decades. Ford, GM, Chrysler, et al refused to meet the competition, and they would not change. Our auto industry had more than 50 years to change, but failed to meet the competition in reliability, comfort, mileage and eventually styling.