The Pentagon Is a Mean, Lean, Triumphant, Fighting Machine. It’s Just Not Fighting the War You Think It Is

The Pentagon Is a Mean, Lean, Triumphant, Fighting Machine. It’s Just Not Fighting the War You Think It Is by Fred Reed via Anti-Empire

Its real war — the one it really cares about and is winning handily — is on the homefront

Those who try to understand military policy often confuse themselves by focusing on minor matters such as strategy, tactics, logistics, and armament. Here they err. For years the central goal of the military, the brass ring, has been independence from control by civilians. It has been achieved.

In time of war, the first concern of the command is to limit the flow of information to their publics. The actions of the enemy are an important but secondary consideration. Thus militaries strive to prevent the dissemination of photos of mutilated soldiers or, as in Washington today, of governmentally tortured prisoners. In the United States, which characteristically fights wars unrelated to the safety of the country, the Pentagon must also keep soldiers from being told that they are being sacrifice for the benefit of arms manufacturers and imperialist ambitions. In wars before Vietnam, this was adroitly effected. You could go to jail for criticizing a war.

In Vietnam, something new happened. The press covered the war freely.Reporters went where they pleased, beyond the control of the military. Their publications ran the results. National magazines printed horrific photographs of what was really happening.

Truth tells. The coverage was one of the two factors that forced Washington to quit the war. The other was the passionate unwillingness of young men to be forced to fight a war in which they had no interest. The war, a source of meaning for Washington’s thunderous hawks and fern-bar Napoleons, was getting them killed.

The military of Vietnam wasn’t very good at fighting, and neither is the military of today. GIs in Asia would assault a hill, usually of no importance, and, after three days, with the aid of helicopters, helo gunships, napalm, artillery, and fighter-bombers, would capture it. This would be called a triumph. The astute observed that if the Americans had to fight on equal terms, without overwhelming material superiority, they would last perhaps ten minutes. This is now a recognized pattern. Note that numerically superior and hugely armed American forces have been outfought for years by lightly armed Afghan goat herds. Since neither the wars nor the soldiers in them are of much importance, this doesn’t matter.

The Pentagon learned a lot from Vietnam: It learned that its greatest enemies are the press and the American public. The burning question became how to keep the goddam public from interfering in wars which were none of its business and, particularly in the award of large contracts.

The problem was solved in two major ways. The first was to end the draft and go to the All Volunteer Army. The command realized that if they conscripted kids from Yale and the University of Virginia to come back in body bags, the prospective conscriptees, their girlfriends, and their families would take to the streets. This would threaten the smooth flow of funds. If volunteer kids from Tennessee died, no one would care.

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