Good for Trump. The job of the military is to win, and thus finish, wars, not to use them as extended live-fire exercises. Further, under our Constitution, the military reports to civilian authority, in the form of the president and one of his chief cabinet members, the secretary of defense. And it’s their job to make very clear the overall strategic objective, which in warfare is always optimally the total destruction and unconditional surrender of the enemy. During World War II, the objective was clear: destroy Imperial Japan and take Berlin. We, and our allies, did both, and America’s war—from the standing start at Pearl Harbor to VJ Day—lasted less than four years.
But that’s not how our contemporary military sees things. As the Post story points out, referencing Defense Secretary James Mattis, “His remarks reflected a broader Pentagon consensus: In the absence of a clear outcome, winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put. These days, senior officers talk about ‘infinite war’.”
Those senior officers should be cashiered. “Infinite war” is what characterized the Roman Empire from Julius Caesar (read the Commentaries, Caesar’s reports back to Rome regarding his military operations in Gaul and elsewhere) through Marcus Aurelius (who spent very little time in the Eternal City) right up to the fall of Rome in 476, when the barbarian chickens came home to roost in the form of Odoacer, a member of the Germanic tribes that the Romans never managed to conquer. Their defeat by Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D. dissuaded the legions from crossing the Rhine again—but eventually the Rhine crossed them, and made it all the way to the Tiber.
The moral of the story is: finish the job. So good for Trump for giving the Pentagon a strategic objective and a time frame in which to accomplish it. The Posts article quotes another officer, Air Force General Mike Holmes, in a speech earlier this year: “It’s not losing,” he explained. “It’s staying in the game and…pursuing your objectives.”
How terrifying to know that, for some senior military officers (who, by the way, are not necessarily on the Right politically), warfare is about “staying in the game.”
It would seem that for our politicized general-officer class, at least, it IS a game. It’s disappointing to hear Mattis sounding like one of them, at least in the above quote. One would think that he more than most would recognize the damage done by the conversion of America’s once-dominant military into Welcome Wagon in cammies—a top-heavy bureaucracy that emphasizes “nation-building” over crushing America’s adversaries, political correctness over combat readiness, and over-reliance on technology over a hard-nosed warrior ethos.
We as a nation don’t even seem to know what “victory” is anymore, and aren’t terribly fussed over it either way. Our squeamishishness about civilian casualties and “collateral damage” leaves us incapable of doing what’s required to prevail against committed foes unburdened by any such vacillation or lack of will. Juvenile, simple-minded shibboleths declaring that our enemies “love their children as much as we do” or that “it will be a great day when the schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” aren’t just nonsensical and irrelevant. They’re dangerous.
“War isn’t healthy for children and other living things”? Well, no shit, Einstein. Exactly who ever said it was? Nobody likes war; nobody wants war. Sadly, though, Trotsky had the right of it: you may not be interested in war. But war is interested in you.
Throughout history, all military organizations have been made up of far more staff, support, and logistics personnel than actual fighting men. But US armed forces have exaggerated that statistical imbalance to a near-preposterous extreme, then smeared a triple-thick layer of lawyers on top who must be consulted before soldiers are even allowed to carry loaded weapons in combat zones, much less point them at anybody who might be shooting at them at the time.
We have sailors who can’t navigate on the high seas without colliding with other ships. 74 percent of Marine Corps F18s are graded “not ready for combat”; over 53 percent of Navy strike fighters are “out of service.” Parts to repair these expensive door-stops are being scavenged from museums and gutted, rust-bucket display aircraft. Pilots get most of their training in simulators rather than the stick-time in actual aircraft they badly need.
Doughy, gasping recruits can’t meet long-established physical readiness requirements for infantry? Too many female recruits can’t hack the program because their upper-body strength just isn’t up to snuff due to inherent male-female genetic differences? Fine, just lower standards across the board then. Mentally-ill “transgender” types want to join so they can get their expensive hormone treatments and surgeries paid for on the military dime? Hey, who are we to deny them their Constitutionally-guaranteed “right” (ahem) to sign up, then?
It’s the same soft-headed, feel-good mindset that brought us “participation trophies” for schoolkid athletics…on the rare occasions their all-important self-esteem was ever put at hazard by competition at all, of any kind. Ask any kid who got “graded on a curve” how much he really learned sometime. Quiz him on things most adults would consider to be the simplest, most basic knowledge. Prepare to be appalled.
Jerry-rigged, antiquated equipment worn down by an unsustainable operational tempo; untrained, unmotivated, and/or unfit troops; a politicized senior officer class more interested in political correctness than fighting and winning, incapable of seeing “open-ended commitment” for the deadly tar-baby it is; political “leadership” whose “invade the world/invite the world” mentality leaves them eager to flex American muscle in far-flung places where there is no compelling national interest at stake—the whole mess tolerated by a disinterested citizenry lulled by blind faith in a perpetual American military superiority that long ago ceased to exist. Anybody still wondering why America can’t seem to win any of its endless, innumerable “conflicts” anymore?
The smug assumption of our lapsed “lone superpower” status and the unchallengeable invincibility of the American military persists in defiance of the sad, sorry reality. None of this, mind, is meant to suggest that there aren’t many skilled, dedicated, and highly competent soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines out there. There surely are, and we should be extremely thankful for them. Ultimately, they’re struggling against the same dismal tide of feckless liberalism that threatens to swamp American culture entire. A way needs to be found to stem the flow before we all drown.