Civilian Control of the Military is Over, Welcome to Civilian Subjugation

Yves here. This is an extremely important post. It eviscerates the performance of the armed services, not just in terms of evading oversight and accountability to citizens, but in terms of operational competence.

By Gregory D. Foster, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., a West Point graduate, and a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Originally published at TomDispatch Item: Two U.S. Navy patrol boats, with 10 sailors aboard, “stray” into Iranian territorial waters, and are apprehended and held by Iranian revolutionary guards, precipitating a 24-hour international incident involving negotiations at the highest levels of government to secure their release. The Pentagon offers conflicting reports on why this happened: navigational error, mechanical breakdown, fuel depletion — but not intelligence-gathering, intentional provocation, or hormonally induced hot-dogging.

Item: The Pentagon, according to a Reuters exposé, has been consciously and systematically engaged in thwarting White House efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and release cleared detainees. Pentagon officials have repeatedly refused to provide basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take those detainees and have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guantanamo to assess them. Ninety-one of the 779 detainees held there over the years remain, 34 of whom have been cleared for release.

Item: The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank, thereby ensuring that he receives full, four-star retirement pay, after previously being sentenced on misdemeanor charges to two years’ probation and a $100,000 fine for illegally passing highly classified material (a criminal offense) to his mistress (adultery, ordinarily punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and lying to FBI officials (a criminal offense). Meanwhile, Private Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning continues to serve a 35-year prison sentence, having been reduced to the Army’s lowest rank and given a dishonorable discharge for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks that included incriminating on-board videos of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed up to 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounded two children, and of a 2009 massacre in Afghanistan in which a B-1 bomber killed as many as 147 civilians, reportedly including some 93 children.

What do these episodes have in common? In their own way, they’re all symptomatic of an enduring crisis in civil-military relations that afflicts the United States.

Hyperbolic though it may sound, it is a crisis, though not like the Flint water crisis, or the international refugee crisis, or the ISIS crisis, or the Zika crisis.  It’s more like the climate crisis, or a lymphoma or termite infestation that destroys from within, unrecognized and unattended.  And yes, it’s an enduring crisis, a state of affairs that has been with us, unbeknownst to the public and barely acknowledged by purported experts on the subject of civil-military relations, for the past two decades or more.

The essence of the situation begins, but doesn’t end, with civilian control of the military, where direction, oversight, and final decision-making authority reside with duly elected and appointed civil officials. That’s a minimalist precondition for democracy. A more ideal version of the relationship would be civilian supremacy, where there is civically engaged public oversight of strategically competent legislative oversight of strategically competent executive oversight of a willingly accountable, self-policing military.

What we have today, instead, is the polar opposite: not civilian supremacy over, nor even civilian control of the military, but what could be characterized as civilian subjugation to the military, where civilian officials are largely militarily illiterate, more militaristic than the military itself, advocates for — rather than overseers of — the institution, and running scared politically (lest they be labeled weak on defense and security).

That, then, is our lot today. Civilian authorities are almost unequivocally deferential to established military preferences, practices, and ways of thinking.  The military itself, as the three “items” above suggest, sets its own standards, makes and produces its own news, and appropriates policy and policymaking for its own ends, whatever civilian leadership may think or want. It is a demonstrably massive, self-propelled institution increasingly central to American life, and what it says and wants and does matters in striking ways. We would do well to consider the many faces of civil-military relations today, especially in light of the role the military has arrogated to itself.

A Crisis Appears and Disappears

University of North Carolina historian Richard Kohn raised the specter of a civil-military crisis in a 1994 National Interest article titled “Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations.” He focused on the ill-disguised disdain of many in uniform for Commander-in-Chief Bill Clinton, highlighting the particularly politicized behavior of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell, who had spoken out in opposition to two prime items on the Clinton agenda: intervention in the Balkans and gays in the military. Typical of how the bounds of propriety had been crossed, Kohn also alluded to the example of the Air Force major general who, at a military gathering, contemptuously characterized the president as “gay-loving,” “pot-smoking,” “draft-dodging,” and “womanizing.”

Too alarmist for many pundits, Kohn’s claim of a growing crisis gave way to the milder thought, advocated most forcefully by journalist Tom Ricks, that there was simply an increasing cultural, experiential, and ideological “gap” between the military and society, a thesis that itself then went dormant when George W. Bush entered office.

Those who profess expertise on civil-military relations have tended to focus almost exclusively on civilian control and the associated issue of the military’s political “neutrality.” That’s why so much attention and controversy were generated over President Obama’s highly publicized firing of General Stanley McChrystal for the climate he created that led to the disparagement of senior Obama officials by his subordinates (as reported in the 2010 Rolling Stone article “The Runaway General”). Yet far bigger and more fundamental matters have gone largely unnoticed.

Civil-military relations are built on a tacit but binding social contract of mutual rights, obligations, and expectations among the military, its civilian overseers (executive and legislative), and society. Four things are expected of the military as part of this compact: operational competence, sound advice, political neutrality, and social responsibility. Operational competence and social responsibility are rarely even part of the discussion and yet they go to the heart of the crisis that exists, pointing both to the outsized presence of the military in American life and statecraft, and to a disturbingly pervasive pattern of misconduct over time among those in uniform.

The Failure of Operational Competence

If we enjoyed a truly healthy state of civil-military relations, it would be characterized by a strategically — not just a militarily — effective force. By implication, such a military would be capable of successfully accomplishing whatever it is called upon to do. The military we have today is, arguably, ineffective not only militarily but demonstrably strategically as well. It doesn’t prevent wars; it doesn’t win wars; and it certainly doesn’t secure and preserve the peace.

No, the military doesn’t prevent wars. At any given time over the past quarter century, on average roughly 40 violent conflicts a year have been underway around the world. The U.S. military has had virtually no discernible influence on lessening the outbreak of such conflicts. It isn’t even clear that its size, configuration, and positioning, no less the staggering sums invested in it, have had any appreciable deterrent effect on the warring propensities of our so-called peer competitors (Russia and China). That they have not sought war with us is due far less to simplistic Washington assumptions about deterrence than to factors we don’t even grasp.

And no, the military doesn’t win wars anymore. It hasn’t won one of note in 70 years. The dirty wars in the shadows it now regularly fights are intrinsically unwinnable, especially given our preferred American Way of War: killing people and breaking things as lethally, destructively, and overwhelmingly as possible. It’s an approach — a state of mind — still largely geared to a different type of conflict from an era now long since past and to those classic generals who are always preparing for the last war. That’s why today’s principal adversaries have been so uniformly effective in employing asymmetric methods as a form of strategic jujitsu to turn our presumed strengths into crippling weaknesses.

Instead of a strategically effective military, what we have is quite the opposite: heavy, disproportionately destructive, indiscriminately lethal, single-mindedly combat-oriented, technology-dominant, exorbitantly expensive, unsustainably consumptive, and increasingly alienated from the rest of society. Just as important, wherever it goes, it provokes and antagonizes where it should reassure and thereby invariably fathers the mirror image of itself in others.

Not surprisingly, the military today doesn’t secure and preserve peace, a concept no longer evident in Washington’s store of know-how. Those in uniform and in positions of civilian authority who employ the military subscribe almost universally and uncritically to the inherently illogical maxim that if you want peace, you had best prepare for war. The result is that the force being prepared (even engorged) feeds and nurtures pervasive militarism — the primacy of, preference for, and deference to military solutions in the conduct of statecraft. Where it should provide security, it instead produces only self-defeating insecurity. 

Consider just five key areas where military preferences override civilian ones and accentuate all manner of insecurity in the process.

Rapacious defense spending: The U.S. military budget exceeds that of the next 10 countries combined, as well as of the gross domestic products of all but 20 countries. At 54% of federal discretionary spending, it surpasses all other discretionary accounts combined, including government, education, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, housing, international affairs, energy and the environment, transportation, and agriculture. Thanks to the calculations of the National Priorities Project, we know that the total cost of American war since 2001 — $1.6 trillion — would have gotten us 19.5 million Head Start slots for 10 years or paid for 2.2 million elementary school teachers for a decade. A mere 1% of the defense budget for one year — just over $5 billion — would pay for 152,000 four-year university scholarships or 6,342 police officers for 10 years. What we spend on nuclear weapons alone each year — $19.3 billion — would cover a decade of low-income healthcare for 825,000 children or 549,000 adults.

Promiscuous arms sales: The United States remains by far the world’s leading proliferator of conventional arms, accounting for some 50% of all global sales and 48% of all sales to the developing world. During the 2011-2014 period alone, U.S. weapons deliveries included a wide array of advanced weapons technologies: 104 tanks and self-propelled guns, 230 artillery pieces, 419 armored personnel vehicles, 48 supersonic aircraft and 58 other aircraft, 835 surface-to-air missiles, and 144 anti-ship missiles, much of that to the volatile Middle East. Skeptics would say that such transactions are motivated less by an urge to enable recipient countries to defend themselves than by the desire to buy influence abroad while aiding and abetting arms manufacturers at home. The result of such massive sales is, of course, the creation of yet more instability where stability should be.

Garrisoning the planet: The military maintains up to 800 bases in more than 70 countries and stations more than 200,000 active-duty personnel in some 150 countries. This global presence represents the geostrategic equivalent of Parkinson’s law: operational and social entanglements expanding exponentially to fill the space created by these far-flung outposts.

The nuclear black hole: The military remains the permanent keeper and executor of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal: an estimated 4,700 nuclear warheads on some 800 delivery systems, as well as another 2,340 “retired” but still intact and presumably usable warheads. A three-decade, trillion-dollar upgrade of this already monstrous arsenal is now underway. The Economist has called this Washington’s “unkicked addiction.” It should be clear, but apparently isn’t, that these are weapons of disuse. Other than for destroying the planet if used, their only value is as a measure of muscularity against mirror-image peers. They deter nothing at other levels of muscle-flexing but do feed an insatiable thirst for emulation among jealous non-possessors of such weaponry.

Spurning the rule of law: Though the U.S. regularly espouses and pretends to practice the rule of law, administration after administration has chosen to forswear important international agreements for parochial, largely military reasons. Among those not even signed are the 1969 Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, the 2002 Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. Among those Washington has signed but not ratified are the 1977 Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions, the 1994 Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Add to this list the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, ratified in 1972, from which the U.S. withdrew in 2002. Then there are agreements to which the U.S. is a party, but which we nonetheless choose to ignore or circumvent, wholly or in part. These include the 1928 Kellogg-Briand General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy; the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Article VI of which states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”); and the United Nations Convention against Torture and selected provisions of the Geneva Conventions. (We don’t do prisoners of war; we do “unlawful enemy combatants.” We don’t do torture; we do “enhanced interrogation.” And of course we don’t engage in other illegalities, like “extraordinary rendition” or targeted killing or the use of black sites where hostile parties can be disappeared.)

Militarizing America’s World — At Home and Abroad

Added to the foregoing excesses are many examples of what we might call organizational hypertrophy. Institutions like the military are, by nature, self-selecting, self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating constellations of values and practices that generate their own realities and can rarely be disestablished once born. As at Hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Of particular note in the post-9/11 world is our bloated intelligence apparatus of 16 separate agencies, nine of which are military organizations (if you count Coast Guard Intelligence). Most notably, there is the National Security Agency (NSA), always commanded by a general or admiral who now also heads up the U.S. Cyber Command. NSA’s massive surveillance culture and capabilities foreshadow a totalizing new-age cyber warfare regime guaranteed to completely redefine traditional notions of aggression, self-defense, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in hair-trigger terms.

The military itself has nine combatant commands, six of which are regional and divvy up the planet accordingly. Except for NATO, there are no regional ambassadors, so the face we show to the world, region by region, is military — and combatant — not diplomatic. Even the “homeland” now has its own combatant command, the U.S. Northern Command. In tandem with the “civilian” Department of Homeland Security, it has produced the militarization of the domestic front, dispensed with historical border sensitivities vis-à-vis Canada and Mexico, magnified concerns about civil liberties, and fed a permanent state of paranoia and alarm among the public about both illegal immigration and terrorism.

Special attention also must be given to the massive expansion of U.S. Special Operations Command, once a modest cohort of elite specialists, into a force now larger than the militaries of many countries. Its ostensible raison d’être is waging permanent “war” against terrorism. The growing presence of and preference for using special operations forces globally ought to command the attention of anyone concerned with civil-military relations. Each armed service has a special operations command, as does each combatant command, including Northern Command. Estimates are that special operations personnel already number or are expected to number around 70,000 (roughly the equivalent of four and a half Army divisions). This provides an almost infinite amount of potential space for meddling and “mission creep” abroad and at home due, in part, to the increasingly blurred lines between military, intelligence, police, and internal security functions.

Of the various ways the military could be configured — for warfighting; peacekeeping, nation-building, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response; or covert special operations — the last poses by far the greatest threat to effective civilian control of the military. An increasing reliance on and reverence for Special Operations forces (SOFs) only exacerbates already existing civilian deference to military preferences, practices, and mindsets. Conducting a range of operations, from low-profile assignments unknown to most Americans to secret missions beyond the bounds of stringent congressional oversight, the very nature of SOF missions fosters a military culture that is particularly destructive to accountability and proper lines of responsibility.  Especially in times of divided government, as at present, when working around Congress is a preferred norm for getting things done, the temptation to employ forces that can circumvent oversight without objection is almost irresistible.

The Failure of Social Responsibility

As an institution, the military is accorded carte blanche authority to possess and wield violence on behalf of the state. It is also a mammoth social institution that reaches deep into American society and many other societies worldwide. It thus is tacitly expected to comport itself in a socially responsible manner and its members to demonstrate professionalism in their conduct. And yet the pervasive, long-term misbehavior of those in uniform is striking, even alarming.  This is where civilian subjugation to the military manifests itself most glaringly, and where the lack of a willingly accountable, self-policing military comes most clearly into view.

Each year for at least the past two decades, literally hundreds of incidents have occurred that undermine any claims the military might make to moral superiority: atrocities, corruption and bribery, fraud and waste, sexual misconduct, cover-ups, racial and religious persecution, and acts of cultural intolerance. Moral arrogance is in abundant supply among those in uniform, genuine moral superiority in short supply. To cite just a small sample of such incidents from the recent past:

* The continuing “Fat Leonard” scandal that involved an exchange of bribes, gifts, and prostitutes for classified information on ship movements, implicating at least seven officers and officials and leading to the censure of three rear admirals.  

* The ongoing Army National Guard recruiting fraud and kickback scandal involving thousands of soldiers and tens of millions of dollars in illegal payments. 

* The four-star former head of U.S. Africa Command, reduced in rank and forced to pay restitution for lavish spending of public funds on private business; the three-star former deputy nuclear force commander who used counterfeit poker chips at a casino; the two-star commander of the ICBM force who went on a drunken binge and insulted Russian counterparts at a joint exercise; the one-star commander of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, relieved of duty for adultery and physically assaulting his mistress; the one-star assistant division commander of the “elite” 82nd Airborne Division, fined $20,000 and reduced in rank for multiple affairs and other sexual misconduct; and the one-star commander of special operations forces in Latin America, relieved of command and reduced in rank for drunken altercations.                                       

* The forced resignation of the under secretary of the Navy over a scandal in which the brother of a naval intelligence official billed the military $1.6 million for weapons silencers that cost only $8,000 to manufacture. 

* The proficiency exam cheating scandals that implicated several dozen Air Force and Navy nuclear weapons personnel.  

* The Army staff sergeant, sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering 16 civilians and wounding six others in Afghanistan.

* The Army staff sergeant, also sentenced to life imprisonment, and five other soldiers who, as part of a “thrill kill” unit, murdered three Afghan civilians for sport and took their body parts as trophies. 

* The Rolling Stone exposé of the Special Forces A-Team that allegedly “disappeared” 10 men and murdered eight others in Afghanistan. 

* The video of four Marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies, alleged to be Taliban fighters. 

* The photos of 82nd Airborne Division soldiers posing with body parts of dead Afghan insurgents. 

* The burning of as many as 100 Korans and other religious texts by American troops in Afghanistan.

* The unceasing surfeit of sexual assault reports in the military (22,000 between 2010 and 2014). 

Such episodes aren’t, of course, only of recent vintage. Walking the calendar back a few years reminds us of many other similar examples:

* 2011: the suicides of Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew and Army Private Danny Chen after hazing and harassment by fellow soldiers. 

* 2010: the Khataba raid in Afghanistan in which Army Rangers killed five civilians, including two pregnant women and a teenage girl. 

* 2009: the massive sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base, in which 43 female trainees were subjected to sexual predation by instructors. 

* 2008: revelations about a Pentagon military analyst program in which retired senior officers working as news commentators received special access to insider briefings and information in return for publicly promoting Bush administration policies. 

* 2007: a U.S. Naval Academy scandal involving a Navy doctor secretly videotaping midshipmen engaged in sex acts; a Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal involving extensive patient neglect and execrable living conditions; and revelations concerning massive Iraq War contracting fraud, bribery, and kickbacks totaling $15 million. 

* 2006: the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the murder of her family by five Army soldiers in Mahmudiyah, Iraq; the murder of an Iraqi man in Hamdania, Iraq, with associated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, by seven Marines and a Navy corpsman; and the relief of the USS Enterprise captain for producing and showing sexually explicit and offensive videos on board. 

* 2005: the massacre of 24 Iraqi men, women and children by Marines in Haditha, Iraq, and the associated cover-up in which all criminal charges were dismissed; and the Pentagon’s planting of stories favorable to the war effort in the Iraqi press.  

* 2004: the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman and the tragedy’s associated cover-up, extending up the chain of command to the Pentagon. 

* 2003: massive acts of prisoner sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder by Army personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

* 2002: the deaths of two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners, who had been chained to the ceiling and beaten by U.S. troops, at the Bagram internment facility in Afghanistan.

All of this is but the tiniest tip of the military misbehavior iceberg, a sample of countless incidents that have regularly occurred over an extended period of time. Remember the Tailhook sexual assault scandal, the Aberdeen sex scandal, the Camp Lejeune water contamination scandal, the Cavalese cable car disaster, the firing and reduction in rank of the sergeant major of the Army for sexual misconduct, the murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, the discharge of Air Force Lieutenant Kelly Flinn?

Such a tidal wave of ethical breakdowns can’t be dismissed as mere exceptions to the rule or deviations from the norm. Institutional defenders nonetheless persist in claiming that such incidents represent the actions of a few bad apples in an otherwise healthy cultural barrel. In this, they are simply wrong, yet their positions are eternally bolstered by the fact that annual opinion polls of public trust and confidence in society’s institutions invariably place the military at or near the top of the list.

What Is to Be Done?

To this question — What is to be done? — there is no easy answer, perhaps no answer at all. Part of the reason is that the underlying crisis in civil-military relations has gone largely unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unaddressed for decades now. A first step, therefore, might simply be to break the bonds of denial and admit that there is a problem.

A second step — admittedly a far march onto an unknown planet — would be to encourage serious, thoroughgoing institutional self-reflection from both the military and civilian authorities. This would, of course, mean facing up to those facets of military culture that warrant reengineering: aggression, intolerance, authoritarianism, parochialism, congenital secrecy, and pronounced anti-intellectualism among them. It would also mean acknowledging the numerous myths that have come to define the institution over time — for example, that the military nurtures and rewards leadership (rather than dutiful followership); that it instills discipline (rather than indiscipline); that it exemplifies competence and efficiency (rather than incompetence and inefficiency); that it is committed to accountability (rather than cover-ups and secrecy); and that its members, especially at senior levels, regularly demonstrate moral courage (rather than moral cowardice).

A third step would involve a concerted educational effort, inside and outside the institution, to enhance strategic thinking, ethical thinking, and civic literacy (especially, but not exclusively, among those in uniform).

A fourth step — ultimately the most fundamental and paradigm-shattering, as well as the least likely to occur — would be to reconsider the very purpose and function of the military and to reorient it accordingly. That would mean transforming a cumbersome, stagnant, obsolescent, irrelevant warfighting force — with its own inbuilt self-corrupting qualities — into a peacekeeping, nation-building, humanitarian-assistance, disaster-response force far more attuned to a future it helps shape and far more strategically effective than what we now have. Translated, counterintuitive as it might sound, this would mean seeking to demilitarize the military, an overarching strategic imperative if bona fide lasting peace is ever to be achieved on this planet.

Humpty Dumpty posed the question to Alice in Through the Looking Glass of whether words are to be the masters of men or men the masters of words by determining their meaning. Similarly must we ask whether an institution, the military, supposedly endowed with supernal character by objective circumstances, is to master us, or we to master it by determining for ourselves what it properly is and does.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. kimsarah

    Great article. Looks like we need a seriously thorough review of the military, if any of our leaders have the political will. It probably won’t happen with our current establishment, which uses fear (ISIS, for example) to control the populace and justify more propping up of a bloated, corrupt system.

    1. Massinissa

      ” if any of our leaders have the political will.”

      They dont, and neither will this years presidential candidates. I love Sanders and all, but he has a history of being military friendly and supporting the F-35 and whatnot. He would be marginally against something like an Iraq style military invasion, which is better than can be said for Hillary or Cruz, but thats it.

      Trump is really hard to say. Sometimes he speaks like a neocon hawk and other times like a paleoconservative who hates foreign wars, and its impossible to tell which one is real and which one is fake, chances are both are fake and hes in some kind of middle.

      1. mad as hell.

        It’s depressing. None of these candidates have the gumption to take on the military. It will have to be a grassroots effort which right now looks like a long shot. So it’s only gonna get worse. How much worse? The sky’s the limit and while you are looking at the sky remember that those jets flying over at sporting and outdoor events are paid for by you.

      2. RUKidding

        Impossible to know what Trump would really do (or have his advisors do) should he win (shudder), but Trump also shouts a LOT about “hugely rebuilding the Military,” which, in Trump campaign-speak, has be “decimated” from lack of care (or something). Trump was ranting about that last night.

        I had to turn off the radio. This is a good article. There has been no “decimation” of the Military. If anything, it’s stronger and more powerful than ever, and there are some huge sucking problems with it, as outlined here.

        Trump shouts a lot of crap, and like tossing cooked spaghetti to a wall, it’s hard to estimate what would really stick.

        HRC is a NeoCon War Hawk, and she’ll do everything possible to strengthen the Military. Sanders would not be much different in this regard.

        We’re screwed in any case in terms of this issue. Dwight Eisenhower was right, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

    2. Louis Renault

      Great article? This is the usual leftist anti military rant.
      “The Pentagon elects not to reduce General David Petraeus in rank…”
      The “Commander in Chief”, as he repeatedly reminds us, is Barack Obama. The JCS reports to him as does the Secretary of the Army and the Attorney General. I recall zero effort from the President to charge Petraeus with anything but the whitewash charges he received, which is reminiscent of the whitewash given Joe Biden’s son.

      Gitmo – it is the House of Representatives that is stopping the President not the military. I could go on but what’s the point.

      1. pretzelattack

        sure obama is a military tool as well as a corporate one, that in no way excuses the pentagon. oddly, you deflect blame for not closing gitmo to the house instead of obama, on that issue, but he just wanted to move gitmo north to illinois. military industrial complex, the standard legitimate leftist target for over 50 years now.

    1. RW Tucker

      We really need to call it what it is, beyond the writer saying we need to admit there’s a problem: we’ve undergone a soft military coup, which happened years ago and with very few observers.

      Whoever is president, whether it is the bloviating moron or the corrupt civil servant, could do little to change Pax Americana. Their views on American foreign policy matter not at all because neither could stop the lumbering beast of an American-military dominated planet even if they wanted to.

      Until we acknowledge that the US military runs its foreign policy, we won’t be able to confront it.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    As an outsider here, one thing I always find so striking is how rarely the military is criticised by the US media/public/establishment. The evidence of ineptness in military matters is absolutely overwhelming – the largest and most powerful military in history has been unable to defeat maybe 50,000 ragged illiterate soldiers in Afghanistan, it could not keep order in a defeated, destroyed Iraq, and in countless smaller conflicts it has failed to achieve the stated objectives and has frequently been outright defeated (which is of course often spun by Hollywood as a victory, see Somalia). What was the last unambiguous tactical and strategic victory – Grenada? As the military arm of an Empire, officers from various Roman, British, Ottoman, French and other empires would be sniggering at the record.

    There may well be excuses for each and every loss, but in a combined sense the record is quite unambiguous – the US Military is not very good at its primary job, of winning wars. And yet, it seems to almost completely escape overt criticism. The only informed people I’ve known willing to say this openly were, as it happens, two ex army officers I’ve met (and even then, it was in private conversation). There seems to be a complete omertà over any civilian saying the same thing.

    One factor I think may well be that, as alluded to in the article, the only civilians who really follow military matters tend to be right wing pro-military types. Its comparatively rare to meet a liberal/left/progressive, who really engages and studies military matters – hence any criticisms tend to be on a philosophical level only (‘maybe we shouldn’t really be killing these people’), rather than look at the harder, more detailed questions.

    1. washunate

      failed to achieve the stated objectives

      This is a key thing about communication in American English. When a warmongering politician (somewhat redundant, I know) states an objective publicly, that almost always means the actual objective is something else.

      So it’s not that the military is failing to achieve the stated objective. Rather, it’s that the stated objective itself is not the actual motivator for public policy choices.

  3. Rich Caldwell

    Particularly damning, given the author’s background and insight. And our foreign policy is completely domimated by the military viewpoint.

    I particularly appreciate the observation about military regionalization that is not paired with diplomatic regionalization, making our military our de facto representatives at that level. Ay, what to do?

  4. jackiebass

    Ike’s warning has come true. The military now controls the government. Thank the Neocons that are on a mission of destruction.

    1. Carolinian

      Ike’s warning hasn’t come true–it was always true. My problem with this article is that it implies all this is a new thing whereas military defiance of civilian authority goes back at least as far as Truman firing MacArthur for insubordination. During Vietnam Westmoreland misled Johnson and the country on the progress of the war and the shocker of the Tet offensive was not that the North Vietnamese won but that these lies were exposed. All of which is to say that power corrupts in any human institution and the military has a lot of it therefore the above bill of particulars isn’t very surprising. But the military has gained this power because civilians gladly ceded it. Congressmen are enthusiasts for military Keynesianism and the globalists in the finance and think tank world are enthusiastic for the BIg Stick. This isn’t just a military problem but rather an imperialism problem as protestors back in the Vietnam era were quick to recognize.

      1. steelhead23

        Right on Carolina. One thing overlooked in the article is the growing dependence on private, for profit contractors to perform tasks previously done by the military in house – logistical support, mess hall, and commissary services. Military bases have become a local cash cows and closing bases becomes a substantial local economic impact and the political knives come out to prevent it. Hence, a start on the process of shrinking the scale of the U.S. military would be to disconnect it from local contractors by doing more in-house. That is, to reduce the level of succor and lucre collected by nearby communities generated by the mere presence our promiscuous military.

        1. Steven

          I second that. In the first place it isn’t really the ‘Defense Department’; it is the ‘War Department’ – what it used to be called before the War Department’s ‘public diplomacy’ got a little more sophisticated. I don’t think you can really blame the cynical careerism of those who have chosen to make state sanctioned killing a career. It is more than matched by that of the country’s local, state and national leaders – and arguably the public at large in this Great Christian Nation of the Exceptional People. The rule of thumb here appears to be ‘hold your nose and go for the War Department gold’.

          There seems to be a kind of Schizophrenia governing US military and foreign policy makers: 1- On the one hand the Congressional military industrial complex exists to enrich politically well connected constituents. Nothing else matters, not even the ability to effectively police the global empire Rumsfeld tried to have publicly acknowledged;
          2- On the other hand, there is Madeleine Albright’s, “What’s the point of having an army if you don’t use it?”

      2. washunate

        Right on. Which of course is why a lot of military Keynesians try to blame outside factors or make it sound like the situation is so hard and complex that no one can understand what’s going on.

        Rejecting imperialism is as easy as not funding it in the next budget, which is why reducing spending is a taboo topic amongst all establishment voices, conservative and liberal alike.

        1. animalogic

          “Rejecting imperialism is as easy as not funding it in the next budget, which is why reducing spending is a taboo topic amongst all establishment voices, conservative and liberal alike”

          There you have it.

          Cut their money. Cut their money sharply, steadily, consistently. It may sound counter intuitive but budget cuts would probably increase the military’s operational efficiency: when an organisation has little or no funding restraint the concept of “waste” has no conscious existence. Financial restraint forces an organisation to be imaginative, rather than to simply “throw the kitchen sink” at a problem…
          How many trillions of public money does the pentagon admit it simply can’t find, that it’s…lost ? (Am I the only one who finds this situation…just …bizarre ?)
          Start cutting their funding, we may be surprised at the attitude adjustments the “Brass” may undergo….
          Cutting the military/intelligence budgets may not be a SUFFICIENT condition for reform and a return to civilian control of the military, but it is certainly a NECESSARY first step.

  5. JJA

    In Britain, where opposition leader Corbyn is opposed to renewing the Trident nuclear submarine fleet and questioning of NATO, a senior army commander stated on national TV that the army would not accept him as Prime Minister if he continued such policies in office. When questioned about loyalty, he stated the army was loyal to the queen, not parliament! No media outrage as all the media in Britain stick to the NATO propaganda line.

  6. voteforno6

    At the very least, the President could fire a bunch of generals. When was the last time a senior officer was removed due to incompetence?

  7. gsinbe

    Sobering read. I suspect it will take a serious military set-back against a major power before any of the needed self-analysis and reform will occur.

    1. MG

      HL Menchen said basically the same thing back in 1920 and several others have since then too including Chomsky.

  8. Amir Fasad

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The military-industrial-congressional complex needs the American people, but the American people don’t really need the military-industrial-complex.

    A great book on the history of the Pentagon itself, which is as sobering as the above article, is James Carroll’s, “House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power.” Did you know that the Pentagon building was originally supposed to be built further north, but “the generals” disobeyed FDR’s orders and moved it across the Potomac, and into “the south”? This sort of traitorous behavior has been going on for a long time and certainly has gotten much worse in the 21st century.

  9. Woodrow

    “break the bonds of denial and admit that there is a problem.” –

    Good luck with that.

    Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump takes over The Oval Office, compounded with a war mongering establishment of Democrats & Republicans in CONgress, you can bet the only outcomes guaranteed will be simply more flag draped coffins arriving at Dover A.F.B. Besides, conflict good for GDP.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Even the purported critic Gregory Foster proposes transforming the military into a “peacekeeping, nation-building” force. A “Force for Global Good,” as it were.

      Oh wait, that’s already a recruiting tagline!

      Foster’s softball pitches look like controlled opposition. By contrast, an example of playing hardball would be shutting down the useless, provocative NATO and ending America’s 70-year military occupation of Europe.

      If I were the headline writer for this article, I’d title it “Mush From a Wimp.”

      1. washunate

        Well said. The author’s portrayal that there are no easy answers is almost comical in its willful obtuseness. The obstacle is political, not technical.

  10. washunate

    This is a great read, thanks for highlighting this Yves.

    I think the author is rather lenient, though, on our civilian leadership. Civilian control isn’t over. Rather, civilian leadership is bad, both in the moral sense and in the incompetent sense. The civilian leadership pushed and/or sanctioned virtually everything in this post. Secrecy and authoritarianism are the driving philosophical forces of contemporary political leadership.

    And moreover, the civilian leadership funded and classified a national security state that is so large that competent management is inherently impossible. Government is Too Big To Manage. That’s a systemic problem that is the fault of the political class. In other words, the military is out of control, but that’s not in conflict with the civilians in power. That’s by design; that’s the will of the civilians in power.

    I’m reminded of this Military Times survey recently where members of the armed forces are as upset with the establishment as the rest of the country:

    1. Ulysses

      “In other words, the military is out of control, but that’s not in conflict with the civilians in power. That’s by design; that’s the will of the civilians in power.”

      Very well said! The unaccountability of the military is a feature, not a bug of the current regime serving the kleptocrats. Anyone elected as “Commander-in-Chief” who sought to seriously reform the military– and challenge the private kleptocratic interests they have served for generations– would quickly find him or herself confronting a major crisis that he or she would be unlikely to survive.

      The civilians in power need an unaccountable military to defend the interests of the transnational kleptocracy in an “emergency”, such as vigorous, sustained political dissent. This is why, on New Years Eve, 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which grants the right of indefinite detention– without trial or due process— to “our” military of anyone they wish. The key, blatantly unconstitutional section of this act is:

      “Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

      The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who “substantially support”—an undefined legal term—al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces,” again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until “the end of hostilities.” In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent, according to Section (c)(4), to any “foreign country or entity.” This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.”

      1. Ulysses

        To his everlasting credit, Bernie Sanders has consistently voted against the NDAA. That being said, even if he was elected he would face a very tough time– making any progress at all on this issue, or the issues raised in the excellent post here.

    2. Carla

      “National Security and Double Government” by Michael J. Glennon. The text, w/o end notes, is only about 100 pages.

    3. pretzelattack

      one thing that continues to strike me is that the military is less militaristic than the civilian leadership, at least in some instances. there wasn’t much military enthusiasm for going into iran, for example. could be a function of a recognition of their own limitations (and they’re the ones potentially dying, at least the lower level military personnel, for whatever that’s worth to the brass). somebody yesterday pointed out that the clintons are good friends with the kissingers, as well as the bushes apparently–that looked like genuine affection between clinton and bush rather than a pro forma greeting at a funeral, but of course that’s a subjective judgement–and there’s the statements of admiration for the reagans by obama and clinton. warmongers hang out, across party lines.
      and why not, they have more in common with each other than the rest of us.

      1. polecat

        you forgot to add in those two distinguished senators……the senile old get off my lawn, and the mighty war faggot !!

        1. pretzelattack

          i’m honestly not sure who you’re referring to. you mean cruz and somebody? sanders is far from senile, and as far as i know has not been a faithful servant of the military. if you are referring to sanders, do you have something to back up your implication that he should be included in a list of civilian officials that are more militaristic than the military leadership?

      2. Lord Koos

        There was a time when many elected officials had some background of military service. It hasn’t been that way for quite awhile now. The last president we had with personal military experience was Bush the first.

        1. pretzelattack

          don’t forget those epic mid-air dogfights with ducks by the chimp during his flight training.

      3. Harry Shearer

        It was David Corn in Mother Jones who reported, in the wake of HRC’s citing of Kissinger in a Saturday night Dem debate as one of her foreign-policy advisors, that the Clintons had made a regular practice of spending Christmastimes at Oscar de la Renta’s Dominican Republic retreat, accompanied by Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, and Nancy and Henry Kissinger.

  11. John Wright

    If I remember the video “Why we fight” correctly, Eisenhower was quoted as saying about the military “God help the country when we have a President who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do.”

    We have found how prescient Eisenhower was.

    I remember my late mother, who taught 1st grade for many years, commenting about a news picture of George W. Bush.wearing a jacket.

    The jacket had “Commander in Chief” embroidered on it.

    She said it reminded her of the first day at school when kids’ parents would pin their children’s names on their clothes.

    Not to excuse Bush, but maybe Bush was Commander in Chief, in name only, while being controlled by others.

    1. diptherio

      I remember that part of the Ike speech too. My immediate thought was, ‘uh, how many generals have we had as Prez since Eisenhower? We are so screwed!

      GWB was a military enthusiast, as is Obama, but it is probably the case that neither of them alone could have made major changes even if they had wanted to. And then, of course, we all remember what happened to Kennedy.

    2. diptherio

      I remember my late mother, who taught 1st grade for many years, commenting about a news picture of George W. Bush.wearing a jacket.

      The jacket had “Commander in Chief” embroidered on it.

      possible explanations:

      1) to make it easy to spot in the lost-and-found, because you just know he’s gonna wander off and leave it somewhere;

      2) because otherwise no one would believe him;

      3) because “I’m a Big Boy!” wasn’t dignified enough.

  12. DakotabornKansan

    This was excellent. Suicide of the United States as a democracy: lost to militarism.

    It sends me to my two Chalmers Johnson books: Blowback: The Causes and Consequences of American Empire and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic.

    “Imperial politics represents the conquest of domestic politics and the latter’s conversion into a crucial element of inverted totalitarianism. It makes no sense to ask how the democratic citizen could ‘participate’ substantively in imperial politics; hence it is not surprising that the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates. No major politician or party has so much as publicly remarked on the existence of an American empire.” – Chalmers Johnson


    The Post WWII cold war takeover by the aggressive and covert Intelligence Community that may well have assassinated JFK and selected presidential succession ever since has an “enclosure” and capture of USA power structure. “IT” is not going to get better. Eisenhower’s early warning of a Military Industrial Complex has morphed with the treachery and tyranny of both sectors; privatizing the public domain. The Bush/Cheney/Clinton/Obama succession has augmented a global corporatism and international financial network that essentially runs from offshore and (BCCI / Treasury Looting Bailouts; etc) manipulated economies that has scaled civilian participation and subjugated it progressively under National Security State apparatus. The revolving door complex opens to the headquarters of a clandestine and covert government where militarization facilitates domestic complacency, obedience and compliance if not an increasing self censorship and (as witnessed in this current campaign) a menu of extremism being channeled into potentially violent mob rule and coercive conformity. A generation now of military trained and conditioned “patriotism” and the patriot act itself has streamlined the process against what had been traditional democratic and critical accountability. The USA as historic idealism is falling away to regressive constraints and the “realism”
    of enacted power is more of the same. Welcome to the American Century. Or, perhaps back to the advent of the Dark Ages.

  14. Stephen Gardner

    I was in total agreement until he spoke of nation building. We have no business presuming to build any nation other than our own. Nation building is a politically correct euphemism for imperialism. We enter a country militarily and then attempt to remake it in our image. We create an elite by recruiting quislings who are willing to betray the majority of their country for their personal gain. This inevitably leads to resentment of us and our chosen quislings. Resentment often leads to violent rebellion. And that means everlasting war: the self-licking ice cream cone that keeps our defense contractors in high clover. No more nation building. It’s costly and it’s fraudulent. The only thing that gets built is some beltway bank balances. Just say NO!

    1. Blondinka Florida

      Yeah, Nation Building. This article should have mentioned the $43 million gas station in Afganistan. The Pakis can build one for $0.5 million.

  15. Veri1138

    Want to know the truth? The dysfunction in the military is a direct result of civilian leadership.

    *I am going to use foul language. My apologies in advance. I am passionate about the military. I served in the military.

    First off, lets get two things straight.

    1. Walter Reed – a civilian contractor was in charge and wasn’t held accountable. Of course, the contractor had political protection. Even when deficiencies were reported, nothing could be done.

    2. The demotion of CSM of Th Army, Gene McKinney – What people don’t know is that two accusers had him at the wrong place and wrong time, when he allegedly committed a crime. It was determined that he would take the rap an step down. I knew someone who was intimately involved in the investigation, and as a witness.

    Now that that is done. Let’s get on to the meat.

    Abu Ghraib – pure cover-up. Heads should have rolled. Pres. Bush (and many others) should have been impeached and then indicted on war crimes. A failure of Congress. Politics. Career Army officers – interested in self-preservation – should have at the very least been reprimanded or removed by Congress. The punishments that should have been meted out? Minimized.

    Gitmo – Never should have happened. Civilians have split. The Republicans scream about how Pres. Obama released five prisoners. Never once bothering to recognize that Bush released, what, 500? Idiocy. The military making it more difficult to access prisoners? Here is a suggestion: talk to the civilian leadership as to why that is. Double- or triple-game.

    Shalikashvili – relieved for telling the truth. We went into Iraq with too few troops to secure Iraq. The original plan called for 650,000 US troops. We were shortchanged. Three days after hostilities were declared over, neo-con leadership fired the entire Iraqi Army. From then on, we knew we were fucked. While the civilians over State-side rejoiced, we knew. SOP is to embed US personnel in with a conquered nation’s army. To secure the the occupied nation. This did not happen. We secured oil ministries and facilities. Leaving Iraqi weapons depots, unsecured. They would have been secured if we had been allowed to do our job. While civilians were cheering over here, in the States? Bush and civilian leadership were setting us up for a protracted conflict. Even Hillary kept voting to fund Iraq right up until she decided to run for President, before being against her Iraq War votes. And civilians ate it up like victory when we were busy being handed a shit sandwich.

    What about Pres. Obama? We only left because he could not seal the deal he desperately wanted: troops to remain in Iraq. Ironically, it was Bush who made the departure, inevitable. Sticking point was immunity from Iraqi Law for US troops. Originally, 35,000 troops were to be left there. Obama, desperate for a deal, tempted the Iraqis with only 10,000. Now? We have over 3,000 troops there. And an Iraqi Gov’t that is more compliant to our demands.

    Little interesting side-not. When PNAC was delivering its little diatribe about making America, Great Again, back in 1998? President Bill Clinton was busy signing a Congressional resolution that stated that the removal of Saddam Hussein was the stated goal of US policy. The Clintons have been in bed with neo-cons for far longer. Hillary’s vote is no surprise in light of her husband’s stank cooperation with neo-cons and PNAC. Robert Kagan? Where is he, again?

    The military no longer trusts civilian leadership. Let us highlight one incident. In 2007, VP Cheney began orchestrating a campaign against Iran to justify war. A propaganda campaign that lasted into 2008. VP Cheney patterned his propaganda after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident – which was revealed to never have occurred. This time, the alleged incidents involved US warships transiting The Straits of Hormuz. Then the news stories of the attacks were beginning to circulate among US press. Being eaten up by the civilians. Just like the justification for the attack on Iraq. Plans were being made by civilian leadership to invade Iraq. Three things happened:

    1. The NIE was changed to reflect that Iran was not developing a nuclear weapon. The CIA was tired of being the neo-cons whipping dogs and being blamed for the intelligence failures, that were not failures, but deliberate manipulation of intel inside the agency by neo-cons who set up shop.
    2. The evidence of the attacks, video and audio, were leaked. No attacks were shown. The DoD then provided an explanation.
    3. A JCS admitted around 2010 or 2011, in a memoir, that he was prepared to walk into The White House and arrest The President if ordered to attack Iran.

    The military saved us from another fuck-up: Invading Iran. All three actions put the final nails in the coffin, regarding attacking Iran. Turning The Bush Presidency into a lame-duck administration. Something the public would have supported to one extent or another if allowed to let themselves be manipulated by neo-cons. Just like they had been to justify Iraq. Someone had to do it; it damn sure wasn’t going to be Democratic or Republican turds in Congress. DoD and CIA stepped up to the plate.

    Let’s move on to other topics:

    The military is fine with around 400-450 Generals and Admirals. Around 1400 exist today. 1000 of them are paper pushers overseeing projects, mostly hired by The Bush-Cheney Admin. Expensive projects. They are bureaucrats and business-types the military does not need. Overseeing projects that Congress mandates. When Pres. Obama tried to get rid of some, the ignorant base rampant among civilians protested. Cries of, “Obama is weakening our defense!” won the day. Because civilians are fucking stupid. Many of them. This is how The MIC, private defense contractors come to control the military budget from The Pentagon. Congress lavishes money on The DoD and then fails in its basic duty: accountability.

    The Soviets had the same problem. Their design bureaus came to drive defense spending. Design bureaus drove defense spending, in the end. That’s how The Soviets ended up with five tank designs, for instance, when they only needed one or two.

    Discipline within the military. WTF do dumbass civilians expect when standards were lowered during The Bush Years – letting in recruits with criminal pasts and other problems, that would have been excluded in prior years? With military forces over-extended in the civilian need for war that needs bodies. We have troops doing multiple tours, under horrific conditions at times, experiencing the horror of wars. What do civilians do? Mother fuckers can’t demand an end to their leader’s wars. They keep electing the same politicians who keep the troops overseas. If it were not for the ambitions of the civilians and the corruption rampant in government, we might not have this problem with the military.

    You try doing multiple tours, watching people die, being under attack whenever. You to, can become someone who ends up raping a girl and massacring her family. Or end up putting a bullet in your head when you get home and can’t get the help you need – another sore point that the military and soldiers and veterans hold against dumbass civilians who are addicted to the wars of their leaders. What is the suicide rate among soldiers? That’s right.

    What else had the military done? Tried to stop Hillary Clinton’s intervention in Libya. Even held back channel talks with Qaddafi. Failed. Civilian leadership, again… corrupt civilian leadership.

    Syria. Pres. Obama has his lackeys at DIA fix the intelligence, just like Pres. Bush. Meanwhile, other Pentagon officials are actually talking to Assad’s officials through back channels. Providing information. Not any more. They were replaced. With politically reliable officers (kommissars). Analysts at DIA revolted over the fixing of intelligence. What has happened? Nothing. Except that the civilian leadership’s neo-con games, continue.

    VA? Sabotaged by Congress, which is now looking to privatize The VA. All for profit. Care is actually pretty good despite our complaints. Go find out where the civilians who embezzled money in Philadelphia are after a 19 month paid vacation. They got their jobs back. Thank you, accountable civilian leadership. Most of the rest, such as in Arizona, were reshuffled. Do you think veterans appreciate all of this, with our suicide rates? Fuck no.

    A little side note on Bill Clinton when he was President and Commander-in-Chief. He hated the military. He made no bones about it. When we went to train and our uniforms were torn up, we bought them ourselves. Except that when we had to, mandatory to keep a certain number of uniforms, buy replacements? No more tax deduction. It was the piddling small things that added up to one big “FUCK YOU” from Clinton to the military rank-and-file.

    Does the military have problems? Of course. Sexual assault in the military has not been remedied. A civilian board is needed. Who blocks that? Congress could do it. Congress can relieve or delay promotions. They have to vote on officers to remain in the military as well as be promoted. Most civilians don’t know that little tid-bit. When the wrong officers are promoted or not disciplined correctly? Thank Congress when problems like sexual assault in the military continue due to ineffective leadership in the military.

    A Congress addicted to MIC money, war, militarism; elected by the population that consists of? Mostly dumbass civilians. Who whine and moan that the military is overstretched, occupying too many countries (we are), fighting unwinnable wars – profits are not that great for The MIC when no wars are being fought. These wars are not meant to be won. Profits fall if they are. Where do we get our orders from? Civilians. What happened to McChrystal when he spoke the truth? That’s right.

    The military is not all goody-two-shoes and full of fine, upstanding, honorable officers. A rot has sent in. It is institutional. It is caused by the failure of military and civilian leadership, mostly allowed by civilian leadership.

    Let’s go to spending. DoD does not drive defense spending. Thank God they don’t because the A-10 would be retired by now. At least we have something to thank Congress for. Until we look at the Fail-35 Junk Strike Fighter. Our defense is now driven by The MIC. They dream up toys, that don’t work. Congress says, “FUCK YEAH, WE’LL FUND IT. And BTW, don’t forget to donate to my campaign.” Sometimes, Congress is smart. Other times? Corruption:

    1. Fail-35 Junk Strike Fighter
    2. USS Gerald R. Ford super-carrier, nothing more than a floating brick.
    3. Zumwalt Class destroyer, really was supposed to be a cruiser. 32 to be built. Now only 3 for use as a sci-fi project costing vast sums of money.
    4. Other projects that repeatedly fail, whose contracts are then re-awarded to the very same private corporations that failed in the first place.

    If the law were properly applied – regarding fraud, waste and abuse by contractors – not one defense contractor today would be in business. They’d all be bankrupt. Who stops this? Your President and Congress. Who elects Congress and The President? Dumbass civilian voters who then moan about war, waste, fraud and abuse.

    The military is rotting – not for lack of material and funding, however. Corruption, which has always been there, has grown greater. Thanks in large part to the voter and the civilian leadership.

    History: There was a boondoggle project called The SGT York DIVADS. After over $10 billion was spent, Casper Weinberger, then SecDef, cancelled the program. And this was under Reagan. Which is shocking.

    Today? Over $150 billion spent on the Fail-35 Junk Strike Fighter and Congress keeps funding it and officers over at the Pentagon eyeing lucrative employment after military life, help keep it going. That officer is doing nothing but following the examples set by civilian leadership: lobbying gigs after public service.

    After all, every time someone blows the whistle on what an abject failure the Fail-35 is? Nothing happens. So go with the flow. Congress could stop the idiocy and replace the failures that represent Air Force leadership. Not going to happen. If someone does speak out? They are punished. Best to get with the program, then. And do what the civilians are doing: make money.

    The military is a tool. We take orders. And neo-con stupidity, foreign wars of profit, repeated misuse; of the military is going to end badly. The military has intervened in politics, overtly. Which indicates a lack of confidence in the ability of civilian leadership to do the right thing: stop the wars of profit.

    My apologies for referring to civilians as dumbasses. Your article gets a lot right, and reaches the wrong conclusion.

    Here is the problem with the military: corrupt officers and Pentagon officials – now bought more than ever by The MIC, led by a corrupt Congress and President, beholden to a corrupt foreign policy, funded by The MIC.

    There are many military personnel who only wish to do what is right. When they speak out, like Chelsea Manning or 50 analysts at DIA or Edward Snowden? What happens? A little clucking from the civilians. And punishment to go around for those that dare speak the truth. As for those officers and personnel who engage in the corruption? A blind eye from civilian leadership. Who could readily end careers, very easily.

    The military is not out to control the civilian leadership. Corrupt military officials are working hand in hand with the corrupt civilian leadership. Except that there are those inside the military who do recognize the problems that are getting worse, while voters and civilian leadership keep stepping down the same path of destruction. Again, when those who do recognize and speak out? What happens? More clucking. And punishment to go around.

    There are some subjects in the article that do reflect the military. Abu Ghraib. Cover-ups of war crimes. Endemic waste, fraud and abuse. Sexual assaults. And many other problems. And a lack of confidence in a corrupt leadership. That is only getting worse. What happens when good soldiers step up and object? Look at Manning.

    It is a complex subject. But your article is going in the wrong direction. Senior officers are beholden to defense contractors – but not the rank and file. Congress is beholden to defense contractors for bribes. Defense is now driven by The MIC. The military is not out to take over The US. More like the US and the military have been subverted to serve the needs of the The Monied Aristocracy. Our society is dysfunctional. Our leadership is corrupt. Our foreign policy is corrupt. It was only a matter of time before the military really began to reflect more of what has happened, and becomes more overtly corrupt, itself.

    One more thing. If you want the true beliefs of what the military thinks? Stop talking to the Generals and Admirals. They’ve become pampered politicians with dreams of money that Congress enjoys in retirement, most of them. Talk to the Colonels and Lt. Colonels and Senior NCOs who interact with their troops on a daily basis, most of them. I would be surprised if a General or Admiral could still remember how to tie their own shoelaces without an aide.


    Talk to this guy about his criticism of senior leadership. I was surprised he wasn’t immediately demoted and kicked out on his ass.

    Civilians do not understand the military. Those that have never been in for any length of time, especially. Scratching the surface, from the outside, is nowhere near to understanding the complexities and dynamics. It’s fine to sit there and read about the multiple failures of the military from the outside. No one can get that wrong on the basics.

    Your article goes in the wrong direction. The MIC is buying officers. To control the military. The MIC – and corporations – have bought many of the politicians.

    There was a story awhile back, after The GFC of 2008, that mentioned senior Pentagon officials being invited to Wall Street and being told, they’d be taken care of. Made some small mention in the press. Not much of one, however. About 2009, IIRC.

    —Personal Note
    Baby killer. Yes, I’ve heard it. I always ask that person if they voted for Obama. “Yes”, they have. I then ask the question, “How does it feel to have voted for a President that keeps us at war?” The blank look on their face is not surprising. I follow up with, “You are the problem because you keep believing in and then electing the problem. You keep us at war.”

    Republican? Get asked the question, “Did you vote for Bush?” No, of course I did not. Was called a traitor over that – even called ‘disloyal’. The Republican student going to college on mommy and daddy’s dime, driving their care at the age of 25, did not know who I was. “I’m retired military. What have you done?” It’s fun watching the dull gleam of the light bulb go on in their head. Those types don’t bother replying.

    Between the two, there is no wonder the military does not like civilians.

    I’m tired. My typing has errors.

    1. Ed

      Thanks for the comment, it saves me from writing my own rant.

      I realize the author has impeccable credentials, but there is something seriously wrong with this article. I went back and did a CNTRL F on the word “contractor” and it directed me past the article to one of the comments.

      1. Ranger Rick

        You’re saying “contractors did it, not the military” like it excuses their misdeeds. One of the principal reasons the military uses contractors, and has pushed to replace the vast majority of its support units with them, is the lack of accountability and oversight that comes along with it.

        Not to mention the military absolutely sucks at making contracts in general, and in choosing who to make contracts with. The Modern Mercenary is a sobering read.

      2. Veri1138

        The site is my top stop during the day. Besides RS for the commenting.

        Military leadership, following the fine example of even more corruption than usual from civilian leadership, is simply being subverted by defense contractors. It does not absolve those corrupt officers from any blame.

        However, The MIC – their needs – drive defense and they need a compliant officer class. Just like buying politicians, they buy Pentagon leaders.

    2. Steve H.

      It seems to me you are both calling for reforms in the scope and use of the military. And that you both ascribe more agency to less powerful people to implement reforms than is the case. “Talk to the Colonels and Lt. Colonels and Senior NCOs” Those are officers who have been around long enough to understand the system, but do not have the power to implement reform. Smedley Butler never advanced beyond Major General. Boyd formulated the strategy implemented in Gulf War 1991 but was never made General.

      The divisiveness inherent in your comment is an ‘us v them’ standard in every basic training since at least the Greeks. I find both your comments accurate, and that there is more in common between you than not. Allies find points of agreement.

      1. Veri1138

        Talk to the Cols. and Lt. Cols to have a better understanding of how the military feels. And Senior NCOs. To understand what is going on in the military and to have a better feel for the situation. They interact with the troops – most of them – on a daily basis and are better positioned to understand – take the temperature – of the military, so to speak.

        After that, most Generals and Admirals are pencil pushers, primadonnas, defense contractor lackeys, and some others actually know their job – though we can dispute that part :)

    1. Bam_Man

      JFK demotes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer, to the post of NATO Commander and is assassinated less than a year later.

      Can you imagine any of our current crop of candidates daring to do that?

      1. Ulysses

        No. None of them have the correct background to avoid being intimidated by the MIC, and some of them have already been entirely bought out by the MIC. JFK only thought that he could survive his modest challenge to MIC authority because he was the scion of an influential and wealthy family, accustomed to deference from others. He was tragically wrong on this point, but at least his naïve belief, in his own invulnerability, allowed him to speak an important truth before he died:

        “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

        Since I was only an infant when President Kennedy was assassinated, I have virtually never lived in a country where anyone in the political classes has meaningfully challenged the power of the MIC. Token gestures, yes. Real confrontation? Not so much.

  16. Paul

    Same general action at:
    FOMC-FRBNY-SecTreas-SEC-CFTC-OCC-et al and GS, MS, WFC, BAC, C
    White shoe law & DOJ, Federal-State Bar
    Business Roundtable NAFTA, TPP and SecState-Cimmerce-Ag

    24 year focus seems a tad narrow

  17. Ishmael

    America lives on a myth of American military victories:

    American Revolution basically won by France costing the French king his head,
    Battle of 1812 — Capital burned basically a draw,
    Civil War — who cares,
    Mexican War — Okay they won that one against an even more corrupt and incompetent military,
    First World War — Basically entered the war after the war was over and killed the wounded,
    Second World War — Defeated Japan but only because of the A Bomb, They probably would never have been able to invade the country. Germany was defeated by the Russians and British with US industry and air force. The US faced exhausted and second tier troops in most conflicts.
    Korea — draw,
    Vietnam — lost but we did win Tet and it did show to the American people that they had been lied to. Big surprise.
    Afghanastan — is probably a loss,
    Iraq — probably a loss.

    The major defeat is the military spending the US bankrupt. All armies in the past (and I do not support this) but brought back tribute to pay for them. The US military has destroyed the country through its cost.

    1. pretzelattack

      hey, macarthur beat the bonus army in an epic battle for the beleaguered elites against our unpaid veterans.

    2. visitor

      Mexican War — Okay they won that one against an even more corrupt and incompetent military,

      If I remember correctly, the Mexicans had their hands full with a simultaneous massive Maya revolt which lasted many years.

      Second World War — Defeated Japan but only because of the A Bomb, They probably would never have been able to invade the country. Germany was defeated by the Russians and British with US industry and air force.

      To simplify, the Soviets defeated the Germans (as well as the Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, and Bulgarians, oh, and the Finns too), while the British (actually Commonwealth) defeated the Italians (it was protracted and harder than generally acknowledged), the Chinese the Japanese army, and the USA the Japanese navy.

      By the way: you forget the war against Spain in 1898 — a win for the USA against a thoroughly decrepit power — and the ensuing campaign in the Philippines (longer and harder than expected, and very dirty).

  18. Vatch

    First World War — Basically entered the war after the war was over and killed the wounded,

    I don’t know how effective the U.S. entry into WWI was, but in the beginning of 1918, if any side was winning, it was the Germans. Instead of trying for a military victory, perhaps they should have tried negotiating from their position of strength.

    Second World War — Defeated Japan but only because of the A Bomb, They probably would never have been able to invade the country.

    The Japanese were dead lost prior to the use of the A-bombs. Who knows, they might have surrendered if the U.S. hadn’t been insisting on unconditional surrender.

      1. Ishmael


        I suggest you catch up on your reading of WW1. The Spring Offensive of 1918 had pretty much ground to a halt by the time the Americans arrived. That was the last great push. Austria had already fallen apart and Italy was coming up from the under belly, but the real destroyer of Germany was the British embargo. Germany was basically starving to death. Over a million and a half Germans starved to death after peace was declared due to the embargo.

        The final blow which would have brought all of the forces to their knees was the Spanish Influenza. It basically would have ended any fighting on its own. Americans arrived just in time to bring the Spanish Influenza back to the US.

        On Japan, after the battle of Okinawa it was estimated that the US would lose upwards of a million US soldiers invading Japan. In addition, the Japanese battle plans have now come to light. Japan had pulled back significant forces in anticipation of an invasion. Some historians now believe the US would never have succeeded in invading Japan. Now if they were wise they would have just sit back and bombed Japan into the stone age, but that is one thing the US has never proven to be — wise.

    1. James Levy

      I don’t think most experts would argue that Germany was “winning” in early 1918. They were ahead on points but in serious trouble economically and in terms of morale. Britain and France and their Empires had more staying power and Germany knew it. Defeating Russia had not been the boost to national morale you would have expected it to be, and the crazed attempt to occupy everything from the Ukraine to Baku tied up a million German troops (although German officers were so anxious about how influenced they had become by the Bolsheviks that they literally did not want to ship many of them back through Germany for fear of spreading revolutionary contagion). And Wilson’s 14 Points were nothing shy of the first US shot at global “regime change”, stating bluntly that America would only treat with Germany once she had dethroned the Kaiser and fired him, his ministers, and his General Staff! US entry pushed a teetering Germany over the brink, but it was British, Canadian, Australian, French, and French African soldiers who had done most of the heavy lifting.

      1. visitor

        Not only that, but Austria-Hungary was in an even worse situation, bled white in its fight against the Serbs, Russians, Romanians and Italians, although by early 1918, the first three belligerents had been knocked out. As for Bulgaria, it was bracing itself for the impending onslaught of the British and French.

      2. Ishmael


        On target. Woodrow Wilson wanted to be known as a player. If he really wanted to end the war he would have kept the country totally neutral. No shipping of supplies to the allies. This ended up with the US having such a large receivable from the allies that if the Allies failed it would have brought on a depression. If the US would have stayed totally neutral the war would have ended far quicker. It was only the continuing resupplying that kept the allies in the fight. After the failure of the Schlieffen Plan Germany would have sued for peace but the allies did not want to (really it was the Allies that pushed Germany to war for various “Great Games” purposes). The continuation of the war caused millions more to die, the fall of Russia and communism. In the end Wilson resulted in the harsh conditions imposed upon Germany including the million and a half deaths as a result of starvation mentioned earlier and Hitler with the “Stab in the back.” theme. All because Wilson wanted to be a “player” and move the US into more of a empire role.

        Oh and this also brought about the end of the longest period of prosperity in US history, the Great Depression and the end of a market based economy and the start of more centralization, more authoritarianism and the Corporatism we currently have in the US.

        One other big failure of Wilson. Setting up the Federal Reserve

      3. washunate

        US entry pushed a teetering Germany over the brink, but it was British, Canadian, Australian, French, and French African soldiers who had done most of the heavy lifting.

        I think that rather underestimates both the actual influence of US support in ending WWI and the desperation with which the British perceived their situation to be. That heavy lifting would have been largely irrelevant without the financial and material resources obtained by the British Empire specifically and the Allies generally from the US – supplies the British themselves went to great lengths to assure could not reach the Central Powers, especially the German Empire, for years before a formal declaration of war from DC. The “neutrality” of the US in 1914-1916 was the initial shift of western power from London to DC; it was us, the Americans, who decided the outcome of the Great War by accepting Britain’s blockade of Germany while contesting Germany’s blockade of Britain. Indeed, the British, by their own actions, demonstrated how critical the US role was. For example, they cut underseas cables from Germany so that London controlled the flow of information into the US. Furthermore, the support of the US allowed Britain to rebuff more serious peace negotiations that may have ended the war sooner.

        And if you mean to imply that American boots on the ground were irrelevant, that’s not how the Germans reacted. Once a formal declaration of war was announced, German military planners were desperate to make progress before American military personnel arrived on the scene, and they were surprised by both the speed and capability of the deployment.

        1. Ishmael

          I mentioned the supply from North America, but I was indicating that the US’s military has not won many wars not its industry. Your response is a little off target. Of course Germany reacted the only way it could when the US declared war. Germany was already spent and it could not face an additional 1 million fresh soldiers. It took a desperate gamble in its Spring Offensive to win and failed. This was an all or nothing move by the Germans. Once again this was a German action and had nothing to do with the fighting ability of the US. The US did win a few skirmishes in WW1 but if you look at its casuality rate for the short time in was involved it was pretty high. I will reiterate my point, It is not like the US military was some great fighting machine that rolled back the German Army in WW1. The German force was practically falling apart and the war would have ended because of the Spanish Influenza even if the the US had not joined the conflict.

          1. washunate

            I was responding to James, but you raise a couple interesting points.

            First, you draw a distinction between the supplies of a military and the frontline fighting. In modern nation-state style total war, the productive capability to resupply the front is integral to the functioning of the system; I don’t see how one can be separated from the other.

            Second, I agree Germany was spent. But so were France and Britain, and that was with the benefit of American supplies. British troops were not successful in offensives even as late as 1917 (and these offensives weren’t even inside Germany; they were against German troops in Belgium and France), and French offensives went so poorly there was practically open mutiny.

            Third, you’re overlooking how US support for Britain, even when we were officially neutral during the first three years, gave Britain leverage to refuse peace negotiations during that time. That’s what a military is. Not just how many casualties it inflicts on the battlefield, but how its threat of use translates into political ramifications. The Germans couldn’t blockade Britain without bringing in American troops, and they couldn’t win if they were fighting American troops.

            I very much agree the war could have ended without American involvement. It would have ended sooner, in fact, if the US had remained truly neutral. Absent American supplies and troops, the terms of peace would have been less harsh on Germany.

    2. polecat

      you forgot the other ‘war’….. the so-called ‘Spanish flu’

      we spread it around the globe sending recruits to Europe, which returned with said solders to wreck even more havoc !!

      1. polecat

        There is some conjecture that Wilson had contracted the Spanish Flu while attending the Malta Conference,and was delirious and not of sound mind when dealing w/ Stalin….*

        ‘The Great Influenza’ by John M. Barry

        1. Ulysses

          I think Wilson was in even worse shape than that– the Malta conference took place in 1945, after he had been dead for more than twenty years.

          1. Ulysses

            Perhaps you were thinking of President Roosevelt? He dealt with Stalin, and was probably in poor health (although not from Spanish influenza) at the Yalta conference.

            1. polecat

              Malta/Yalta**…….what difference dos—————-oh………”never mind”

              **boy…did I ever screw that up ( takes another big bite of crow)…….

              Treaty of Versailles……’sigh’………got my world wars mixed up…badly…..

              crawls under rock now…..

              1. polecat

                just noting (lifting up stone) that disease often accompanies war campaigns…… (letting go of stone now…’thud’)

                1. Ulysses

                  Duly noted!!

                  “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague…”

                  (Revelations 6:8)

  19. JCC

    As someone who has prior service, occasionally worked as a military contractor, and recently took a job as an employee of one of the branches of the military, I would say that this is a national, cultural issue that is definitely not supported by many within the services (as the above link to the Military Times shows) or many of the civilian employees. When Rubio’s statement, “we need to rebuild our military” is mentioned, almost everyone laughs and says, “You gotta be sh*tin’ me!”

    Many of the people I have worked with, even in this overwhelmingly Republican town, understand the situation (unfortunately not all) and it obviously makes them nervous even though they do not want to discuss it at length. In other words individual see this as a top down problem and feel there is little that can done about it.

    From a contractor/employee perspective, what do you do? Quit your job,sell your house and move to some town as an employee of WalMart (if you’re lucky)? Or drive on and hope for the best… and vote against it all through the extremely limited choices offered?

    I’m torn, it’s bad, but unfortunately it’s the way things are today in the U.S. On a personal level I don’t see a way out of it short of early retirement and stocking up on cat food and claiming a spot for my cardboard box on a steam grate in NYC or Pittsburg, or tent in downtown LA. or leaving the country altogether.

    Side Note: For those who say “good riddance” to this attitude of leaving, you may want to take some time and think about why your ancestors left wherever they were to come here.

    1. Tim

      From a contractor/employee perspective, what do you do? Quit your job,sell your house and move to some town as an employee of WalMart (if you’re lucky)? Or drive on and hope for the best… and vote against it all through the extremely limited choices offered?

      What’s you’re basically describing is a fundamental trouble with capitalism. People want to do the right thing but are trapped by institutions that control whether they and their families can eat.

      In the United States, rarely does someone go to prison for speaking out. Instead, they have a hard time finding a job. That’s its own kind of punishment.

      1. Ulysses

        “People want to do the right thing but are trapped by institutions that control whether they and their families can eat.”


      2. Ishmael


        This is not capitalism, it at best is corporatism. At worse it is socialism or communism. The major drivers of facist Germany and Communist was the military and the military-industrial complex.


  20. Deloss Brown

    This is one of the most depressing posts NC has published, and yet I must say “thank you,” and I do.

  21. Aldeb

    It is already too late. The US military and related interested parties are already having a strong hold on the lever of US power.

  22. ClarkRT

    We need to bring the armed forces home, and dismantle and recycle most of their weapons and machines. We could not fight a world war with them anyway– we cannot even prevail with them where we employ overwhelming might against single militarily inferior countries. We can destroy their infrastructure, kill lots of people, but we cannot achieve cessation of hostilities on favorable terms (which must be the goal or what the hell is?).

    We should transform the armed forces into a Military Repatriation Corps.

  23. SM

    Wow. Reality bites. I had long suspected there were parallels between modern America and the Weimar Republic and we all know what happened to the latter.

    The nomination of Hillary (most likely now) and Trump (also most likely) are bad signs for America. Trump is already a demagogue and Hillary is not that different (she exhibits all the signs of a real politik power grabbing hawk).

    I am less worried about their fingers on the proverbial button but being the commander in chief of this rampant military.

    God bless the land of the free and the home of the brave. Our founding fathers and Lincoln will be disappointed and ashamed of what we have allowed in this country.

  24. Cry Shop

    Neither Civilian or Military control over the application of force, rather it’s “Corporatism”. On the Domestic front it is for profit jails, parole, debit collecting of criminal fees, pay to stay jails, the list rolls on. On the international front, it’s no surprises that Ike’s Industrial Military Complex has taken over setting the agenda, right Mrs. Hella-ry on earth Clinton?

    Violence not only pays, it pays best.

    1. Cry Shop

      “Corporatism” = Military/Criminal Justice Industrial Complex (MCIC), the new MIC。

  25. barrisj

    One huge aspect of the MIC that continously needs the spotlight shone upon it is the massive propaganda efforts co-ordinated by the Pentagon that has permeated American society since the beginning of the Cold War. No small wonder that “the military” in aggregate has for many years been considered the most “trustworthy” of any of the public institutions to which it is compared. Both the college and professional levels of national sports are rife with Pentagon-endowed “salute to our troops” celebrations during televised games – the NFL is particularly shameless in this regard. And the effort to rebrand GIs as “our warrior heroes”, or is it our “hero warriors” – not completely sure of the correct construct – has succeeded beyond even the Pentagon’s aspirations…every foreign military adventure by the US is always cloaked in the tired “for our national security” meme, and those in uniform who are doing the bombing and killing are always portrayed as “over there protecting our freedoms”.
    It takes now so very little to win approval or at least acquiescence from the general public for military adventurism, and despite the enormous corpus of literature available on the unimaginable scale – in dollar amounts – of corruption, fraud, theft, etc. that occurs on a regular basis whenever the US military moves into a country, the people continue to “support our troops”, maintaining blithe unawareness of the perniciousness of militarism as foreign policy. The “Vietnam Syndrome” has long been vanquished, and one must concede that the Pentagon has won “the hearts and minds” of the American public, full stop.

    1. JCC

      +1 The most irritating (and useless) words I hear commonly spoken today, “Thank you for your service.”

      1. just_kate

        ribbon magnets on cars is the most irritating display to me. i don’t understand that at all – why not commit?

      2. Ishmael

        I will have to say, all of this kowtowing to the military and worship of people in uniform gives me a rather sick feeling in my stomach and reminds me of how the German people basically worshipped their military.

        Now some of you might say he is a military hater. A little background, I had one uncle at Pearl Harbor, another who did the Bataan Death March and a third who was in the Marines in the pacific. My father went in with the 82nd Airborne on D Day and was in Korea. He retired as a Major and the military is still sending him metals. He is 95 but we usually sit at the bar when we go out to dinner. Many of the bartenders know who he is and tells other people at the bar and they all start buying him drinks. I grew up on military basis and always planned on going into the military. I had a free ride paid by the govt anyplace I wanted to go to school but after one year of indepth exposure to the military I knew if was not for me. Don’t get me wrong, they begged me to stay in because I had the highest marks of practically any one. It was the idiotic nature of the military that turned me off and that Gung Ho take that hill no matter how many die. Even my father at that point said, “If you stay in they will only kill you!”

        On top of it, I already had a “Lack of respect for authority” type of personality. Not a good fit. I look back and think that was one of my best decisions I ever made.

        Besides all of the other points raised, the continual focus of capital on the military and military industrial complex has focused capital away from building industry that would have generated jobs and wealth in America. Put money into a bomb and you use it once and it destroys things. Allow the capital to be kept in society where it could be put to the best use and create something it would have had continual rewards for society.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Most French, and Japanese, and Russian, and Italian, and Argentine, and etc. loved them their “warriors” and military castes too — and even the calibers of their field artillery pieces.

          Humanity is one fokked-up dead-end species.. We loves us the danse macabre — sex and killing…

          Note that in the commentaries here, there’s not a single bit of Clinton-pragmatic policy that has the tiniest hope of deflecting the Juggernaut, much less dismantling it…

    2. Ulysses

      Very important point. The relentless propagandizing of Americans starts in grade school. For example, Helen Keller is presented to them as an inspirational role-model, overcoming enormous handicaps. Thus most Americans have a vaguely positive impression of her. Yet how many schoolchildren ever learn that she was a fierce anti-war activist and proud member of the IWW?

      Indeed, Americans are encouraged to choose fantasy over reality at every turn. As a last resort, those bourgeois malcontents– who stubbornly insist on questioning the inconsistent, and ridiculous official narratives– are dosed with heavy amounts of soma.

      Working class malcontents are simply shut out of gainful employment, decent housing, and access to life’s necessities. Some lucky few may get the chance to find an outlet for constructive activism at the local level. The rest either “break bad,” die, or find some way to play the role of obedient peon in order to survive.

      The fact that some Americans still, in spite of all this, valiantly struggle to make our Republic a genuine democracy is a true miracle.

      1. Jerry Denim

        If memory serves me correct, despite her privileged upbringing Keller grew up to be a flaming commie. She was very fortunate because her extremely rich parents had the resources to seek out the best and most innovative professionals serving the deaf and blind at the time. She realized this simple fact at an early age and it shifted her entire worldview. Classic example of the American education system white-washing any mention of class and the bowdlerization of a real person’s life until they become a ridiculous capitalist allegory devoid of humanity and unrecognizable to the real historical person. Class is the only verboten topic in American history, but without it nothing makes sense and the truth cannot be told.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You, Ullsses, and Veri1138 mention MIC.

      But I couldn’t find the term MIC in this article itself about the military.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I meant to say in an article about the military, I couldn’t find MIC mentioned in the article itself, but only in comments.

          1. NeqNeq

            Don’t push on this too far mr.primebeef. Otherwise you will puncture the thin layer of BS that makes people believe its a good article.

            God forbid people notice that the military’s ability to prevent minor clashes around the world is a function of the civilian element. As if generals and admirals could/would decide to intervene in a situation like Ukraine before actual violence…could you imagine the outcry over such unilateral action?! The arguments in this piece only work if the reader doesn’t keep the military and (civilian) poitical/industrial portions of the system distinct.

            The interesting question is why someone who should know better would write such drivel? It certainly couldn’t be marketing could it? Nobody would benefit from convincing liberal types into getting on board with nation building and peace keeping missions right?

            1. washunate

              That’s why it’s such a great read (IMO). It demonstrates the cognitive dissonance between someone who is able to articulate individual problems in great detail and yet simultaneously is completely unwilling to connect the dots (because, of course, the professor clearly likes American domination; he just wants to call it by other names).

              That intellectual duplicity has worn rather thin and is at the heart of the popular backlash against the whole fascist order. But it’s also valuable for us to remember that in this transition phase there are quite a few Americans who rather like the idea of Team America: World Police, and many of them are of the liberal/educated/Democratic persuasion. It makes the coming intergernational sea change all the more unpredictable in how the (aging) establishment will respond to the uppity kiddos who fail to show the proper respect for authoritah.

  26. susan the other

    The military-crimes laundry list is always depressing but it is the awful nature of the job. Killing for a purpose only works in a confined place. Assassination is the best form of war. Other forms of war simply do not accomplish much, but they always create a mess that must be mopped up for decades into the future. War is a tool invented by primitive tribes that were always insane and idiotic and hallucinating from hunger. Talk about an archaic relic. So what is to be done? I like the author’s #4: retool the military into an institution that can accomplish things; bring the military into the 21st century; invent effective peace seeking missiles. We have a planet begging for progress. For solutions to our problems. War is one of our problems. So kill two birds and use the military to promote peace by cleaning up the planet, educating other people and learning from them, and promote awareness of how obscene it is to kill people. Retool the military brain.

  27. Jerry Denim

    Great article and a big thanks to Dr. Foster. It’s very rare that I meet a military man so willing to see the world with eyes open and speak the difficult truths about what our country is becoming. Dr. Foster is not alone, but his voice is indeed unusually candid.

  28. VietnamVet

    This is a comprehensive list of the problems of the privatized military. The Middle East is a total disaster for the world after 25 years of American involvement. Angelina Jolie says there are more refugees today than in WWII. We are blissfully uninformed.

    It is all related. This is part of the scheme of the global aristocracy to squeeze the last bit of wealth out of the developed world. The human tragedy is that this has happened before and FDR showed mankind how to fix it without a worker’s revolt. But, today’s traitor to his class is Donald Trump; no FDR.

  29. MG

    The Eisenhower quote really bothers me when you go to back to what his presidency actually did in regards to MIC and covert military actions and funding abroad.

  30. Paul Hirschmann

    Time to dust off Alfred Vagts, A HISTORY OF MILITARISM, one of the great history books of the previous generation.


    Rank and File indoctrination is more than just conditioning and the professional soldier of today is not the civilian soldier of WW!! or even the Drafted soldiers that came later. Nor are they the surprised National Guardsman that become practically indentured soldiers as captured by the circumstances of their interests and global containment or corporatism and neo-imperial exploitation. Market Colonialism is International and the brutality that appears overseas becomes the “reality” of veterans that experience the extreme existentialism of unforgiving slaughter and its rationalizations in the field of combat. An entire generation has now been infused with a militaristic reality that designates a National consciousness coming close to glorifying warfare, ‘warriors” and unconditional labels of National Defense (AKA: Economic Interests dominated by an elite supremacy attitude of exceptionalism). Are the rest of us just stupid civilians as one disgruntled-grunt posted? Or, as Tina Turner sings it: “We don;t need another hero…” That may be very touchy subject matter to decide.
    But some insidious items are clear in this covert world where facts are considered conspiracy theory and political reality is a set of talking points. American Freedoms are considered a liability and militarization is part and parcel of a serious compromise towards fascism and the mechanisms required for its controlling arm.
    Consider these facts:

    In 2011 CNBC took note of the economics-related war-games planned by the Pentagon, including the recent Unified Quest 2011, which will actually be looking at what happens domestically when the financial systems breakdown and how to handle the subsequent civil unrest. ;


    “Army officials met outside Washington last week for a thought experiment about the implications of a large-scale economic breakdown that would force the Army to absorb significant funding cuts and prepare the service for an increased role in keeping domestic order amid civil unrest,” reported on the recent games.
    The article says officials chose the global financial collapse scenario because “it was deemed a plausible course of events given the current global security environment.”
    “In such a future,” it reports, “the United States would be broke, causing a domino effect that would push economies across the globe into chaos.”
    The latest game included a grim outlook: cuts in defense and international relations, fragmentation of power, and consolidation of “common functions, like logistics, training, medical services and information systems.”

    But there was one “sliver lining” according to the article: “The Army would have an influx of qualified recruits as the result of an unemployment rate between 25 percent and 30 percent.” (end quote)

    …And those “recruits” will be your new enforcer …cold to Freedom, Liberty and Democracy as we understand it. THE REST OF US ARE JUST STUPID CIVILIANS.


      “Market Colonialism is International and the brutality that appears overseas becomes the “reality” of veterans that experience the extreme existentialism of unforgiving slaughter and its rationalizations in the field of combat.”

      One important point. what happens overseas is not protected by any constitution that we enjoy here in our domestic lifestyle. The “new reality” experienced by a serial succession of soldiers is brought back home and is easily manipulated into a narrative that weaves rationalizations into the general domestic society. What happens overseas does not stay overseas. The lawlessness and disorder of combat becomes a preconditioning for a “rational” realism of law and order that surrenders freedom and liberty by legislated necessities sold to us as protections. National Security imperatives re-frame the fabric of constitutional protection; setting it back as secondary and mandating its circumvention as normal political righteousness. This is so insidious that it takes a moment to realize it has already been happening since 2001 and the National Security State itself.

  32. Patriot

    Wouldn’t bringing back the draft or some sort of mandatory service help alleviate some of the issues detailed in this post?

Comments are closed.